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A Personal Plan - Part 2

Continuing his talk on having personal plans, Bodhinatha invites participants to list four activities each in the five areas of a plan, namely - spiritual, social, cultural, economic and educational. New activities such as kayaking and learning gold-leaf techniques emerge on this list, added to the known ones such as planning and tithing. Bodhinatha ends the talk with the inspiring story of an elder named Sivagnanam in Edmonton, who fulfills the ideal of having a plan and spending his later years serving at the Temple.

Unedited Transcript:

Bodhinatha: OK. So, I thought we could write down four activities for each of the five areas. I have a balanced answer sheet here and then if there's time left over, we can have a few more. Who would like to contribute to spiritual activities?

Participant: I feel like I should sponsor a pillar but I don't know how realistic that is!

Bodhinatha: Sponsor a pillar. That is a great activity!

Another participant: Does your father know? [laughter and more comments]

Bodhinatha: OK. Sponsor a pillar for Iraivan. Who else has a spiritual activity?

Participant: If you can't sponsor a pillar, you can do other things.

Bodhinatha: Good point.

[Participant lists other activities. Audio feeble]

Bodhinatha: We are going to count those as the same activity. They are two versions.

Participant: There is the obvious one of regular Satsang.

Bodhinatha: Regular satsang. With whom?

Participant: Well, with the Mission that we are a part of.

Bodhinatha: Mission satsang. So, we could say, regularly participating in Mission satsang. OK. Two activities. Activity number 3. Spiritual activity.

[Participant recalls special activities at the Aadheenam]

Bodhinatha: Yes, that is a great activity for those living on the Island. for short or long periods of time. Something special up here every week, not just the same. Private weekly special spiritual activity. Part of the problem in life is we sometimes neglect the opportunities that could be claimed. This is an example. We get so caught up in our routine that some special activity like coming up and worship one day a week isn't done, whereas it could be.

OK. Activity number four.

[Participant suggests visualizing manifestation of the Temple as a sadhana]

B: Just visualizing everything that will be there in the future. OK. That's good. Number 4. Moving on to social activities. Who has an interesting social activity?

[Participant suggests reviving a game]

Bodhinatha: What is the name?

Participant: San Marga game!

Bodhinatha: OK. We can revive it. Everything is to be revived!

P: Went kayaking.

B: Kayaking. OK.

Yes, it's interesting. This is an aside, does not count as an activity. One of the interesting phenomena is we have a property in Northern Mauritius. Most of you haven't seen it. Similar in many ways. It is on a river. It is right near the ocean also. The Government recently, a few years ago shut down a sand quarry and therefore caused a good portion of the village to become unemployed. They shut it down because it was disrupting the environment. Taking the sand away, hurting the coral and things like that. So, they are creating a eco-tourism area there and one of the first things they are doing is sending kayaks up the river. [laughs] So, just like the Wailua river you know, has all these kayaks coming up, the Rempart river which is going right by our place is going to have kayaks all the time coming up. Like the two properties have been linked together in some inner way. We'll see what happens.

So, kayaking. OK. Activity number 3. Sky-diving ... No?!! [laughs]

Participant: Take the whole family on a trip, doesn't have to be a long trip. It could just be to another city.

Another Participant: Weekend outings.

Bodhinatha: Weekend outings for whom?

Participant: Well ...

Bodhinatha: For the whole family?

[Participant is silent]

Bodhinatha: Family and friends. Is that what you are thinking?

Participant: In our life, largely, it is my wife and myself, and the kids. Lots of weekend outings.

Bodhinatha: Yes, weekend outings with family and children. OK. That is four. Cultural activities.

Participant: Learning Tamil words in the bhajans.

Bodhinatha: OK. Learning the meaning of words in Tamil bhajans. Yes, it is important to know the meaning of the bhajans we sing even if we don't know every word. We need to have a general sense of what it is about. How it is different from the other one. We don't want all songs to become just one song, which we don't know the meaning of. We want some meaning, some visualization, some inspiration it gives us which is different from the other songs. Each one is distinct in some way. Yes ...

[Participant suggests making gift items. Audio feeble.]

Bodhinatha: I missed the first word. Making ... Handicrafts. So, making handicraft items. Yes, that is a very nice one. Handicraft items for gift shop. Gurudeva liked the idea of using the hands, you know, good to learn how to make things with your hands. If you haven't done that before, it is a refining process. OK, what else?

Participant: Play a traditional instrument like someone who has learnt how to play Western instruments can learn to play traditional instruments.

