Education

Unique Method of Women’s Emancipation

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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!.

 

                                                                 

 

 

 

Nature – The Provider

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There is a saying in classical Indian poetry that a lake, a tree, a saint and the rain are all symbols of benevolence, i.e., they are constantly giving to others. If we spend some time to think about this, we can learn much about the act of benevolence from such elements of nature.You may ask how can we learn to give from a mere tree? There is a wonderful story, which is a true incident that took place in Saurashtra, that best illustrates this.
 
One day, the King of Bhavnagar was relaxing in the garden surrounding his palace. There was a high boundary wall separating the garden from the outside road. Just at that time, a poor Brahmin and his young son were walking on the road. It was very hot and the young child was extremely hungry. He noticed a high mango tree beyond the palace garden wall. The tree had bent across the wall and there were ripe mangoes on the outstretched branch.Forced by temptation, the boy picked up a stone from the road and threw it at the stem of the fruits. His aim succeeded and he caught a beautiful ripe mango. Unfortunately, the stone exceeded the target and struck the King who was sitting in the garden. The stone hit the King’s head, which began to bleed.
 
The guards quickly ran towards the road and caught the young Brahmin boy and his father.When presented in front of the King, the Brahmin, trembling with fear, began to beg the King to pardon the boy for his mistake. Soldiers and ministers laughed at the Brahmin’s request and advised the King to punish both of them.
 
The King politely asked them not to worry. He asked the young boy “Did you throw the stone, my son?”. The boy immediately accepted his fault with tears in his eyes.The King then asked “Why?”The boy replied hesitantly, “I was hungry. I threw the stone to drop a mango from the tree.””What happened when you threw the stone?” asked the King.”A mango fell from the tree. This is what I have in my hand. Please forgive me. I did not throw the stone to hit you.”The King immediately ordered his prime minister that both father and son be released and additionally be given 500 coins!
 
All the ministers and soldiers were surprised and wondered why the King was rewarding them instead of punishing! The King was amused to see their astonishment and explained with a smile, ”When the stone struck the tree, it gave the boy a mango. The same stone struck me. Wouldn’t I be meaner than a tree if I did not give anything? If a mere tree can be benevolent to an young boy, why can not I, a human being, do the same?Such are the lessons we can learn from simple elements of nature that constantly give us all we need without any expectation or hesitation.
 
Saint Vemana, Philosopher and Humanist gave saintly message to the World through his poems called ” Vemana Shathakam”. One of his poems beautifully illustrates the significance of the mother nature. I reproduce below the Telugu poem as it is and then give the meaning in English.
 
” Parulakorake Pravahinchu Nadulu,
  Govulu Paalanichhu, Chetlu Poolu Poochu,
 Parahithammukante Paramaatmunnadaa,
 Viswadaabhirama Vinura Vema”
 
” The Rivers flow to help Others. Cows give milk, Trees Blossom with Flowers. There is no better deed on this Planet than helping People in need. Listen Vema!”
 
The sun, the mountains, the rivers and lakes, the earth and the wind are beautiful symbols of benevolence. Perhaps we too can learn from them to become symbols of benevolence.

Nature is the Guru – Sri Sarada maata

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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?  

First Story

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.” 

Second Story

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.” 

Third Story

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.” 

Fourth Story

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.

The Teachings of Paramahamsa

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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

 

 

Merits of Bilva- The Divine Tree

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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. They complement each other for their survival and existence.  So much so, plants and trees are an integral part of human or animal life and without plants/trees a man or an animal cannot survive. Each part of the plant like root, stems, barks, leaves and flowers are used in Hindu rituals. Apart from spiritual significance there is also an element of health consciousness and environmental protection involved in its usage. Even today these leaves/herbs are very much used in preparing Ayurvedic medicines meant for curing several diseases. Apart from this, they also act in a divine way of controlling pollution, be it water or air.     
 
