• Sonal Sachdev Patel

Times of India - Our book shares precious messages from the Gita with children from all backgrounds

Making Gita engaging and fun for children – how did you do it? And was the experience? The first priorities for us were to share some of the messages of the Gita in a way that was accessible and relevant to the lives of modern children, and to do this without preaching, but through a story they would actually want to pick up and read. We based the core of our story on the interpretation Paramahansa Yogananda. He says that the epic battle we know from the Mahabharat, is actually a metaphor for the battle that takes place inside each of us everyday, between our good and bad tendencies. We took this idea, and we made it literal. We lifted the battlefield that we all know from the original Gita, and we placed it actually within the body of a modern, relatable child who is struggling with his emotions. A child whose internal self is in battle. A magical, sprite-like creature goes inside the child’s body on a mission to help – and the adventure begins. On one level, we have the emotional journey of the child in turmoil. On another, we have a fantastical adventure inside him. And through them both, we start to introduce some of the key concepts from the Gita. Of course depending on age, children may not understand all of these ideas at once, but the hope is that it is a beginning, a basis for discussion with parents, and a chance to appreciate these ideas on deeper levels as the child grows.

Is it true that the answers to mental health crisis are in Holy Scriptures? Could you illustrate with an example?

The holy scriptures contain great wisdom and truths that can guide us in our lives. Sometimes however it can be difficult, especially for children, to relate these

sacred messages to the challenges they experience day-to-day. In our story, 11 year old Dev is struggling with the tragic loss of his Father. But with the help of Sanjay, the creature who goes inside his body, he uses meditation – a key concept from the Gita - to still his body and his mind. This allows Dev to become calmer, more peaceful, and to begin the journey of healing.

Meditation is the tool we need to arm our children with for success – please explain.

Meditation has a number of benefits that can help children and adults too, in their daily lives. It has been proven to actually change the grey matter in the brain, to decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It can also bring greater levels of compassion, empathy and cognitive function. We saw recently in the case of the Thai boys that were trapped in a cave, that meditation helped them to keep calm during the ordeal. Yogananda explains that meditation is a key tool we can use to win this battle of life, and this is a strong theme in our story.

How important is it to connect our children with their heritage?

Our children’s heritage is part of their history and can give them a sense of their roots, which may help them define their sense of self. But many of the messages in the Gita are universal, and that’s what really appealed to us both. How wonderful if we can strengthen the bonds of Hindu children between the sacred texts and their modern lives, while also sharing the precious messages from the Gita with children from all backgrounds.

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