Indian Psychology - The Dynamics of Speech
by Swami Veda Bharati
Unless we recognize that the origin of our speech is in the consciousness of atman, we speak in vain
One of the primary reasons for the weakening of prana lies in our faulty use of speech, especially loud, excessive or malicious speech. Non-benevolent, non-beneficial speech weakens us.
Aatmaa buddhyaa sametya-arthaan
Mano yunkte vivakshayaa
Manah kaayaagnim aa-hanti
Sa prerayati maarutam
Maarutas toorasi charan
Mandram janayati svaram.
Atman, joins the ‘meanings’ intended to the buddhi;
Then (buddhi)assigns the intent to speak to the mind.
Mind gives a push to the body-fire (kaaya-agni=prana) which impels the (visceral) air.
This air traversing the thoracic systems produces the deep sound.
In other words, the origin of our speech is in the consciousness of atman. Those who speak a single word without the awareness of this reality, produce speech without knowing the speaker, atman the self. Speaking without atma-avalokanam, observation of the consciousness-self, atman, is wasting the sparks of speech-awareness. It has no conscious intent, sankalpa, in its origin, and is therefore often ineffective. It is a weak mind’s utterance.
Again, without the awareness of atman charging the buddhi with its energy, the intent to speak imparted by buddhi to the mind is a shallow one.
The seat of body-fire, prana, is in the navel centre. Most people speak from the mouth alone, or from the throat. That is, the seat of their consciousness in speech is not the thoracic region, nor do they speak from the heart centre, leave alone the deeper centre, manipura, in the navel region. Only when the laryngeal speech in the throat centre has its origin in the consciousness of umbilical and cardiac centres, does speech carry depth and become effective.
The text says “the mind gives a push to the body-fire (kaaya-agni=prana) [in the navel centre]. For this to be effected one has to learn to breathe correctly. Only one who has learnt the yoga method of diaphragmatic breathing can know how to make the prana impel speech. The same applies to the rhythmic and melodic speech otherwise known as singing.
Recently, I watched a BBC documentary on the late Luciano Pavarotti, the opera singer who became a legend in his own lifetime.
The documentary contained excerpts from past interviews with him.
As part of the secret of his success as a singer, he mentioned several times diaphragmatic breathing and even demonstrated how not to breathe from the chest.
At one point this dialogue (paraphrased here) occurred:
Interviewer: Many singers have failed in their singing career because of nervousness; you seem to have overcome that problem.
Pavarotti: Yes, that is true. Relaxation is important. One has to practise relaxation; one has to be a yoga (he meant: be a yogi).
Who would have thought of Luciano Pavarotti as a teacher of diaphragmatic breathing and yoga relaxation methods?
Without learning to breathe from the navel centre, the seat of prana, one can neither sing nor speak effectively. One only wastes energy, weakens the prana, and does not accomplish one’s purpose the way a yogi achieves, using a few words, spoken pranically.
When the visceral air is pushed up from the navel centre, it touches the cardiac and thoracic systems, draws energy from them, and then in the larynx it begins to form specific sounds. These are then uttered by the mechanical system of the relationship among the following parts. Sthaana, the place in the mouth from where the breath will be released to form a vowel or where it will be blocked, to form a consonant. Karana, the instrument, the part of the tongue that is to be placed in a certain position, or the way the lips are to be formed. Prayatna; effort, of how forcefully the breath is expelled, of how much the throat is opened, and how closely the tongue is touched to the karana spot.
It is thus that the visceral air is modulated to form speech. These very basic principles of phonetics are essential to understand the relationship of prana with speech.