1 The Lord Kapila said

in this issue ...

Pearls of Wisdom

Editorial

Sita and Sarada

Focus on Stress:

Introduction

An Overview

Stress Management

Setting Boundaries

Children and Schools

Non-Violent Parenting

Lay Disciples - X: Shambhu Charan Mallik

The Ramayana

Food & Funfair

 

 

Pearls of Wisdom

Kapilopadesam – XXIX

Translated by Swami Tapasyananda

(continued from last issue)

The Lord Kapila said: By these and other means, the mind, which is beset with evil tendencies and is naturally inclined to yield to instinctive urges, should be brought under control and directed along the spirtual path.

At a clean and congenial place the aspirant should establish a seat for meditation. He should practise sitting there motionless and upright for a long time.

(to be continued)

Srimad Bhagavatam    I.III.28. 7-8 

 Editorial

Dance of Shiva

Lord Shiva occupies a unique place in Hinduism. He is known for his severe asceticism, simplicity, compassion and mercy. Another important aspect of him is that he is the ‘Lord of the dance.’ The scriptures describe him as the Lover of dance, the Supreme dancer, ever dancing and the king of dance (Nataraj). The mystic dance of Shiva - Nataraja - has commanded the adoration of the sages, devotees, artists and savants down the ages. The dancing Shiva is one of the grandest symbols of God ever conceived in the world’s religious history. Prof A L Basham, a noted authority on Hinduism wrote, “Once the religious background is understood, even the westerner can recognize in the finest specimens of the dancing Shiva a genuine religious inspiration, a wholly successful effort as depicting in plastic terms divine truth, beauty and joy.” Centuries ago Sage Bharata, who wrote a text on Indian dance, acknowledged that he had received inspiration from the dance of Shiva. To the Indian mind Art is an effective expression of Divine play, beauty, truth, and oneness. It is not merely an entertainment, on the contrary, a spiritual discipline. So Indian dance, music, painting, architecture and sculpture are dominated by the ideas of devotion and Yoga. Shiva is the source of all art forms.

It is said that the cosmic dance of Nataraja is a synthesis of science, religion and art. The universe is dynamic, expanding and evolving and not static. It is the playground of the cosmic energy. The process of creation and destruction is constantly going on. There is no rest anywhere. All things are made of atoms. Atoms and sub-atomic particles are constantly performing energy dance. Shiva’s dance represents our dancing dynamic nature. Everything in the cosmos including human bodies is in a state of flux. This is also the view of science. Creation and dissolution, birth and death, bondage and liberation are the sport of the Lord. The wonderful image of Shiva performing his Tandava dance vividly brings out all these aspects. In fact, it is the essence of Hindu religion, and the profound vision of its mystics. The awe-inspiring form of Nataraja marks the culmination of Art. It combines divine and its manifestation, beauty and immense power, devotion and yoga. Through the seen, we get the glimpse of the unseen, the infinite. Art finds its fulfillment when it lifts the minds of people from the shackles of matter to the freedom of spirit. That is the goal of all forms of Art.

 

Sita and Sarada

Swami Muktirupananda

Ramayana is an immortal epic. From ancient time till now the charm and power of it has not dimmed even a little. Even today it is as popular as it had been thousands of years ago. Saints and savants have explained it, and the great poets have recreated it in their own regional languages. It is told and retold in hundreds of different ways. Brahma blessed Valmiki saying – “As long as the mountains and rivers remain on this earth so long the Ramayana will be popular in the world.” (Balakanda –2-36-37) Through Ramayana poet Valmiki introduced to the world many exemplary characters like Rama, Sita, Bharata, Lakshmana, Hanuman and others. None is so touching as that of Sita, the personification of purity, nobility, compassion and fortitude. Even in Mahabharata and other sacred books we do not find another character parallel to that of Sita. Mother Sita is unique and incomparable. She is the mother of all living beings and even of gods. Therefore Vivekananda remarked, “What to speak of Sita? You may exhaust the literature of the world that is past, and I may assure you that you will have to exhaust the literature of the world of the future, before finding another Sita. She is there in the blood of every Hindu man and woman. We are all children of Sita.” (Complete Works, Vol IV-256). Sister Nivedita also remarked, “As Mary, the Madonna, to the women of Christendom, so is Sita, queen of Ayodhya, to them of Hinduism…For she is the ideal of womanhood itself…Though beautiful and a queen, she never chose ease…….She knew the deepest and bitterest sorrow and lived serene amidst her sorrow. Such was Sita… peerless amongst women.” (Sister Nivedita Vol III – 206).

There is no reader, man or woman, boy or girl who has not shed tears seeing the plight of the queen of Ayodhya and how she faced at every step hardships, severe trials and tests. It appears her sorrows had no end. She endured all her troubles with limitless patience without a word of grumbling, without a whisper of blame. King Rama represents a perfect man and mother Sita stands for an ideal woman. So Rama and Sita are not mere hero and heroine of an epic but are the living embodiments of human excellence, the summit of ethical life. Truth, purity, nobility, the blending of human and divine and love find their practical demonstration in Rama and Sita. Eternal Values are not poetic fancy or hollow rhetoric but they can be lived. Rama and Sita are the proof of it. People may raise a doubt that Rama and Sita lived thousands of years ago, and there is no evidence that such persons existed on this earth once upon a time. A great poet might have created such characters out of his superb imagination.

To dispel such doubts once again in the 19th century Rama and Sita appeared in the form of Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi. It is difficult to fathom the play of Divine. Again we witnessed the ideals of Ramayana enacted in the lives of these two great ones. This time they were not king and queen of any material kingdom, but they were the monarchs of spiritual kingdom.

Each age needs new social adjustments and new way of thinking. What were socially relevant thousands of years ago may not be pertinent in the present age. Sri Ramakrishna said the coins of Nawab have no value during the reign of queen Victoria. Today bow and arrows as weapons are useless. Whatever changes we may adopt outwardly but internally we are governed by the eternal values. They remain the same for all the ages. The great teachers live like us, talk like us and yet reflect in all their deeds and words the perennial values. They remind us the goal of human life. During Tretayuga many failed to recognize the divinity of Rama and Sita. In our time we too do not realize the greatness of Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi.

