Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yogiji Maharaj: A True Sadhak

Yogi Jayanti provides an excellent opportunity to revisit the life of our guru, Yogiji Maharaj, and learn from the shining lesson of his sadhutaa.

Step 1: Synthesize the simple statement. Feel free to brainstorm or use some of the ones taken from the syllabus.
  • Yogiji Maharaj was a true sadhak.
  • Determination defines a true sadhak.
  • Sincere thoughts, words, and deeds produce success.
Step 2: Start with the shakeup. 
  • Playing the Fool: When our motives are just, we can wield our mind as a weapon. While the mathematician's son saw this idea as an opportunity to earn some money, Yogiji Maharaj showed us this idea as an opportunity to excel and prosper in life. 
  • The Cop that Could: In Act 2 of this episode of This American Life, we learn of a police officer who just want stop to exposing the corruption in his department - even when he gets arrested by the officials above and committed to an asylum against his own will. (NOTE: This segment is long but quite juicy, so be sure to listen to it in advance to get the gist.)
  • Progress Through Patience: Take a look at some of these shakeups that illustrate the idea of just how determination or focus can help turn the tide in our favor, namely "College Reject" and "One Elephant vs. Pack of Lions."
Step 3: Support the simple statement with stories filled with details (concrete) and validity (concrete). Here, we took prasangs to support the simple statement, "Determination define a true sadhak."
  • Royal Treatment: Despite being honored with such savory sweets, Yogiji Maharaj was determined to honor his fast and to honor Shriji Maharaj's name. Not only was his bhakti manifest from within towards his Ishtadev, but it radiated to those around him. A true sadhak is thus the emblem of such enlightenment - all of which starts with determination of course.
  • Happiness Amidst Beatings: This example proves just how much Yogiji Maharaj's determination stood strong amidst a torrent of abuse and insult. However, another thing stands out in this prasang that we would otherwise miss. As hard as it was to do the right thing, it's even more difficult to remain happy doing it. Thus, Yogiji Maharaj's determination was of another level - that of a true sadhak. 
  • Laugh, not Cry: Abuse can be both physical or verbal, and it's the latter of which whose pain persists long after the act happened. After all, we find it quite difficult to erase those embarrassing memories, yet Yogiji Maharaj shows us one way in which we can through never letting the memory form in the first place. His mind was so determined to please Shriji Maharaj that he took not even a moment's chance to consider the flaws of his physical form. If we can cultivate this type of determination, overcoming obstacles becomes that much easier.
Determination stands the test of time, and at least one century later, we are still remembering the man that paved the way for Satsang to fluorish as we know it today. Let's honor him by determining to plan, prepare, and present accordingly.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Authentic Speaking

For the past few months, we've seen what it takes to make a powerful presentation
  1. Simple statement
  2. Shakeup
  3. Stories
So we go to the drawing board every week in crafting our message, do a quick practice, and then execute on Sunday... only to see little enthusiasm in the audience.

What gives? Maybe there's something wrong with them. Maybe there's something we're not doing.

The Calm After the Show

Body language is the doing that goes with the talking, and without it, our presentation may have a powerful message but will also appear artificial. 

Fear not, for communication Dr. Nick Morgan is here to help. In a recent article, he suggests we focus the following four aims.
  • Being open to the audience: Imagine what it's like to give this speech to someone you're comfortable with; it could even be Pramukh Swami Maharaj if we've had that opportunity. Focus on making that your demeanor prior to presenting.
  • Connecting with the audience: Let's picture ourselves trying to talk to a balak who isn't being all too attentive. Do we need to think to try to capture his attention? Not quite. We do what feels natural, like raising our voice or moving closer. That's the natural touch we should have in our presentations.
  • Being passionate about the topic: Think about what's at stake with this presentation and what results we want our presentation to deliver. We want our audience to grow closer to our guru, and if we genuinely feel it, it will come through in word after word of our delivery.
  • "Listening" to the audience: If it's sabha, we know what people expect with different individuals who are assigned to present. What do people expect as we present - a quick nap or a quick burst of energy? By picking up on nonverbal cues in the audience, we can maximize our delivery through changing up our delivery, asking an impromptu question, or adding/removing parts of our talk.
In short, let's try to keep these four principles in mind as we go up to present, be in sabha, shibir, or school. These finer points will inevitably come in handy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jim & His Presentations

When we think presentations, we think PowerPoint. It's a fact that has been drilled in our heads since the beginning of time (or at least from when we first started presenting at mandir), yet PowerPoint can often make our presentations suffer if used incorrectly.

