Friday, April 30, 2010

Sant Samagam: Our Metrics

Let's start sabha off this week with a quick quiz. Imagine our job lay in measuring the world around us. How would we measure... bad these socks smell?

Answer: Hobo Power - According to radio personality Adam Carolla, it's the unit of measure for how bad something smells. On a scale of 0-100, anything scored zero hobo would not stink, and anything scored 100 hobos would smell so bad that it would kill us - stay away!

...the smallest distance a computer mouse can move?

Answer: Mickey - Inspired by the Disney character Mickey Mouse, one mickey is equal to about 0.1 millimeter. Imagine that!

...the spiciness of these peppers?

Answer: Scoville - Chemist Wilbur Scoville came up with this unit for the "hotness" of any food. A bell pepper has a Scoville rating of zero while Naga Jolokia has a rating of 1.05 million Scoville; needless to say, it's the spiciest pepper known to man!

Basically, we as humans seek meaning through measuring everything and anything - smell, spice, smallest movement of the computer mouse. So how do we measure our decisions in life? Sant samagam, this week's topic.

The eight years we spend in kishore mandal, from freshman year in high school to the senior year in college, can really shape where we end up in life. Now, more than ever, we need to be oriented in the right direction. Let's take a look at this infographic (click for larger view). It breaks down FBI's 2008 report for crimes using children. Basically, each child represents the likelihood that they will commit those crimes when they enter the world as adults.

Obviously, this picture will be too much for the entire audience to take in at once, but here are the highlights worthy of mentioning.

  • Total crimes in the picture = about 14 million committed in 2008
  • Drugs & Drinking (Drug Abuse + DUI + Liquor Laws + Drunkenness + Disorderly Conduct) = about 4.5 million (31.63%)
  • Theft (Larceny + Burglary + Embezzlement + Stolen Property + Robbery + Car Theft + Counterfeiting/Forgery) = 2.2 million (14.70%)
  • Aggression (On Family/Children + Assault + Arson + Murder) = 575,468 (4.19%)
  • Sex crimes (Rape + Sex offenses + Prostitution) = 177,502 (1.27%)
  • Runaway = 109,225 (0.78%)
  • Gambling = 9,811 (0.07%)

While we could categorize the remaining crimes, these will do for now since they are the most relevant to our age. Again, these numbers represent how many kids in 2008 will grow up and commit the following crimes.

Now, what does the Satpurush say with regards to all of these? 

Drugs & Drinking
On February 19, 1993, in Calcutta, India, a few members of India's under 19 cricket team had come to our temple for Swamishri's blessings. Pankaj Thakur, an outstanding young cricketer, was part of this group. Swamishri asked him, "Do you know the meaning of Pankaj?"

"Yes, it means 'kamal' (lotus flower)." replied Pankaj.

"That's right," said Swamishri.

"A lotus remains totally dry despite the fact that it grows in water. In the same way, we should remain untouched by bad influence despite being in the limelight of world cricket."

It is a well-known fact that a young and promising star is often forced into intriguing situations before he reaches his full potential. More often than not, this ruins his life and career. Swamishri took the opportunity to warn the young man.

"We should not be influenced into harmful habits such as meat eating, drinking, and other such addictions. The glamour of cricket will offer many temptations on its way but don't be lured into bad ways. Remain untouched like a lotus."

The young cricketer felt blessed and vowed to stay away from bad influence.

In 1983 Swamishri came to Nadiad from Dabhan. Dinner was arranged at the house of Champaksinh Gohil (the then president of the district). Champaksinh did pujan of Swamishri and made a donation of 100 rupees. At the time, I didn't see who took the money. So, the next day I reminded the area coordinator of Nadiad, Shri Navneet Panchal, "We have to send a receipt of 100 rupees to Champakbhai's house, but I can't seem to find the money anywhere."

"I don't know who took the money either," confessed Navneetbhai.

We asked everyone, but no one knew where it had gone. However, ten days later, I received a letter from a youth, called Suresh, from a village near Vadodara. In it he said, "Last night Pramukh Swami Maharaj appeared before me in a dream and told me, 'You have stolen 100 rupees from God. You've also stolen other amounts of money which the devotees had given to the sadhus, and you've spent it on your house. But you will never be happy. So return all the money to Janmangal Swami. Otherwise he'll suspect someone else of stealing the money. Then you'll have to bear the sin for that as well. So be sure to return the money."

