Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Point of View

When we were balaks there was one story we dreaded - the chibro (ચીબ્રો) story. The first one or thirty times we heard it we were okay with it. People would add more details as time went by (the whole denouement with Maharaj throwing the pumpkins in the ocean was interesting). Then at about the umpteeth time we heard it, we checked out. We knew what was going to happen - nothing unexpected - nothing sticky. The chibro story was also grating to us since it was so repetitive - so it was like living the same story over and over in just one sitting. 

What do we do if we are going to say a prasang that maybe our entire Bal/Balika mandal has heard before? Our idea is below, it is an easy yet clever game changer, a go to idea. Let us know what your ideas our as well.

Tell the story from another point of view.

This week our syllabus has the interesting prasang of Joban Pagi and his transformation. Here is a good example of a prasang that balaks and balikas may have heard way too many times before. We often say the prasang as a narrator -- try telling the prasang as one of the characters in the prasangs or invent a new character/insect/object (without compromising the prasang’s genuineness) as if you were a ‘fly on the wall’ and say the prasang. Think about it, we can say the entire prasang with all the details from the point of view of Manki Godi, the object that Joban was trying to steal. We can make up a character - maybe a bird that sees the entire prasang happen. Let's look at an example.
Once, in India, Gujarat to be exact, there was a bird named Tweeter. Tweeter was one of the smartest and wisest bird of its kind. It knew what was going on all over Gujarat. It would fly all the way from Jamnagor, to Rajkot, to Bhavnagar, and even sometimes to The Gir National Park to visit its cousins. 
Tweeter could see everything that was going on in Gujarat from the teenage children playing cricket over in  Gondal, to the students studying for their final exam in Babra. When he saw these kind of things going on, he established faith in humans. So, he would fly around to kids, and they would play with Tweeter. Sometimes, people would take some food out of their own meal, and feed Tweeter with it. Sadly, the bird saw bad things also, For example, the bird saw a robber stealing money from a merchant over in Bhavnagar. Tweeter felt really sad that people do these kind of things. However, sadly, he couldn’t do anything to stop it, because he was after all, just a bird. 
Every time he saw something bad, he would lose some faith in humans. Thus, he would slowly stop playing with the humans. One time things got so bad that Tweeter completely stopped visiting humans. The reason for this was because of a man named Joban Pagi. He would loot people, kill people even. The bird actually saw Joban two or three times in action. He really wanted to help to stop Joban Pagi, and put an end to him so that everything could return back to normal. However, Tweeter didn’t have the power because he was so small after all.  
Sometimes, Tweeter would go and spy on Joban, just to see what he was up to next. Once when Tweeter went near Joban Pagi’s window, he saw 3 other people. “He is a man of miracles. He is so brilliant that he certainly stands out as God.” said one brother. Tweeter saw Joban Pagi shake his head, and get pound his fist on the table. Scared, Tweeter flew out of sight of the window because he was scared that one of the brothers would spot him. 
As Tweeter was leaving, he saw a tree nearby. He went to the nest and he saw his friend Woodchuck! There, he decided to spend the night because his home was too far away. Then, when he was about to fall asleep he saw Joban Pagi crawl out into the night. Curious, Tweeter quietly followed him until Joban came to a stop. Tweeter then saw Joban go into the place were Manki was being kept. He was going to steal Maharaj’s horse! However, Tweeter knew that Lord Swaminarayan was someone above human. He would teach Joban Pagi a lesson for sure. 
[Thus, narrate the story like this, in Tweeter’s perspective] 
Tweeter was amazed, instead of coming out with a sword, he saw Joban holding a rosary in his hand! Then in the end, Tweeter regained his faith in humanity and started flying to humans again, because he knew that Maharaj would transform these “bad” people into “good” people.

Will this require a bit of thought on our part. Absolutely! But think about the how unexpected this will be, how much excitement this will generate with our kids. This is also a "go to" skill. If our sabha is getting dry and the kids are getting antsy, simply change the point of view of the story you are about to say and see the attention come back. This also lets to modify the prasang to the age and level of your sabha.Trust us, we have used this before (even with the chibro prasang - we told it from the point of view of the pumpkin!) and it works. Try it next week and let us know how you fared.

The three question process
Here we outline the three question process in preparing for this talk.
Step 1: What is the simple statement?

  • Maharaj is willing to forgive us and help transform if we are willing to follow his wishes.
  • The idea of transformation is all about sacrifice.
Step 2: Start off with a Shakeup
Explain the process of a caterpillar “transforming” into a butterfly and how it applies to transformation. Point out to the balaks that the butterflies don’t change, they transform; they become a whole new creature. Explain that this can happen to people as well. You can even tell the story from the point of view of a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly at the same time Joban becomes a bhakta. 

If your kids are older then you might want to try and add this as a shake up. It still has caterpillars but the idea is that to transform we have to be focused on Maharaj (pine straw) or else we walk around in circles and perish.

Step 3: Back up the shakeup with the example of Joban Pagi.
Relate the shake up in the following way. Currently, most of us are caterpillars, slowly crawling around observing the world. A caterpillar can only begin to transform into a butterfly once its ready. By attaching our self to Maharaj & Swami, we can “transform” just like a caterpillar. However, we also have to be “ready” to sacrifice everything for them. By sacrificing our faults (just like Joban Pagi sacrificed his sword), we can get the raajipo of Maharaj and Swami. Once we are willing to sacrifice and improve our self, then Maharaj will give us the ability to become a majestic butterfly.

Joban Pagi experience a similar “transformation” where he traded his sword for a rosary. Furthermore, transformation is more about surrendering than achieving. Because he has turned someone who is aggressive and stubborn to a humble and sublime devotee, it can be said that “Swaminarayan has turned a donkey into a cow.”

1 comment:

  1. Tried this last Sunday with the bal 1 balaks and the ghost-well prasang from Ghanshyam Charitra. In the prasang, the balaks were told to pretend to be a part of the rope for the well (and so one balak ended up being amongst the ghost in the well, where as the other was outside the well hooked on to Bhaktimata's bucket; they communicated messages through the telephone game) -- the balaks had a good time.