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Farewell of a Yogi

A graduation speech for my daughter Riddhi

Welcome , It is a privilege and joy to have you all here to celebrate this momentous occasion. Thank you for coming. Today I want to talk to you about how one man transformed the world. Eighteen years ago, when Riddhi was born, in order to send a photograph of her to my dear mother, I had to click a picture through my polaroid camera, drop it at the photo center , collect it after three days and then mail it through the post office. The snail mail took 45 days to reach Mom. Today I just press a button and she is with us in real time.

This technology is both a blessing and a curse. Today, our lives are inundated in a sea of social media, smart phones, smart TVs, instant gratifications. We are often lost in a world of multitasking. One day, I was waiting at the airport for my next flight, I looked around and everyone was feverishly texting, tweeting, vlogging with their handheld screen. Looking at them with their eyes glued to their iPhone, I thought of Gandhi’s three Monkeys but instead of see no evil, hear no evil , speak no evil it was see no one, hear no one, speak to no one. My sense of isolation in this roomful of human beings was overpowering.

Art work by Prachurya Baruah

While our mind is constantly bombarded with everyday everchanging information by this device, the person who invented it, practiced a much different lifestyle. Indeed, he learned how to silence his mind, to create space and unfurl his creativity. Steve Jobs created the iPhone through the power of meditation. His brilliance that changed the world came from space, cleared of all distractions, cleared of all thought.

Steve Jobs was deeply influenced by eastern spiritualism, an influence that he carried throughout his life. As a young man searching for the meaning of life, he travelled to India. He was only nineteen years old. He took the trip in April 1973. While staying with a family in the countryside in the foothills of the Himalayas he found a book “Autobiography of a Yogi” written by Paramahansa Yogananda. Paramahansa Yogananda is widely revered as the father of Yoga in the west. His singular contribution, however, is the publication of his autobiography in English This book is considered a landmark publication where, for the first time, a Yogi describes his journey of spiritual transformation to the western world. A copy of the book was left by a previous traveler and Jobs read this book several times. The India trip and the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” had a lasting impact on him. He learned how to meditate, how to control his mind and how to stay calm and collected.

It was the year 1981 – At the park plaza in the city of Boston a crowd gathered to listen to Steve Jobs. He was only twenty-six years old and by that time he had rocketed to international stardom. His flagship product, Apple Computer, revolutionized how people used technology in their lives. As the excitement was building, the keynote speaker, the man everyone was waiting to hear, was nowhere to be found. The frantic organizer finally spotted him backstage. Jobs was sitting on the floor cross-legged, completely still. Deeply immersed in meditation, he was a picture of calm and quiet, Steve Jobs became a perfect Yogi, a man who has complete control over his mind, body, and spirit.

What is meditation, how do you meditate and what are the benefits of meditation? Meditation is about controlling your mind. Your thoughts spin through your mind all the time: work, home, TV, your smart phone. When you meditate, your mind slows down. Friends , allow me to illustrate it with a prop .

  • · Take a few slow deep breaths.

  • · For a few moments, relax your body and ease any tension in it.

  • · Now, focus your attention on the flame of the candle. This is all you need to do. Just look at the flame as it flickers and changes shape and color.

  • · Try to hold your sight and attention solely on the flame of the candle, without thinking of anything else. Immerse your complete attention in the flame of the candle.

  • · If you catch yourself thinking any thoughts, bring your mind back to the candle.

You probably notice that no matter how hard you try to focus on the flame, repeatedly, your eyes and your mind drift away. Various thoughts are commanding your attention, disturb your focus, and make you forget to gaze at the flame. But over time they subside, and gradually you create room to hear more subtle things-- that's when you start to see things more clearly, and that's when your intuition starts to blossom, your mind slows down, and you see a tremendous freedom in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.

Meditation lets you silence your mind. When your mind is silent and focused, you create space and when you create space you unfurl your creativity. Friends, meditation helped Steve Jobs to see much more than he could see before, the increased calm and clarity enhanced his creativity tremendously. He went on to usher in a technical revolution, and changed the way we think, listen to music, the way we take photographs, communicate, experience, and indeed the way we interact. He made us “think differently,” and in the process he fundamentally changed the way we live our lives.

Friends, the teachings of the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” resonated throughout his life and even in his death. At his memorial service, held at Stanford University in October 2011, every attendee was handed a brown box. Inside it was not one of the many dazzling products he created that had caught the world’s attention. The farewell gift of Steve Jobs to the world was this little book of Yoga.

Friends don’t let the pressure of social media, smart phones, and the virtual world overwhelm you! Take a deep breath, relax, and silence your mind. When you silence your mind, you create space, when you create space your creativity unfurls, and when you unleash your creativity, you change your life , you change someone else’s life, you change the world - this was the farewell gift of Steve Jobs to the world, and it was the last thing he wanted us all to think about, recognize and live by. - By Ankur Bora

I am thankful to Tony Carr of TNT Toastmaster and Warren Ehn and Teresa Mencke of OOTT Toastmaster for their valuable inputs. Last but not least, I'd like to thank Dave Nelson - I feel very fortunate to have him as my mentor.

Toastmasters Speech video link

Toastmasters Speech Evaluation by Daisy Luong

Ankur Bora's speech, Farewell to a Yogi, was a keynote address intended to be 16 minutes long. Though he did not meet the minimum required length, Ankur chose a challenging topic and complex structure to write and deliver. I found it very engaging and took a whole page of dense notes. Ankur opened with a story that was very relatable to the audience. It was about taking a flight with fellow passengers, who were completely absorbed in their phones. Most likely, each one of us has experienced flying with others engrossed in their phones, or ourselves have been completely absorbed in our phones. Following the story, he built suspense by saying, I’m going to tell you a story that will change your life. Then throughout the rest of the speech, he interwove stories with encouraging the audience to work towards self realization. I thought this approach was a dramatic way to deliver the message and keep the audience interested throughout.

Ankur used descriptive words and phrases, such as starting out by asking the audience a question. He also used the analogy of the three monkeys combined with gestures of the three monkeys, which invoked imagery.

Ankur made very good use of facial expressions and changing his tone. For example, he expressed incredulity at fellow passengers being absorbed in their phones the whole flight, even as he attempted to greet and make conversation with them. Another example is when he told the story about the event in Boston when the featured speaker was finally found backstage in a state of calm. Ankur softened his tone at this point in the story, which was a great use of vocal variety to contrast the excitement in the earlier part of the story. Ankur in addition, managed to incorporate several props into his speech, which isn’t easy to do But what I thought was most challenging was the complex concepts and phrases - "power of human mind to perform miracles", "self realization to uncover infinite potential", "disconnect through complete relaxation", "evocative and sustained interest." In terms of improvement, a few times I saw Ankur's eyes glance to the side at his notes. I believe it would also be more effective to see Ankur walk and make use of the stage space during his speech, though I understand it's hard to do that virtually. Overall, it was a very effective keynote address.

Daisy Luong is a Systems Engineering Sr Manager in the Defense/Aerospace Industry. She first practiced public speaking in high school in the 1990s and then took a long hiatus. She joined the Thumbs up Toastmasters Club in Irving, TX in March 2021. Her other interests are sewing, travel, cooking, and hiking.


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