This youth, Suresh, had left the letter on Tyagvallabh Swami's desk in Bochasan. He even wrote, "If I had written my address, then you'd catch me, so I've left that space empty."

From this incident I realised Swamishri's divine intuition to know what is happening, even when he's not present.

Aggression (Anger)
Once a devotee asked Swamishri, "I believe that sadhus can achieve at will. That's why I've come. I've long been a slave to my anger and ego and I want to be free of them."

Swamishri replied, "Anger stems from ego. In fact ego is the root of all bad instincts. If one has self pride and someone labels him as good or bad, he is emotionally carried away. But remember, we are neither very good nor very bad. We do not become so upon someone saying so. But we should not look bad in front of God. Remember Shriji Maharaj and then slowly try to remove these instincts. If one can realize that 'I am atma and I am pure', then there is no place for ego. We have to uproot it with such knowledge. Also, if we can think that 'everyone understands; only I don't understand,' then who will we get angry upon? There's no doubt about it, we have to eradicate our ego. It is because of our self-pride that conflicts arise. So forget our self being; whatever has been achieved, it is due to God.

During a special question answer dialogue in the Divya Sannidhi Camp with Swamishri on May 23,2001 in Sankari, a number of questions were first asked to the karyakars and then to Swamishri.

Q: What does Swamishri like?

Karyakars answered, "Cultivating the virtues Swamishri possesses. Harmony (Samp). Friendship (Suhradbhav). Unity (Ekta). Doing ghar sabha. Humility. Not watching television?"

Swamishri replied, "Everyone has given the answers to what I like - to do ghar sabha, not to be cynical about others, etc..."

Lesson: Spending time with family decreases the chances for it to break apart.

Sex Crimes
A few years ago, Swamishri was in London when a lady wrote a letter to him informing him that her husband was watching certain obscene videos online. Swamishri knew this yuvak, and so he kept this letter in his mind.

Once, after he had finished his meal and the yuvaks were coming up in a line to get his ashirvaad, he grabbed the yuvak’s hand and asked him if he watched such obscene videos or not. (Swamishri is
very sharp and extremely straightforward. So once he puts you on the spot, it is hard to get out of the situation.)

The yuvak replied that he did indeed watch those videos.

Hearing this, Swamishri became extremely upset and asked him, “Do you have no understanding? You are lucky that your wife is straightforward. What would have happened if she did such a thing? What would come to be of your wedding? What would your family go through? Do an upvãs, and if you can’t do the upvãs, then tell me and I will do it. Kaaran ke tu maaro kehvaay ne. Aapdaa be ni vachhe koike to Maharaj ne modhu bataadvu padshe ne. (You are mine after all. Between the two of us, someone will have to show their face to Shriji Maharaj.)

On June 11, 1999 in Mumbai, a devotee brought his friend before Swamishri and revealed, "Swami, he has developed a habit of betting on cricket matches."

Swamishri replied, "It is a form of gambling."

The devotee said, "Swami, he also drinks."

Swamishri again replied, "When you have one vice, then many more follow behind it. Do you know that because of gambling the Pandavas lost their kingdom and wife, Draupadi? It is a devastating habit, therefore give it up. You'll become a lot happier in life."

Swamishri's words appealed to the young man, and he pledged to give up his vices.

Bringing it Home
Now going back to our numbers, if we put all those number together, samagam with the Satpurush would have helped 7.6 million people. If we dug deeper and looked at the remaining crimes, the Satpurush's words could have helped them as well - bringing the grand total to 14 million! 

(Think 1 in 20 people! How big are your bal/balika mandals? Helping people think in these terms based on your center can help communicate the point but requires some estimates and/or quick research on your part. For instance, that would mean Akshar & Jagdish would grow up to be a convict - the cute adorable balaks that we play with every week etc.)

In recap, sometimes we forget how fortunate we are to have a yardstick to measure our decisions and lifestyle choices that could end us up in serious trouble. Those that end up as statistics do not

The United Negro College Fund's ads always sport the slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." It's what our gurus have been saying for time immemorial, so let's make it a point to remember them through thought (mansi, vichar), word (prasang varnan), and deed (puja, satsang reading). The more we stay in commune with him, the less we have to worry about falling into any of these societal shortfalls. 

In fact, we won't ever fall short when we sprint successfully. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nirmaan: Protecting the Peace

Wisdom comes in many forms - like knowing not to pick a fight with the dude below better known as a samurai warrior.

