Monday, May 21, 2012

Bhakt Praladh from CT center

New Page 1

Summer Camp for Children

for children

 The summer camp will help your child to know India through her rich culture, traditions, customs and holy places. It will provide a great opportunity for children to understand Hinduism in a unique way.
Journey to India [Age 5-9]
  • Topographical study of India
  • Major Festivals
  • Traditions and customs
  • Holy places and their importance
  • Fun games to solidify concepts

Introduction to Hinduism [Age 10-15]
  • Core concepts like nature of self.
  • Nature of the God
  • Why are we born as Humans
  • Significance of Vedas
  • Fun games to solidify concepts

June 3rd to 24th, 2012 | Sundays: 9:30 am-11:30 am
Bal-Mukund Plano Center
Precious Beginnings Montessori
3929 Alma Drive, Plano, TX 75023 
Contact: Niranjan Marathe: 469-288-7534 

July 8th to 29th, 2012 | Sundays: 10:00 am-12:00 pm
Bal-Mukund Cromwell Center
Cromwell Yoga Studio
211 Shunpike Rd. Cromwell, CT 06416
Contact: Reema Pant: 860-712-8456 

July 8th to 29th, 2012 | Sundays: 2:30 pm-4:30 pm
Bal-Mukund Norwalk Center
Sindhu Center, 14117
Clarkdale Ave. Norwalk, CA 90650 
Contact: Rishina Dobhal: 626-379-0108 

July 17th to August 19th, 2012 | Sundays: 11:00 am-1:00 pm
2991 Brockway Street
Palatine, IL 60067
Contact: Aarti & Ajay Chandok: 630-561-4807 
June 23rd to July 14th, 2012 | Saturdays: 2:00 pm-4:00 pm
3839 Heritage Terrace, #232
Fremont, CA 94536
Contact: Babita Ram: 510-794-3368

Click Here to register !!  Cost: $ 20/child { *FREE ENTRY for Palatine, IL & Fremont, CA}

Monday, May 7, 2012

Winning Essays of Bal-Mukund Chhote Philosopher Contest-2012

GROUP 1 [Age 5 to 7]
Topics [Max 500 words]:
  1. Describe about any one playful act of Krishna as a child.
  2. Tell us about your favorite personal form of God (Ishta Devata) and describe why you like that form the most.

Saish Dige- Wesley Chapel, FL
Click to read his winning essay- Story of Lord Narshimha

Tia Vasudeva-Marlboro, NJ
Click to read her winning essay- Something about Lord Krishna

Shyam Siva- Shrewsbury, MA
Click to read his winning essay-  Krishna avatar leela

GROUP 2 [Age 8 to 11]
Topics [Max 800 words]: 
  1. Explain about the significance of any one avatar of Vishnu and outline the lessons you’ve learned from that avatar, which you can adopt in your life.
  2. Describe how temples and holy places, play a vital role in helping us to reach the omnipresent God.

Shruthi Siva- Shrewsbury, MA
Click to read her winning essay-What I like most about Lord Krishna

Shivek Narang: Fremont, CA
Click to read his winning essay-Story of Ram avatar

Emilio Mendez-Vanderbilt, PA
Click to read his winning essay- Bhakti, Gyan and Karma

GROUP 3 [Age 12 to 15]
Topics [Max 1200 words]:
  1. Pick two characters from Ramayan and explain what you can learn from them.
  2. What morals we can learn from Ramayan and how it can be applied today.

Gayatri Sadachar- Chandler, AZ
Click to read her winning essay- The Ramayana: pillar of righteousness

Alankrita Dayal- Fremont, CA
Click to read her winning essay- Ravana's other side

Karthik Meyippan- Bellevue, WA
Click to read his winning essay-Story of Mareecha and Hanuman

