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Classes for Children

One’s wisdom and appreciation of beauty manifests through various forms of one’s culture. And the study of one’s cultural heritage leads to the appreciation of beauty and wisdom in life.
– Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Children classes provide spiritual and cultural orientation to children of the modern age. The classes help children understand the rich cultural heritage of India in keeping with the Vedic vision. These classes enable parents to raise children with a reverence for Indian culture, to create self-confidence and inspire children to serve and act cheerfully. The classes provide children an atmosphere to grow with noble ideals and fulfill their potential.

Character-building begins in childhood, but given the fast pace of life, the absence of the ancient gurukula system and the decline of joint family-living, children of Indian heritage are rarely exposed to the beauty and greatness of Indian culture. These classes offers a modern day alternative in which a loving teacher teach children what they ought to know in a fun way with the love of a parent, the doting of a grandparent and the discipline of a teacher.

One’s emotional maturity is influenced by many factors, including an understanding of values, of attitudes and of society in which one live. These classes help children understand the value of values like non injury, speaking the truth, compassion, sharing, humility, the absence of deception, the absence of jealousy, hatred and so on.

Children are introduced to the teachings of Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita. In teaching the universal philosophy of Oneness (Advaita Vedanta), children are led to understand that while Hindu culture may appear to have many Gods, the Truth (God) is the one ultimate Reality, and thus it is one God appearing as many forms, as all things, as beings, and as the entire universe.

Kumud Singhal did her PhD in Statistics from University of Waterloo, Canada in 1978 and worked at Bell Labs for many years. She has been a student of Vedanta for the last thirty years.
Dr. Kumud Singhal, has been conducting  classes for children for the last several years at her residence. There is no tuition fees except a registration fee of $51.

The weekly classes are open to children 4 years and above. The topics covered are given in the table below:

Topics Covered
Meditation/yoga
Leaning and Chanting of slokas/mantras
Value of Values (non-injury, truthfullness, … )
Stories from Panctantra, Ramayana, Mahabharata & Puranas
Introduction to Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita
Celebration of Indian Festivals (Shivaratri, Diwali, Holi, …)
About India (National Anthem, Gandhiji, …)
Devanagari Alphabets and basic Sanskrit
Stage Performance
Contact Information: ksinghal@ieee.org; 408-934-9747

Curriculum

Why I started Children classes?

I saw the benefits of the early exposure to the Vedantic/Gita teachings in my two daughters lives who are now married and have children of their own. I felt that a child’s mind is very impressionable. Teaching them importance of following basic moral values and the rich Hindu traditions and culture is a worthwhile undertaking.  Also I love children, have lot of patience with them and also have the right skills.

  • We start the class with simple yoga exercises and meditation and japa. This teaches children to relax and to focus their minds. by doing a mental japa of ओम् नमश्शिवाय. They are being  taught to bring the mind back to japa if it wanders off.
  • The children then chant slokas/mantras which they have learnt. New slokas are taught every month. I also explain pujavidhanam (how to do puja), purpose of puja and prayers etc.
  • Every month a new topic from Vedanta or Bhagavad Gita  is chosen for discussion like (1) Action and Reation (2) Unity in Diversity and (3) Value of Values. After the discussions, children write essays and present them to the whole class.
  • Time permitting we also read Stories from Panctantra, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.
  • Considerable time is spent in learning the Devanagari alphabets so that they can read the slokas .
  • The class ends with a little puja followed by prasadam.

At the end of the year children put up a stage performance for their family and friends. The guests of honor are Sri Vijay Kapoor and his wife Pammi Kapoor. The stage performance is followed by a lunch.

Brief overview of the program

Work books and some light homework are given to the children.

Reference

A set of Purna Vidya books on conducting children classes written by by Sri Dhira Chaitanya and Swamini Pramanandaji is a very good reference. The syllabus consists of 3 volumes in 12 parts. Volume 1, for children of ages 6 to 10, includes plays, games, and illustrations from the Ramayana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata. Vol. 2, for ages 11 to 14, has two types of books, text books for students and Guidelines for Teaching. It also has puja that covers values, Ishvara, religious disciplines, religious culture and Vedic knowledge. Vol. 3, addressing teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17, covers topics on the fourteen-fold Vedic knowledge, including Bhagavad Gita and contemporary teen issues. The program is accompanied by instructional chanting tapes. Please visit purnavidya.org for details.