The samurai have captivated the imaginations and attention of Western society. Victor M. Parachin, author of Eastern Wisdom for Western Minds, writes,
A Japanese samurai warrior visited a Zen master, seeking answers to questions that had plagued him for some time.
“What is it you want to know?” asked the Zen master.
“Tell me, sir, do heaven and hell exist?”
“Ha!” laughed the Zen master in a contemptuous tone. “What makes you think you could understand such things? You are only an educated, brutish soldier. Don’t waste my time with your ridiculous questions.”
The samurai warrior froze in shock. No one spoke to a samurai that way. It meant instant death. Increasing the tension, the Zen master went on, “Are you too stupid to understand what I just said? Stop wasting my time and get out of here!” he shouted.
The samurai exploded with rage. As quick as lightening, his hand grabbed the sword, sweeping it over his head to get ready for the kill. In the split second before the sword descended to cut off the Zen master’s head, the samurai heard him say, “This is the gate to hell.”
Again, the samurai froze in astonishment. He got the message... Pausing and then breathing deeply, the samurai replaced his sword. He bowed humbly, filled with respect and even awe.
“And this,” smiled the Zen master, “is the gate to heaven.”
To strike his instructor, this samurai most certainly faulted in judgement, but let's analyze the situation here.
  • What was the "heaven"? I think we would all be pretty happy that our lives were spared by the sword of deadly samurai, but is that truly the "heaven" to which the instructor refers?
  • Was it not the instructor who brought upon the attack? After all, he had to the audacity to call his pupil "stupid." His words angered the student who then brought his sword upon his instructor's head.
And that's where we delve into this week's topic, nirmaanpanu.
  • Heaven = peace of mind: The Zen Master was right in calling it "heaven." Nothing beats making the grade on an exam for which we studied hard or even great weather. When we're in our zone, we know it and we like it. 
  • Though the instructor uttered insults, it was the samurai who enabled those words to pollute his peace of mind.
In this regard, we see to be nirmaani means to protect our peace of mind

Sadguru Muktanand Swami penned in his bhajan, "Haji Bhala Sadhu," the phrase, "maan-upmaan mein ektaa." To remain composed in the face of praise and insult is truly a difficult endeavor without the slightest trace of mental imbalance is the epitome of remaining nirmaani. It's all about protecting the peace of mind.

Why is peace of mind so important? It renders our mentality indestructible. We as human beings have the potential to survive and rise above unparalleled adversity and obstacles. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this principle well so much that others around them gained this insight to invincibility. In a 2008 article published in The New York Times Magazine, U.S. House Representative James Clyburn tells an interesting story about a 1967 group photograph with Dr. King that hangs above his desk in his office. 
He told me that the photo was taken in 1967, nine months before King’s assassination, when rumors of violence were swirling, and somewhere on the side of the room a photographer’s floodlight had just come crashing down unexpectedly. At the moment the photo was taken, everyone pictured has reflexively jerked their heads in the direction of the sound, with the notable exception of King himself, who remains in profile, staring straight ahead at his audience. Clyburn prizes that photo. It tells the story, he says, of a man who knew his fate but who, quite literally, refused to flinch.
In a time of segregation and racial intolerance, we can imagine the types of insults hurled at those who stood up for the truth, yet Dr. King remained steadfast until his last breath. His movement prevailed because the followers refused to let others from penetrating their peace of mind.

So why can't we just tolerate a few words or incidents that would otherwise render us emotionally devastated? When we wallow in our ego, we outsource our peace of mind to others who may not have our best intentions at heart. Even if we recount the last time we really felt hurt or devastated, we can realize that our attitude and perception were completely controllable. It was our mentality that shaped our attitude. 

The case of road rage illustrates this idea well. Why should we let one aggressive driver ruin the ride for us? In doing so, we risk becoming one of at least 1,500 people who are killed or critically injured in such scuffles as reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 

However, we are a social species; after all, Aristotle once said, "Man is a social animal." We cannot just ignore others, so to some extent we do have to rely on others for support/criticism. To whom can we then turn for guidance and vision? Why not somebody who has shown that they have risen above pettiness and showing off? 

We soon realize that Akshar & Purushottam have transcended humans and have established themselves as timeless. They are eternal and everlasting. Why not outsource our peace of mind to them? They led successful lives in society and inspired others to do the same. We can trust their words, for they have proven successful paramhanso like Govindanand Swami and Advaitanand Swami. Even today, Pramukh Swmai Maharaj not only allows serves as a model of success but has inspired others to do the same. His ability to maintain collectedness in face-to-face confrontations with others really speak to this ability.