CONGRATULATIONS !! to all the winner

What I like most about Lord Krishna by Shruthi Siva

Group 2 [Age 8-11 yrs]
Shruthi Siva- Shrewsbury,MA
Age: 10 yrs
I love all the avatars by lord Vishnu. But I love Krishna avatar. That’s because Krishna as a child he did lots of leelas/mischievous and tricks. He is very playful, friendly, patient, brave, loving, beautiful and kind. That’s why I chose Krishna. Isn’t it so many significant things to learn from Krishna?
Krishna is very playful. When he was a child, he used steal butter and shares it with his friends. He was crazy about the butter and it was his favorite food.  One time when the gopikas were bathing in the sacred river, he quietly snuck up near the river, stole the gopikas clothes and hung them on top of the tree. A day never went without Krishna’s tricks. So, the gopikas kept on complaining to Yashodha, his mom. One day he got caught. Yashodha was really upset with Krishna. Then she said “what is this Krishna? I thought you behaved while playing outside.” Krishna didn’t have a reply. Yashodha waited for a few seconds.  Then Krishna said, “I didn’t do it, one of my other friends did it”. His mom did not believe him. So, no matter how much Krishna pleaded, she pulled him and tied him with the barrel they had in the backyard. Even I get into trouble like this and my mom will give me time-outs. I will try to stay out of trouble.
Whenever I hear about Krishna’s stories, they are very cute, interesting and it will make me laugh.
Krishna has many friends. All true devotees are his best, best friends. He never forsakes for his friends. He saves them always, even if he is in trouble. Krishna is everyone’s savior. THAT DOESN’T MEAN when a bad thing happens, Krishna doesn’t like you. It is all natural. “Krishna, Krishna”, chant these 10 times. Everything becomes peaceful. “Krishna, Krishna, Hare Krishna; Krishna, Krishna Shri Krishna” I will apply this in my life by asking my friends if I could help them with something they are in trouble with. If they yes, I will not hesitate to start with helping even I have work.
This is about Patience. Whenever he looks upon a bad person, he never attacks immediately. He is the ultimate. So, whenever he has some decision, either to attack or try to teach them how to be good, he usually chooses the second choice; be patient and try to teach them. But if you have had more than 10 chances,   and you failed them all, he will surely attack. For example, Kamsa gave lots of trouble to Krishna even before his birth to adolescent. Krishna was very patient and gave him so many chances to correct his mistake. But he didn’t he finally attacked him. I will try to stop scolding my brother and try to teach him how to be good and be patient with him.

Brave and beautiful:
He saved his people from the poisonous snake called Kalinga. He also saved his village’s people from a 7 day storm that Indra created. I will apply this to my life by taking more risks for good.

Loving and Kind:
Think of the most rotten thing that you have seen before.  Suppose you have it as your pet. Krishna would take care of this rotten thing like it was a scarce, precious gem. This is because it is a living thing. It needs to thrive. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it can die. Krishna is very loving and kind to everything no matter how rotten or deformed it is. Just because lord is my role model, I also will follow all his habits. I like to be loving and kind to my plants in my yard and friends’ pets, poor and the old people. I volunteer/try to be helpful to everyone. My parents are also encouraging me to do more nice things to help more people. For example, they took me to volunteer at Perkins Blind School last summer. I like to fundraise, and donate my outgrown clothes.
That’s how I adopt Krishna’s all good habits in life. I am sure that I won’t let go in my entire life!!

