The Ma Niketan, Home for Children is a large campus with beautiful surroundings. It is a small village in itself. The girls who are admitted in this institution come from various backgrounds. There are children who have lost both their parents, some who were found abused, harassed and left lost on the roads, some from broken families, while others were found lost on the roads and admitted here by good Samaritans.
Ma Niketan has a clean environment, provides good and healthy food, proper dress to all the children, which is made possible by generous donations received from well-wishers. The institution also makes arrangements for primary schooling for the children and other vocational training like stitching, embroidery work, computer training, typing, etc so that the children can become independent and earn their own livelihood.
The sisters serving in the institution pay good attention to all the However, inspite of all the facilities and comforts provided (which children from normal families also do not enjoy due to poverty or other reasons), the children staying in this institution miss the personal attention, parental love and affection which they would otherwise enjoy if they lived with their family. They miss the family atmosphere full of care, sharing with siblings and other such joy of being with one’s own family members. Thus deep within their hearts they experience a void, which makes them miserable.
The mind after all fails to relish what is available and always craves for what is lacking. Therefore one continues to remain miserable. - What a strange habit pattern of the mind?
Four sisters working in this institution had already done a few Vipassana meditation courses in Dhamma Giri. One of them, who is a senior sister working for this institution approached the Vipassana Institute and asked if it was possible to conduct an Anapana Course for their children to which she got a positive reply. A residential course was arranged for 170 girls within the age group 11-23 years. The course commenced at 7.00 p.m. on 29-10-98 and concluded on 31-10-98 at 4.00 p.m.The time-table of the Anapana course included 3-4 hours of sitting meditation in the hall, two hours of counselling in small groups, discourses by Shri S.N. Goenkaji, explaining the technique; games, creative activities, cartoon film, stories, and rest periods.
The object of meditation given to the students is observation of pure, natural breath--as it comes in, as it goes out--which is not sectarian or objectionable in any manner. By watching the pure and natural respiration continuously over a period of time, the child starts to understand the true flickering nature of her own mind, its nature of rolling in the past and future, getting anxious and tense. Gradually, as one practises, the mind gets trained to remain aware of the present by observing the breath, which is the reality of the present moment. Then one experiences inner peace and tranquillity. Concentration improves, resulting in better performance in all spheres of activities and the child starts gaining confidence.
The child learns that by developing strong friendship with her own breath, she can gain mastery over her mind and get rid of impurities like fear, anger, hatred, jealousy etc., which makes her miserable and results in causing misery for others. Observance of silence is emphasised while meditating in the hall and children are also encouraged to try and maintain silence while doing other activities as besides continuity of practice and other rules, silence is the main key to success. Some of the extracts of a few experiences of children are quoted here below:
I always thought of the future--I shall work in this manner, I shall pass securing good marks but it never happened. But when I observed my breath and trained my mind to remain in the present, I realised that I must live in the present and instead for so many days I lived building false dreams about the future. I liked this aspect of the technique very much and now I shall take great efforts to surely become the master of my mind. All this time, I was a slave of my mind, thinking of the future, which was not good for me. Now, I shall observe the five precepts as taught by Goenkaji so that my life will improve. The best thing I liked was that one should always say, ‘May all beings be happy’. Everyday, I shall start my day saying, ‘May all beings be happy’ and go to sleep after saying the above sentence.--------Unknown child
I also loved keeping silence because we always keep talking. Sometimes, we ourselves don’t realise what wrong we have said. But when we keep silence, then we get the strength and time to think so that we shall only talk what is good.--------Translated from Hindi
The programme was a good experience for me, as it gave me an opportunity to make me aware of my inner feelings towards myself and towards others. It made me conscious of my being. Though tiring at times, it was good. In the course of two and a half days, I could control my emotions and anger to some extent. So if I want to have full control over my emotions and anger, I need more practise and I intend to do so. The first thing is that I could not at least sit for half an hour but now I can sit much straight as before and also I don’t need any balance. I used to get catches in my legs but now it is normal after doing this. I think that I found something new and wonderful in my life. So many years, days and months passed but I never believed or noticed that I have something in me. But now, I shall continue this till the end of my life.------Lavina
Attending this Anapana course I have understood the incoming breath and outgoing breath and this technique is the most useful technique in my life. How much my mind wanders! My mind is now wandering less and my life has started improving.---------Translated from Hindi
In these three days, I learnt Anapana Meditation. I developed concentration of my mind and learn four things viz. Karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), samta (equanimity), and the importance of impermanence. By just doing this much if I am not fully satisfied, I wish to do ten-day course in future.--------Translated from Marathi
At first when I started working, I felt quite bored and my legs started paining, head ached severely and I felt I was trapped in some great difficulty. Then I thought that my friends are also doing this course and they are all sitting silently. Are they also facing the same trouble like me or not ? Then we were instructed that those who work sincerely and seriously get the best fruits of their efforts. Then I started working seriously putting my mind in my work. I then asked my friends whether they also experienced pain and they replied that when we get the opportunity to learn something in our life then should we not take the benefit of such opportunity? I once again applied my mind fully to my work and soon the thoughts that troubled me earlier affected me lesser, the anger that I used to experience came easily under control and I became peaceful and started understanding the precepts that I had not understood earlier. However, even now, I don’t like to meditate but now I am the master of my mind, not the slave of my mind. Whatever the type of thought arises in my mind, Anapana has given me the strength to get rid of it.-----Translated from Marathi
First we had no idea of this Anapana Sati meditation. But in these three days when we understood Anapana meditation then my friends and myself felt very happy as though after so many years our closed mind fluttered like beautiful butterflies. With this Anapana technique our mind became quite understanding. We learnt the importance of compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, confidence, forgiving nature, humility and following the timetable. Goenkaji narrated many stories by which we learnt that meaning of life is not narrow but is very broad. By this Anapana we have learnt not to get tense and fresh thoughts have sprung in the mind.-------Translated from Hindi
Excerpts from the experiences of children who attended the Children’s course at Dhamma Giri in October 98.
It was a very good experience and I have also learnt many things in these three days which I would not have learnt years sitting home. I learned to control our mind, which would help me in my future life... I am thankful to everyone, the teachers, workers, and Goenkaji I promise that I will follow what is taught to me by Goenkaji. ---Sejal Vaira
I like the work and would like to come again. I have never felt so good in my life until now. I will go home and tell my mother about Anapana and tell her how much I learnt. I love Anapana very much.----Tanumansa Bagrodia.
It was very nice to come here first as it is an International place. It increased my concentration. Here our mind is quiet as the atmosphere of Dhamma Giri is quiet. My memory power has increased.-----Veena D
The weather is very nice. There is silence everywhere. The teachers are very good. I enjoyed here. And the most important is the meditation. It is very good for us. It will help us in studying, health and everything in life. Thank you very much for giving me a chance to come her. I will try to improve in meditation.-----Deepika Barve
We are taught in a very nice way. I wish to come here again because I have the world’s greatest medicine, which can cure everything. I can never do wrong things because meditation has completely changed me. ------Kushita Vasant
The course was a lot of fun and the teacher was very inspiring. I liked meditating because it gave me peace of mind. We were surrounded by tranquillity. Staying in the dormitory helped me to make new friends.----Amrita