When is the ideal time for personal growth? An adolescent’s life without direction is aimless and unproductive.
During a Yuva Shibir in Navsari in 2006, Mahant Swami guides the youths...
SELF-DEVELOPMENT: WHEN IS THE MOST LOGICAL TIME FOR IT TO TAKE PLACE ?
Mulji Sharma practiced satsang devotedly from a young age, much to the dismay of his father, Bholanath.
“Mulji! Such devotion should be practiced only when you are old. This is the time for you to eat, play and have fun,” said Bholanath. Instead of arguing, Mulji left the house, ostensibly to go out to play. However, instead, he made a round of the village to see if the elderly were actually engaged in devotion according to his father’s words. His observations validated his reason for practicing satsang from a young age. Mulji returned home and explained to his father, “You asked me to worship God in old age, but I just went around the village and found that all the old people are sitting in the village square gossiping. None of them are remembering God. So if we wait till old age, we lose the opportunity of our precious youth.”
While it is never too late to improve, young Mulji’s argument strikes a chord in all those with a sincere desire to become better. There is no better time for personal growth than now, and there is no better age for it than youth. Personal growth on the spiritual and worldly path must occur from a young age; this is when we have the greatest potential to learn, to change, and to grow. Although many youths understand this principle and even know how they need to grow, they fail to do so. Cultivating positive qualities from a young age allows us to habitually uphold these qualities for the rest of our lives.
SELF-DEVELOPMENT: IMPORTANCE OF MAKING CLEVER CHOICES EARLY IN LIFE
Shri Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian nationalist and Nobel Prize-winning author, advocated harbouring positive virtues and an active lifestyle from a young age; he strongly believed in living a life in which one would not be constrained later by the bad habits developed during one’s youth. He is absolutely correct about this. Our youth should be spent exploring, addressing and contemplating our own potential, choices, interests and ambitions in life. If a layer of poison is deposited evenly on the ocean floor, the entire ocean will be filled with this poison over an extended period of time; however if divine nectar is deposited on the ocean floor, the ocean’s organisms will prosper throughout their entire lives. Similarly, if from a young age, we infuse our lives with positive activities and habits, they will never fade away. The same holds true if we expose ourselves to unpleasant habits from a young age. Do we want to pour poison into our lives from a young age or divine nectar?
A French author details the story of two friends, one of whom goes to jail from the age of 12 to 22. Upon being released from jail, the former inmate approaches his friend and asks him, “What have you done in the past 10 years?” The friend attempts to find a reasonable answer, but simply replies, “Nothing important.” So, the former inmate replied, “The time I spent in prison was better spent than what you have done in the past 10 years.” The inmate had come out transformed, because he had spent his time by repenting and giving up his criminal ways.
We often make the wrong choices on how to spend our time, who to associate with, and many times make choices that inhibit us from accomplishing our dreams. The choices we make have grave consequences; they take away our time – an element we can never get back once it is gone. These illogical choices result in time loss that we will never get back. The time we spend in youth should be constructive, properly prioritized, and beneficial to our long-term aspirations. The decisions we make as youth affect not only our ability to grow in satsang, but also influence our ability to become constructive members of society. Do we want the choices we make today to accomplish something, or simply result in mediocrity?
THE BEST TIME FOR SELF-DEVELOPMENT? AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE !
Countless people have realized the paramount importance of adolescence and the fruitful benefits of spending one’s adolescence positively and advantageously. The history of literature, fine arts, athletics, academics, etc., is filled with examples of youths who have accomplished great feats:
Nityanand Swami mastered the Vedas when he was only 11 years old.
Mahatma Gandhi began his non-violence movement at 23, when he was thrown out of a train for sitting in an area reserved for white people.
Thomas Edison began his quest to research electricity when he was 21 years old.
Jane Austen completed the manuscript of Pride and Prejudice, a world-renowned novel, when she was merely 21 years old.
Sant Jnaneshwar produced the Jnaneshwari Gita when he was only 16 years old.
Maharshi Arvind became a dynamic orator in Latin and Greek when he was 15 years old and obtained every award available to students at the time at King’s College, Cambridge University, England. Five years later, he had mastered German, French, English, Spanish, Italian, Latin and Greek.
Shankaracharya wrote commentaries on the Gita, Upanishads and Brahmasutra by the age of 20.
Albert Einstein introduced the Theory of Special Relativity at the age of 26.
These individuals etched their name in history with their accomplishments; however those accomplishments were only possible with much contemplation and introspection. Having a vision and a set of goals, from a young age they aggressively pursued their dreams. Mapping their lives from a young age allowed them to aggressively pursue their ambitions.
SELF-DEVELOPMENT: IMPORTANCE OF A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL
William Pitt became the youngest Prime Minister of England in 1783 at the youthful age of 24. Upon hearing of Pitt’s accomplishment, a 17-year-old Frenchman began weeping and introspecting on the worth of his own life. He wanted nothing but excellence in his life. The Frenchman, inspired by Pitt’s success, decided to model Pitt and accept him as a mentor. This decision propelled the young Frenchman to become a great and respected statesman, just like his role model.
Often, we have a tendency to admire people for the wrong reasons; but we must strive to pick great role models. As satsangi youths, we do not need to embark on an extensive search for a proper role model because we have the privilege of knowing Pramukh Swami Maharaj – the best role model anyone could ask for. Looking at the life of Swamishri allows us to make the right choices and lead a productive life from a young age.
SELF-DEVELOPMENT: WHY AS BAPS YOUTH IT MUST OCCUR NOW ?
Jawaharlal Nehru was asked to give a small group of teenagers advice on how to prosper in all realms of life. He said, “These are your golden years; reap harvest while the sun shines.”
We must maximize our growth and abilities in our youth; developing new skills during later stages in life can be more difficult as our ability to make great changes diminishes. Many youngsters today are not able to develop strong habits because they do not have the proper guidance. Hundreds of thousands of young individuals lack direction; we are extremely fortunate in this regard because Swamishri provides the proper instructions and puts forth various activities for us to prosper from in young age. We are Swamishri’s children; we are his youth and we must excel in all walks of life. Let us pray to Maharaj and Swami, that we are able to live up to the expectations Swamishri has for us, and that we are able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us from a young age.
Pu. Mahant Swami
Translated by: Akshar B. Patel, Chicago, USA