Light the Lamp Within You

Karthigai Deepam in Tamil and Karthika Deepam in Telugu, this festival of lights signifies lighting the lamp within. This post details the story behind this festival and the also the inner meaning conveyed

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SSM Lecture Series on LifeSkills education

“Sastra Sagara Mathan”

 “Gems of LIFE-SKILLS education from our scriptures – A journey into the Indian Wisdom”

Milk ocean churning

Ancient Indian scriptures abound with universally applicable life-skills wisdom. Ancient Indians evinced interest in the minds of people from across the world as they excelled in all spheres of life – economics, science, politics, astrology, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, fine arts, philosophy, education, tourism, trade and commerce, etc. by integrating scriptural wisdom into their life-style.

India was a leading world economy till about four centuries ago. Disintegrating our educational system from traditional wisdom by the colonial powers led to loss of national pride and rapid downfall of our society. It is now time to dive deep into this ocean, bring out gems of wisdom and reach this valuable treasure to humanity in an organized structure so that one can learn, understand and apply the same in daily life to be happily successful in pursuit of life’s goals.

“Sastra Sagara Mathan” is an initiative by Beeja – a trust involved in study, research and archiving of traditional Indian wisdom apart from structuring and evolving programs to enhance the life-skills of children of current generation in an enjoyable format. In these sessions scriptural oceanic treasure is churned by the learned to bring out gems of life-skills education and reach it to the education community to ultimately take it to the children in a joyous format.Samudra-Manthan-The-Churning-of-the-Ocean-of-Milk

The plan…

  • A series of lectures are held wherein one scripture/book of wisdom is taken in each lecture and the expert shares stories, concepts, philosophy, tools and techniques mentioned in the scripture under discussion to enhance one or more domains of life-skills in an Individual.
  • The expert then engages in discussion with the teaching community to clarify doubts and explore means of integrating the wisdom into the education system.
  • The conclusions and learning in the session is then integrated into the life-skills curriculum, syllabus, books and other programs & tools.
  • These sessions are held in schools or common venues with school principals and teachers as invitees apart from other educationists.

Ankur is glad to reach out this series to education community.

Requests for holding SSM lectures in your education institution may be forwarded to ankur@blissgroup.com

Letting the Child be Both the Sculpture and the Sculptor

“Education is The Manifestation of The Perfection Already in Man”… This quote by Swami Vivekananda demonstrates the clarity and crispness with which Swami Vivekananda delivered his messages.

Three important messages pop out from this statement – Manifestation, The Perfection, Already in Man…

Manifestation – It is not assimilation, but Manifestation. Mere intellectualisation of concepts and ideas do not suffice. True education is to ensure that the learning gets manifested in actions.

There is no purpose learning hundred things, without giving scope to find expression in life. It is advisable to take one thing at a time and internalise, before claiming to have learnt that.

Perfection – Whatever we learn should be manifested. But the question arises… what should we learn? What should be manifested? Swamiji talks of manifestation of perfection. As it is the case with most of Ancient Indian Scriptural Concepts – Perfection, as used by Swami Vivekananda needs to be viewed from two levels/perspectives.

  • At the spiritual level, it denotes the divinity or completeness of an individual. The perfection or divinity in man should find expression as a result of education. In Swamiji’s own words…

“The Light Divine within is obscured in most people. It is like a lamp in a cask of iron, no gleam of light can shine through. Gradually, by purity and unselfishness, we can make the obscuring medium less and less dense, until at last it becomes transparent as glass”. Note that Swamiji talks not only about the Divine within, but also the means by which that Divinity has to be brought out. Education should provide tools for one to be pure and unselfish.

  • At the day-to-day practical, worldly level, perfection denotes the ability to address various problems human beings encounter in society. Again in Swamiji’s words…

“The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out the strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.”

Education must provide “life-building, man-making and character making” assimilation of ideas to evolve as a holistic individual – one who has learned how to improve his intellect, purify his heart, handle his emotions and stand firm on moral virtues and unselfishness.

Already in Man – This is the key message in the above quote. The perfection which has to be manifested, Swamiji declares, is already in man. When we already have it, what is the role of education? What are we learning? The process of education is actually a process of purification.

It is a process of removing the blinding mask and realise the perfectness within.

It is a process which brings out the strength within and makes us courageous like a lion and help us stand on our own legs.

Here lies the critical role of an educator – be it a parent at home or a teacher at school, we need to make education student centric.

It is an educator’s responsibility to throw light on the strengths of the student and facilitate ways to bring out those strengths, to nurture a confident and courageous adult. An educator’s role is that of a farmer, not a sculptor.

A Sculptor carves out a beautiful image from a barren rock. There are many sculptors who do such fine job that the sculptures look real and life laden. A sculptor replicates the image he had conceptualised, in the rock. The stone with no inherent characteristics simply takes the shape, its sculptor gives.

