Shabda-jnaanaanupaatii-vastu-shoonyo vikalpah

 Verbal delusion is caused by the identification with words that have no basis in reality.

Commentary by Swami Vishnudevananda

“Verbal delusion is the mental impression created by reactions to words that are not founded on fact.  If one man calls another a fool, it is only a verbalisation, a vibration in the air. But what a thundering wave it creates.  One simple, unreal word wreaks havoc, throwing the physical and emotional bodies into chaos, destroying all happiness and peace.  One is not a fool because he is called a fool.  If a person were called a donkey, he would not grow long ears and a tail.  Yet, it is not unusual for people to react in anger to such statements and, in the process, actually give validity to them. The mind attributes meaning and nuances to words, giving them a false reality.  Such reactions to meaningless vibrations are the cause of countless human troubles.

Overreaction to words and jumping to conclusions are weaknesses of the mind.  The vrittis, thought waves, must be restrained not only during meditation but at all times.  One must be particularly wary of praise, for this too is verbal delusion, and the ego is ever ready to pounce on any opportunity to see itself as better or different from others.  Not everyone is going to feel the same way as one who bestows a compliment.  Inevitably the pendulum swings in the other direction, and criticism will be heard sooner or later.  But happiness should not rest on praise or abuse, for in all conditions, the only reality is the Self which is beyond qualities and beyond change.

In all parts of the world there are those who see themselves as different from others, rather than as one. Unable to control their thought waves, they are swayed by words that instigate action, which invariably leads to reaction.  A strong mind will not be affected in this way.  The weaker a person is, the less restraint he has over verbal delusion.  Examine yourself the next time you are angry or miserable.  Reason it out, and note the modifications of the mind.  Gaining freedom from verbal delusion is essential for progress in meditation as well as for strengthening the mind.

A great Hindu holy man was once insulted in front of his disciples by a non-believer who spat upon his face several times.  Not one muscle twitched, nor did his calm facial expression change, because he did not identify with his physical sheath.  His mind was centered in God.  Can you imagine the strength of that mind? Swami Sivananda prostrated before the man who tried to kill him, and Jesus forgave those who crucified him.  No matter what was done to them, they responded with one thought, that of pure love.  A true master will not react in anger, for to him insult and praise are the same. Restraint of thought waves does not mean suppression. Suppression dams up violent emotions.  For various reasons, people suffer abuse, suppressing anger or pain by smiling and carrying a ‘stiff upper lip’.  The restrained thought waves must be given an outlet. They must be sublimated and channeled into such uplifting activities as mantra repetition, exercise, singing and meditation on opposite, positive thoughts. Exchange love for anger and joy for sorrow. “

Swami Vishnudevananda offers a very clear observation on our reactions towards speech and false words. Here are some suggestions that one may take when being hurled by abusive and negative words.


  1. Mantra Repetition

Find a universal mantra such as Om, and keep no other thoughts in the mind except for Om. Repeat Om with focus and fill the mind with Om. Mantras are thought waves that will help change the negative into positive.

  1. Exercise

Exercise such as jogging in a park or talking a walk in the woods help to clear the mind. When we learn to detach and see the bigger picture, many of our immediate reactions fall away.

  1. Sing Devotional Hymns or Kirtan

Singing helps to keep the mind filled with positive thoughts and shift our perspective to a more divine outlook in life. Choose devotional hymns that will uplift the mind and mood to a higher level.

  1. Meditate

Meditate on the cause of anger. When one sits down and faces the thought in the mind, it is through the observation of the thought that causes it to dissipate. So long as we do not work on the thought to remove its grip on us, it will stay inside us forever and digs in deeper – leading to a cycle of pain and thoughts.

  1. Self-Study

Constantly re-examine your thoughts and emotions. The moment you feel angry thoughts arising, stop and observe the source of these thoughts. Someone may have carelessly said something hurtful to you, but reflect upon it and see if it is intentional or not. Sometimes, giving space and time to reflect prevents the anger from rising within you. This way, we cultivate inner peace at all times. Know that words and thoughts are impermanent, they are ever-changing.

  1. Continuity of Practice

The above should be continuous in order to reap its benefits. When one leaves a practice for too long, the negative creeps back in very quickly and without the guidance of a teacher, one tends to succumb to any negativity easily. Find an authentic spiritual guide or teacher and have faith that one can overcome any mental delusions in this life. Most importantly, know that the wrongdoer is simply creating ill-karma for her/himself and we should offer greater compassion for them.

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