(This article is highlights from North America-wide Gopa Kuteeram Teachers’ Reflections & Celebration meeting with Sri Ramanujamji. )
Pranams to our beloved Sri Swamiji for giving us this wonderful opportunity to expand ourselves. Being a teacher is a blessing! Teaching mirrors Learning. As we teach, we learn. And we learn better when we teach. It is humbling. It expands our horizon of knowledge, it brings us different perspectives. When we interact with students and they ask questions and share thoughts, it gives us an opportunity to grow along with them.
For Sri Swamiji, kainkaryam needs to be rooted in joy! His vision is – “Do seva out of happiness. Do seva from happiness”. The biggest happiness a devotee can bring to Sri Swamiji is doing kainkarya with joy and a grateful heart for being fortunate to perform a seva, whether the kainkarya is social, spiritual, or personal service to our deity at home. Sri Swamiji also encourages everybody to smile as one does parayanam, kirtanam or nama sankirtanam.
There is a proverb in Tamil is “oorAr piLLaiyai ootti vaLartthAl, than piLLai thaane vaLarum”. This means that if we feed all the children in the village, one’s own child is also fed. Applying this to our GK family – if one wants a child to embrace a value, no amount of teaching by the parent will be fruitful. Whereas the same values being embraced by a group of children of their own age group makes it easier for our child also to adopt.
When children come together in Gopa Kuteeram, and engage with other young minds, they tend to imbibe the concepts of Sanatana Dharma better and with an open mind. Gopa Kuteeram is a satsang for the children.
GOD follows the dictum given by Sri Swamiji – “Admire all. Adopt one.” Admire and appreciate all paths. And for personal spiritual growth, follow one path. Hence as part of Gopa Kuteeram, the significance of all deities is taught and Bhagavata Dharma is mentioned in more detail as it is the simple path for all to follow. Bhagavata Dharma also shows there is joy and aesthetics within Hinduism that need to be understood. Hinduism is full of rasa and it’s important to enjoy it.
Sri Swamiji says “Humanity and Divinity are inseparable”. When we grow in divinity, we also grow as humans. And vice versa. This has been very evident among the youngsters attending Yuva Bhagavatam classes who have themselves said they see an increase in their ability to focus and have a positive impact on their perspective towards humanity.
Some of the concepts to imbibe as teachers are:
Compassionate communication – This is greatly appreciated by Sri Swamiji. This can best be explained from Ramayana when Hanumanji without being hurtful to anybody in the vanara sena showed compassion towards Vibhishana to be accepted as part of their army when he came to take refuge under the Lotus feet of Sri Rama. Hanumanji along with being a compassionate communicator achieved the objective. As humans/teachers /parents being a compassionate communicator enhances the environment of the teachings not only for the subject being taught but also the basic discipline of “Speaking-Thinking-Behaving” in a non-violent, compassionate way. Behaviors have more impact than words on children. As a teacher, one must try their best to practice being a compassionate communicator without losing sight of the objective. This is in line with Dr. Rosenberg’s concept of “Non-Violent Communication (NVC)”.
Growth mindset – This is perfectly in line with karma yoga, which says focus on efforts, not on results. Being result-focused can make children not want to take risks in their life or feel jealous of their peers. Thereby impairing their growth mindset. A teacher needs to be mindful of praising the child’s effort and not the result.
Although it’s tricky to show kids the value of what is being taught, one must try not to force a concept on the kids which may result in a push back. Rather use subtle ways of showing the value of what is being learned in a class. A teacher expressing the joy and happiness of teaching will have a positive impact on the kids.
It is wonderful to see teachers looking forward to more and more learning. Gopa Kuteeram and children are very close to Sri Swamiji’s heart. Gopa Kuteeram began as a humble start with Sri Swamiji brainstorming on the syllabus with 3 sheets of paper. And today it is more structured with so many centers in various parts of the world.
When GK first started Guruji said “Mother is the first teacher to a child and someone whom the child trusts. Hence, a teacher becomes the second mother to the child”. Just like we may be grateful to our school teachers, but don’t always go find them and express it to them, we don’t know how many children are grateful and touched by what we have done for them through Gopa Kuteeram classes. In the process we have added value to society as well as also enhanced ourselves.
With gratitude and joy in our hearts. let us grow spiritually and personally to make a positive impact on our youngsters by instilling the values of our Bhagavata Dharma. This is just the beginning.
Happy Teaching! Happy Learning!
Sri Ramanujamji’s talk summarized by
Aarti Manoj Ekbote , Dublin, CA
Pleasanton Gopa Kuteeram Teacher
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