Hearing Vs. Listening

Hearing Vs. Listening

A popular story to illustrate the level of mindfulness

Many readers may remember instances when they played or participated in the game of Chinese Whisper. All the laughter and fun revolved around how a message is wrongly heard and carried forth. Sometimes the ultimate message could be miles away from the original sentence or message. While this fun exercise makes us feel lighter, it also points out that we do not pay attention to what we hear. We have been bestowed with two ears with good reason. 

The secret of success is when a person knows that there is a distinct difference between hearing and listening.

A story from Katha Rathnakara illustrates this winning quality. When the kings of Sindhu the region decided to attack Sundarapura, they wanted to check whether the place had wise people who could potentially sabotage their plans.

Accordingly, they sent a messenger with three similar-looking dolls and requested the king of Sundarapura to evaluate them. The young king gave it a thought, and then requested his wisest minister whom he had exiled some time ago to take up the challenge.

The minister, named Subuddhi, examined the dolls. At the outset, he could not find them any different from one another. Then he asked for a wire and passed it through the ears of the dolls before declaring the result.  He said that the three dolls represents three kinds of people in this world. The first doll which allowed the wire to pass through from one ear and emerge from another ear, represented people who hear what is said, but make no effort to pay attention to what is being heard. As a result, they get to learn very little which also reflects on their not-so-great personalities. The second doll allowed the wire to pass through one ear, but stopped mid-way, finding no other passage. This doll represents people who do hear and sometimes listen, but the buck stops there, for they do not attach much importance or give any thought to what they hear. They seldom make it big in life.

The third doll allowed the wire to pass through one ear, when the wire reached the centre, interestingly it bent downwards and seemed to penetrate through the neck of the doll into its heart. Subuddhi rated this doll to be the best. It represented a niche category of people who not only listen to what is said to them, but also ruminate on the subject and internalise it. 

They happen to be the ones who will work on their knowledge and convert it into wisdom which will stand them in good stead and eventually make them successful. 

Let us now observe how the game of Chinese Whisper can be played with a new insight, and evaluate one's listening skills to work on for all round progress.

Radha Prathi

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