Friday, October 12, 2018

Prasangs of Mahant Swami Maharaj

In this week's kishore-kishori sabha, we will be highlighting the life of our guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj, with prasangs. With 35 minutes allotted, it may appear difficult to connect his 85-year lifetime with ours, so we need to emphasize relevance. At NC18, delegates took the time to put together a life map highlighting milestones in their life.  

One way to kick off sabha is by asking the audience, "Imagine we had the seva of drafting Mahant Swami Maharaj's life map. From birth, what 9 events would he want to feature from his life through the age of 30?" 

Allow them time to brainstorm independently before putting together the events.

To explain why we picked this age, Chip and Dan Heath cite a study in their latest book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, which clarifies why we picked this age range. 

In a study by Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin, respondents were prompted to think about the life of a baby who had just been born and to predict what would be “the most important events that are likely to take place in this infant’s life."
  1. Begin school 
  2. College 
  3. Marriage 
  4. Parents' death 
  5. Others' death 
  6. Retirement 
  7. Leave home
  8. First job
It’s striking that 4 out of the 8 most important events all happen during a relatively narrow window of time: roughly age 15 to 30. 
Similarly, if you ask older people about their most vivid memories, research shows, they tend to be drawn disproportionately from this same period, roughly ages 15 to 30. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “reminiscence bump.” Why does a 15-year period in our lives—which is not even 20% of a typical life span—dominate our memories? “The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty,” said Claudia Hammond in her book Time Warped. “The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a . . . time for first... first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days.”
For Swamishri, let's look at his firsts. We highly recommend this book in preparation for this weekend, particularly the first section on his life as a balak, a kishore, and a yuvak. Here is our sample of 10 major events from birth to age 30.
  1. 9/13/1933: birthday
  2. 1934: first encountered Shastriji Maharaj who named him 'Keshav' [0.5] 
  3. 1946: placed first in the annual exam and received a book as a prize [12]
  4. 1951: encountered Yogiji Maharaj & Pramukh Swami Maharaj [17]
  5. 1951: received first kanthi at the hands of Yogiji Maharaj [17]
  6. 1952: spent time in Gondal with Yogiji Maharaj and acknowledged his guru's wish for him to become a sadhu after graduating college [18]
  7. 1952-1954: pursued Bachelor's in Agriculture as it allowed him availability to spend time with his guru [18-20]
  8. 1957: received parshadi diksha [24]
  9. 1960: received diksha again [27]
  10. 5/11/1961: received bhagwati diksha [27]

See what ideas the audience comes up with, and let's share with them the experiences our guru had in his life.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Yogiji Maharaj’s Love for Devotees

This week, we look at Yogiji Maharaj's love for his devotees. On first glance, it might be harder to create excitement for this topic, it is definitely possible through maximizing our storytelling skills.

Step 1: Synthesize the simple statement. Feel free to brainstorm or use some of the ones taken from the syllabus.
  • Yogiji Maharaj loved his devotees.
  • Yogiji Maharaj's was a servant of servants (das na das).
  • Yogiji Maharaj's love inspired others.

Step 2: Start with the shakeup. 
  • Start off sabha by asking the audience to identify this kishore who we already know. Framing this prasang pre-emptively encourages the audience to pay attention in hopes of identifying the individual. If the majority of your audience may have already read this book, feel free to substitute this prasang with Pujya Viveksagar Swami & Pujya Doctor Swami from below.
  • Mahant Swami Maharaj: An Epitome of SaintlinessIn 1951, Yogiji Maharaj visited the home of one family. Their 18-year old son didn't find religion or sadhus appealing - to the point where he would run out of the house the moment he knew Yogiji Maharaj entered their home. Once as he was leaving the home, he encountered Yogiji Maharaj who lovingly held out his hand and asked affectionately, “Guru, where are you going? Come back upstairs.” He loving places a kanthi around his neck, but he immediately tears it off with the beads flying everywhere. We can only wonder what future this kishore will have in Satsang! A couple of days later, Yogiji Maharaj was departing. En route to the the railway station, he saw this kishore sitting on the parapet of the village pond with his friends. Yogiji Maharaj hailed him affectionately, so the kishore reluctantly came to Yogiji Maharaj, wondering what would he say now! However, to his surprise, Yogiji Maharaj humbly joined his palms and smilingly said, “Now I am going. Forgive me for my mistakes.” And so saying, Yogiji Maharaj blessed him with his signature pat and walked away hurriedly. 
  • See if anyone can identify this kishore. We all know this kishore. He is our guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj.
  • Through prasangs like these, we will learn about the power of Yogiji Maharaj's love.

Step 3: Support the simple statement with stories filled with details (concrete) and validity (concrete). Here, we took prasangs to support the simple statement, "Yogiji Maharaj loved his devotees."
  • Kiritbhai: Yogiji Maharaj's love reminded Kiritbhai of his parents given the care and attention he took the smallest things.
  • Natvarbhai Shukla of Jhadeshwar: Yogiji Maharaj loved his devotees enough to acknowledge the time they spent. 
  • Theplas for Third Class [Nilkanth, March 2012]: One kishore in college in Mumbai decided to spend five days with Yogiji Maharaj in Atladra. Adhering to Yogiji Maharaj’s wishes, on his way to Atladra, he traveled in the 3rd class compartment on the train. However, his return ticket was booked for the 1st class compartment – in which there was air conditioning, food, & comfort. After the five days were complete, he went to Yogiji Maharaj and told him he was leaving. Yogiji Maharaj asked in which train he was going, but he tried to avoid the question. Yogiji Maharaj said that he couldn’t let him buy the ticket and that the Sanstha would pay for the ticket. Yogiji Maharaj told a haribhakt to buy a 3rd class ticket for him, as he was a student and probably didn’t have the money. Yogiji Maharaj also instructed that haribhakt to ensure he got dropped right onto the train to avoid getting lost. In private, this kishore told the haribhakt that there was no point buying the ticket because he had money and would buy it himself. The haribhakt then told him that it was Yogiji Maharaj’s agna, so he could not disregard it. The next morning, Yogiji Maharaj woke up at 4:00 am, made fresh theplas, and a package for him. He initially became embarrassed because he would have to carry the package onto the 1st class compartment of the train, where there would already be food. With this in mind, he decided that, on his way to the train station, he would give the package to some homeless person. Additionally, he decided that after getting into the cart and leaving the mandir, he would tell the haribhakt to step out. As the cart left the mandir, Yogiji Maharaj made sure the kishore got on to the cart. When the cart was about to make a final turn, the kishore looked back to get one last darshan of the gate of Atladra mandir, and his heart skipped a beat. He saw Yogiji Maharaj standing at the gate and watching the cart make its last turn. That moment changed everything. He decided that he would sit in the 3rd class compartment and eat the theplas that Yogiji Maharaj made. We all know this kishore as Pujya Viveksagar Swami, and the haribhakt as Pujya Doctor Swami. Both can personally recall how Yogiji Maharaj loved his devotees.

Yogiji Maharaj's love for all inspired the start of Sunday sabha, so let's make the most of our time in sabha this week.