Prayers

What is पूजा

पूजा is one of the most beautiful ways to bring out the devotee within oneself and establish a relationship with the Lord. पूजा is called कायिकम् कर्म, an action involving one’s limbs. It also includes speech and mental action in the form of chanting and thinking of the Lord.

In a physical form of worship, such as a पूजा, there is a greater field of expression of one’s devotion than it is possible in purely oral or mental forms of worship. The body, mind, and speech are all involved in a पूजा. The forms, colors, fragrances and sounds of the various items in worship arrest one’s mind and aid in invoking devotion in oneself.

A पूजा is performed in order to express one’s gratitude for all one has been given in one’s life. The very creation in which one is born is considered to be a gift of the Lord. The body-mind-sense complex is made of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water and earth which also constitute the creation. Through the sense perceptions backed by the mind one perceives the Lord’s vast creation and appreciates his glories.

Traditionally, a form of worship known as पञ्चोपाचा-पूजा, worship with five fold offering, is performed. This worship acknowledges the presence of the Lord and makes a simple offering of the five elements through a symbolic offering of puñpa, flowers; dhupa, incense; dipa, light; naivedya, food and gandha, sandalwood paste. (पुष्प धूप दीप नैवेद्य गन्ध). These objects represent the elements space, air, fire, water and earth, respectively.

Everything is God

There is only God but there are different manifestations.

Everything is a form, your language is a form, namaste is a form, your dress is a form. We give names to the different form

As you have to take specific medicines for specific ailments. Like that, you have specific prayers for specific occasions. If you have an eye problem, I can invoke God as a Devata presiding over eyes. When we need money we invoke God as a devi presiding over money (Laksmiji). For knowledge we worship God in the form of devi Sarasvati. Similarly when we start something new we want to be successful so we invoke God in form of Lord Ganesha to remove all the obstacles.

God is all knowledge. In a tiny tomato seed all knowledge is there that it will grow as a tomato plant not an apple tree. Where is this knowledge coming from? God manifests as
this knowledge.

Explanation of Prayers

कराग्रे (कर-अग्रे) वसते लक्ष्मीः कर-मध्ये सरस्वती । कर-मूले स्थिता गौरी प्रभाते कर-दर्शनम् ॥

On the forepart of your palm is Goddess Lakshmi in the middle of your palm is Goddess Sarasvati; on the base of your palm is Goddess Parvati. In this manner , look at your palm in the morning.
While looking at the palm, one invokes the Lord in form of various deities, thus sanctifying all the actions that will be done during the day. By acknowledging the Lord as the giver of the capacity to perform actions and as the giver of the fruits of these actions, one sanctifies action.

Different parts of the hand represent लक्ष्मी representing wealth, सरस्वती representing knowledge पार्वती representing power confidence and ability to do anything. They are not real persons sitting in heaven who will favor or punish you. Their beautiful forms are just created so it is easy for you to relate to them. In our life we need all the three of them. We need knowledge in form of good education, wealth in form of money to survive and various accomplishments to build confidence and ability to do any thing (power). So we need the blessings of all of them. Every thing in this world is first manifests, then it is sustained for some time and then it perishes. ब्रह्मा represents creation विष्णु represents sustenance and महेश represents power to do anything even destruction. For creation knowledge is needed so सरस्वती is the consort of ब्रह्मा, for sustenance wealth is needed and therefore लक्ष्मी is the consort of विष्णु, and for ability to do anything power is needed so पार्वती is the consort of महेश .

Each prayer had something to teach. For example सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः teaches to pray for the welfare of others rising above me and mine. भूमि नमस्कारः teaches to respect nature.

I have  prepared a prayer book for the children. The pdf is at  Prayer Book. The following video will help children with their chanting. </p>

Value of Values

Why should we speak the truth? (class discussion)

Physical growth is with reference to the body and takes place naturally with the passage of time. All life forms grow just as a seed grows into a plant and a kitten into cat. As humans, we have to grow emotionally and follow the universal values. Universal values like non injury, truthfulness, purity, friendship, love etc are values that do not change with place or time. They are values to be followed by all people at all times. We will discuss the value (importance) of these values and and what harm it does to us if we do not follow them.

Lets talk about the importance of speaking the Truth. Speaking the truth is easier, for one lie leads to another and soon becomes a long chain of lies, and then we do not feel good inside and are always scared that someone will find it out and then we will get into trouble.  A student does not come to school one day. His uncle and family were visiting, and they went to an amusement park. So the student decides to miss school and go with them. The next day in school this is what happens:

Student: Good morning Teacher
Teacher: Good morning, You were absent yesterday, what happened?
Student:: I was not well, teacher
Teacher: Oh! What happened?
Student: I had a temperature, teacher.
Teacher: Did you see a doctor?
Student: Yes teacher
Teacher: Are you taking medicines?
Student:  Yes I am , teacher

Speaking a lie causes an inner split between the thinker (one who knows that is lying) and the doer (one who lies). Also one lie leads to other lie.

