Points to Ponder

To a practicing ‘mild’ Hindu in our country, modernity presents multifarious challenges. South Africa, being a rainbow nation, is particularly, in a unique position, where society with diverse races and religious beliefs, is trying to balance tumultuous lifestyle changes with the traditional family values. How problematic ‘parenting’ can actually be is anybody’s guess.

The present Post is reproduced from a booklet on ‘Parenting – A Hindu Perspective’, containing articles on many interesting Hindu ideas on parenting skills. It was freely distributed to the delegates who attended a seminar hosted by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville in commemoration of Holy Mother’s 156th birth anniversary celebration at KZN University on Sunday, 13 December 2009. It was a great success with 500 delegates from even distant places attending with enthusiasm. I was given the honour of releasing this booklet on that important occasion. My grateful thanks to Sister Pravrajika Ishtaprana mataji.

Healthy balance?

First let us see the dynamics of parenting with regard to individuals who constitute a ‘family’. The adults in very many cases make themselves the focal point of their attention. Parents who are prisoners of their own predilections such as careers, extra-marital relationships, or just in their own heads all of the time, often have lonely, depressed children who doubt their parents’ love and affection.  Studies have already shown a very high percentage of teens experimenting with drugs and alcohol are from homes where the parents are too self-absorbed to notice or to pay attention to what is happening with their own kids.

On the other hand, let us consider the sacrificing parents whose uppermost aim is the greater good of the family. This dynamics becomes the breeding ground to resentments and underlying tensions found in most households. In their enthusiasm, the adults often give up their dream jobs, drop out of higher education, or stop having a social life outside of the family. Because, at some point along the way, it perfectly seemed to provide the probable answer to some predicament. For whatever reason, there is no time, energy, or money left for the adults even to visit temples and ashrams when all is said and done. The parents unwittingly try to become martyrs to their kids or ‘The Family’.  Indeed, It is very difficult for the parents to find a healthy balance between these two extremes.

Inter-connect disrupted?

Take another scenario. How many times we hear that the children should always come first – at any cost. Well, this has too a negative effect. Children who are raised to be the blue-eyed favorites, grow up to be adults with a firm belief that they have a rightful place as the center of everyone else’s universe too. Is it fair to teach the children that they are more important than everyone else?  Don’t they become self-esteemed monsters and bullies? The world out there is going to teach them a very different lesson. People will not like them no matter how special Mommy and Daddy think they are. What is at stake here is everyone is equal in regards to needs, hopes, dreams, responsibilities, and other aspects of getting along in the world. Madhu’s need to jump, run and play is in no way less than Mommy’s need for mental peace.

Now what happens when families start focusing on each individual’s needs, schedules, etc.? Parents are busy conducting their own lives while the teenagers are living independent lives – dropping by the house to eat and sleep, communicating only through emails or cellphones. And lo! the little ones are so busy with soccer leagues and music lessons and play ‘dates’ with their friends that they have no real sense of what family is all about. Everyone is happy, busy, flourishing individuals, but ‘The Family’ as a unit has almost completely disappeared; the inter-connection among the members of the family is absolutely lost!

Safe and Secure?

Is there any remedy? In comes the Hindu perspective of parenting. Though copious examples can be quoted from the vast scriptural literature, I would in brief, like to stress on the first three verses of the glorious Gita as contained in Chapter 16. These verses give us a behavioral dictum that can make every member of the family enriched with the necessary tools to face the challenge of about-turn modernity versus abiding old values.

Bhagawan Sri Krishna enumerates a total of 26 noble qualities (see box) that can lead each and every one of us to be a responsible citizen of the society. The spiritual view of parenting includes not only the elaborate preparation of wedding, giving birth to children but also the manner in which the children are brought up. Children start learning from the womb. It is essential that would-be-parents adapt their life as per the 26 noble qualities. Then only they would be able to transmit them to their children. These three verses should be read on a daily basis by both parents and children and be given to byheart. Children learn by example, therefore the role of parents is vitally important in their upbringing. A home that radiates love and warmth will automatically make children feel safe and secure.

Pray and stay?

