The youth of today, that’s the problem. They have no respect, not like we had in our day. Not for old people, the law, our leaders, religion, anyone. How many times have we heard, or even spoken words like that?
The unfortunate reality is that for some young people it’s true, but it’s also true for people of older generations.
Recently a good friend of mine shared an experience he had – and a lesson learned. He was visiting his parents for a family reunion. All was well until his father started to do one of those things that always got his back up. As was his usual habit he became intolerant of what he saw was his father’s intolerance and made an issue of it. The exchange became vocal and loud. No one backed down and his father left the room. It was only then that he became aware that his four and six-year old boys had also left the room.
My friend’s wife sympathised with him but reminded him that his father was older now and may be finding it difficult to see his role in the family. This could excuse his father’s insistence on position and respect. She also observed that the boys were upset by the conflict and that they may grow up to treat him as he treated his father, if that’s their example.
My friend was appalled at his behaviour and apologised to both his father and to his boys for the incident. And so I pray,
Please Lord help me to cultivate respect. When I meet those who have more than me, let me be very happy; when with those who have less let me help them achieve more; and with my peers let me praise them and not have to compete. Hare Krishna.
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There’s a wonderful gesture that pervades the culture of hospitality in India: people put both palms of their hands before their heart and slightly bow their head as they say to us ‘Namaste’.
In its simplest understanding it’s accepted as a humble greeting straight from the heart and should be reciprocated accordingly – ‘Namaste’. It means “I offer my respect to you”. The gesture itself is called a “mudra”, a form of non-verbal communication and is considered to be powerful and prayerful in itself.
On a deeper level of meaning namaste also has emotional and spiritual significance. A good basis of all our social interaction is respect. Namaste physically shows respect and confirms it by word. Beyond that, by playing with the syllables in the word namaste we find that it also means “not me but you”: symbolically giving up our pride in front of another. And the most profound meaning being, “the Divine within me offers respect to the Divine within you”. A recognition that we are all spiritual in nature.
So this simple and ubiquitous greeting has a prayerful meaning on many levels of understanding: a simple social interaction, an affectionate well-wishing and recognition that everyone is touched by God.
As a prayer, it honours the sacredness of each of us and recognises our equality. By sharing this prayer with you today I offer you respect, I recognise that I am not more than you, and I praise God within you. In saying this prayer you’ll miss the mudra of me joining my palms together, but at least I can say,
Namaste. Hare Krishna.
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BBC Radio 4 commissioned me to broadcast six prayers in their ‘Prayer for the Day’ slot. The first was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 today, Gaura Purnima. I will post the others as they are aired.
Today in England small groups of Hindus, from the Vaishnava persuasion, gather together to celebrate the saint Shri Chaitanya, who lived in India 500 years ago. Shri Chaitanya is renowned for his beautiful chanting of the names of God, and his inspiring personal example of humility.
There’s something about humility. Once you claim to have it you’ve lost it. Yet, it’s such a universal principle, appreciated by every culture in the world. And we all have our humbling experiences.
I have one that happened on live TV news. The interview was going very well. There was a touch of the combative about it. One of those, “Where was God during the tsunami?” interviews. Questions coming thick and fast but I was ready for all angles, on top of my game. Yes, I was as proud as a peacock. Then one of my front teeth, a crown – that has stayed religiously in place for 25 years – fell out in mid-theological flow. There I was defending God, in all my righteousness, only to be reminded that my pride is as false as my front tooth.
I survived to tell the tale – we usually do. But if we can honestly reflect on these experiences we will find them most instructive. They will help mould good character and nurture wisdom.
We can practice being humble. We can pause with Sri Chaitanya, that exemplar of humility, as he prays for strength to,
….serve God in a humble state of mind, thinking ourselves lower than the straw in the street… more tolerant than a tree… ready to offer all respect to others and expect none for ourselves. In such a state of mind we can serve the Lord, and chant his name constantly. Hare Krishna.
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