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sanAtana dharma for kids

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous in Parenting' started by saidevo, May 8, 2011.

  1. saidevo

    saidevo Gold IL'ite

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    The articles in this thread have appeared in several forums on the Net during the last five years. I am happy to share them to the large number of mothers in this IL forum.--saidevo

    One God, many gods

    The family was at the dining table. Mommy, and the twins Aravind and PadmA, were happy that daddy was back home early for dinner. When everybody was seated, Mommy served the first course of dinner--roti, dhAl and onion raita--and took a seat near Aravind. PadmA sat near her daddy, who seemed very relaxed that evening.

    Mommy looked at her children with pride. 'These kids are alwyas inquisitive in the jnAna-vichAram--spiritual inquiry, beyond their age. Whatever are they going to ask their daddy today?! Surely, he has immense patience in replying to them.'

    "Daddy", began the kids together, "can we ask you something?"

    "Shoot it", said daddy.

    "We're really confused, daddy", began PadmA. "Our class teacher, when the class was about to finish today, hm..., said that we Hindus have really only one God named Brahman and not many Gods as we think."

    "Before the teacher could explain it", Aravind added, "the bell rang and the class was over!"

    "Daddy", said PadmA, "is it true that we have only one God?"

    "No, we have several in the pUjA room!", pleaded Aravind. Counting on his fingers, he continued, "GaNesha, Shiva, ViShNu, Muruga, RAmA, KRShNa, HanumAn, DurgA, LakShmI, SarasvatI and many more!"

    "And GaNesha is our favourite God!", said PadmA.

    "I don't know who is Brahman." said Aravind, showing his empty hands.. "I have not seen him. How does he look like, dad?"

    "I am not giving up GaNesha for Brahman", said PadmA sternly.

    "Or any other God for that matter", said Aravind.

    "Don't worry, I will explain to you in vistAram--detail." said daddy. "What did your Mommy say to your question?"

    "Well I said, just like we are a family of four people, the one God is a family of many gods."

    "We will put it this way. PadmA, who are you?"

    "I am a girl, daddy."

    "Who are you to me?"

    "I am your daughter."

    "So, PadmA has two forms, a girl and a daughter. She is a girl basically, but to me and Mommy, she is a daughter."

    "Same way, I am a boy and a son", observed Aravind.

    "You understand? Now, PadmA, do you have any more forms?"

    PadmA was quick to grasp the idea. Nodding her head, she said, "Yes daddy, many more! I am a sister to Aravind, a student in the class, a friend of VaLarmathi, and then, a granddaughter to my four grandparents..."

    "Are you the same or different in each form?"

    "The same, of course!"

    "No she is different", corrected Aravind. "She goes to school smartly dressed, she is often naughty to me, a helping daughter at home and, always the pet granddaughter!"

    "You both are right. PadmA looks different in each form or role, but she is the same girl in all of them. In the same way Aravind, you are what PadmA is in each of your roles, but only your form is different."

    Swallowing the piece of roti he was munching with relish, daddy continued: "PadmA, although you are a single person, why do you look so different to many people? That is because, depending on your kinship and association, you need to play many roles. And take on different guises to suit them, as in a drama. It's the same way for you too, isn't it so, Aravind?"

    "I understand that dad," said Aravind. "But PadmA and I are different, aren't we? She is a girl and I am a boy."

    "Yes and no. You are a boy and she is a girl alright, but both of you, and me and Mommy too, are humans. Therefore, all of us are human forms."

    "But dad", said Aravind, "Is God a human too? Because every God we have is in the human form."

    "Except our GaNesha", said PadmA. "He is special. He is a human with an animal head."

    "Yes, God takes a human form when He wants to take a form. Because a human is the best of all the forms that God has made in this world. deivam mAnuSha rUpENa goes the vachanam--saying."

    "But aren't these forms different, dad?" said Aravind, "just as you and Mommy and PadmA and I are different?"

    "Yes Aravind. Although we look different in our external makeup, we are all basically human. In the same way, the God forms are different, but the God in them is the same One God, whom we call Brahman."

    "But daddy", asked PadmA, "why do we worship God in many human forms when He is Brahman, the only one?"

    "This lokam of ours is a colorful world. We have different types of humans here. Some want wealth, some want health, some knowledge, and some, nothing except what God would give them. Since God creates, gives and controls everything in this world, He appears as LakShmI to those who want wealth, as GaNesha to those who want health, as SarasvatI to those who want knowledge, and so on; generally, as any personal God according to human nature."

    "We have many Gods in our pUjA room", said Aravind. "Does this mean that we want everything dad?"

    Daddy laughed. "You are right in a way. For you and PadmA, GaNesha is your favourite God. In the same way, everyone has a personal God, an iShTa devatA. But since we all love everyone of our God forms, we worship them in many forms."

    "If LakShmI gives wealth and SarasvatI knowledge, what do Shiva and ViShNu give daddy?" said PadmA.

    "That will be a long discussion. We can have it some other day. For now, you understand two things: firstly, God is only one, called Brahman, but is worshipped by us Hindus in many forms. And secondly, though we worship God in many forms, we know that God is only one. Even the farmer on the field knows this truth."

    "Yes, we now understand Daddy", said the children in chorus. Aravind continued, "Dad, if God appears in human form, then we are God, too?"

    "Yes we are, basically, but most of us don't realize it. That is why we think of ourselves as separate human beings."

    "If humans are God too, then daddy is my favourite human God!", said PadmA.

    "And Mommy is my favourite human God!", said Aravind.

    "Don't forget your teacher and the guest", said Mommy, who was listening to the whole chat with interest.

    "Yes mom", said the children together with kutUhalam--eagerness. "We now understand what you often tell us. mAatRu devo bhava; pitRu devo bhava; AchArya devo bhava; atithi devo bhava*".