Many a time, a parent or teacher act as sculptors and the children their sculptures. They try to mould and carve them into wonderful human beings. A noble objective… Is it really so?

We frequent with parents wanting their children to grow up and become like them or like what they wanted to be, but could not. Several others want to mould them into money-making machines. They force them to get into a field which is sought after in the market so that they can make more money. This market driven trend in human development is one of the main cause of stress. We come across youngsters – four to five years in the industry and disinterested in what they are doing, because their heart, passion and skill-set is elsewhere. This is counter-productive for all – the individual, organisation, family and the society.

A Farmer grows a mighty tree or a small plant, all with same amount of Love and Care. A farmer knows that each seed is different. Like all living beings, seeds have a unique inherent nature. The farmer provides the right environment for the seedling to emerge and simply act as a facilitator in its growth process.

Similarly an ideal educator has to provide the Right, Conducive, Compassionate and Loving environment for the child to grow into establishing his full potential…

An ideal educator sees the child from child’s eyes and let him grow based on his inherent strengths…

An ideal educator remain as helper/facilitator in the process of learning providing the child with necessary environment and tools letting the child be both the sculptor and the sculpture…

Self Made Man

Yoga is a time-tested and effective tool to realize the above objective. Yogic science explains five facets of human personality – Physcial, Vital, Mental, Intellectual and Spiritual. Different elements of Yoga help develop and hone these aspects of human personality at the individual level creating an ideal foundation for evolution of a responsible social personality

The five primary aspects of human personality are highly integrated. Evolving on one aspect also help evolve the other aspects. A good yoga teacher aware of this subtle aspect, provides student-centric tools, so that one is able to use the strengths to work on the weaknesses and evolve in a balanced manner.

For example let us take asana – one of the yogic tools. A single asana can work on all five aspects of human personality:

  • physical personality – making the body relaxed, fit, flexible and healthy
  • energy levels – directing the energies to the right place at the right time keeping one energetic
  • mental and psychic personality – making the mind calm, relaxed and focused
  • intellectual persona – brining out the spontaneity and creativity within
  • spiritual persona – helping one realize the completeness within and unity without

Similarly other aspects of Hatha Yoga like pranayama, various types of meditation practices etc., can also be used to evolve one or more aspects of human personality. Apart from Hatha Yoga, there are also other types of yoga, like karma yoga, bhakthi yoga, jnana yoga, etc., which can be practiced by all.

Practiced under expert guidance Yoga helps develop a clear, pure and focused mind making one more effective in life. The clarity and focus help one identify the strengths and weaknesses, prioritize needs and wants, discriminate right and appropriate from the wrong and make right decisions both in simple day-to-day activities and in life-influencing career choices. Thus Yoga is an effective tool with which children can sculpt their own life.

On this Children’s Day let us educators, resolve to help the child become a good sculptor of his own sculpture.

Faith Works Wonders

There was once a tribal who knew the divine spell (or mantra) to cure one from snake and other poisonous insect bites. His name spread far and wide. People from far used to come to him for cure. This news reached the ears of a learned sage. This sage was curious to know, how a tribal in some corner in the world can know mantras and also use them effectively. He wanted to verify if that was really a mantra or some black magic.

On moving with the tribal for some days, the sage was convinced that this is no black magic and he really knew the mantra. Now the sage was curious to learn the mantra. After all the sage was a jignasu (thirsty for knowledge) and he wanted to learn something he didn’t know. He then approached the tribal to teach him the mantra.

The tribal is now worried. He believed that the sage is highly learned and there is nothing in this world, which he could teach to such a learned man. Even if there is something he can teach him, how can he ask such a learned man to serve him before teaching? He could neither refuse the sage nor did he have the courage to tell the truth. He slowly mustered courage to say that the student should serve the master before he can learn from him.

The learned sage being aware of the guru-sishya parampara as mentioned in the scriptures, immediately agreed. After some weeks of service, the sage now a student requested his master to teach him the mantra. The master said the time has not come yet and he has to serve him for another year. The sage had no other option but to follow the orders of his master.

A year passed and the time has come for the master to teach the student…

One auspicious day after the morning bath, on the banks of the river the master and student settle down to transact the lesson. The master tells something in the student’s ear. The sage was not able to believe his ears. He still wanted to verify the truth and requests the master (tribal) to repeat the mantra. The tribal does so, as he felt obliged to teach a sincere student to his utmost satisfaction. Soon, the sage bursts out in laughter.

He shouts in utter dismay… “How on earth did I waste one full year serving an unlearned tribal to learn this nonsense?”

He then turns to the tribal and asks “Is this the mantra which is curing people from poisonous bites?”

The tribal nods in agreement.

