Is Competition Good For Kids?

Yes, it is.

Let us face it. The world of adults is one of competition. Unless one learns how to compete, to lose and win gracefully and accept that one cannot win all the time, life can be living hell. Such learning can be learnt in childhood by games and sports as well as competitive academic achievements.

Such learning also teaches that when one competes, one does so with rivals and not enemies. This ability to differentiate will also lay the foundation, hopefully, for healthy relationships in adulthood.

Here is one very touching story that I have read many times that explains what competition is all about, how children can be team players as well as magnanimous and more importantly what even adults can learn from it. I even checked for its veracity and found that it really is a true story.

In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional schools.
At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.
After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, “Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God’s perfection?”
The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish, stilled by the piercing query.
” I believe,” the father answered, “that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child.”
He then told the following story about his son Shaya:
One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball.
Shaya asked, “Do you think they will let me play?”
Shaya’s father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.
Shaya’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said “We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surpassingly, Shaya was given the bat.
Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact.
The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya and together the held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung at the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman.
Everyone started yelling,”Shaya, run to first. Run to first.” Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head. Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second.” Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, “Run to third.” As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya run home.”
Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a “grand slam” and won the game for his team.
“That day,” said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of God’s perfection.”

This topic was suggested for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog post by Shackman whose take on the subject can be found over at his blog. Please do go over and see. He may well have a different take!

 

Sleep Is The Best Meditation.

The title is a quote from The Dalai Lama.

Way back in 1978 I was burning both ends of the candle and a very dear friend put me on to Transcendental Meditation to prevent me from self-destructing. I found it very helpful and became an evangelist for it with the zeal of a typical convert. I subsequently moved on to Vipassana Meditation and have stayed with it for over 34 years now. In between, I also learnt Yoga Nidra which I take recourse to on and off at need. I had learnt all three techniques from trained and qualified teachers.

Having explained my qualification and experience to write about meditation let me come to the topic and what I think that the Dalai Lama meant with that quote.

Meditation of all three techniques listed above takes one into stages of conscious awareness and deep silence. Properly and regularly practiced, this takes one to a lifestyle free of tension and anxiety. It helps if one also follows some kind of spiritual / religious life, though not necessary as a precondition.

In sleep one goes through stages of awareness, dream states and deep sleep sans dream stages. Exactly the same sequence that one goes through in meditation albeit with full consciousness. I suspect that the Dalai Lama wants to convey the need to sleep effectively to recharge one’s battery as it were, which is what meditation does. If one cannot meditate, at least proper sleep should be sine qua non for a stress free life.

If one is blessed with both, so much the better!

I have suggested this topic for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog posts where Shackman and I write on the same subject. Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the matter.

Do you have a code that you live by?

The answer to the question is, in all humility, yes, I try to. While I succeed mostly, I confess that there are occasions when I slip. I normally take whatever steps that need to be taken to make amends when I slip.

As my readers know, I am a Vedantin and as such try to follow the Indian code of conduct called Yama and Niyama.

Yama consists of the Moral paths and Niyama consists of the ethical paths.

Yama.
1. AHIMSA: Respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards others.
2. SATYA: Truthfulness.
3. ASTEYA: Non stealing.
4. BRAHMACHARYA: The virtue of celibacy when unmarried and fidelity when married.
5. APARIGRAHA: The virtue of non-covetousness.

Niyama:
1. SAUCHA: Cleanliness/Hygiene. (Physical and Mental)
2. SANTOSHA: Contentment.
3. TAPAS: Spiritual practices and austerities.
4. SVADHYAYA: Self education / Life long pursuit of wisdom.
5. ISHVARA PRANIDHANA: Surrender to the Supreme Power.

This topic has been suggested by Shackman for this Friday 2 on 1 blog post where he and I write on the same topic. Yu can see what he has to say at his blog.

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost!


This famous quote by J R R Tolkein in his poem “All that is gold does not glitter” in The Lord Of The Rings, along with the title of the poem itself has become more or less a cliche used in many situations. Here is the poem:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I don’t glitter.
I am not lost despite a great deal of wandering.
I have not withered despite having crossed the proverbial three score and ten long ago.
My roots are still very deep and strong.

Now, I need to philosophise.

In one of our Upanishads, Ishopanishad, a verse states:

Vayur anilam amritam
athedam bhasmantam shariram
om krato smara kritam smara
krato smara kritam smara

Let this temporary body be burned to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air which is deathless. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You.

With that invocation, I hope that from my ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring, and the blade that was broken will will be renewed and I shall be king again.

Thathaasthu.

My fellow 2 on 1 Friday blogger Shackman has suggested today’s topic. I hope that he finds my take on it satisfying. Please do go over to his blog to see his take on the subject.

Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.

Pain is of two kinds, mental and physical. Both are experienced by all living beings and we humans are no exception. While most people can handle physical pain with medicines or by learning to live with it, almost all, cannot manage mental pain. Mind being a monkey, it keeps going back to the pain to re-live, experience and even get a perverse joy in that experience. Quite a few even make big shows of experiencing pain long after the cause has disappeared.

I am a follower of the Indian philosophical system of Vedanta, which teaches detachment called titiksha in Sanskrit. Titiksha along with the other five qualities that are mentioned in the Wikipedia article makes a person face life’s vicissitudes with poise and detachment. Followers of such teachings do not suffer. Since there are ways to avoid suffering, not taking recourse to them is the option one exercises.

All spiritual systems teach adherents how to handle mental pain and Buddhism is no exception.  Here is a Zen story to teach the same.

I hope that you enjoyed my take on this Friday’s 2 on 1 post. I had suggested the topic. My fellow blogger too would have some thoughts on this subject and you can read them here.

Ajahn Chah.


Please click on the image to get a larger resolution.

I received these four books as a gift parcel from my cousin Shankar who had a fascinating tale to tell me about them.

Shankar was quite attached to a young lad who was his nephew’s classmate from school. This young lad is now 41 and having emigrated to Canada some years ago, for the past few years has been a Buddhist Monk there.

The monk has returned to India for a short visit to meet up with his past and had invited Shankar over to his family’s home to meet him and some other friends who have also come from Canada with him.

Shankar bought some of the books that the school to which the young monk belongs and sent them to me for the simple reason that he felt that I was the only one in the family who would enjoy reading them and also perhaps understand the contents.

I was quite intrigued as to his motivation and asked him on the phone as to what made him decide to choose me to receive the gifts and he said something that has been resonating with me since our talk. He said that I was the only one that he knew who had gone deeply into matters spiritual and also the only one who has more or less become very comfortable being on his own with his books and spiritual pursuits. Obviously, this is the image that I have in my family and I am very pleased that I am thought of as being like this.

Coming to the books, I had never heard of Ajahn Chah. My son Ranjan had a few Thai classmates in college who used to come home often and one of them even became a monk. I therefore knew that Thailand has a vibrant Buddhist environment and that there are many schools of Buddhism there.

I am intrigued enough with the new books to drop all other reading material that I have in the pipe line to read all these four books. If at the end of it all, I find anything interesting, I shall blog again about my impressions.