The Ramayana: A Pillar of Righteousness by Gayatri Sadachar

Group 3 [Age 12-15 yrs]
Gayatri Sadachar- Chandler,AZ
Age: 15 yrs

The Ramayana: A Pillar of Righteousness 
Shree Krishna states in the BhagvadGeeta, 
“Yadayada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata abhyutthanama dharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham” (4.7). 
So in other words, whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in irreligion, God takes an avatar to eliminate all evil and steer people onto the right path. Likewise, the Ramayana depicts the story of when Lord Vishnu descended onto Earth as Shree Ram and promoted good behavior and values through his conduct. Though the situations in the Ramayana are not as similar as to those of today, the same conflicts are still present and applicable today. The Ramayana and its characters stand as a pillar of righteousness. Thus, in times of mental turmoil one can refer to it and learn many valuable morals.                                                                                                                                    By reading the Ramayana, one can learn many morals. One of which is that it is the utmost duty of a person to fulfill his/her commitments. For King Dasharatha, that includes going to the extent of exiling one’s beloved son for fourteen years. Though he suffered and died in fulfilling his promise, he died an honorable man who kept his word and performed his dharma. That situation in which a conflict between duty and attachment arises, shows how attachments must be set aside and that one should fulfill promises no matter how challenging because it is one’s duty or dharma. Shree Ram upheld his father’s honor and performed his duty by actually agreeing to go live in exile. It is admirable how Shree Ram, who was going to be crowned the next King of Ayodhya sacrificed his kingship and readily agreed to be exiled for the sole purpose of respecting his father’s promise. This emphasizes the importance of leaving everything aside and performing one’s duty. So, from the ideal actions of Ram and Dasharatha, one can learn and realize the importance of doing one’s duty by fulfilling commitments.                                                                    
The moral that one must not be greedy by accepting something that is not rightfully theirs is also emphasized in the Ramayana. Though Keikeyi’s son Bharat had been crowned the next King of Ayodhya after Ram had been exiled, he did not accept the kingship because it was morally wrong. Bharat could have easily, happily, and greedily took over the kingdom, but because he respected his older brother Ram and knew that the throne rightfully belonged to Ram, he refused to rule as king. Instead, in order to fulfill his dharma to his kingdom while also not disrespecting Ram, he took his brother’s shoes, placed them on the throne, and ruled alongside representatively. Bharat serves as an ideal example of a righteous person and the moral that can be learned is that one should be just and accept only what he/she rightfully deserves.                          
Another important moral that can be learned through the Ramayana, is depicted through the story of Shabri and Ram. It is the moral that God accepts any offering which is given with sincere devotion regardless of caste and creed. Now Shabri, a sincere devotee of Ram and also a woman of a low caste, was overjoyed when her lord came to meet her at her ashram. And as a token of devotion towards her lord, she offered him berries. However, before offering Ram berries, she tasted all of them and gave Ram the sweetest ones. Lakshman was surprised however Shree Ram readily and happily accepted her offering due to being overwhelmed by her devotion towards him. The moral that can be learned and that is expressed in this part of the Ramayan is how God accepts even the smallest and simplest offerings regardless of caste and creed. And that God loves unconditionally and values the amount of devotion and sincerity behind the offering.                     
Another moral that one can learn from the Ramayana, is to always support righteousness and the truth because good always triumphs over evil. Even if it means fighting against your family members just as Vibheeshana did by siding with Ram and going against his brother Ravan.  Vibheeshana was in great conflict because on one side he had his brother and on the other side he had his principles. Vibheeshana, did the right thing by putting his family relations aside and upholding dharma by helping out Ram in the fight against Ravan. He knew that he had to stop his brother’s wrongdoings and so he chose to tread on the path of righteousness. This is commendable as well as risky. Through Vibheeshana, the Ramayana greatly emphasizes how one must take action against the immoral and always side with the truth even if it’s challenging.        So these were some of the many morals depicted in the epic Ramayana. Though the situations in the Ramayana are not relevant today, the conflicts and lessons learned are still applicable today. For example, the morals one learns from the Ramayana that stresses the importance of fulfilling one’s commitments can be applicable to situations between friends. The Ramayana gives us valuable insight on ideal values and ethical behavior as promoted through the ideal characters and inspires us to fulfill our dharma and promote good conduct too. The epic Ramayana is not only a famous mythological story, but also a treasured text that continues to inspire, enlighten, and teach people.

Something About Krishna by Tia vasudeva

Group 1 [Age 5-7 yrs]
Tia Vasudeva- Marlboro, NJ
Age: 7 yrs
There is something I want to tell you about Krishna, something you may not know. I want to tell you this because he is very special to me. I am going to start with a few songs about him. Let’s start with the eating one (I would have preferred to sing but here it is to read).
Krishna loves to eat butter’
 It is his most favorite food,
 He also likes to eat Dahi, Doodh and Daal,
 He also loves to eat Paranthi….butter Paranthi!
 His favorite snack is fruits and he loves vegetables,
 That’s why he is a healthy boy!
The next one is how he looks. Krishna is cute. He has a peacock feather, wears a yellow dhoti, has blue skin and black curly hair. So beautiful.
Wow! Krishna sure is beautiful!!
Now comes the leela about going to this fun place. I made up this placed called ‘Atti-Uttam forest’. Pack your bags and let’s go with Krishna. We will have a lot of fun and go to many fun-places. OK let’s start.
Today is New Year. I and Krishna are sleeping in the tree-house. Yesterday we slept early. We got up at 5.00 am. “It’s so early” said Krishna yawning.  “And dark” said Tia as she stretched. “Remember we will be going to the Atti Uttam Forest and staying there for 2 weeks” said Tia and Krishna at the same time. “Charge” they yelled!  And then they both laughed. “Is the suitcase packed?” asked Krishna. “Ready, Freddy All right” said Krishna. “Let’s go-to Atti-Uttam Forest now” said Tia. “We will get to Atti-Uttam forest by foot .OK” said Krishna. When they got there they saw Gopis dancing. Krishna and Tia danced too. “I love dancing” said Krishna. “Let’s go to the garden” said Tia. “OK” said Krishna.
When they got to the garden, Krishna and Tia went straight to the lilies. Next, they went to the sun-flowers and then to the violets. They also went to the tulips, daisies and poppies. “I like the roses best” said Tia. “Oh really” asked Krishna? “Yup” said Tia. “I like the poppies best” said Krishna. Tia and Krishna played for a lot of time. They played tag, hide and seek and leap-frog. Tia and Krishna unrolled their sleeping bags. “Good night” said Krishna. “Good night” said Tia. They both fell asleep. After that it was silence.
“Good morning” said Krishna, “Uh” said Tia “Let me sleep”. “You will have lots of fun on the new day” said Krishna. “Let me sleep” moaned Tia. “But the birds are singing and you love birds sing”. Krishna came close to her and shook her gently.”Please wake up” said Krishna gently “OK” said Tia yawning. She and Krishna did their brush and bath. After that they had their breakfast of toast.. yummy yummy. During the rest of their trip they did a lot of other fun things. When they got back to their treehouse, it was night so they slept and they had sweet-sweet dreams.