During the 19th century the Hindu Society was sharply divided into two camps. One upholding the age-old orthodoxy and shunning everything new, the second group rejecting everything old and embracing new Western reforms without discrimination and reservation. In such a critical time Holy Mother was born to unite Sita and modern woman. She was a bridge between the ancient and modern. In the words of Sister Nivedita, “But is she the last of an old order, or the beginning of a new?” With Sri Ramakrishna she came again. Sri Ramakrishna said about her, “She is my shakti, my power.” A devotee once asked Mother, “Mother did you come with the incarnations of Rama and Krishna?” She said, “Yes.” Sri Ramakrishna was the first to indicate that Sarada was Sita. One day he was sitting in Panchavati. All of a sudden, a luminous female figure of exquisite grace appeared before him. Her sublime face was full of love, sorrow and compassion. In a flash he understood she was Sita.

He also saw two golden bangles on her hands. The same type of bangles he offered Sarada as a gift. Mother also later confirmed this.

Vivekananda after his return from the West in 1897 went to see Mother. He said to her, “Mother by your grace this time, instead of leaping across, I went to their country in their own ship.” (Gospel of Holy Mother – 376) This shows the relationship between Sita and Hanuman. It was the firm conviction of Swamiji that it was due to the Mother’s blessings alone he could spread the message of his Master in America and overcome the many hardships, hostility and difficulties. In Ramayana we find a similar incident. When Sita heard that Ravana wanted to punish Hanuman by setting fire to his tail, Sita prayed and blessed that let this fire become cool and pleasant to Hanuman. So it happened. Hanuman came back to Sita unscathed by the fire. Swamiji also returned accomplishing his work safe and sound.

All direct disciples believed that Mother was Sita. She came again with Sri Ramakrishna to play her part in the new divine sport of the Lord. She herself directly and indirectly vindicated this truth. In 1911 when she went to Rameswaram, seeing the original Sivalinga she made a surprising remark of worshipping it as Sita. When she went to Ayodhya she felt all those places were familiar to her. It is seen that Mother had special love for Ramayana. Other books like Mahabharata, the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji’s lectures were read out to her. But Ramayana she herself used to read. Whenever she had a little leisure she would pass her time in reading Ramayana. (Sister Nivedita – the Master as I saw him –123). Mother once said, “Those who came earlier have come again.” She frankly told her brothers that she was born in their family because her father Ramachandra was an ardent devotee of Rama. Sri Ramakrishna too was born in a family of devotees of Rama. His father Khudiram was a great devotee of Raghuvir.

Parallels:

1. According to the old tradition a maiden chose her own husband. It was called ‘Swayamvara’. Sita was married in this way. Amongst many princes and kings she chose young prince Rama as her eternal companion. Their relationship is eternal. Sita was quite young. She herself confirms it during Rama’s exile to forest. “I am your young wife married to you as a young girl.” (Ayodhyakanda – 30-10) Mother also chose Sri Ramakrishna as her life’s partner. This incident took place when she was quite young. Shihar village is very near to Jayrambati. Every year a festival was held there at the temple of Shiva. During one such celebration at Hridaya’s house little girl Sarada sat in the lap of a woman. The woman out of fun asked the girl showing all people assembled there whom she would like to marry? Sarada at once lifted her two tiny hands and pointed to Sri Ramakrishna sitting near by. Thus Mother indicated without any doubt at that tender age the eternal partner of the divine play. It is the union of Shiva and Shakti for the good of humanity.

2. Rama, in order to protect the honour and promise of his father, went to live in forest – ‘vanavasa’. When Sita expressed her desire to accompany him, he discouraged her by narrating the terrible hardships and miseries of the forest-life. But undaunted she replied, “Like Savitri (who followed her husband Satyavan) I am inseparable part of you. Wherever you are there I am.” (Ayodhya kanda 30-6) So she went with Rama and shared joys and miseries of life in exile. Sri Ramakrishna asked the Mother whether she had come to pull him to lead an ordinary life or to help him in his mission. Mother without least hesitation said, “Why, I have come to help you in your mission on the earth.”

3. Sita accompanied Rama to the forest of Dandaka. She with infinite fortitude bore silently the countless hardships without grumbling for twelve years and two years in Ravana’s Ashoka grove. On the bank of Godavari river in Panchavati in a little cottage Sita spent her best years of life. On the bank of Ganga, near Panchavati, in a cramped room of Nahabat, Mother Sarada spent fourteen years of her exile (1872 to 1885) to fulfill her part in Sri Ramakrishna’s stupendous task. Many devotees seeing her pitiable condition used to exclaim, “Oh! Our Sita is in vanavasa.” Later Mother used to say about her difficult life in Nahabat. “How difficult it was to live in Nahabat. How can you understand that suffering. I could not stand properly in that room because of low ceiling. In a hurry I would stand and my head would hit the ceiling and it became swollen. Even to sit and stretch my legs was not possible.” Sri Ramakrishna himself called it a cage. Sita was happy in forest inspite of discomforts with her beloved Rama. So also Mother was happy in Dakshineswar with Sri Ramakrishna.

Sita was ‘Ramagata prana.’ Her life was fused into one with Rama. He was her chosen deity and everything. She did not have separate existence. Mother was ‘Ramakrishna gata prana.’ Both of their lives revolved round Rama and Ramakrishna. Sita and Sarada were ‘Tannama Shravana priya.’ They went in to ecstasy to hear about their gods’ names and glories. They talked about their greatness and purity. Sri Ramakrishna was perennial fountain of inspiration and strength behind Mother’s all actions, decisions and feelings. She wanted to remain incognito keeping Sri Ramakrishna always in the front. She impressed upon devotees that Sri Ramakrishna was everything and asked them to pray to him. Sita also hid behind the effulgence and heroic deeds of Rama.

5. Sita was an embodiment of purity. As pure as purity itself. Therefore Rama said, “Sita is inseparable from me as the sun and his light. In all the three worlds she is the pure one” (Yuddhakanda 118-19-20). Sri Ramakrishna expressed the truth that he and Mother were inseparable like fire and its power of burning. Mother was blazing fire of purity. None could come before her with impure thoughts. Her fire of purity burnt up the sins of devotees. Therefore she is praised as “the very personification of purity.”

