Sometimes a NO is very important

They say cause of all sorrow is ‘desire’. Some people remain very sad for a long time if their wants are not fulfilled. But there are some, who can come out of their sadness pretty fast. They don’t remain dejected for a long time. I’ve always wondered what must be the reason in the difference in the degree of recovery from sadness. Recently I had a conversation with someone whom I know very well and I got to understand one probable reason for the changes in degree of recovery in different persons.

This person’s father had a tough childhood. He was very poor and all through his childhood he passed through a very difficult financial condition. To make it worse, he lost his parents while he was very young. Yet, with a lot of hard work, he completed his graduation, got on to a good job, got married to a nice girl and got two wonderful kids. By this time, he was financially stable, he had a wonderful family who loved him and life was treating him good. Since he struggled for food, good clothes, etc., during his childhood, he didn’t want his family to face the same situation. So, he started fulfilling almost all the desires of his children. Whatever the children would ask, the father would provide them. Of course, the children too understood their father well and hence were never greedy for things. But as they grew up, they hardly tasted a turn down for fulfillment of any of their wishes.

This person, whom I know, becomes very upset even when a small wish of his is not fulfilled or accepted by his wife. It may be a small thing like going out for a movie or a dinner or a weekend outing. If that wish is not fulfilled, he becomes very sad, gets angry, can’t get out of that situation and remains to be upset with his wife for a long time. He is also very keen on fulfilling all the desires of his kids. Be it watching a cartoon, or going out to a park, or having an ice-cream; he feels that those desires should be fulfilled every time or else how ‘sad’ the child would feel. Truly speaking, children often forget such things very quickly and are back to normalcy very fast. But it is the elders who are unable to let go of the thoughts.

His wife is able to let go or come out of any negative responses because she had heard ‘No’ from her parents quite a few times when she was young and had accepted the fact that there are some things which we get in life and some things that we miss. That we may not always get what we desire for. No big deal about it! So, her life is fine and she stays happy. But this guy gets very depressed and the worst part is, he does not realize that the cause of his sorrow is he himself!

From his example I felt, as a part of good parenting, sometimes when it is not possible to fulfill the child’s wish, the child should be clearly told, ‘Look son, this cannot be done’. All their wishes need not be fulfilled. The genuine wants should be satisfied but not all their wants. May be the child will cry for some time if he’s unable to understand the reason, but he will surely take home the lesson that ‘life may not give me everything I wish for’. And he’ll be prepared to face any turn downs or failures. By allowing all their wishes to be fulfilled, by not allowing to taste them negations; we might be making them ‘happy’ for the moment, but are we making them strong to withstand the ‘NOs’ he might hear in his life?

My Mind says, “I’m Innocent”

My Mind says, “I’m Innocent”

In 1931, New York witnessed the capture of one of the most dangerous gangster – Two Gun Crowley – as he was called. In his last fight with the cops, he was hit by many bullets and he thought he would die. So he wrote a note which read, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm.” But he didnt die. He was sentenced to death. And this is what he said in the court, “This is what I get for defending myself?”

When we hear this, we might think that he was crazy. Being a very dangerous gangster, how can he claim to be innocent? But the truth is, we all think in the same way.

Whenever we do something and get a negative result, we blame the circumstances or others who made our lives miserable. What really happens is, our Mind always tries to console us by saying, “Its not your fault. The circumstances were like that. What can you do about it?” And it develops self-pity towards ourselves. May be our family and friends tell us that it was a wrong act or wrong decision that you took, but still we will reply, “I had no choice.” It is not just the case of Two Gun Crowley, but the case of every human being. The Mind will always justify even our greatest mistake, and what happens is…we keep on leading the wrong path without realising our mistake and correcting our course of thinking.

One may say that being human, we can’t help, but think like that. However, it is not that case, is what Hindu scriptures teach us. At any given situation, four personalities in us gives four different opinions about the same thing. And this is how, we face an internal confusion.

e.g.A sweet is presented to a seeker of Truth. His Body will think of grabbing it fast. His Mind will tempt him about the sweetness. His Intellect will tell him that he is diabetic. His Atman or the Soul will say that this is temporary and that this is just a hinderance in his spiritual study that he is doing at the moment, hence ignore it.
These clashes of the Body, Mind, Intellect & Soul is the reason for our Sorrow.

So, how can we overcome this situation? Satsang (company of the good), Study of the scriptures, Following the spiritual path….all these help to align our four different thoughts into one. And that One thought will be what the Atman really needs.