    *Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11.3

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    Last edited: May 8, 2011

  2. Swethasri

    Swethasri Platinum IL'ite

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    Thats an excellent and clear explanation to the kids thanks for the idea,sometimes we dont know how to explain questions from kids though we know the answers.Thanks
  3. saidevo

    saidevo Gold IL'ite

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    namaste smt.Swethasri.

    I think the children would learn better if we create an interest and let them read articles such as in the opening post under our guidance. This could infuse the right religious and spiritual perspective into their starkly material life of these days.

    I am happy that you like the article, thank you.

  4. saidevo

    saidevo Gold IL'ite

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    Hindu Trinity: BrahmA--SarasvatI

    The family was at the dining table. Mommy, and the twins Aravind and PadmA, were happy that daddy was home early for dinner. When everybody was seated, Mommy served the first course of dinner--pUris with potato masala and fresh mango pulp--and took a seat near Aravind. PadmA sat near her daddy, who seemed very relaxed that evening.

    "Children," began daddy, "today I am going to tell you about our three main gods: BrahmA, ViShNu and Shiva. Together they are known as the Hindu Trinity. Now, tell me what you know about them."

    "Daddy, we don't have any classes on our religion at school." PadmA said. "We have classes on human values and moral science, where they teach about how to become good citizens of the nation."

    "You have forgotton what our grandma taught us when we were in the LKG," said Aravind. "She said BrahmA creates the universe, ViShNu maintains it and Shiva destroys it."

    "Yea, I remember, but that is not much."

    "Don't worry. We shall discuss much more about the Trinity today."

    "But dad," Aravind said, "Shiva also saves his devotees. ViShNu destroyed many Asuras. I don't know much about BrahmA, except that he only creates everything."

    "Always remember that the Trinity are three forms of the one God, Brahman. Therefore their roles are not exclusive. Since the universe and all its beings have to be created first, maintained till their time is up, and then destroyed for the next cycle of creation, we have identified BrahmA, ViShNu and Shiva to be in-charge of these three tasks, which are actually done by the one God Brahman."

    "Right dad, tell me more about the three Gods."

    "BrahmA created this universe and its beings. He did it using the Vedas, which the one God Brahman gave him. First he created the universe, its galaxies and solar systems, our solar system, and the earth. Then he populated the earth with nature, the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom and the animal kingdom. And finally, he created mankind, and introduced souls into their next cycle of birth in this world."

    "How does BrahmA look like, daddy?" said PadmA. "We don't have his picture in the puja room."

    Daddy had anticipated the question, and had kept his laptop ready on a tall stool near the dining table. Using his left hand, he pressed the Enter key of the system, and a slide-show popped up on the screen, with a picture of BrahmA as the first slide.

    "Look carefully at this picture," he said. "How many heads does BrahmA have?"

    "Four," said the children together.

    "Don't ask me how a person, even a god, can have four heads. You know that the pictures of our gods are symbolic. Each symbol in a picture represents an aspect or a power of the god. Here, the four heads of BrahmA represent the four Vedas. They also represent the four Yugas of time. You know about Vedas and Yugas?"

    "Mommy had told us," said Aravind. "There are four Vedas: Rg, yajur, sAma and atharva."

    "And the four Yugas are," rattled PadmA, not to miss her chance. "satya yuga, treta yuga, dvApara yuga and kali yuga. We are in the kali yuga. shrI KRShNa was born in the dvApara yuga, and shrI RAma in treta yuga."

    "You will make a good secretary," said Aravind.

    "No, I will be the boss," said PadmA.

    "Very good! Your Mommy does a nice job, teaching you all this."

    Mommy smiled. "I teach them bhakti, by stories, like their grandma. And you teach us all jnAna."

    "So BrahmA's heads represent the Vedas and the Yugas. Look again. What about his hands?"

    "He has four hands," said PadmA, "and they hold different objects."

    "Wait, I know some of those objects," said Aravind. "One is a rosary or a japa mAlA, and another, a bunch of grass..."

    "The other two are a kamaNDalu or water pot and a ladle" said PadmA, interrupting him.

    "The rosary or the japa mAlA denotes the passage of time. The grass is known as the kusha grass and the ladle as sruk. They are spoons called sruk and shruva used in a veda yajna, the Vedic fire ceremony. The kamaNDalu signifies the waters of space using which BrahmA created the world. In some pictures, BrahmA holds a book of palm leaves that represent the Vedas as the ultimate knowledge."

    "Dad," said Aravind, "two of his hands show some sign. What are they?"

    "The signs are called mudrAs. As with the mudrAs of bharata nATyam, they have meanings. The sign BrahmA shows with his right hand, with the palm facing up and fingers raised is called the abhaya mudrA, a sign that assures protection. The other sign in which he appears to give something, is called the varada mudrA, meaning that BrahmA is ready to give boons to those who seek them."

    "I heard that the swan or hamsa is BrahmA's vehicle," said PadmA. "But it is not in this picture."

    "Right. haMsa is the vehicle of BrahmA. It represents the peace and happiness a person gets from yoga and meditation. It also represents the shvAsa gati, the flow of our breath. When your breath is long and slow like the sailing of a swan, you would get immense peace of mind."

    "VaLarmathi's cousin is educated in the USA. In his school there they teach yoga and meditation."

    "I shall send you both to a yoga and meditation class this summer, right? Now, we need to talk about--" said daddy, fingering the keyboard, and the next picuture displayed was SarasvatI.

    "We know about SarasvatI," said PadmA. "Wife of BrahmA, goddess of learning, knowledge and wisdom..."

    "Sitting on a white lotus," interrupted Aravind. "And playing vINA."

    "She is extremely beautiful," joined Mommy. "And like her husband, holds a japa mAlA and a book in her two hands, while the other two are playing the vINA."

    "Hey, you missed the peacock!" said Aravind. "What's that peacock for, dad?"

    Daddy was almost stumped. He scratched his head for a moment, trying to recollect what he had read. Then he said, "Yea, I remember now. The peacock is a bird of moods. He is eagerly waiting to be used as a vehicle. But VANI prefers the swan, signifying that we should overcome our moods of fear, anger and indecision in order to acquire knowledge."

