One of the ideas dearest to Swami Vivekananda was, “————– if the poor cannot go to education, education must reach them at the plough, in the factory, everywhere —— let these men go from village to village bringing not only religion to the door of everyone but also education.” Inspired by this concept, Mysore Ashrama devised, designed and launched an innovative project called “Jnana Vahini,” on the Vijaya Dasami day in 2003.
Jnana Vahini is a mass contact programme formulated specially for the rural population. It is really, “Education on Wheels”. ‘Jnana Vahini’ is a well equipped, self-contained van with all the materials and gadgets needed for the campaign. Led by a monk of the Ashrama, a band of service minded enthusiastic volunteers form a compact team to travel in the van from village to village. The team holds road-shows, meetings and film shows and halts for the night if necessary, in the village. Talks by monks to the villagers convey the message of Swamiji to every one and to every hut. A mini book-sales section to sell Ashrama publications also forms an integral part of the van. Another attraction of the van is the life-size detachable fibre-glass statue of Swami Vivekananda in Chicago posture mounted in front.
The schedule of ‘Jnana vahini’ will be prepared well in advance, taking the help of the local youth and elders as co-ordinators. The monk accompanying the van addresses the gathering followed by simple orientation classes to the youth on Personality Development.
The success of this innovative project following the call of Swamiji is reflected in the available statistics. In its maiden year itself the project successfully covered 278 villages in 15 districts benefitting over 2,24,000 people. During the following years the project, has covered maximum number of villages travelling for weeks together at a stretch.(Seeing the success of this pioneering model in Mysuru similar programmes have been adopted by a few other Ashrama centres like Chennai, Vijayawada, Kankurgachi – in Kolkata, …)
The Practical tool: Knowledge on Wheels- the Jnanavahini
In order to achieve this, we need to devise a practical and efficient tool to reach out to people in rural areas, who are normally unreachable. Therefore, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore has literally put the great education of man-making and character building as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda on wheels. This innovative project called “Jnana Vahini” was launched on Vijaya Dashami day of 2003. The scope of this project in simple terms is to instill, faith in oneself, an idea of our great heritage, sensitivity about moral values, concern for others, spirit of service and sacrifice and also need of simple and healthy life style in the minds of adults and children alike.
What are the basic requirements to put thease ideas in the practical field?
—– A dedicated band of volunteers to travel along with and assist a monk, who will co-ordinate the different aspects of Jnanavahni.
—– Volunteer coordinators located in various parts of the state to identify the aspiring groups, plan and organize the Jnana Vahini programs in coordination with Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore
—– Books, audio-video presentations, and films which are not only educative but also also entertaining to the adults and children.
—– Modern gadgets like DVD players, projectors, speakers, and the electric power to activate them.
Jnanavahini has all of them except more number of local coordinators who will come forward to conduct the programme in their locality. We have designed an exclusive and completely self-reliant vehicle- a van (TATA 407) with solar power panels well equipped with all the materials and gadgets needed for the campaign. This JNANA VAHINI VEHICLE is also fitted with Swami Vivekananda’s life size idol made of fiberglass that may be fixed on its front.
Special instructions are issued in advance to the organizers about the prior and ready arrangements required to run every programme efficiently and as per a definite schedule. They are also informed to seek the cooperation and active participation of all locally important persons.
The Jnana Vahini program
We begin our journey to a destination recalling Swamiji’s “Song of the Sanyasin”, entreating a sanyasin to move on regardless of all adversities.
As the Jnanavahini vehicle arrives at the village right on time as scheduled, the local leaders of the village accord a warm welcome to the team by garlanding the image of Swami Vivekananda. One can notice in their eyes an expression of joy that Swami Vivekananda himself has come to their village to uplift them from all forms of poverty physical, mental and spiritual. The procession commences after waving lamp to the image. This procession is scheduled to last about 30 minutes and not more. The local people including schoolchildren participate in it with joy and excitement. The girls holding ‘Kalasas’ in their hands march in front. The school band is heard from the distance. The brave call by Swami Vivekananda to the people interspersed by songs is heard loudly and continuously from the loud speaker. The entire atmosphere is charged with an unprecedented divine vibration and festivity.
Orientation in personality development
The next item after the procession is a session on ‘Orientation in personality development’ for students. We are aware that in this age of utilitarian and materialistic ideas and its unmitigated impact on cultural values, there is a trend of value erosion especially among the youth. The Jnana vahini team has already prepared the course of the daily program and is ready with the requisite arrangements. The students, in batches, receive this orientation and training. The objective behind this training program is to instill in the mind of every child the idea that a concentrated mind with perfect character is the key to success and when it is accomplished, one attains self-confidence. For such a person, success is certain. The entire scope of this program is to introduce children to this great idea and by doing this, also introduce them to our great culture and its heritage. The measure of our success in this program is to see the glow of happiness and satisfaction with which children emerge after every session. The schedule is as follows:
Prayer and Bhajans 15 minutes
Guided meditation– 15 minutes
Personality Development workshop 60 minutes
Film-show containing educative stories, parables and such ennobling subjects. 60 minutes
The Evening Program
The Jnanavahini programs also include a public meeting in the evenings at a prominent place of the village and include a short speech on the life and messages of the holy trio, messages on the cultivation of positive and healthy mental attitudes and good human relationship. These evening meetings conclude with a film show depicting various aspects of the holy trio.
The Ramakrishna – Vivekananda Vedanta literature
In the training of the mind, especially of the youth and children, the inculcation of a healthy reading habit occupies a very important place, which has to be introduced right from their childhood. It is important to convince them that besides curricular subjects they also should gradually cultivate the habit of reading ennobling, enriching and life giving literature, such as lives of great souls, stories from epics, simple illustrations of our great heritage etc, that introduces them to wonderful value systems. However the choice of the reading matter is extremely important. There is so much of diversity in available literature that it is important for parents and guardians to guide their children to select and read good literature. Secondly, the choice of literature depends on the age and level of maturity of children.
The Ramakrishna – Vivekananda Vedanta literature has earned a unique place in the world of noble and distinguished texts. In bringing this great literature to the Kannada language, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore has played a significant role. There is a wide variety of literature from the most profound philosophical and spiritual levels to simple stories and lives of great souls from our tradition rendered in the simple language.
The Jnanavahini medium serves a unique role in rendering easy access of such literature readily at the doorstep of villagers. Every visit of the Jnavahini team to every village or town is accompanied by a wide selection of such literature carried by the Jnanavahini vehicle. These books are displayed at the venue so that everyone can see, chose and buy their choice. The most important fact is that a large selection of wonderful literature especially prepared for children and youth is available at prices as low as Paise 50, Rs 2/-, Rs 3/-, Rs 5/- etc. so that they are easily affordable to one and all.
Hence, parents and organizers are requested specifically to bring their children and encourage them to browse the available literature and buy whatever they need and most importantly pursue them to cultivate the reading habit of such ennobling literature.