In Hinduism, plants/trees are worshiped and are treated as embodiment of God since Vedic days. There is no worship or ritual in Hinduism without the usage of plants/trees in some form or the other. They are considered as divine personification  for the soul and puja material of each Hindu God including the Navagrahas. In Hindu religion, since Vedic days several plants and trees are associated with certain deities and their usage is mandatory in their worship, like for example, use of Tulasi is associated with Lord Maha Vishnu, Durva (grass) with Lord Maha Ganapathi, Arka plant leaf with Sun God, Amalaki with Lord Vishnu etc. The practice of tree/plant worship is as old as Hindu civilization.
 
Some of the great epic personalities and festivals are associated with trees. For example, Goddess Sita Devi with is associated with the Ashoka tree under whose shade she was resting during her sojourn in Lanka, Lord & Sage Sri Veda Vyasa (Badarayana) is associated with the Badari (Jujube).  While performing sacred rituals Dharbha (Kusa grass) is invariably used. Sri Ganesha Chaturthi is associated with Pathra (leaves) pooja, and we use Shami leaves during Dussera festival, Amalaki during Dhaatri festival (Thulasi festival) etc.
In Bhagawadgeeta, Lord Sri Krishna says that he is the Aswattha Vruksha (Banyan Tree) among the Vrukshas (Trees).  In Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stothram we find reference to trees in sloka # 37, 88 where Lord Vishnu is described as Ashoka, Nyagrodho, Audumbara and Aswattha. Stressing on the significance for sincerity, purity of mind and devotion in worship, Lord Sri Krishna says in Bhagawadgeeta (9th canto sloka # 26)
 
“Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahritam ashnami prayatatmanah”
 
That means” whoever offers Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that I accept, offered with pure-mind and devotion”. In these Houses-of-God, it is not the intricacies of their design, elaborateness of the ritual, nor the splendour of gold and wealth exhibited, nor even the number of devotees attending, that contribute to their essential success.  Ultimately it is the sincerity and devotion (bhakti) that counts in divine worship. The very language and diction of the above stanza clearly sounds the note that the material objects that one might offer are of no value to the Lord of the Universe, but it is the devotion and love that prompt the offerings that are accepted by the Deity. Be it “a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water” it is but an insignificant thing that you offer; be it a golden temple, or be it a dry leaf, “whosoever with devotion offers” whatever be the offering, Lord Sri Krishna assures “THAT I ACCEPT.”
 
For, when lovingly given, it becomes “a devout gift” and when it is offered by a sincere “pure minded” devotee, the Lord accepts it. Therefore, on the whole, it is clear that an offering can be good, only when it is accompanied by the two required conditions; (a) “offered with devotion” and (b) “by the pure-minded.”  All offerings are mere waste if these characteristics are absent and superstition breeds false-beliefs. If properly done, it can serve as a good vehicle to tread the spiritual path of self development. We find several puranic references in this context like offering of Tandulam (beaten rice/avalakki) by Sudhama (Kuchela) etc.
 
Merits of Bilva:
 
Bilva is closely associated with the worship of Lord Shiva, one of Trinal Lords. It falls in the category of simplest form of worship that of Lord Shiva who is symbolized in the most modest form. He gets pleased with a drop of water on his head (Shiva Linga Abhisheka) and worship with a leaf (Pathra) known as Bilva Pathra. It is considered highly sacred and celestial and is mandatory, without which the worship of Lord Shiva is incomplete. Bilva leaf is said to be the vegetal form of Lord Shiva which is said to be very dear to Him. 
 