Moreover, none of these individuals were left without friend or meaningful contact. Their character attracted thousands over and transformed them for the better.

So let's remember. Our most valuable asset - our peace of mind - is in our hands. Would we want to relinquish it to someone else we couldn't trust?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nirlobh: The Shortfalls of Self-Reward

Can wealth improve happiness? Better yet, can Ben Franklin crack a smile on your face?

Maybe, but what you can buy with him can certainly make entire nations crack smiles! Check out this study featured in the New York Times.

It turns out that as a country's GDP (wealth) increases so too does the overall level of life satisfaction (happiness) - these results challenge a study performed much earlier. This 1974 study by Richard Easterlin claimed that once we had enough money to pay for our basic needs (e.g. food, clothing, shelter), then we couldn't be any more happier.

However, there is more to this picture than meets the eye.

Think about it - as a nation's wealth increases, its standard-of-living improves. Problems like food/water shortages, random hoodlums causing trouble, or even general lawlessness are hard to find. The time we would have spent fighting criminals or scavenging for food or protecting our shelter is better spent on other things.

So we are saying that greediness is great - against this week's topic of nirlobh and what we learn in mandir - right?

Nope, we are saying that greediness is incomplete. I mean the recent financial crash should be a clear reminder that greediness never amounts in any good.

Greediness is all about me, me, me - the center of many problems in our world today. Oddly enough, when we spend time with others, build stronger ties with friends and family, and engage in helping others out, we are rewarding not only ourselves but others. Therein lies the key to happiness - what the people in these wealthier nations are coming to realize.

Think about it - when was the last time you got a present and the last time you gave a present? Hands down, we felt better in the second circumstance than the first one. While it may be in our nature to seek self gain, it's also within us to want to give ourselves over to others - not as slaves, but as sevaks.

Even great moneymakers of our time - the ones we would figure to be full of greed - have come to this realization. Let's take a look at the top three moneymakers of Forbes's List of Billionaires.
  1. Carlos Slim Helu who is worth $53.5 billion "donated $65 million to fund a research project in genomic medicine with American billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad."
  2. Bill Gates, worth  $53 billion, founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 1994 whose goal was to contribute at least $1.5 billion to helping the world's poor every year.
  3. Warren Buffet, worth $47 billion, auctioned his 2001 Lincoln Town Car on eBay to raise money for Girls, Inc, a non-profit involved in education and advocacy for girls, back in 2006. In the same year, he donated about $30.7 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If that wasn't enough, he raised $650,100 for a charity just by auctioning off a luncheon with himself in 2007. 
The icing on this cake is our guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His material wealth is next to nothing, yet his face resonates with nothing but smile after smile because he lives his life in the service of others. The prasangs in the presentation speak to just - the fact that Swamishri conserves the things he uses, like using only a bit of a napkin to wipe his mouth, reflects how much he cares about not wasting the resources of other satsangis who are capable of offering blank checks. Such thoughtfulness on the part of Swamishri downplays any short-lived satisfaction from greed.

Thus, when we look at greed from this lens - the perspective of seeking self-reward - we realize that we may have much to learn. One aspect of greed is craving material wealth, and we may have control in this regard but what about the other aspect?

While many of us may not be craving intense material wealth, we also do not fully grasp the long-lasting sense of fulfillment gained from selfless seva. Mandal activities engage us, mold us, inspire us through serving our fellow satsangis, and we feel a greater sense of community and well-being for it than anywhere else. The time we take to ourselves in unproductive ways - like excessively watching TV or aimlessly wandering on Facebook or fickle flirtation with the opposite sex - are not being put to fulfilling purposes.

So let's remember - Greed is the search for self-reward, and satisfaction lies in the opposite direction in the search for selflessness.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nishkam Dharma: Harness the Energy

If there was ever a topic that's difficult to discuss with kishores/kishoris, it's the topic of nishkaam dharma. While we may approach this week's topic with apprehension and anxiety, let's take a deep breath and relax.

Sometimes, we just need to shed new light. Light is an interesting thing. It certainly brightens up the day.

However, if we focus it, we gain a powerful laser, like this mosquito-killing ray that fends off malaria!