Rama knew Sita’s purity and yet she had to undergo the severe test of fire-ordeal. She came out untouched. The ordeal was to satisfy people. They would have said Rama blinded by love and attachment behaved like a weakling. Rama knew the outcome of the test. Therefore he said, “Sita is protected by her own power.” (Yuddhakanda 118-15) Mother in this incarnation did not undergo this fireordeal. But she had to experience much more severe trials and tests, they were in no way less than that of Sita’s test. Alone Mother carried on the work of Sri Ramakrishna for thirty-four years. She lived in poverty, faced hostile people, endured torture from her greedy relatives and took the responsibility of guiding the Master’s lay and monastic disciples. Yet with all this she radiated with love, compassion and light. She purified countless people. Single-handed she accomplished all these tasks. Therefore Sri Ramakrishna said, “She is shakti or power. She is Sarasvati. She has come to impart knowledge to the world.” He warned others not to hurt her feelings. “If she gets angry none can save you in the three worlds.”

We find one difference in Sita and Sarada. Sita finished her earthly life before Rama. In Mother’s case she lived thirty-four years after Sri Ramakrishna left his body. Her role was special in this incarnation.

6. Sita was the divine Mother. She had boundless love for all beings including those who caused her a lot of pain during captivity in Ravana’s Ashoka grove. Ravana was killed and Rama won the war. Hanuman hurried to the place where Sita was imprisoned, to convey this happy message. He looked at the rakshashi women who had guarded Sita day and night and made her life miserable. Angrily he said, “Mother, give me permission to kill these cruel women who had troubled you.” But compassionate Sita said, “No, my son, who in this world is blameless. Compassion should be shown by a noble soul towards sinners and good people. These rakshasis but carried out their king’s orders. How are they to blame? Their king is dead and has paid for his crime. It is unjust to punish these servants now.” (Yuddhakanda 113-45-46) If the Universal Mother cannot forgive Her children who else can?

Holy Mother’s river of love flowed continually uplifting and purifying one and all during her earthly existence. In more than three decades of her tireless spiritual ministration countless people came to Mother – earnest seekers, people laden with sorrows, worldlyminded and sinners. Mother was often advised by her close devotees not to give shelter to sinners and wicked ones. She brushed aside such advice. She said, “Look, it is the nature of children to dirty themselves. It is the Mother’s duty to clean them. I cannot say no to any of my children whether they are good or bad.”

7. When Sita returned from Lanka to Ayodhya she looked after everyone as her own children. She took special care of her old mother-in- laws and elderly people. She served them with her whole heart. Sri Ramakrisha’s mother Chandramani during her old age lived on the first floor of Nahabat. Mother served her with love and dedication. Whenever Chandramani needed her, Mother leaving all her work would rush to attend on her. Mother saw to it that the old lady did not suffer from the slightest inconvenience. Mother with the same boundless affection and care served the elders and sick people at Jayrambati.

 

Focus

STRESS

In this issue we highlight one of the momentous issues of the day – Stress. The fast pace of activities throughout the world beckon to us a more stressful future than we had experienced in the past despite the multi-faceted attention given to the problem. Will science and medicine on the one hand and spirituality and religious discipline on the other hand save us from a catastrophe?

In the following pages we bring an Overview by Swami Gokulananda, Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, followed by contributions from counsellors of the Mission’s Wings Counselling Centre in their interaction with students, parents and youngsters. They explain what is stress, why it is on the increase and how to overcome it in easy to understand language. There are two additional sections with emphasis on stress among youngsters and school children and how to help ease the situation.

In its ten years of operations, Wings has adopted a holistic approach to its service delivery aiming to reach out to children and youth, and their families, in the community. ‘School Counselling’ is the core service rendered by Wings, more than half the cases coming from Primary and Secondary Schools. It has a multi-racial clientele consisting of 52 per cent Indians, 35 per cent Chinese and 12 per cent Malays. Except for a miniscule 2 per cent, the counselled were under 18 years old.

The Centre has conducted a number of outreach programmes in the form of Talks and Workshops. Our counsellors visited neighbourhood schools and other Educational Institutiuons to discuss the range and variety of the Centre’s services/programme before creating a package to suit their needs.  

See also “Non-violent Parenting”

 

STRESS

 An overview

Swami Gokulananda

 

If the twentieth century was dubbed a century of stress, the present one seems destined to outdo its predecessor. There is general agreement about the psychosomatic nature of nervous tension and stress which cause major health hazards. The word psyche refers to the mind and soma to the body. Which means that stress is the result of the malfunctioning of the body-mind interaction. Nervous tension is the result of the way we have consciously or unconsciously chosen to live. The various conflicting urges and desires within us clamour for fulfilment simultaneously. Often there is a tug of war between the desires of the flesh and the aspirations of the spirit.

Most of us suffer from mental tension, fatigue and the stress and strain of life. We are in a highly strung frame of mind all the time. The basic reason for this is that we are drifting endlessly. Perceiving the truth of this statement may well be the key to unlock the door to a meaningful life.

A person suffering from tension is likely to become a slave to anger. The internal chemical changes have a pronounced impact on his behaviour and he becomes prone to ailments such as blood pressure, indigestion, fatigue and even heart attack.

Most people have a wrong understanding of life itself. Excessive ambition, intellectual rivalry, overwork, the dual inner tendencies – both extrovert and introvert – vying with each other, all are detrimental to peace of mind. To regain faith in ourselves we have to first have a balanced perspective of the meaning of existence. Instead of regretting the past or worrying over the future, we should give all our attention to the present.

Our aim should be to develop our will power by avoiding useless talk, purposeless work, futile controversies, fault-finding tendencies, back biting, lurid thoughts, and all such distractions which dissipate our vital mental energies. Good thoughts bring rewards while bad thoughts bring punishment. We should learn to review our mental processes from time to time. Praying to God for will- power is essential, rather than praying for transitory material gains. Concentrating on this single idea to the exclusion of all others is a sure path to success in curing mental tension.

We must have a positive attitude even in the face of the worst adversity. It is good to remember that even depression has a therapeutic side – it leads us to greater achievement. Depression brings to the forefront of our mind guilt, fear and anger which have to be faced before we can attempt to learn to control them.

The secret of achieving tranquility is to cultivate the attitude of acceptance and surrender. These are not passive attitudes but come only through great effort of meditation, introspection and selfanalysis.