We find number of puranic references to Bilva especially in Shiva Puranas.  Bilva is considered is one of the sacred trees in Hinduism having spiritual powers. Bilva tree is said to have manifested from Goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi and Sri Sooktham eulogizes Goddess Lakshmi as…
 
“Aadithya varnae tapassodhi jaatho 
Vanaspathi stava vrukshotha bilvaha
Tasya phalani tapasaanudantu 
Mayaantha raayaashcha baahya alakshmeehi “
 
Oh Lakshmi, your complexion is like that of a morning Sun, a vanaspathi (trees bearing fruits without blossoming) called by name Bilva was brought forth by your devout austerity. Through your favor may the fruits of the tree drive away my misfortunes and poverty both internal (ignorance) and external.  It is believed and said that one who does penance/austerity/homa under the Bilva tree and meditate on Goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi will be bestowed with fulfillment of all desires.
 
In Sri Maha Lakshmi Ashtothara Sathanama Stothram we find Goddess Lakshmi described as Bilva Nilaya the one who lives under the Bilva Tree.
 
“Bhaskarim bilvanilayam vararoham yesesvinim
vasuntharam mutharangham harinim hemamalinim “
 
Even in Nitya Karma (Sandhyavandana) during Sadhya Upasthana we recite a manthra ” Bilva Patraarchitey Devi Durgeaham Saranaagathaah”. Goddess Lakshmi in the form of Durga is the one who is attainable by worshipping with Bilva leaves. In Sri Venkateshwara Ashtottara Sathanaamaavali, we find Lord Venkateswara referred to as ” Bilvapathraarchana priyaaya Namah! ” At Tirumala temple there is a tradition to worship Lord Venkateswara with Bilva Pathra during Dhanurmasam. Even in Garuda Purana also we find reference to Sriphala the fruit of Bilva tree which is considered as very auspicious.
 
Bilva Dala, a confluence of three leaves trifoliate, is a symbolic representation of Lord Shiva’s weapon Thrishoola. It represents the Trinal Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. It also represents the three qualities Sattva, Rajo and Tamo gunas and a symbolic representation of three syllables of Omkaara. Bilva dala also represents the three eyes of Lord Shiva who is known as Thrinethra, the third being Jnaana netra.
  
Bilva tree is known as the tree of prosperity and good fortune. That’s why we find people keeping at home in their pooja room Sri Phala, the fruit of Bilva Tree.  It is believed that Bilva pathra can ward off the negative energy in a distressed person and reduce the effect of black energy. Merits of worshiping Lord Shiva with Bilva leaf and symbolism of Bilva leaves is better understood from an exclusive prayer known as” Bilvaashtakam” itself.
 
It has three leaves, which cause three qualities (Sattva, Rajo, Tamo), are like the three eyes of Lord Shiva, which is like the triad of weapons and which destroys sins of past three births.  It has three shoots, which do not have holes, which are good and pretty to worship Lord Shiva.  If an uncut leaf is offered to his mount Nandi, one will get cleaned of all his/her sins.  Offering one Bilva dala to Lord Shiva is equal to offering a Salagrama to a Brahmin, or the great blessing got out of performing a Soma Yaga.  It is equal to gifting thousand elephants, or performing hundred fire sacrifices or giving away billions of Kanyaa-Daana.
Manifested from the body of Goddess Maha Lakshmi and which is very dear to Lord Shiva, worshiping Lord Shiva with Bilva leaf is equal to giving a tree of Bilva in charity. Just by seeing and touching a Bilva tree one will get washed away from great sins.  Lord Brahma resides at its bottom, Lord Vishnu at the middle and Lord Shiva at its tip.  Reciting the holy ”Bilvaashtakam” with all sincerity and devotion in the presence of Lord Shiva would save one from all sin. Even the most terrible one and reaches the abode of Lord Shiva. It is said that sacred theerthas reside at the base of Bilva tree.  Worshiping Lord Shiva, performing abhishekam to Lord Shiva sitting under a Bilva tree and lighting a lamp in front of a Bilva tree is said to be highly sacred.  There is an interesting anecdote of a hunter getting salvation by unknowingly worshiping Lord Shiva with Bilva leaves on a Shivarathri day.  Such is the glory and merits of Bilva tree.
Botanical significance:
 
Botanically Bilva tree is known as Aegle Marmeolus, family of Rutaceae.  It is a scraggy tree with a crust of thick thorns. Tall and austere with a stern aspect gnarled trunk, Bilva tree grows in almost all parts of India irrespective of the nature of soil.  Apart from India, it grows in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and South East Asia. Generally we find Bilva trees in Lord Shiva temples. Its leaves are alternate, ovate, trifoliate and aromatic. Bilva fruits are woody in nature, oval shaped with yellow pulp. In Sanskrit it is known as Bilva and its fruit as Sriphala, as Stone apple in English, as Maaredu in Telugu, as Bel in Hindi, as Bilva Pathra in Kannada and as Vilvam in Tamil.
 
Medicinal properties of Bilva Tree:
 
Bilva tree is highly medicinal and all its parts including its roots, stems, bark, leaves, flowers and fruits are used for the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines and in curing of various diseases. Traditionally the science of Ayurveda gives lot of significance for its usage and is known as a healing tree which cures diseases especially caused by Vaata (Gas) dosha. Bilva fruit is highly beneficial in chronic dysentery or diarrhea. It is specifically used in correcting the irregularity of bowel movement. It acts as a laxative when there is constipation. 

Unripe fruit is used in curing excess of Vaata and Kapha doshas, stomach ache and dyspepsia and other intestinal disorders.  Fruit pulp mixed with honey is used in controlling vomiting. Its fruit juice acts as a blood purifier.  Bilva leaves are used in Diabetes mellitus.  Leaves are also used in controlling fever, flue and fatigue. Oil extracted from the root of Bilva tree is used in the diseases relating to Ear especially in relieving problems relating to ear ache, inflammation, discharge with foul odour, humming sound in the ear etc.  Apart from medicinal uses, Bilva leaves are also used in purifying water. While usage of Bilva tree and its parts has proven medicinal value, it is suggested to use them only under Medical advice.
 
Bilvaashtakam:
tridalaṁ triguṇākāraṁ trinetraṁ ca triyāyudham
trijanmapāpasaṁhāraṁ ekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam!
 
triśākhaiḥ bilvapatraiśca hyacchidraiḥ komalaiḥ śubhaiḥ
śivapūjāṁ kariṣyāmi hyekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam !
 
akhaṇḍa bilva patreṇa pūjite nandikeśvare
śuddhyanti sarvapāpebhyo hyekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam!
 
śāligrāma śilāmekāṁ viprāṇāṁ jātu cārpayet
somayajña mahāpuṇyaṁ ekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam !
 
dantikoṭi sahasrāṇi vājapeya śatāni ca
koṭikanyā mahādānaṁ ekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam!
 
lakṣmyāstanuta utpannaṁ mahādevasya ca priyam
|bilvavṛkṣaṁ prayacchāmi hyekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam !
 
darśanaṁ bilvavṛkṣasya sparśanaṁ pāpanāśanam
aghorapāpasaṁhāraṁ ekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam !
 
kāśīkṣetranivāsaṁ ca kālabhairavadarśanam
prayāgamādhavaṁ dṛṣṭvā hyekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam !
 
mūlato brahmarūpāya madhyato viṣṇurūpiṇe
agrataḥ śivarūpāya hyekabilvaṁ śivārpaṇam !
 
bilvāṣṭakamidaṁ puṇyaṁ yaḥ paṭhet śivasannidhau
sarvapāpa vinirmuktaḥ śivalokamavāpnuyāt 
[media id=90 width=640 height=480] 
 
Courtesy:Bhargava Sharma
 

Truth & God

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The Mahabaratha war is about  to begin. One day  Lord Shri K rishna is resting in Dwaraka in his room and Duryodhana comes to meet him. Krishna is aware of his arrival but feigns sleep. Duryodhana sits at Krishna’s head waiting for him to wake up. Arjuna arrives and seeing Krishna asleep, sits at his feet.
 
