I have read a story of women’s emancipation in an online news paper and as such I am awe struck to write this article. The true story placed below is based on the phrase ‘’ Where there is a will, there is a way’’.
This unique experiment takes place in a barefoot college at a remote village, Tilonia in Rajasthan, India. This institution is started by a social entrepreneur, Sujit Bunker Roy in 1972. This college has broken all social stigmas wherein the poor women condemned to be restricted to the kitchen and discouraged to study by their husbands are encouraged to learn and earn in an unique way. People are obsessed with the certificates. As such this college simply doesn’t give any certificate or degree after completion of the course, which is generally of six to nine months duration.
They prefer teaching older women rather than men who come from nearby villages, who have no patience and run away to find some job as soon as some certificate is given to them. So their students comprise poor illiterate grandmothers who had to face abusive drunken husbands throughout their lives. Some students come from far of Countries like Africa to learn the skills. The Government of India provides a scholarship to about 28 students per year to such foreign students for learning the various courses taught in this college. These poor students from Africa happily learn and return to their Country and make use of their skills for their betterment.
The courses comprise on subjects such as Solar Engineering, Mechanics, Dentistry, Public Health etc. The finance is provided by the Government of India, Private and Corporate Foundations, International Agencies etc. Sometimes there is no common language of communication. The teachers use sign language and special codes for enabling the students to follow their lectures. The students are either made to sit on floor or on some old desks for learning the skills. This education is based on learning-by- doing practice rather than teaching theory only. This organization is also doing great service to the Nation by running 800 Night Schools across India.
An estimated 10,000 women students have successfully completed the courses so far and about 17 States have adopted this model. Even some foreign Countries in Asia, Africa and South America are said to be inspired by this particular model and setup their own institutes of this type.
In 2010,Times Magazine had named Mr.Roy among 100 most Influential People of the World. I salute this Great Man and People of his type for making the lives of the poor undoubtedly better. What a Way Forward!.
There is nothing that one can ignore in this nature because it is all pervaded by the supreme God. Each element of nature whether it is a person, animal, plant/tree, hill and river etc. depends on each other and one cannot survive without the other.Shree Sarada mata gives us the message that we can learn from everybody.
When Maata was a small child, She was cleaning a room and upon finishing, she threw the broom to a corner. Then She heard the voice of Sri Ramakrishna say, “Hega, you threw that broom? See how beautifully you cleaned the room with that very broom and now you threw it? You must respect your tools as well as your actions. Cleanliness is next to Godliness?” Then Mother bowed down to the broom. From then on She would bow down to it everyday. Maa said that, Thakur Ramakrishna told Her, “If you respect each and every one of your actions, you will get me.”
Respect is an important part of learning. To illustrate this, Maata has shared these stories with us. These stories teach us how to learn and how to become divine. We can learn every moment from every thing because Mother Nature is teaching us all the time. Please read and enjoy the stories!
The stories are related with Avadhut Dattatreya. Dattatreya was born divine and he considered every moment as an opportunity to learn. He learned from everybody and everything. He considered all of Nature to be his Guru. How did He learn this way and what did He learn?
One day Avadhut was crossing a big field. He saw a huge wedding procession going past the field with much fanfare accompanied by many musical instruments. Pipes and Drums were played and singers were singing enthusiastically. The marriage party was accompanying the groom. At the same time in that field, Avadhut saw a hunter. The hunter was concentrating only on his prey. His eyes were completely focused on the target and he was oblivious to the marriage party and the sounds of their merry making. Avadhut went to the hunter and bowed down to him. He said, “You are my Guru. When I meditate on God, my goal will be to have the same focus as you have just demonstrated.”
Once Avadhut was walking by a river when he saw a fisherman. He went near the fisherman and asked politely, “Oh Brother, what path should I take to go to the city? The fisherman was looking inside the water and did not pay any attention to the question. The sounds did not even enter in to his ears. At that moment, the fish was just touching the bait. When the fish was caught, the fisherman called Avadhut, “Hey, what were you telling me?”
