Making the Temple Worthwhile for Children
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2003-02-25
A hundred years ago the temple was the fascinating activity around, with festivals, dances, music, stories. Nowadays, there is a lot more going on and the temple faces a lot of competition, like movies and the Internet. Bodhinatha emphasizes that adults need to make the temple fun and useful in the minds of the children and be prepared to answer all the "whys" the children ask about our Hindu practices.
Scheduled for the next issue of 'Hinduism Today' is a story. I think, the young man's name is Muthuswami Devaraj from Mauritius. Natarajaswami put it on my desk and I was reading it this morning. It is just what the editorial is going to be about. Very interesting, it helped me think about the editorial.
He is talking about how the youth are not interested in the temple anymore. This is Mauritius, where you are totally surrounded by Hindus. It is not the USA, where youth grow up without very many Hindus in their neighborhood. It is easy to drift away from the temple when all your friends are non-Hindus and they don't even know anything about Hinduism. But here he is in a Hindu country, surrounded by Hindu friends and he has the same problem. The youth are drifting away from the temple. He gives lots of reasons.
I was thinking about it and imagining life in India back a few hundred years or even a hundred years. The temple was the most fascinating thing around. They had big festivals and dances and all these plays. I mean, this is the most interesting activity that was happening all year, a big festival with stories and all. Because, there wasn't anything else. There are no movies, there is no television, there is no internet, there are no video games, nothing else. You just have all this wonderful music and drama and dance and color happening because of the festivals.
Nowadays, there is a lot going on, a lot of competition. The temple isn't necessarily, to young people, the most interesting thing that happens all year. It is not automatic that young people will go to the temple when they grow up as adults. It has to be meaningful and it has to be fun.
One of the points he makes in his article is, "The adults make the temple so boring for us. We go because we have to but, boy! It is kind of boring and we don't understand what is going on. I would really rather stay home and play with my computer but I have to go. Why can't it be more interesting? Why can't it be more fun?"
It needs to be. We need to make it into something that is fun and meaningful, so that children go there and feel benefitted. They feel their life is better because they have gone to the temple. They can explain, "This is why my life is better. Because, I go to the temple. This is how it improved my life as a child. I would have turned out much worse if I had not gone to the temple." That kind of knowledge can be instilled in children and needs to be.
One of the biggest challenges that faces all adults who try and train children in Hinduism is the question, "Why?" Why do we prostrate? Why do we use vibhuti? Why do we do this? Why do we do that? Endless series of 'whys' seems to be what a teacher faces and the teachers may not know the answers. Because, culturally they may have grown up in a situation where you didn't ask why. It just wasn't done. You didn't ask why. You just did it. Their parents didn't ask why and their parents' parents didn't ask why.
Not only is it awkward because they are not used to someone asking why, but they may not know the answer because they didn't ask why. So somebody needs to know the 'whys'. We need some good Hindu teachers in communities to be able to explain things. Modern children, no matter what country they are in, are asking 'why' much more often. It is just part of the culture, part of western education. You are taught to ask why. You are taught to question. You are not taught to memorize or accept things. You are taught to question things. Why do we do this? What is the reason for that?
Gurudeva's teachings provide a lot of wonderful answers. But of course, they have to be stepped down for children. They are designed for someone who has English as their first language or they went to University, at least in English language . There are lots of wonderful 'whys' there, that can be developed for children. We are hoping to do more of that in some of our publications in the future, provide some more resources for teachers based upon Gurudeva's teachings.
For example, we came up with our first volume called 'Mystic Mouse', which portrays Gurudeva's teachings in drawings. The drawings can be useful tools to explain to children. Point out in the drawing, the person is doing that and saying this. It can be a very useful tool to explain what the teachings mean, to answer some of the tricky 'whys' in a very pragmatic way.
Those are our thoughts for this morning. So happy everyone could be here, so happy our guests could be here. Since we are so late, we won't hand out vibhuti. We already got our vibhuti from Gurudeva this morning!
Aum Namah Sivaya.