I have seen some parents very reluctant to talk certain religious subjects and make the children feel that these topics are taboo! Healthy discussions amongst children and parents should be the keynote to every family life. Collective living-in should be cultivated and to begin with, a common daily prayer is of utmost importance in every household: A family that prays together stays together as they say.

Parents as devotees of the Ashram must ensure that children take note of the activities and allow their children to be familiar with them. They should be encouraged to assist adults in providing meals, clothing, gifts, medical help, etc to the less privileged. A feeling of compassion with humility, and at the same time an overwhelming sense of joy in serving the poor will contribute to the furtherance of the social fabric that will ultimately lead to universal love.

It is the duty of parents to present a bright and shining example of a morally well-balanced and spiritual living to pave the way for their children to follow.


The 26 divine qualities that should be cultivated by every one:
sri-bhagavan uvaca
abhayam sattva-samsuddhir jnana-yoga-vyavasthitih |
danam damas ca yajnas ca svadhyayas tapa arjavam ||
ahimsa satyam akrodhas tyagah shantir apaisunam |
daya bhutesvaloluptvam mardavam hrir acapalam ||
tejah ksama dhrtih shaucam adroho nati-manita |
bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijatasya bharata ||

“The Lord said:
1 – Fearlessness;
2 – purification of one’s existence;
3 – cultivation of spiritual knowledge;
4 – charity;
5 – self-control;
6 – performance of sacrifice;
7 – self-study;
8 – austerity;
9 – simplicity;
10 – non-violence;
11 – truthfulness;
12 – free from anger;
13 – renunciation;
14 – tranquillity;
15 – not fault-finding;
16 – compassion for all living beings;
17 – free from covetousness;
18 – gentleness;
19 – modesty;
20 – steady determination;
21 – vigour;
22 – forgiveness;
23 – fortitude;
24 – cleanliness; 
25 – free from envy and
26 – free from the passion for honor —
these divine qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.”


A Saner Seminar – Part 2

Continued from previous post…..

Parenting – A Hindu Perspective

Ramola and Sravanthi
Ramola and Sravanthi

Ramola and Sravanthi as guest writers sent me a Report on the Seminar that had the above theme as title and hosted by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville in commemoration of Holy Mother’s 156th birth anniversary celebration at KZN University on Sunday, 13 December 2009. It was a great success with 500 delegates from even distant places attending with enthusiasm. Photos courtesy: Lushen Pillay and Jaya Ramjogi. The 1st Part was posted on 1st Jan, 2010. Here is the 2nd Part!


Rows of neatly laid chairs that were covered with white chair covers. The tables draped with white tablecloths and red and gold overlays
During the tea recess the delegates were lovingly ushered from the lecture room, T1, to the dining area in the ground floor foyer to partake of sumptuous refreshments. Upon entering the dining area they were welcomed with smiling faces of the members of the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, who stood before rows of neatly laid chairs that were covered with white chair covers. The tables draped with white tablecloths and red and gold overlays were laden with delicious snacks, tea, coffee and juices, much to the delight of all. The dining area was further sanctified by the holy presence of Monks and Nuns of the Ramakrishna Order who also partook of refreshments here. The ambiance of the venue was further enhanced with the ladies of the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram in their uniform saris and the men in their red and white attire.

Ms Raisha Singh presenting her paper

After refreshments, the second paper was presented by Ms Raisha Singh, Campus Manager, Mnambithi FET College. In presenting her topic ‘Challenges of Parenting’, Ms Singh discussed in detail the various challenges facing parents today. Her description of the growth of a child with the simile of a young plant was apt. To grow into a healthy tree which will provide shade to many, the plant must be carefully nurtured with sufficient water, sunlight, nutrients and love. She also discussed current social concerns like rebellious children, suicide, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and peer pressure. Methods subscribed in coping with these concerns included providing a stable environment in the home which will ensure emotional security, effective and frank communication with children, encouraging attendance at religious institutions, exposure to the finer sides of life like art and music, and lovingly disciplining children.

Thereafter Sri Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj, President, Ramakrishna Centre of SA, released a booklet on ‘Parenting – A Hindu Perspective’, containing articles by the speakers as well as many interesting ideas on parenting skills. It was freely distributed to the delegates who attended the seminar.

Swami Vimokshanandaji releasing the booklet...

