This is the 3rd talk in this series called “Speaking Truth Matters”.
Words communicate ideas. Untruth fogs the issues and will at some point result in a variety of suffering or unhappiness. To navigate life we need a compass that points to knowledge or truth.
There has been a trend since the late 1960’s to use language/words to manipulate people and cover what is true. This was the domain of the “spin-doctors”. One example of the trend is the rampant use of the term phobia to herd people onto a particular side of an issue.
So what the heck is a phobia anyway? The accepted definition of phobias is “an intense, illogical, or abnormal fear of a specified thing.” It is a diagnosable psychiatric condition, a mental health issue.
What you have are people who may not be qualified and certified mental health professionals but yet are handing out a mental health diagnosis by branding people as this-phobic or that-phobic. It is fundamentally dishonest. This qualifies as using manipulative speech to shape an argument instead of just debating the issue on merits.
The spiritual understanding is that sound vibration can liberate or it causes further material entanglement and suffering. To live in this world as a spiritual practitioner, we should use language in a straightforward and truthful way, and be guided by compassion, tolerance, non-violence, and love.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, this is a continuation in the theme that we’ve been speaking about, Speaking Truth Matters. So we had discussed that it’s actually a really important spiritual principle that deeply affects your life in so many ways and most particularly in relation to your goals and objectives and where you’re heading.
We, unfortunately, live in a time when the power of the limitless array, almost, of computing power, sitting on the other side of your phone or whatever device you are using, is seeking to polarize you, to outrage you, to set people against each other, because that’s the business model of how everything works. And so, in this kind of an environment language sort of really, really matters.
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So, I saw this news article, like a few days back. It’s from Brazil, and there was a “Fan’s Only” star/adult entertainer who was kicked out of a Brazilian supermarket, and it caused a major uproar. So, she was a very—looking for the right word—anyway, her dress wasn’t very appropriate. She had like a tiny, little, absolutely see-through top, and she had shorts on that were more like a g-string than shorts, made of denim. And kind of like, parents and people in the supermarket were all commenting. They were kind of offended by how she looked. It was like incredibly provocative. It wasn’t understated at all. And so she was basically kicked out of the supermarket over her extraordinarily skimpy attire.
And she declared that she had become a victim of hot phobia. Okay? People are suffering from hot phobia. So, she has like 437,000 followers on her Instagram account; and so she appealed to them, that it was unfair, that she was prejudiced by hot phobia, and has suffered because of this, is a victim. And she posted pictures of her attire. It’s just like, whoa! And the majority of the people that commented, on her own feed, and said they didn’t think that it was very appropriate for her to be dressing like this going into a supermarket, which is more family sort of oriented.
And her response to people saying that, she declared that it was an attack, and it was hate speech. So she said, “I felt offended by the gratuitous hate that I received in the market and in my Instagram post,” and she went on, “I think that all these insults…” I mean they’re referred to as insults because you don’t agree with the way she’s dressing, “…all these insults,” (because they weren’t really insulting), “…all these insults have more to do with hot woman phobia that I face on a daily basis.”
So, she was clearly inappropriately dressed for the location.
And it’s sort of like, wow, what’s happening to our language? What’s happening to our communication that we’re sort of like embracing terminology that’s actually highly manipulative? And the average person is sort of like quite innocent to what’s going on, and not sure how they should respond or how they should deal with things.
So, it brings up the question, “Well, what the heck is a phobia anyway?” Because it’s a label that has been used on a wide scale. So, the accepted definition of a phobia is: “an intense illogical or abnormal fear of a specified thing.” So, it’s actually considered a diagnosable psychiatric condition. It’s a mental health condition. And so if you’re going to use this word to throw at somebody, and you are not a mental health professional or a certified psychologist who has done an appropriate level of diagnosis to ascertain it, then it’s actually a really inappropriate usage of a word that is being used.
So this idea of “hot phobia,” it’s really an attempt to brand those who disagreed with her as having a mental illness. That’s actually what it is in reality. Whether we sort of realize that or not is another thing.
So, the idea of using language as a bludgeon to force people that may object, or oppose your point of view, to bludgeon them into line is really unfortunate. And it has an effect, both on the people that are using the word, and the person that’s on the receiving end of the word. So, the idea of just branding anybody that doesn’t agree with you as a “whatever,” you can put any word there, a “whatever-phobe,” is not very helpful.