Bodhinatha: Learn to play traditional instrument. OK. One more?

Particpant: Gather the children to sing bhajans weekly.

Bodhinatha: OK That's good. Economic. Save for the next Innersearch? Pay off the last Innersearch?

Participant: Pay off the Visa.

Bodhinatha: Reduce credit card debt. Yes! Credit card debt is a problem, the interest rates. If you make the minimum payment, you can end up paying a horrendous amount in interest, but, you only don't really see it. They don't kind of shove it in your face. A little bit comes every month. Reduce credit card debt.

The monastery though it uses credit cards, it always pays before it becomes due. Therefore, never incurs interest on any credit cards. The rate is too high. If you don't want to incur interest, you have to borrow at a better rate than the credit card rate. OK. Number Two.

Participant: My mother-in-law said we need a living will for medical emergencies. If you become deathly ill the doctors ...

Bodhinatha: Plug you in. Plug you in, right. Yes, that is very important. In fact we recently, I don't know if we advertised it, we advertised it slightly, but we linked our Hindu Heritage Endowment online website with a planned giving website. There is this huge library of information on planned giving, which includes living wills. The first section of this website is the basic documents everyone should have. Of course, there is the will and then, this living will. There is a couple of other documents in there. So, the fact that it is right there in this first group, this professional firm thinks it is important. That is a very good point. Yes?

Participant: It has been on my plan for years now to make my will but I don't have the five hundred dollars to hire a lawyer to get the documents. I was wondering if the monastery could download some documents for me [rest of statement is not clear]

Bodhinatha: Wills are important. That is one of the barriers, a couple of barriers to making the will, one is the funding, yes.

Participant: The website that I use is called 'LegalZoom', it is out of Los Angeles.

Bodhinatha: LegalZoom?

Participant: Right.

Bodhinatha: z o o m?

Participant: When you bring up the website, there is a ten-step process for each, will or living will. They ask you questions, and you respond. And then you pay fifty dollars per will or living will and then they either e-mail you a completed form two days later, [audio unclear].

Bodhinatha: Oh! We will look into that. Thank you. Fifty dollars is better than five hundred which is better than five thousand! [laughs] Anyway, if you have a significant estate, of course, you have to have an attorney [not audible]. OK. We need two more for economic. Yes?

Participant: Making sure all of our bills are paid on time, and that some effort is made to keep the accounting books current.

Bodhinatha: Personal budgets. This would be personal finance, budgets.

Participant: Tithe.

Bodhinatha: Tithe. That is a good goal. OK. Educational.

Participant: Learning the gold leaf technique [laughter]

Bodhinatha: I could use a few classes. Watching some of it blow away is the hardest part. You see it just blowing away and wonder how much gold is there in that! [laughs] Probably not much. It is part of the process. OK. Learn gold leaf techniques. OK. That is educational.

Participant: In business, whatever it is we do - computer programming, Quickbooks or something - upgrade our knowledge. Dedicate ourselves to whatever our business skills are.

Bodhinatha: Upgrade ... let's see ... upgrade skills you currently use on the job. What else?

Partcipant: This is a real easy one. Anybody with a radio can listen to National Public Radio, or if you live in a real urban area, for instance San Francisco, they have the Commonwealth Club. They have famous speakers from all over the world come and give lectures and workshops. You just pay a monthly or yearly membership, and the rest is mostly free. There are lots of free things to learn like that, that don't require a commitment to go to classes.

Bodhinatha: National Public Radio, a source of educational knowledge.

Something that housewives can do is they can network with other housewives to learn herbal sciences or ayurveda or jyotisha.

Bodhinatha: Networking. OK. Jyotisha is complicated, let's say herbal knowledge and ayurveda. We got four for each one. That is good. We have a few minutes left. Any other great ideas someone wants to share?

Participant: In the Learning category, you can learn almost anything you want online. Classes on language or drumming, and they're not very expensive.

Bodhinatha: Classes. Yes, that is a new phenomenon. One last one?

Partcipant: We have come to realize how many beautfiul temples that have up in America. They are all finished and operating. They're just gems. We just discovered one in Tampa, Florida and one in Boston and of course, the Murugan Temple in Maryland. So, it got me thinking that we would like to find a favorite Muruga Temple somewhere in America and then, go on pilgrimage. Then, a favorite Ganesha Temple somewhere in America and go there. Of course, we come here for Siva and Guru. It is a way of tapping into the beautiful, new resources in temples in America.

