Blog: Year of the Tongue

Why not make 2012 the Year of the Tongue?

I had been asked to give a brief talk for New Year's Eve, "Something about what you've learned this year and resolutions for the next, whatever seems appropriate to you," offered Ramachandra.

I chose a verse from Bhagavad Gita describing temperance of speech. Sri Krishna advises that our speech should not cause distress to others, should be Truthful, Pleasing, Beneficial and one should recite from the Vedas regularly.

Priyam, pleasing speech, is sought after by everyone. If you can give a few kind words to someone, a compliment, or express appreciation, this will be remembered and cherished more than all the gifts received at Christmas. There is no cost, why not take advantage of this? Be open and lavish with praise. We are trying to develop good habits. These things take skill. Any skill, such as basketball or music, requires practice. You won't be perfect at every shot, but you must keep practicing. Eventually these become part of our nature.

The most challenging people to practice on are your close family members, your children, your parents, brothers, sisters, and your spouse. These are the most important people in your life, yet we feel that it is all right to vent our anger on them. We must also be kind to ourselves. Your inner dialog should also follow these principles. Adopting these habits will bring about a change for the better in your life.

"How can you practice satyam (truth), priyam (pleasing speech) and hitam (beneficial speech) when you're dealing with your kids?" She asked this in a joking tone as we waited in line for prasad. I had to lean closely and speak loudly to be heard over the other discussions.

"Catch them doing something right, then show appreciation for their proper behavior," I suggested. I motioned to a young boy sitting nearby, "You're using your spoon properly and not spilling anything."

"My son is 19."

"All right, it still works, no matter what age. Catch him doing something right, and show that you've noticed, let him know that you appreciate his coming home on time, or that he's done something that you've asked him to."

"My daughter is 30. She complains that I've only criticized her throughout her life"

"She will be surprised to see the new you. She will ask what has come over you. At that point you may tell her you are trying to improve and that you're very sorry for your dealings in the past."

My new friend looked very thoughtful, no longer joking. "Thank you, I'll try this."

Another young man I met has been married recently. We began a conversation after getting our plates of Prasad. "Shall we sit here? It's a little quieter." I joined him.

"I really liked your talk", he began, "My wife will be arriving from India soon. At that time my real married life will begin. Do you have any suggestions?"

"Just try to be nice." I suggested between spoonfuls (I was really hungry and the prasad was very good.) "The first few months with your new wife are foundational, they will set the tone for the rest of your time together."

He looked apprehensive, even fearful.

"Don't worry, it will come naturally, just remember, try to be nice. It takes practice. I fail at it all the time, you can ask my wife. But like any skill, like basketball, the more you practice, the better you get."

More of Mitrasena dasa's adventures available on his blog.