In class this week we continued learning the meaning of the pledge, ‘We know our responsibilities – give us the ability and courage to fulfil them’. We learnt the secret behind being responsible – it is to act with courage. We brainstormed what courage is. Courage is to be brave and not be afraid to do things. We heard the story of a little kite that saw his big Mommy kite flying and thought to himself that he would never be able to do it. But Mommy kite told him to be brave and try his best and assured him that God will help him if he tried. The little kite gathered courage and started to fly. As he flew higher and higher he was so happy and said,’ I am glad I was brave and tried – it is a lot of fun!’ We also learnt how courage is needed when we are facing a competition. But we also realised how more courage is needed if we do not win the competition. We need to be brave to 1. Smile even when we lose the competition, 2. Understand that we did our best and 3. Say ‘Well Done’ to the winner.
Homework: To continue to revise the pledge.
This week, we continued learning about more qualities of our superhero Hanuman – humble, reliever, saviour and brave. We talked about Sita mata giving Hanuman the boon to grant anyone the 8 siddhis (supernatural powers) and 9 nidhis (wealth). The 8 siddhis are Anima (power to become small), Mahi-mahi (power to become big), Garima (power to become heavy), Laghima (power to become very light), Praptih (power to attain whatever one wants), Prakasyam (ability to go anywhere), Isitvam (power to rule over the world) and Vasitvam (power to control everyone). The 9 nidhis are precious jewels of Lord Kubera, the Lord of wealth. However, greatest wealth that Hanuman gives us is the love for Lord Rama, as we surrender to Him. When one bows down in Sastanga pranaam, one bows down with chest, head, vision, mind, speech, two feet and knees and two hands touching the ground, in total surrender.
We then brainstormed the different names of Hanuman, and what does “Haribhakta” or true devotee mean. We heard 3 tales to understand this. Tale 1 (Detachment): Once upon a time there was a saint, who visited a village and all people who met him, became devotees of the Lord. When the king heard this, he was very happy and built a palace just like his for the saint. One day on their walk, the king asked the sage what was the difference between both of them, now that the saint lived in a palace too. The saint promised he would tell him after walking for some more time. Soon, the saint said, “We don’t want to go back home. Let’s walk to the other town.” The kind immediately said that he couldn’t leave as he had his wife, children and kingdom waiting for him! While the saint could leave all the worldly pleasures without any regret! Tale 2 (Self-control): One saint always said, “One who doesn’t succumb to one’s desire, is always happy. One who desires, alone is unhappy in the world. “. One day, he really felt like eating rice pudding and asked his devotee to make it. On being offered the rice pudding, the saint refused to eat it! This was his way of doing tapas or practising self-control. To progress in life, tapas is very important. Tale 3 (Gratitude/attitude): An old woman always talked about how nice she was and how she did all the right things – helped others, gave donations, offered puja in temple, but God was not happy with her and He did not give her a grandchild. Her neighbour rightly reminded her that she could do all this as God had given her so much more than she needed. She should indeed be grateful instead of complaining! Whatever we do, we should do with right attitude. We then played the “It” game, where all the children enacted Haribhakta deeds (singing glories, making garland, watering plants, cleaning desk,…), while one child (“It”) guessed what the action was.
Next, we heard a story of “ask and you shall receive”. A little boy was building castles on the beach. As he was almost finishing building the wall, a huge rock stuck in the way. He tried hard to remove it but was unable to, and so started crying. His father saw his frustration and asked him “Son, did you use all the strength you possess?” Still in tears, the son said yes. To which the father said, “No, you didn’t. You didn’t use all the strength you have – you didn’t ask me. Ask and you shall receive.” And the father unstuck the rock and removed it. When we are stuck in life, just ask Hanumanji. Like a kind father, He will help and make us happy.
A little girl Tess was counting her piggy bank money. Full two dollars! That will be enough to buy a miracle for my sick brother, she thought. So off she went to the pharmacist. The pharmacist hardly noticed her presence as he was too busy talking to his brother who he hadn’t met in four years. She finally mustered courage to say she had come to buy a miracle to save her really, really sick brother. The pharmacist’s brother offered to help, as he was a neurosurgeon named Dr Carlton Armstrong. He saved the brother, Andrew, without charging the family a cent. Miracle is not the suspension of natural law but the operation of higher law, when there is faith in the Lord. Faith is all it takes. Faith in the Lord makes us brave so we can face anything in the world.
