I am waiting in the checkout line at Costco which is some of my best meditation and reflection time. I have an opportunity to view a sea of facial expressions and body language rippling through the throng of shoppers. To my mind, it appears as a lot of speaking without words and the no-sound is almost deafening! No wonder they say 70 to 90 percent of our communication is nonverbal.

Not only is most of our human communication nonverbal, the teachings of Buddha cannot be transmitted through words and concepts. My teacher Lama Rinchen Phuntsok said that the Dzogchen teachings, the most distilled expression of non-dual Dharma, is “free from the game of words.”  Yet we insist on using words as if they are the repository for truthfulness. This is not working out very well.

All political rhetoric, idealogical language, and philosophy in the world will never bring abiding peace and equanimity because words by their very nature are used to compare and contrast. This is why many spiritual traditions still employ tonal languages in their liturgies. A tonal language is unambiguous because it conveys an actual experience rather than describing the experience. The vocalization is a direct vibrational transmission of that which is being communicated.

For instance, the syllable OM has no denotative meaning. But If you chant OM, over time you will understand what it ‘means’. There will never be a dictionary entry. All mantras in our tradition are examples of tonal Sanskrit and/or Tibetan syllables employed to energetically align our body/mind with the mindstream of all the buddhas, all the awakened ones.

This provides support and protection for the mind. Sometime the word mantra is described as “the thought, or movement within the mind, that protects.” As we chant our mantras with beneficial intention for all beings, the mantras begin to chant us. We pray until we become a prayer through every thought and deed. As the practices constantly remind us: “All appearances are forms transcending form, all sounds are the melody of the mantra, and all thoughts are the expanse of the great primordial awareness.”

And here I am using words anyway. What’s up with that?

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