What Swami Vivekananda said a hundred years ago is very valid today. “ Man is not a lump of flesh. Man is omnipotent, divine, the infinite spirit.” He also said that once we are conscious of our innate divine nature and can manifest it, then power, strength, purity and all that is excellent comes to us. Understanding that tension / stress is part of life today, we should try to use it to our advantage. We have to, so to say, “recycle” it so that we have a healthy, well-balanced and integrated life. For this the right kind of motivation should be developed. As Martin Luther King has said, “The ultimate measure of a person is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

And summing up, stress can be both negative and positive. Negatively, it creates jealousy, hatred, suspicion, anger, nervous tension, fatigue and other maladies. On the positive side stress gives us the incentive to work and a desire to do it well, which is the key to inner glory and progress.

The beauty of inner bliss was expressed elegantly by Poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore in this immortal verse:

Remain in bliss in this world

Fearless, pure in heart

Wake up in the morning,

Carry out all your duties in bliss,

Remain in bliss in weal and woe,

In criticism and insult,

Remain in bliss unaffected,

Remain in bliss pardoning everybody.

- from How to Overcome Mental Tension

 

 STRESS MANAGEMENT

This is an era of Stress, Tension and Tough Competition! Unfortunately there are many of us who cannot cope with these factors and become maladjusted which leads to failures that affect our life. What we all need to acknowledge is: “STRESS is a silent killer” and it is time people take this issue seriously. Why? Stress is a reality!..............and it affects men, women, and children.

Q: What is stress?

A: Stress is a common experience in meeting the demands of life. It is defined as a feeling of tension that is both emotional and physical. Stress is not always harmful. It can give you the motivation to overcome your difficulties. Stress can also occur in any given situation and to anybody. Different people perceive stress differently. Thus stress impact people at different degrees. For example: a change in job may be extremely stressful to one person while it might be very easy for another to adjust..

Q: Why are more and more people experiencing stress now?

A: Men, women and youths are constantly thriving to improve themselves. With this emergence of a new generation, the competition is an ongoing process where people are striving to improve life-style, upgrading their skill and knowledge, embarking on high profile challenging jobs and putting more demands on themselves and their families.

Q: Why would anyone want to stress himself?

A: The tough competition drives people to push themselves beyond their limits. The temptation is Prestige, Success and to make more Money…though most people are not really sure what they want to do once they achieve these.

When people join this rat-race, it leaves husband working longer hours; wife doing double jobs (home and office) to supplement the family income to maintain a certain lifestyle. As a result, the monetary status of the family increases, but sadly enough both husband and wife are left with very little time for themselves, family, and children. This leaves most people feeling frustrated, unhappy and constantly worried with a sense of inadequacy.  Research reveals that more and more people are frequenting psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors. It is also predicted that, in the next few years STRESS is going to be the number one Killer ………….. a major concern of the world!

Q: What is the link between stress and health?

A: Problems related to immune system, digestive system, heart attacks, stroke and cancer are linked to stress.

Q: What brings about stress in people?

A: Well, any change in our life-style involves some level of stress. Sources of stress can be (e.g.: Family problems, financial problems, marital problems, work related issues, relationship with children / teens, school work, ill-health of a family member and any kind of losses / bereavement.)

Q: How do I know that I am suffering from stress?

A: Generally speaking when people are stressed, they can’t find enough time, can’t slow down, can’t concentrate, can’t sleep, don’t enjoy life, and the person will be constantly feeling restless, angry and unhappy as life seems over-whelming.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of stress?

A: The signs and symptoms of stress are similar for both adults and children: Physical signs of stress: Tightening of muscles, recurring headaches, continuous strain in the eyes, frequent aches and pains, racing heartbeat, feeling of nausea / stomach pain, loss of appetite, sleeping difficulties and loss of concentration. Emotional signs of stress: Prolonged nervousness, feels easily irritated, is prone to temper tantrums, often feels sad and lonely, feels inferior to his peers, suffers from low self-esteem, tends to be pessimistic, often day dreams and experiences depression. Social signs of stress: Tends to avoid people, prefers to be alone, does not enjoy activities once enjoyed, has difficulty in making simple decisions, indifferent towards personal appearance and generally procrastinates work. 

Q: Why do children/youths experience high stress level?

A: Just like adults, it is not uncommon for young children/youths to be exposed to stress. Here are some reasons children/youths experience stress.

  1. Individual or Self: Every child is born with some basic personality traits. These can affect the way he/she reacts to people or situations. Children/youths also have their own expectations from themselves and from others.
  2. Environment: For children/youths primarily stress is from the home and school. In the home environment if parents are constantly arguing children/youths can be affected. In school if they are unable to cope with school work or have no friends they may feel stressed.
  3. Major life events: Death, divorce, change of residence, change of a teacher and change of school can cause stress to children/ youth.
  4. Exam or study stress: Setting unrealistic expectations from self, often afraid of failures for fear of disappointing parents, or when parents drawing comparisons between siblings, relatives/ friends with regards to studies.
  5. Unrealistic Expectations When parents set unrealistic expectations from their child/children they are exposed to stress in order to meet the expectations of parents.

Q: How to manage stress?

A: Accepting that stress is a part and parcel of today’s life-style. Do not let stress get the better of you. HOW?............................By

 

 

Setting ‘Boundaries’ for Children

—always an area of conflict?

“ My daughter is only 13,…she`s always with her friends,and never returns home before seven…what do I do?”

“ My son is 15. He is so detached from us these days…..We don`t have anything in common. Is this normal?I wonder if I still need to monitor him or is it time I should back off and let him handle his own things…?”

These are some of the questions which parents (especially of older children) are often plagued with these days. They often wonder if they should allow their older kids to have complete freedom (the way kids want most of the time, perhaps !), or if they still need to set some limits on them. In this article, we will explore the need for limit setting and some strategies of effective limit setting.

Complying to ‘rules‘ or staying within a pre-set boundary is an important part of a child’s upbringing and it continues to be important when they are older. By doing so, they feel secure and safe while learning to get along with others in society. A lot of times parents give up monitoring their children’s activities or behaviour as they grow older, thinking they no longer require to be checked. But studies have indicated that most children with offending history come from homes where parents do not monitor or when they fail to keep a clearly defined boundary. In fact, in many cases when the parents leave them alone (so that ‘peace‘ prevails at home), they leave them to ‘trouble‘!