While releasing the booklet Swami Vimokshanandaji drew the attention of the audience to a normally forgotten point that parenting begins with the mutual desire of the parents to have a child and not necessarily only with the birth of a baby. He highlighted the value of prayer and a religious ambience to direct the pre-natal influence of the parents on the child. He also cited from our scriptures giving the incidents of Sita in sage Valmiki’s ashram when Lava and Kusha were still unborn and saint-child Prahlad’s mother at sage Narada’s ashram. Maharaj described the need for providing sincere appreciation and love to children as incentives for their healthy growth. He also stressed the importance of religious education to strengthen character and personality.

Dr H B Parbhoo presenting his paper...

The third paper was delivered by Dr HB Parbhoo, a leading medical practitioner as well as the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Centre of SA. He addressed the issue of ‘Cultivating Harmonious Domestic and Social Skills in the Family’ in a remarkable way. Dr Parbhoo spoke about the traditional Hindu home as being one of warmth and hospitality. Family members were united in a circle of love extending to include grandparents, in-laws and one’s community. This was contrasted with the modern family of today where nuclear families exist in isolation with individualisation of the family members and marginalisation of the elderly. Another pertinent issue he discussed was that of the difficulties that children experience in overcoming the influence of friends and following the right path. He quoted an excerpt from the life of Mahatma Gandhi, dealing with peer pressure. Dr Parbhoo stressed the importance of having appropriate role models, like Swami Vivekananda, as children by nature are hero-worshippers and would otherwise look to morally bereft celebrities to idolise. Dr Parbhoo emphasised the importance of belonging to a religious organisation as it encourages one to broaden one’s horizons and the selfish circle of one’s own immediate family interests, and reach out to others. He extensively quoted from Swami Vivekananda and concluded that the home setting needs to be a spiritual one.

Pravrajika Divyanandaprana mataji presenting her paper...

The final speaker, Pravrajika Divyanandaprana Mataji, a nun of the Sri Sarada Math, Dakshineshwar, near Kolkata, India, delivered a paper on ‘Swami Vivekananda’s ideas on Youth Development’. Analysing development according to Swamiji, the Mataji proceeded step by step to uncover the roots of human identity. Man’s identity, she declared, is rooted in his ancestry and anchored in his immediate family. She eloquently compared the parent to a bow and the child to an arrow and said it was the stability and direction of the bow that determined the direction the arrow would take. Further entering the mind of a child, Mataji showed the importance of inculcating proper cultural values and religious education in the sensitive mind of children, drawing appropriate examples from Indian history.

The Director of Ceremonies, Ms Prakashnee Gengan, extending a Vote of Thanks...

Divyanandaprana mataji also touched upon the conditioning power of love, an inspired self-image and a dynamic work culture that the growing mind requires for character development. However human personality rests on the core truth of man’s inner Being called the Atman in Hindu philosophy. Dwelling on this, Mataji explored the role of the spiritual quotient in balancing the other aspects of the personality namely Intelligent Quotient and Emotional Quotient and how ultimately the SQ was the saving factor. In essence, it was an exemplary paper that exhaustively summarised the eternal principles of Hinduism in creating an enlightened society as envisioned by Swami Vivekananda.

Pravrajika Ishtaprana mataji doing closing prayers...

A question and answer session was conducted immediately after the presentation of each paper. These were efficiently and appropriately handled by the speakers. The Director of Ceremonies, Ms Prakashnee Gengan, extended a Vote of Thanks. The programme concluded with closing prayer led by Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji.

The Seminar helped to awaken the consciousness of the thinking community in upholding values in order to create a stable, secure and cultured social set-up. All the delegates were served lunch at the conclusion of the seminar.

The Ashram’s ‘Vedanta Bookshop’ sold books covering a wide range of subjects including Vedanta, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita and Tirrukural, Meditation and Children’s books.

'Vedanta Bookshop' selling books on Hinduism....


For more photos of the Seminar please see the below slideshow.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

A Saner Seminar – Part 1

Digital Image Courtesy: Dr S Adhinarayanan, India

A very happy New Year to every one of you! May this Kalpataru Day bring you all blessings!