Speaking the Truth  Essay by Aditi Garg

1. Don’t lie because you feel scared that you might get in trouble,
2. If you lie people will get mad at you and you get very sad.
3. When you lie to your parents, you always get caught.

Why I should not Lie  Essay by Anirudh

1. Lying makes you feel bad inside
2. Once you lie you will keep lying

Why I should not hurt anyone? (class discussion)

We should not physically hurt anyone including plants and animals. We do not want others to hurt us so we should also not hurt others. We should also not speak or hear bad about others because you do not want others to speak bad about you. Gandhiji who was called father of India was a great follower of truth and non-violence. He gave the following message to all of us.

India is our motherland, and unity is our strength,
Love, Peace and Equality, is my message to you,
Hear no evil, See no evil, speak no words untrue,
North, South, East or West, no matter where you stay,
Do the right thing, come what your way, do it day by day,
No ones high, no one is low, treat everyone as equals
No matter where you are born, in England, America or China
No matter where you worship, in church , mosque or temple
No matter what color your skin is, black, white or brown
No matter what language you speak, English, Hindi or Chinese
Let us all promise today,
We will be kind to everyone.

Why should I clean my room?

Keeping Your Room Clean essay by Aditi Garg
1. If you don’t clean your room you will trip on your toys.
2. If you clean your room you won’t trip on toys.
3. If your parents tell you to clean your room and you don’t
clean your room, your parents will be mad at you.

Why should I keep my room clean?  essay by Anirudh
1. It is important to keep your room clean.
2. If your room is messy it is hard to find things.
3. If your room is neat it will look nice.
4. If your room is clean your mom and dad will not keep telling you to keep your room clean.
5. When your room is messy you might lose something.

Vedanta

Topics of Discussion

Law of Karma (class discussion)

Unlike animals we have a FREE WILL meaning we have a freedom of choice either to perform a good action or a wrong action. When We perform a good action (like helping others, not hurting anyone, …), we collect good points. When we perform bad actions (like not helping others, hurting others physically, saying bad words etc), we collect bad points. Good points results in pleasant situations and bad points result in unpleasant situations in life.

Action and reaction

When we perform any action we always expect a result. The result of any action can by of three types:

  1. More of what you expected (very happy)
  2. As expected (happy)
  3. Less of what you expected (very sad)

In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krshna teaches:

When doing action you have a choice, so you should

  1. Do the RIGHT action
  2. Do it as best as you can

You have no control over the results of your action, so you should

  1. Accept the results with equanimity (sameness of mind)
  2. Accept the results gracefully as Prasada from me (God)

Everything is God

There is only God but there are different manifestations.

Everything is a form, your language is a form, namaste is a form, your dress is a form. We give names to the different form

As you have to take specific medicines for specific ailments. Like that, you have specific prayers for specific occasions. If you have an eye problem, I can invoke God as a Devata presiding over eyes. When we need money we invoke God as a devi presiding over money (Laksmiji). For knowledge we worship God in the form of devi Sarasvati. Similarly when we start something new we want to be successful so we invoke God in form of Lord Ganesha to remove all th obstacles.

God is all knowledge. In a tiny tomato seed all knowledge is there that it will grow as a tomato plant not an apple tree. Where is this knowledge coming from? God manifests as
this knowledge.

Meaning of the verse ॐ पूर्णमदः  पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते ।  पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥  ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

The above verse is from  the Shanti Pata (शान्ति पाठः)  of the Ishavasyapanshad  (ईशावास्योपनिषद्) from Yajurveda.

A very wise person had once said that let all the Upanishads disappear from the face of the earth – I don’t mind so long as this one verse remains. The complete teachings of the Upanishads is summarized in this verse alone. Let me first tell you about a conversation between an English man and a Pandita in India.

English man: Namaskar Punditji!   I have come all the way from London to learn from you about Hindu Scriptures.  I have heard they are very profound and teach us about God.