Of course, creating a boundary is not always smooth especially during the time when children go through a transition between childhood and adulthood, i.e. during adolescence and teen years. This is the time when the children are maturing, trying to be independent and find an identity of their own. Often they question their parents, challenge the rules set by them and reject their ideas and perceive them as old fashioned!

However, if the parents are steadfast in their approach, chances are that they will be more successful in determining the boundary for their kids.

Communication is the key

Adolescence and teen years are the times when children try to become individuals in their own right and try to move out of the protective wing of their parents. They will try out many things in order to follow the crowd, whether in wearing trendy clothes or having the latest hairstyle. This is not the time for parents to play the great dictator’s role and alienate their children. The first thing to remember: do not make yourself their enemy by coming down heavily on every transgression. Talk to them, not talk down to them, about these rules or the kind of behaviour you expect. There must be ground rules right from the beginning.

Freedom is earned with responsible behaviour:

Teach them that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. Give them responsibility for their own personal well being and that of the family from young age. Start by giving them responsibilities at home little by little in an appropriate way. As they grow older, they need to shoulder responsibility in their outside activities as well. Only then, you allow them to have certain freedom so as to convey the message that ‘privileges‘have to be earned. Also, look for situations that can allow them to learn decision-making skills. When he is not able to make decisions on his own, he is likely to be dependent on his peers for direction.

Keep the kids involved: Limits or rules work best if you work these out together with your children so that they feel that they have some choices. Involving them in a discussion first over the expected behaviour rather than giving them the ultimatum would mean more compliance from them.(“Tell me, what time should I expect you back from school, Monday to Friday?” is better than “Be back home by 3o’clock, no matter what, otherwise watch out!”) Often the children back off or challenge the parental authority, because the parents may appear to them to be too ‘harsh`. At the same time, mind your voice tone and your body language.

Make it clear and be specific—Communicate your expectations to your kids in clear and explicit terms without any double/mixed 18 messages.(e.g.”be back by six latest” is better than saying “don`t be too late in the evening, o.k.?”)

Remain a good role model

Disciplining is actually self-discipline. You are the most important pillar in your child’s life. It is utmost important that the parents teach their children discipline by becoming self disciplined themselves.

Flexibility pays

Depending on the situations, you may need to apply some flexibility at times. (if it is a special occasion e.g. “your friend`s birthday, you may attend it in the evening provided you keep us informed well in advance….!”) Also, consider that what works for one young person might not work for another. However, while you consider flexibility, keep their safety in mind too.

Setting rules or limits that stick: Rules that you set must be ageappropriate. Be mindful that limits for 13 year olds may not be suitable for 15 year olds and are far less suitable for 18 year olds! You may restrict 13 yr old’s phone-chat with friends by implementing a 10 minute time frame but the same will probably fail with a 18 year old.

What happens when the kids break the rules?

For broken rules, there has to be some consequence. But all these have to be carefully thought about. Your kids must know very clearly beforehand what the consequence will be. Otherwise, your kids are likely to see the consequence as punishment and will be resentful.

Make consequences that fit the broken rules, e.g. if they come home late, you may say that they will not be allowed any time with friends for next one week, or they must be back by a certain time.

A word of caution:

Your approach will make a difference:

With the emergence of adolescence and teen years, the children go through challenges not only in physical areas, but also in social, psychological and intellectual areas, making it a particularly difficult time for both parents and their children. As such, teaching them responsibility through a proper disciplining measure, such as setting limits on their activities/behaviour, requires patience and consideration . However, the task may be easier if the parents keep the following principles in mind.

Relationship

Work on your relationship with your children first, because no disciplinary measure will be successful unless there is this basis of relationship. To do this, firstly understand your kids, know their dreams and aspirations, do things together and listen to their ideas. Take an interest in what is important to them and you will have a good base-line to work from.

Consistency

While each parent has their own approach to parenting, they should not contradict each other in front of the children, and thereby undermine each other’s authority. Agreeing on the terms of discipline and presenting a united front is important as the children will perceive both the parents as one authority figure having complete control over things at home. Otherwise, the children are likely to find the loopholes and manipulate the system (e.g. by playing one parent against the other, this can happen when one parent is too strict and the other one lax or indulgent.

 Other suggestions:

Try net-working with other parents to know what limits they are setting. Remember that if you are too far away from what their friends’ parents are doing, you will have much more difficulty in getting your teenager to co-operate with you.

The best resource your child has is ‘you,’ so don’t give up on him/her. Children will go through different phases, sometimes challenging you, other times complying with your suggestions. There will be occasional mistakes on the part of all children, for sure. Don’t store up bitter feelings of these violations. Constantly reminding them of their mistakes will not be helpful. What will be helpful is conveying your expectations, monitoring their activities and providing them with constant guidance and support. The symptoms are usually worse on weekday mornings and tend to disappear later in the day. Surprisingly all these can happen without any physical cause.

Why does it happen?

Though the child may not want to go to school, the problem may not always lie with the school. A child may be fearful about leaving the safety of the home and parents . The child may be simply afraid of being away from parents. He or she may think something bad will happen to the parents due to:

The other sources of worry for a child could come from:

Issues outside home:

The following could be some reasons for which a child may lose interest in school:

Is my child a truant?

No, a child who stays off school without the knowledge and agreement of parents is a truant. A truant will leave home for school as per normal schedule, but would usually slip off, and join his friends to engage in fun things, outside school.

How can I help my child to get back to school?

Keeping your child off school and allowing him to stay at home is not the right solution. In most cases it will generally make the problem worse. Rather try not to let your child see that you are worried. Both you and your child’s teachers should encourage him to go back to school as quickly as possible. At the same time, you need to sort out the underlying problems, like bullying in school or academic work, which may be too difficult for the child. Perhaps, you may look into providing additional coaching at home, or go and observe the child’s behaviour at school to determine the source of his/her fear. At the same time, the child should be encouraged to talk to you/teachers about his fear or worries that he has. If they know that you are there to ‘listen to their stories’, they will feel less anxious. They will feel that you see their problems as real and are sincerely trying to alleviate their distress. Many of the symptoms of school refusal will automatically disappear, making the child ready again for school, when the root causes are removed.

Parents can do a lot to keep the children’s anxieties to a minimum by taking simple measures, such as, being reliable and punctual when picking up the child after school. Have a contingency plan for situations when you might unavoidably be late, etc.

