Lighting the Lamp

The BMCM Family Program


This summer at the BMCM, families from around the world came together to spend two days immersing themselves in spiritual practices. Parents, children, and family friends spent time listening to stories, singing and writing the mantram, and painting a giant mural of little lamps, in recognition of the name that Easwaran was called by his granny, his spiritual teacher. 

Throughout his teachings, Easwaran has emphasized the role of parents, and of all adults, in helping children absorb spiritual values from an early age:

Give your children lofty ideals, and live them out yourselves. You are their first teachers.

– Eknath Easwaran

This unique weekend program creates a space for parents practicing passage meditation and their children to be in community with other families who are working on living out the same ideals and, of course, to have fun.

We’re pleased to share this behind-the-scenes look at this weekend event, and hope that it inspires you to find creative ways to share your own spiritual practice with those in your life.

Little Lamp

When Easwaran was growing up his granny, who was also his spiritual teacher, called him “Little Lamp.”

From Easwaran:

Sometimes my granny used to say in front of my friends or acquaintances, “Little Lamp, you’re not going to be like anybody else.” It used to bother and embarrass me deeply. “Granny,” I complained, “you shouldn’t say things like that. Lots of boys I know do well in school.”

“That’s not what I mean,” she said.

“Your love is making you blind,” I protested. “You don’t know me. I have lots of faults.”

“You don’t know yourself,” she corrected. “I know you have faults.” I gulped. “You do?”

“Of course. I know faults you don’t know I know. I even know faults that you don’t know.” (I have to admit that took me aback.) “But, Little Lamp, you also don’t know what your real capabilities are. I know that too.”

I have said before that Granny wasn’t good with words, and I never could get her to explain any further. I didn’t understand, and I did not agree; I was a very ordinary boy. Only much later did I remember her words and realize that she was talking about immense capabilities which lie unsuspected in every one of us – the limitless inner resources of the Atman.

This term of endearment, Little Lamp, inspired the BMCM logo of the South Indian lamp – and was also the theme of this summer’s event!

The weekend centered around the theme of being a lamp – recognizing that each of us has a special contribution to share with the world. The day included stories, passages, crafts, and workshops all centered around this theme.

Stories, Puja & Workshops

During the morning puja, a prayer ceremony from the Hindu tradition which Easwaran brought to the Family Program, families sat together to light the oil lamp in celebration of the spiritual figures of all traditions. Children worked together to identify each tradition on the puja table – from Sri Krishna, to Saint Francis, to the Buddha, to Sri Ganesha and more. 

The puja table with lit oil lamp.

Families memorized the passage “The River of Love” by Kabir and recited it together during the puja: 

I am a citizen of that kingdom
Where shines the Lord as a source of light,
And lights the lamp of wisdom in my heart
To burn without oil, without wick. 

Next, everyone listened to stories narrated aloud, mirroring a tradition from Easwaran’s childhood. The storyteller captivated everyone with tales of Easwaran and his granny, showing how Granny helped Easwaran to see the ways in which he was a lamp shining brightly to the world. Deftly weaving in examples from the life of each child in the group, the storyteller demonstrated how each young program participant is also being a lamp to those around them.

Families listening to stories together.

Each day parents also had time in a workshop to focus on their own passage meditation practice. They studied a reading from Easwaran’s book, The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, about being lamps in the world, and brainstormed together the ways in which they could integrate their practice into their lives with their children. 

While their parents were in workshops, the children explored Ramagiri ashram, going on an adventure to find all the different little lamps in the different buildings, and picking fruit off the bushes and trees. These adventures were led by young adults who themselves grew up attending the Family Program when they were young children!

Including Lamps at a Distance

We experimented this year in using technology to include families who are at a distance and unable to come to California. 

For one of the mornings we had two families join, one from Virginia and one from India. It was a treat to see their faces on the screen, and to spend time with them playing a game, doing a brainstorm, and having them join us for the morning puja and story time.

We were amazed to find that these families, who had never met before, were able to connect through technology across the world!

From one of the “distance families”:

We really enjoyed it: we especially liked the “getting to know you” part – we felt very welcomed and included – we liked being able to see everyone’s smiling faces and to hear where they were from! 

We felt all the love and peace from the event. It was a very special experience for all of us and I loved being able to share this with my family.

The Little Lamp Mural

This year the parents and children worked together on an art project creating a mural. Using stencils and spray paint, parents and children alike had the chance to create little lamps.

After a quick safety tutorial, there was lots of creativity – blending colors, coming up with creative ways to work together, and helping make sure that everyone had a chance to contribute.

After the outlines were placed, families worked together adding details to each lamp. Some lamps were decorated with mantrams, some were given a metallic shine, some flames were embellished, and some lamps were left in a more minimal style.

The project was a wonderful time for parents and children to work together, and a great way for families to get to know each other better. Of course, the outcome was astounding!

Join Us

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, neighbor, or have another important relationship with children in your life, we invite you to join us for one of our online workshops, “Living Out the Eight Points,” to help you integrate your practice into your interactions with children.

We invite everyone to embrace Easwaran’s message that we are all little lamps, sharing our light with the world.

Even though a room has been dark for a thousand years, we say, once a lamp is brought in, the darkness disappears.

– Eknath Easwaran