When it comes to nishkaam dharma, it's just do's and don'ts - the fastest way to tune out an audience of kishores/kishoris. However, let's try an alternative approach. Just as harnessing light provides us with the a powerful tool, harnessing lust provides us with formidable focus.

Nishkam dharma harnesses our lust, but we know those words are a big turnoff to the audience. Let's take a step back, and we realize nishkaam dharma at this age really boils down to dating. Surprise the audience - why not compare the benefits of nishkam dharma vs. not maintaining nishkam dharma?

Many believe that without nishkaam dharma, we would enjoy,
  • Greater social status - through adhering to what's "normal" at this age
  • Development of social skills - through dating
  • Fulfillment of our emotional needs - through a relationship
However, these points are shallow at best.

Let's take social status first. Are "normal" things always best for us? One of the main reasons Swamishri asks us to aspire to this dharma is that it will enable us to focus on our education and poise us for a successful life.
  • Yale, Harvard, or MIT are not "normal"; they're above it. 
  • Graduating valedictorian or salutatorian are not "normal"; they're above it. 
  • Scholarships and awards are not "normal"; they too are above it. 
Moreover, true friends are those that respect us for who we are without pressuring us to act contrary to our values.

Second, social skills can be traced back to self-confidence. When we follow Swamishri's agna of not exerting ourselves in a relationship at this age, we develop a type of resolve that's unmovable, unshakable, unwavering. The same resolve that...

  • ...Shastriji Maharaj carried with him when he left Vadtal. 
  • ...Bhagatji Maharaj maintained in his beliefs even amidst excommunication
  • ...Shriji Maharaj instilled in his paramhanso when opposition reared its ugly head across the land. 
This resolve has withstood the test of time - it's eternal and much more solid than than anything we could gain from some frivolous flirtation.

Finally, we often confuse our emotional needs with what we hear in society. The type of romance that is often popularized in music, movies, and even TV shows revolves around hook-ups where we are fulfilling our lust and infatuation, the product of a rush of brain chemicals that makes us feel "fuzzy" at first but ultimately DROPS us at a low point. After awhile, the "high" disappears, so we look for somebody else again and again. In this endless cycle, we never realize that the companionship and support we seek with the opposite sex can be found through God & guru who lovingly wait for us with outreached arms.

Above all, we expend a great deal of energy as it is in trying to be a great student, satsangi, son/daughter, friend, etc. so why add another title (boyfriend/girlfriend) to the mix?

Swamishri has emphasized that "by practicing brahmacharya, one’s intellect, luster, and power increases. By conserving the energy of brahmacharya, the body’s total energy is conserved."

Bottom line: Harness lust to hit it high in life - practice nishkam dharma.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Simple Ain't So Simple

When it comes to gaining inspiration, the words of others can be of great help...
Live simply that others might simply live.
The quote above is from Elizabeth Seaton, we have no idea who she is. We do not need to know because we are keeping things simple. In giving a talk keeping things simple sounds ... well simple, but it turns out it can be complicated.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius said that, so we are told. We don't really know, but we take some random person's word for it. We don't want to complicate things. What he is getting at is that making a simple message is simple, but it requires work and thinking. And when you do not want to do that work, you say it is complicated.

So why is it that things seem complicated?

You open a presentation and look over the myriad prasangs and you say to yourself, "How am I going to present this?" Our suggestion - simply. That does not mean boring, nor does it mean pedantic

(QUICK - How many times do you point when giving a talk to Bal/Balika mandal? BEWARE, being pedantic is not simple, it's silly so stop doing it).

Simple turns out to be hard because you really have to think about what it is you want to say. Every syllabus is full of really good matter and ideas, the really hard part is distilling it down to one or two lines that gives the simple message you want everyone to walk away from.

As the Heath Brothers put it from Made to Stick
How do we find the essential core of our ideas? A successful defense lawyer says, "If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won't remember any." To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission — sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.
This is why the Yogi Gita sticks with us. This is why we can memorize two hundred Swami ni Vato. The core idea is presented not in a sound bite way, but in a sticky way. The unexpected videos or analogies wakes people up, but if we do not follow that up with a simple core idea it is all for naught.

In the upcoming Kishori/Kishore syllabus there is a talk on Nirlobh - lack of greed. The matter is excellent, there is a great unexpected creativity tip on playing out a scenario and discussing it. Great outside examples, and a few very good prasangs of Swamishri exemplifying the quality of being nirlobhi.

