Archive for the ‘enlightenment’ Category
If you have never read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, it is an inspiration for all of mankind. Dr. Frankl was a Jewish-Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who was interned at Auschwitz and Dachau. He survives (miraculously) and writes, from a psychologist’s perspective, about the role and hope, meaning, and happiness play in survival.
Reflecting on his book got me thinking about similar books for kids – books that speak of positivity and hope – guidelines, essentially, on how to be happy. Of course as parents, what we instinctively want most of all is for our kids to be happy. But how often is this goal actually discussed or demonstrated with kids?
Here are 2 of my recommendations:
Unstoppable Me!: 10 Ways to Soar Through Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer . Dr. Dyer presents 10 action points for kids and even has questions at the end of the book. This book is suitable for kids 5 and up.
I Think, I Am!: Teaching Kids the Power of Affirmations by Louise Hay is best for kids 8 and up. She presents a series of vignettes showing kids how to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.
Why do you celebrate Holi? What is Holi about?
Your kids will probably get asked these questions this week. If, like my kids, they are giddy with excitement in anticipation of the fabulous fun they will be having this weekend celebrating Holi with their Indian friends, it will be hard for them to contain their excitement in school. They will want to share, but they may hesitate if they are unsure about how to explain this holiday to their friends.
So make sure to arm them with an answer. (Of course at home, do recount the mythology and stories of Holi, but do prepare them with brief answer.)
Something simple is best – a short line such as, “We celebrate Holi to show that people of all colours are beautiful.” They can elaborate further: “We have a party with our family and friends and throw colours on each other. No matter what our skin, or hair, or clothes looked like in the beginning, by the end, we all look like rainbows.”
It’s a beautiful message, distilled so that Westerners can understand it. Isn’t this the message Krishna was sending when he started the colour spat with Radha?
Let’s spread the lessons of Holi this season – the world needs to hear it!
image available for purchase via Fine Art Ameria
In his book, The Fisher Kind and the Handless Maiden, Robert Johnson writes: “Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. Eskimos have 30 words for snow, because it is a life-and-death matter to them to have exact information about the element they live with so intimately. If we had a vocabulary of 30 words for love … we would immediately be richer and more intelligent in this human element so close to our heart. An Eskimo probably would die of clumsiness if he had only one word for snow; we are close to dying of loneliness because we have only one word for love. Of all the Western languages, English may be the most lacking when it comes to feeling.”
What are the many Sanskrit words for love? Here are a few we found on the web:
A story I read after the Women’s March struck me and inspired this post. It was a story about a Muslim woman in a restaurant near the Washington, DC area who was antagonistically approached by a man. The man fired “questions” at her about her hijab and her faith. The striking thing about this story is that there was a group of women at a nearby table, presumably fresh from the Women’s March as some were donning pussy hats, who observed what was going on – but remained silent.
So what was the point of the March? [Note: I fully support the March.]
This got me thinking about my own behaviours, and I came up with a list of 7 Calls to Action for myself – ways to model my behaviour. I share these with you today:
1. Speak Up. If you see someone being harassed or intimidated, don’t be a silent bystander. Speak up. The best way to do this is not to confront the bully, but to focus on the victim. In the restaurant scenario described above, the nearby women could have, perhaps, approached the Muslim woman and started to engage her in conversation – this would have effectively taken her adversary out of the equation. Also, don’t feel shy about voicing your perspective. I was once at a birthday party at which a parent was lamenting about too much Spanish being spoken in their local public school, and other parents in our conversation circle were nodding in agreement. I could have remained silent, but instead I piped in with a short, “I’d love my kids to learn more Spanish.” Sometimes, I feel, it helps to let it be known that not everyone in a group feels the same way.
2. Read. The best thing you can do for yourself and your children in our current environment is to READ. For yourself, read about history, perspectives, science – whatever interests you. Read books with your children about historical figures, injustices of the past, and stories of courage. Arm your family with knowledge so they have the power to handle themselves and to speak up for others.
3. Speak Your Language. As a follow-up to #1 above, don’t be afraid to speak your native language in public. Now is the time, more than ever, to demonstrate the diversity of the United States. A while back, at a dropoff for a class, a fellow mom (she was white) noticed I was speaking [Telugu] to my daughter and came up to me to say how she thought it was wonderful that I maintained my culture. People notice.
4. Wear Your Sari. Or your salwar, turban, bindi or other cultural attire or mark – at least more than twice a year. It’s easier to accept diversity when it’s seen. You are also modeling positive cultural practices for your children.
5. 20 Minutes a Day. In this politically charged climate, I struggle to restrain myself. As a politically-active attorney, it’s very difficult for me not to be consumed about the news. In times like these, I have to remind myself about dharma – right action – and that right now, it would be wrong of me to neglect my kids and my family. So I promised myself that I would limit my “political work” to 20 minutes a day. These 20 minutes are enough to call/message/write to Senators or Representatives, educate myself on certain calls to action, or to do a quick social media post. Conversely, if being politically active is new to you, now is a good time to put your Senators’ and Representative’s phone numbers in your contacts list and to make some calls.
