India is the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality.
When I was Principal in Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya at Kanyakumari, I had made it a point to go to all the classes in a week. I used to take 'moral science' classes. Whatever is to be told children to mould them and develop proper attitude and good habits, I used to tell through stories. After experimenting with various suggested courses, I concluded that a story could be the most effective tool. So, I planned that a specific great principle of our culture in each class should be communicated through suitable stories.
In class II, through the stories of Prahlad, the great truth that Ishvara is everywhere was impressed upon their mind. The story would go on elaborately for three-four months, as the class was once a week. The names of the students also would appear in the stories. For example, Prahlad was sent to school by a teacher who Hiranyakashyapu asked to teach Prahlad that Hiranyakashyapu was the only all-powerful God. All others were no gods or were false gods. But Prahlad, instead of learning from the teacher, started teaching his classmates about Sri Narayana, who pervades everything and protects us.
There would be many dialogues in the story between Prahlad and his friends. The names of his friends would be the names of all the students in the class where I would tell the story. Whatever I wanted to tell the students would be told through the words of Prahlad. The students immensely enjoyed listening to them being part of the story. They would prompt me and urge me to tell their name as Prahlad, Dhruva, or Krishna friend, whatever the story was. Children enjoyed it thoroughly. Thus, as per the main character in the story, the friends of Prahlad or Dhruva and Krishna would be Manikanthan, Muthulakshmi, Ahamad, Xavior, Vignesh, Selvi, Jennifer, etc. As per my syllabus regarding values, practices, and principles to be taught, a story would be told. In the story of Prahlad, they would learn that God is everywhere, and therefore we should treat everyone and everything with respect. Ishvara takes care of us. Ishvara is also within us, so we should work with confidence, etc.
I used to combine both the class sections so there would be around 80 children in lower classes, and to direct their enthusiasm and imagination to the story in the class was a great job. It is difficult to tell who enjoyed it more, me telling the story very creatively or listening to the story they were part of. But we enjoyed it thoroughly.
One day in class II, a boy asked me, 'Didi, if God is within us, can we cut a person to see him?' My stories and violent serials on TV can produce such a thought, I wondered? But I was happy that he asked me. "No, absolutely not. He is not only inside, but he is outside, everywhere. So, once we learn to see him everywhere, then we can feel him inside as well. There is no need to cut. If we feel him inside, we can see him outside, too. By cutting a person, we cannot see God if we are not feeling Him inside or outside. If you cut a neem seed, can you see a neem tree in it? The seed has to grow into a tree to experience the tree.' I do not know how much I succeeded in making him understand it.
In the next class, another question was asked, 'Didi, if God is everywhere, then why can't we see Him?' I was stumped. How could I answer them in a way that they would understand? Many thoughts rushed in that fraction of a second in my mind. I thought I should bring the jaggery, make many shapes out of it, and ask them what this is. They would answer, 'It is a ball, a bat, an elephant, a doll, a man' etc. Then again, I would ask them. "Tell me carefully what is this? Then some would surely answer, 'It is all jaggery shaped like a ball, bat, elephant, doll, man, tree etc.' Then I could emphasise, 'But when I asked you first why did you not say it? Because we saw its shape and size. You know, you even say that I was making it out of jaggery, even then when I asked you, you said it is a ball, a bat etc. So, we fail to see what a thing is made of because we see more forms and get carried away and see them differently. Similarly, we all are of different shape or size, but actually, we are full of Ishvara.' All this imaginary demonstration and dialogue passed through my mind in response to the question asked by this little boy.
But then, I noticed another girl was eager to say something and had raised her hand. I asked her what it was? She said, 'I know why we cannot see Ishvara.' 'Tell us why?' Her confidence stunned me, and I asked her with curiosity to tell. 'But I can't tell in English. Shall I tell in Tamil?' she asked. (How futile it is to understand our culture through foreign language!) 'Of course, you can tell', I assured her. ‘Namma Kannale Mayam Irikirardu. (There is Maya in our eyes.) That is why we cannot see God.'
I was happy with her confident answer, but I was then wondering whether some other child would ask me, 'Didi what is Maya?' And then how I shall answer what Maya is? I thought I shall show the same demonstration and tell them that, 'Even though we know that it is Jaggery, still we see only the forms that is Maya.' But then, will it satisfy them? I was wondering and waiting for the next question. But to my utter surprise, I found that her answer satisfied all the children. They did not ask me what Maya was.
What a great land we are born in, I thought, where a 6-7 years old tells about Maya and all her friends are satisfied! Later I asked that little girl, 'who told you about Maya?' 'My grandmother', she said joyfully. That is the strength of the family! If proper orientation is there, then the dialogue between father and son or husband and wife becomes Upanishad, as we see in the Vedic time.
Vedanta, which savants of other countries struggle to understand, is the subject of the cradle songs for the children in India. The family which nourishes this Amrut of Vedanta, of Oneness of existence, is the Amrut Pariwar. The land where millions of grandparents and parents instil these thoughts in young minds is, in a true sense, a Punyabhoomi.
That is why Swami Vivekananda, after his three and half years of sojourn in the West, started his first speech with these words, 'If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed Punya Bhumi, to be the land to which all souls on this earth must come to account for Karma, the land to which every soul that is wending its way Godward must come to attain its last home, the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality-it is India. Hence have started the founders of religions from the most ancient times, deluging the earth again and again with the pure and perennial waters of spiritual truth. Hence have proceeded the tidal waves of philosophy that have covered the earth, East or West, North or South, and hence again must start the wave which is going to spiritualise the material civilisation of the world. Here is the life – giving water with which must be quenched the burning fire of materialism which is burning the core of the hearts of millions in other lands. Believe me, my friends, this is going to be.'