That's the lesson Jim learns along with some other tidbits:
  • Brainstorming is best done low-tech. That's right, PowerPoint is not a requirement for crafting simple statements, shakeups, and stories, but some mental energy is.
  • Each slide is best utilized to explain ONE point. After all, they're free!
  • Clip art is best used to explain the point at hand - not just to fill empty space.
Learn all this and more through Jim's story below.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yogiji Maharaj & The Balak Connection

Yogiji Maharaj’s personality was different. He didn’t make people become better Satsangis. They became Satsangis on their own out of love for Yogi Bapa. His style was different, he didn’t have to “make” people become sadhus; his way was such that he could attract the most malicious person and turn him into an ideal devotee.

Step 1: Synthesize the simple statement.
  • Yogiji Maharaj had the greatest respect for balaks.
  • Yogiji Maharaj’s love attracted people to him.
  • Yogiji Maharaj lived a life where he sought happiness for others.

Step 2
: Start off with a shakeup.

Note: This activity will need materials, and will take some time to prepare. It would be ideal if you gathered the materials before sabha.
  • Provide each balak with a ruler. However, have different units of rulers. For example, give one balak a ruler that measures in inches while another receives one in centimeters. Another one could even have a yard stick. Feel free to create any other ruler - just involves taking a sheet of paper and drawing lines for whatever unit of measurement we choose.
  • Then, have all the balaks measure one object (e.g. the length of the mandir, the length of the whiteboard, the length of the door, the length of the room, etc).
  • Before letting them loose, make a note that whoever has the most accurate measurement of the object wins.
Tip: This activity could be done with tablespoon/cup/pint/quart measurements too.

It’s obvious that the balaks will come back with different measurements. The answers will be in inches, centimeters, yards, millimeters. It’s hard to relate to these because they are all different measurements; all used around the world. The point is that with the Satpurush, we have a certain unit of measurement. We can relate to him by miles, inches, whatever, but that’s our unique way of connecting with him.

Thus, the Satpurush can relate to anyone. It doesn’t matter what unit you’re using. He knows all the units of measurement. There for we uses one measure with little Tarun, another with the mischievous balaks, and yet another with the man caught stealing shoes.

Step 3: Support the simple statement with prasangs filled with concrete details. Yogiji Maharaj knew how to connect with everyone, especially balaks. The famous phrase, “Young people are as precious to me as my own heart” was told truthfully by Yogiji Maharaj. He had this unique way of showing love. These prasangs below will show how he used his love to spread Satsang.
  • Little Tarun - Yogiji Maharaj knew what to do and what to say to cheer up the crying balak. Yogi Bapa took time to connect with the balak. That’s what made him unique! That’s why not only balaks but everyone could connect with Yogi Bapa. 
  • The Mischievous Balaks- Even to the most bad-behaved balaks, he would show so much patience. Balaks were the center of Yogiji Maharaj’s thoughts. Even in the middle of his katha, while he was talking, if a balak interrupted, he would take time to listen to the balak. Thus, through his love, he connected with kids.
  • Champal Chor- Almost every balak knows the story of the Champal Chor. You can use this to your advantage to ask the balaks what they know about the story. Then, fill in the details. After Yogiji Maharaj ‘released’ the champal thief, 50 years later in Atladra, he showed up with a tilak chandlo, jabho lengho. He grabbed Swami’s hand, and asked him, “Swami, mane olakhyo? Yogiji Maharaje je chorne chhodi didho hato ae hu aa tamaaro chust Satsangi thaine betho chhu" 
The last prasang, especially, exhibits that Yogiji Maharaj used his love to turn thieves into karyakars. This was his “divya-tantra”. Through his love for balaks and his devotees, he spread Satsang worldwide into Africa, America, and many other places.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Vachanamrut: A Kid's Version

purposeThe Vachanamrut can be a tough topic, especially when trying to teach balaks. However, the Vachanamrut contains the words of Shriji Maharaj, and therefore it is necessary for balaks to learn the importance of the Vachanamrut. The Vachanamrut remains the foremost unique scripture in our Sampraday.