    "The swan is a bird with a legendary ability, you know children?" said Mommy.

    "Yes mom," chimed the children. "When you place a mixure of milk and water to a swan, it separates water from milk and drinks only pure milk."

    "Like the swan, we have the power to distinguish between right and wrong. This means that we should read the right kind of books and get such knowledge as leads to wisdom."

    "Wonderful!" said daddy. "SarasvatI is also the goddess of speech, or vAch. The name VANI signifies sound and speech. Another name for her is VAkdevI."

    In this midst of this interesting discussion, the pUris and the masala in the casserole vanished quickly. When Mommy served them curd rice, the typical and wholesome dessert of a South Indian dinner, daddy said, "We need to stop now, kids. I have some urgent work to finish. Tomorrow, same time, we shall discuss the other two gods. I am free for the rest of this week, so I can be home early."

    "Oh daddy!" said the children, as daddy shutdown his laptop. "But don't disappoint us tomorrow."

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  5. saidevo

    saidevo Gold IL'ite

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    Hindu Trinity: ViShNu--LakShmI

    The family was at the dining table. Mommy, and the twins Aravind and PadmA, were happy that daddy was home early for dinner. When everybody was seated, Mommy served the first course of dinner--steaming iddlies with three chutneys as side dishes. Three little bowls with tomato, coconut and pudinA chutney in them formed the Indian tricolor before each plate. Mommy took a seat near Aravind. PadmA sat near her daddy, who seemed very relaxed that evening.

    "I like iddlies," said daddy. "Pure white in color, and spiritually wholesome like our MahAViShNu."

    "But ViShNu does not appear white in his pictures," said Aravind. "His complexion is bluish grey."

    "nIla megha shyAmala varNa, like the rain-bearing clouds", said Mommy.

    "Mommy would have told you that ViShNu has his yoga nidrA on the bed of the multi-headed snake AdiSeSha, on the ocean of milk: seSha shayana, kShIra shayana. Since water is ViShNu's abode, he has the name NArAyaNa, the term nAra signifying water. The name ViShNu is from the SaMskRta root vish, meaning to spread, enter, pervade."

    "But daddy, you said ViShNu was white as these iddlies," said PadmA.

    "Yes, he is white, internally, because he stands for the sattva guNa. the property of purity and wisdom. What are other two guNas?"

    The children weren't sure. So Mommy answered, "rajas--passion and action, and tamas--inertia and inaction."

    Daddy loaded a picture of ViShNu on his laptap. "Look at this picture of MahAViShNu. What symbols does he wear?"

    The children were hooked to the picture on the computer screen, their hands feeding pieces of iddlies to their mouth, their eyes intent on the screen.

    "He has four hands," said PadmA. "They hold a shangkha or conch, a chakra or disk, a gada or mace and me, a lotus!"

    "Hey, my name also means lotus," said Aravind. "So I am ViShNu's favourite, too."

    Daddy smiled at Aravind. "His bluish grey body signifies infinity. That which is immesurable appears blue to the human eye, like the ocean and the space. His clothes are yellow signifying the earth. Things that are buried or burnt acquire a yellow tinge. Thus, the infinite blue God wears a yellow cloth on his human form, which is made of the elements of the earth."

    Daddy paused as he drank some water, and continued, "MahAViShNu performs his duties of preserving and maintaining the world using the objects he holds in his hands. He blows the conch and calls forth humans to turn to the path of wisdom, away from the worldly pursuits. When people are too earthly, he uses the mace and knocks them down, creating disappointments, dissatisfactions and a growing sense of restlessness."

    "Very interesting," said Mommy.

    "When people are too adament, and adharma increases in the world, he uses the chakra and destroys the adharmic forms in humans. The chakra also represents the chakras in human body that nourish spiritual growth. He holds up the lotus, urging us to evolve spiritually, raising above the muddy waters of this world."

    "Wow," said PadmA.

    "At the end of a Yuga, adharma is usually at its peak, and adharmic forces start harassing the people who are sAdhus or god's devotees. At that time, MahAViShNu takes an avatar for the deliverance of the good people, and destroys the evil forces."

    "paritrANAya sAdhUnAM," sang Mommy. The children sang after her, crescendoing after each line. "vinAshAya cha duShkRutAm, dharmasaMsth-ApanArthAya sambhavAmi yuge yuge."

    "Very nice," said daddy. "Mommy taught you this song?"

    "No, we picked it up from the title song of the TV serial mahAbhArata. Mommy explained the meaning."

    "Do the necklace and the garland ViShNu wears have any inner meaning dad?" said Aravind.

    "Definitely," said daddy. "The curl of hair, shrIvatsa, denotes objects of enjoyment and the necklace has a gem called kaustubha, signifying the enjoyer. The garland is made of vaijayauti flowers whose fragrance denotes the subtle elements."

    Aravind raised his eyebrows. PadmA appeared thoughtful, her mouth slowly munching an iddly chunk. Daddy said, "Okay children, that'll do about MahaViShNu for you kids. Now let's have a look at his consort LakShmI".

    "Dad, wait. This picture of ViShNu doesn't show his vehicle garuDa. What does it stand for?"

    "That's a good question. If ViShNu is space, garuDa is the time, which moves in cycles over space."

    Stunning," said Mommy as the picture of goddess LakShmI showed up on the computer screen.

    "LakShmI is Mommy's favourite goddess," said PadmA, winking her eyes. "She does elaborate LakShmI puja every Friday."

    "All that is for your future, since you are a girl", said Aravind.

    "It's for the future and prosperity of everyone of us", added Mommy hastily, as PadmA's lips curled in dismay. "LakShmI will become the favourite goddess of every woman, because a woman maintains the wealth of a house. LakShmI is worshipped in eight forms, as AShTa LakShmI. What are they, PadmA?"

