[Excerpts from letters and articles by Swami Chinmayananda]
Story telling is an art that should be cultivated by all parents. There is a treasure of joy for the story-teller and a heritage of good that the innocent tiny listener can gain from the story that is told to them. Children can be readily held in attention only by the mesmeric enchantment of the rhythm in the movements of the theme of the story. Create an environment of affection, tenderness, concern for other living beings, appreciation for the good and noble and recognition of beauty in things. This is the right time for the higher and nobler values of life to sink in. This can be done through Puranic stories, stories of great Saints and Sages, and mighty heroes of politics and science. They will learn how, in the confrontation of good and evil, the good ultimately always triumphs.
While listening to the story a child is in a different mode as children alone can be. They are thrilled by their love for the fantasia. Their imagination lights up and their wide eyed joys are kindled. Children are at such moments in the very lap of Nature gliding on incredible patterns surging in their own hearts!
The very story in the growing child will by itself instill the great truths and higher values of life as time passes on. Learn how to marshal the thoughts into a story-form. Learn to think the story out. Telling a story is different from reading a story. You must allow the theme and story to sink into you. Digest it well….More than the story, learn the “Art of building the Story!” Tell, never teach a story. Children learn more by a story well told than what we teach them through a story!
Introduce them to stories of Rama and Krishna. Stories about the spiritual giants of the world, their experiences and trials, their strength in overcoming temptations, the positive experiences of joy that they gained, may all be passed on to the children with appropriate emotions. The endless stories and analogies can take their minds on an independent trip to see for themselves a greater message of life and a larger value in life. When they ask questions about flowers, clouds, butterflies or frogs, be alert to spice your honest explanations with a hint about the play of God around us. Leave them with these small hints; don’t go into details.
Give the growing children an insight into the beauty of our culture through the enlivening stories of our eternal Puranas. Let them imbibe the spirit of Prahlada, Dhruva, Balaram, Krishna and Muruga. Let them be inspired by the life of Sankara, Buddha, Vivekananda and the child Ramana. Explain to them the general meaning of the Geeta verses. Explain to them Krishna-Gopas, Krishna-Arjuna to exemplify the need for surrender, service and sense of duty. Puranas are a treasure trove enough!!
Story-telling is very effective for children. Become the greatest story-teller for children. It is an art in itself. Very few can do it. It is a God-given blessing. Cultivate it. Develop it. India needs it. World is waiting for it. The national history, geography, philosophy, social customs, plants, birds, mountains, rivers, sacred places, character, ideals — all can be woven into them and held up for our children. (In character depiction) throw a little more colour into the emotions — bring out all emotions vividly. Our children must shed tears, weep in sympathy, love, affection, tenderness, devotion, obedience; sigh in relief; heave in the heroism felt, courtesy shown and goodness manifest. Make them weep — pant — surge — ready-for-action — ready-for-sacrifice. It is in these deep reactions that children get these qualities ever fixed upon their heart. Let them not forget that this was our Bharat, where Rama – Lakshmana – Bharat represent the ideal Hindu, the perfect Aryan, the exemplary Indian Janata. Guha and others represent the perfect people. Paint it thicker….take them all along the path of emotional ups and downs, through ashramas, river-beds, mountains — pause them to watch flowers, trees, tendrils, animals, insects — point out to them moon, sunrise, stars, sky, clouds — never forget even for a moment the innocent, wide-eyed, children of tomorrow gazing at you from all sides. Be in tune with the children and talk to them. Let hundreds of innocent chubby faces be uplifted to you all around!
This is really a glorious sadhana! A splendid Seva-yagna for the children!! Tell, never preach a story!!!
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