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Religious issues for a KAY teacher.
Just a few thoughts to share with you!
Merriam Webster:
A diverse body of religion, philosophy, and cultural practice native to and
predominant in India, characterized by a belief in reincarnation and a supreme
being of many forms and natures, by the view that opposing theories are aspects
of one eternal truth, and by a desire for liberation from earthly evils
Hindu-ism for Dummies:
Part of the Hinduism For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Hindus acknowledge that, at the most fundamental level, God is the One without
a second — the absolute, formless, and only Reality known as Brahman, the
Supreme, Universal Soul. Brahman is the universe and everything in it. Brahman
has no form and no limits; it is Reality and Truth.
Thus Hinduism is a pantheistic religion: It equates God with the universe. Yet
Hindu religion is also polytheistic: populated with myriad gods and goddesses
who personify aspects of the one true God, allowing individuals an infinite
number of ways to worship based on family tradition, community and
regional practices, and other considerations.
Here are just some of the many Hindu gods and goddesses:
• Brahma, the Creator
Brahma is the first member of the Hindu Trinity and is
“the Creator” because he periodically creates everything in the universe.
(The word periodically here refers to the Hindu belief that time is cyclical;
everything in the universe — except for Brahman and certain Hindu
scriptures — is created, maintained for a certain amount of time, and then
destroyed in order to be renewed in ideal form again.)
• Vishnu, the Preserver
Vishnu is the second member of the Hindu Trinity. He
maintains the order and harmony of the universe, which is periodically
created by Brahma and periodically destroyed by Shiva to prepare for the
next creation. Vishnu is worshipped in many forms and in several
avatars (incarnations). Vishnu is an important, somewhat mysterious god.
Less visible than nature gods that preside over elements (such as fire and
rain), Vishnu is the pervader — the divine essence that pervades the
universe. He is usually worshipped in the form of an avatar (see below).
• Shiva, the Destroyer
Shiva is the third member of the Hindu Trinity, tasked
with destroying the universe in order to prepare for its renewal at the end
of each cycle of time. Shiva’s destructive power is regenerative: It’s the
necessary step that makes renewal possible. Hindus customarily invoke
Shiva before the beginning of any religious or spiritual endeavor; they
believe that any bad vibrations in the immediate vicinity of worship are
eliminated by the mere utterance of his praise or name.
Ganapati, the Remover of Obstacles
Ganapati, also known as Ganesha, is
Shiva’s first son. Lord Ganapati, who has an elephant head, occupies a
very special place in the hearts of Hindus because they consider him the
Remover of Obstacles. Most Hindu households have a picture or statue of
this godhead, and it’s not uncommon to see small replicas of Ganapati
hanging from rearview mirrors of cars and trucks!
Avatars of Vishnu
The literal meaning of the word avatar is “descent,” and
it’s usually understood to mean divine descent. Avatars are savior forms of
a god that descend to earth to intervene whenever help is needed to
restore dharma (moral order) and peace. Two of Vishnu’s ten avatars are
Rama and Krishna.
Rama is one of the most beloved Hindu gods and is the hero of
the Hindu epic called the Ramayana. He is portrayed as an ideal
son, brother, husband, and king and as a strict adherent to dharma.
Millions of Hindus derive satisfaction from reading and recalling
Rama’s trials and tribulations as a young prince who was exiled
from his kingdom for 14 years.
If one Hindu god’s name is known and recognized throughout
the world, it is Krishna. Hindus identify Krishna as the teacher of the
sacred scripture called the Bhagavad Gita and as the friend and
mentor of prince Arjuna in the epic the Mahabharata. For his
devotees, Krishna is a delight, full of playful pranks. But most of all,
Lord Krishna’s promise to humanity that he will manifest himself
and descend to earth whenever dharma declines has sustained
Hindu belief in the Supreme Being over thousands of years.
Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning
Saraswati is the consort of Brahma the
Creator and is worshipped as the goddess of learning, wisdom, speech,
and music. Hindus offer prayer to Saraswati before beginning any
intellectual pursuit, and Hindu students are encouraged to offer prayers to
her during the school/college term and especially before and during
Lakshmi is the goddess of good fortune, wealth, and well-being. As
the consort of Vishnu, she plays a role in every incarnation. (She is Sita,
wife of Rama; Rukmini, wife of Krishna; and Dharani, wife of Parashu
Rama, another avatar of Vishnu.)
Durga Devi
Durga Devi is a powerful, even frightening goddess who fights
fiercely in order to restore dharma (moral order). Yet, while Durga is
terrifying to her adversaries, she is full of compassion and love for her
Indra, the King of Heaven and lord of the gods
Indra wields a thunderbolt
and is a protector and provider of rain.