Avadhut came back to him and bowed down. He said, “You are my Guru. When I meditate on my Ishta Deva (beloved form of God), until the meditation is not complete, until I reach the goal, my mind will not wander. Please give me blessings to be like you in this way.”
One day a hawk caught a fish and was flying with the fish in its mouth. Hundreds and hundreds of crows followed it. They chased the hawk wherever it flew. They wanted the fish and went wherever the hawk went. They were disturbing the hawk greatly.
The hawk got mad. It threw the fish. At that time, another hawk was flying and caught that fish. The crows left the first hawk and started flying behind the other hawk.
The first hawk was so relieved and relaxed! Without worry, it sat on the branch of a tree and watched the plight of the other hawk.
The Avadhut bowed down to the hawk and said, “If you can leave all desires and attachments, then alone you can get peace. When I meditate I want to leave all my desires and attachments, just as you have shown. ” He prayed the hawk and said, “You are my Guru. Thank you for your teaching.”
There was a little pond in which a crane was swimming with concentration and moving slowly to catch a fish. Behind the crane was a hunter who was focusing on the crane with the intent of killing it. The crane had no idea as to who was behind. The crane was completely focused on catching the fish.
The Avadhut bowed down to the crane and told him, “You are my Guru. When I will do meditation, I will never look behind, I will always be focused on the present and not on the past or the future. Please give me this blessing. Thank you for your teaching.”
From these Avadhut stories we see a beautiful example of how we can learn from the Nature – every moment, every aspect of creation can be our Guru and we can learn. Avadhut respected with each action. From this we learn that if we too, are respectful in each and every one of our actions, the entire Universe will become our family, and we can learn and share our experience with everyone in this Universe.
God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the top. You can reach it by stone , wooden, bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole. One should not be unilateral in thinking, ‘My religion alone is the right path and other religions are false.’ God can be realized by means of all paths.
It is enough to have sincere yearning for God. Infinite are the paths and infinite are the options.
”I had to practice each religion for a time — Hinduism, Islam, Christianity. Furthermore, I followed the paths of the Saktas, Vaishnavas, and Vedantists. I realized that there is only one God towards whom everyone intends to reach; but the paths are different”.
Truth is one; only it is called by different names. All people are seeking the same Truth; the variance is due to climate, temperament, and name. A lake has many Ghats. From one Ghat the Hindus take water in jars and call it ‘Jal’. From another Ghat the Muslim collects water in leather bags and call it ‘Pani’. From the third the Christians take the same thing and call it ‘Water’. Suppose someone says that the thing is not ‘Jal’ but ‘Pani’, or that it is not ‘Pani’ but ‘Water’, or that it is not ‘water’ but ‘Jal’, the argument would indeed be meaningless. But this very thing is at the root of the friction among various religious groups and sects. This is the reason why people injure and kill one another and shed blood, in the name of religion. But this is not good.
Everyone is wants to reach and learn about God. They will all realize Him if they have sincerity and longing of heart. You must know that there are different tastes. There are also different ways of digestion. God has made different religions and creeds to suit different aspirants. By no means all are fit for the Knowledge of Brahman. Therefore the worship of God with the ”form” has been provided. The mother brings home a fish for her children. She prepares curry from part of the fish, part she fries, and with another part she makes Pulav. By no means all can digest the Pulav. So she makes fish soup for those who have weak stomachs. Further, some people want pickled or fried fish. There are different temperaments. There are differences in the capacity to comprehend.
A man can reach the top of a house by stone stairs, a ladder, a rope-ladder, a rope or even by a bamboo pole. But he cannot reach the roof if he sets one foot on one and another foot on another.
He should firmly follow one path. Likewise, in order to realize God a man must follow one path with all his mental strength.
But you must regard other views as so many paths leading to God. You should not feel that your path is the only right path and that other paths are wrong. You mustn’t bear malice toward others.
If there are errors in other religions, that is none of our business. God, to whom the world belongs, takes care of that.