Story of Ram Avatar by Shivek Narang

Group 2 [Age 8-11 yrs]
Shivek Narang- Fremont, CA
Age: 9 yrs
Earlier before Lord Vishnu came to earth as Ram, demons were terrorizing the world. They were interrupting the penance of Rishis and many other saints. Mother Earth was frightened. Devas went to Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva for help. They both said they were matchless against the strength of Ravana, king of demons. Finally, the devas went to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu told them that he will come as Ram and destroy the demons.

Ram, the avatar of Vishnu was the God who brought peace on earth. His avatar symbolizes the life an ideal human being should live and shows us the right way to live our lives.

As a young boy, he always bought joy to his parents. He always obeyed his parents even when he had to suffer hardships and difficulties. We know that he followed his father’s extremely difficult command of fourteen years of exile in the forest. He showed the world the virtues of being a great son. Listening to our parents and respecting them is what we learn from Shri Ram.

 He was very kind and generous to his younger brothers. In a game in archery, Ram won and Bharat had least points. They decided to take a break and count the points later. While brothers were away, Ram took away his points and gave them to Bharat. So, when they counted again, Bharat had won. This really showed Shri Ram’s warm heart, generosity and caring nature towards his younger brothers. He made sure that if he got any gifts he gave them to his younger brothers first. In return, he too got a lot of love from them. Ram and Bharat loved each other that they felt they could not live without each other. Even though, Bharat had a choice to  live a luxurious life, he chose to endure similar hardships as Shri Ram during his exile. Lakshman too obeyed his elder brother and loved him so much that he too followed Shri Ram in the forest. We too learn not to be self selfish and self centered. As elder brother or sister we should take care of our family especially our younger siblings. We should learn to love them just like Shri Ram did.

Shri Ram was smart and at a very young age he learned all the scriptures and knowledge very quickly from his gurus. He also learned archery and many other important skills to be a good king and an excellent warrior. Guru Vashisht was very pleased that his student was learning skillfully and very quickly. He felt extremely fortunate to have such an able student. Shri Ram was respectful to his Guru and Guru Ma. We learn from Shri Ram how to be a good student. We should be respectful of all elders, especially our teachers.

Shri Ram also was a great friend to Jatayu, Sugriva and Vibhishan besides many others. He showed how important it is to be a good friend He took care of Jatayu's wounds when he was dying and said kind words to him to make him feel better. In return, Jatayu helped Shri Ram by telling him the direction Ravana had taken Sita. Shri Ram helped Sugriva by getting him his kingdom back. Sugriva helped Shri Ram to first find Sita and then provided him an army to fight Ravana. Vibhishan worshiped Shri Ram and came to help him fight against his own brother Ravana. Shri Ram eventually made him the king of Lanka. We learn from all these stories that true friendship lies in giving rather than in receiving. “Do unto to others as they unto to” also rings true.  We also learn that if we keep good faith and pray to Shri Ram we will also be blessed like Vibhishan.

Eventually,  Shri Ram and his army crossed the bridge made of stones made by the Vaner Sena, and they put a fierce attack on Lanka. They were countless days of wars and fights between the two armies. Ravana sent out Kumkarana for a battle, and Shri Ram killed him. After, Lakshman killed Meghnad and finally an extremely long battle, Shri Ram killed Ravana. He made Vibhisan the king and showed mercy on the wives of Ravana and other raakshsas. We also learn to forgive our enemies like Shri Ram did.

Shri Ram fulfilled the promise Lord Vishnu had made to the devas and mother earth.

Praying to Shri Ram makes our heart pure and removes all evil intentions away. He always keeps us happy and stays beside us like our best friend. Lord Ram bestows His grace on us and never allows us to be miserable. When we say His name with true devotion our body gets purified. Ram loves his devotees, and takes care of them. If we sincerely pray to him he will always take care of us. Ram teaches us brotherly love and true devotion to God. He tells us not to harm creatures especially if they are helpless. His teachings also remind us to forgive our enemies. Above all, Lord Ram creates happiness and brings peace in our Heart.

Jai Shri Ram!

Ravana's Other Side by Alankrita Daya

Group 3 [Age 12-15 yrs]
Alankrita Dayal- Fremont, CA
Age: 15 yrs
Ravana’s Other Side
A major Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana is regarded as a scripture of the allegorical lessons in righteous living integral to the many Hindus from the Indian subcontinent and beyond. The Ramayana is a story about the Ayodhya Prince Rama, who defeats the Lanka King Ravana to free his kidnapped wife, Sita, with the aid of an army of sophisticated and knowledgeable monkeys. The most common tradition regards Rama as the god Visnu’s human avatar and Ravana as a monster king of demons. However, Ravana has set an example for future generations as he followed his dharma, or morals, until the very end!
                Ravana mastered sixty-four forms of knowledge ranging from the holy books of Brahmins such as the Vedas to arts and ways of Ksatriyas, including archery. Although he was arrogant and aggressive, his arduous asceticism and austere penances brought him two boons from two of three primary gods. Brahma allowed him to become invulnerable to the wrath of any god/Devas, and Shiva granted him indestructibility from all powers excluding humans in Heaven/Earth. These powers fueled his arrogance and aggressiveness, the result which eventually led to his demise.
                As a brother, Ravana supported his family. He indirectly defended his sister, Soorpnakha, who was insulted by Rama and Lakshmana, in so much as to wage war with full combat. Moreover, Ravana respected Vibhisna’s (his brother’s) decision to join the opposing forces even though he knew that would give a grand advantage to his enemy. Once the battle ensued, Vibhisna helped Rama in many important ways (ex. sending spies to Lanka, educating Rama of the prowess of the demon Prahastha, and destroying many demons in battle). Even so, Ravana didn’t try to prevent him from joining nor imprisoned him for going against his orders—king’s orders.
                Most importantly, Ravana fulfilled his duty as Brahmin to the last bit, which is best exemplified when Rama wanted to install Shiva lingam to win Shiva’s favor when fighting to win against Ravana. With no other priest nearby, Rama accepts Ravana as his guru, leading Ravana to observe all rites meticulously and dutifully chants Rama’s intent in establishing the lingam in order to slay Ravana, himself, in battle.
                Furthermore, there are many instances where Ravana didn’t fully employ his demonic behavior. For instance, once kidnapped, he never touched Sita because he was never able to get her approval. He never physically/emotionally hurt her like Rama and Lakshmana did to Soorpnakha. Once within Lanka, he had all the power to easily have taken advantage of her. Instead, already knowing that Sita was renowned for being the most dharmic woman on the earth, which also meant that she would be the last woman to give approval for his touch, Ravana gave her time to mourn in hopes of changing her decision. He also employed her with many servants and varieties of foods and distractions in the setting of the beautiful garden, Ashoka Vatika, because he respected Sita’s refusal to stay at his palace. Some would say that Ravana wanted to win her favor by providing all such commodities but one should also note that Ravana did not have the need to win her favor once she was within his territory with no impending threat.
