2009 Kids Retreat at the American River

SRV Kids Summer RetreatAt the SRV Summer retreat on the American River this year, we were once again blessed with a group of intelligent, perceptive kids, mostly 12 years of age.  All of the classes with the children were drawn from the stories of Sri Ramakrishna, which are an endless source of inspiration, with so many ways to unwrap them for the benefit of giving our youth a sound foundation in dharma — in cosmology, philosophy, and spirituality.

Besides some very fun projects involving clay, and making a mosaic pedestal for a sundial, the kids had an opportunity to learn more about Holy Mother, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivekananda.  As the children enter their young adult years, these great beings — the example of their lives and experiences — hold increasing interest and relevance for them.

In each of our classes and retreats the children have learned a new pass phrase in Sanskrit and English. They have to recite one before entering the teaching area. This year, they learned Holy Mother’s famous saying (just in English):

Holy Mother“If you want peace, then do not look into anybody’s faults.  Look into your own faults.  Learn to make the world your own.  No one is a stranger; the whole world is your own.”

We spent several days discussing in detail the meaning of this statement.  From the lesson, we read:

Mother’s teaching on peace was her last message while still in the physical body.  She spoke them very tenderly to a woman disciple who asked her, “what will become of us without you?”   Mother’s message to her is for all of us, and it contains everything essential for a peaceful life, even a life that culminates in Atmajnan – realization of oneself as Atman, Spirit.

The first two sentences of Mother’s teaching are stated from the standpoint of cause and effect.  They are instructions to help us create the conditions needed to refrain from creating negative karma.  The last two sentences are instructions to us to see ourselves and everyone as Spirit, Atman.

Over the course of 5 days, we studied Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings having to do with the Universality of Truth, the need of Holy Company, Discrimination between the Real and the unreal, and others.  The following are excerpts from the teaching handouts with some notes.