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….