Pundita:   Please take a seat. Alright I will teach. Traditionally with new students we begin the course of study with Ishavasyapanshad. The text begins with the prayer verse. The pundit recites the verse

ॐ पूर्णमदः  पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते ।  पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥  ॥ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Now I will explain to you the meaning of this verse. Purna means whole and the verse means:

That is whole This is whole;

From that whole this whole came;

From that whole, this whole removed;

What remains is whole

Englishman : This sounds more like a doughnut hole! This is all rubbish. This is utter nonsense!  Upaninishads are just the babbling of a childish mind.   We do not want to study any further.

The Englishmen is wrong! This verse is indeed very profound. I will now explain to you the meaning of this verse using the example of gold and necklace.

पूर्णम्  means completeness/fullness

पूर्णम्  अदः –  completeness is that (Gold is complete; that stands for Gold)

पूर्णम् इदम्  –  completeness is this (necklace is complete as it is also Gold; this stands for necklace)

पूर्णात् पूर्णम् उदच्यते  – from completeness completeness comes forth (necklace which is complete as it is also Gold manifests from Gold which is complete)

पूर्णस्य  पूर्णम आदाय   – taking away completeness from completeness or adding completeness to completeness.(taking necklace away from Gold or adding another necklace to the Gold)

पूर्णम्  एव अवशिष्यते completeness  alone remains (Only Gold remains)  This verse explains that  complete, Nothing limits me, I am God; which is fullness.

Necklace is nothing but gold. It manifests from gold, has a form and name and a purpose to fulfill (ie decorate the neck) necklace is given to it. When melted it will be gold again.  Neckance knowing it is gold does not mind its limited form.   Similarly   I  the जीव am पूर्णम्, complete and full, Nothing limits me, I am God; which is fullness.

Meaning of the Mahavakya  तत् त्वम् असि

Mahavakayas are very important statements from the Upanishaads that reveal the fundamental reality of life which is unity or oneness. tat tvam asi  is from the Candogya UpaniShad of the Samaveda.

tat   means that and stands for God , meaning everything known and unknown.

tvam means you a person, an animal , a plant, or any object.

asi   means are establishes the identity between  tat and tvam

so tat tvam means means You are That (God)

To explain it further, let us imagine a city made of Gold. Mountains, rivers, trees, flowers, animals, everything is made of gold. All the golden jewellery are like people, they can think, they can talk. Welcome to the City of Gold.  The ring, necklace, bangles, etc. are having the following conversation in a jewellery store.

Ring: Oh  I am just a little ring!  I am so tiny and insignificant. Nobody even notices me. I am always hidden under a glove in winters. The bangles make so much noise and the necklace is so pretty with all diamonds and rubies on it.  Everyone likes them more. I do not have I am very sad and unhappy. I definitely will be very happy when I become a bangle or a necklace.

Ear-ring:  I also do not like being a ear-ring.  The boys only wear one. I wish they also have 10 holes on each ear and wear me. Then I will be more in demand and everyone will notice me and that will make me very happy. I also wish I am more visible and they do not cover me with their hair.

The necklace was sitting alone by herself. She looked very sad. The ring, bangle and ear-ring go to her and ask her

Ring: : Hey Necklace….. why are you so sad?

Bangle: Yea why are you so sad?

Necklace:  You know I am very afraid and scared. I have been here for a long time and soon I will be melted back into gold I  be no more. Oh! What shall I do. I do not want to be melted. What will happen to my baby necklaces! I want to live more.

All the jewellery people  are very unhappy and sad.  Some are jealous, some wanted to  be different, not happy with what they are. They are like us humans. They all have problems. Here comes along a wise toe-ring from India, very calm and happy with a big smile on her face.

Toe-ring: Hey guys ! you all look so sad and gloomy. There is no reason to be sad and unhappy. Ring! Your are not tiny and insignificant!  only your form is tiny. You are the unlimited Gold which includes all forms; and you necklace once melted—– only the form necklace will cease to exist ; but you will exist as Gold.  You have always existed as Gold.  You are not the form. The form is You are Gold the truth, the satyam. So all of you cheer up…..You are all Gold.

Unity in Diversity

There are bangles, there are chains
There are rings, there are ear-rings
They have different forms
They have different names
but all are made of GOLD
When melted they become GOLD again.

There are desks, there are doors
There are tables, there are chairs
They have different forms
They have different names
but all are made of WOOD
When broken they become WOOD again.

There are jeans, there are skirts
There are shorts, there are shirts
They have different forms
They have different names
but all are made of FABRIC
When torn they become FABRIC again.

