Friday, May 7, 2010


I was taught as a child that words are very powerful, and should be used with care. As a child, I generally stuck to this advice. However, somewhere down the line, while growing up, I seem to have forgotten this advice and started to use words as they came to my mind. I always spoke my mind, without caring for the words that came out of my mouth. I started to feel that words had no power, even though many a times I could see them affecting others around me... adversely or positively. My parents had taught me the Gayatri Mantra as a child. As a child I could overcome any problem by just reciting this wondrous mantra. I had never questioned the power of this mantra, but as I grew up, doubts began to form in my mind about how a mantra could be powerful... rationality had started to overtake faith, until.......

One day in 1995. A Swami from the Ramakrishna mission had been invited to speak to the Army officers from the Madras Regiment in the staff college auditorium. We were also extended the invitation, which was of course voluntary, as the fauj believes in being religion neutral. During this talk the Swamiji was trying to explain to all of us the power of the word 'Om'. Looking at our faces, he decided to give us an example about the power of the word. This example had a profound impact on me. He said......

"Suppose you are at home and the telephone rings. You pick up the receiver and the person on the other side asks you if you are so-and-so. On your saying 'yes', he tells you, 'I am calling from xyz hospital and I am sorry to inform you that your father is no more'. What happens? You break down, and start to cry. A little later the phone rings again. The same person is on the line again. He says, 'I called you a little while ago and gave you some bad news. I am extremely sorry but that news was incorrect - it was not your father who expired, it was the person on the bed next to your father who expired. Sorry again'. You suddenly feel relieved and the sadness vanishes immediately". After this he asked us a rhetorical question. "What had transpired - nothing but a few words, and these little words had the power to change you completely". This example has stayed with me - it always reminds me that words are potent as they are the expression or containers of ideas, emotions, feelings and can affect people to think, speak and act in many different ways and thus should be used with care.

The power of words can also be judged from one word, 'Swaraj'. A very simple word indeed - 'self rule'. It was, and is, a very positive word and had the power to transform the minds of millions of Indians; who thought of this possibility, spoke about it, wrote about it and then got together to act against the British rule, eventually leading to the independence of India.

Every word is a container of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and more. Positive words can have a very positive impact and negative words can be very damaging - these are also not easily forgotten. Have you ever been publicly praised or ridiculed in front of co-workers, family or friends? If yes, have you forgotten it? Never would most likely be your answer. That then is the power of words. Many years later, the thought of such an ordeal can still bring up the same emotions that one felt then.

I somehow am very averse to negative thoughts and words and try to stay away from people who are prone to use them - negativity can, and is damaging.

We Indians are probably a unique people. We love our motherland dearly but would do anything in our powers to criticise everything that happens here. We call it constructive criticism. I believe constructive criticism would focus on 'how' to improve, rather than 'what' is wrong with us. We all know what is wrong - corruption, poverty, politicians, etc. Even when some good happens we the people, our media and bloggers generally ignore it and focus instead on the negatives. We use negative thoughts and words and that leads to an endless chain of negativity.

Can we instead build an endless chain of positive thoughts and words about our country. Our politicians and bureaucrats are a miniscule part of the 1.1 billion that we are. How can we blame all of our ills on them then.

When we change, change would happen automatically in every facet of our country - including our politicians. Let us think and speak positively about our country and see the transformation in every thing around us. Let's believe in the power of the word, and try it for a change. We have nothing to lose.

I picked up a few quotes on the power of words that I would like to put down for easy reference - they make a lot of sense to me.

- Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. --Buddha

- The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm.”
Exactly as it is with our words. -- Source Unknown

- Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are endless.
Mother Theresa(1910-1997)

- Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny. --

- Kind words can warm for three winters, while harsh words can chill even in the heat of summer. -- Chinese proverb

- You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world's happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime. -- Dale Carnegie

- Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world. -- Buddha

- Words are the most powerful thing in the universe... Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind. -- Charles Capps

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This post has been triggered after reading a beautiful post written by a University Professor from Chandigarh on what "Education is.. and is not....".

What is education? This is a very complex question, and would be answered differently by different individuals. How do you define 'education'? How do we plan to 'educate' our next generation? Is 'earning a living' the sole purpose of education? Are we giving the right kind of education to our next generation? Who is responsible to provide the 'education' - the parents, the teachers, the society, the individual or the state or each one of them?

I read a few interesting quotes on education that I am reproducing below.

• Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.....Will Durant.

• Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man. Like fire in a piece of flint, knowledge exists in the mind. Suggestion is the friction; which brings it out......Swami Vivekananda

• By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man’s body, mind and spirit...........Mahatma Gandhi

• The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.....Rabindranath Tagore

• Education is something, which makes a man self-reliant and self-less.

• Education according to Indian tradition is not merely a means of earning a living; nor it is only a nursery of thought or a school for citizenship. It is initiation into the life of spirit and training of human souls in the pursuit of truth and the practice of virtue..........Radhakrishnan

• Education develops in the body and soul of the pupil all the beauty and all the perfection he is capable of......Plato

• Education is the creation of sound mind in a sound body. It develops man’s faculty specially his mind so that he may be able to enjoy the contemplation of supreme truth, goodness and beauty.......Aristotle

• Education is the child’s development from within.....Rousseau

• Education is enfoldment of what is already enfolded in the germ. It is the process through which the child makes the internal-external..........Froebel

• Education is not a preparation for life, rather it is the living. Education is the process of living through a continuous reconstruction of experiences. It is the development of all those capacities in the individual which will enable him to control his environment and fulfil his possibilities........John Dewey

• Education is the complete development of the individuality of the child so that he can make an original contribution to human life according to the best of his capacity.........T.P.Nunn