In the section on the "Purpose of the Programme & Summary of the Initial Programme" we told them that "today is a red-letter day" for them. "Why are you here? What is the road ahead?" are the two questions that we posed to set them thinking. Our presenter narrated a true incident of a young girl who was outraged. This traumatic experience went viral and caused her much embarrassment. She was forced to leave school and was on the verge of suicide. Her bright academic career came to an abrupt end. This incident was narrated to remind learners of the consequences of such untoward behaviour on the part of these perpetrators. "Would you like to find yourself in a similar situation?" we asked them. Therefore, "the Sunlit Path Programme is here to guide you and protect you against such atrocities".
Drug trading is impacting on the economy of many countries in the world. It is revealed in the World Drug report of 2016, that there are approximately 247 million drug users worldwide, costing the world economy $3 billion. In the South African Scenario: (United Nations World Drug Report of 2014) 15% of South Africa's population have a drug problem. Drug abuse costs South Africa R20-billion (2014). In Chatsworth, there are 29 major drug dealers. So, the situation is indeed very grave. As ambassadors of their respective schools, we exhorted learners to spread the message of this anti-drug programme to their friends at school and to the community.
This programme is intended to reinforce the values and lessons learnt in the initial programme last year. Within the next few years, they will be out of school—alone in a world full of temptation. The decisions they take will contribute to a better life or for worse. Today, the Sunlit Path Programme will remind them of the harsh realities of life and strengthen them to take the right decisions.
The DVD presentation, entitled "Prayer, Celibacy, Health & Diet", enacted by the Rishikumaris of Divine Life Society of S.A., is a story of three friends who try desperately to guide a friend who has strayed from the path of goodness and virtue. 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. She left the city in frustration but eventually, they were able to find her. Today, with the help of her friends, she is a happy young lady. She has become quite spiritual and she had made God the centre of her life. She 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.
It was indeed pleasing to see that the attention of learners was rivetted on the screen. During the discussion time, we used the questions below to stimulate discussion. Herewith some of the responses from the discussion and from the general feedback:
1. Do you agree that some of the vices mentioned in this dialogue cause suicide in many instances? Do you think that the solutions proposed were effective?
Yes, suicide is caused by depression. If we do the wrong things, we also get depressed. The best way to solve this problem is to live a pure life.
2. Do you agree that the main reason for suicide is a lack of spiritual knowledge about its consequences and the effect on the rest of the family?
We must learn to pray every day. In our discussion we heard that God answers every sincere prayer. The family that prayers together, stays together.
3. What are some of your thoughts and beliefs on celibacy?
It is not easy to practise celibacy. I don't have any control. But, after viewing the DVD, I am shocked to hear what happens to you if you lose too much semen: bad memory, weak nerves, poor health. My goal is to do well at school and for this I need a good memory. I do not want to get irritable. So, I am going to try my best.
4. Do you think that this presentation added value to the knowledge that youth require to face the challenges of life? What are your thoughts on the solution to their challenges?
Today, things are very tough. But if we follow the Sunlit Path Checklist, we will become strong and we will be able to face our problems.
5. The play provides proof that peer support, and good company, are important and valuable to youth? How did these come across in the play?
I wish I could have friends like these we saw in the DVD. It teaches me to make sure that I must choose my friends. Good friends will support you in times of danger. If you have bad friends, they will let you down when you need them.
The heart of the Sunlit Path Programme is signing the pledge form to try to keep away from these social ills and the filling in of the Sunlit Path Checklist, daily. Pledge forms were signed last year at the initial meeting. In the presentation on the Checklist, great emphasis was laid on character building and the role it will play in the success of an individual. Effective use was made of a power-point presentation to share these noble thoughts taken from the writings of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda: A man without character is dead; knowledge is important but character is even more important; the Sunlit Path Checklist has the power to transform you to a person of exemplary character; identify your weaknesses, be honest, brutally honest; create your own checklist based on your strengths and weaknesses; the only person you can change in this world is yourself; you must have the determination to be a good person, then only will you succeed.
About the value of a checklist or diary, our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda wrote the following, "A thief cunningly hides in your brain. He has stolen the precious pearl of your soul. He causes you endless trouble. He deludes you. That thief is your mind. You must not be lenient with him. You must subdue him. You must make him your slave. There is no weapon stronger than the spiritual diary with which to control the mind. The Diary is your most faithful and constant companion."
In the next DVD, we screened the play, "TV, Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling, Depression and Suicide, and the Law of Cause & Effect". Again, we were pleased to notice their undivided attention. Herewith more responses during the breakaway session:
1. What are your thoughts on television and the effect it has on young minds?
Young people tend to get scared and lose focus. They also tend to carry out what is portrayed on TV. There is also lack of communication between family members due to viewing TC. TV eats into our time.
2. Depression and suicide are not options for youth. What can we do to cope with these tendencies?
Depression and suicide are not solutions. It causes more problems. It is the second leading cause of death. Some ways to overcome depression is to talk about your problems.
3. The existence of hostile forces and the impact it can have on human minds is controversial. What are your views on this matter?
Hostile forces can cause people to commit crime.
4. Is gambling a disease? What is the cause of this dreadful habit? How do we overcome it?
The main cause of gambling is greed. You lose a lot of money and it leads to depression and suicide. By doing charity, God will help us to overcome greed.
5. Has this dialogue given reasonable explanation of the Law of Cause & Effect?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. By following this "Mantra", I believe that we will all become better people.
In keeping with our programme to strive for inner peace, we had an effective short session on silent sitting where learners had first-hand experience of the power of silence. Silence allows the brain to clear all the clutter and reboot itself. It allows the learner to focus, remember, learn, cope and think better. It is through the observance of silence that one can build immense inner strength. So occasionally, just pause for a few minutes−be quiet−shut off all your electronic devices, sit in silence and allow your body and brain to recharge This is what learners heard in this session. And, judging from their responses in the session on evaluation, they benefited much.
In the summation we reiterated that by following the teachings of the Sunlit Path and by diligently filling the Cheklist, learners will make good progress and will one day become worthy citizens of our country.
Our next programme is on 25 April 2019 at the Sunford Primary School Hall in Phoenix.
Our sincere thanks to principals of schools for allowing learners to attend this workshop. We are grateful to the Department of Education for allowing us to conduct this workshop during school hours. Our report would be incomplete if we do not give thanks to the staff of the Sunlit Path Centre for preparing refreshments and meals and for serving the attendees so lovingly.