Lovers of God do not belong to any caste…. A Brahmin without this love is no longer a Brahmin. And a pariah with the love of God is no longer a pariah. Through bhakti an untouchable becomes pure and elevated.
When the fruit appears the blossom drops off. Love of God is the fruit, and rituals are the blossom.
Whether you accept Radha and Krishna, or not, please do accept their attraction for each other. Try to create that same yearning in your heart for God.
Yearning is all you need in order to realize Him. Can you weep for Him with intense longing of heart? Men shed a jarful of tears for the sake of their children, for their wives, or for money. But who weeps for God? So long as the child remains engrossed with its toys, the mother looks after her cooking and other household duties. But when the child no longer relishes the toys, it throws them aside and yells for its mother. Then the mother takes the rice-pot down from the hearth, runs in haste, and takes the child in her arms. God reveals Himself to a devotee who feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the child’s attraction for its mother, and the husband’s attraction for the chaste wife.
If one feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions, then through it one can attain Him. Direct the six passions to God. The impulse of lust should be turned into the desire to have intercourse with Atman. Feel angry at those who stand in your way to God. Feel greedy for Him. If you must have the feeling of I and mine, then associate it with God. Say, for instance, ‘My Rama, My Krishna.’ If you must have pride, then feel like Vibhishana, who said, ‘I have touched the feet of Rama with my head; I will not bow this head before anyone else.’
You have been born in this world as a human being to worship God; therefore try to acquire love for His Lotus Feet. Why do you trouble yourself to know a hundred other things? What will you gain by discussing philosophy? Look here, one ounce of liquor is enough to intoxicate you. What is the use of your trying to find out how many gallons of liquor there are in the tavern?
The devotee of God wants to eat sugar, and not become sugar. The one essential thing is bhakti, loving devotion to God. Do the Theosophists seek bhakti? They are good if they do. If Theosophy makes the realization of God the goal of life, then it is good. One cannot seek God if one constantly busies oneself with the mahatmas and the lunar, solar, and stellar planes.
A man should practise sadhana and pray to God with a longing heart for love of His Lotus Feet. He should direct his mind to God alone, withdrawing it from the various objects of the world.
I have heard that man can acquire superhuman powers through it and perform miracles. I saw a man who had brought a ghost under control. The ghost used to procure various things for his master. What shall I do with superhuman powers? Can one realize God through them? If God is not realized then everything becomes false. It is said that truthfulness alone constitutes the spiritual discipline of the Kaliyuga.
If a man clings tenaciously to truth he ultimately realizes God. Without this regard for truth, one gradually loses everything. If by chance I say that I will go to the pine-grove, I must go there even if there is no further need of it, lest I lose my attachment to truth. After my vision of the Divine Mother, I prayed to Her, taking a flower in my hands: ‘Mother, here is Thy knowledge and here is Thy ignorance. Take them both, and give me only pure love. Here is Thy holiness and here is Thy unholiness. Take them both, Mother, and give me pure love. Here is Thy good and here is Thy evil. Take them both, Mother, and give me pure love. Here is Thy righteousness and here is Thy unrighteousness. Take them both, Mother, and give me pure love.’ I mentioned all these, but I could not say: ‘Mother, here is Thy truth and here is Thy falsehood. Take them both.’ I gave up everything at Her feet but could not bring myself to give up truth.
God laughs on two occasions. He laughs when the physician says to the patient’s mother, ‘Don’t be afraid, mother; I shall certainly cure your boy.’ God laughs, saying to Himself, ‘I am going to take his life, and this man says he will save it!’ The physician thinks he is the master, forgetting that God is the Master. God laughs again when two brothers divide their land with a string, saying to each other, ‘This side is mine and that side is yours.’ He laughs and says to Himself, ‘The whole universe belongs to Me, but they say they own this portion or that portion.’
The waves belong to the Ganges, not the Ganges to the waves. A man cannot realize God unless he gets rid of all such egotistic ideas as ‘I am such an important man’ or ‘I am so and so’. Level the mound of ‘I’ to the ground by dissolving it with tears of devotion.
