Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2001-11-26
Many times we don't tell people how much we appreciate them. A bird visited us for lunch a number of days in a row and took some food each day. One day after it had taken some food and left the bird came back and expressed its appreciation by singing a beautiful song. Correcting someone is much more effective if we are appreciating them a lot at other times.
So I thought I would talk this morning, a little bit about 'Appreciation'.
We have been getting some copies of e-mails coming from members abroad, going to the members of the Wailua Mission, verbalizing their appreciation for all the hospitality they received during their stay here for one or two weeks or more during our recent event. It is wonderful to see that because appreciation is something we often feel but don't often enough express. Somehow, it is just not that common, not in our social norm, to spend a lot of time verbalizing our appreciation for what others have done for us. So quite often, other people really don't know and feel the benefit of what we feel on the inside toward them. We haven't told them. So they don't get that. But it is important, a very important part of life.
I have a story to tell about a bird, this is a true story. We eat lunch in the court yard, seated on the ground and we used to serve right on top of the counter. So we have all the serving dishes there. One spring season there was a bird, I imagine the bird had young. The bird figured out when the food was out. The bird would come everyday at the same time, fly down, grab a little food, go away, come back a second time, grab a little food and fly away.
We began noticing this happening everyday. So we started putting out different little piles of food so it was easier, so the bird didn't have to go into our serving dish. We put out a little pile of food on the counter and the bird would fly down, grab the food and go away. Then, we realized the bird liked tofu. So we made sure whenever we made tofu, we put tofu in the pile and the bird would come down, grab the tofu and fly away and then come back again, grab the food and fly away.
One day the bird did that and then came back a third time and sang the most beautiful song. It just went on and on with this beautiful song. It was like expressing appreciation. It didn't have to come back and sing to us. There wasn't any food, it didn't want food. Just on its own accord, it came back and sat where it usually did, on top of the water faucet and sang this beautiful song of appreciation. At least, that is how it registered to me! So, whenever I think of appreciation I think of that bird.
It struck me that appreciation is such a beautiful expression of culture. It is also an important balance in life because life has its ups and downs. When we are up, we are fine but when we are down, we are not. When we are down, we can get discouraged, depressed, wonder how other people feel about us and go through moods and emotions. One of the factors which helps pull us out of that is, if we have been appreciated. If we feel others appreciate us, it is easier to pull ourselves out of those moods. But, if we don't feel appreciated, if we kind of feel isolated, by ourselves, then it can be hard to pull out of such a state of mind.
Appreciation helps everyone keep up, keep buoyant and handle the difficulties in life a little easier. Appreciation also relates to the idea of training someone or correcting someone. We are all in situation where that manifests. The most common situation is the parents and children. Parents are responsible for training the children. In the workplace, we may be a supervisor. We may have certain responsibilities for others under us and then we are in the same situation of training others. Of course a teacher in a classroom is in a situation similar to a parent, there is obviously training going on. We are molding the minds of a younger generation. In the monastery we have structures, kulam structures whereby the head of the kulam is responsible for training the individuals in the kulam. Sometimes we even have subgroups in the kulam, where there is an individual who is the most experienced, responsible for training others. So this idea of appreciation carries over into all training situations - parent-child, teacher-student, supervisor-supervised, talaivar-member of the kulam, applies to a guru, applies to any teacher, a music teacher, a dance teacher.
We need to balance praise and blame. We have to balance praise and blame. What does that mean? It means we need to verbalize the good qualities, the successes, towards our children, praise them when things go well, tell them how wonderful they are, tell them we love them. We need to praise our students. As a supervisor, we need to praise those who are supervised, when they do things well and encourage them, show them we care. A talaivar praises members of the kulams when they do things well. Then, the majority of impressions that have gone into the mind are one of praise, one that everything is going well, one that we are loved. When there is a need to correct and that is verbalized, it is taken well because the majority of impressions that we have between the two parties is one of praise, one of love, one of kindness. So an impression of correction for doing something wrong isn't a devastation, because that is not the majority of impressions.
But if we don't hit the right balance, you can see what happens. The mind gets filled up with too much correction and then it doesn't find the right balance. Correction goes in upon other correction and doesn't produce the desired result. The behavior doesn't change. It is just one more correction going in on to many corrections. So the idea of a correction isn't to tell someone they are bad or wrong. The idea is to change behavior, right? We want to change someone's behavior, if their behavior isn't right for some reason, it can be improved upon. So in order to motivate the person through correction, it has to go into a mind that is filled with praise. Even if a dance teacher only gives corrections, eventually the student will give up, saying, "This is impossible. I can't seem to do anything right."
We have to find the right balance with enough praise so that the correction is taken in a way that the person is motivated to change behavior. Otherwise, the person just gets discouraged and doesn't want to even try and change the behavior.