So where do we start? We need to start with the simple message - this is where most of the work is done - so we can then pick and choose from the matter to create our talk.

What is the simple message? SECRET: There is no one absolute answer to that question. It depends on your audience and what you the presenter want to say. For instance, examples include,

  • Becoming nirlobhi (freeing ourselves from greed) makes us truly happy.
  • Bapa is the perfect example of being nirlobhi.
  • We become nirlobhi by understanding Bapa to be perfectly nirlobhi.

There can be many more, but if we do not decide what message we want everyone to leave with, then things get complicated. This works not only with presentations but with essays as well. If you are writing an essay to get into college or get a scholarship or even get into a volunteer program - you need to start with the simple message (your thesis statement for everyone that took expository writing) that everyone will leave with.

What if you are compiling a report, for work or Mandir? The first thing you need to start with is your simple message that you want the report to convey. The rest of the report provides concrete and credible examples to support your simple message. And to really get people to pay attention you have to throw in something unexpected to wake them up, grab their emotion to cause them to change, and do it with stories so that do not get bored.

In short, try writing down your simple message or proverb or golden rule before making a presentation or writing a report or writing an essay. You will be amazed by the results.

I found the simple life oh so simple. - David Lee Roth

Oops! One of the three quotes is not right - let us know which on and you get major simple cred.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Nissneh: Beware of the Bug Light

Summer is right around the corner, and depending where you live, the critters invade our homes. Flying insects, like mosquitoes and houseflies, can get quite irritating, but mankind came to solve that problem fairly quickly...
This video is worth more than a few chuckles, especially since it's an invaluable metaphor for this week's topic of nisneh.

But first, what's our main point? Nisneh is guided attachment - attachment through understanding. 

And the mosquitoes illustrate this idea well. Start sabha off with this brief video clip, and ask the audience, "How many mosquitoes were aware of the bug light?" We are tempted to answer one, but the answer is two. Before meeting his death, the second mosquito actually admits that he can't overcome his attachment

Now ask, "How many mosquitoes understood the nature of the bug light?" Only one - he survived.   

For us, attachment comes easily in both reality (with people, places, pets, etc.) and in fiction (with TV, movies, novels, etc.). We don't have to think about it - it just happens - just as mosquitoes gravitate towards a bug light. Hence, we need to be aware to what we become attached lest we wish to get fried by the bug light of maya.

Succeeding in life requires that we attach ourselves to those who have proven themselves successful and in turn want us to succeed, and we have to look no further than Shriji Maharaj & Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Prasangs about P. Krishnapriya Swami, Mulji Bhakta, and even Macha Khachar help us with developing true nisneh, attachment through understanding. Even Swamishri's own words reveal to us the ideal of nisneh. 

But, what about us? What about now

Now present the audience with the following scenarios. Do not ask for responses initially. 
  • Go to sabha vs. hang out with friends? 
  • Go to sabha vs. work on a school project with group? 
  • Go to sabha vs. go to garba? 

Some of these same easy, some of them do not. To answer them, we will turn to an activity.
  • Ask everyone to write down on a sheet of paper the ten things they care about the most (e.g. playing basketball, checking e-mail, etc.). To make this activity work, try not to classify similar items - like puja, darshan, arti - separately; they can all fall under Satsang.
  • Then ask a few members to share. Now, ask everyone to cross off three things they could do without; again ask for a few to share. 
  • Now, ask everyone to cross off two more, and see what everyone has left. Rank these five items in order of importance.  
These are our attachments. These dictate how we manage our time - for better or for worse. Going back to our scenarios...
  • Go to sabha vs. hang out with friends? No brainer - but when we have something to do for mandir that Sunday and socialize too much during the week, the presentation does not get done. 
  • Go to sabha vs. work on a school project? We feel better on this one given that Swamishri wants us to do well in school, but did we really maximize our time during the school week to work on the project? Or did we make sabha a priority when our group was scheduling our meeting?
  • Go to sabha vs. go to garba? Garba is not usually held during sabha time, so this one sounds stupid. However,  catching up on missed sleep is anything but stupid. Dancing the night away costs us by causing us to doze sabha away. 
If Satsang was our #1, then the answer is easy to all of these scenarios. It's only when it's not #1 that we struggle with the answer. 

For us, nisneh helps us manage our time wisely. Lalji Suthar's prasang caps off this point very well. So steal the show this Sunday - talk about nisneh and its relevance to us today.