Years ago, my yogic father gave me a copy of a book that came from his guruʼs ashram. 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 oneʼs 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 werenʼt fond of the colour or cut of the outfit. Would you state they “look awful”?
Letʼs 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.”
Looking at the second question: Is it true? Interestingly, “You look awful.” is not actually true. A more accurate statement would be “That outfit doesnʼt appeal to me.”
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 anotherʼs will to our own. Allowing others their autonomy is an important parameter to actually ʻbeing helpfulʼ.
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 doesnʼt 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 oneʼs 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 be present in your speech is a foundational part of true compassionate living, and is a requirement of living the Yogic Way.
Kavita Maharaj is a yogini and Yoga Teacher Trainer. She is also the founder of Red Door Yoga and the director of the Red Door Yoga® School. She can be reached through www.reddooryoga.ca for questions.