Ravana was a master of maya, illusionary arts.  He presented events before others that never happened. For example, he created a scene in front of Sita that Rama had been killed in battle. This all looked so real that Sita was shocked and fell unconscious; however, even after just great illusory powers, Ravana still didn’t have his way with her. Similarly, another possible route that Ravana could have undertaken was using his shape-shifting capabilities to appear as Rama in front of Sita, and thus winning her love. However, he never made use of such powers. When his primary wife, Madodar, asked him why he didn’t take this action, Ravana explained how Rama had a sacred and divine form, which would not be able to hide Ravana’s real character. He recognized the fact that he was sinful and impure—qualities appropriate for his Rakshasa form. He was only able to take on the form of a sage when he kidnapped Sita because he was a practicing Brahmin as well. Hence, Ravana was also very clever and shrewd.
Ravana had immense powers and possessed many great qualities along with a great sense of arrogance. Ravana had the ability to control is anger and rage. Unlike usual tyrannical monarchs, he didn’t kill disobedient servants but evaluated their past deeds. He was praised by many.  Mandodari recites that Earth shook and stars and sun remained obscured in front of his splendor. Neither Varun Kuber nor Indra had the courage to confront him in battle. He had conquered Death (Yama). His sons and kinsmen possessed immense strength. Moreover, Angad also praised Ravana. When Angad visited Ravana, he appreciated his noble descent of Brahma. Later, Mandodari, on his deathbed, praised Ravana while also condemning him since his arrogance and hostility reduced him to such a plight that none of his sons was alive to lament over his death.
                Finally, also at Ravana’s deathbed, Rama recognizes how great a scholar Ravana is. Ravana enlightens Lakshmana with knowledge and experience attained over his lifetime about being a good king and ruler and waging war effectively. At first, reluctant to believe that Ravana could be a scholar worth listening to, Lakshmana stands at his head and asks Ravana to shed his knowledge upon him, saying that he is obliged to ask by his brother. At this point Ravana has to remind Lakshmana that although Ravana is at a lower position than him in the course of life, he is asked to be a teacher, which should oblige Lakshmana to give his respects by sitting at Ravana’s feet. Lakshmana feels ashamed and follows through his duty as student and is astounded by last minute teachings. Thus, Ravana doesn’t die with malice and grudge but with altruism in shedding knowledge onto inexperienced and young noble Lakshmana.
In fact, people of some equally remote places like Melghat and Dhanora have worshipped Ravana religiously for generations. They consider Ravana as an ardent Shiva devotee and great scholar who mastered all four Vedas and six Shastras, which most likely accounts for Ravana’s depiction of having ten heads or as knowledgeable as ten scholars. More globally, Ravana is known to have written great Sanskrit literature: Tandav Stotram, a poem praising Shiva in such a grand way that it is even in use in worshipping in Hindu temples today, and the Ravan Samhita, a book in narration of Shiva of advanced astrology, which is referenced by astrologers today.
In addition to viewing the Ramayana as a story of the battle between the good and evil, one should focus on morals of the story at hand. A moral that could be gained from the story is that one, such as Ravana, should not be too arrogant or proud of oneself and one’s accomplishments because that can create a sense of false security and hamper judgment. Despite Ravana’s refusal for advice, his loyalty towards his duty as a brother, Brahmin, and king has set an example for future generations!

