After a long day of studying textbooks, notes and lecture slides, doing satsang reading can seem unappealing. There are TV shows, movies, sports games and other online videos that we’d rather watch when tired. We’d rather read the latest fiction book and travel away to spend times with elves, dragons, hobbits, wizards and aliens. When our lives are so busy, doing satsang reading can feel like a chore. Who has the time and energy to read long books and articles (this article notwithstanding, of course)?
What if we can change that? What if reading was more akin to a treasure hunt? What if reading was about being an explorer, where you are an anthropologist uncovering scrolls and learning about the secret history of someone you admire? What if reading could be an escape or adventure from studying and de-stressing with worthy characters and beautiful ideas?
If we change our perspective, doing satsang reading regularly while in college is not only possible, but enjoyable. It begins by questioning our assumptions, and then building new habits. Learning these new skills will not only help us build and maintain a great satsang reading routine, but it can transform how we study for all our other courses.
The first question to ask is: What do you love? Different people have different inclinations. Some people like cricket… others like basketball. Some people love Chinese food… others lean towards Italian food. Some watch TV shows… others watch TED Talks. In the same way, some like to read stories, while others like to read abstract ideas. We have to find what kind of reading we love to do.
If you like to read stories, than you will most likely love to read jivan charitras or itihas shastras. If you like to watch TED talks on ideas, then reading our satsang books on theology will interest you. And if you’re really pressed for time and just like to read short articles, then there’s always a new vicharan report to read. Look at the satsang books you have on your shelf, and pick one that you can genuinely be excited to read every day. And if you cannot find it, pledge to go to the mandir bookstore or online bookstore and pick one up. When we align our satsang reading with something we already love, it’s easy to start and maintain this daily habit.
The second question to ask is: When are you most energized? For decades, experts have talked about time management as a key success skill. It turns out that what matters more than time management is energy management. There are natural waves of energy we feel throughout the day. If we know when we use our energy, and when we refresh and renew our energy, we can have a better time enjoying our reading. We should thus pick a time when satsang reading complements our energy cycle. If it expends energy for us, then we should pick a time to read when energy is greatest. This might be right after doing our puja when we are fully awake. If satsang reading renews our energy after worldly work, then a short 10–15 minute break in the afternoon or evening might be a better time to read. No matter what it is like for you, pick a time when you are most energized, and satsang reading will become easier and more enjoyable.
Now, we get into the realm of excitement, discovery, and growth. We must engage our imaginations as we read. For hundreds of years, humans primarily excited their imagination through the stories they read, listened to or saw performed. Only over the last few decades has our imagination become limited as a result of countless shows, movies and web clips. However, we can re-activate our imagination when we read to become more engaged in satsang reading. For instance, when reading stories about Shastriji Maharaj and his childhood, we can imagine the streets of Mahelav. Smell the different aromas of his kitchen. We can picture ourselves walking in the narrow alleyways along with him as he went to school or as he visited Vadtal mandir. Imagine all the seats where katha would have been happening from different sadhus and imagine standing next to Dungar Bhakta during a visit to do darshan. Picture him standing before the murtis and doing darshan. Imagine the excitement on his face as he would go from seat to seat meeting the sadhus and listening to their katha. Picture the stacks of discarded Vachanamrut pages that he would collect and sit to read himself. Better yet, join him in collecting those scribed pages!
When we engage our imagination, we can do this. We start developing a richer understanding of their stories, and become closer to them. Even though we may never have visited Mahelav, we, too, can participate in his story. In this way, satsang reading can transport us to another time and another world, and strengthen our understanding of who he was and what he did.
Finally, we must ask questions. This is the last element of active reading and a key skill to to enhance the enjoyment of satsang reading. Our imagination may fall short. There may be portions of the stories we read and ideas we explore that we may not understand. At the end of each section, we can ask ourselves questions such as: What happens next? Why did they do this? I wonder what happened in between these events. These questions make us explorers and archaeologists, digging into the past and putting together a mystery or puzzle. We can seek answers to these questions in more books. Once we start asking these questions while we read, we will find answers to them throughout satsang; be it a carving in the mandir, a katha, a goshthi, another essay or book, an ashirvad, a piece of music or even a casual conversation.
Slowly and surely, the process of active reading described above will help us see the underlying unity of all ideas within our satsang. It will excite our imagination and open up a universe of endless fascination. Our books are part of an open library where we get to use our inclinations, our interests, and find a treasure chest of lessons to enrich the story of our lives.
The ideas above are not just meant to make satsang reading more exciting and interesting, but they are meant to help us better learn whatever we are studying. Learning is meant to be a journey of exploration, not through mindless memorization but through conscious engagement. Through this process, we must become lifelong learners.
In the university of life, satsang is the main subject. While we will eventually graduate from school or college, we will continue to be students in satsang. Learning how to learn in satsang will serve us for the rest of our lives. Our education in engineering, medicine, law, commerce, arts, etc. will give us the knowledge we need to grow in our jobs and businesses. However, it will be our satsang lessons that will serve us more faithfully in the day to day adventures of life. The above is will help to develop a spirit of childlike curiosity and an inclination of lifelong learning in satsang.