Years ago, my yogic father gave me a copy of a book that came from his guru’s ashram in Mysore, India. It was called “At the Feet of The Master” and had been written years prior by Sri J. Krishnamurti. The book was a simple, direct, and practical discourse that spoke about the art of yogic conversation.
According to Krishnamurti, to live with true compassion, one must be mindful of one’s speech. Before choosing to say anything, one should contemplate three questions: Is it kind? Is it truthful? Is it helpful? Should what you are about to say fail to extract a “yes” from all three of these questions, Krishnamurti stated that the yogi should choose silence instead.
And while this may all seem simple enough, in practice answering these three questions takes more mindfulness than one may realize. Let us look at an every day example: Your spouse asks you if he/she looks good in particular outfit. How would you respond? Suppose you weren’t fond of the colour or cut of the outfit. Would you state they “look awful”?
Let’s look at the first question: Is it kind? There are many ways of stating that how they appear is not perhaps what you would refer to as “well put together.” Simply saying “You look awful.” is not one of the kind ones. Consider saying, “I not sure the cut or colour is spot-on.” It should be noted that the most important thing in being kind, is that you truly intend no harm to the other person. This does not mean that you are guaranteed that they will not perceive your response as being kind.
Looking at the second question: Is it true? Interestingly, “You look awful.” is not actually true. A more accurate statement would be “That outfit doesn’t appeal to me.” Here, it should be noted that even things you believe to be true can later be proven to not be so. Thus the most important thing in being truthful is in intending no untruth to the best of your knowledge at that time. Again, this does not guarantee that others will believe your truth or believe that you are being truthful.
Looking at the third question: Is it helpful? This is the most complex of the three questions. What you deem helpful may not been seen as such by your spouse. At times, what we deem as helpful is in fact a subjugation of another’s will to our own. Allowing others their autonomy is an important parameter to actually ‘being helpful’. And as with kind and truthful, the other person having their own autonomy means that they are free to also perceive your actions and/or words as not being helpful.
In the example given here, your spouse has asked for your opinion, so you can assume that being helpful would entail answering the question in the most kind and truthful way possible. Thus “The colour/cut of that outfit doesn’t appeal to me personally. But it may well be appealing to others.” is possibly the kindest, most truthful, and helpful response here.
The art of yogic conversation requires, like all other aspects of the yogic path, mindful practice and contemplation. One must be willing to pause during conversation and consider one’s responses and contributing conditionings. This allows one to differentiate between truth and illusion and to answer the three guiding questions posed by Krishnamurti. Willingness to slow down and be present in your speech is a foundational part of true compassionate living, and is a requirement of living the Yogic Way®.
The Yogic Way®