I am in Vrndavana. Vrndavana is a town in north India, specially known for an atmosphere conducive for developing prema, the highest love between the individual spirit and the Supreme. I awoke this morning to the pre-dawn chorus of Vrndavana kirtan and bhajan, radiating from hundreds of chakras of transcendental sound vibration throughout the sacred village. Immersion in such sound vibration before sunrise invites the soul towards profound spiritual joys as an auspicious start for the day.
Prema- The Source of all Love
Prema, personal loving relation with the Divine, is all-inclusive, free from limitation. Just as by watering the root we automatically nourish all branches, leaves and twigs, we similarly nurture our relationships with all persons by cultivating love for the source of all creation.
The First Duty of Love is to Listen
My specific purpose here in Vrndavana is to conduct experiential seminars on transformative communication. We might wonder about the connection between communication skills and the sublime love called prema. In this regard I am reminded of the quote from theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich, “The first duty of love is to listen.” Sometimes it’s helpful to distinguish between the feeling of love, and love as a verb. A vital action in loving relations is high-level communication, beginning with deep, attentive listening.
About 500 years ago the Six Goswamis of Vrndavana inspired a renaissance, centered in Vrndavana, of prema-bhakti, personal devotional love as a means for self- and God-realization. The writings of these sages carefully differentiate between spiritual prema and material lust. One of these Goswamis, Srila Rupa Goswami, a leading Vedic scholar of the age, wrote Sri Upadesamrita, The Nectar of Instruction. This short treatise on spiritual life concludes with a depiction of Radha-kunda, a place and consciousness where prema is the sweetest. Indeed, Rupa Goswami describes those who have attained Radha-kunda as “the most fortunate people in the universe.”
Interestingly, the first words of Nectar of Instruction are “vaco vegam”, referring to the urge to speak. Herein Rupa Goswami expresses that the first step on the journey of spiritual realization, and ultimately towards absorption in the most intense and inspirational love, is to be conscious with our speech.
This illuminates the fundamental principle of transformative communication. Skills, or technique, are external, mechanics meant to serve the essence. At its essence, the principles of conscious communication comprise a systematic process of self-realization. This process utilizes mastery of hearing and expression to create sacred space. In that space we get to support each other and ourselves to unlock the mysteries of prema within our hearts, and experience infinite and untainted love.