One way to talk about the Vachanamrut to balaks is through an activity. In the event that some balaks have prior knowledge of the Vachanamrut, this activity will be a great way for them to dive into reading the Vachanamrut. From a young age, if balaks are exposed to reading the Vachanamrut, then they won’t be scared to pick it up in the future if they need an answer. To encourage our balaks to develop a sort of “bond” with the Vachanamrut, let's take a look at this week's activity.

Activity: First, talk with a few non-bal/balikas (e.g. kishores/kishoris, yuvaks/yuvatis, etc.) to take part in this activity. Then, have a bunch of them walk around with section numbers listed on them, like Sarangpur-8, Karyani-9, etc. Throughout your presentation, tell the balaks to introduce themselves to each one of these ‘Vachanamruts’ and learn as much about them as possible. At the end, line up all the kishores and have the balaks say what they learnt about the kishores. This way, balaks won’t always be intimidated to read the Vachanamrut.

Also on the theme of ghar sabha, the syllabus has provided a worksheet with a list of three Vachanamrut topics. These topics are to be taken home and discussed with their parents to reinforce the importance of this scripture at home.

Thus, let's help bring our balaks one step closer to Maharaj & Swami through sharing with them the glory of our fundamental scripture.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Procrastinating... Helps?

Question ?Let's face it, we've all fought that battle against the beast known as procrastination, and we all know of its treachery oh so well. However, can it ever be helpful?
We had discussed what it meant to awaken curiosity, the hallmark of an engaging ghosti, so let's put this post to practice. Have your kishores/kishoris think of situations where procrastinating got the job done; generally, these roll right off the tongue.

Now throw the monkey wrench into their mental machinery: From the standpoint of the opposing party, what did they think of that effort?

For example, let's say Jayesh's teacher curves the highest grade to an A in his AP Chemistry class, and Jayesh easily beats his class by scoring in the 80's. Thus, he never studies until the night before. He's very intelligent but rarely pays attention in class as he realizes that he doesn't have to bust his butt in this class to make a legitimate A (>93). Jayesh is also a senior applying to college and decides to ask this teacher for a recommendation letter. 

What do we think Jayesh's teacher will write about him?

A question of this nature will stimulate our ghosti members to think outside themselves and perhaps catalyze a purpose for trying to deal with this issue.

Topics like laziness and procrastination follow a basic pattern in the head of the seasoned kishore/kishori; they know they will learn of their deficiencies and weakness and thus be less likely to engage and pay attention. After all, we don't like to be told we're broken.  

However, when we awaken awareness to the externalities of our imperfections, we may have a stronger motivation to curb them - a 'why' for the 'what.' 

Hence, to add some seasoning to this selection on self-improvement, try opening up the ghosti in this way BEFORE addressing how to deal with our procrastination. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bhagatji Maharaj's Devotees

Our Satsang is filled with rich examples of character and value-based living hailing all the way from Shriji Maharaj's time until now. Let's take a look at some example from Bhagatji Maharaj's time with the upcoming sabha presentation in kishore/kishori sabha.