6. Say Hello. It’s important to maintain civility and to promote friendliness at times like these. A simple friendly “hello” can open windows to perspective.
7. Smile. Because in the end, the light of truth will (eventually) prevail over darkness.
Image: “Rise above it” Fine Art Print by Amanda Cass. Available here…
Happy Republic Day! While August 15 is celebrated as India’s Independence Day, January 26 is the day India’s Constitution officially came into effect.
Vande Mataram is the National Song of India. Here is a beautiful rendition by The Voice India Kids:
The lyrics are a mix of Bengali and Sanskrit. Here are the lyrics of what is sung in the video:
And the translation (by Sri Aurobindo):
Mother, I bow to thee!
Kids: Let’s get down to business today. Can you name the 4 Vedas? The names of the 4 Vedas are definitely something you should know if Hinduism is a part of your life.
The Vedas are the most sacred scriptures of Hinduism. It is believed that they originated from Lord Brahma himself. They contain knowledge and insight by ancient sages as to many deep philosophical questions – such as Who are we? and Why are we here? – that humans have been wondering since the dawn of mankind.
No one knows exactly how old the Vedas are. For many, many years the Vedas existed as shruti (oral literature) – so they were passed down orally. Experts believe that, starting with the Rig Veda, the Vedas began to be written down (in Sanskrit) by about 1200 BCE – making the Rig Veda one of the oldest texts in any Indo-European language!
There is a lot to learn about the Vedas, but today we’ll just focus on knowing the names of the 4 Vedas and being able to describe a little about each of the Vedas.
1. Rig Veda
The oldest of the Vedas, the Rig Veda is a Veda of praise. It contains several hymns that praise a number of Hindu gods. The all-important Gayatri Mantra is in the Rig Veda.
2. Sama Veda
Think of the Sama Veda as a partner of the Rig Veda: It is simply a collection of samans (chants). These chants are derived from a part of the Rig Veda. The Sama Veda contains strict instructions for priests as to how each chant is to be sung, with very detailed guides for pronunciation and sound of each word!
3. Yajur Veda
While the Sama Veda focuses on chants, the Yajur Veda focuses on rituals. It offers formulas to be said by a priest while a person is performing a ritual action before yagna (sacred fire).
4. Atharva Veda
The Atharva Veda is different from the other 3 Vedas. Its language is simpler, and its verses touch upon more diverse subjects. The Atharva Veda also contains knowledge on medicines. In fact, it is one of the first texts to record uses of antibiotics!
Ready to quiz yourself?
Those brass temple bells – aren’t they a sight for the eyes? But did you know that they serve a specific purpose? Not surprisingly, the ancients came up with precise compositions of metals with the intent to produce a distinct sound – a sound that was to last for exactly 7 seconds to touch the 7 chakras of the body! Amazing!
Check out this video:
Symbolically, bells are a symbol of the gap between the sky and the earth. Hindus ring hanging bells prior to entering a shrine. They are essentially “announcing themselves” for worship.
A beautiful, modern home mandir with hanging bells:
Beautiful doors as entry to a prayer room:
If there is one DVD about Indian culture that you should have in you home library, its Raga Unveiled. It is perhaps the most concise, cohesive, and comprehensive explanation of the Raga system available today.
Indian classical music – and the Raga system in particular – is something that needs to be understood in order to be appreciated. Ragas are considered to be alive and are in fact rooted in centuries-old scientific principles.
If you invest the time in watching this 2 DVD set, you will be well-equipped to appreciate the nuances of one of India’s greatest gifts to humanity…
More information on the Raga Unveiled website here…
You can watch the trailer:
It seems that whites feel that they now have political license to speak their minds against minorities. Well, surprise, minorities are allowed to have an opinion on whites – and it’s not always one of admiration or fear. Here’s my rant – in the context of what’s considered a quintessential “American” holiday.
I’m not shy about telling people that my family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I usually just get a puzzled stare in return. If pressed, I answer with a, “Well, my family is vegetarian…,” and I leave it at that.
Which is true. We’ve been vacationing out of the country for the past few Thanksgivings, but if we are in town and get together with family, our dinner spreads usually consist of various derivations of sambar and rice. However, for me at least, there are other reasons why I don’t feel Thanksgiving is worthy of celebration. Reasons which, in this year – the Year of Trump – have ripened into an actual hatred for the holiday.
I proudly served as an attorney for the Oneida Indian Nation in New York for several years. I have read a lot about the holiday. To me, Thanksgiving represents a sort of “original sin” of White Europeans. It’s a sin of a failure to process perspective. The notion that whites can descend upon foreign lands and claim them as their birthright is perhaps one of history’s most apocalyptic failures of perspective. Of course, at the time of the “first Thanksgiving” the story was not yet one of conquerors and conquerees, but the deafening aftermath of what ensued certainly germinated from the seeds that were sown during this time. No one really talks about this aftermath – it’s not a very pretty picture and doesn’t sync with the fairytale still pushed on many schoolchildren today.