One can easily realize God if one is free from guile. Spiritual instruction produces quick results in a guileless heart. Such a heart is like well cultivated land from which all the stones have been removed. No sooner is the seed sown than it germinates. The fruit also appears quickly.
One cannot attain divine knowledge till one gets rid of pride. Water does not stay on the top of a mound; but into low land it flows in torrents from all sides.
Many people think they cannot have knowledge or understanding of God without reading books. But hearing is better than reading, and seeing is better than hearing. Hearing about Benares is different from reading about it; but seeing Benares is different from either hearing or reading. One cannot be spiritual as long as one has shame, hatred, or fear. If one has faith one has everything.
By constantly repeating, ‘I am free, I am free’, a man verily becomes free. On the other hand, by constantly repeating, ‘I am bound, I am bound’, he certainly becomes bound to worldliness. The fool who says only, ‘I am a sinner, I am a sinner’, verily drowns himself in worldliness. One should rather say: ‘I have chanted the name of God. How can I be a sinner? How can I be bound?’
All will surely realize God. All will be liberated. It may be that some get their meal in the morning, some at noon, and some in the evening; but none will go without food. All, without any exception, will certainly know their real Self.
He who has realized God does not look upon a woman with the eye of lust; so he is not afraid of her. He perceives clearly that women are but so many aspects of the Divine Mother. He worships them all as the Mother Herself.
Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Sakti. There are three kinds of devotees: superior, mediocre, and inferior. The inferior devotee says, ‘God is out there.’ According to him God is different from His creation. The mediocre devotee says: ‘God is the Antaryami, the Inner Guide. God dwells in everyone’s heart.’ The mediocre devotee sees God in the heart. But the superior devotee sees that God alone has become everything; He alone has become the twenty-four cosmic principles. He finds that everything, above and below, is filled with God. God is directly perceived by the mind, but not by this ordinary mind. It is the pure mind that perceives God, and at that time this ordinary mind does not function. A mind that has the slightest trace of attachment to the world cannot be called pure. When all the impurities of the mind are removed, you may call that mind Pure Mind or Pure Atman.
The Pure Mind and the Pure Atman are one and the same thing. Whatever comes up in the Pure Mind is the voice of God. Brahman and Sakti are identical. If you accept the one, you must accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. If you see the fire, you must recognize its power to burn also. You cannot think of fire without its power to burn, nor can you think of the power to burn without fire. You cannot conceive of the sun’s rays without the sun, nor can you conceive of the sun without its rays. You cannot think of the milk without the whiteness, and again, you cannot think of the whiteness without the milk. Thus one cannot think of Brahman without Sakti, or of Sakti without Brahman. One cannot think of the Absolute without the Relative, or of the Relative without the Absolute.
This maya, that is to say, the ego, is like a cloud. The sun cannot be seen on account of a thin patch of cloud; when that disappears one sees the sun. If by the grace of the guru one’s ego vanishes, then one sees God.
Imagine a limitless expanse of water: above and below, before and behind, right and left, everywhere there is water. In that water is placed a jar filled with water. There is water inside the jar and water outside, but the jar is still there. The ‘I’ is the jar.
The body was born and it will die. But for the soul there is no death. It is like the betel-nut. When the nut is ripe it does not stick to the shell. But when it is green it is difficult to separate it from the shell. After realizing God, one does not identify oneself any more with the body. Then one knows that body and soul are two different things.
Think of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shoreless ocean. Through the cooling influence, as it were, of the bhakta’s love, the water has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a Person. But with the rising of the sun of Knowledge, the blocks of ice melt. Then one doesn’t feel any more that God is a Person, nor does one see God’s forms. What He is cannot be described. Who will describe Him? He who would do so disappears. He cannot find his ‘I’ any more. (p. 148) Suppose a thorn has pierced a man’s foot. He picks another thorn to pull out the first one. After extracting the first thorn with the help of the second, he throws both away. One should use the thorn of knowledge to pull out the thorn of ignorance. Then one throws away both the thorns, knowledge and ignorance, and attains vijnana. What is vijnana? It is to know God distinctly by realizing His existence through an intuitive experience and to speak to Him intimately. That is why Sri Krishna said to Arjuna, ‘Go beyond the three gunas.’ (p. 780) Take the case of the infinite ocean. There is no limit to its water. Suppose a pot is immersed in it: there is water both inside and outside the pot. The jnani sees that both inside and outside there is nothing but Paramatman. Then what is this pot? It is ‘I-consciousness’. Because of the pot the water appears to be divided into two parts; because of the pot you seem to perceive an inside and an outside. One feels that way as long as this pot of ‘I’ exists. When the ‘I’ disappears, what is remains. That cannot be described in words.
Who may be called a Paramahamsa? He who, like a swan, can take the milk from a mixture of milk and water, leaving aside the water. He who, like an ant, can take the sugar from a mixture of sugar and sand, leaving aside the sand. I have no disciple. I am the servant of the servant of Rama. There is not a fellow under the sun who is my disciple. On the contrary, I am everybody’s disciple. All are the children of God. All are His servants. I too am a child of God. I too am His servant. As for me, I consider myself as a speck of the dust of the devotee’s feet.
“O Mother, I throw myself on Thy mercy; I take shelter at Thy Hallowed Feet. I do not want bodily comforts; I do not crave name and fame; I do not seek the eight occult powers. Be gracious and grant that I may have pure love for Thee, a love unsmitten by desire, untainted by any selfish ends — a love craved by the devotee for the sake of love alone. And grant me the favour, O Mother, that I may not be deluded by Thy world-bewitching maya, that I may never be attached to the world, to ‘woman and gold’, conjured up by Thy inscrutable maya! O Mother, there is no one but Thee whom I mav call my own. Mother, I do not know how to worship; I am without austerity; I have neither devotion nor knowledge. Be gracious, Mother, and out of Thy infinite mercy grant me love for Thy Lotus Feet.”
Source: The Teachings of Paramahamsa
vasuntharam mutharangham harinim hemamalinim “
Values / Ethics can be defined as moral principles that a person or a culture adheres to. These are a basic requirement for human life. These act as the fundamental force to sustain the society. Lesser the values, more chaotic the world becomes. These play the role of a foundation stone – be it the building of life of individual, family, society, nation or world as a whole. A firm base of values is must for a happy and successful life. Some values to be considered to be inculcated in children are -
An aware school culture with focus on the part of school teachers and management to exhibit these by self-implementation can go a long way. Also there has to be planned effort on the part of the school to catch any compromise on values on the part of the students and work effectively with parents to take corrective measures before it gets too late. There are interesting ways which different schools have adopted – like sharing inspiring life stories of great men who have exhibited these values and appreciation to students found living these values. So do check out how your school is working on this, and once you have your child enrolled this might be one area where you can collaborate closely (as a parent) with the school by offering new ideas and volunteering.
- At home with hot water – Merits equivalent to Six years of such Snana phala
- From the waters of a well –12 years of such Snana phala
- In a lake –24 years of such Snana phala
- In any river – 96 years of such Snana phala
- In any sacred river – 9600 years of such Snana phala
- At the confluence (Sangam) of sacred rivers–38400 years of such Snana
- In Ganges River – Merits equivalent to 38400000 years of such Snana phala
- At Triveni Sangam (Prayaga) – 100 times of Ganga Snana phala
- Maagha Snana in a sea (Samudra) is considered as more meritorious than all the above.
- Wherever bath is taken, one should always remember to recollect Prayaga and also pray Maasa Niyamaka Sri Maadhava (Lord Vishnu) silently. Those who cannot take bath as said above for the entire month should at least take it for the last three days which is known as Anthya Pushkarini. Maagha Snanam is prescribed for all ages of men and women.
Personality is the impression that a person creates on others. In the context of our article, we will take the scope as personality traits which are outwardly observable in children. These include –
- Physical appearance – This is the first impact one makes on others. Cleanliness, proper clothing, smartness, cheerfulness and a robust health play an important role.
