I am delighted to read the book entitled "Krsna-krida" as wonderfully written by Sriman Bharat Chandra Dasa. The subject matter is indeed very timely as every day we can witness more and more young people, especially children, drawn to distracting and destructive modern electronic gadgets such as I-pods, computers, television, games and the like that spoil both their physical as well as psychological well-being, what to speak of their spiritual life.
Srila Prabhupada wanted to usher in a new generation of children and youth born of responsible parents who understand the plan of the Lord. The Lord's plan is simple and most sublime: how to properly utilize this precious gift of the human form of life to prepare ourselves to return to the spiritual world, our eternal home. If we were to become instrumental in Lord Caitanya's mission and if we were to become instrumental in establishing the social system of Daiva varnasrama dharma, then we should all clearly understand that the traditional education for young children as followed in our Vedic culture is absolutely essential.
What better way is there than to learn and imitate the games and pastimes that Lord Krsna Himself performed with His eternal associates of Vrindavan. Such games and plays are educational, fulfilling and soul awakening. They are simple, natural and most enjoyable. They are not dangerous for the children or costly for the parents as are today's modern games. That is the way to real education. And the parents, after all, are meant to be the first educators. As instructed by Lord Rsabhadeva,
gurur na sa syat sva-jano na sa syat
pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat
daivam na tat syan na patis ca sa syan
na mocayed yat: samupeta-mrtyum
"One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a relative, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod."
There are still some educational institutions in India where teachers are cultivating these traditional arts and sciences. One of my God brothers recently visited one such institution to study their methodology of teaching. One of the pre-requisites to be accepted for this type of learning is for the children never to have been exposed to modern electronic gadgets or machines as they destroy the finer tissues needed to perceive and detect these more subtle sciences. One such science is the ability through smell, touch and intuition to read a person's mind and to describe an object without seeing it with one's gross eyes. The science is called "aksara-mustika-kathanam".
Srila Prabhupada very much desired that we introduce these traditional sciences explaining that all knowledge required can be found in his books and those of our Vaisnava Acaryas. We have a great need to recover much of this forsaken knowledge because much of it has been lost or are to save our culture and to save our children are non-different endeavors, as one cannot happen without the other.
We should all be most thankful to Sriman Bharat Chandra Dasa for giving us such an extensive and elaborate presentation of this dimension of children's early education. We can immediately appreciate the extensive depth of research he has put in compiling information from many authoritative sources. The book is therefore very authoritative being filled with supportive statements, references and examples from our Vaisnava Acaryas. The book is a must for both parents and educators.
We often confuse to think that compliance is 'engagement'. It is not. Keeping children busy is also not 'engagement'. Engagement is not what we expect them to do. Rather, 'engagement' is to attract and hold their attention.
In Samskrta, 'engagement' is called 'yukta’. 'Yukta' is coming from the root word, 'yuj', it also means, 'to be regulated' (moderate or self-restrained) and 'to be connected'.
Just as food, sleep and working for livelihood are basic necessities of life; recreation too is a basic necessity. One who desires a healthy mind and healthy body should seek to balance these four things in life. And, only with such a balanced lifestyle can one seek to practice yoga or a spiritual path. This is explained by Lord Krsna in Srimad Bhagavad-Gita.
In other words, extremities such as: consuming excessive food or starving; sleeping excessively or lack of sleep; working excessively or no work, will lead to diseases. In a similar way, excessive recreation or no recreation will also lead to a state of diseased condition!". Such extremities should be given up!". Therefore, one should seek to recreate the mind in a balanced way. And the primary methods of recreation are - to involve in singing, listening, dancing (including walking and involving in games), in joking and laughing!". For children, recreation is natural. It is the way children experience the world in their formative years. Everything they do, they do it as a creative play. Indeed, children are supposed to spend time playing in sand and mud. Engaging children in games and activities (by utilizing their natural propensity to play) in such a way that it yields positive impressions is one of the 64 traditional arts known as 'Bala Kridanakani'.
Formative years of a child is the time when the physical, mental and intellectual faculties get ready to take up a role of an adult in future and experience the world to the rest of his or her lifespan. We all like to recall the fond memories of our childhood. We also recall the wrong experiences that we went through during childhood. Majority of our present personality depends upon the experiences that we had during our childhood. Therefore, responsible parents wish to provide right experiences to their children during such crucial formative years.
How is that, that the childhood experiences mostly shape our present personality? What is that crucial growth story?
Right from the conception to puberty, there is growth of the organs of the body. However, the mind, intellect and the soul are not newly formed but carried from the previous body'?'. The soul, a superior energy compared to the matter, is eternal and part and parcel of the Supersoul, Sri Krsna. Due to its desire for enjoyment, the soul associates with inferior energy and gets bound by it in this material world. The mind, intellect, ego and the senses, all belong to the eternal but inferior energy which is matter. In other words, without the presence of the spirit soul which is the source of consciousness; mind, intelligence and ego cannot be powered; and without presence of the Supersoul, the spirit soul cannot carry out any action.
Mind, intelligence, ego and consciousness are a complex subject matter that modern science is still perplexed about. However, Vedic scriptures reveal detailed Insights about these. Imagine a computer. The hardware, however sophisticated it might be, cannot run without the operating software.
Operating software receives the inputs, interprets them, queue them up for processing, communicates with the hardware in a different language, coordinates the processing of requests and finally communicates with the user. It also remembers the preferences of the user, suggests on various occasions and sometimes automatically updates itself. However, it is vulnerable for corruption, hacking and hanging due to overload and due to spams. This operating software is also dependent upon different software that runs the main processing unit. The main processing unit is the one which decides whether to accept or reject the requests of the operating software. This main processing unit is also dependent on the core programming that stores the identity of the computer itself. However, the whole computer with all its faculties is a useless machine if a conscious user is not using it.
