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Input for the SDDS Panel per request of Sri Mohan Sagar

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Sun Aug 24 1997 - 15:31:26 PDT

Dear Sri Mohan Sagar : 

First of all my best wishes to you 
for chairing this important panel . Although I will be away at
Pittsburgh during Saturday ( the day of the panel ) , I look
forward to learning about the highlights of the discussions/
recommendations on Sunday , August 31 during my participation
in the second SDDS Assembly at Pomona , NY . I want to share
with you and the other members of the Bhakthi list of two
recent events that has relevance to your panel .

(1) I had the privelege of seving as one of the three judges in 
an essay contest for youngsters ( 8-18 years) sponsored by 
the Hindu  Temples of  USA . The contest was subdivided 
in to two age groups  : 8-12 years group and 12-18 years 
group . I was impressed and encouraged by the essays of 
the youngsters with respect to their own impressions on 
the three topics suggested fort he contest . These students 
are either born here or have spent most of their life in USA .
The topics were : (1) What role does a Hindu Temple play 
in your life ? (2) Lessons that I learned from Srimadh RamAyaNA
and (3) Hindu Religion and Society ( Approximate Title ) .

The anlaysis , content and personal reconciliation of their 
life here and their heritage as children of  Hindu parents 
were impressive . Three prizes were awarded to the three best 
essayist in the three  categories  by the three Judges at the request
of the Coordinating committee of the Hindu Temple Federation
of USA . There is much to learn regarding how the minds of the 
participating youngsters have been shaped , which led to these
impressive , credible and personalized analysis . 

(2) I attended the National Naama Organization Meeting yesterday
in New Jersey and gave a talk on Sri KrishNAvathAram there in
the context of the theme of " Sri Jayanthi Celebrations " . The organizers
of this meeting included Mrs. Nagu Satyan , a respected member of our
Bhakthi List . She is the national Coordinator of NaamA and 
may wish to share with us her own " recipes " on this important 
subject . The NaamA  group has close to 600 members 
across the country . There might have been 200 people 
( Children , Parents and relatives ) who particpated in this event .

What impressed me  at this meeting is the deep involvement 
of the children themselves in the different items of the meeting .
The subject was Sri KrishNa Jayanthi , a celebration about our Lord being 
born as a baby to VasudEvA and Devaki on the KrishNa PakshAshtami ,
when the asterism of RohiNi was in ascendance . It is a joyous occasion
and the festivities had songs , dances and a variety of delectable foods 
prepared exclusively for Sri Jayanthi ( Vella Seedai , Salt Seedai , Laddu ,
tEnn Kuzhal , Manankombhu , Mysore Paak , Kajju Barfi , Hot Mixture,
Chakli , Kodvale et al ) . There was ample room for the children's participation

and to learn about the tattvam behind the celebrations thru their own
participation in the following agenda items :

1. MaNtapam decoration  (2) KrishNa poojA (3) Thottil uthsavam 
(4) dance offering (5) Skit on the Lord's life (6) Gopas and GopikAs
parade to salute the Lord (7) KolAttam and (8) Bhajan . Active networking 
sessions that  preceded these events . The  two lectures in the forenoon 
were  : a  talk on the significance of KrishNAvatAram and the message of 
Sri bhagavadh Gita by Professor Prasad . These lectures were for the 
benefit of the elders mostly . Participation by children etches a deep memory 
for the rest of their life . It was clear that asking them to be passive 
participants in long ceremonies enjoyed by the adults 
wont go too far in capturing their attention .

My observation is that the deep involvement of the children in a
playful , festival context is a very apt way to interest and hold the 
attention of the children growing in this country or in India , where we 
grew up . DipAvaLi celebration , Kaarthigai Dheepam , Uriyadi ,
Sarakku maaram , SokkappAnai ,Sri Rama Navami celebration , 
BrahmOthsavams at the temple , AvaNi avittam ( Idly ,appam 
and Kozhakkatai ), NavarAthri /Sarasvathi poojai/Vijaya Dasami ,
Vaikunta EkAdasi , et al . 

The parents have to be familiar with the deeper meanings 
of the festivals and the PurANic descriptions 
to wet the appetite of the children to want to know  more . We learnt 
a lot from our grandmother , mother and aunts about many of the lore
that enthused us to learn more . Our father , grandfather and elders 
taught us as " what to do when " types of information . Such examples 
are : When you get up in the morning , you must recite the name 
Hari seven times . Before going to sleep, we should salute the Lord
with the utterance , " MaadhavAya nama : " . When we conclude any 
activity of a religious nature , we should state , " Sri KrishNAya nama: " 
Both our parents and grandparents taught us sthothrams that were
easy to recite or specific paasurams such as the two of 
Sri ANDAL referred to by Sri PBA Swamigal . Children need to
be taught seelcted sthOthrams by some one , who is proficient
in Sanskrit pronumciations . Professor Prasad does a yeoman job here . 

These small routines  are not diffcult to practise and these will 
pave the way for a disciplined approach . Parents have to set 
the example and follow it  up . SandhyAvandhanam is another 
important item for those male children , who have undrgone 
the PooNal KalyANam .

Expanation of the important Hindu samskArams and their roles
in one's life has to be explained at the right time . I will write on 
the 40 Hindu SamskArAs soon as a starter here . 

Instead of going on in a free thought mode further  , May I suggest 
that you would like to examine the following topics as approaches
to gain additional insights into engaging the attention of our
very bright children to Sri VaishNavism :

1. Should there be a graded approach based on the age level 
    of the Child and what are the phased approaches so that 
    they are gradually exposed 

2. What is the role of the Temple ?

3 . What is the role of the parent ?

4 . What is the role of emerging technologies like computer
     Games , Multimedia , Internet to introduce our IthihAsAs and PurANAs 
     to gain their attention (e.g) the home pages project underway 
     for the 108 divya desams and the related CD ROM project 
     under the leadership of Professor Dileepan . The prototype 
     home page for the first of the 108 divya desams has now been 
    completed by Sri Sreyas Sarangan for Oppiliappan and he will
    soon announce the URL for it  for you to enjoy it.  Even The comic books 
    ( the "ancient " technology ) on Bharatham and RaamAyaNam 
    seem to sell well at some temples !      At one dollar a page , 
    it is  a good business as well !    

5 . Explanation of the meaning behind simple but powerful 
     ceremonies like shodasOpacharams to the Lord and 
     understanding of them in the context of our reverence 
     to an exalted and invited "guest " to our homes .

6 . A logical , credible analysis of the meaning behind the 
     daily rituals like AarAdhanam with the help of experts 
     like Sri Anbil SwamigaL , Dr. Vijayaraghavan and others
     that this group is priveleged to have as members . 

In summary , a carefully laid out multi-runged , graded 
approach might be helpful to demystify some of  
" the intimidating , impersonal and quaint looking "  daily 
observances and change them into " comforting , personal 
and deeply nourishing " experiences  so that an inquiring 
and a curious mind of a growing child/adolescent
can be captivated and held on track firmly out of its own
convictions . Agan the role of informed and involved can 
not be underestimated in such a serious effort . Rest , 
the BhagavAn will take care .

Sri KrishNArpaNamasthu