Tension Between Varnasrama and Vaisnavism

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.2 | November 3, 2012 |

English; Valsad, Gujarat, India

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About Sunday Schools

April 17, 2012 |

Question: I have a new kind of service in our yatra since October 2011 – arranging children’s programs. The idea of it appeared last year. During Sunday programs the children are left to their own devices. While the parents are taking part in kirtana and listening to a class the children run about, make a noise, disturb the lecturer.… Expand>

Question:

I have a new kind of service in our yatra since October 2011 – arranging children’s programs. The idea of it appeared last year. During Sunday programs the children are left to their own devices. While the parents are taking part in kirtana and listening to a class the children run about, make a noise, disturb the lecturer.

Unfortunately parents don’t always pay attention to the kids and their behavior in the temple. Sometimes it caused the irritation of other devotees. Actually it was not clear for me how to hold these programs and what content they should have.

I was in Moscow last year in September and made acquaintances with a mataji who serves as a coordinator of children’s programs. She explained to me the way They organize such programs in Moscow yatra. After returning back home I asked the advice of Advaita-patni dd, Kalindi-priya dd and the devotees who have children. They gave me their blessings and I started my new service.

Children’s programs are held once a week on Saturdays and last about one and half hour. Children are divided into two groups: those who are 2-6 years old and those who are 7-10 years old. At first we arrange the program for the little children and then for the older ones. We learn to offer obeisances to the Deities and chant Maha mantra for 2 or 3 times, read about Krishna, play, draw and learn how one should behave himself in the temple. The little children offer their pictures and applications to the Deities. Then they chant Prasada Sevaya mantra and take prasadam, after that they wash the floor in the altar room.

The older children offer their obeisances to the Deities and chant one round of Maha mantra. We learn together the following topics: what is the Veda, what piety means, the qualities that pious people have, the law of God, the manners of behavior in the temple. The girls attending Sunday programs have their own Deities of Gopal and they are taught to make garlands. We plan to teach them to sew dresses for Deities and play musical instruments.

They also chant prasada-sevaya mantra, take prasadam and wash the floor in the altar room. The older children take care of the little ones during Sunday programs (dispense prasadam, help to wash hands). The adult devotees staged a New Year performance for the children about Father Frost (Santa) and his granddaughter seeking for Krishna. When we celebrated the Appearance Day of Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya the children had their own abhiseka for the Deities of Gopal. The older children rang the bell and made acaman. The little children recited poems about Krishna during the celebration of Lord Caitanya’s Appearance Day, the older ones showed a performance about a brahmana who prepared a feast at Jagannatha Misra’s house and Nimai ate that offering without permission. We are planning to stage a performance for Lord Nrisimha’s Appearance Day which all the children would take part in. The adult devotees try to involve our little vaisnavas in the ceremony of the Deities Greeting and kirtana at Sunday programs. The upbringing of children mostly depends on the way  parents behave and spend time together and what knowledge they impart to them. That’s why we arrange classes for the parents concerning the topic of child upbringing.

Guru Maharaja, in one of your lectures answering the question “How to bring up a Krishna conscious child,“ you told that one cannot enforce children to become devotees. We try to follow this instruction and involve our children indevotional service in a very gentle way and they attend programs, take part in celebrations, help the adult devotees with a great pleasure. There are 25 children in our yatra. However only half of them attend children’s programs. They are the children whose parents are active in devotional service and take part in Sunday programs.

Unfortunately there is not enough literature about philosophy adapted for children. I have a lack of knowledge myself, but my tutor Advaita-patni Mataji and other devotees support me.

Guru Maharaja, I’d like to ask for your advice concerning the following topics:

  • How should we arrange the work with the parents?
  • How do we act properly in training and upbringing our children?
  • How should we awake the interest of those parents whose children do not attend programs?
  • What should be avoided in our cooperation with parents and their children?
  • There are a lot of films and cartoons about Krishna, can we use them in our programs arranged for the children?
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Question: Is it acceptable for a girl, whose parents don’t arrange her marriage, to arrange her own marriage by meeting different men and working it out like that? … Expand>

Question:

Is it acceptable for a girl, whose parents don’t arrange her marriage, to arrange her own marriage by meeting different men and working it out like that? 

Answer by HH Bhakti Vikāśa Swami:

According to Manu-saṁhitā it is the duty of the father to marry a daughter before her first menstruation.

And Manu also says that after, I think it’s two menstrual periods or maybe three, if the father hasn’t done that, then the girl can arrange her own marriage.

The emphasis is very much on what they nowadays call child marriage. Śrīla Prabhupāda recounts that his eldest sister was almost 14 and she was not married, and that their mother was so upset that she told their father that: “If you don’t marry her right away I’m going to drown myself in Ganga.“

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s first child was born when his wife was 13. Nowadays it’s called child abuse.
So, it’s acceptable according to śāstra. You’ve asked according to śāstra. I’ve answered according to śāstra.

Gradually it’s become accepted within Indian culture that girls go to school, and then they have a career, but still there is idea that parents should arrange the marriage. But that’s breaking down now.

Still, maybe most marriages in India are arranged, but it’s breaking down. Thousands and thousands of marriages are negotiated on the Internet. They have sites shaadi.com. Shaadi is Urdu word for marriage. Muslimmatrimony.com is an Indian site.

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