Step 1: Synthesize the simple statement. Here are a few we created. We are leaning towards presenting the first since our target audience and our sabha could really use a boost in the commitment department.
  • Our only barrier to connecting with the Satpurush is commitment.
  • The strength of a true devotee cannot be matched.
  • The Satpurush meets us more than halfway if we try to reach him.
Step 2: Start with the shakeup. Any one of these examples will wake people up - a good way to start.
  • Hitting Rock Bottom: Let's face it - whenever we hear of the prasangs of great devotees of our Satsang, we can only feel helpless and inferior in the presence of such shining examples. Hearing their tales only serves to expose our own vulnerabilities to ourselves, which of course we don't so like, so we often tune out and rationalize away the essence of these devotees' existence. However, we can turn to the life of J.K. Rowling; in her 2008 Commencement Speech given at Harvard University, she narrates the story of her life and offers a powerful insight in what she had learned, “Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” This example can introduce the idea that seeing our faults can help us focus on improving them - as long as we are committed to this. 
  • David Blaine: Finding his true strength is what David Blaine does for a living; listen to how he trained his body to survive without oxygen for a record-breaking 17 minutes, defying even what the doctors considered healthy. These devotees also had true strength.

  • Saving the Ship: In Act 2 of This American Life episode, we come to learn of two individuals who piece together a sunken ship. While one provided the know-how, the other did the actual labor. We synergize with the Satpurush in a similar manner as he provides us with the knowledge to meet him halfway. (Note: We took inspiration from the Titanic example in the syllabus; using this example to start off the presentation would best be achieved by detailing how the original ship sunk and how it was recovered by efforts of these two men.)
Step 3: Support the simple statement with stories filled with vivid details (concrete) and validity (credibility). For the stories below, we chose to link back to our second simple statement, "The Satpurush meets us more than halfway if we try to reach him." These prasangs will be brand new for many kishoris and kishores, so a greater emphasis on storytelling will hold everyone's attention.
  • Girdharbhai: A keen interest in offering bhakti can go one of two ways. Either the individual stagnates with succumbing to the infatuation of his/her spiritual ability or they grow closer to God & His Ekantik Bhakta. Girdharbhai was obviously of the latter, and Shriji Maharaj Himself took notice to help him realize the pragat form of God. However, Girdharbhai doubted God's words which any devotee does at some point or another, yet his intent brimmed with sincerity which beckoned Shriji Maharaj to once again help him on his path to finding the Ekantik Bhakta. Again, if our intent is true, then God & His Ekantik Bhakta will forever appreciate it and go out of their way to help us out.
  • Bechar Bhagat: He went to Pragji Bhakta to get a shirt stitched, and Pragji Bhakta offered him the chance to awaken his inner strength of Satsang. However simple this encounter may appear to be, we fail to realize that even merely stumbling into the Satpurush's company is enough for him to open the door for us. Again, iwe unknowingly ask the Satpurush for help in a genuine sense, he will reciprocate that sincerity through steering us to the right path. (For more information about Bechar Bhagat, check out this post.)
  • Balmukund Swami: When Bhagatji Maharaj arrived in Junagadh, the Nagar devotees understood his eminence as Gunatitanand Swami's prime devotee. Thus, devotees and sadhus like Balmukund Swami felt humbled in his presence and expressed that same sentiment to those that came into contact with them, like Dr. Umiyashankar. Upon first look, we may not see how the Satpurush met this devotee halfway, especially since he questioned Bhagatji Maharaj's status, but would he have even come to understand Bhagatji Maharaj's mahima if he never lay eyes on him at all? Let's think about it - the Satpurush travels to quench our spiritual thirst and to awaken that thirst in those who have a sincere intent. As Balmukund Swami was of a learned nature, those who claimed him as their guru, like Dr. Umiyashanker, would have imbued such sadhutaa in their lives as well from associating with him. Thus, Bhagatji Maharaj's visit enabled these peripheral devotees to gain a better chance at seeking to understand him.
Just as the Satpurush will meet us halfway (and even more), let's strive to put forth that genuine effort into making this presentation powerful. If we too meet our audience halfway, they too will meet us all the way in loaning us their keen interest.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Storytelling Simplified

Presentations have three elements: the simple statement, the shakeup, and the stories. Once we get in the habit of crafting presentations with these three parts, all we have left to do is polish. Take a look at this video to polish off those prasang-varnan skills. (Yeah, yeah, it's black and white, but like they say, "Old is gold.")