Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 The Year of the Tongue

December 31, 2011

"How can you practice sattyam (truth), priyam (pleasing speech) and hitam (beneficial speech) when you're dealing with your kids?"
She asked this in a joking tone as we waited in line for prasad. We had to lean close and speak loudly over all the other conversations.
"Catch them doing something right, then show appreciation for their proper behavior.", I suggested, and motioned to a young boy sitting nearby,"You're using your spoon properly and not spilling anything."
"My son is 19"
"Alright, it still works, no matter what age. Catch him doing something right, and show that you've noticed, let him know that you appreciate his coming home on time, or that he's done something that you've asked him to."
"My daughter is 30. She complains that I've only criticized her throughout her life"
"She will be surprised to see the new you. She will ask what has come over you. At that point you may tell her you are trying to improve and that you're very sorry for your dealings in the past."
My new friend looked very thoughtful, no longer joking,"Thank you, I'll try this."

I had been asked to give a brief talk for New Year's Eve. "Something about what you've learned this year and resolutions for the next, whatever seems appropriate to you." Offered Ramachandra.

I chose a verse from Bhagavad Gita describing temperance of speech.
Shri Krishna advises that our speech should not cause distress to others, should be Truthful, Pleasing, Beneficial and one should recite from the Vedas regularly.
Priyam, pleasing speech, is sought after by everyone. If you can give a few kind words to someone, a compliment, or express appreciation, this will be remembered and cherished more than all the gifts received at Christmas. There is no cost, why not take advantage of this? Be open and lavish with praise.  We are trying to develop good habits, these things take skill. Any skill, such as basketball or music, requires practice. You won't be perfect at every shot, but you must keep practicing. Eventually these become part of our nature. The most challenging people to practice on are your close family members, your children, your parents, brothers, sisters, your spouse. These are the most important people in your life, yet we feel that it is alright to vent our anger on them. We must also be kind to ourselves. Your inner dialog should also follow these principals.
Adopting these habits will bring about a change for the better in your life. Why not make 2012 the Year of the Tongue?

Damodar has been married recently. We began a conversation after getting our plates of prasad.
"Shall we sit here? It's a little quieter."
I joined him.
"I really liked your talk", he began, "My wife will be arriving from India soon. At that time my real married life will begin. Do you have any suggestions?"
His parents, had just been honored with an award for their 40 plus years of service to the temple and community of devotees. Samika Rsi, a surgeon, has given medical treatment to devotees free of charge. Their home has always been open as a retreat for ailing devotees or those simply needing a break from busy schedules in the large city temples.
"Just try to be nice." I suggested between spoonfuls,( I was really hungry and the prasad was very good.)
"The first few months with your new wife are foundational, they will set the tone for the rest of your time together."
Damodar looked apprehensive, even fearful.
"Don't worry, it will come naturally, just remember, try to be nice. It takes practice. I fail at it all the time, you can ask my wife. But like any skill, like basketball, the more you practice, the better you get."

After hours of convivial conversations, kirtans in the temple, midnight arrived. A rousing kirtan got everyone to their feet as we greeted 2012.
An idea came to me, "Come out to the lobby with me, I need your help"
A few devotees worked up a way to sing Hare Krishna to the Auld Lang Syne melody.

We sang it through several times to be sure we had it right, then returned to the temple as the final kirtan was wrapping up. Strumming the chords on guitar, not sure how it would go over, we all began. A resounding chorus joined, everyone recognized the tune.

5 AM the next morning, the tune was still in my head as we rushed to Newark Airport to board a flight to Costa Rica.
Our hosts had kindly packed a lunch for us, their son gave us a ride to the airport. I promised to not mention their names  publicly, as they are unable to turn a visitor away without tending to any and all of their needs.

Tonight we arrive in Costa Rica, Happy New Year !

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