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Continuous self improvement- The Hindu way

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Four months back, I rebuked my husband in an angry outburst. After about an hour I thought about it and was ashamed of the things I had said. I analyzed and felt even worse because, this was at least the 10…0th time I was saying hurtful things and every-time I made the same decision— I will not repeat this. But, I was not changing. I wanted to be a changed new person. But, how? I decided to search religion for guidance. I remembered the Hindu way of expiation (प्रायश्चित) — where a person takes a vow or vrat like not eating or talking for a day as a way to self discipline.

I also, decided to do प्रायश्चित- expiation. I took a vow that I will not eat anything the entire day. But, there was a problem — what if I will eat something on accident.? How will I remember ?. So I came up with a method — I joined my hands, closed my eyes and said — “ Today is प्रायश्चित day for me. I am taking a vow (संकल्प ) that I will not eat anything as a way to self discipline. Tomorrow, will be a new day for me and I will be a better person. Oh God! within me please give me courage to fulfill my संकल्प“.

This little ritual made a big difference- I was serious towards my संकल्प and I remembered the wrong doing the entire day with a positive mindset that I am going to become a better person from tomorrow. I was determined to be watchful towards my actions and mindful towards my speech. I also realized that taking a vow (संकल्प) like fasting is very important because it prepares you mentally and emotionally for change by forcing sincerity and seriousness. I successfully, finished the vow and it has been 4 months I have not repeated the sinful act of saying hurtful things to my husband. 

This was my short story for one sin.

But, let’s say we do several mistakes. How do we correct ourselves? It is not practical to keep doing a “Vrat” for every wrong doing. Else, we would be fasting for more than half the time each month which will lead to starvation and make us sick.

One solution is to pick one day each month for all the mistakes of the entire month and do vrat. This day we would do introspection, accept our mistakes and take a vow to correct ourselves.

However, it is a bit hard to keep track of 30 days of your acts and think about what we did wrong and how we can make changes. 

A more manageable number is 15 days or 2 weeks. We can decide every 2 weeks that we will evaluate ourselves, do प्रायश्चित for our wrong doings and work towards self correction. 

This reminds me of agile methodology that software developers follow. They run projects in 2- weeks sprint and at the end of sprint do a retrospective where team members call out their mistakes and make a plan for improvement.

Life is also a project and we have to aim for continuous improvements by running it in 2 weeks sprints. 

Hindu religion did exactly this. It created a festival called “Ekadashi” that is celebrated every 2 weeks. On this day it is said that people wash off their sins. Ekadashi can be thought of as the equivalent of retrospective at the end of Sprint- the day when you are suppose to think of your sins/wrong-doings, accept them, make a determination(vrat) and correct yourself.

This is a beautiful concept of incremental progress by self-correction.

Unfortunately; later, people forgot the reason and method of celebrating Ekadashi. They excluded the “determination” or संकल्प, the प्रायश्चित and, the self correction part. Instead, they only focused on the “vrat “ as if, by doing vrat alone — without any realization of mistakes —  one will be expurgated of their sins.

Like several things that we have fixed in our culture, Ekadashi too needs a fix. Once we bring back the lost steps of Ekadashi and do it with correct intentions then it will do wonders! We will embark on the path of continuous self improvement.

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