During my youth, between the age of 17 and 22, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity of accompanying few great saints such as Bhapa Ram Chand ji Kapurthala and Sant Amar Singh ji Patiala during their preaching tours in northern states of India. I was young and immature. They always treated me very kindly and lovingly like their own son (Or grandson in case of Bhapa ji).
That period was one of the best times of my life.
Along with showing me the path of spirituality and helping me understand the Gyana, they also encouraged me to speak and share my experiences with large audiences. Whenever I made a mistake (and I made many), they very kindly and lovingly corrected and guided me towards the right direction.
Here are some important lessons they taught me about speaking or preaching:
1. A preacher should always speak in a way that suits to the minds and hearts of the audience. That includes mentioning of all Holy Scriptures and the Holy Saints of all religions with respect and reverence.
2. The sanctity and authenticity of the quotes must be kept while presenting the verses from the scriptures or famous saints. Even a good speaker loses his or her credibility if the listeners find the quotes to be distorted or unauthentic.
3. Give the milk of Truth to those who are like babies in the spiritual world as they cannot absorb the solid food,
and butter (essence) and solid (reality) to those whose spiritual perception has matured.
4. Serve the spiritual food in an attractive form. It is easier to swallow a bitter medicine when it is sugar coated.
5. It is important to understand the capacity and receptivity of the listeners.
When I was a college student, I always wondered why all the classes were 40 minutes long. Usually we talk in terms of quarters; like fifteen minutes, half hour, 45 minutes or an hour. Then why all the classes were forty minutes long?
Later, I learned the reason, a scientific fact;
“The human mind cannot focus continuously on one subject for more than forty minutes”.
But interestingly, we can go to a theater and watch a two or three hours long movie without interruption.
We can watch our favorite TV shows for hours without keeping a track of time.
While reading an interesting novel or a book, we may not feel like putting it down for hours or until it is finished.
We never feel tired. Our mind stays focused on the movie or the book.
Why is that?
Perhaps that statement should be changed to;
“The human mind cannot focus continuously on one subject for more than forty minutes, unless it is interesting”.
6. A sick person loses his appetite. Even the most delicious, tastiest food may not please him. He may even find it bitter and unpleasant. It’s better not to force the food down their throat if they don’t want it. Similarly, it’s not good to force certain ideas on those who are not ready for it.
7. Spirituality should be discussed and presented in the spirit of spirituality. It’s not a debate, nor should it turn into a win or lose situation like in a debate. If such a situation does arise, there is no shame in walking away quietly to avoid it.
I remember, whenever such a situation arose, Bhapa Ram chand ji never engaged himself in meaningless arguments. Later, he would say to us: “I am not selling some vegetables here that I must sell at any cost because tomorrow they won’t stay fresh or may even rotten. Gyana is like diamonds and should be given to those who understand its value”.
These are just a few lessons among many others.
Though I was not able to learn and adopt in my life everything they taught, nevertheless, they continued to help me and teach me through their words of wisdom and loving actions.