|Unit E : A Lesson From a Devotee
Lesson Five : Rewriting for Focus--The Focus Statement
To find the focus of a paragragh, first read the paragraph, and then reread it asking yourself, "What does the author want to communicate to me?" Then write a short statement telling this "most important thing." This statement is called the FOCUS STATEMENT.
See how the focus statement below tells the message that Dharmaraja, the author of the paragraph, wants to communciate to us. "
Focus Statement: It is better to be safe than sorry.
"Srila Bhaktipada came over while we were unhooking the vehicles from each other. We didn't see him pulling up, so he honked his horn to get our attention. I hesistantly looked up. There was Bhaktipada sitting in his jeep with his eyes focused on me and his window rolled down. I walked over to his car door making sure I got there before anyone else. "What's going on, O king of religion?" he said. I laughed a little nervously and rubbed dirt off the side panel of his jeep. I innocently told him, "It wasn't really my fault." Bhaktipada laughed and asked what happened. After I told him everything, his mood became serious. He chastised me and told me that I was responsible for the accident. I was really disturbed. I just couldn't understand how it was even partially my fault. Srila Bhaktipada then told me to never depend on only one source for safety. He said that being extra careful always pays off. He used the saying "Better safe than sorry."
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A sentence should have no extra, unneeded words.
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A paragraph should have no extra sentences.
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In the same way, an essay should have no extra ideas or details that do not develop its focus statement. The paragraph you just read was part of a longer essay. Read the entire essay and notice how the focus statement of the paragraph was actually the focus statement of the entire essay. All the ideas and details in the essay help the reader feel the importance of
THE FOCUS STATEMENT.
Focus Statement: It is better to be safe than sorry.
Lesson From a Tractor Smash
by Dharmaraja dasa
Since it was vacation time, I was working all day tedding hay at Kadiravana, New Vrindaban. When I started, everything was working right. But about my tenth time around the field, my thermos fell off the tractor. By the time I noticed it, it was too far behind so I decided to pick it up my next time around. I circled the field and came to it, and since the field was on an incline, I pulled on the parking brakes before getting off to pick up the thermos.
With the thermos in my hand, I turned around and saw the tractor rolling down the hill toward the mechanic shop below. I ran and tried to jump on the tractor but the back tire grabbed my leg and ran over the back of my heal. I fell to the ground, helpless. As I looked up, I saw the tractor going about 30 miles per hour towards a retaining wall built to park vehicles along two months before. The tractor dropped the ten feet over the wall and went flying into a pick-up truck that had just been fixed up to sell. I was afraid.
I limped down the hill and my jaw dropped. The tractor had smashed in the front end of the truck five feet. The head light was crushed back to the steering wheel and the engine was practically sitting in the passenger seat. Suprisingly enough nothing happpened to the tractor because of the big heavy weights on its front.
Srila Bhaktipada came over while we were unhooking the vehicles from each other. We didn't see him pulling up, so he honked his horn to get our attention. I hesistantly looked up. There was Bhaktipada sitting in his jeep with his eyes focused on me and his window rolled down. I walked over to his car door making sure I got there before anyone else. "What's going on, O king of religion?" he said. I laughed a little nervously and rubbed dirt off the side panel of his jeep. I innocently told him, "It wasn't really my fault." Bhaktipada laughed and asked what happened. After I told him everything, his mood became serious. He chastised me and told me that I was responsible for the accident. I was really disturbed. I just couldn't understand how it was even partially my fault. Srila Bhaktipada then told me to never depend on only one source for safety. He said that being extra careful always pays off. He used the saying "Better safe than sorry."
After this, I calmed down and could understand what I had done wrong. As I got out of his jeep and he drove off, I realized that I was pretty lucky. Bhaktipada could have been a lot more angry. I knew I had to be more careful from now on. Later Bhaktipada came while I was working on another field and jokingly told me that he had paid for the accident by getting a fourteen-hundred dollar discount on a new dump truck they were buying.
Read the following three paragraphs and decide upon a suitable focus statements for each.
1. The evening of the appearance day of Srila Prabhupada, as I was about to enter the temple, I heard the loud banging of mrdanga and kartals. I felt enlivened. I immediately ran inside and saw many devotees holding an ecstatic kirtana while dancing and chanting like madmen. I immediately joined them and also began dancing and singing. At that time I could actually realize how much happiness one feels by dancing and singing for Krsna. We were raising our hands and dancing in ecstacy as we looked at the beautiful, smiling, faces of Sri Sri Krsna-Balarama. As we raised our hands, we felt completely surrendered unto Krsna.
(Sri Jiva Goswami dasa)
2. The first time I ever saw a dead body was at the Mathura train station on my way to Bombay. I saw a huge crowd around a taxi. When I went to see what was going on I saw some people picking up a body from a stretcher and putting it in a taxi. I could see from the other side of the window that the person was dead and his eyes were in the back of his head and his head was cut and bloody, with cotton over the cuts so no one could see all the blood. I turned away in disgust and looked at the sun to purify my eyes. (Balarama dasa)
3. This Krsna consciousness movement is meant to deliver the fallen souls from the clutches of maya and thus give them the chance to go back to Godhead. This can only be done if the members of the Krsna consciousness ovement make it their only business to boldly preach the message of Bhagavad-gita. All of the activities of the devotees should be preaching, whether one cooks, sews, worships the Deity, or fixes cars. All the activities of a devotee should be centered around preaching.
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Although it may be made of many paragraphs, a good piece of writing has ONE focus statement. Yes, only ONE. Parts of the piece that talk about ideas and details other than that focus, interesting as they may be, must be edited out.
For example, the focus of the following essay is Krsna saved us when our car broke down as we traveled to our sankirtana spot.
