Reaching Out to Our Children and Soldiers
This Yoga Day, our focus is on children and soldiers in the country. I don’t have statistics on how many of our soldiers have lost their lives in the last one year, but we do know that in 2015, almost ten thousand children committed suicide in India – around fifteen hundred of them were below fourteen years of age. When our children are committing suicide, it means we as a society are doing something fundamentally wrong. This issue is particularly prevalent in countries like India, where people are striving to move from poverty to affluence. One of the main reasons for children to commit suicide is failure in examinations; another reason, for adolescents, is love affairs.
Last year, we touched a little over thirty-five thousand schools across the country, teaching a simple form of Yoga. In a country as large as India, thirty-five thousand schools are still a small drop. What we teach is Upa-Yoga, which is easy to transmit and easy to practice. For children, and in order to reach large numbers, the process must be simple. One purpose of Upa-Yoga is to establish a chemistry of balance. Essentially, suicides occur because of big waves of emotions within the individual that make them feel like it’s better to die. In many people’s lives, there have been moments when something really went wrong, when they were emotionally upset, and felt they must kill themselves. But it passed. They didn’t take action.
Unfortunately for some people, their emotions welled up to such an extent at some point that they actually took action.
The exact numbers of attempted suicides in India are unknown, because no one will admit they attempted suicide, since until recently, it was a criminal offense, for which you could get one year in prison. That was for inefficiency – they could not punish those who were successful. If someone attempted suicide, they need compassion, tenderness, and care, not punishment. This is a very unfortunate reality that little children, who should be bubbling with life, think of taking their own lives.
The most important thing we need to do is to reform and recreate our education system. But that is not a one-day job – that needs dedicated people. Just introducing a new system won’t create the necessary results. The people who conduct the system must have love for what they are doing. Teaching or taking care of children should not be done just as a job. Teachers, doctors, gurus, those who transmit spiritual process must do what they are doing out of commitment, dedication, and love for people around them. Getting millions of teachers to this level is a long way off. What we need to do right now is equip children to be able to survive the teachers and the system. Children need sufficient balance to be able to handle the madness of our so-called education system.
Our education system is not inhuman because it is too difficult but because of the way it is conducted. I think it is too easy. Children should learn to stretch themselves beyond their limits. The key issues are the way it is done, and who is doing it. When someone is joyful, you can stretch them as much as you want, and they will be fine. When you don’t know how to keep them joyful and you stretch them, they will break.
For children to handle this, we need to equip them with a simple form of Yoga that is easily transmitted and simple to practice. And even if they deviate some ten to twenty percent from the instructions, there is absolutely no harm. In some places, without the necessary discretion, all kinds of asanas are being taught to school children. When their skeletal system is still growing and they do certain types of asanas, their skeletal system can get twisted out. Until the age of fourteen, one should not do certain aspects of Yoga, because they are designed for adults. There are other types of Yoga that girls should not do because of the nature of their biology.
Upa-Yoga is a carefully calibrated system of Yoga that helps in the physiological and psychological development of children. Above all, it is focused towards bringing emotional balance. This will not just avoid the disaster of suicide. Children will get to explore their intelligence, competence, and genius in many different ways. For most human beings, only a small percentage of their intelligence, competence, and capabilities find expression, because emotionally, they are not sufficiently balanced. They always fear unhappiness, misery, disappointment, or depression may take them over.
Even with something as simple as riding a bicycle, without balance, you will struggle. The same goes for everything you do in life. If you have the necessary balance, you can do many things at once. This is a most fundamental thing that we need to bring to everyone at an early age – a certain sense of psychological and emotional balance. Without balance, even if there is an enormous capability, it goes unexplored, for fear of suffering. Eighty-five percent of humanity does not explore the full depth and dimension of their competence, simply because of this lack of emotional balance.
To be emotionally balanced is equally important for soldiers. In trying to protect the country, there is a lot of pain. Every day, you may die. Of course, all of us will die one day. Some people say, “What’s the big deal being a soldier – more people die on the street.” The big difference is that those who die in a traffic accident do not go out knowing that someone is trying to kill them. If you go out knowing that someone is trying to kill you, and still you do what you have to do, that’s a different job altogether. That is why we want to equip the soldiers in our country with simple yogic tools they can make use of to establish wellbeing and balance within themselves.
Our children, our soldiers, our officers, our political and other leaders, all must find access to the wonderful tools of Yoga. The nation must benefit from the phenomenal possibility of Yoga. On the International Day of Yoga, bring Yoga into your life and your surroundings.