In the inaugural message of 2006, delivered by the founder of the Sunlit Path Club, Sri Swami Sahajananda, we read the following profound thoughts expressed by Sri Swami Sivananda, "Pain is a blessing. God has been merciful. Lest you forget the purpose of your life here, lest you should take this phenomenal world as the ultimate reality, lest you should waste your time here in fruitless tasks, He had granted you a blessing in disguise—pain, suffering, misery. Pain is a blessing. It reminds you again and again that pain is the nature of the world. Pain brings home to you the truth that pleasure is not in objects. Pain sets you a-thinking: 'How can I get unalloyed happiness?' When you get knocks and blows in the daily battle of life then your mind is duly turned towards God. You yourself experience pain; you see others suffering; you see before your own eyes death carrying away mighty men, separating man from wife, father from son. Pain reminds you: 'Your turn will come. Now, wake up and strive. None of these people on whom you shower your affections can help you when I summon you.' "
It was indeed a joy to witness two two well-rehearsed sketches, based on the writings of Sri Swami Sivananda. The sketches, "Prayer, Celibacy, Health & Diet and Foot Massage" and "TV, Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling, Depression & Suicide and the Law of Cause and effect", drew warm applause from the appreciative audience.
In the first sketch, three friends try desperately to guide a friend who has strayed from the path of righteousness. Because of the personal problems she is experiencing, she gets depressed and seeks consolation in drugs and other social ills. By using the profound teachings of Swami Sivananda and other sages, they counsel her, but it seems to no avail. So, they went in search of their dear friend, making a most hurried and stressful trip by train. On the way, they share many ideas on how to approach Radha, for that was her name. Interwoven in this plot, are the messages that Swami Sivananda, conveys to our young listeners. A discussion in the sketch goes as follows: "What happens when we do not practise self-restraint over our body and mind? That which is most affected is our nervous system—our memory and our concentration. You may also be surprised to learn that the vital fluid lost during sexual acts is called vital, because it is very valuable. It is the quintessence of blood. The vital fluid comes out of the very marrow concealed in the bones. It is the essences of essences. In Ayurveda it is said that one drop of semen is equivalent to forty drops of blood." These caring friends did eventually meet Radha. They spoke to her, and today Radha is a happy young lady. She has become quite spiritual and she had made God the centre of her life. Radha was saved because she chose the right friends, friends who guided her towards God and not towards the negative forces that are so widely prevalent in this day and age.
In the second sketch, three friends are concerned about the crime rate at schools. They talk amongst themselves: "Did you know that one of the main reasons for the increase in the crime rate in our country is the excessive violence we see on T.V? Not only physical violence but also mental violence! Also, did you know that prolonged hours of television viewing prevent the viewer from interacting properly with others, and the power of attention and concentration, too are affected negatively." They continue, "Today, drug addiction has reached epidemic proportions. In schools in the greater Durban area, at least 50% of learners are affected or influenced by illegal drugs. Did you know that abuse of and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illicit and prescription drugs cost Americans more than $700 billion a year in increased health care costs, crime, and lost productivity? Every year, illicit and prescription drugs and alcohol contribute to the death of more than 90 000 Americans. Isn't this frightening? Alas, what is the world coming to?" They touch on gambling, "Gambling is a dreadful curse. It is a friend of Satan. A little gain in the beginning makes the nerves of gamblers itch and forces them to wager large sums of money. Eventually they lose everything and return home with weeping faces. An enormous amount of money is wasted in gambling. Gambling has destroyed families, left people destitute and also led to suicide. Gambling is a great scourge to society, and it is our duty to arrest the problem of gambling."
Evidently, many learners seem to have absorbed much from the workshop as 115 learners (80%) voluntarily signed the pledge form to try to stay away from drug addiction and other social ills. During this session on the pledge form, we took them along carefully graded steps, highlighting the importance of committing themselves to rid themselves of these scourges. In addition, we guided them in the use of a specially designed diary to enable them to keep a daily check on their thoughts and behavioural patterns. As violence is rampant in schools today, we included a short message on the "Self-control" written by th Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
After the breakaway sessions, learners were given the opportunity to express themselves. This is what Ronaldo Sunker of Belverton Secondary said on the topics discussed in the workshop, "We only pray to God when we have problems. This is sad because we should call for God all the time. Sex weakens the body and mind. By practising sexual control there are many benefits – mental and physical. Good company gives support and leads to good transition from adolescence. Bad company can lead to a life of destruction. A man who resorts to violence is a man who has run out of ideas. Suicide helps nobody, but hurts everybody. Suicide is putting yourself in eternal destruction because you will not be entering paradise as God has planned for you."
We created a slot in our programme to listen to what the learners had to say about our programme and to seek ways to improve on it. Herewith a few thoughts from them:
1. I have learned that I should always fight my problems instead of taking a drastic step such as suicide.
2. The play was informative and interesting. Many valuable lessons were taught along with important health tips. It should also include participation from the audience.
3. I learnt a new word—celibacy and I intend to follow it. I want to also exercise more often and face my problems.
4. I want to exclude myself from bad people. God is everywhere, and in all creatures and most importantly in our own hearts.
5. I gained a lot. Learning about God is not something we come across in everyday life.
We concluded with the theme song of the Sunlit Club, "No Harm will come to me". It signified that no harm will come to one, if one sincerely calls to God for help, thereby reinforcing the Sunlit Path motto, "God is my Guide".
In the summation, we thanked all for attending and reminded them that it is important to apply all these teachings in their daily lives. They were advised to share these thoughts with their friends, relatives, parents and teachers. Our Programme Director concluded as follows, "Finally, remember to call for God at all times. If you are sincere, He will come to your assistance and solve your problems."
We conclude this report with thanks to the Tongaat Hindu Unity Forum for co-hosting the programme and for providing and serving refreshments and lunch. Our gratitude to the management of Tongaat Secondary School for the free use of the hall and its facilities and for the technical assistance rendered by a few grade-11 learners. We offer our thanks to the principals of the various schools for their support and for making it possible for learners to attend this workshop. And, finally, our report will be incomplete if we do not express our deep gratitude to the Department of Education (KZN) for granting permission to arrange this workshop during school hours.