The trick played by the Mind is that, whenever it sends out any opinion or thought, it makes us feel that this is what WE actually need. But the reality is, this is what the MIND needs to satisfy its sense organs.

The wise say…Go beyond the Mind, there is Intellect. Go beyond the Intellect, there is Atman – the Supreme Conscience.

Learning – The Other Way

Once I happened to meet somebody with whom I was having a conversation on Mathematics. He was telling me his story as to how haunting the subject was for him during his school and college days. He would top in every other subject but Maths…would take his percentage down. Somehow, with the help of his friends (before and during the exams) he used to pass in Maths. When he was in his twelfth standard, he confessed to his father that he won’t be able to clear the exam without having tuition. So his father arranged a Tuition Master for him. This Sir had a stammering problem due to which he didn’t get a good job in schools and made his living by taking private tuitions. Before he started going for the tuition, he had scored 4/200. But after four months coaching, he scored 168/200 in his final exams. Of all the people in the world, he (the student) had received the greatest shock. After he thanked his Sir he asked, “Sir, how come I got so many marks in Maths? I never used to understand this subject no matter how hard my professors & I tried. How did I understand from you?” His Sir replied (stammering), “My boy…the pause taken due to my stammering, gave you time to Think!”

Today, what usually happens in schools & colleges is Teaching; and not Learning. The teachers teach, write something on the blackboard and the students copy them down and study. As a result, they just become photocopying machines, with no Actual Knowledge happening inside them. Maths is one subject, which just cannot be learnt like that. And if someone tries teaching this way, he may succeed in teaching a very few and creating nightmares for the remaining students. Maths cannot be taught. It has to be discovered within us. It’s like music. Every student who learns Classical music, has to discover the correct musical notes within him.

Look at the world around. Don’t we see Maths everywhere? Who taught the birds speed, time & distance? Who taught the honey bee to make every cell in a hive in the shape of a hexagon? Who taught the spider to create a web in a particular model? Innumerable are the examples in the case of animals and birds to prove this fact. In case of humans also, it’s not different. Let us take a common example that we have seen many a times. Imagine a fielder on a cricket pitch. When he runs towards the boundary line to catch a ball flying through the air, all he does is keeping his focus on the ball. But unknowingly, he calculates the speed of the wind, the way in which his palms should come together to catch the ball, how fast should he run, what is the shape of the arc that he has to take to catch the ball, at which spot is the ball going to land, etc. How does this happen?

Our brain has an inbuilt capacity to do Mathematical calculations even without our knowledge. Since it is done so fast, we don’t realize such a happening. Maths is in our blood. We just have to bring it out. And this can be done when we get time to think. Children can do a lot better if they are given time to think. This is what our Maths teacher, Sir P.P.Raman, taught us. He used to give us a particular problem in geometry and go out of the class for a break. By the time he comes back to the class, most of us would have got the solution to the problem, and that too not just one but different solutions. This was how he taught some great things in life – Any problem can be solved in different ways. The clue to the solution lies in the problem itself. Keep meditating and the solution will appear.

I tried experimenting this in my classes of Vedic Mathematics for secondary school students. I stopped teaching the usual way. I started writing down problems and the answer without showing how I derived it. Then all I had to do was, challenge the children to find out the method. Within no time, they started finding out the methods, without being taught. The joy that I saw in their eyes was something that cannot be explained. They started feeling as if they have become Scientists or Mathematicians doing their own discoveries. They never forget these methods of calculating because – it is ‘their discovery’. Not just that, after a few days, some children (who were just average in Maths) came up with new methods of doing some particular calculations which I didn’t know.

This was the beginning of a whole set of students crying out as Maths as their favourite subject. How much confidence they must have gained in themselves after deriving such methods? What a change will it bring in their lives? The effort taken was just a shift in the way of teaching.

Let’s try something different. Let’s give them time & opportunity to Think. And the children will come up with better ideas. Let LEARNING happen, the OTHER WAY!


(Notes from the talk given by Swamiji Adhyatmananda Saraswati, Chinmaya Mission for Balavihar Children in Dombivli, Mumbai on 28th June 2009. These notes are written the way Swamiji spoke to the children)

Hari OM!

We will start with a story of a competition held once in a village…a competition of cutting the rice crop. If you have seen how the rice crop is cut, you can see that it requires a lot of speed and not much intelligence is required.

This story is taking place in a village where two expert farmers, Mr. A and Mr. C, are competing with each other. They are given a large piece of land full of rice farms. Mr. A gets the left portion of the land and Mr. C gets the right part. Both of them are well prepared for the competition. Children, after I finish the story, you all should declare who is the winner.

