Bodhinatha continues his narrative of his visit to Asia (part 4), ending in Malaysia and Singapore. There was a grand booksigning at the Kandaswami Temple, inspiring coordination with our youth group forming in Malaysia and Bodhinatha's first public talk in Singapore. Bodhinatha finishes with a beautiful upadesha on Perceptive Self-Correction, one of the Nine Qualities to Cultivate in Children, emphasizing that if we can replace the attitude that mistakes are bad with the attitude that they are wonderful opportunities to learn, children will naturally be perceptively self-corrective when they grow up.
Then we flew back to Malaysia. We had a book-signing at the Kandaswami Temple. The Ceylon Saivite Association of Selangor, who some 20 years ago had hosted the famous, 'Two schools of Saiva Siddhanta Conference'. But, these days we are on the best of terms. The President was extremely respectful, Mr. Perambalam. The youth of the Temple and our own youth worked hard to coordinate the event. Gurudeva, on his last visit, went to the Temple. Times have changed, we are on the same side. That's nice.
You probably saw the pictures. That was the world's largest garlands there! I left them on. I was in a chair with a back and although I was like, "Unhh...", under a huge weight of garlands, they were so beautiful, didn't want to take them off. They came down to the ground and just weighed a lot. That was the talk on 'Naalupada Saivam', the 4 stages of discipline in Saiva siddhanta that you must have heard, drawing heavily from 'Dancing with Siva'. Sold lots of books, including 23 of 'Living with Siva', which was very good, an expensive book for Malaysia and the talk was well received.
We had a nice meeting with the youth group in Malaysia. Malaysia Youth Group is anyone under 30. A different concept of youth than here in the US, where youth is anyone under 20. The Youth Group is coming together in a dynamic way and had two 'Master Course Seminars', had the Family Retreat and honoring of mothers and fathers on Mother's Day and Fathers's Day. A lot of activity recently. They are planning an Iraivan Day for January, and lots of other wonderful activities. A very organised group and dynamic. The Kulapatis are happy to step back a bot and let the younger group create activities and are happy to supervise. They are coming together with a new energy, which is nice to see.
Then in Singapore, we pulled out our 'Nine Qualities' again and gave a talk at the Hindu Center, filled up the room, which was about 200 people. That was just in English, got the ideas out. Rajadurai was there, an elder in the community, comes for everything. This is the first time I have given a talk in Singapore. Usually, I have just spoken to the Members and this was reaching out beyond our own group there.
Just a thought here on one of the 'Nine Qualities'. Perceptive Self-Correction, the ability to quickly draw the lesson from each experience. and resolve how not to repeat one's mistakes. This quality is developed by teaching that mistakes are not bad, they are opportunities to learn and refine our behavior. Gurudeva calls them 'wonderful'. In 'Living with Siva', he says, "wonderful opportunities to learn."
On a number of occasions, I took a poll. I said, "Now, how many of you were raised to look at mistakes as wonderful opportunities to learn? Please raise your hand." I think I got 2 hands, out of the hundreds of people. It is not a common perspective. Somehow, the usual teaching is mistakes are bad, you are supposed to be smart enough not to make mistakes. Somehow, you are supposed to know so many things and never make a mistake. If you make a mistake, it reflects badly on the family and so forth, it is terrible.
That is not being realistic. The process of mistakes, that Gurudeva points out so wisely, from an up-down point of view, they are wonderful oppurtunitites to learn and that is how we improve. By making mistakes.
I told another story. I said, "Imagine this situation. A mother is at home with a young child. The child makes a huge mistake at 2, 3 o'clock in the afternoon. What does the mother do? The mother calls up the father at work.
"Dear, I have wonderful news for you. Our young boy made this horrendous mistake and we have a wonderful opportunity to teach a very good lesson here, so he doesn't do it again. I wanted to call you up, so that on your way home from work, you could start thinking about it and by the time you got here, you can figure out what lesson it is you need to teach the boy, so he doesn't do this again. Isn't this wonderful?"
Try and get a new perspective on it. Gurudeva definitely had that perspective, that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn. It is related to 'Positive Discipline'. Not the same subject, but looking at it from the teaching point of view, that is an obligation in any situation, a parent-child situation, to teach and to learn. When mistakes occur, it is the duty of the parents to teach something and the duty of the child to try and learn, so the child does not repeat the mistake again. Definitely, it is the whole negativity surrounding mistakes that makes this process difficult. Sweep that all away and take a fresh look at mistakes. "How wonderful! I made a mistake. I have a chance to teach something."
That is how progress occurs, right? If we never make a mistake, we are never progressing. We make mistakes, because we are trying to do new things that we have not done before. We are growing up and we don't know certain things. Mistakes are a natural part of human development. The whole idea about making them good is the first idea, erasing the sense of negativity. It applies in any teaching situation -parents to children, senior monks to junior monks, Talaivar to members of the Kulam, schoolteacher to children, supervisor to employee. All kinds of situations have this process involved and in each case, the senior one should expect mistakes and when they do occur, not put out a sense of something wrong or bad. Instead, try to figure out what it is that the person needs to learn, to not repeat the mistake.
Quite often with parents and children, the parents are assuming the child knows something he doesn't fully understand. They have taught it, either not at all or they have taught it incompletely or they have rushed through the lesson. The child doesn't really understand something that they think he does. Therefore, the mistake occurred. Having enough patience to ferret out what it is, what understanding is missing, is an important part. When all of that has taken place, then you get the quality we want in someone, Perceptive Self-Correction. As an adult, you develop a habit of correcting your own mistakes, because of how you were raised. When they make a mistake, they don't get depressed. They think about it. "What did I do wrong? How can I do it differently the next time and not have the same problem occur?" Just a way of thinking about life.