We had a wonderful summer camp 1 for Cupertino Area last week. As we always do, we had variety of programs including yogasana, games, yoga art, stories, yama/niyama, water conservation workshop, and chanting Sanskrit shlokas and mantras. Our youth teachers Vivek, Shloka, and Aditya brought a huge spirit of encouragement for children. Along with them we had 7 adult teachers and volunteers conducting the camp.
Yogasana – We divided the camp attendees into two groups and had separate yoga sessions for kids 9 and under and above 9 years of age. The kids were educated on the benefits of the practices as they practiced and also were challenged so that they get motivated to do better. They also had their dosage of relaxation and meditation at the end of each class. It was a great sight to watch the children lie in shavasana and chant Om with a total synchrony and in a peaceful tone every day.
Games - We play games to bring about age old practices of team games that children played on the streets without modern gadgets, TV screen or smart phones but with their own intuition, making up rules on their own, strategizing as a team, building presence of mind and helping them to go towards Nirodha Chitta – a total control over mind through games.
Art – Younger children did simple art work of displaying yama/niyama and what it means to them. One child demonstrated Ahimsa with two pictures one man holding the gun in picture 1 and then dropping the gun in picture 2 as a symbol of Ahimsa. It is fun and rewarding to watch the young minds unfold with their creative spirit. Older children understood the concept of ShriYantra and have completed the outline of it. According to powerthoughts meditation club, The Sri Yantra is a 12,000 year old symbol and is considered the mother of all Yantras. Yantras are geometrical designs based on the principles of sacred geometry and are used for meditation. Each yantra design contains a centre point or “dot” from which geometric shapes and designs radiate. Traditionally, such symbols are used to balance the left and right aspects of the brain, focus our minds or to focus on spiritual concepts to obtain spiritual benefit. It is even rumoured that Nikola Tesla, with his fractal mind, would see the Sri Yantra in blinding flashes!
Children who came for 1 week got to take their shriyantras home, others will get to paint their projects in the coming week camp.
Chanting: Chanting is a great way to develop memory, attention and focus, and also develop good lungs and strong vocal chords that prepares them to generate subtle resonance that brings peace into them as they chant. In fact, chantings are also considered to be great healing practice. Chanting of Bhramari has shown to even heal fractures.
In our camp, younger children learned to chant shanti Mantra –
Shanno mitra sham varunah….
And Bhagavad Gita shlokas – vasudeva sutam devam…..,
yada yada hi dharmasya….
And sarva dharmaan parityajya….
Older children learned to chant shanti Mantra –
Shanno mitra sham varunah….
And then we moved on to chant taittiriya Upanidshad’s Medha Suktam
and more… yashchandasaam vrishabho vishwarupah…
and we continued unto – aamayantu brahmacharinah swahah….vimaayantu brahmacharinah swahaah… etc and these are very rhyming and beautiful chantings.
This is to demonstrate how tranquilizing and exhilarating the mantras can be.
Chanting – Why?
Some of the older kids were frowning during chanting session. When asked they expressed their disinterest and questioned why chanting at all and what good they would do and how scientific they were. This is the usual frown we get from our teenage children. We handled it by explaining thus:
Chantings are one great way to bring ekagra (one-pointedness) to the mind. Eventually our goal is nordha chitta, complete control over mind and ekagra leads us to that. The very definition of yoga per Patanjali is “Chitta vritti norodha” to develop control over thoughts.
Meaningless mantras? Or maybe we don’t know the meaning then why chant at all? Or why not say some positive affirmation in English and be done? – Yet another question. Sanskrit has its merits due to the language being the language of spiritual sages. But if one would chant a church chorus or a namaz or any other spiritual song, it would still give the same benefit. In fact, meaning of these chants is not even required because many beeja mantras including OM do not have meaning on purpose. Thoughts are about names and forms; and words and meanings (shabdha, artha, nama, rupa). When you chant just as a chanting, then all thoughts vanish.
Defiance? These young teens were not completely happy with this explanation. Why should I chant only this way? Why should I follow your rules? Is this the only way to attain peace? What you say is the only truth was a direct attacking question and rightfully so. To that, we said – No. There are many other ways too. But once you pick a path, then surrender to it and give it a faithful try. It is all about methodology. You cannot go to a church, follow their rituals, or even a piano school for that matter. If a teacher says you must hold the fingers in a certain way, you should follow it. Methodology has evolved after a long line of people trying and figuring it out. Don’t question for questioning and for defiance, but for understanding’s sake. And by the way, you have come over here yourself (or through your parents). Since you are already here, try it with devotion. Otherwise, loss is yours, not that of Yoga’s. That put the arguments at rest. We put these explanations out in the report so that it enables you to handle questions and rebellion of the children by giving them rational explanation. Hope this helps.
Excellence through chanting – We were amazed to see how well children learned to sit and chant these shlokas without feeling bored or burdened. It seemed like they were enjoying the chantings. That was even more apparent on the fourth day when they repeated without glitches. With another week’s practice, they would be ready to chant without help or prompt.
Field Trip on June 21st – Over 37 people including children, youth, siblings, and parents from south bay, Fremont, Evergreen and Pleasanton areas participated in the field trip to Goshala.
Please find the Field trip report here. https://yogabharati.org/reports-blog/field-trip-to-goshala