Mr. A starts at 7 am and continuously works till 5 pm without even resting for a minute. Mr. C starts at 7 am and works till 9:30 am. Then he goes back to his hut and comes out and again starts working from 10 am till noon. He again takes a break of half an hour and continues working in the same way till 5 pm. Now, children, you decide who is the winner.

Few children declared Mr. A as the winner because he is a hard worker and didn’t waste his time. Majority of the children said Mr. C is the winner because he must have (Each one started to give a different reason):

  1. Conserved his energy by taking breaks.
  2. Sharpened his knife during his breaks which increased his speed and reduced his strain.
  3. Had food which gave him extra energy to perform better.
  4. Taken small naps to freshen up.
  5. Reviewed his performance at regular intervals so that he could get to know how better he should perform.

After all these reasons, everyone was convinced that taking breaks improves efficiency and hence Mr. C must have been the winner.

Swamiji continued – So, we can conclude, “There is nothing wrong in taking breaks”. My dear children, this is my first request to all of you. Always keep this in mind. Take breaks at regular intervals to perform better. In a survey conducted and studied, it was found out that after studying a subject continuously for 40-60 minutes, a student’s efficiency drops. While studying, try to change the subject that you are studying after every hour. Take breaks at regular intervals is very important but more important is how you use your break time. If you spend the breaks watching TV or playing computer games, then no doubt it will entertain you, but unknowingly it will take away much of your energy that can be used for studying. Allot different time for your games and utilize the BREAK TIME to do some hobby like singing, drawing, painting, gardening, craft, enjoying nature, trees, birds, etc. If you don’t take breaks, your system will break down. Always keep this in mind even after you grow up. How you do things today will transform your character. Have you every thought why Sunday is a holiday? Why do we have summer vacations? It is for the same reason – Take a break.

My second request to you is – Have a goal. Man has got the privilege to lead a life. In case of animals, life leads them. For us, to lead a life, we need to have a goal or target to aim at. And the target should be the maximum. The higher the goal, the more we take the effort to jump higher. If you are 4 feet tall and want to take something that is 7 feet high, you may jump and get it. But imagine a goal 10 feet high. You will jump but might not get it. Still, the effort taken for jumping this time will be definitely higher than what was done earlier even though the goal is not achieved.

Have you ever wondered why some cars have a longer life than the ones those were manufactured along with it? It depends on the driver who is using the car, it depends on the roads, it depends on the quality of petrol used, etc. God gave all of us the same body, mind and intellect. How we make use of it will determine how good life we can lead. There is a saying, “God gifted us with many talents. What we do of it is a gift back to God”.

So now, you have a goal. You sit in your car and drive fast to reach your goal. But if you travel in the opposite direction of the desired goal, the faster you travel the faster you get away from your goal. Hence, it is very important to review your position while traveling towards your goal. Keep looking at the map and see if you are traveling in the right direction. Speed does not matter as much as direction does.

Our goal and the path are the two things that determine our future. Keeping this in mind, let us all lead a purposeful life.

4 Mahavakyas

(Notes from the talk given by Swamiji Adhyatmananda Saraswati, Chinmaya Mission for CHYKs (Chinmaya Yuva Kendra) in Dombivli, Mumbai on 28th June 2009)

Hari OM!

Four Mahavakyas or four Fundamental, Philosophical, Psychological Statements:

  1. People are OK
  2. People are Different
  3. People can Think
  4. People are responsible for their destiny; and their destinies can be changed.

Swamiji: Which of these statements do you like the most and why?

All CHYKs were asked to think and say their opinions. Each one explained their thought on a point and in the end it was found out that all the four points were interconnected.

People are OK. It is just that they are different; and different people think differently. As a result, the destiny of every person is different as per their deeds. The same thing is explained in science – “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Jesus Christ told the same thing – “As you sow, so shall you reap.” You sow wind, you reap whirlwind. The Karma Theory in Hinduism explains the same thing – Cause and Effect Theory. “What we are today is the effect of something (cause) which happened in the past. What we will be tomorrow is the effect of what we do (cause) today.” An effect is the same thing as the cause but in a different form. The seed of an apple in the cause and apple tree is the effect. The effect is inherent in the cause itself.

These four points should always be remembered. Many people often carry the attitude – I’m OK. You are not OK. For them, they are always right and it is always the other person’s fault. They actually forget the second point that people are different, and it ought to be so. God must have had a purpose behind it. Different colours make a painting beautiful. Different flavours make a feast good. Different sounds create beautiful music. Different people make the world beautiful.