There is Aditi, there is Roopal
There is Vishnu, there is Pranav
We are different yet we are the same
There is unity in diversity
SO
we love each other
Be kind to each other
Not be jealous of others
THEN
We feel good inside
We feel happy inside

The true nature of Ocean and Wave

I am gong to tell you the real nature of ocean and the wave. Ocean is nothing but water H2O. There are two different elements in a water molecule. It is composed of 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. An atom has a nucleus composed of protons neutrons and electrons. Protons are composed of quarks Electrons consists of negative ions and so. If you keep on breaking it further you will come to the conclusion that ocean just exits (*existence*) which is termed as complete, fullness, सत् चित् आनन्द ।

What is a wave? Wave is nothing but water. By similar analysis of water done previously wave is also *pure existence* सत् चित् आनन्द। There are two things about the wave I want to tell.
• Wave manifests, stays for a while and then perishes. It will manifests again stay and then perish. This process goes on. It is cyclic
• Wave manifests because of certain laws of thermodynamics.

The example though not a perfect, explains the nature of Brahman, Creation, Maya and Ishvara. The creation appears because of maya (माया) and laws (knowledge, law of karma, etc) called Ishvara ईश्वर creation appears. Creation is like a magic show where a rabbit comes out from the hat. It seems real but it is an illusion. Similarly this creation appears to be real due to माया but in fact it is मिथ्या. Creation is nothing but different forms and names given to those forms, but when analyzed in detail, then every thing is just pure existence.

We are proud of who we are

He is tall, She is short,
He is fat, She is thin
He has black eyes, She has brown eyes
He has black hair, She has blonde hair
He has dark skin, She has fair skin
He was born in India, She is born in America
He comes from China, She comes from London
SO WHAT? SO WHAT?
We should be proud of who we are
And love others as they are
We enjoy what we do
We try our best Sometimes
We do not get what we want
That is OK too!
This is a wonderful world to live in.
We should have respect for everything.
We should NEVER hurt anybody on purpose.

Nithya read an essay on * गुरु-शिष्य परम्परा* with some help from me

Kumud Auntie is teaching a lot of good stuff to us which she learnt for her teacher and her teacher learnt from their teachers and so on. This good stuff was always there and our ancient teachers meditated, contemplated and understood it. The following verse describe this teaching tradition.

सदाशिवसमारम्भां शङ्कराचार्यमध्यमाम् । अस्मदाचार्य पर्यन्तां वन्दे गुरुपरम्पराम् ॥
Meaning I salute the lineage of teachers, beginning with Shiva, the Lord, (linked by) Sankaracarya in the middle, and extending down to my own teacher.

Latter the the good stuff was summarized in four Vedas. The first section of the Veda is called the Karma Kanda where various rituals are described. The last section of Veda, Vendata consists of body of language and are called Upanishads . They explain what is God, Who am I and what is my relation ship with God.

All regions teach us that we should follow the basic universal values of not hurting anyone being honest and kind etc. Religions like Christianity and Islams have a prophet and have a notion of heaven and hell. They are faith based believing there is some God sitting in heaven who punishes and favors you. There is no logic to it. Hindu religion on the other hand which ascribes that *There is nothing but God and you are that God. You alone are responsible of your current life, heaven and hell are your pleasant and unpleasant situations in life. The belief that Hindu has many Gods and worship idols is baseless. In Hinduism there is only God and I am that God. The idol forms are symbolic so that we can relate and understand God and myself.

Books

Books available on Internet

We have selected books covering (i) Hindu Gods & Goddesses (ii) Yoga & prayers (iii) Hindu festivals (iv) Ramayana , Mahabharata & Puranic stories (v) Panchatantra moral & other stories (vi) Value education (vii) About India (viii) Activity & coloring and (ix) Frequently asked questions by children.

These books were selected after an extensive search on the internet. The books were chosen from well know publishing houses like Chinmaya Mission, Ramkrishna Math, Kitaab, Bharat babies, etc and well known Indian children authors. This primary selection is based on books which had good reviews on the internet. We will order many of these books, go through them, paying special attention on the content, presentation of the material, looks and feel etc. We will then decide which books to recommend.

Stories Links

Books by Kumud Singhal

Learn Hindi and Sanskrit

Hindi

Sanskrit

वर्णमाला – गीतम्
Vedika: Sanskrit Rhymes – 1 (वर्णमाला-गीतम् १)
Vedika: Sanskrit Rhymes – 2 (वर्णमाला-गीतम् २)
Vedika: Sanskrit Rhymes – 3 (संख्याः)
Vedika: Sanskrit Rhymes – 4 (वर्णाः)
Vedika: Sanskrit Rhymes – 5 (पशवः १)