Krishna wakes up, sees Arjuna and asks him when did he come. Arjuna replies that he had just come, but Duryodhana had been waiting there before him. Krishna looks at Duryodhana in surprise. Though Duryodhana had come first, Krishna says he saw Arjuna first and gives Arjuna the choice between Him and his soldiers (Narayana sena) as help for the battle.
  
Arjuna promptly chooses Shri Krishna. Krishna underlines that if Arjuna chooses Him, it will be only Him and he will not take part in the battle. Arjuna humbly agrees and reiterates that Krishna is enough for them. Duryodhana who was worried lest Arjuna asks for Narayana sena, is very happy to hear this and accepts the other choice – Narayana sena. 
 
Duryodhana triumphantly boasts to Bheeshma that he opted for Krishna’s soldiers whereas the Pandavas had chosen just Krishna who will not even take part in the battle. A surprised Bheeshma asks Duryodhana again and again if Krishna said that he will not take part in the battle. 
 
Finally Bheeshma says “Krishna will take his weapons in the battle”. A rattled Duryodhana says Krishna had promised not to do so. Bheeshma swears on his Brahmacharya vrata that Krishna will touch his weapons. 
 
The battle is in full swing and on the ninth day Bheeshma is in the forefront fighting aggressively. The Pandava side is not able to handle the fierce Bheeshma and were falling rapidly. Bheeshma started to attack Arjun as well. Seeing this, a worried Arjuna asks Krishna for guidance. Krishna jumps down from his sarathi seat on to the ground, wields his chakrayudha and runs towards Bheeshma. Bheeshma is shocked and stops momentarily.
 
Arjuna rushes behind Krishna and falls at his feet, requesting him not kill his grandfather. Bheeshma prostrates in front of Krishna. Krishna’s Chakrayudha vanishes and he goes back to Arjuna’s chariot. Bheeshma plays havoc in the ranks of the Pandavas. They suffer heavily, and lose all hopes of winning the war. Yudhishthira was utterly desperate and took the advice of Shri Krishna. Shri Krishna tells that the only way to success is to seek the guidance of Bheeshma himself. That night Krishna takes Yudhishthira to Bheeshma secretly. Yudhishthira fallal at the feet of Bheeshma. He tells, “Grandfather, we are your grandchildren. We cannot win against you not even the gods can do it. We don’t know how many men we have lost. I beg of you, grant us victory.” Bheeshma advises Yudhishitara to put Shikhandi in front him  and that he shall throw down his bow and arrows and he shall not fight. Now Arjuna is able to take on the not so ferocious Bheeshma and defeat him with the help of ‘ Shikhandi’.
 
The  Kurukshetra battle is over and Bheeshma Pitahamaha is lying on his arrow bed waiting for Utharayanam to leave this world. It is the month of Maaghamasam, Shukla paksham, Ashtami thithi and the man who has been bestowed with the power of choosing his time of death, is ready for mukti. 
 
Lord Krishna and the Pandavas are standing near” him. Seeing his favourite Lord, Bheeshma thinks that the Lord is so close, but he is not in a position to offer him atleast some flowers. Lo and behold, a strong wind brings some wild thulasi to Krishna’s feet making Bheeshma happy. Bheeshma recites the Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhishtra at his request. 
 
Bheeshma asks Krishna “What is Sathya?” Krishna says ‘Sathyam is God’. Bheeshma continues, “in that case, is God beyond Sathya?” Krishna says “No” and then Bheeshma asks him, “in that case why did you break your Sathyam in the battle? You had promised that you will not take part in the battle, but you took the Chakrayudha.” 
 
The ever smiling Krishna replies, “Yes, I did take the chakrayudha, but I did not use it in the war and why did I do it? ” You, the man who in your youth, gave up the pleasures of the young for the sake of your father and took Brahmacharya vratha – when such a great person swears on his Brahmacharya vratha that Krishna will take part in the battle, I had no choice but to make your promise come true. In this my promise was not kept, but I had to keep your promise, this is why I took the chakrayudha. This also helped Pandavas as it reduced your ferocity and helped them defeat you!” 
 
