Our Children, Our Future: The chinmaya Way is a tribute to Gurudev’s vision for today’s children and the generations still to emerge from the embryo of time.
Love is the key that unlocks hearts. Gurudev presented this wondrous key to unlock a world of learning interlaced with fun and laughter Bala Vihar.
Our Children, Our Future offers a panoramic understanding of:
• What is the vision of Bala Vihar?
• Why did Gurudev emphasize ideals for children?
• How is the knowledge imparted?
• In what ways did Bala Vihar achieve its worldwide reach?
• What is the impact and benefit of the Bala Vihar experience?
Shanti, a representative sevika and her daughter in aw shraddha together seek to fathom the magical reach of Bala vihar charting is growth from baby step to a giant movement. Seasoned sevaks as also new comers to Bala Vihar may find response in their sentiments experiences and reflections.
Acaryas of the Mission sevaks parents and children share their precious memories and nuggets of wisdom adding vitality humor and depth to these pages.
A person completes his education successfully, and is happy He gets a job, earns his first pay, and is very happy….. He gets married and is very, very happy! But the greatest joy comes when he is blessed with a child. Most married couples desire a child - a good child. 'Good' is meant to indicate a physically normal and intellectually healthy child who will be successful, gives joy to others, and does not cause any trouble to the parents. Children enter this world through a natural process, but to make them good children is a great responsibility.
If parents want the child to be good, they must do something about it. Nothing happens automatically. Other than rare saintly exceptions, children need support and guidance. To nurture children, help them reach their potential and become great is the primary responsibility and role of parents. But how good or great they become will depend on how they are groomed. That is the key. Of course, children are born with their own karma, but despite this, we can mold their present and shape their future.
In olden times, when children studied in gurukulas, the teacher did all the grooming. Later, in joint families, traditions were imbibed through a process of osmosis. Today, the gurukula system is no longer prevalent, and joint families are fading away. Everybody is busy. In this environment, the responsibility of spiritual organizations becomes greater. Being a part of society, they have certain obligations toward the well-being of its members.
What is Chinmaya Bala Vihar? It is a program for children between the ages of three and seventeen years, held once a week for one-and-a-half hours in different homes. In case of a large attendance, a school or community space is rented to hold the classes. Typically, a Bala Vihar class follows a certain structure. The first few minutes are devoted to prayer. Then the children sing bhajans or songs, after which they learn stories from our epics and are acquainted with inspiring historical figures. They learn about festivals and understand the symbolism behind Hindu gods. The class could comprise quizzes, puzzles, and games. It concludes with a prayer.
All the activities in a Bala Vihar class or camp are specially designed for children. The primary aim is to teach children to look at life as a game. Further, they must understand that even though life is viewed as a sport, every sport has rules, and discipline is important; just because it's a game, it does not mean we can skip the rules.
Arts and crafts, music, dance, and dramatics are taught at Bala Vihar camps. Children learn and are slowly inspired through all these activities. Often, many Indian parents living abroad worry, "How will our children learn about our culture and values?" In tact, Bala Vihar children invariably end up knowing more about the epics, sarnskaras festivals, and customs than their parents!
The purpose of Bala Vihar is to help children learn about values in an enjoyable atmosphere. Experience shows that children love attending Bala Vihar classes when teachers are good and teach well. Hence teaching should be in such a way that children effortlessly imbibe the knowledge: To shine like the sun, and to delight like the moon.
"Shining like the sun" means that children have to achieve brilliant success in their own lives. But their success - like the moon - must delight others, and elevate the mind. Success that makes everybody miserable is not success. Individual success is great, but it should not overwhelm others.
Look at Chinmaya Mission's mission statement. It says: To provide to everyone, from any background, the wisdom of Vedanta and the practical means for their spiritual growth and happiness, enabling them to become positive contributors to society.
Inherent in this mission statement are two factors: The first is our own growth, and the second is service to others. Therefore, right from childhood, Bala Vihar must ensure that these two objectives are fulfilled.
Bala Vihar helps children to grow. As a gardener helps to grow a plant by tending and nurturing it, we facilitate the growth of children through the various activities of Bala Vihar. One young lady told me, "The greatest gift that our parents gave us in our childhood was taking us to Chinmaya Bala Vihar."
Many children, having gone through Bala Vihar, have moved on to Yuva Kendra. We even have Acaryas in the Mission who have been with us right from Bala Vihar. So, the sevaks conducting Bala Vihar have to be clear about the vision behind the classes, their purpose, what to teach and how to teach it. It is not just about telling a story. It is about inculcating values. The story should flow effortlessly, almost as if the teacher has not taught, but the child has learned. The moral should come directly from the child.
For example, if we ask a child, "Do you love your birthday?" Most children would reply in the affirmative.
We can then ask, "Why do you love it?"
The child will answer, "Because of the gifts and the feeling of being special."
At this stage we can ask, "When you get a gift from someone, you say thank you to that person. Now suppose someone presents you a golden ring, then you say thank you, and feel very happy. But who gave you the finger and the hand?"
The child will say, “God!”
"Have you said 'thank you' to God?" we ask. The child will answer in the negative. Slowly, through this process, the perception of the children changes; they become aware that their bodies themselves are a wealth that they possess. More importantly, they realize that they can live without the ring and a host of other things, but not without the body. When their attention is captured, they are quick to understand, and then they themselves provide the answers.
Chinmaya Mission has created a formal syllabus to assist the sevaks and sevikas with ideas on running a Bala Vihar class. In addition, a huge volume of material, including CDs of bhajans and chanted Sanskrit slokas, and a wide variety of storybooks, is also available to supplement the syllabus. Our vision for Bala Vihar remains strong, and it is my very great wish that this program is replicated in all our mission centers.
In India, Chinmaya Mission has more than eighty schools (Chinmaya Vidyalayas) with the complete infrastructure of classrooms. These remain unused on Sundays. So, I suggest that every Sunday the school premises be used for Sunday Bala Vihar.
With dedicated parents, sevaks, and sevikas working together in growing facilities worldwide, the Bala Vihar program promises to make a difference in every child's life through the joyful teaching-learning process. I remember a beautiful statement made by the great Rabindranath Tagore:
The birth of every child shows that God has not lost faith in man yet, because God feels that this child is going to make the difference!
Who would have imagined that one thought in the mind of Pujya Gurudev, would in a short span of time, metamorphose into a magnificent movement with a worldwide presence? Our Children, Our Future - The Chinmaya Way is a tribute to this phenomenon - Bala Vihar.
A miracle has been and is unfolding before our very eyes. And writing about a miracle can only be another miracle. How this book happened is just that - a series of wonders. The placement of every word, thought and incident is here, because it was meant to be so; part of a design, which evolved. The content for the book, the photographs and the team that worked on it - all arrived when they had to, not before not after.
It came together as an offering of love from Bala Vihar beneficiaries - sevaks, parents and children. Their voices bring alive the glory of Gurudev's vision - our gratitude to them for their wholehearted participation.
Thousands of lives have been transformed through the experience of Bala Vihar. As a tribute to this wisdom, the five parts of the book, answer questions on different aspects of Bala Vihar: What? Why? How? When and Where? Who?
The book is offered at the feet of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda, through the hands of Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda.
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