If the problem still persists after taking all these measures, you may consult the school educational psychologist or the counsellor about the problem and seek his/her advice. 

 

Why doesn’t my child like to go to school?

Quite a few children at some point show signs of reluctance or unhappiness to go to school. Often these children will be sick or miserable in the mornings. This problem causes serious anxiety for parents, because ultimately it is the parents who are responsible to educate their children. Parents often feel helpless in such situations, as they know that if their child misses a lot of school, his/her education may be badly affected.

School refusal

School refusal can happen to any child, but children who are the anxious kind are particularly vulnerable. It can happen at any age, but it is common at times of change such as starting school for the first time or after the vacation.

School refusal is when a child does not want to go to school or refuses to go. Your child may be too anxious to go to school, for some reason. Worrying about going to school can make them feel vaguely unwell (with symptoms such as headaches, poor appetite, or stomach aches causing frequent visits to the toilets).

 

NON-VIOLENT PARENTING

An episode in reverse psychology

Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of M.K.Gandhi Institute for Non-violence, in his June 9 lecture at the University of Puerto Rico, shared the following story as an example of “nonviolence in parenting.”

“I was 16 years old and living with my parents at the institute my grandfather had founded 18 miles outside of Durban, South Africa, in the middle of the sugar plantations. We were deep in the country and had no neighbours. So my two sisters and I would always look forward to going to town to visit friends or go to the movies.

One day, my father asked me to drive him to town for an all-day conference, and I jumped at the chance. Since I was going to town, my mother gave me a list of groceries she needed and, since I had all day in town, my father asked me to take care of several pending chores, such as getting the car serviced. When I dropped my father off that morning, he said, ‘I will meet you here at 5:00 p.m., and we will go home together.’

After hurriedly completing my chores, I went straight to the nearest movie theatre. I got so engrossed in a John Wayne doublefeature that I forgot the time. It was 5:30 before I remembered. By the time I ran to the garage and got the car and hurried to where my father was waiting for me, it was almost 6:00.

He anxiously asked me, ‘Why were you late?’ I was so ashamed of telling him I was watching a John Wayne western movie that I said, The car wasn’t ready, so I had to wait,’ not realizing that he had already called the garage. When he caught me in the lie, he said: ‘There is something wrong in the way I brought you up that didn’t give you the confidence to tell me the truth. In order to figure out where I went wrong with you, I am going to walk home 18 miles and think about it.’ So, dressed in his suit and dress shoes, he began to walk home in the dark, on mostly unpaved, unlit roads. I couldn’t leave him, so for five-and-a-half hours I drove behind him, watching my father go through this agony for a stupid lie that I uttered.