Such is the greatness of the benevolent God who is ready to sacrifice his promise for the sake of his bhakta!
Courtesy: Brahmasri Chaganti Koteshwra Acharya
 

Driving towards uncompromising values

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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 -

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Respectfulness
  • Sacrifice
  • Loyalty
  • Compassion
  • Heroism
  • Perfection
  • Liberty
  • Generosity

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.

 

The Significance of Hindu Lunar Month Magha Masam

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As per Hindu lunar calendar the month in which full moon day coincides with Makhah (Maghah) star, that month is denoted as Maagha masam which occur during the calendar months of January-February.  Makhah also means Yagna and Lord Vishnu is referred to as MahaMakhah (Sri Vishnu Sahasranama sthothram sloka # 47) the presiding Deity of Yagna. The Lord is also worshipped through the medium of Yagna.  Maagham is a Sanskrit word Ma+Agham. Ma means not present and Agham means sin, evil, malefic, annoyance, suffering, grief and Maagha masam is the month which is highly meritorious, auspicious and free from any sin or suffering. 
 
Lord Maha Vishnu in the name of Maadhava is the presiding deity (Masa Niyamaka) who governs the month Maagha Masam and to be worshipped.  We find a reference to the words Madhava in sloka #8, 18 and 78 of Sri Vishnu Sahasra Nama Sthothram.  Madhava means one who is the consort of Goddess Lakshmi Devi, one who is the bestower and Lord of superior knowledge.  Astrologically, Kethu the Mokshakaraka is regarded as the ruling planet of Magha star and Pithru Devathas as the presiding Deities. Maagha masam, the eleventh month as per Hindu lunar calendar is considered as an auspicious month for performing marriages, upanayanam, Gruha Pravesam, Aksharabhyasam etc.
 
Significant days of Maagha masam:
 
During Maagha masam we find several significant and sacred days to be celebrated.  To begin with,
Maagha sukla Panchami the fifth day of Maagha masam in the bright fortnight is celebrated as Vasantha Panchami also known as Sri Panchami. Goddess Saraswathi, the presiding deity of Akshara Gyana, the female Divine energy of Learning, Knowledge and Wisdom is said to have born on this auspicious day of Sri Panchami. Dedicated to Vaakk Devi (Goddess Saraswathi) this day is considered to be highly auspicious day especially for Aksharabhyasa (inducting a child into education).  Goddess Saraswathi is to be worshipped on this day to get rid of our sluggishness, lethargy and ignorance.
 
Ratha sapthami also known as Magha Sapthami or Maha Sapthami is a very popular Hindu festival dedicated to Sun God, Sri Surya Narayana.  It occurs on the seventh day (Sapthami) of Magha Masam during sukla paksha.  It is celebrated as Surya Jayanthi the day on which Sun God was born to Sage Kashyapa & Aditi and considered as an incarnation of Lord Sri ManNarayana. Special celebrations are held at all Vaishnavite temples especially at Tirumala and Srirangam apart from Arasavelli and Konark.  It is an age old custom and tradition that people on this day take special bath with seven Arka leaves.
Bheeshmaastami is associated with Bheeshma Pitamaha, the most revered and grandiose character of the great Epic, Mahabharata.  It was on this day Bheeshma had his last breath and this day is commemorated as the day of his Niryana.  Bheeshmaastami occurs on the 8th day (Ashtami) of the bright fortnight (Sukla Paksha) in Magha Masam, the day after Ratha Sapthami.
 
Sri Madhwa Navami falling on the 9th day of Lunar month of Magha Masam during the bright fortnight is associated with Sri Madhwacharya one of the greatest Hindu Saints and Philosophers who was the founder and exponent of Dvaita Philosophy.  It is said that it was on this day in the year 1317 AD, Sri Madhvacharya while teaching his disciples at Udupi Sri Anantheshwara Temple, suddenly a heap of flowers were showered on him and he disappeared from that heap of flowers not to be seen later.  It is considered as the day He entered the Badarikasrama.
 
Maagha Pournami the full moon day in Maagha masam is celebrated as Maha Maaghi.  This day marks the end of Maagha Snana vratham.  It is said and believed that any Divine worship, prayer, charity or rites performed on this day are highly meritorious that gives significant results. Thilapaathra Danam is prescribed to be given to a Brahmin on this day of Mahamaaghi.  Taking bath in a sea on this day is considered as highly meritorious.
 
Maha Shivarathri a festival dedicated to Lord Shiva occurs on the 13th /14th day of dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in Magha Masam coinciding with Chaturdasi thithi.  Worshipping Lord Shiva on this day of Maha Shivarathri is considered as highly meritorious and sin remover. Special celebrations are held on the eve of Maha Shivarathri at all the holy Shiva Kshetras where lakhs of people gather to offer their obeisance and salutations to Lord Shiva the great destroyer of sins and the most benevolent God.
 
Sunday associated with Amaavaasya + Sravana Nakshatra + Vyatheepatha Yoga + in the lunar month of Pushya or Maagha is referred to as Ardhodhaya which is considered to be a very sacred day, a parvakala that occurs very rarely that is more meritorious than an eclipse. Maagha Bahula Amaavasya associated with Satabhisha star is considered as highly sacred and meritorious. According to Dharmasindhu by performing Pithru  Shraaddha on this day, Pithrus (ancestors) gets pleased for ten thousand years.
 
Charities during Maagha masam
 
During Maagha masam following charities are prescribed to be given which is considered as highly sacred and meritorious.
Veni Danam at Prayaga, Thila-Paathra Danam (Black/white sesame seeds along with a copper or a bronze vessel), Salagrama Dana, Anna Dana (Food), Gold or gold items, Hiranya danam, Thila (Sesame) + Sugar in the ratio of 3:1, Kooshmaanda Danam (Pumpkin).  Apart from the above Thila homa and Thila bhakshana are also prescribed during Maagha masam.
Maagha Snanam
 
While Kartheeka masam is given lot of significance for lighting of lamps, Maagha masam is given special significance for taking bath that is known as Maagha Snanam.  It generally starts from Pushya sukla Pournami and ends with Magha sukla Pournami or it can also be from Makara Sankramana to Kumbha Sankramana as per Solar/Luni-Solar calendar. For followers of lunar calendar it starts from Pushya Bahula Amaavaasya and ends with Maagha Bahula Amaavaasya.  During this period it is prescribed to take bath early in the morning before Sunrise preferably during Arunodaya kala. This sacred bath is preferred to be taken in any river, lake or theertha or at least at home. Apart from the daily routine (Nithya Karma) special arghya is to be given to Lord Madhava and Sun God after Maagha Snanam.
 
Merits of Maagha Snanam:
 
Taking a bath (Snana) which is refreshing, not only cleanses our external body, but also has been given lot of significance from the religious and spiritual point of view in the daily routine of an individual. In Hindu philosophy daily routine generally begins with a bath before worshiping God, a discipline that is inculcated with a sense of cleanliness in our actions. When it is during an auspicious period like Maagha masam, its spiritual merits are in multiple.  It is said that Maagha Snana can purify a person even from ghastly and dreadful sins committed.  Taking bath in Maagha masam, early in the morning as said above is highly sacred, spiritual and meritorious.  Sacred texts like Vayu Purana, Brahmanda Purana are said to have made a reference to the merits and significance of Maagha Snanam. Its merits get increased depending on the place where the bath is taken as given below. 
 
  • 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.

 Courtesy:Bharagava Sharama

 

 

Developing Impressive Personality!

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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.

Inculcating Character in Children

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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.

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