SUNI-AI: THE IMPORTANCE OF DEEP LISTENING
There is such a thing as World Listening Day. This day was established by the World Listening Project (WLP)1, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and understanding of the world and its natural environment, societies and cultures through the practices of listening and field recording of soundscapes (as established by Canadian R. Murray Schafer2) .
We at Seva Corps think it's amazing to have a listening day, because the way we see it, whenever there's a celebratory date, there's a neglected need. And at this moment in which social networks increasingly affect social reality in a targeted way, we are drawn to the importance of Guru Nanak's verses on deep listening. In fact, they’ve never made more sense to us.
Each year WLP proposes a guiding theme for collecting sound materials from artists, scientists and amateurs involved in the project. This year's theme is simply listening across borders. According to Alex Braidwood, president of the Organization, "we are going through challenging times all around the world - and listening to ourselves and others, with an active pause for reception, is something that could contribute to our global situation".
As we said, this day and this theme brought us to what Guru Nanak Dev Ji already came up with in the fifteenth century. In Japji, his main composition, lines 8, 9, 10 and 11 go on about Suni-ai. Suni-ai means, in literal translation, deep listening, or listening in a way that makes you perceive the Universe. In Suni-ai there are no judgments or interests, other than accessing the magnitude of what comes to you.
In free translation, some of these verses say that: "By listening, the reality of Earth and Heaven is revealed. Listen, and Death is overcome. Listen, and the most negative mouths praise. Listen, and truth and patience are achieved. Listen, and the blind can find their way. Listen, and the unknown is understood."
In Nonviolent Communication it is said that attentive listening is a muscle that is trained. And that without this strengthened muscle, there is no possibility of establishing a dialogue that will embrace all, that is, your needs, as well as that of others.
Suni-ai has never been more important than at this polarized historical moment, so full of dichotomies. It is so important that Pope Francis, in his message on World Communications Day3, stressed the importance of relearning to listen. "Ears, we all have them; but often even those who have a perfect ear, cannot hear the other. For there is an inner deafness, worse than physical. The true guaranteed home of listening is the heart. St Augustine invited us to listen with our heart, to accept words, not outwardly in our ears, but spiritually in our hearts. And St Francis of Assisi exhorted his brotherhood to bend the ears of their heart."
According to the Pope, "in many dialogues, we do not effectively communicate; we are simply waiting for the other to finish speaking to enforce our point of view. In these situations, as the philosopher Abraham Kaplan observes, dialogue is nothing more than a duologue, that is, a two-voice monologue."
That is why we take part in the WLP proposal, emphasizing the importance of true, deep and attentive listening. As we celebrate listening we share an excerpt from a chronicle of the Brazilian Rubem Alves4 in which he ponders on the art of listening, which for him is the main point of One Thousand and One Nights:
"The ear is feminine, an emptiness that awaits and embraces, which allows itself to be penetrated. Speech is masculine, something that grows and penetrates the emptiness of the soul. According to ancient tradition, this is how the human God was conceived: by the poetic breath of the divine Word, penetrating into the enchanted and welcoming ears of a virgin.
Love lives in this subtle thread of conversation, swinging between mouth and ear. You have to know how to listen. Embrace. Allow the other inside us. Listen in silence, without expelling him through arguments and counter-reasons. There is nothing more fatal to love than the quick response. A falchion that decapitates. There are very old people whose ears are still virginal: they have never been penetrated. And you have to know how to talk. There are certain lines that are rape. Only those who know how to be silent and listen can speak. And above all, those who devote themselves to the difficult art of guessing: to guess the sleeping worlds that inhabit the emptiness of the other."5