    PadmA readily remembered the forms Mommy had told her earlier. She said, "They are: Adi LakShmI, DhAnya LakShmI, Dhairya LakShmI, Gaja LakShmI, SantAna LakShmI, Vijaya LakShmI, Dhana LakShmI and VidyA LakShmI. But why so many forms for her, mom?"

    "It is through his wife that MahAViShNu offers his devotees the riches of worldly life. Adi LakShmI is also known as RamaA LakShmI.She gives happiness. DhAnya LakShmI gives the wealth of food. Dhairya LakShmI gives the wealth of courage. Gaja LakShmI gives blessings and protects from evils. SantAna LakShmI gives the children, the wealth of a family. Vijaya LakShmI gives the victory in our efforts. Dhana LakShmI gives the commonly known riches of gold and currency. And VidyA LakShmI gives the ever-lasting wealth of knowledge and wisdom."

    "To be frank, children," said daddy, "I didn't remember all the forms of MahaLakShmI. Your Mommy has explained it nicely."

    There was a moment of silence, as Mommy served curd rice, the compulsory dish in every dinner. Picking up with his fingers, a piece of cucumber from the curd rice in his plate, daddy continued, "The root of LakShmI's name is lakSha, meaning goal or target. What does she hold in her hands?"

    "Red lotuses are in two hands," said Aravind.

    "abhaya mudrA on her lower right hand," said PadmA. "From her lower left hand pours out a rain of gold coins, kanaka dhArA!"

    "So she gives wealth and blessings, but holds up the red lotuses indicating that the wealth and prosperity she gives should lead to spiritual development. Her four hands actually stand for the four puruShArthas or goals of life: dharma, artha, kAma, mokSha."

    "What are they dad?"

    "dharma is the goal to lead a righteous and noble life. artha means wealth, the goal to acquire wealth for living as well as giving. kAma means desire, here it indicates the genuine desires of enjoyment of life, which whould lead to spiritual development. And mokSha is the liberation from the cycle of birth and death."

    "What happens in mokSha, daddy?"

    "When you attain mokSha, you take no more births. You stay near God and enjoy the bliss of godhood, free from the worries of this world."

    "She holds red lotuses, and stands on a big, red lotus as well." said Aravind.

    "The seat of big lotus indicates that LakShmI is not just a material goddess. She is as spiritual as the other goddesses. LakShmI and ViShNu are normally busy with sustenance of the forms of our world that BrahmA has created. At the same time, they insist on spiritual development, which is why, they both have the prefix mahA--great, to their names."

    "What do the two elephants do, daddy?" said PadmA. "Are they her vehicles?"

    "No. The elephants stand for the fame and name a wealthy person gets in life. And the red lotuses they hold indicate that the fame and name should come out of sharing wealth and should lead to spiritual development. People with fame and name, even in those days on occasions, come in procession sitting atop an elephant. So, the elephant stands for show of fame and name."

    "There are four elephants in some pictures of LakShmI", said Mommy. "And they spray water on her from golden vessels."

    "The four elephants represent the four goals of life we discussed. The golden vessel indicates purity and wisdom, that is, gold at its highest purity, obtained by the fire of wisdom, by constant melting and refinement. The spraying of water indicates activity based on the four goals that guarantee material and spiritual prosperity."

    "In most pictures LakShmI wears a red sari with golden linings," said Mommy.

    "Pure red is generally the color of activity and affection. The golden linings indicate prosperity. LakShmI actively and affectionately distributes wealth to those souls who deserve it by the accumulation of sukarmana--good karma, of their earlier births. It is for the people who are blessed with wealth to use it as expected of them. If they are selfish and greedy, the wealth may remain, but these would add to their kukarmana--bad karma, and deprive them of such wealth in a future birth."

    "If the elephants are not her vehicles daddy," said PadmA, "how does she travel?"

    Aravind raised his left hand, as if he was in his class. Daddy nodded, and he said, "She travels with her husband, on the garuDa."

    "That's right," said daddy.

    They had almost finished their dinner, and were sipping a glass of grape juice. Daddy said finally, "Tomorrow, we shall discuss Lord Shiva, who holds a unique position in the Trinity."

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  6. saidevo

    saidevo Gold IL'ite

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    Hindu Trinity: Shiva--PArvatI

    The family was at the dining table. Mommy, and the twins Aravind and PadmA, were happy that it was a Sunday morning, when daddy devoted a large amount of time for the family. When everybody was seated, Mommy served the breakfast--toasted bread with a side dish of channa masAlA and bread slices that sandwiched butter-and-jam, cheese, and a paste of ground cucumber, tomato and onion. Mommy took a seat near Aravind. PadmA sat near her daddy.

    "We are going the English way!" said daddy, looking at the pile of toasted bread and sandwiches neatly stacked on the table. "Whose idea?"

    "Mommy's," said Aravind.

    "A change from the routine of our usual stuff," said Mommy."PadmA prepared the vegetable sandwiches. Aravind prepared the butter-and-jam variety."

    "Makes me hungry," said daddy, and started with bread-channa. The others followed suit.

    "Dad, you said last evening that Shiva is unique among the Hindu Trinity," said Aravind. "Why is that so?"

    "Shiva is unique because he is the destroyer and regenerator," said daddy, as he loaded a picture of Shiva on the laptop.

    "But creation is BrahmA's work," said Aravind.

    "Regeneration is not just creation. To regenerate is to cause a spiritual rebirth, completely reformed and improved, either in the same form, or in a different form."

    "I don't understand, dad".

    "This world of ours, in fact all the creation, hangs on a delicate balance between two opposing forces of good and evil. When this balance is upset, the universe cannot function in the proper order. Shiva saves the souls from pain and suffering in a dysfunctional universe, and dissolves the universe for the next cycle of creation, so the souls that are not liberated can have another chance of living."

    "But that is ViShNu's job, daddy," said PadmA. "ViShNu takes an avatar and destroys the evil forces when adharma becomes too much to bear."