- Extrovert vs. Introvert – Extroverts tend to be more outgoing, gregarious, assertive, and interested in seeking out excitement. They tend to human interactions and generally take pleasure in large social gatherings. Introverts, in contrast, tend to be more reserved, less outgoing, and less sociable. Introverts tend to have fewer numbers of friends and may enjoy solitary activities like reading, writing, music, drawing etc. Some children can even be ambiverts, with some kind of balance of extrovert and introvert characteristics.
- Energy / Activity Levels – Not necessarily related to extroversion/introversion, children can have outward energy levels which range from being hyper-active to super quiet. For some children, making them sit at one place without any limb movements for few seconds can be herculean task while some kids are relatively very calm and quiet.
- Self-Confidence – It is the confidence in one’s own abilities which helps in taking up responsibilities and initiatives.
- Public Speaking / Presentation Skills – This refers to how children can be at their natural best when on stage or standing in front of a group of people. Elimination of fear / anxiety and building of confidence are the key aspects that students can be trained on.
- Communication Skills – Having effective communication skills in children is more than just knowing how to talk. First and foremost is speaking clearly and correctly. This needs to be emphasized time and again. Apart from this, other things that matter for children are – active listening, taking turns / not interrupting, being polite and maintaining eye contact.
- Etiquettes / Manners – Good etiquettes and manners are skills that should be developed in children at early ages. Once in teens these are very difficult to be inculcated.
- Discipline – This is one of the most vital factors in shaping one’s personality. Most parents want their children to be well disciplined and most schools do have high focus on this. However the interesting point to consider here is whether discipline is inculcated or enforced. Is discipline getting reflected in the very personality of children or is it something that more contextual and evaporates as soon as the tabs are lifted.
Unlike most aspects of Character and Attitude which get shaped considerably outside of school environment as well, Personality traits are potentially more influenced by school exposure and environment. So if you are searching out for a right school for your child and would like to understand if school is meeting your expectations on personality development front, attending some public events (like Annual Day function) of school can be good opportunity to get some data points.
There is an ancient saying that “A wealthy person without a good character is as good as dead”. Right from ancient times, building an impeccable character has been considered as one of the most important aspects of upbringing of an Indian child. In our tradition of past thousands of years, we see that persons of high purity in character have only been able to find respectable place in the society and recorded history. Also, it takes little efforts to find tons of people born on this land having sacrificed everything of theirs on the path of dharma and didn’t let even an iota of doubt get casted on their character. In fact, across other cultures and civilizations as well, this has been given more importance than both the wealth and health aspects.
There are 3 facets of character that we can broadly classify into:
Personal Character – This is reflected in how an individual behaves or makes decisions at personal level in day-to-day life. This is directly proportional to the inner strength of a person.
Group Character – This is reflected in how an individual behaves when not alone. This may differ from group to group. Family as a group can have distinct character so as students in a particular class, children in a particular neighborhood and so on. One interesting thing here is that, all people in the group having a particular character trait need not necessarily mean that group will have that as well. The purpose and the environment of the group will have its impact as well which can affect the group character.
National Character – Though a special type of group character (nation centric), this needs a special mention for next generation. Even after 6 decades of independence, we as a nation are yet to be able to meet the basic necessities of millions of our brothers and sisters. On the wealth and health indexes of the world, we are not doing very well. The values, the principles and the way of life that our ancient rishis & sages designed for us and which has been the hallmark of a flourishing civilization, have lost considerable grounds. Hundreds of years of invasions and foreign rule have casted some shadow on our glorious past. But it is time to turn the wheel again. Children need to be made proud of our cultural heritage, imparted strong national character and let them define their role in building a strong and developed nation. Of course, schools have to play a significant role to make this happen and it is good to find schools moving into this direction in recent times.
However, character is something that cannot be formally thought or given training on. Children build their character based on the observations they make of the people whom they respect and/or spend most time with. Outside home, since children spend most time at school, it becomes very important as parents to ensure that their teachers at school consider building of character as high priority and are capable of being great role models for their students.