I decided then and there that I was never going to lie again. I often think about that episode and wonder: if he had punished me the way we punish our children, whether I would have learned a lesson at all. I don’t think so. I would have suffered the punishment and gone on doing the same thing. But this single nonviolent action was so powerful that it is still as if it happened yesterday. That is the power of non-violence.”

 ~~~ 

 Lay Disciples - X

Shambhu Charan Mallik

KSC Pillai

The desire to acquire wealth and multiply it is a universal phenomenon. Rare is the person who bucks the trend and become munificent enough to give away his hard-earned possessions. In most such cases, however, an element of ego creeps in with the feeling, “I am giving away my precious wealth.”

Shambhu Charan Mallik was, perhaps, in this predicament, but his close association with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa helped him to cleanse himself of this vain thought and attain God-realization.

Very few details are available about Shambhu’s early life. He was born the son of Sanatan Mallik and lived in Calcutta. He was an agent of a British company and earned a good salary. Shambhu also had a garden house in Dakshineswar, adjacent to the Kali temple where Sri Ramakrishna spent most of his adult life. He had a reputation of being splendidly generous and supportive of charitable cases. Shambhu was married to a devout woman and both of them became ardent devotees of the Master and Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. They had no children.

Shambhu came into Sri Ramakrishna’s life in the early 1870’s, shortly after the passing away of Mathur Nath Biswas, the owner of the Kali temple in Dakshineswar, who had taken care of the needs of the Master for fourteen years. That was when the Master was unable to look after himself because of his advanced spiritual condition.

As Sri Ramakrishna later described the situation, “In that state of divine exaltation, I could no longer perform the worship (in the temple). Mother, I said, who will look after me? I haven’t the power to take care of myself. I want to listen only to the talk about Thee. I want to feed Thy devotees. I want to give a little help to those whom I chance to meet. How that all will be possible? Mother, give me a rich man to stand by me.” The prayer was answered quickly. As the Master recalls, “The Divine Mother showed me in a vision the five suppliers of my needs. First, Mathur Babu, the second, Shambhu Mallik, whom I had not then met. I had the vision of a fair-skinned man with a cap on his head…Many days later when I first met Shambhu I recalled that vision. I realized that it was he whom I had seen in that ecstatic state.”

How the two met for the first time is not clear. The Master used to go for a walk every day and since Shambhu’s garden house was very near the Kali temple, they used to meet and exchange views on spiritual topics. Shambhu considered himself very lucky that the Master had come to him on his own. One day he remarked to the Master with some delight, “You come here frequently. Yes, you come because you feel happy talking with me.”

As he became more and more acquainted with the Master, Shambu began addressing him as ‘Guruji’. Sri Ramakrishna disliked the terms guru, master and father. “These three words prick my flesh,” he would say often. “There is only one Guru, and that is Satchidananda. He alone is the Teacher.” Annoyed, the Master would say, “Who is the guru and who is the disciple? You are my guru.” Nevertheless, Shambhu continued to address him as guru all his life.

As mentioned earlier, Shambhu’s wife was also very devoted to the Master and Sri Sarada Devi. Whenever the Holy mother was in Dakshineswar, she made it a practice to take her home on Tuesdays, considered auspicious .for the worship of the Divine Mother, and offer her elaborate ritual worship.

When the Holy Mother first came to Dakshineswar, she used to live in the Nahabat, a tiny room which she shared with Sri Ramakrishna’s mother. When she came again, Shambhu had a small cottage built for her near the temple garden where she would be more comfortable. When she was hit by a serious attack of dysentery, Shambhu engaged one of Calcutta’s top doctors to treat her.

As part of his public service, Shambhu had a charitable dispensary in his garden house. One day during his talks with Sri Ramakrishna he found out that the Master often suffered from stomach trouble caused by irregular food and impure water. Shambhu advised him to take tiny doses of opium every day, and offered to give him a small quantity from the dispensary. As they kept talking both of them forgot about this matter.

When Sri Ramakrishna was about to return to the temple, he remembered this. The Master came back, but found Shambhu busy inside the house. So he mentioned this to the supervisor of the dispensary who gave him some opium. But as he began to walk back to the temple, he was reeling and could not find his way. He felt as if somebody was pulling at his legs. He said to himself, “What is this? This is by no means the road.” When he turned and walked towards Shambhu’s house, he felt quite all right. He came to the conclusion that since he obtained the opium from the supervisor, rather than from Shambhu himself, was he committing a theft. He surmised that the Divine Mother was preventing him from returning to Dakshineswar. Thus reasoning, he came back to the dispensary, but found that the supervisor had already left. He threw the packet of opium into the dispensary through the window, uttering in a loud voice, “Hello, here’s your opium.” He started towards the temple and found his way clear.

Recalling the incident the Master later told his disciples, “Have I not completely taken refuge in the Mother? That is why Mother has taken hold of my hand. She prevented me from a single wrong step.”

On another occasion, Shambhu discovered during their talks that the Master was not feeling very well.

He suggested that sweet pomegranate would help improve his health and offered him a few as he was about to return to Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna accepted the gift and started to proceed towards the Kali temple, but could not find the gate. He started roaming here and there like a drunkard. Shambu was still around and noticed the situation. He came out into the garden and escorted the Master inside. Sri Ramakrishna, explaining that if he carried anything he became confused and disoriented, returned the pomegranates to Shambhu who was amazed to hear what the Master said.

He was deeply impressed by the Master’s immaculate practice of renunciation.

Citing this incident, the Master constantly advised spiritual aspirants, particularly the monastic disciples, to practise absolute renunciation. “A man cannot realize God unless he renounces everything mentally. A sadhu cannot lay things up. Birds and wandering monks do not make provision for the morrow. Such is the state of my mind that I cannot carry even clay in my hand.” 

Shambhu may have been the “trigger” for the Master’s liaison with Christianity. Liberal in his religious outlook, Shambhu used to read from the Bible to Sri Ramakrishna in his parlour. The Master became fascinated with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. This sentiment invoked in him a desire to realize God through the Christian path.

One day he was sitting in the parlour of another devotee, Jadu Mallick, also at Dakshineswar, when his eyes became fixed on a painting of Virgin Mary and Child. Watching it intently, he became gradually overwhelmed with divine emotion. The figures in the picture became life-like, and the rays of light emanating from them entered his soul.

Christ possessed his soul and he was in an ecstatic mood. For three days he did not enter the Kali temple. On the next day as he was taking a stroll he saw a tall, foreign looking man with a beautiful face and brilliant eyes walking towards him. As he wondered who it could be, a voice from within told him, ‘This is Jesus Christ, the great yogi, the loving son of God.’ Jesus then embraced Sri Ramakrishna and merged within his body. Thus did Sri Ramakrishna realize his identity with Jesus Christ, as he had already attained it with Mother Kali, Rama, Krishna and Brahman, and Mohammed.

Shambhu was rajasic by nature, He was always active. He earned good money and spent it liberally on philanthropic activities. Being spiritually inclined, he got acquainted with the reformist movement Brahmo Samaj and developed close relations with Keshab Chandra Sen, its leader. But when he came in contact with Sri Ramakrishna, he knew instinctively that he had found the guru he had been looking for. As time passed this love and respect developed into reverence and admiration and he looked upon Sri Ramakrishna as a teacher of the universe in human form. Himself a scholar, he was bowled out by the unlettered Master who had been blessed with knowledge of the essentials of the scriptures. Once he told Sri Ramakrishna in light vein, “I have not found a greater warrior than you in the whole world. You don’t carry any weapon, sword or javelin. Yet you are the champion of peace. You have not touched the scriptures, yet how could you churn out the essence of all?”