Although only part of the essay is reprinted, it is easy to see which of the essay's parts are not needed.
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In the middle of November of 1983, Krsna Nama and I packed our painting rolls and belongings into car, a blue Omni. We were headed to Muncie, Indiana for the Christmas Marathon. As usual, most temple presidents rally up almost every devotee to go out on sankirtana, and since I was in the temple, our temple president arranged for a mall store for me to work so I could to help sell paintings. It was the first time I ever sold paintings so I didn't really know if I would like it or not. But I told the temple president that I would try my best.
Just as we pulled out from the temple driveway at six in the evening, a soft but cold rain began to fall. We were both worried about the car making the twelve hour drive to our samkirtana spot. After all, the temple was spending two hundred each month just to keep the car on the road each month. It's not that I have anything against Omnis, but I don't think they are a strong or a well made car. I'm not the only person who complains about Omnis either. Thousands of people all over the country complain about how much they break down. Omnis have a bad reputation. Three people that I know have Omnis and each one of them has trouble with his car. After driving for about an hour in the increasingly heavy rain, the Omni began to lose power. The windshield wipers started to move slower, the lights got dimer, and the engine began to make a puttering, dieing sound.
Notice how the parts of the essay that were underlined do not add to the focus of the essay, and can be removed without any loss.
In the middle of November of 1983, Krsna Nama and I packed our painting rolls and belongings into car, a blue Omni. We were headed to Muncie, Indiana for the Christmas Marathon. Just as we pulled out from the temple driveway at six in the evening, a soft but cold rain began to fall. We were both worried about the car making the twelve hour drive to our samkirtana spot. After all, the temple was spending two hundred each month just to keep the car on the road each month. After driving for about an hour in the increasingly heavy rain, the Omni began to lose power. The windshield wipers started to move slower, the lights got dimer, and the engine began to make a puttering, dieing sound.
Read each paragraph and write a focus statement for each one. Reread the paragraphs again, and after deciding which sentences do not add to the focus, copy those sentences into your notebook. (I have added the unnecessary sentences)
1. It was the 13th of March in Sri Mayapura dhama during the 11th annual festival of the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Every year during the Mayapura and Vrindaban festival I get the opportunity to serve my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Harikesa Swami Visnupada. The Mayapura festival is celebrating the birth of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most munificient incarnation of Godhead. Rupa Goswami glorifies Lord Caitanya by praying, "namo maha vadanaya." By the mercy of Lord caitanya, the Krsna consciousness movement is spreading all over the world. That particular day I was cleaning Sri Visnupada's room during Srila Prabhupada's gurupuja. While I was mopping the floor I thought,"Yes, this is my only business, crawling on my knees to serve my spiritual master." Even though I was crawling like a baby, I didn't feel like a baby. A baby can't think clearly and tends ot put everything in its mouth. I should know, my elder brother has a young son. The boy gets into everything and causes a lot of trouble. Upon this realization I immediately felt like serving my guru more and more, knowing this to be the goal of my life. The duty of the disciple is to serve the spiritual master to the best of his ability. The disciple should feel some kind of debt towards his spiritual master. Although we know we cannot repay possibly repay our guru for what he has done, we can at least try our best to serve him. The spiritual master is pleased when he sees a disciple engaged in menial service. When one does menial service for the guru, that is a sign of humilty and advancement in spiritual life.
(I have added seven unnecessary sentences to this essay by Dharma dasa)
2. When a spiritualist tells a materialist to give up sense gratification and become self-realized by performing austerities, the materialists thinks he is hearing the words of a crazy man who should be admitted into a mental hospital. There are many mental hospitals that treat people suffering from different illnesses. Some mental illnesses are severe and others are not so serious. If a a person is simply neurotic, he does not have to go in a mental hospital. Extreme cases of hysteria, schizophrenia, or paranoia often require hospitalization. Devotees of the Lord, due to having higher knowledge of the revealed scriptures, can understand who is actually crazy. They know that those persons who are mad after sense gratification thinking the goal of life is to simply enjoy and work hard just like donkeys and asses are actually crazy. For example, a person who works in a factory has to work so hard all day, nine or ten hours daily, just to maintain his family. After working hard, when he comes home at night, his family members quarrel with him for not supplying their needs sufficiently. Then when he sleeps he is worried about tommorrow's work, consequently he doesn't even sleep peacefully. In this way both day and night such a person is miserable although working hard like a donkey or ass.
(I have added four unnecessary sentences to this essay written by Sri Jiva Goswami dasa)
3. And we even see our own environment changing constantly as it experiences the fangs of creation, maintenance, and annihilation--just as the shore of an ocean erodes with the effect of time and tide. I have been to the ocean shore and have seen the white foam on the waves and the milk white conchshells that wash upon the sandy beach. Similarly, our bodies are being acted upon as they pass through the cycle of boyhood, youth, and old age, advancing towards the call of death, even though we fail to notice and make relevant inquiries. And this siren of death can be heard in all the ears, from the highest planets to the lowest. Some of the higher planets are Janaloka, Tapaloka, Maharloka, and Siddhaloka. Lower planets are named Rasatala, Sutala, Talatala, and Patala.
(I have added three unnecessary sentences to this paragraph by Vrindavana Vihari dasa)
Write a ten minute directed freewriting about one of the following three topics.
Arjuna Yudhisthira Maharaja Bhima
After you've finished, write out the essay's focus statement and edit out all parts of your directed freewriting that do not directly have to do with your focus statement.
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Now let's continue with your writing project, "A Lesson From a Devotee." Choose your focus statement, that statement that you want to communicate to your reader. Then focus your first draft by removing any sentences that do not "push" that focus statement.
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Then, after focusing your first draft, go on to the next lesson.
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