Children enacted this story to share the summary with the rest of the Balavihar family.
We also chanted the related caupais together:
Ashtasiddhi nau Nidhi ke daata
Asa bara Dinha Janaki maata
Mother Janaki bestowed upon You the boon that You may grant the eight siddhis (supernatural powers) and nine kinds of wealth (to anyone You like).
Rama rasayana tumhare paasa
Sada raho raghupati ke daasa
The elixir of devotion to Lord Rama is with You, who always stays at the feet of Lord Rama as His servant (with utmost humility).
Tumhare bhajan Rama ko paave
Janam janam ke dukha bisraave
Singing Your praise makes Lord Rama bless and relieves one of all miseries of previous births.
Aur devata citta na dharai
Hanumat se sarva Sukha karai
Even though a devotee does not think of any other deity but Sri Hanuman, he will (surely) enjoy all happiness.
Sankata katai mitai sab peera
Jo sumirai hanumata bal beera
All miseries and torments vanish when one remembers the brave Sri Hanuman.
Homework: Practise chanting of the chalisa till caupais learnt. Share the stories and the morals learnt. Remember to bring your books to class next week.
Chapter 23 – fundamentals of Vedanta
[Before reading the summary please look at the diagram in Kindle Life (page 80) of the sheath and Atman. It is very helpful when reading about the different sections]
This week we looked at the sheaths (kośas) that envelop the Atman. There are five distinct sheaths: They are the food sheath, vital air sheath, mental sheath, intellectual sheath, and the bliss sheath.
The food sheath is the physical body; it is called the food sheath as it is emerged from the essence of food. This sheath consists of the five sense organs and five organs of action.
The vital air sheath is the functions of our body. It is generalised in five sections, they are the faculty of: perception, excretion, digestion, circulation, and thinking. This sheath regulates the food sheath.
The mental sheath regulates and orders the vital air sheath. And is controlled by the intellectual sheath. An example how the mental and intellectual sheaths are connected is: the mind is like a receiving and dispatching clerk who mechanically receives the office mails and dispatches as per the officer in charge. The intellect is compared to the officer sitting in judgment over the disposal of the papers received from the clerk and directing to a type of action to be taken.
The mind is also referred to as the doubting element as it is always in a state of flux. When our thoughts stabilise themselves to form a willed judgment they are called the intellect.
The bliss sheath is the innermost of the five sheaths consisting of vasanas. This sheath is only experienced when we are in deep sleep. It is aptly named the bliss sheath as when we are in our deep sleep, our financial, social and health status do not matter as we experience the undisturbed peace and bliss due to the cessation of agitation experiences in the state of consciousness.
The subtlest of all the sheaths is known as the Atman. This is the core of the five sheath structure. To better understand the sheaths, imagine them to just be layers of clothes worn by a person, which is totally different from the wearer. The sheaths are known to be within each other, as the vital air sheath is within the food sheath and the mental sheath within the vital air sheath and so on.
Another good example that Kindle Life provides is the analogy of a piece of ice. When the ice melts it forms water and when the water is boiled it forms steam. In this example ice is the food sheath, it is the body and cannot expand and is very subtle. When you melt the ice, you get water, which is like a river and more subtle than ice. The river is like the mind and where we choose to take it is the intellect. So, the water is like the intellect and is more pervasive than the food sheath as its perceptions go beyond the boundaries of the physical body. Then, once you boil that water, you get steam. The steam is the bliss sheath and is the subtlest of the layers. The steam spreads the most hence having the most impact.
Next week we will look more closely at the Atman.
This week we studied verses 18 and 19 of Chapter 12. The person who can stay calm and un-agitated when faced with the pairs of opposites which is commonly found in the physical world is said to be dear to the Lord. The person who is same “to foe or friend”, “in honour and dishonour”, “in heat and cold” and “in pleasure and pain”, for whom “censure and praise are equal” is said to be a true devotee. Further qualities of the ideal devotee are silence, contentment, homelessness and devotion. Here homelessness is meant to indicate that the worldly home is temporal. The real living space can only be found “at the seat of the All-Pervading.”
Sadhana: To reflect on these attributes and integrate them in to our daily lives by constant practice.
Chanting: To revise up to Verse 27 of Chapter 2 of the Gita.