The learned sage then felt he has the responsibility to clarify facts to the tribal and save him from bad consequences. He explains to the tribal that “This is no mantra to cure people from poisonous bites. It is in fact a mantra in praise of Lord Shiva… And you are uttering it in a wrong way. This may cause serious problems for you in future as there is a method and tone in which any mantra has to be repeated. Wrong pronunciations may result in dire consequences. Take care”

Saying so, the sage left the place.

The tribal had lots of regard to the learned sage and completely believed in what the sage said. So, he was afraid to use the mantra again. Due to pressure from the wise-men in the tribe, he did try out the mantra in a couple of instances. But it did not work. His faith in the mantra is broken and hence it lost the power.

The sage anyway did not believe in the mantra and never used it. Consequently the world lost the power of a mantra which can cure people from poisonous bites.

The fact however remains that the mantra was real. It was passed on in the tribe for several generations in guru-sishya parampara. They did not have a written script and knowledge was passed on from master to the student. It is possible that the mantra might have changed its tone over generations, but it worked perfectly because of the faith the tribe-men had on the mantra and the shradda (there is no absolute translation for this word in English… it is more than faith and absolute conviction) with which it was administered for generations. Once the faith is broken the mantra lost its power.

With absolute faith or “Shradda” any sound can gain power, without “Shradda” even the most powerful mantra can lose its power.

This story is based on a real incident originally narrated by HH Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Jeeyar Swamiji and extracted from a discourse by his disciple HH Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji.

Jiva Vigyan – a confluence of the illuminati

Emerging Trends in LIFE-SKILLS Education – Contribution of Native Wisdom

Jiva Vigyan Logo

“The ideal therefore is that you must have the whole education of our country, spiritual and secular, in our own hands and it must be on national lines through national methods as far as practical”        – Swami Vivekananda

Ancient Indian scriptures abound with universally applicable life-skills wisdom. Ancient Indians evinced interest in the minds of people from across the world as they excelled in all spheres of life – economics, science, politics, astrology, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, fine arts, philosophy, education, tourism, trade and commerce, etc. by integrating scriptural wisdom into their life-style. India was a leading world economy till about 4 centuries ago. Disintegrating our educational system from traditional wisdom by the colonial powers led to loss of national pride and rapid downfall of our society.

At this juncture when educational boards – CBSE, ICSE and state education boards are attempting to implement life-skills in education by giving enough weight-age to these skills in the grading pattern, there is a need to reach to the depths of this wisdom, revive and reach it to children with appropriate tools and methods as suited to the needs of 21st century.

Jiva-Vignan is a confluence of the illuminati – Principals and educationists of Chennai schools to create a path of light, life and wisdom in this direction. The confluence is aimed to stimulate thoughts in this direction among education heads and led by panelists who are authorities in our ancient wisdom with hands on experience in implementing.

Beginning with the end in mind… The program is an opportunity for the principals and educationists to share knowledge, experiences, learning, ideas and take back practically implementable ideas and tools to empower children.

The program shall be inaugurated Dr K Rosaiah His Excellency The Governor of Tamil Nadu on 19th April 2014.

In the current inaugural edition of Jiva Vigyan luminaries from Bihar School of Yoga share their wisdom and experiences in using Yoga as a tool for nurturing Life-Skills in children.

Apart from panel discussion, this session also includes paper presentation by the principals of Chennai schools on the topic “My experience in implementing Life-Skills in education” and more…

Look out for the April edition of uvAcha to learn more about the event and its outcomes…

Cowboys find their HERO!

Cowboys Find their HERO!

Once a group of cowboys challenged Swamiji to show how fearless he could be while talking about the undecaying and eternal atman, which is a man’s true nature.

Could he remain unmoved and statue-like while lecturing on the subject of the atman, whose realization, he claimed, makes a man completely fearless?

In order to test Swamiji, they put him on a drum inverted to form an improvised stool and asked to him to go on lecturing.  Then they fired rounds so meticulously as to whiz past his ears on either side.  If only Swamiji moved even an inch either way or shook his head howsoever slightly, he would have had to face the bullets straightaway piercing his ears!

Swamiji stood on the ‘stool’ calmly and started to lecture.

The cowboys started firing the rounds and a volley of shots whizzed past his ears with maddening speed.

Swamiji went on with his lecture unfazed and as if nothing worthwhile was happening around him!

The cowboys then put down their guns and greeted Swamiji saying: ‘Hey, this is our hero!’

Cowboys find their HERO in Swami Vivekananda

Moral: Practice Meditation and develop Fearlessness and Concentration

What is Wisdom?

To see the truth in the false is the Beginning of Wisdom

To see the false as the false is the Highest Comprehension

– J Krishnamurti

Understanding Mind – An Absorbent Mind

awareness

awareness (Photo credit: tobias feltus)

Understanding comes in the space between two words, in that interval before the word shapes thought.