Surya, the sun
Surya (or Soorya) is a golden warrior arriving on a chariot
pulled by seven white horses.
Agni, the fire god
Agni holds a special place in Hindu fire ritual to this day as
the sacrificer (the priest who performs the ceremony); the sacrifice (the
ritual fire and the offerings made into it); and the witness to all rites.
• Hanuman, the monkey king and devoted servant
Hanuman is featured in
the great Hindu epic the Ramayana. He earned his path to deification by
performing feats of strength, devotion, and courage while helping Rama
(an avatar of Vishnu) in countless exciting incidents.
Truth is one… Paths are many. All religions share the same core values. As
Yogis it’s important for us to learn a little about each of the major world religions
so we can be understanding of others beliefs/holidays and lifestyles. However we
at KAY still believe it’s safest to keep it out of the classroom.
Meet them on their level. How do you teach the good stuff, feel good about
teaching “Yoga” and not offend very conservative Religious folks.
Adaptations for KAY songs if you need or want to offer a
“Hindu/Sanskrit free” class.
We do not record music with Sanskrit in it anymore. Here is a list of the
songs that do have it and suggestions for how you can work around it:
1-Salutation to the Sun Original: The chorus has “OmNamashivaya let
your love shine through”. We were going to re-record this but now that
Sarge Salutation has become such a popular hit with our kids it’s just not a
priority for us.
2-Lokah Lullabye: This is a super fabulous closing chant. But as Momma
KAY always says, you don’t always have to PUT THE SONG ON. It can
be a learning tool. Sing it without the Sanskrit. Just the English part. It’s
3-Massage Train: Well yup it has ONE Sanskrit word. “Say OMMMMM”.
If this is an issue yell OVER it and say “HUMMMM”. Nobody will notice. Or
wait and one day we will fix it. =)
4-My little light: At the very end Momma KAY says: “Namaste… the light
inside me greets the light inside you”. Turn it off before then or yup maybe
one day if this becomes an issue I will take it out. But that would make me
5-Om Shanti Closing Chant: The only thing you can do is NOT play it.
Use May the Long time sun as your closing chant OR the English verse of
Lokah Lullabye.
6- OM WORK: Once again. Not an activity song so just don’t play it. But
listen to it a lot!! Cuz it’s great! =)
7- Yummy Yoga: Actually there is no Sanskrit here but if they have issues
with Sanskrit likely they will have issues with a Yoga master being on the
song. You can start it late and end it early though because it’s SO MUCH
8-Crazy Monkeys: Ends with OMMM
Concern: “You can’t teach yoga here it is a religion”
Response: Try to explain that it’s not and if all else fails call it a “stretching class”
Concern: No Sanskrit especially Namaste
HF Response:
Concern: Please… No chanting at all
HF response: No problem…easy. Maybe you’ll bring it in later after they fall in
Concern: What is Om Namashivaya? Are you praying to Shiva?
Response: There are many definitions of Shiva. I like to say: I bow to the power
inside of me. It’s worked for me for years.
Concern: What is OM?
Response: The hum of the universe. An energy. It means different things to
different folks.
Concern: What is Om Shanti?
Response: A peaceful way to end our class. Like saying Peace be with you.
Concern: What is Namaste?
Response: A greeting from India. Doesn’t have to be religious at all. Just a way
to greet someone and say that you see all good things in them. Like would you
NOT say Shalom to someone?
Concern: Please don’t call it Yoga, or please change the name
Response: That’s fine if it’s the only way I can teach.
Concern: KAY is religious
Response: KAY is an exercise class for children
with Yoga based Stress Management techniques thrown in.
There are a few “words” we “sometimes” ad in that are a part of a Yoga practice
teaching children to honor other people (Namaste). Or how to feel Peaceful.
Sample letter to concerned folks…
Dear ________(enter name of concerned professional),
-It has come to my attention that there are some concerns about the content of
my KAY Class
-In response to your email/to our discussion about the curriculum taught in my
KAY class
-Regarding the religious concerns about the practice of Yoga
I hope I can set your mind at ease when I tell you that there is no discussion of
Religion in the KAY class. Although traditional Yoga often contains Hindu
references, we have removed all religious related content. We do have a few
words from Sanskrit used for greeting others and teaching peace. These are
such commonplace expressions they are almost expected by the children, but
can easily be removed if that is your desire.
Yoga is a science for quieting the mind and relaxing the body. It is not Hindu-ism.
The Stress Management benefits are innumerable for our kids. My class has so
much cardiovascular activity in it and combined with the quiet time and
Meditation there just is no replacement for this, if I do say so myself. If you have
any other concerns please feel free to contact me via email or by calling me at: