Ananda Pune’s New Biweekly Children’s and Parents’ Programmes

by Brahmacharini Prisha (read as a PDF  Biweekly Children_Parent Programmes in PDF)

“Could we have an ongoing children’s programme?”, urged several Ananda Pune parents back in February.

In response, community children now gather every other Sunday at the City Centre for an inspirational as well as fun hour and a half of nature, art, and crafts activities; games; stories; “meditation lite”; yoga poses; affirmations; and Ananda children’s songs.

In the top picture to the left, you see a recent session with the children. Proud grandparents watch from the sidelines. The bottom picture shows the children playing a “Sharing Nature” game outside.

Our new initiative has deep roots in Ananda’s acclaimed Education for Life (EFL) philosophy and practices, developed by Swami Kriyananda along the lines of Yoganandaji’s own approach to children’s education prior to his departure from India.

Other holistic and experiential resources developed by innovative Ananda members are also used, such as I Came from Joy!, a series of activities for children’s spiritual education and exploration, and the multiawarded Sharing Nature publications.

Leading the children’s programme are enthusiastic young Ananda educators Gaurja Prashar, a certified EFL teacher, and Namita Raghav, an EFL India outreach associate.

While the children meet downstairs at the Centre, the parents meet upstairs with me to discuss ways that EFL can be applied toward successful parenting, especially in their own families. We make use of the same resources as in the children’s programme along with others developed by EFL educators for fostering universal life values — as well as other materials developed by Gayatri Nambiar and me, co-directors of EFL India, in our long collaboration in Indian parent and teacher training.

These pictures are from a recent parents’ gathering at which EFL’s new Life Skill Action Charts were introduced. They won great interest and immediate application at home, judging by comments on our Ananda Parents WhatsApp group. Soon we’ll be able to have threaded discussions online at our EFL India Web site.

All Ananda children and parents are welcome to join these programmes at any time. To do so, please contact Gaurja for the children’s programme (gaurja@anandaindia.org) or me for the parents’ programme (pkirby@anandaindia.org).

Sunday School at the Centre
(A reflection on the children’s programme by one of its directors)

by Namita Raghav

The month of April brought some good news for parents looking for a direction, guidance and support to address the different needs of their children in different age groups … and the news extends to those children who have been looking forward to making their Sundays all the more meaningful, joyful, and exciting.

The news is the advent of Sunday school at the Centre!!!

Sunday School began on 4 March and is conducted every alternate Sunday, i.e., twice a month. The purpose is to provide a support system to the parents of children in different age groups and sowing seeds of spirituality in children by simple, playful activities by applying Education for Life (EFL) principles. EFL is a system of education with the mission of providing children with a balanced education of body, feelings, will, and intellect in preparation for using life’s diverse challenges to discover ever-deeper levels of purpose, meaning, and happiness.

Apart from receiving formal education at schools, our children are also entitled to learn the higher spiritual principles that, if practised sincerely and consciously, can shape their lives in the most beautiful ways.

The children’s group is led by Gaurja, a certified EFL teacher, and myself, Namita, serving on the EFL India staff. At the same time as the children meet, a parents’ group is led by Prisha, co-director of Education for Life India.

In the children’s group, we aim at making them learn certain yoga postures coupled with affirmations to develop in them the ability to stay calm and centred in themselves, followed by a little meditation to improve their concentration and in turn help them in their studies and other activities. We also make the children repeat affirmations that will gradually sow seeds of various virtues in them, such as kindness, compassion, friendship, and love. An affirmation is a statement of truth that can have a great impact on our consciousness if said with concentration and energy.

Then we have different games and activities, both indoor and outdoor, for the children depending on their age group. These games and activities are designed in a manner that helps bring out the best in the children, expose their latent talents, and enhance team spirit and harmony. Lastly, we have various home assignments to be practised during the days till our next meeting. These assignments keep them in tune with whatever they learn in the Sunday School.

Sunday School is an impactful space to keep both parents and children in touch with the awareness of inner growth, to share the best practices of teaching and parenting, to strengthen the bonding between parent-parent, parent-child and child-child and ultimately to enhance the level of joy in everything we do.

  •  Requirements for Licensing an Education for Life School

    The school mission statement must be approved by the EFL International Board of Directors. In addition, the school must receive positive reports at three to five year intervals from onsite visiting teams selected by EFL International verifying that the school’s administrators and teachers are implementing the EFL philosophy to the best of their abilities.

    Teachers must be EFL certified or working towards certification through participation in EFL Teacher Development classes. The final EFL Teacher Credential will be awarded after the teacher has demonstrated the ability to implement EFL techniques in the classroom for at least a year. This award is made in collaboration between the school director and EFL International.

    The school shall maintain an ongoing relationship with EFL International through annual participation in at least two of the following:

    1. Attendance at an EFL conference
    2. Teacher/Administrator visits to another EFL School for observation, consultation, and/or collaboration
    3. Advanced EFL Teacher Training/In-service and/or Parent Classes taught by an EFL mentor

    The school shall pay EFL International an annual fee of $1,000 if 50 or more students are enrolled, or $20/student if attendance is lower than 50.

Next Steps:

Preparing children to meet life's challenges

by J.Donald Walters
The first public service that Paramhansa Yogananda undertook after he became a swami was to found a school for young boys. Starting in 1916 in the village of Dihika, Bengal with only seven students, he was “determined to found a school where young boys could develop to the full stature of manhood.” A year later he moved the school to Ranchi and founded the Yogoda Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya which is still in existence today. Almost sixty years later, in 1972, at Ananda Village, the first Ananda school was founded, based on the ideals and directions that Yogananda laid out about education. Starting also with only seven students, the original Ananda School now has a campus of seven classrooms with ninety students, plus branch schools in Palo Alto, Portland, and Seattle. The following article is from a talk that J.Donald Walters gave in which he discusses the Education for Life system used in the Ananda Schools.

What I’ve tried to do in my life is to take Yogananda’s central teachings and apply them to many fields of life – business, the arts, relationships, raising families, schools, communities, and so on. The education of children was very dear to Yogananda’s heart, but what he actually said about it was very little. Through the years, we have taken what he has given us, meditated on it, and applied our understanding in the Ananda School classrooms in order to deepen our insights and attunement to Yogananda’s vision for spiritual education.

The purpose of spiritual education is to fulfill the divine potential of children, and to prepare them for life by giving them the tools they need to keep on learning throughout the many experiences that will come to them.At Ananda we are trying to develop a system calledEducation for Life, something which is very much needed in society today. The reason for so many of the problems in our world is that we’re giving children what Yogananda called an essentially atheistic view of life. When we rigorously exclude all spiritual teachings and higher values, our children end up getting the message that there aren’t any higher values, and that there isn’t even a God. Children have a natural longing for values and ideals, but our society gives them a universe and a life in which they have no faith. The cynical teachings of modern education are so ego-oriented, and so money and job-oriented that when children grow up cynical and angry at the universe, it’s hardly something to be surprised at. It’s the fault of our society that allows that kind of thing to happen.

When we speak of spiritual education, we don’t mean a church kind of education. What we mean is to help children understand that they’re going to be a lot happier if they are kind to others, and if they work for high ideals. The child who has a little bag of dates and eats them all himself isn’t nearly so happy as the child who shares those dates with others. In all cases, we can see that people who are selfish just aren’t happy, and people who are selfless are happy. They can apply this understanding not only at school, but also at home and everywhere in life. If we can bring this kind of teaching to children, this then is spiritual education.

Another purpose of spiritual education is to build the person on all levels. We are triune beings composed of body, mind, and soul, and if any part of us is starved at the expense of the others, then we aren’t complete. It’s an interesting fact that people who write, as an example of a mental activity, will very often also do something physical to keep themselves grounded. When Yogananda first had an experience of cosmic consciousness, his guru, Sri Yukteswar, handed him a broom, saying, “Let us sweep the porch.” We have to learn to keep these worlds in harmony with one another. If we let one go in favor of the other, in some way we become unbalanced.

Young girl smiling at Living Wisdom School, Palo Alto, California

An education that ignores individual differences and tries to run children through an assembly line is bound to produce shoddy results. An education that is deep, enduring, and effective must be highly individualized.

In the education of our children, we need to help them develop their characters and their minds, but we must also help them prepare for living successfully in this world. We don’t want them to go out into society and find themselves incapable of relating to what’s going on. They have to have the facts that are a part of our modern upbringing. But they don’t need to have those facts taught to them in such a way as to leave them believing that there’s no value in anything. There is a great deal of emphasis on the wrong things today. The basis of spiritual education is to prepare them for society in a way that will help them to remain idealistic.

Suppose you have children who have learned how to love everyone, who have learned the goodness of life. When they go out into the world they may face hatred, criminal activity, and many other negative things. Will they be able to handle it? This is probably the primary concern that people have with spiritual education. The answer is to be seen in those who live with love. It isn’t as if they become stupid or lose the ability to relate to the world as it is. In fact, the broadest understanding comes from that which is centered in love; the narrowest understanding is that which is centered in hatred. If you’re on the lowest level, you can relate only to the lowest level; if you’re on the highest level, you can relate to all levels. To see that this is true, we can point to examples of people who live that way and who are able to handle life’s many challenges far, far better. I have observed that people who are complete as human beings are generally more successful. A spiritual education can actually guarantee greater success even in the way worldly people define it.

A good example is Yogananda’s most advanced disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda. He was the chairman of several large companies and owned several others. He had the clarity, calmness, and centeredness to be able to pull back from all the stress and excitement and see the way to resolve difficult issues. The secret of his success was the fact that his consciousness was rooted in God, and in the desire for right action.

Children are born with different inclinations, with different strengths, weaknesses, and educational needs. One of the unfortunate aspects of modern education is the assembly-line approach to teaching where the same information is more or less dumped out to everyone. There isn’t any philosophy; it is just information. Small classes, where the teacher can get to know each child personally, are essential for giving individual attention and for discovering what the natural level of understanding is for each child.

Rajarsi Janakananda, chief disciple of Paramhansa YoganandaParamhansa Yogananda’s chief disciple was James J. Lynn, a self-made American businessman who said he was able to accomplish in an hour what would take others many hours, thanks to his mastery of meditation methods such as those taught at Living Wisdom School. By teaching children kindness, concentration, will power, strength of character, truthfulness, and other higher qualities, life is made richer. These are deeply important to the development of the human being, but such things are not taught today in public education. The ultimate purpose of life is not simply to get a job. So many people live this way and then die, not of old age but of deep disappointment with the life they have led. If you don’t know how to be truly happy, money won’t buy it for you.

Spiritual education is training people for life. How many people get married, and then get divorced because they don’t know how to get along with their spouse? They’re not educated for that. nor for life.

Education, rightly understood, is expansion of awareness. It is preparation for that process of real learning which takes place after we leave school, when we are in the constant struggle, the battlefield of life. By giving children the tools and understanding to make the right choices in life, we can lead them to lasting happiness. Then they will be able to achieve the kind of spiritual victories that are the true meaning of success.