Elders often forget that younger people can think and take decisions. Younger members of the family are often considered immature and incapable to take responsibility or decisions. The fact that “Everyone has worth” was proved by Sri Ramchandraji when he took the army of monkeys to fight with Ravana. He could have taken Bharata’s army and easily won the war, but he wanted to show that even mokeys can achieve a great task. Today, in the subject of management, there is a topic called ‘Managerial Effectiveness’ where it is said that the efficiency of a manager is tested in the way he distributes the work amongst his subordinates and gets the right work done from the right person. An efficient manager will always look at his subordinate’s strengths and make optimum use of the same.

It is said in point # 3 that People can think. It is not said that people always think they actually don’t. And the reason for not thinking is, they never got an opportunity to think. It was always others who thought for them and they just acted like robots by following the orders.

Teachers can facilitate children to experience. From experience comes thinking. Even though all may not be teachers by profession, all can, in some way or the other, make an opportunity for others to experience and think.

Respect others. In order to do so, one must learn to respect oneself. But how can one respect oneself, a question may arise. When a student fails in an exam, usually it is seen that the student and everyone around him makes a conclusion that “The student is a failure” instead of saying that “He just failed in that exam”. If the student avoids this way of thinking about himself, it can be said that he is respecting himself.

Even while in an argument, one should never say, “You are wrong”. It is his feeling that the other person is wrong. He should always say, “I feel that you are wrong. But that does not spoil our relation. It is just that we have a difference of opinion on this topic.” One should be ready to accept the other person unconditionally. It is when the false conception and expectation that the other person will, or rather should, change, that starts a fight. Accept unconditionally. Accept them as they are. Say to yourself – People are OK. People are different.

One might say his views or opinions but should always avoid Advice. Advice is like painting an ice cube. It is the thing that people love to give but the same people hate to take. Instead of giving advises, one can give questions to think upon. In fact, education is meant for this only. I read it somewhere, “Education can give intelligence but not intellect.” The knowledge that we get from various sources is the intelligence, but how to make use of it depends on our intellect. Intelligence makes a man successful. That’s why we can see only a few surgeons, few sportsmen, few teachers, few lawyers, who are exceptionally beyond comparison even though all of the got the same training.

If we keep these Four Mahavakyas in mind, we can always be happy and lead a worthy and noble life.

Difference between Teaching & Learning

A toddler saw an ant coming towards him. He goes, picks it up and gets bitten. Immediately he starts crying. He had a painful experience. Next time he won’t go and touch an ant; for, he had a Learning.

Learning is an experience. By the time a child is of 5 years of age, he has learnt a great deal of things without anybody teaching him. He Observes. He Experiments. He gets an Experience. He Learns. He will never forget such Learnings in his entire life because he learnt it through an Experience.

Teaching is more like a process. We are taught different subjects in schools. However, there are some things that can’t be taught, but only Learnt… such as mannerism, discipline, etc. We see parents shouting at small children when he becomes cranky, adamant or demanding. The intention of the parents is to convey the message that ‘demanding is not good’. But the way it is conveyed itself is demanding. Now the question is – from where does the child learn to demand or be adamant?

Many a times, parents wonder from where their child has learnt to behave like this. Only if they would observe (like the child did) their own ways of talking & behaving, will they realize that they themselves were an ‘object’ for the child’s learning. Not realizing this fact, parents try to correct the child by scolding, punishing, ordering and expecting the child to change instead of the parents becoming a better role model for the child.

Another important aspect in parenting is, to facilitate Learning. We need to give enough opportunities to kids to explore things and improve their imaginations. For this, we should bring ourselves down to the child’s level and try to see what he is thinking. Often parents and teachers correct on some creation the child has done – like when they draw a cow and colour it green, or when they fix square wheels to a car using their building set.

First of all, the question is – is correction required here? Is the child never going to realize what is correct if we don’t correct him? What’s wrong if the child imagines something which elders can’t imagine? The damage done by correction, according to psychologists, is that, it conveys a wrong message to the child. And the message is – “I’m not correct”. With repeated corrections, his interest and confidence decreases. His imaginations reduces. And one day, his creativity gets killed.

The above could be basically summarized into two points:

1.       Change yourself to a better role model with traits like patience, tolerance, empathy, etc instead of demanding the child to change.

2.       Avoid corrective steps so that a child can expand his imagination.

Let not a child’s Learning be killed by Teaching!