Mind is just like that operating software; the main processing unit can be compared to the intelligence and the core identity of the computer to the ego while the conscious user can be compared to the soul or atma. The hardware of the computer is the human body while the input devices are the five senses known as jnanendriyas which are eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. There are also devices that are known as karmendriyas or hardware through which actions are carried out. They are: hands, legs, belly, genital and rectum. Mind is the chief of both jnanendriyas and karmendriyas.
The objects of the mind are: to deliberate, to consider, to hypothise, to concentrate on an object and to determine. Its functions are: to control sense organs, self-restrain, to judge and to think. Beyond these objects and functions flourishes the domain of the intellect and ego. Upon receiving stimuli from the senses, the mind analyses whether previous experience was for benefit of body or for harm of the body. The intelligence then takes the final decision as to what would be the right action. The ego vetoes it if it is against it's perceived identity. Finally, impelled by the soul and with assistance of the Supreme Lord, an action is carried out by the person. This package of hardware and software is provided for the spirit soul to fulfill its desires. Thus, the cycle of birth and death goes on until there is realization of its futility by causeless mercy of the Lord.
The Supreme Lord, who is the eternal companion and supreme witness of all activities of the soul, controls the forgetfulness and remembrance for the benefit of the soul and directs the soul to follow its natural propensities in life according to its conditioning from past deeds Therefore, our natural propensities are actually a carry-over of the latent seeds of desires and faith from previous lives. When a child is born, The Supreme Lord arranges that memory of previous life is lost during birth. That means that the learning process of the mental and intellectual faculty starts afresh with new birth (something similar to the sleep). However, the innate tendencies acquired due to material conditioning, called svabhava continue to be present as long as this bodily conditioning remains. Another innate tendency related to the innate nature of the eternal soul (which is to serve the Super-soul) known as svarupa, is eternally present.
However, since the learning process starts afresh, there is an opportunity that from the very beginning of life (0-5 years) a child can be trained to engage perfectly in loving devotional service which is the ultimate fulfillment of human life.. Devotional service to The Supreme Absolute Truth is fulfilling because the innate tendencies at both levels can be perfectly catered-to, with this. This is known as sanatana dharma.
This training for engagement in pure devotional service transcends the conditioning of material modes of nature (sattva, rajas and tamas). Once introduced to the transcendental taste of pure devotional service, it is impossible to forget throughout one's life. This crucial growth story should not be missed in a child's life.
The role of the parents therefore becomes very crucial. Parents affect what children experience in following ways: by way of giving permission to children to do certain things and to not do certain things; by regulating their time spent on various activities; by influencing the space and location children engage in; by controlling their choice of association to certain extent; and finally, by providing or denying resources to them.
Parents have to understand a child in dual ways: One is to understand the natural propensity of a child (svabhava) so as to help them perform devotional service under the divine Varnasrama system; secondly, to understand the constant spiritual need (sthayi-bhava) and guide them accordingly. In a Vedic civilization there are provisions for both level of training for a child. In fact, scriptures word it strongly that becoming a parent is in vain if one cannot guide the dependent child towards self-realization.
How to guide children at these two levels? The answer is that children need to be guided in their own language. And, the language of children is - to play.
Vedic scriptures provide wonderful instructions and insights on this subject matter. The present work attempts to bring together those instructions available in varieties of scriptures and compilations in one book.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, displayed wonderful childhood pastimes in Vrindavana. Sri Krsna and his childhood friends played all the popular traditional games. Considering the Supreme Lord as the transcendental role model and replaying as if role-playing those games and activities is known as Krsna-krida.
We defined 'engagement' as - 'to attract and hold attention of', at the beginning. 'Play', as we understood, is a natural engagement of children. And, Krsna's pastimes are a natural attraction to the conditioned soul. Therefore, in conclusion, 'Krsna-krida' is the most natural engagement for children's playful attitude. The art of facilitating this natural situation is the core subject matter of the book.
Perhaps, the importance of the present work has become more relevant in today's world than compared to some 20 or 30 years ago. Today's scenario is worrisome as physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual capacities of children are stunted due to various factors. Let us describe it.
Surveys show that children are spending half as much time outdoors playing as they did 20 years ago. Rather, more and more children are getting hung up on screens and becoming 'screen slaves'. A study in USA reveals that children of age group, 8-18 years old, spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). A recent study by Common Sense Media, a parent advocacy group, found that 59 percent of parents think that their teens are addicted to mobile devices. Meanwhile, 50 percent of teenagers feel the same way about themselves. On the other hand, a survey shows that over 50 percent of children think that their parents spend too much time with technology than with them. These figures are staggering and a worldwide phenomenon!
This can be correlated to another observation that there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of children being diagnosed with mental disorders due to the daily use of media and technology. Children as low as 0-6 years can show signs of mood disorders, anxiety, depression, schizoid thinking, attention deficit, hyperactivity, autism, dyslexia, delinquency, insomnia, aggression, narcissistic personality disorder, emotional deprivation, victimization, social isolation, cognitive impairment, reduced prosocial behavior, sociopathy, psychopathy, anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorders, etc. Although many of the mental disorders are in some way hereditary, the lifestyle factors could trigger them very easily. In any case, there is increasing evidence that the number of mental health disorders among children has always something to do with the Television, Computer, the Internet and the Smartphone. These technologies interfere with social, emotional, physical and spiritual development of a child. The screen addiction is something like a moth rushing towards a blazing fire for sense gratification but later getting destroyed by it.
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