An ISKCON youth based near the Hare Krishna temple in Potomac, Maryland, USA has joined the staff of online interfaith magazine KidSpirit.
A free teen quarterly that empowers youth to tackle life’s big questions, KidSpirit holds its headquarters in New York but has satellite editorial boards run by youth in schools in Maryland, California, and India.
Nimai Agarwal, 14, joined his local board six months ago, when the magazine’s editor contacted ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Das for help with its search for a Maryland youth to present the Hindu perspective.
Nimai, son of Lokadhyaksha Dasa and Vidarbha Suta Dasi, was chosen due to his penchant for writing and deep thought.
Homeschooled most of his life, Nimai was encouraged to develop his natural talents. His parents’ often unconventional curriculum allowed plenty of time for writing, as well as for spiritual study such as reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam and completing the Bhakti Sastri scriptural study course.
Nimai progressed quickly with his writing. At the age of nine, he won the 2008 National Kids’ Philosophy Slam, and was awarded the title “Most Philosophical Third Grader in America” for his essay on global warming.
“The question they gave was, ‘Is global warming one of the greatest problems for society?’” he recalls, speaking to ISKCON News. “I wrote about how the real problem behind global warming is disconnect with the true self. People are not satisfied, and they try to find satisfaction outside of themselves, in material things.
Therefore there’s so much pollution and waste.”
This year, Nimai won two Gold Keys for essays submitted to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, including “Enriched,” in which he wrote about his experiences in Mayapur and Vrindavana while visiting India in 2012.
One year ago, he moved from homeschooling to the Friends Meeting School in Ijamsville, Maryland, a Quaker School for all faiths.
It was there that he joined the seven-person local editorial board for KidSpirit, made up of youth like himself. He’s currently the only Hindu in a group that includes different Christian denominations as well as one Muslim.
Nimai’s responsibilities at the interfaith magazine include regular brainstorming meetings, helping out with editing other youth’s pieces, acting as liason with KidSpirit’s New York headquarters, and submitting his own writing.
Each issue of the magazine—which comes out every three months—deals with a different topic.
In Nimai’s first piece for the publication, which appeared in “The God Issue,” he wrote about how his views on God have evolved has he has grown.
Although he enjoyed being immersed in God consciousness while growing up as a devotee, he never had to search for God himself, he explained, and thus found his knowledge of God remaining somewhat theoretical.
When he began studying science at school, however, the seeming opposition between science and religion pushed him to look deeper into the Vedic scriptures, where he found a cohesive harmony between the two. This experience, he wrote, served to deepen his faith and his understanding of Krishna.
For the next issue of the magazine, entitled “The Heroic Spirit,” Nimai submitted a poem.
“In it, I first described the stereotypical hero, who is very strong and conquers all the lands and has a lot of wealth,” he says. “Then I talked about how the real hero is the person who can control his own mind—because that takes true courage and bravery.”
In the next issue of KidSpirit Nimai will write about how gender roles are defined in Vedic scriptures, and about his own personal struggle with these definitions.
He’ll then discuss how he’s trying to reconcile them with his own view that men and women are equal.
“The topics they choose are always very interesting, thought-provoking and fun to write about,” Nimai says.
His enthusiasm for the topics is reflected in his essays, which have already drawn appreciative comments from KidSpirit readers.
Responding to “A Fresh Look,” his piece about science and God, one reader commented, “Your ideas are revealing and give a new dimension for a science student.”
Another wrote, “What a powerful and spiritual sharing from one so young. I am grateful to be able to learn from you. I have had the great joy of teaching the Mahabharata as a professor. Your reflections, Nimai, give me insights I can use as a teacher in the field of epic literature.”
In the future, Nimai hopes to involve more youth from different schools in Maryland in the project.
“I want to make the group bigger, and have more people, more faiths, more voices,” he says.
Already, he finds it interesting to talk to the youth in his group from other faiths, and to see how despite their differences they often encounter the same challenges and progressions.
“I love working with KidSpirit,” he says. “Each topic is a new experience, and gives me the chance to look inside and address what I think about things.”
Please visit KidSpirit at http://kidspiritonline.com.
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