Understandings from a talk by Swamiji Adhyatmananda – Compiled by Vinay Nair

  • There’s no substitute other than understanding children. We try so many different methods to tackle children except this, which is the only way. In order to understand children you need to get down to their level. To influence a child, you have to go back to your childhood days.
  • Many a times, a child’s behaviour is bad due to parenting defects. And these parenting defects are due to their parents’ parenting faults.
  • Swamiji (to children): Do you get disturbed when your parents express their concern?
  • Children: Yes Swamiji, especially when they:
    • Insult in front of guests by asking the scores in exams.
    • Compare us with our brothers, sisters or friends.
    • They start their unending chant – “Study, Study, Study”. And when they add this dialogue – “I’m saying this for your own good”
    • Enforce the methods of studying – Read aloud, write and study instead of reading, etc.

Swamiji, how would our parents feel if we asked similar questions to them, like

o   Dad, how much increment did you get this time?

o   My friend’s dad is so cool, why cant you be like that?

o   Work more dad, do overtime. Get extra money so that you can live happily. I’m telling this for your own good, not for my sake.

  • First thing any parent should ask themselves is, “Do I love myself”? Everybody think that they love themselves, but very few do. We see so many people who are always busy and don’t have time for anything, not even for themselves. They are the ones who don’t like their own company. But it is them who always find fault in others and keep complaining and irritating others. Even though they might be a frustrating character for others; in reality, they face a greater struggle within them against their own personality resulting in inflicting the blame on others.
  • Authentic feeling is a must. If you get angry, tell the other person that you are getting angry. If you feel tensed, say so. Don’t express your feeling as anger when you are feeling tensed. Many laugh when they say something that has hurt them a lot. All these opposite reactions are called Racket Feeling in Psychology. It is also called Masking the Personality.
  • Unconditional Acceptance – Accepting ourselves as we are. One should have this attitude for oneself and for others. Only when we accept ourselves unconditionally can we overcome our short-comings. Mistakes are to be corrected. Life is not to be lead over repentance of the past. When we have the strength to bear others unconditionally, only then we have the right to correct others.
  • Take Charge/Responsibility of your feelings. Don’t blame others for you getting angry. You alone are responsible for it. One needs to have the courage to take responsibility of their actions.

  • Questions a parent should ask oneself.
    • Do I encourage my child to ask questions?
    • Do I love my children without any guilty consciousness or love without any regret (Unconditional Acceptance)? Or do I put any clauses in accepting my child?
    • How healthy is my relation with my partner? (It directly affects the child)
    • How much qualitative time do I spend with my child?

Your Son Gives You The Chance The Father You Always Wanted To Be

It’s my fourth day of babysitting my two year old son. He has taught me a lot of lessons in these four days and the most important one is – It’s not EASY!

He seemed to be irritated since today afternoon. Whatever I offered him, he rejected. I had no clue what to do to make him happy (atleast till my wife arrived). I offered him a toy. He threw it away. I offered another one. He threw that one too. Again I offered one more toy. Same reaction. But just after he did that, I happened to notice something that I had missed out earlier. And that was – He looked at my face every time he threw a toy to see my reaction. Then it struck me – Hey! My two year old is watching my reaction. He’s studying me!

I became more alert. He asked for a picture book of birds of which he says almost every bird’s name correctly. But when I asked him now, he said it all wrong. He does this often to express his displeasure towards anything particular and usually I correct him. However, this time I didn’t say anything. I calmly turned all the pages and finished the book. He again looked at my face. This time he didn’t see me irritated. Then I took his animal-picture book. This time he told all the animals’ name correctly. Now he was back to his normal mood and everything continued smoothly.

Later I contemplated on the entire situation and understood something. Before he expressed his irritation, he had come to me with something to play with. Since I was studying, I changed the topic and drew his attention to something else. I also got a couple of phone calls at that time. I thought I had managed to divert his attention and continued with my work. Later I realized how poor my observation was and how good was his.

What he needed was, like everyone else, attention. But when he didn’t get it, it hurt his feelings. His Ego was hurt. This resulted in anger, agitation and frustration. At this point, when I gave up my work and gave my 100% attention to him, I expected him to come out of his sorrow. But he didn’t; for, his Ego was hurt. And when I accepted and acknowledged his feelings as it is (without correcting him), it is then he settled down.

I feel this happens not just with children but with people of all ages. When someone’s feelings are not accepted & appreciated, instead reciprocated with harsh words, facts & advices, it hurts their Ego and they end up doing something strange or stupid.

Observe. Accept feelings & emotions. What a Learning from a two-year old!