Story of Mareecha and Hanuman by Karthik Meyippan

Group 3 [Age 12-15 yrs]
Karthik Meyippan- Bellevue, WA
Age: 14 yrs
The Other Duo
The Ramayana is an invaluable Indian poem which contains enjoyment for the reader at any level, whether reading it as a simple tale, for religious lessons, through scientific eyes, or any other point of view. It is revered for the intricate weaving of characters who each teach morals on their own and in combination. Most would look at Rama and Sita as the perfect characters to learn from, yet the other characters, who are important too, are then overlooked. Mareecha and Hanuman may not be the focal points of the story, but they are equal to Rama in value of lessons taught.
At his first appearance in the story, Mareecha was defeated in battle by Rama.  At the time, Rama was learning how to fight and was testing his abilities by defending the sages against the demon attack.  Afterwards, Mareecha was approached by Ravana with the opportunity to trick Rama. Mareecha has learned that Rama was too powerful to defeat and he wants to take a rightful path in life even as a demon. Consequently, he decides to decline the offer. Since he is forced to die in either the hands of Ravana or Rama, he allows Rama to bless him through death. His final act in life is of devotion to Rama.Therefore, even though he begins life as a horrible demon, he can still transform into a philanthropist. There are a variety of lessons that we can learn from this. Every being has virtue inside them, even if they appear to be bad on the outside. There is no such thing as “rotten to the core” when talking about animals (including humans), as inside the human ‘core’, or soul, there is always purity. This is also shown at the climax of the epic poem: when Ravana’s dead body falls to the ground and Rama observes it. Ravana emits a divine glow in death, as all the evil he accumulated in life is washed away. His purity is shown when he is no longer biased by his learned ways; only his internal nature is shown. Another important lesson to be learned from Mareecha is willpower can change anything. Mareecha grew up as a demon, was taught the demon ways, and knew nothing but evil and mischief. When he saw the true path though, he grabbed onto it, devoured the fruit of piety. He understood in his brief encounter with Rama how to bring out the golden part of his soul, no matter how small it was, and grow it until he was pure and devoted. With an insurmountable will, you are more than halfway there already. 
Hanuman, the reverent monkey god of the winds, can teach us a plethora of lessons. He explicates the benefits of true devotion to God. He is utterly dedicated to Rama, always thinking in terms of Rama’s benefit and not for himself. He always shows kindness to those helping Rama and the full wrath of his rage crushes those who oppose his idol. As a result, in most depictions of Rama and Sita, Hanuman can be seen below Rama, giving his hands and praise to Rama in awe. He has earned a place in all our minds: whenever one imagines Rama, Hanuman is not far away. He also shows that only when strength is combined with wisdom can one be truly successful. Vali was one of the best fighters in all the three worlds; nobody could defeat him when in battle. However, when he makes the rash decision to steal the throne back from his brother, disgracing him without giving him a chance to explain, Vali makes his fatal mistake. Because of this betrayal, he is killed. However, Hanuman possesses the same great strength, yet chooses to be a servant when he could easily kill the king and have power. He uses his powers to overcome obstacles without hurting people, such as when a gargantuan demon blocked his path to Lanka. Instead of simply disposing of her, he flew into her mouth, as per her request, and flew back out just as easily, making her satisfied while keeping his life and ability to complete his mission.
These morals are woven deep into the story and our culture. May we always remember the lessons our ancestors taught us through this poem.

Bhakti, Gyan and Karma by Emilio Mendez

Group 2 [Age 8-11 yrs]
Emilio Mendez- Vanderbilt, PA
Age: 11 yrs
Temples and holy places give us a way to reach God through practice of Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga. 

Bhakti Yoga is devotion.  People usually come to the temple and meditate upon the Lord, chant His thousand names, pray, for puja,  This means that temples and holy places are a sacred place for worship and reaching the omnipresent God.

Jnana Yoga is the Yoga of Knowledge.  Temples and holy places offer books about God, sutras, and life of Swamis.  They also offer class like BalaVihar, Indian spiritual music, and opportunities to learn about 8 limbs of yoga.

Karma Yoga is Yoga of Action.   There are two types of karma, good karma and bad karma.  The karma temples and holy places teach us to practice is good selfless action.  Temples help the community by donating food to the food bank for the homeless and others in need, toys of children of poor families.  By doing these seva related activities, it helps you grow closer to God. 

All these Yogas – Bhakti, Jnana, and Karma – are ways to reach God.  The three practices to reach God make you become more purified and blessed by the Lord.  The less bad things you do, the sooner you will reach the Supreme Being, God.  Temples and holy places offer spiritual classes like meditation, yoga, BalaVihar classes,  for people to develop their spiritual values and reach God.

Temples and holy places try to do their best for people to reach God like teaching about the limbs of yoga.  You should visit the temple as many times as you can.  Everybody that goes to the temple dresses nice, with clean clothes, to show respect to God.  A temple is a house for God.  It’s kept clean and with good smelling incenses. Every time you go to the temple you feel God’s presence.  Sometimes if you come to the temple and pray for 5 minutes and then leave, the presence is still with you but you can’t feel it.  This means that temples and holy places have God’s powerful presence when you come in and chant God’s name and block out all thoughts, and sounds and desires.

God’s grace is everywhere not only in temples.  This means that temples and holy places can make you feel that God’s grace is much more powerfully present  when you come to the temple. 

A temple is not the only place for worship.  People have temples which are puja or meditation/prayer rooms in their homes.  This means that temples can be at home too because God is everywhere and is ever present. 

To me temples and holy places are a sacred place for praying.  When I go to the temple I become more peaceful and sometimes I sit and meditate and pray to God and chant his name.  Every time I go to the temple I become more peaceful and I can feel God’s presence when I meditate and chant His name.