Shambhu’s philanthropic inclinations were legendary. One day he told Sri Ramakrishna. “So bless me, Sir, that I may spend all my money for good purposes such as building hospitals and dispensaries, making roads, and digging wells.” The Master replied, “You think too highly of yourself. What power do you wield to do benefit to others? He who has created human beings also shoulders the burden of protecting them. You know everything, what shall I tell you? Do not desire the path of work, instead adopt the path of devotion. Put your mind on that work which will help you realize God. Faith and belief are the means to reach God. The first and foremost duty is to have the vision of the Lord, the Supreme. Afterwards, if you still feel inclined to work, just proceed.”

It would seem that Shambhu used to raise this topic of surrendering his wealth often. On another occasion when he raised the question of building schools and hospitals, the Master told him, “Suppose God Himself comes before you, what will you ask from Him? Devotion or a home to serve the poor, sick and destitute? Devotion, faith and belief in the lotus feet of the Lord are the only requirements, all other things are secondary. With the help of those three attitudes, take refuge in the Lord.”

On yet another occasion he told Shambhu, “Those are riches to you. What riches can you offer God? To Him these are mere dust and straw.” These somewhat unsympathetic remarks, in no way, were meant to discourage social service as desired by Shambhu. The Master was making it clear that social service, per se, without spiritual dedication would only inflate one’s ego and impede progress towards God-realization. With the good of Shambhu very much in his mind, the Master was charting out the right path for him which Shambhu accepted with gratification.

Although Shambhu was generous he was also discriminating. Once Hriday, the Master’s nephew and attendant, asked him for some money. Shambhu’s response was, “Why should I give you money? You can earn a livelihood by working. Even now you are earning something. The purpose of charity is fulfilled if one gives money to the blind or lame. ”Hriday was embarrassed by this comment. He said, “Sir, please don’t say that. I don’t need your money. May God help me not to become blind or deaf.”

During his later years Shambhu had an attack of diabetes. As time passed it became worse and he was bedridden. One day the Master went with Hriday to see him and found him quite cheerful. He had no fear of death. He told Hriday, “Hridu, I have packed my things and am ready for the journey.” The Master told him not to say such ominous things. His reply was, “Please bless me that I may cast aside all these possessions and go to God.” While returning to Dakshineswar the Master told Hriday, “The oil in Shambhu’s lamp has run out.” Shambhu passed away in 1877.

Some years later, reminiscing about Shambhu Sri Ramakrishna told his devotees, “God’s devotees have nothing to fear. They are his own. He always stands by them.”

In recognition of his philanthropic contributions, the authorities renamed Kamalnayan Street, where Shambhu’s parental home was located, as “Shambhu Mallik’s Lane.”

References :

 

 

The Ramayana-4

Rama kills Tataka

N.Narandran

(Continued from last issue)

 

Vishvamitra and the two princes Rama and Lakshmana soon reached the southern banks of the Sarayu. Before retiring for the night, the sage decided to teach the princes the two secret mantras Bala and Atibala. Knowing these mantras would not only win them respect from everyone but would also give the princes immunity from hunger, thirst and fatigue and thus protect them from harm should they encounter any rakshasas. Vishvamitra taught Rama the mantras and after learning them, Rama and Lakshmana spent the night there.

When dawn broke, the three of them continued their journey until they reached the confluence of the rivers Sarayu and Ganga. Located there was Kamaashrama. Vishvamitra explained to the two curious princes the legend behind the ashrama. Lord Siva, mourning over the loss of his wife Sati, was performing tapas at the spot when Parvathi appeared in front of him. The devas wished that Siva would marry Parvathi as it had been prophesied that the son born out of this union would lead the army of  the devas. When Siva opened his eyes, Kama, the god of love, desiring that Siva should see Parvathi first, shot his arrow of flowers at Siva. Angered by the audacity of Kama, Siva opened his third eye and pulverized Kama. The spot where Kama was turned to ashes came to be called Kamaashrama. Vishvamitra presented the princes to the rishis at the ashrama and they spent the night there.

The next morning, Vishvamitra and the two young warriors set off once again on their journey and after some time, reached the banks of the Ganga. With a boat given by the rishis there, they began to cross the river. Midway through the crossing, the princes heard a loud continuous roar. Vishvamitra explained that it was the noise of the waters of the Sarayu meeting the Ganga. They paid homage to the two rivers and soon reached the southern banks of the Ganga. After walking for some time, they reached a dark, dense forest from which emanated a cacophony of cries of all kinds of animals.

Rama was surprised that such a beautiful forest, ideal for ashramas, was totally uninhabited by human beings. Vishvamitra explained that this was the Dandaka forest which previously was not a forest but comprised two fertile and populated countries called Malada and Karusha. Indra, the lord of the devas, had committed a sin by slaying Vrita, an asura. The devas had cleansed Indra of his sin with waters from all the sacred rivers and this water flowing from the body of Indra into the ground had made it extremely fertile.

Vishvamitra then explained that the whole place was transformed into an uninhabitable forest when a terrible rakshasi named Tataka and her son occupied the place. Tataka was the wife of a good yaksha named Sunanda and Maricha was her son. Tataka was hideous, evil, very powerful and notorious for consuming hundreds of human beings. She and her son were the sole occupants of the forest and they had to be eliminated by Rama.

Rama, who was listening intently, inquired why Tataka the wife of a yaksha who was not as powerful as other heavenly beings like the devas could become as powerful as a thousand elephants. Vishvamitra then explained that it was because of a boon given to Tataka by Brahma. There was once a powerful yaksha named Suketu who performed tapas in order to be blessed with a son. Brahma gave him a boon- a beautiful daughter of enormous strength but not a son. Suketu’s daughter Tataka married Sunanda a yaksha and had a son Maricha. When Sunanda died, Tataka became transformed. She went to the ashrama of Agastya, a renowned rishi, and attempted to seduce him. Furious, Agastya cursed her to become an ugly, evil, man-eating rakshasi. From then on she had been occupying this region of Agastya and killing anyone who entered the forest.

Vishvamitra urged Rama to kill this rakshasi although he knew Rama was reluctant because she was a woman. He had to do it as it was his duty as a kshatriya to protect the tormented. The sage then cited several instances of women being destroyed for the general good of society.

Rama listened intently to all these and then answered that his father had instructed him and his brother to obey every word of Vishvamitra. Hence he agreed to kill Tataka. Saying that, he drew back the string of his bow and released it, the sound reverberating throughout the forest. On hearing the sound, Tataka, furious at this intrusion into her domain, rushed towards the source of the noise. She rushed towards Rama and Lakshmana and a furious battle began. Tataka rained stones and mud on the young men and in the noise and confusion of battle, Rama retaliated by slicing off Tataka’s arms with his arrows. Lakshmana sliced off the tip of her nose and ears. Watching all this, Vishvamitra urged Rama not to hesitate in killing Tataka because when night fell, Tataka would become even stronger. Rama, deciding that the time was right to kill her, took an arrow and drawing his bow shot the arrow into Tataka’s chest, killing her instantly. Indra and the other devas were overjoyed with Rama for ridding the world of this evil woman, and Vishvamitra blessed him. With the death of Tataka, the forest underwent an almost immediate transformation. When the princes awoke the next morning, the forest was filled with flowers and trees bearing fruits.

Vishvamitra expressed his deep satisfaction with Rama and offered him a rare gift. He offered to give Rama all the divine astras (missiles) in his possession and with these Rama would become invincible.

Rama, after purifying himself, sat facing East and Vishvamitra taught him the astras one by one, how they should be dispatched and how they should be withdrawn. All the presiding deities came and submitted themselves to Rama. Vishvamitra told Rama to teach Lakshmana all the astras and he did so. The three of them then proceeded to Vishvamitra’s ashrama.

(To be continued)

 

FOOD & FUNFAIR

Ramakrishna Mission Cordially invites YOU, YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO

FOOD AND FUNFAIR

ON

 Sunday, 3 June 2007 From 9 am to 5 pm

at 179, Bartley Road Food, Magic shows, Sports, Games etc. Wholesome fun for the Family Net proceeds will be used to upgrade infrastructure, such as structural modifications and improvements around the Kindergarten to enhance safe and easy movement of KG children. Also to provide financial assistance/bursaries to needy children. We welcome donations, sponsorship of stalls, gifts and assistance in the sale of Funfair coupons priced at $10.

For details please contact Mrs Banajah/Miss Saras,

Tel: 6288 5288/6383 5766 Bus: Bartley Road: 28, 93, 158 Upper Paya Lebar Road: 22, 24, 62, 70, 76, 80