Understanding is not verbal, nor is there such a thing as intellectual understanding. Intellectual understanding is only on the verbal level, and so no understanding at all. Understanding does not come as a result of thought, for thought after all is verbal. There is no thought without memory, and memory is the word, the symbol, the process of image making. At this level there is no understanding.

Understanding is neither for the quick-witted nor for the slow, but for those who are aware of this measureless space.

J Krishnamurti

Understanding is being. Being in the very moment. A child from birth till about eight years of age is very understanding. Children of that age have absorbent mind declares Maria Montessori in her book The Absorbent Mind. They absorb and understand each moment of life intensely, effortlessly, naturally, like a sponge. After eight, the logical and intellectual mind takes over. The capacity to understand, creative genius is then gradually lost.

Pratyahara and Dharana practices of Yoga – Antarmouna, Ajapa japa, Breath awareness, Yoga Nidra, etc., prepare us to develop this kind of mind. They help us to develop awareness and keep the mind alert.

Logically thinking and intellectually sharp mind is required to handle various day-to-day affairs. But, the mind is most effective only when it is aware, alert, absorbent and understanding.

– If you are aware and alert to the mental chatter that happens while you are listening… true listening, devoid of filters can take place

– If you are aware of the words you are about to utter, you can be more effective in your communication

– If you are able to understand yourself, you will be able to understand others better and have better interpersonal relationships

These are but some of the benefits one gains by developing an absorbent mind.

For Adults…

Acceptance of what they are now, coupled with persistence, patience, perseverance and continuous practice under right guidance helps.

For Children…

Introducing the practices early in their life as part of the process of education helps.

Education is The Manifestation of The Perfection Already in Man – Swami Vivekananda

This is a famous and most often quoted quote on education by Swami Vivekananda. It clearly demonstrates the clarity and crispness with which Swami Vivekananda delivered his messages.

As I was contemplating on this quote this morning, three important messages popped out from this statement – Manifestation, The Perfection, Already in Man…

Manifestation – It is not assimilation, but Manifestation Swamiji is talking about. The learning has to be manifested. Something is said to be manifested only when it finds an expression. Mere intellectualisation of concepts and ideas do not suffice. True education is to see that the learning has manifested in us and our works.

Agreed! One cannot change overnight. But, there is no purpose going on learning hundred things, without giving them scope to find expression in our life. It is advisable to take one thing at a time and incorporate it into our system, before we say we have learnt that. This holds true, especially for life lessons.

Perfection – Whatever we learn should be manifested. But the question arises… what should we learn? What should be manifested? Swamiji talks of manifestation of perfection. As it is the case with most of Ancient Indian Scriptural Concepts – Perfection, as used by Swami Vivekananda needs to be viewed from two levels/perspectives.

At the spiritual level, it denotes the divinity or completeness of an individual. The perfection or divinity in man should find expression as a result of education. In Swamiji’s own words…

“The Light Divine within is obscured in most people. It is like a lamp in a cask of iron, no gleam of light can shine through. Gradually, by purity and unselfishness, we can make the obscuring medium less and less dense, until at last it becomes transparent as glass”

Here Swamiji talks not only about the Divine within, but also the means by which that Divinity has to be brought out. More on this in a later blog.

At the practical, worldly or empirical level, perfection denotes the ability to address various problems human beings encounter in society. Again in Swamiji’s words…

“The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out the strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.”

Education must provide “life-building, man-making and character making” assimilation of ideas so as to develop an integrated person – one who has learned how to improve his intellect, purify his heart, handle his emotions and stand firm on moral virtues and unselfishness.

Already in Man – This is the key principle in the above quote. The perfection which has to be manifested, Swamiji declares – is already in man. When we already have it, what is the role of education? What are we learning? The process of education is actually a process of purification. A process by which we realise the perfectness within. A process which brings out the strength within and makes us courageous like a lion and help us stand on our own legs in this society.

Here lies the critical role of an educator – be it a parent at home or a teacher at school.

Here lies the importance of making education student centric.

It is an educator’s responsibility to throw light on the strengths of the student and facilitate ways and means to bring out those strengths, so as to nurture a confident and courageous adult. His/her role is that of a farmer, not a sculptor.

Expansive Thinking…

Illness starts with “I”

Wellness starts with “We”

– Swami Sivananda

All inclusive and oneness thinking can be developed by shifting our thought from…

“Me / My Family is My World”

to

“The World is My Family”

This is at the core of spirituality. The first step in spiritual journey is to move from “self-centered” to “ALL INCLUSIVE” thinking.

UBUNTU concept of African tribes is an excellent example of this kind of thinking, which should be nurtured in the young minds…

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