Parenting – A Hindu Perspective

Ramola and Sravanthi
Ramola and Sravanthi
Ramola and Sravanthi as guest writers sent me a Report on the Seminar that had the above theme as title and hosted by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville in commemoration of Holy Mother’s 156th birth anniversary celebration at KZN University on Sunday, 13 December 2009. It was a great success with 500 delegates from even distant places attending with enthusiasm. Photos courtesy: Lushen Pillay and Jaya Ramjogi

Seminars were never a favourite for me as the few that I was forced to attend turned out to be fantastically tiresome! Oh! how the speakers prominently called ‘panelists’, continue to inflict pain on the disinterested listeners by holding their documents on the lectern and proceed with reading in their scholarly dry and drab tone without the much needed eye-contact! I realized that perhaps, I needed a change in my hard held opinion when I unwittingly was made to participate in a Seminar on Sunday, 13 December 2009.

A view of the audience

This Seminar held in order to commemorate the 156th birth anniversary of the Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi was different; not only it provided a refreshing experience but also proved a treat to thoughtful minds. ‘Parenting – A Hindu Perspective’ was the theme entirely relevant to the modern Hindu practitioners of SA. So, dear visitors! I am happy to present here a Report, faithfully recorded by two youth members of SSDA – Ramola and Sravanthi – for the benefit of all those who could not attend the Seminar. The welcome, the decoration, the orderliness, the spic and span look, and even the drawing of OM on the background, not to mention the dining space – everything was laced with artistic patterns!

Volunteers with matajis - the guiding spirits...

My and other Swamis’ along with many of those attendees’ deep appreciation go to the devotee-volunteers who worked tirelessly as part of their Karmayoga for the success of the Seminar and the ‘Powers that be’ who ably guided them!

The year 2009 heralded the Ashram’s Silver Jubilee. 25 years of useful existence, in spite of odds and obstacles is not an ordinary occasion indeed and to celebrate the prestigious occasion four major events were conducted. The seminar was the last that ended with lasting sweet memories. Four monks and two nuns participated in the seminar. An audience of over 500 delegates from all over South Africa, including Durban, Northern Natal and Bloemfontein, attended.

Sister Avintha saying opening prayers...
Sister Avinta saying opening prayers...

The seminar, which commenced at 9:00 a.m., was held at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Westville Campus. It was a blessing to have the holy presence of Revered Swamis Brahmarupanandaji Maharaj of Ulsoor, Bangalore; Sarvarupanandaji Maharaj of Colombo, Sri Lanka; Vimokshanandaji Maharaj and Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj and Pravrajikas Ishtaprana Mataji and Divyanandaprana Mataji. In accordance with our Hindu tradition, Sister Avinta said the opening prayers after which Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji welcomed the monks of the Ramakrishna Order and every one in the august audience. She also extended a warm welcome to representatives from sister organisations and to delegates who have come from distant places. While thanking all for their presence, she expressed her trust that the delegates would benefit from the day’s discussions.

Swami Sarvarupanandaji, Head of Colombo Centre inaugurating the Seminar...

The seminar was inaugurated by the Chief Guest, Sri Swami Sarvarupanandaji Maharaj, Vice President and Head of the Ramakrishna Mission, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Revered Maharaj highlighted the importance of good parenting, emphasising the need for a moral foundation for the betterment of today’s and tomorrow’s society.

Sri Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj, Vice-President, Ramakrishna Centre of SA, delivered the first paper entitled ‘The Hindu Ideal of Parenting’. It carried the necessary knowledge required to enhance parenting skills, drawing deeply from Hinduism’s timeless heritage and culture. Maharaj analysed the family life cycle and the various stages in the child’s development, from the naming ceremony to marriage.

Swami Saradaprabhanandaji presenting his paper...

These different samskaaraas are characteristic of Hinduism and sanctify family and social obligations, facilitating spiritual evolution. Moving from one phase to another creates change, and the family must adapt to these changes. These transition periods are crucial and require understanding and skillful management, as problems occur when the family is unprepared for them. Traditional Hindu ceremonies are important to mark these transition periods and provide the moorings to make them smooth. These can be simplified or adapted to the needs of the modern age but their essence and values must be preserved, added Swami Saradaprabhanandaji.

His paper was followed by a short recess when refreshments were served.


To be continued….