"When you teach your son, you teach your son's son." - The Talmud
No doubt, you love your children. You send them to the best schools,
give them the most nutritious food, and provide them with the latest
toys, clothes, books, and video games that they can show off to their
friends. However, in some time, the toys will break; the comic books
will be torn; the clothes will be too small. What will remain is the
cultural legacy that you pass on to your children.
Increasing westernisation and the advent of the Internet has produced
'cultural orphans' or people who are unable to relate to their own
culture, and face an identity crisis. Your child can probably rattle off
the names of his favourite comic characters. But can he chant a single
prayer from his culture? Your child may not enjoy chanting prayers or
singing devotional songs now, but as he grows up, he will always cherish
those moments he spent with you—the lighting of the diyas, the burning of incense, the flowers, meeting different members of the family, etc.
In another article,
you learned about mantras, and how they can be used. Here are some
famous mantras that you can teach your children so that they grow up
with a greater appreciation of their culture.
This mantra, dedicated to Ganesh the beloved elephant-headed god of Hinduism, is chanted before any activity, ritual or puja is performed.
Vakratund Mahakaya Surya Koti Samaprabha
Nirvhignam Kurumedeya Sarva Karyashu Sarvada
Meaning: O Lord with the large body, curved trunk, and the
brilliance of crore (10 million) suns, please free my work from all
Aum or Om is the greatest of all syllables in Hinduism and forms part of many mantras. It is related to the Tibetan 'Hum' while some believe that it also may be related to the Hebrew 'Amen'.
Meaning: Aum represents God as sound. As Krishna says in the
Bhagvad Gita, "Of all the alphabets, I'm the Aum." The Aum is said to
contain the knowledge of the entire Vedas. It is also the sound of the
celestial spheres, the 'hum' of the universe, and the primordial sound
heard at the beginning of the universe.
Second only to Aum, the Gayatri mantra is regarded as one of the most powerful mantras of Hinduism. By repeated chanting with correct pronunciation, it is said that one is able to attain enlightenment.
Aum Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat,
It should be remembered that this simple mantra has several meanings,
all of which are valid. Two of the meanings are given below.
Meaning 1: O God, you are the giver of life, remover of pain and
sorrow, the bestower of happiness, may your light destroy our sins, and
may you illumine our intellect to lead us along the righteous path.
Meaning 2: Aum, we meditate on the splendour of the supreme
reality, the source of the three worlds: the gross or physical, the
subtle or the mental, and the celestial or the spiritual.
Hare Krishna Maha Mantra
This simplest of mantras is quite popular all over the world. Devotional
in nature, chanting this mantra is said to bring one closer to God, and
wash away all sins.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Meaning: The mantra simply refers to Rama and Krishna, who are
regarded as the incarnations of Vishnu. The word 'Hare' probably refers
to another name for Krishna, but also means the 'energy of God'.
Each of these mantras is followed by the phrase "Om shanti, shanti, shanti", and hence these mantras are known collectively as the Shanti mantras. The word 'shanti' means peace in Sanskrit.
Asatoma sad gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrityor ma amritam gamaya
Meaning: Lead me from untruth to truth; lead me from darkness to the light; lead me from mortality to immortality
Om poornamadah poornamidam
Meaning: That is Absolute (God). This is Absolute. Absolute
arises out of Absolute. The Absolute is taken from the Absolute, yet the
Om sahanaa vavatu sahanau bhunaktu
Saha veeryam karavaavahai
Tejasvi naavadheetamastu maa vidvishaavahai
Meaning: May He protect us. May He nourish us. May we work together. May our study be enlightening! May we never hate each other!
Prayer to the Guru
Indian traditions stress greatly on the importance of the guru or the teacher, especially in the realm of spirituality.
Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshath Parambrahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha
Meaning: The guru is the creator, the guru is the preserver, and the guru is the destroyer. The guru is the Absolute. I bow before you
A famous poem by Kabir illustrating the meaning of this mantra goes like
"Guru and God both appeared before me. Whom should I bow to first? I
bow to my guru for it is he who introduced me to God."
- Inculcate a daily routine for prayers. For example, chant these
prayers with your children after the morning bath and before breakfast.
- Show your children how to prostrate before the deity and perform puja.
- Teach your child the correct pronunciation of these mantras
and prayers. If you do not know it yourself, refer to DVDs, CDs,
cassettes, religious books, etc. Compilations by renowned musicians such
as Pandit Ravi Shankar are available in the market.
- Do not force your children to say these prayers. Remember, prayer time should be a period of joy, devotion, and piety.
- Lead by example. If you do not chant these mantras yourself, it is likely that they will not.
- Prayer time can be interesting. Tell a different story each day that illustrates the meaning of these mantras.
- Include prayers from other religions as well. This will help your children develop a respect for different faiths.
- If your children are old enough, explain the meaning of these
prayers. Be prepared for all the questions they will ask you—there will