Krishna Avatar Leela by Shyam Siva

Group 1 [Age 5-7 yrs]
Shyam Siva- Shrewsbury, MA
Age: 6 yrs
 I have books about all the avatars by Lord Vishnu. In those avatars I love Krishna avatar. Do you know why? Krishna is very playful and I like to copy him. I have read lots of lord Krishna’s story books. In Krishna’s avatar I like the part when he was a child and stole butter and curd. I can say that it is my favorite part too. Whenever he did the tricks to steal the butter and made fun with his friends at gopikas places, and he often causes trouble, it will make me laugh and giggle.
He plans, and sneaks with friends to enter gopikas for butter.
I have few examples.
One time gopikas carried curd in a pot on their head. They lined up and walked home long way. Krishna and his friends saw the pots with curd. They sneaked behind the gopikas and threw small stones to poke holes in the pots.  Through the hole came curds rushing out. They quietly went near and drank the curd. When the gopikas reached home, they looked inside the pot, but nothing was in there. Then they noticed the hole in their pots and got upset and said” I just made curd and where did it go? It must be Krishna” Then they complained to Yashodha, Krishna’s mom. But she didn’t believe it. But she thought he was good, but actually he was very mischievous.
The other day, the gopikas have gone out. Krishna and his friends noticed and they wanted eat the butter from the gopikas’ house. The pots were very high on the ceiling. The kids couldn’t able to reach it. So, Krishna planned to form a pyramid with his friends and climb on them to reach the pots. Finally they reached the pots and poked holes and ate all the butter. Suddenly one of the gopikas came home and caught them. She took Krishna to his mom then he tickled the gopika’s hand and grabbed her son joined his hand with her. Again his didn’t mom believe it.
That because of lots of complaints one his mom got upset and tied Krishna in the barrel in their backyard. It looked like my time-out in the corner by my mom. Even with the barrel Krishna crawled in between two trees and smashed it. From the trees two gods came up. They were so happy and thanked Krishna for freeing them and gave them the original form.
Thanks for letting me share my favorite part to you all!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Story of Narasimha by Saish Dige

Group 1 [Age 5-7 yrs]
Saish Dige- Wesley Chapel, FL
Age: 7 yrs 
Story of Narasimha
Narasimha is the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu was deeply hurt by his younger brother’s death. He wants to teach a lesson to the Gods. So he performed a sever Tapa. Lord Brahma appeared in front of him and asked for a boon. Hiranyakashipu told him that he must remain immortal. So he asked a boon of immortality to Lord Brahma. But God said “It is not possible to give such boon, please ask another.” He thought in his mind that God is not so clever so I can get the same boon by only changing the words. So he asked the God his boon in such a way that he never die.
The demon returned to his evil ways and instead of God he declared himself to be God. He threatens all people, rhishis-munis, even God also if they pray Lord Vishnu. He put ban on the chanting the name and pray of Lord Vishnu. Because of his threat all accepted this, but his own son Prahlad refused this.
Hiranyakashipu threatened Prahlad in different ways. But he survived all those dangers by chanting the name of Lord Vishnu.
From this we learnt that in difficult and dangerous situations we must remember God, and we must have faith in God. God always help his devotee in different ways.
At last Hiranyakashipu asked the Prahlad “Where is your God?” “God is everywhere.”Prahlad replied.  Hiranyakashipu asked him again “Is he in this pillar?” Prahlad said “Yes, he is.” The demon breaks the pillar and from it emerged Lord Vishnu in the form of Narasimha. By fulfilling all conditions of his boon, Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu on his lap by his nail and save his devotee Prahlad.
From this we take lesson that God is everywhere, in living things as well as non-living things. God is the most perfect. He is the supreme. He is the Parmeshwar. It is not possible for anyone to play game of words with the God because God is the Supreme and he knows how to handle demons and his devotees.
From this avatar of Lord Vishnu, I kept in mind that God is everywhere. That’s why I try to find God in my parents, relatives, friends, animals, trees and in environment. Giving respect to all and taking care of them I praise the God. I must not cheat anybody because I know that cheating that person means cheating the God. I must faith in God and always remember that God always help me if I will be in any trouble or in danger. I keep my mind calm, quiet in such situation and must find out a solution on that with the help of God’s worship.