Listening to Katha or Reading the Vachanamrut Daily
My heart was pounding against my chest like a jackhammer as I peered into Barton Hall for the very first time. This was the day where I would begin setting the foundation for my future at Cornell University. For all new students, club fest was the most important moment of their lives. It was a rebirth, arguably more important than the first time they were born. In this three hour slot, they would choose which extracurricular clubs and activities they wanted to participate in. These few hours would determine who a lot of their friends would be in college and what their identities would be sculpted into.
I was one of those first-year students, trying to decide what activities I wanted to participate in. While it should have been fun and exciting, I knew everything that was at stake. On the one hand, my school career counsellors were telling me that I should participate in enough serious, ‘career-related’ clubs so I could later show them off on my resume. On another hand, my peers were pushing me to sign up for various social activities so I could make the most of my limited time on a university campus.
To make matters more maddening, there were over 1,000 different clubs for me to explore. How was I supposed to decide which few I was most interested in? There were 4,000 students running frantically around Barton Hall, struggling with the same dilemma as I was. This place was a never-ending labyrinth of chaos. It was such a big hall that 100 years ago, the national army found it fit to use it as an airplane hangar.
Each club had set up an extravagant booth to showcase what they did. I made my way through the first few, keeping in mind I had to choose meaningful career-related and social activities.
Astronomical society. No.
Marching band. No.
Global Health Student Council. No, I rejected.
As I got to the fourth booth, I was bombarded by at least five people.
“HEY! You’re Indian, we’re a raas team! Do you like dancing?” they questioned.
That made me realize – another consideration I had to take into account when choosing clubs I wanted to participate in was my satsang life. In fact, it was not just limited to clubs. This was something I had to consider when it came to my entire university life!
You may be wondering why I put so much pressure on myself to participate in so many different clubs and activities anyway. Well, in America, employers value students who excel in academics, as well as additional areas, such as professional clubs or social organizations. It proves that those students have mastered multiple facets of their lives, rather than just one area. Therefore, by committing to participate and excel in several clubs, I was only brightening the prospects of my future after college (even though I had no idea what that future was).
I quickly realized, however, how hectic my life would become. Many of you in college may be experiencing a similar workload. Trying to balance professional clubs, social organizations, academics, and satsang is a lot to ask for… especially if you want to shine in all of them. And of course, I wanted to go above and beyond in every one of them.
Coming from high school where I had minimal responsibility, to being in an environment where I was suddenly trying to balance many different activities was quite a change. I had to experiment with how to make it all work. This is how I ultimately learned to simplify satsang to its roots. What do I mean by ‘simplifying’ satsang? I mean taking just 15 minutes, even in the midst of your busy schedule, to perform some satsang-related activity. There is nothing easier than this. Whether this activity is satsang reading, listening to katha or reflecting upon a satsang-related topic with a karyakar over the phone, the most important factor is to remain consistent in this 15-minute daily dedication.
College is the time where our satsang fades the most. I witnessed it in myself and many of my friends. We usually do not intend for this to happen, but it just does. Due to all our studies, commitments, and busy schedules, satsang just vanishes into thin air like some sort of magic trick. This is why we have to hold on tight to it.
Remembering to perform some daily satsang-related activity was difficult for me at first, but as I actively continued pushing myself, it quickly became part of my routine. I personally either read the Vachanamrut or listened to a portion of a katha every day. And, if you take a step back to think about it, 15 minutes is only 1% of our entire day.
Surely we can dedicate merely 1% of each day to satsang-related activities, no matter how hectic our schedules become. After all, we have dedicated a majority of our lives to satsang by this point.
In today’s world, listening to katha or reading the Vachanamrut has become extremely accessible. You can listen to katha on your phone while walking to class in the morning. You can even download the Vachanamrut app on your phone and read it while eating lunch. The goal is to just hit 15 minutes every single day. On certain days, you might even find yourself able to dedicate more than 15 minutes. When I simplified my satsang in college, I had certain relaxed days where I was able to read for over an hour. If you also have days like this, you should definitely take advantage of them. There is of course no maximum time limit – but remember, the minimum limit should always be 15 minutes.
I think about how lucky I am to have had satsang in my life for so long. I also think about how lucky I am to have a Satpurush who dedicates his every breath to satsang. It’s not something I ever want to lose. It’s not something a few time constraints should be able to destroy. I was able to simplify my satsang experience during the most hectic university days – I know you can do the same.