The Power of Words

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Dr. Masaru Emoto has experimented on water for more than a decade. He seems to have proven that water can sense, perhaps even comprehend, “see,” and “listen.” It seems, at least on the surface that water can “understand” our minds. He has demonstrated that water can somehow respond to writing, language, music, and even peoples’ minds.

If someone feels love and writes the word “Love” in different languages and stick the paper on a bottle of water for water to “see” it. The water is later frozen and when looking at the frozen water under a microscope beautiful water crystals begin to appear. On the other hand, if the write the word “Hate” in any language, the water crystals seemingly become distorted and ugly, at least to some people. Water also seems to listen to, understand and respond to music. When classical music is played the water crystals are said to become beautiful. When words like, “I hate you” or “I don’t like you” are said to the water, the crystals become what is usually described as ugly. To many this seems to prove that water is a “living organism.”

Ever since ancient times words have been thought to have powerful magical attributes; for example, “primitive man” — if there ever was such an being — believed that words could exert magical power. In the world of religion this belief still persists. Prayer, chanting and mantras are all somewhat magical by design. In the New Testament there is even a magical formula: ask in the name of Jesus, and if it be the will of his god, the prayer must be answered — Amen. That part about it being the will of the god is an interesting disclaimer. The god seems to have whims, agendas and an ego.

Things that can be named lose their secret and sacred power over man. This is why both the Abrahamic devil and god have no names but only titles — to know their names and to call out the names is to have power over them. To know the name of a force, a being or an object, was often seen as being identical with power over it. That ancient belief in the magical authority and potency of names appears in many fairy tales and myths. The power of a demon is often broken just by confronting him, courageously of course, and pronouncing his name. The belief is reflected in the Buddhist tradition of the Dharma name. The name means something, it is empowering as an aspiration to ascend to a particular quality.

There is a modicum of truth in the idea of “word-magic” held by primitive man. In the practice of “bare attention” we find the power of naming confirmed. The “shadow demons” of the mind can hardly bear the simple & illuminating identification of them simply by naming them. The naming of them often diminishes their strength.

Just as words are “magic” in our meditative practice, they are magic in other arenas of our lives as well. The words we use in daily life, whether spoken or unspoken, can affect many around us, in wonderful ways or in painful ones. To say, “I love you” when the circumstances call for it can be a “life saving” experience for the hearer. There is magic in words but also in silence. To leave things unsaid when they need to be said can be devastating. Things left unsaid are just as important as the words that are said. Listening, really listening, in silence is often as healing as medicine and ultimately one of the most compassionate things a person can do. A moment of silence can be more benefit than an hour of meaningless verbiage. Saying a kind word when it is not expected can also be healing. How we speak to ourselves can help us or harm us.

The Avatamsaka Sutra clearly elaborates on the idea that the whole universe is an organic entity. Flowers, grass, trees, mountains, rivers, earth, and all natural phenomena in the universe are all organic in nature. The Sutra indicates that all existing “things” are organisms with the ability to see, listen, and understand peoples’ minds. All physical phenomena  are capable of seeing, hearing, cognition, and knowing. They all have reception, conception, action, and consciousness. When we have a thought in our mind, the universe knows it clearly and naturally responds to what we think, say to themselves and don’t say to themselves.

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About Sensei Mui

Sensei Mui is a Buddhist monk who took formal refuge and bhikkhu ordination as a Theravada monk in Thailand during the early 1970s. Since those days he has both studied and was ordained in multiple Mahayana lineages. Today the main focus of his practice and teaching is from the Pure Land perspective. He currently acts as the Director and Administrator for Hongaku Jodo, an educational and practice oriented organization of Buddhist teachers of Dharma, pure and simple.
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