Why We Are Teaching Baba Nam Kevalam Meditation
at the Ananda Marga River School
by Kamala Alister
Visualization: Moving and Creating
Visualization and meditation are two separate techniques.
Both are extremely valuable for mental development.
In Inner Journey time our teachers frequently use visualization.
In a visualization, children relax deeply and are carried
away by creative stories and images into the world of
fantasy. In the state of relaxation, the inner images
are more powerful. Children learn to see inner images,
to create colors and sounds in their minds. Visualization
can be used to teach children about places they have
never been, to help them feel safe and to help them
deal with emotions. Studies show that visualization
is important for building neuron pathways in young minds.
For this same reason, TV is dangerous for children because
it provides images along with the story so children
don't visualize and don't develop those specific skills.
The mind can remain stunted throughout life if children
don't have a chance to visualize. Likewise, strong visualization
skills are an important bonus.
Meditation: Still and Focused
Meditation is different because here the mind, rather
than moving and creating, becomes extremely still. In
meditation, we bring the mind to a specific focus. The
body becomes relaxed but remains alert. There is a saying
that the mind is like a monkey stung by a scorpion.
Normally it is busy jumping about in all directions.
In meditation, when we give the mind a specific focus,
we are putting a stop to our normally outward flow,
and this is extremely powerful. While it is difficult
to do, calm focus on a mantra for even a brief time,
brings a profound sense of peace. When the mantra is
repeated with slow breathing and focus on its meaning,
even young children can feel the effect.
This kind of focus is also an important mental training.
For any kind of work we need to be able to focus and
concentrate. This is why meditation has been shown to
be so effective in improving the marks of school children
who practice it, and why athletes and even executives
at huge multinationals like IBM, practice meditation.
As You Think You Become
To focus the mind in meditation it is a common practice
to use a "mantra" or specific word. Sound
is extremely subtle, so bringing the mind to focus on
a word or phrase has been used for millenniums around
the world to provide the needed focus. Christians may
say, "May I be an instrument of thy peace,"
Hindus may repeat "ohm" or say "Om Namah
Shivaya," or "Hare Krishna Hare Rama,"
Tibetan Buddhists may say "Om Namaya Padma Om,"
Native Americans have various chants, or Muslims may
say 'Allah'. The mantra that we choose is important
because when the mind is so focused, it should be focused
on something uplifting and subtle. The saying, "As
you think, you become," is very true and very important.
At Neo-Humanist schools we use the mantra "Baba
Nam Kevalam." It is a Sanskrit mantra that means,
"Love is all there is," or "Love is everywhere."
Baba means "beloved" (which is why it is also
the word in many Indian languages for "father,'
and many gurus are called "Baba.") "Nam"
means vibration. Because Latin is descended from Sanskrit
(as are most of the languages in the world), "nam"
is very close to the English word "name."
Kevalam means "only" or "all." Put
all together the concept of the phrase is that, on a
vibrational level, at the very heart of everything,
only love exists.
That is to say that when we go very deeply into things,
physics has already shown that nothing is really solid
as it seems. In fact, material objects are atoms and
molecules moving around so fast that they appear solid
to us. And physics has also discovered that these small
elements of manner are not truly material, they are
energy. As best-selling books like The Tao of Physics
have shown, everything is really energy. That energy
might also be called "love." This scientific
research only is another way of explaining what mystics
and visionaries have always known and experienced through
their inner "experiments."
We consider "Baba Nam Kevalam" a universal
mantra because it doesn't call on a specific god or
goddess (Shiva, Krishna, Christ, Allah) but focuses
on the principle of love which unites the various spiritual
traditions. For a school it is appropriate to teach
something that will compliment and not conflict with
beliefs children may learn with their families. As children
meditate on "love is all there is" they develop
a security that love is inside of them. Slowly they
begin to feel that they can get satisfaction and joy
internally as well as externally, and this feeling provides
a deep sense of security.
At the River School we emphasize ecology as an important
subject. Its vital for the survival of our planet that
children learn to respect plants and animals, as well
as all other humans, as part of their family. While
we teach this in many ways, the most powerful way to
teach is through direct experience. In meditation, when
a child actually feels oneness with all things, that
experience can have a lasting effect. When you have
deeply felt, "I am one with the trees, birds, earth,
all the children of the world..." it becomes even
more vital to protect and fight for their rights and
Is this religious education?
