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Farewell of a Yogi

Friends, have you ever thought about the power the smartphone holds over your daily life? Whether you want it or not, everyone and everything on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest is there on your phone. The enormous information present in this ubiquitous device, and the allure of the virtual world are severely limiting human to human interactions. Friends, I experienced it firsthand on a recent flight from Boston back home to Dallas. I was seated in the middle row and my co-passenger to my right was a young man. I smiled to him and said hello! There was no response, I raised my voice, how are you doing? I realized there was no way he could hear me because his headphones were on. I turned and smiled to the young lady sitting to my left but again no response, she was busy scrolling through albums of pictures - there was no way she could see me! Startled, I was reminded of Gandhi’s Three Monkeys - one of them covering his eyes, the second his mouth, and the third his ears - "See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil". As the flight took off, I felt like I was sandwiched between Gandhi’s Monkeys with my co-passenger’s eyes, mouth and ears shut but unlike those wise monkeys my fellow passengers, saw no body, heard no body, and spoke no body because their were glued to their phones. They were liking, commenting, and scrolling feverishly memes, jokes and cartoons; minutes turned into hours, hours passed into the afternoon, the afternoon passed well into the evening, but their occupations with their phones continued non-stop until we reached Dallas!

Friends, we all are all created with the senses of touch, sight, and sound. All of these senses connect us with our fellow human beings. Should we let social media control our body and mind? Should we let machines pull us away from our human faculties of touch, sight, and sound ? Let me examine this question through the life story of an amazing human being, Friends his story changed my life and I believe it will change yours as well.

It was the year1981 – At the park plaza in the city of Boston, a crowd gathered to listen to a young man who had upended the way our world lived and worked. They were about to witness the unfurling of a technical revolution, a creation far beyond what anyone had ever done before. As the excitement was building up, the keynote speaker, the man everyone was waiting to hear, was nowhere to be found. The frantic organizer finally spotted him backstage. He was sitting on the floor cross-legged, completely still. Immersed in Dhyana, he was calm and quiet amidst the chaos around him like a perfect Yogi.

In early 1974, he was a nineteen year old teenager seeking enlightenment on a spiritual journey to India. While staying with a family in a countryside in the foothills of the Himalayas he came across a book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda. After this chance encounter with Yogananda, he would go back and reread it once every year until the end of his life.

I was fascinated and bought the book. Paramahansa Yogananda is widely revered as the father of Yoga in the west. His singular contribution, however, is the writing and publication of his autobiography in the English language, which is considered as a seminal work where, for the first time, a Yogi describes his journey of spiritual transformation to the western world. When I sat down to read the book, I lost track of time. The book talks of human cognizance and the capability of human beings. Yogananda takes us through the mysteries of the universe, explains the purpose of human existence which is to connect to the universal father or God. The book illustrates the capability of the human mind to do miracles alluding to the higher realms that humans can operate. As I reread and dived deeper into the pages of the book, I learned that self realization leads to the higher stages of yoga. Self realization is a journey to go within oneself and to uncover the infinite potential which exists within each of us. This journey goes far beyond physical exercises. The ability to disconnect from worldly distractions, the quieting of the chattering mind, the complete relaxation of the body and mind are the steps needed to begin. When you relax your mind, you create space ; when you create space you become receptive, and when you are receptive you unleash your creativity Friends , at this stage of peak inner acumen innovation happens.

The man who as a teenager took the spiritual journey to India, who discovered the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” and who could stay calm, quiet, and unshaken before any major event or outcome became the greatest innovator of our era. He unfurled a new simplicity in human interaction, a new creation far beyond what anyone had ever done before, a new invention no one had ever dreamed of - even while battling cancer through the last ten years of his life. This man was Steve Jobs.

Friends, the teaching of Yogananda 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 and that caught the world’s attention. The farewell gift of Steve Jobs to the world was a little book of Yoga.

Friends, we have so much natural wisdom within us, yet we choose not to access it. We choose to give up our senses of touch, sight, and sound to the world of instant gratification. We have created a society that honors the followers because we are becoming subservient to influencers, youtubers or anything virtual! Friends let’s not fall into it; let’s not anyone take away our internal power of decision making. Let’s take the journey to self-realization - when you connect to you innate wisdom your creativity unfurls, when you unleash your creativity you create life, and you change yours and everyone’s life - 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.

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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