    "ViShNu takes an avatar at the end of each Yuga of the cosmic time cycle. He destroys evil forces, sure, but doesn't dissolve the universe. That is Shiva's job. The time we are talking about here is the end of all the yugas, kalpas and manvantaras--the time called mahA-pralaya--great deluge, when the time is up for the entire universe. That is the end of the life of a BrahmA."

    The children looked startled. "Even BrahmA dies, daddy?" said PadmA.

    "And Shiva causes this mahA-pralaya, dad?" said Aravind.

    "Every BrahmA has a hundred BrahmA-years of life. That will be over 309 trillion solar years. The life of BrahmA is the life of the universe he has created. When the universe is dissolved, BrahmA dies, and later, a new cycle of creation will be started by a new BrahmA. Our present BrahmA is 51 years old, so we have just crossed the middle point of the life of our universe."

    "Daddy!" exclaimed the children. "If BrahmA dies, what happens to ViShNu?"

    "ViShNu goes back to his yoga nidrA on the seSha-sayanam, the bed of the snake called Adi SeShan. Understand children, BrahmA, ViShNu and even Shiva, at the end of their lives, go back into the One God Brahman, who is the infinite, eternal, indescribable, Absolute Reality."

    "What does Brahman do when his forms are withdrawn?" asked PadmA.

    "Maybe Brahman needs rest and sleeps," said Aravind.

    "Right, Aravind" said daddy. "Brahman, the endless Absolute Reality, lies inert, or sleeping, keeping all his energy, forms and life to within himself, after a mahA-pralaya. But Brahman is never dead. He has no beginning, no end. He is eternal and infinite. When he wills to create a new universe, new forms and life, and a new cycle of time, again, he manifests the Trinity out of Him."

    "Mind-boggling!" said the children. Daddy shrugged. "Such stupendous truths of our timeless religion, SanAtana Dharma, revealed to our ancient Rshis, and passed down to us, are hard to understand, even for us adults."

    "Tell us more about the cycles of time, dad," said Aravind.

    "We shall discuss time on another Sunday. Now, about the forms of Shiva."

    "Shiva has forms?" said Aravind, a little puzzled. "Other than what is shown in this picture?"

    "Think about the name of your friends NaTarAjAn and RAmalingam," quipped PadmA, "and you will know."

    Mommy and daddy laughed. "This girl has a great sense of humour," said Mommy.

    Aravind knuckled himself on the head and said, "Oops, I forgot. Shiva has three forms."

    "Yes. We worship Shiva in three different forms. BrahmA and ViShNu do not have such forms. We worship Shiva as Yogeshvara, the MahAyogi doing tapas, as the auspicious Shiva Lingam, and as NaTarAjA, the great cosmic dancer. Shiva performs a cosmic dance at the time of mahA-pralaya and with his infinite energy dissolves the universe. The picture you see here is Shiva, the Yogesvara."

    "In the Hindu Trinity, BrahmA has only one form, and is mostly known as BrahmA or Brahma Deva," said Mommy. "ViShNu has many names but has a single form, the resplendent shangkha-chakra-dhAri, represented differently as MahAViShNu, SatyaNArAyaNa, VengkaTeshvara and so on. ViShNu takes avatar in a different form in every Yuga. Whereas Shiva has countless names and three different forms that are all Shiva, to represent his three powers: the power of yoga, the power of regeneration as daddy said, and the power of dissolution."

    "Very well said," said daddy. "I am glad your Mommy devotes some of her time for spiritual reading. Unlike many of her friends who are always hooked to the cable TV serials and films."

    "Dad, tell us about Shiva's symbols," said Aravind. "There are lots of them in this picture."

    "Let's have a pAdAdi kesha varNana, description of Lord Shiva, foot to head, Foot to head, remember, and tell me, one by one, what you see."

    "Shiva is sitting on a tiger skin," said Aravind.

    "The tiger skin is the mat of a yogi, on which he sits while doing tapas. With Shiva, it signifies the energy that is potent in him. Notice that he also wears a tiger skin. In some pictures he wears an elephant's skin indicating that he has conquered pride."

    "He is sitting on the cremation ground," observed PadmA, "and has ashes all over his body." Aravind tried a mimicry of the nocturnal sounds of cremation ground.

    "Shiva controls death and thereby controls rebirth of a soul. When the body of the present birth is reduced to ashes, Shiva blesses the soul with another birth, giving it another chance of spiritual advancement. The ashes indicate the impermanence of this physical body."

    "There is a white bull standing behind Shiva," said Aravind.

    "Called Nandi, this bull--vRShabha is Shiva's vehicle. The bull is white in color. White is Shiva's color. His abode KailAsh is surrounded by snowy mountains. White is the color you get when all colors merge, so it signifies purity and wisdom."

    "Shiva has kept a kamaNDalu--water pot behind him," said PadmA. "When he has a jet of GangA issuing from his head, why does he need water in a pot daddy?"

    "A good question. Shiva's kamaNDalu contains amRtam--nectar. You know how a kamaNDalu is made?"

    PadmA sprouted her lips. Aravind nodded his head sideways.

    "From a dry pumpkin," said Mommy.

    "Yes, a kamaNDalu is made of the shell of a dry pumpkin, after removing the pulp. Shiva's kamaNDalu indicates that a human who gives up the pulp of worldly desires and hollows the body with breath control, fasting and meditation, will ultimately get the bliss of amRtam welling up within himself."

    "Looking at the things around Shiva," said Aravind, "there is a trishUlam--trident."

    "The trishUlam stands for Shiva's three shaktis or powers. They are ichChA-shakti--power of the will, kriyA-shakti--power of action and jnAna shakti--power of knowledge. At a lower level, it represents the three guNas: sattva, rajas, tamas found in nature."

    "There is a small drum tied to the trident", said PadmA.

    "Called damaru, this is the drum Shiva uses to issue the primordial cosmic sound AUM, the praNava mantram using which BrahmA creates the universe. It was Shiva's damaru that produced the 52 alphabets of the SaMskRtam language, which is the root language of the world. It is also the origin of music. Shiva in the form of NaTarAjA, is considered the origin of dance and song."

