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The Important Distinction Between Meaning And Word

When we are talking to someone, we use words to try to convey our meaning. There is a distinction

between word and meaning but because we have not paid attention, this distinction usually gets

blurred in our minds. Words are in a particular language. For example water in English, paani in

Hindi, thanni in Tamil are different words that point to the same real thing that has the properties of

flowing and of quenching our thirst. So, words are in a language and can change over time but

meaning is of something real and unchanging. The important distinction between the meaning and

the word, which is an indicator of meaning, is not addressed at all in modern education.

Also, words are communicated in the outside world and we can speak and hear and write them

down. What about meaning? When someone speaks to us we hear the words and then interpret the

meanings within ourselves. This is a two-step process where the speaker cannot assume that the

meaning he wanted to convey has been understood in exactly the same manner.

Agrahar Nagaraj Sharma, a modern day Indian saint used to say that dhyaanakarshan vidhi or

drawing the attention of the listener towards the meaning was an important element of shiksha. Let

us look at this in some more detail.

Suppose that you live in a house and there is a gold chain lying in a dark corner and you do not

know about the chain. I know about the chain and I know where it is lying but I am not allowed to

enter your house and show you where it is. What will I do? I will ask you questions and give you

suggestions and try to draw your attention towards that dark corner. As you follow my suggestions,

the space in which you are looking becomes smaller and smaller, till you suddenly see the gold

chain. What this means is that I can only try to show you the chain but the process of seeing can

only be done by you.

Let us look at another example. Suppose I want to teach you about respect? If I ask you to see the

dictionary, what you get is a definition made up of another set of words. What I can do instead, is to

do dhyaanakarshan – by asking you to think of someone whose qualities you admire. Qualities like

courage, knowledge, honesty etc. Just the thought of this person invokes a certain feeling in you.

This happens on its own. Now I can point out that this feeling which has gotten invoked in you is

called respect. And we express this feeling through certain actions like bowing down or touching

the feet etc. But the action itself is not respect. It is at best a demonstration of respect. This

distinction between demonstration or manifestation and the real is not made in modern education.

There are two aspects to reality. The external, sensorial (for eg. Words, quantity, demonstration of

respect, love etc.) and the Real, intangible and non-sensorial (for eg. meaning, quality, respect,

swatantrata, sahajta etc.). In modern education the Real is ignored and only the external, sensorial is

focussed on. The external can be shown as it is sensorial but only through Dhyaanakarshan vidhi

can the Real be shown.

Usually we only use questions to solicit information from the other, but appropriate questions can

be a very powerful means to draw the attention in a particular direction. For example, if I ask you

where you are from, your mind will move in the direction of the space where the answer lies. You

will find yourself thinking about what to say, that you are now coming from Bangalore, or that you

were born in Kerala, or that you consider Kolkata as your spiritual home etc.. In effect, even if you

do not answer me, my question has the power to make you think about the answer. So, questions are

a very powerful tool for dhyaanakarshan.

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