I come from a country that was exploited by the British (and the French…and the Portuguese…) for over 200 years. The same breed of White Europeans who maliciously massacred shameful numbers of Native Americans and had the brilliance to count African slaves as 3/5 of a person stole not only jewels and tangible riches from my country, but also the dignity and freedom of my people. They cunningly pitted factions of religious groups against each other and tauntingly left us with a bloody partition on their way out.
These are old wounds. Forgive and move on. Sure, I can do that. I have a fair number of British friends, and I don’t hold them accountable for what happened in the past. At the same time, I won’t glorify any lingering legacy of British rule. I teach my children that eating rice with your hands is no “less dignified” than eating with a spoon, and that lungis and dhotis are just as “civilized” as trousers.
Thanksgiving is just a day to be with your family and to be thankful. Is this why schoolchildren are made to craft paper pilgrim hats and “Indian” headdresses and to re-enact the “first Thanksgiving?” Is this why there is not even a whisper of what really happened during this time? Does anyone ask kids: did the white people have the right to do what they did?
Even in diverse Southern California, I watched in abject frustration as my daughter, who attended an exclusive private school for 3 years, was subjected to these myopic perspectives of Thanksgiving. The first year, her naïve (albeit well-intentioned) teacher did have the class make those paper pilgrim hats and “Indian” headdresses. When my daughter came home (with her “Indian” headdress, of course), I simply had a chat with her: my version of Native American history for a 5-year-old. (The school also holds an annual campus-wide Thanksgiving feast, to which I never had my daughter attend. I politely told them our family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving for political reasons, and anyway, they repeatedly ignored my requests to have a vegetarian meal option.)
The next year, the kindergarten teachers huddled and decided that somehow it was appropriate to have 5-and-6-year-olds sit in class and, in an exercise of learning the ins and outs of explanatory paragraphs, write about “How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey.” Again, I’m sure they meant well, but the anthology of writings my daughter brought home soured my first two days in Mexico. The kids had taken the writing exercise quite literally and wrote about chopping off turkeys’ heads and feet, plucking feathers, and other gruesome details. The thought of my daughter, coming from a vegetarian household, having to sit in class and to think about how to kill and cook a turkey made me livid. They could have accomplished the same goal with mashed potatoes. I did not hold back my wrath with either the teacher or the school administration Monday morning. They assured me it wouldn’t happen again.
Failure of perspective.
The educational indoctrination of the Thanksgiving fairytale may at the surface seem harmless. But implicit in the Thanksgiving story is a validation that the whites had the right to come and conquer in the first place – and hardly anyone is pausing to think otherwise. Schoolkids, especially in rural America, are not taught the humility that the Earth is not theirs for the taking – an ideology which, ironically, is a central tenant for many Native Americans. The result is that you have vast swathes of whites stuck in the mentality of colonial America. These whites have taken it upon themselves to define and to set the platform for “American values,” and they are now claiming America as their own – as their “God-given right.”
Failure of perspective.
So no, I will not forget this past and celebrate this day of “original sin.” I cannot. It is my Gandhian protest against the residual vices left over from colonialists and conquerors. Besides, in our house, we don’t need a day to be thankful. We are thankful every day. I swell with pride when my son hugs and thanks me for making the family a healthy meal and when my daughter rejects an offer from her grandmother for a $100+ American Girl doll, telling her that she has what she needs. In our house, we do not pay lip service to “being thankful” only to march out the door less than 12 hours later to partake in the biggest, most hedonistic displays of American consumerism the likes of which parallel none in the world. No. In our house, being thankful and being grateful for what we have is simply a part of our daily Hindu life. Besides, having a “day” for thanks (or any of the other card holidays for that matter) is an intrinsically white, Western construct.
I encourage everyone to discuss perspectives of history with their children. They are not too young to understand. If your child’s teacher or school is perpetuating perspectives or myths that are inaccurate – be it about Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, or histories in other countries, speak up and lead by example. Let your perspective be heard.
The consistent, sanctioned, and institutionalized failure to raise and consider perspectives in history is what led to a Trump presidency. America is not for the whites. It never has been.
It just doesn’t seem fair – toxic Holi colors, pollution of water bodies from too many Ganesh Visarjans, and now this: dangerous levels of air pollution due to too many firecrackers.
It’s no joke. We’re talking Particulate Matter (coarse particles) at over 1,600 micrograms per cubic meter – that’s 16x the safe level of 100 micrograms.
Above is a picture taken in Delhi this past Monday morning.
What’s the solution? See if your kids can come up with some ideas – it’s a interesting “thinking” question.