    "And then there is a crescent moon," observed Aravind.

    "The crescent moon indicates the waxing and waning phases of the cycles of time. The moon is not part of Shiva. He only wears it showing that he is beyond the time cycle."

    "Shiva shows the abhaya mudrA, the sign of protection and blessing," said PadmA. "Plus he wears garlands of rudrAkSha beads all over his hands and neck."

    "The term rudra, which is a name for Shiva, means strict and uncompromising, and akSha means the eye. Thus the rudrAkSha beads indicate that Shiva is strict in enforcing the cosmic laws. The rudrAkSha beads have great significance in yoga and meditation. Legend says that the beads were formed out of Shiva's tears of compassion for the souls, whose drops he let fall on the earth. The beads have healing properties. But one thing. The person who wears even a single rudrAkSha bead has to strictly observe certain niyama--regulations."

    "I have seen our vAdhyAr--priest, wear a large, gold-laced bead of rudrAkSha on his neck," said Aravind. "Shiva wears a large snake, a cobra, coiled thrice over his neck."

    "Snakes, specially cobras are sacred for us Hindus. We worship them because they are associated with the entire Shiva family. GaNesha has a snake for the sacred thread. His younger brother Muruga or KArtikeya has a peacock for his vehicle at whose feat is a cobra. Shiva wears snakes all over his body as seen in some pictures. And snakes are holy for his consort PArvatI in her many forms. ViShNu sleeps on the bed of Adi SeSha, the snake with a thousand heads. Snake at a lower level signifies passion and worldly desires. Shiva wears them to assure that he would control the snakes of passion and desire of devotees who surrender to him. At the highest level, a snake stands for the yogic kuNDalinI shakti. Yogis who have this power under control enjoy the bliss of Shiva's nectar."

    "Is there any special meaning for the three curls of the snake around Shiva's neck in this picture, dad?"

    "The snake that Shiva wears on his neck is the VAsuki, using which the devas and asuras churned the sea of milk. Its three curls denote the passage of time from future through the present to the past. Shiva wears the snake to indicate that he is the master of time, the kAla bhairava."

    "Very interesting, daddy," said PadmA. "Let's move on to Shiva's eyes. Mommy told us that Shiva has three eyes. Isn't the third eye seen as a vertical slit across the three vibhUti bands he wears on his forehead?"

    "Shiva is called tryambaka and trilochana because of his three eyes. Sun is his left eye, moon the right and fire the third. The two eyes of sun and moon indicate Shiva's activity in the physical world. The third eye of fire stands for his activity in the spiritual world. Shiva uses the third eye at the time of dissolution of the universe."

    "We have three eyes too, dad?"

    "Definitely. The third eye is called the eye of wisdom. It is located between the two eyebrows. When you stimulate this area, as you do when you fix a tilakam at that spot, your powers of grasping and learning are aroused. This is the reason Hindus, specially women, wear a tilakam. When we do constant yoga and meditation, this eye opens gradually. A coconut has three 'eyes', did you ever notice? Which is why we break a coconut in our pujas, to indicate that we have to break our egos to bring out the nectar of sweet water and the sweet, white pulp of the fruit."

    "His two eyes are only half-open," said PadmA.

    "The typical yogic posture. When you are a matured yogi, you don't need to close your eyes fully. RamaNa mahaRShi used to get into yogic samAdhi with his eyes wide open. Shiva's half-open eyes indicate at another level that he is watching the cycle of time between creation that commenced when he opened his eyes, and dissolution that would follow when he would close his eyes ultimately."

    "I think we have covered most of the symbols," said Aravind. "Only the locks of hair and the GangA remain."

    "Shiva is known as jaTAdhara, indicating his three matted locks of hair. The three locks indicate the physical, mental and spiritual energies, the ideal of yoga. The GangA is the most sacred river of the Hindus. She was brought to the earth by BhagIratha through his long and intense tapas. When GangA came down from the heavens in a torrential downpour, the merciful Lord Shiva received her on his matted locks and let her flow as seven different rivers, three towards the west, three towards the east and one to the pAtAla loka--nether world, to resurrect the 60,000 ancestors of BhagIratha, who were held there in the form of ashes because of a curse from Kapila Rshi. Check this story with your Mommy. At a higher level, GangA indicates divine consciousness that flows from the heavens through the human body in the form of kuNDalinI shakti and lies dormant in mUlAdhAra--the base chakra, which is the the equivalent of pAtAla loka. Shiva wearing GangA is known as gangAdhara."

    "Aravind, we missed the kuNDalams--ear rings."

    "The kuNDalam on the left side is the type worn by women, here it signifies Shiva's consort Shakti who is always joined to him on the left side. Shiva is the god who is woman on the left half side and man on the right half--ardhanArIshvara. The right ear ring is the type worn by men. The rings are called alakShya meaning that which can't be shown by signs or symbols and the niranjana, that which can't be seen with mortal eyes."

    "We understand now why Shiva is unique," said the children. "His consort is unique too?" asked Aravind.

    "Shiva's consort PArvatI is unique in the sense that she has all the three powers of Shiva: ichChA, kriyA and jnAna--the power of will, action and wisdom. The picture we have here is that of DurgA, a form of PArvatI. She is all action here, waging war against evil forces. She has eighteen hands. Her ten hands possess the powers of MahaViShNu in his ten avatars, the remaining eight, which you see here, have weapons. Notice they include a shangkha--conch, chakra--disc and gada--mace--all ViShNu's symbols. She also holds a trident and a sword, and her vehicle is the powerful and ferocious tiger."

    "PArvatI is normally seen with Shiva," observed PadmA, "but she is alone in her other forms, isn't it so Mom?"

    "You're right," said Mommy. "PArvatI in her own, native form is always part of Shiva. Her hallmark is tapas. Whenever she happens to take an avatar in human form and stay away from Shiva, she performs intense tapas to get back to him. Her other forms such as DurgA, KamAkShI, LalitA and so on show her different powers and features."