Our message is that we are all eternal spiritual beings. These bodies that you have on are temporary coverings. To become immersed in this temporary covering as being who I truly am is considered a massive mistake, or even a form of ignorance, that can only result in unhappiness and suffering. This is the big picture.
So, the word has been used in so many ways. It was around about the turn of the century, last—the early 1900s, that the term xenophobe was coined by a Scottish psychiatrist. And that person used it in a work where he was speaking about ancient Jewish people, or Israelites, as he called them. And he was describing their aversion to foreign Gods, religions and cultures. But then it became a buzzword in places like Europe, in places like America, where they’re really dealing with a serious immigration issues.
We saw with the war in Syria, for instance, in the massive influx of refugees into Europe and how a lot of countries were not set up to handle it, and the idea of trying to manage it, people were quickly branded as being xenophobes. And again it’s this use of phobia as a mental illness to sort of get people on board.
A very famous use, and it was in relation to the quest for equality amongst homosexuals, with the term homophobe. I mean it’s kind of like we should endeavor to keep debates to points of truth and not feel that we should ever be using language in a very hateful or a degrading way, but the idea that somebody has a mental illness because they don’t embrace your lifestyle, for whatever reason, is not a really good way to conduct debate and speech.
So we see, like the use of the word hate—something that kind of blew me away recently (I guess that was like a couple of years ago, maybe?) when they were doing the campaign for gay marriage in Australia. And for me, it’s kind of like, what people want to do they can do, they should be allowed to do, as long as it’s not really going to be harmful to everybody else. But the big slogan that was embraced, and everybody was repeating, and I was kind of like blown away that many people in some of the spiritual communities and the yoga communities were also embracing the term, “You should be able to marry whoever you love.” And it’s kind of like, oh my Gods, I find that rather troubling. What happens if I “love” my neighbor’s son or daughter who’s five years old? Should I be able to “love” them? Should I be able to marry them? It’s just kind of like, when you make these broad statements without qualification, without qualifying any sort of parameters to them, they are actually meant, this is the use of speech to change and transform society.
My personal concern with a lot of these things is because there is a strong tendency towards the promotion of hedonism. The idea, I mean, if I buy into the idea that my—the totality of my being is my body and mind, then I will soon come to the conclusion that stimulating the desires and the senses of my body and my mind, and seeking to fulfill those desires, is in my highest interest.
But we see the reality in this world, that while society has become increasingly hedonistic and materialistic and consumption oriented, people, society, is not becoming more peaceful, more happy. We see just the opposite happening, the massive rise of mental illness and depression, massive increases, particularly in the last five or six years, of suicide. So, this reflects on individual and societal values, and what we hold to be important and what we hold to be true.
And so in the quest for a higher spiritual experience, to live a spiritual life, Patanjali has described in this Yoga Sutra that truth speaking and hearing truth is like really, really important for this journey, because untruth has a tendency to fog the issues and lead people to make bad choices and bad decisions that actually lead to an increase in unhappiness.
So, our appreciation is that sound vibration can be used in two ways: It can be used with spiritual focus, or it can be used as a material thing. When sound is used in a spiritual way, it is liberating. When sound is used for material purpose, then a person becomes more entangled in material existence, and this leads to more suffering and unhappiness.
So as a general guideline, if we want to live a spiritually directed life, as a practitioner of spiritual life, a spiritual practitioner, we should use language in a straightforward and truthful way. We should be guided, of course, in our language by compassion, by non-violence, by tolerance, and by love. And so just using words but applying meaning that is not straightforward can be highly problematic for society and for us as individuals.
So what’s really important is we need to grow our own legs, and we need to be very firmly established in truth and what is truth, and to live and apply this in our life, so that we can experience the beauty and wonder of real enlightenment of spiritual enlightenment.
And of course, the principal means, or vehicle, to bring about a transformative change, to bring clarity, is the use of these spiritual sounds, or mantra. So, I will chant the Aum Hari Aum mantra and invite you to join with me.
We live in difficult times, but don’t be overly afraid, don’t be overly concerned. What we must do is really take care of our life, our consciousness. This is what we’re responsible for.