We teach this simplified form of Ananda Marga meditation
to children for several reasons. As mentioned above,
we feel it a universal approach that utilizes similar
techniques to most other kinds of meditation. Also,
it is what we know best. Prabha, Dada Ratnaprakash and
Kamala have all been practicing and studying meditation
for around twenty years. We know this system very well,
we have confidence that it works, we can explain it
to children. We are not qualified to teach other systems.
At the River School, we follow the philosophy of Neo-Humanistic
Education. There are hundreds of Neo-Humanistic schools
globally that have been using Baba Nam Kevalam meditation
successfully and we can also draw on their experience
and resources. At other Neo-Humanistic school, teachers
who don't practice meditation in their personal life,
still find it a vital practice in the classroom. A teacher
at the Ananda Marga school in Lismore said she could
feel a total difference in her classroom in by chance
they missed their daily meditation. Even if they day
started off with a field trip, she would ask the children
to meditate in the bus.
We don't feel that teaching meditation is the same
as religious education. We are not teaching a specific
creation myth, a belief in any particular god, or emphasis
on any set of scriptures. Like Educational Kinesiology
(Brain Gym) or DeBono's Six Hats, which all children
learn at River School, meditation is a technique which
we are convinced will benefit the children.
How children deal with it
Young children have a naturally built in connection
with oneness, so if we nurture that at a young age it
is easier for children to maintain the connection throughout
But for most people, meditation is not easy. Like athletics,
to focus the mind and concentrate inwardly is a skill
that has to be developed over time and with regular
practice. In time meditation can be vastly rewarding,
but normally in the early stages it can be difficult
Different people have different natural abilities.
As we know from the "Seven Intelligences,"
some people are developed rationally, others spatially,
others musically, others socially. So for some children,
sitting quietly and focussing isn't too hard. For others
its the biggest challenge they have at school. For that
same reason, its good for them to give it a try.
Because meditation can be difficult and frustrating
for some children, we put an emphasis on making meditation,
fun and interesting. We try to teach it without shame
or pressure (as other subjects.) But because we do it
in a group, we encourage everyone to participate so
everyone benefits. Meditation in a group raises a special
vibration--the individual result increases greatly when
the collective effort is good.
Practices that help meditation
Chanting the mantra out loud before meditation is called
"kiirtan." It is extremely beneficial and
makes meditation much easier. Its a sort of a halfway
step. The mind stays focused only on the mantra, but
all the senses are not focused inwardly--we are still
singing and listening. It helps slow breathing (through
singing), helps fix the mantra in the mind, and on a
subtler level, raises the vibration in the room.
Yoga postures promote flexibility, keep the spine limber
and flexible (which as we known from Chiropractic, helps
all the organs of the body), and massages the lymph
nodes which strengthens the immune system and heightens
resistance to disease. Importantly for older children,
yoga tones and balances the hormonal secretions of the
glands (ie. adrenals, thymus, and thyroid.) These hormones
have an effect on growth, mental development, and as
we known from teenagers, on emotions. Yoga calms the
mind through regulated breathing, and through pressure
and release on the vital glands of the body.
Syllabus for the three "families"
Our approach to teaching and practicing meditation in
the classrooms varies depending on the age group.
In Little Family children learn through stories, songs
and games. They might have a story about sitting so
quietly that a bird makes a nest in their hands, or
(as in all classes) they may begin with a visualization,
like taking off in a rocket deep into space. They sing
songs about peace and love and oneness with nature to
prepare their minds. Sometimes (as in all classes) they
listen to quiet music in their meditation, or sing the
mantra quietly, or whisper it.
In middle family, games and challenges, with some inspirational
stories is a good way to teach. We might play games
to help children sit quietly (beanbag on the head!),
or keep their eyes closed ("see if you can keep
your eyes closed even if I make some noises around you.")
They might play the intuition game or "follow the
leader' yoga. After meditation they have a quiet journaling
time for ten or 15 minutes to develop the skill of inner
Big Family uses some similar techniques, but also learns
about the physiology and philosophy of meditation. They
may learn about brain wave changes and the relaxation
response, the connection between chakras and glands
(the mind/body continuum), or about the lives of saints
and mystics who have attained inner peace.