    "People who worship Shiva primarily are called shaivas--Shaivites. People who worship ViShNu are called vaiShNavas--VaiShNavites. There are thousands of people who worship Shakti primarily, and they are called shAktas. These are the three main bhakti streams of SanAtana Dharma."

    They were sipping strong, hot tea at the end of a sumptuous breakfast. Mommy finished first and started clearing the dishes. PadmA finished her tea and rose to help Mommy.

    "A very nice discussion dad," said Aravind. "Since we have already finished our school homework, can we watch the cartoon channels on TV now?"

    "Enjoy yourselves," said daddy, "but never skip your studies or household work."

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  7. Radhica

    Radhica Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Saidevo

    A really wonderful posts...............:thumbsup

    In simple words, this thread explains beautifully the sanatana dharm.....Even small kids will understand it without any doubts....

    Hats off to you...:bowdown

    Thanks for sharing it with all.....
  8. saidevo

    saidevo Gold IL'ite

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    Sacred Symbols: AUM

    "Today we'll discuss AUM, the most sacred of the symbols of SanAtana Dharma", said daddy, as they sat for dinner.

    Mommy had prepared vegetable briyANi with onion raita and green salad, and the usual curd rice with mango pickles for dinner. Two large bowls of briyANi and curd rice with the side dishes in satellite bowls were neatly arranged on the table. The aroma of briyANi wafted in the air, increasing everyone's appetite.

    "Before we start eating", said daddy, "let us close our eyes for a full minute and intently listen to this sacred mantra." He pressed the Enter key of his laptap on the tall stool, and the sacred sound of AUM reverberated in the room, wave after wave, as the computer played the sound file for a full minute.

    [Click here View attachment bks-aum.wav to listen to the AUM mantra chanting.]

    The children had promptly closed their eyes as had the elders, and everyone listened to the mantra. When it was over, daddy said, "Don't open your eyes now, but repeat the mantra AUM inside yourselves, with your mouths closed, pronouncing every sound as you heard just now, for another thirty seconds."

    The children did as they were told, and finally opened their eyes at their daddy's word. Daddy asked Mommy to serve the dinner, and started his discussion.

    "The mantra you heard now is called the mUla-mantra--the root mantra. AUM is also known as the mahA-mantra. First you should know how to pronounce this mantra. Any idea, children?"

    "Daddy, we have been pronouncing this mantra as simply Om", said PadmA.

    "Yes dad, we pronounced the vowel O for a longer time than the consonant M. We sarted with Ohhhhhhh... but stopped rather short at the M, without humming it properly as your demo showed now."

    "How did you pronounce the mantra?" daddy asked Mommy.

    "Well, I knew that the mantra is written using the three SaMskRta letters A, U, M. But I have not been articulating it the way we heard it here."

    "I have also been guilty of your Mommy's habit", admitted daddy. "From now on, let all of us give due regard to this great mantra and articulate it properly, in the way we heard it here. Reciting the mantra correctly will greately benefit us."

    Daddy continued: "Even though the mantra has three sounds A, U and M, it is considered as a single letter--varNam and as a single syllable--akSharam. You already know that it is written as a single letter, and now you know that it is pronounced with a long AU sound, which starts with a short, bursting Ah sound, followed by a long O (or Oo as in moo) sound, and an equally emphatic humming sound M, which gradually wanes into silence. A single chant of the whole mantra takes at least five seconds."

    They continued eating the delicious briyANi, between bites on their green salad. When they paused for a second helping, daddy asked the children, "Did both of you utter the mantra inside yourselves?"

    "Yes, daddy", said the children in chorus.

    "Well, did you notice or feel anything?"

    "Yes daddy", said PadmA. "It slighly choked in my throat."

    "And it seemed to pass out of my ears", said Aravind.

    "I felt peaceful", said Mommy. "What did you feel?"

    "Well, since I knew how it would feel, I did not feel anything today!" said daddy. "My mind was preoccupied with how to teach this great mantra to the children in a way that they will never forget."

    "Did we feel the correct way, daddy?"

    "Is there anything more, dad?"

    "You are both wonderful children. I am really blessed to have you two and Mommy for a family", said daddy, his tone echoing his gratitude and pride. "All the three of you felt it exactly the way it would be felt. And there is a lot more to it."

    The children looked at each other with widened eyes.

    "There are three ways of reciting a mantra personally. In the adhama--inferior way, a mantra is uttered loudly, as most of us do. Some people just lisp a mantra, pronouncing the words without sound, but with their lips moving. This is the madhyama--the medium way. The uttama--the best way is to recite a mantra inside us with our mouths closed, mentally listening to the articulations of the mantra."

    "We chant the mantras loudly in the morning assembly at school", said PadmA.

    "The pundits chant the Veda mantras out loudly dad", said Aravind.

    "Both are examples of community chanting", said daddy. "In a family or community chanting of a prayer or a ceremony, the mantras are not chanted for personal gains, so they must be recited out loudly. Vedas are chanted by a group of pundits in order that the vibrations set forth by the mantras benefit the people around, and the house they are chanted at. In a personal chant, a mantra is best recited in the uttama--best, way, because its vibrations mainly need to propagate through the inner space."

    "And how does this uttama chanting of AUM benefit us, dad?" reminded Aravind.

    "As you say the AUM mantra inwardly, it reechoes inside you, causing vibrations in your throat and ears. The vibrations travel upward to the skull and downward to the navel. If the mantra is chanted with pure aspirations and devotion, these vibrations calm the nerve centers and tune up your chakras for meditation."

    "But I didn't feel anything in my skull or navel", said PadmA.

    "I think I felt a slight knotting up in my navel", said Aravind.

    "PadmA felt the vibration in her throat, Aravind in his ears and Mommy had a peace of mind. So all of you are on the right track. With sincere practice and when you learn yoga and meditation, the benefits of AUM will be felt more and more. Yogis hear this praNava sound in their meditation."

    "Mommy has told us that GaNesha is the symbol of praNava. What exactly is praNava dad?"

    "The term praNava is from the SaMskRta roots pra + nu, and means to utter or bring forth a droning or humming sound. This sound is AUM, with which BrahmA created the world. This is the primordial sound of the universe, and is the base of every form of manifestation. praNava pervades everything from the macrocosm of the universe to the microcosm of the atoms, from the outer space to the inner space, so the term stands for these two forms of manifestations, as well as Brahman from whom it all originates."

    "That is why Brahman is also known as the nAda brahman", said Mommy.

    Daddy nodded at her and continued. "In the term praNava, the suffix nava indicates new. Every moment something is born and something is destroyed. As modern science has discovered, atomic particles turn into energy and energy crystallizes back into particles. Our cells die and are replaced constantly. This is why Shakespeare said, And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot; And thereby hangs a tale."

    "I think the quote is from the play As You Like It", said Mommy who was an M.A. English. "Jaques used these words of the court jester Touchstone, remarking that he met that motley fool in a forest."

    "You have a good memory", said daddy. "mANDukya upaniShad has the AUM mantra for its entire subject matter. Of the three letters of this mUla mantra, the letter A--Ah, represents the Adimatva--the beginning, the letter U--oo, represents the utkarSha--progress and the letter M--mm sound, represents mitti--limit or dissolution. Thus the letters A, U, M stand for creation, preservation and dissolution, and represent the trimUrti--BrahmA, ViShNu and Shiva."

    "How deep and correlating our concepts are!" exclaimed Mommy.

    "There are other correlations. The letter A stands for the sattva guNa, U for rajas and M for tamas, which are the three guNas--qualities, of prakRti--Nature. And then, the letters also stand for the three worlds: A for the earth, the bhUloka, U for the astral world, the bhuvaloka and M for the heavens, the suvar(ga)loka".

    "Wonderful", said Mommy.

    "There is more", said daddy. "Children, don't worry if you can't follow the relationship between AUM and yoga meditation that I am going to explain now. Just listen to these advanced concepts without seeking any explanation. Things will be clearer to you as you grow older and practice meditation."

    "I heard that AUM has a significant role in meditation", said Mommy. "But I am not familiar with the details."

    "To understand the details, you need to know that the mantra AUM has actually four parts: the three sounds A, U, M--and silence. These four parts are associated with the four levels of consciousness. The sound A represents the waking level, called vaishvAnara. The sound A has a bursting quality. It arises quickly, in a flash from the previous level of silence."

    "I see. The sound O is actually a diphthong, comprising A and U", said Mommy, drawing on her knowledge of the English language. "Of these two sounds A and U here, A is short and U is longer. Together they make the O, pronounced Oh... and then Oo... in AUM. So AU is svara and M anusvara that completes the vibration into silence."

    "Nicely put", said daddy. "The U sound represents the dreaming level of consciousness, called taijasa. The M sound stands for the deep sleep level, called prajna. The fourth level is turIya which is Consciousness itself permeating all other levels. At this level, the observer, the observed and the process of observing all become one."

    "Is turIya the equivalent of samAdhi?" said Mommy.

    "turIya is said to be a case of high samAdhi. You might say that turIya is the highest level of consciousness that results in the state of samAdhi."

    The children appeared dumbstruck and were eating the curd rice silently, as daddy continued his Vedanta.
    icoaum.jpg "It is not just the sacred sound, but the very letter AUM represents the four levels of consciousness.", said daddy, pointing to the AUM letter displayed on the laptap screen. The children looked up eagerly.

    "The lower curve of the letter represents the waking level, the right curve represents the dreaming level and the upper curve stands for the deep sleep level."

    "Above the upper curve is an arc, daddy" said PadmA.

    "On top of that is a dot" said Aravind. It was obvious that the children wanted at least a small part in the discussion of which they understood nothing.

    Daddy smiled at them benevolently. "The dot or point or bindu represents the fourth level turIya. The arc below the dot indicates that the bindu or turIya level is separate from the other three, and oversees them silently, standing above as well as permeating them. svAmi Jnaneshvara BhArati, popularly known as SwamiJ, of the Himalayan Yoga tradition, has a very detailed analysis of all the aspects of yoga meditation as he calls the process, in his Website Yoga Meditation. A nice feature of this Website is that the concepts expounded by SwamiJ are those of Vedanta. This Website is a treasure house of pure spiritual information and instructions."

    Mommy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, savouring the pronouncements made by daddy. She said, "I have a question. When you say that the individual sounds of AUM represent a level of consciousness, what exactly does that mean in practice?"

    "A good question. SwamiJ says that as you medidate, when your awareness is on each sound of the AUM mantra, 'you cultivate and train yourself to have a simultaneous awareness of each level of consciousness' at the personal microcosm and gradually transfer it to the universal macrocosm. I think this is something like meditating on successive chakras, starting from the mUlAdhAra, the base chakra."

    They had finished their dinner a little while back and their hands started to dry up. Daddy belched loudly and said, "AUM is also used in Buddhist and Jain rituals. Well, I think that's all I can explain about this great mantra."

    "I have a question, dad" said Aravind. "How do you spell the mantra in English--AUM or just OM?"

    "You can spell it either way. You can also pronounce it AUM with full articulation or the simpler OM that we say in our shlokas. The AUM articulation, however, is used in meditation, and as a personal mantra for the spiritual benefits it offers."

    "The mantra is captivating daddy", said PadmA. Aravind played the sacred sound once again on daddy's laptap. With their eyes glowing, the children played the mantra repeatedly for sometime, before they dispersed to complete their school homework.

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    Last edited: Jun 1, 2011
  9. Hyacinth

    Hyacinth Senior IL'ite

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    Excellent write-up :thumbsup
  10. Swethasri

    Swethasri Platinum IL'ite

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    WOW!!!!!!!iam going to take a print and keep these things safe so that when ever my children ask any question i can explain them so that they will understand them clearly.thanks a lot sai.

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