Bodhinatha begins by talking about his recent visit to our Church mission in Northern California and the Palaniswami Siva-Murugan Temple in Concord. At the mission satsang, he introduced a new study for the new ritau9 Key Qualities to Cultivate in Children. He received a testimony by e-mail this morning from a budding shishya who describes how he began with a very poor self-concept and over the years Gurudeva helped him mold his self-concept into a very positive one. At the Siva-Murugan Temple in Concord, California, Bodhinatha was greeted in a traditional, grand, Hindu way with parade, banner, lots of shawls and garlands, sweet words from the temple trustees, etc. He also had evening darshan with Church members in the hotel where he stayed in Walnut Creek and they have invited him to return again soon.
The main activity for the Mission members that we had was a satsang on Tamil New Year's day, Saturday. I introduced the study for the ritau. You can give one to Tandu and one to Neela. This is a little flier which, in a summary form, lists the nine qualities to cultivate in children. We sent this out already in our Satellite News, as an enclosed file, the full text. This is like a summary sheet. Stick it on a refrigerator as a reminder. Somehow we managed to give an hour-and a half talk, introducing this. I still don't quite know how! I got fired up. I am not going to do that this morning!
But, I do have something interesting. Timing is always so interesting, the way email comes alive. Having in mind, that I would mention the nine qualities this morning. The key quality, the core quality is the 'Positive Self Concept'. Having a good self image of oneself because without that, lots of the other qualities are not even possible to develop. It is the core quality. My email shows that it came in at 2 this morning. A really nice statement. This is someone who is just about to become a member, writing to a member.
"To be frank with you, I never thought of becoming a member of the Saiva Siddhanta Church, for I always that I was not prepared and good enough to be a close sishya of Gurudeva. I considered myself too inferior and not having the skills that were needed."
Sound relevant? This is a living example of the problem of low self esteem. He doesn't even feel worthy enough to become a member, such a low self concept.
"It took time. I had to go through a lot of storms in my life, problems and problems that most young men should encounter. What I have appreciated is that I have come to know the two sides of life very well, the sane and the insane. The experiences give you lessons and the lessons make you realize and strong. Today, I keep on repeating that these problems were just blessings to mould me and make me better, happier and stronger. Yes, I am a happy person today. Sometime back, I was not a happy man. Doubt was the main reason that prevented me from coming close to Gurudeva. I was doubtful about what lies ahead. What would happen if I got married tomorrow? How will my wife respond? I prayed to Ganesh and gave Him my trust, hope and love. He responded by putting obstacles in my life. I hit them one after the other. They were painful and hurt me. Finally they re-channeled my life in the right course. This is how I feel today, April 17, 2002. I love my life and myself. More obstacles are to come, I know, and make more storms. Now, I know that I will be more prepared and secure, for I have taken refuge in the global spiritual family of our beloved Gurudeva."
Isn't that amazing? Could you ask for a better testimony? It is like, I had sent out a memo to the world and said, "Please send in your testimony so I could read it on April 17, for introducing the subject of self esteem." It shows the whole pattern, you know. Being a young adult with this problem, which is how it started. His father was very abusive, really, gave him a terrible time. He became very despondent and was going through a lot of problems but, coming out of it, thanks to Gurudeva and Gurudeva's teachings, and the support of the members there. He came out of it and started looking at it in a wise way. At this point, if he meets obstacles, he is just going to smile and say, "Thank you, Ganesha. I must be going in the wrong direction." So very, very appropriate.
Otherwise, we visited the Concord Temple. It has been some time, since we were there. Had a very nice reception. There is a Sivachariyar there, Ananda, the nephew of Sukumar, who was the first priest to stay here for 6 months and train us on Siva Puja. He already knows about us and respects Gurudeva. He wants to visit the Aadheenam. On one of his trips to India, he wants to stop by here. Really a wonderful person, he did a fantastic puja.
They really went out of their way to honor us and we had a little parade down a street there, Second Street, a few yards, a big banner and everything. We went inside and did a Deepa Sthapana to a picture of Gurudeva. They garlanded us and put a lot of shawls on. I gave a talk, which was on TAKA, I guess yesterday's TAKA. A general talk about Lord Muruga and about Gurudeva, Gurudeva's interest in starting temples, on how he did that by starting the worship by gifting a Ganesha. Then, they read a little plaque that they are putting on the wall for Gurudeva, which honored him, very nicely, as the Founder of Saiva Siddhanta Church, Himalayan Academy and Palaniswami Temple and for transferring the Management of that Temple to them and for his advances in promoting Saivism worldwide. Very appropriate.
We were there for the Abhishekam and went through a second round of shawls and garlands. Some nice prasadam afterwards and went through a third round of shawls and garlands. When we came back, we had twenty different shawls and the whole room is filled with a whole lot of garlands there. I would say, they even overdid the attention and respect, in a very nice way, took photographs. They mentioned to me that it would be wonderful to have all the members coming back and mixing with the other members. Ravi Natesan, was there. He looked like a giant when I first saw him. I forgot how tall he was. He is a really tall person. He was very happy to see us.
They are starting the fund-raising drive to make a new entrance, which is straight out from the sanctum. So, you are going to be entering on Second Street and go straight in to the Deity, which is traditional. They showed us some drawings and we blessed them. At the end, we gave a $101 for their Building Fund to do it. That touched them. That is what Gurudeva does, starts something in a generous way. It always surprises people, because they expect him to be collecting money for his project, rather than giving money to theirs. So, it is a tradition that Gurudeva often did. We are trying to fulfill everything that Gurudeva used to do. So, we gave them a $101 and they were surprised and happy. They said, "Oh, we can raise money for your temple. Is that alright?"
We said, "Well, we would not want it to interfere with yours."
They said, "No problem. We'll just take it to our board and see what happens."
We'll see. I dropped the magic numbers in some conversation, $40,000. It takes $40,000 a month, to keep Iraivan construction going. They are not used to having to raise that much each month, just to keep your building fund going, you know, not operating funds. That impressed them.
So, all in all, there was a friendly feeling and members have already asked, "Can we start going there again?" We will be discussing that and giving them some guidelines on what is appropriate.
Otherwise, we had an evening darshan session, from 4 to 7 each evening. So, we saw lots of members and some students, as well. Gregg Lien came from the East Coast, just to see us and Yatrika came up from Hollywood. Some of them had not come over for the prayopavesa, so it was the first time they were seeing us in a while. So, that worked out very well. The Embassy Suites, that is a perfect place to have darshan in the room. We have a nice part of the room, big place for people to sit.