Bodhinatha: Very good point. Our experience, we just came from the Edmonton Temple. It's a Ganesha Temple, really strong. Been there four years. Very focused on Ganesha, traditional Ganesha worship. So, that's a good candidate, I'd say. They are starting a Ganesha Temple in Vancouver with a Ganesha Deity that Gurudeva donated. We went to the house that they are currently using and hope to expand to, build their own building later on. They are just getting started. Very sincere and wanting to have just Ganesha. Of course, we have been to Maryland, and then Montreal has a Murugan Temple and they are in the process of completing the expanded structure. That is worth visiting at some point, at least after they finish the expanded structure. Their annual festival corresponds with the Nallur festival. I think they go for twelve days. Nallur, it is 26 days. So, they choose twelve of those days that tend to fall in the middle of August. It is nice and warm, in Montreal. So, that is an activity that, we'll be there for the Monday of that festival.

Participant: What might be nice to see is a list and some background on all the temples that Gurudeva has donated the Deities and has been involved in.

Bodhinatha: Yes, we should have that. That is very important. It could be online and updated. Maybe I should mention that to the Kulam.

Participant: How to contact them and things like that.

Bodhinatha: Yes, because it changes all the time, in terms of how they develop. Even though we have a list in the Gurudeva Commemorative issue of Hinduism Today, still it needs to be updated at least once a year, to show what is going on. For example, I am going to Cincinnati, where the Hindu Temple of Cincinnati is installing Murugan, Valli and Devasena in a new wing they have, in a more spacious shrine. They have invited us to be there for the installation. These are Deities that Gurudeva gave, so it makes it special. These Deities come from Gurudeva and not just from India, so there is a relationship with us.

Participant: Yes, it would be a natural path.

Bodhinatha: Right. Quite often, Gurudeva has either given the Deity or been there at the kumbhabhishekam, even that is meaningful that he was the swami there for the kumbhabhishekam gives us a tie. Like in Flint, for example. The Flint temple we went to recently was a Siva temple. So, Gurudeva was there for the installation of the beautiful Lingam there and therefore, they hold Gurudeva in a certain regard.

Participant: So, because of this beautiful history, we pay a visit to these temples, and as soon as they find out where we are from, we are shown such a great welcome.

Bodhinatha: Oh, good point! That's another reason to go.[laughs]

OK, let us summarize what we are doing here. [Temple puja bell rings.] That reminds us it is twelve o' clock.

So, talking about having a personal plan, be able to pull it out of your computer or out of your drawer if you are not computerized, have a functioning plan for yourself, if you are an individual or for all members of your family, including the youngest children. Actually have a plan in place for their fulfillment in all five areas - not just yours, for all members of the family. By having this we live a more balanced life, a more interesting life, a more diverse life, and it gives us goals to accomplish, which is important. Gurudeva feels like in the area of education, you are never too old to learn something new. Some individuals stop learning at a certain age. "I have learnt enough. I am thirty years old. I have gone to school. I've learned enough." That is not a healthy attitude.

You can always learn new things and it is positive and it keeps us youthful and engaged in life to learn new things. That is very important, especially as we get older. We need to be careful that we don't run out of goals. We need to create new goals for ourselves, give meaning to our life and give us reasons to live another thirty years. Meaningful things to do.

One of the important concept of the ashramas, meaning the four stages of life - some of you are familiar with the terms brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, sannyasa ashrama - which is the idea that we look forward when we are young to being older and having more time to devote to our spiritual activities. It is something we are looking forward to, something we are planning on when the children are ready, the income is earned, and so forth, our obligations are less and we have more free time. In planning our whole life we can utilize that time for spiritual activities. Therefore, we do and it helps fill up that period of our life in a very meaningful way. We want to be able to live near a temple where we can worship regularly.

There is a nice elder in Edmonton, his name is Sivagnanam, who is retired. He has been working with that temple since it first started as a society some twenty plus years ago. He has retired from his business, his children are raised. He spends every day over at the temple doing karma yoga, helping out. It is his life. The temple is his life, he is totally happy doing that. He doesn't really feel he needs to do something more. He has just always wanted to spend more time at the temple and do more service, and now he is able to. He is totally fulfilled on that. Doing simple tasks, helping gardening and other things. So, it is a nice example of someone fufilling that ideal of having goals for his latter years that are more purely spiritual. It keeps us alive, in a meaningful way.

Well, thank you very much.