Raising Children

Posted: 08/07/2013 in Routine part 2

I will utter a prayer for such concord among family members as binds together the Gods, among whom is no hatred. Be courteous, planning and working in harness together. Approach, conversing pleasantly, like-minded, united.

Be Patient And Caring

There is an old saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and this is wise in certain respects. We are thinking of the young adults who will not follow the traditional family patterns of their well-raised Hindu parents. Admittedly, they can be made to fear their parents and be forced to obey for a time. The problem with such an approach is that it usually ends up with the sons or daughters losing respect for them and leaving home as soon as they are able. Often parents take the authoritarian approach, not realizing there are alternatives, well-proven techniques of a more positive discipline. In actual practice, it is more useful to work with children little by little as they grow and mature. They can be reasoned with and will be very open if the parents show a definite interest in their cross-cultural way of life and their natural inclinations, one of which is to keep in with their peers. To lament the modern young adult’s behavior, to merely criticize it, is not going to help, and may cause, in the case of sensitive children, irreparable damage.

My advice to parents has always been to stay close to their children, but at the same time give them some space to grow and mature in today’s world. Today’s world is not all that bad. But children must be taught how to live in it — what to be wary of, whom to trust, whom to befriend and marry, how to proceed in business, social life, education, career upscaling, religious life and on into the raising of their own family. So, keep the communication lines open.

True, today’s world has its challenges, its temptations and definite drawbacks, but it is today’s world and the world of tomorrow. We can’t ignore that fact. We cannot recreate yesterday’s world or wish for the return of olden days. We have to move forward and teach the children to move the forces of the outside world for a better world in the tomorrows that are to come. So, be wise and pass your deeply profound Hindu culture and wisdom along to the children so they can make proper decisions for themselves. This is what they will do anyway, make their own decisions, so they might as well be trained early on how to do it right. Who better to teach them this than their own parents? True, times have changed, and things may never be as they were, but the religious and cultural traditions of the former generation are still valid and must be passed on gently yet firmly to the modern children, educated to think for themselves rather than simply carry out orders from elders. Don’t close the doors on them. This will not help society or the family unit. Nor will it fulfill the dharma of parenthood.

Parents of all ages and all cultures have always worried about their teenagers, so take heart. Don’t give up on them. They are the future. Some must learn by their own mistakes, while others, more sensitive, thoughtful and loving, who are polite enough to at least listen, can learn by the mistakes and successes of their parents. So, communicate your wisdom to them; whether they listen or not makes no difference for the time being. Your message, given with conviction but without anger or resentment, sinks deep into their subconscious mind, making a positive samskara. To accomplish this best, give it just before bedtime, when they are more open and less defensive. It will be their last thought before sleep. Don’t rant and rail during the day. That will simply sow the seeds of long-lasting animosity and create division within the family. At night before sleep — this is the key to getting your message through. Also, before sleep, all differences must be resolved, lest they become unwanted vasanas to be worked through later in this life or the next.

Training in Energy Use

Another way to communicate is when mom serves her children meals. While they are eating their favorite food served by their favorite person, she gently speaks some loving advice for their deportment, or a gentle correction, in the right ear, not the left. These timely suggestions, well implanted at that very human psychological moment, are absorbed in the subconscious as the meal digests. Five decades ago in Sri Lanka, I learned of this shrewd Hindu ingenuity by which women have been known to turn an election by whispering in their husband’s ear whom he should vote for, just as he is putting into his mouth his favorite morsels of food. This wisdom is one of the positive laws behind Nandinatha Sutra 99, which requires the wife to serve her husband food, enjoying her own meal only after he and the children have been well satisfied. Politicking? Well, yes! of the highest womanly order. She has her ways. Yes, the clever wife is indeed the queen of her castle. The rishis tell us there are eighty-four ways a woman can influence her man and keep him on — or lead him off — the path of dharma. Some call these wiles; others know them as the feminine siddhis.

It is the parents’ duty to provide a sound education in the use and misuse of the life forces, the sexual energies, and teach their children how to control them as they grow into adulthood. Only in this way will they have the knowledge required to face the challenges of their own instinctive/intellectual nature.

There are two main areas that parents can feel free to speak about with their boys and girls as they are growing up from a very young age. These are prana and the chakras. Once your children have a clear idea of what prana actually is and what the chakras actually are, they will be confident in lifting up the sexual pranas into the higher chakras when puberty is upon them.

You who are parents know that this prana will increase within your physical body until you are about forty years of age. After that, the prana increases in power within the mental body until you are about the age of seventy. Then the prana continues to increase within the spiritual body of the soul. Carefully explain time and time again to your children that it is up to them to control their prana, their life force, which is the total energy of their body. Until forty years of age, this is done through education, exercise and hard work. After forty until seventy, this is done through study, caring for those younger than themselves, community service and additional education. After seventy this is done through worship, sadhana, tapas and deep meditation.

When explaining the chakras to your children, refer to these force centers as lovely flowers within them that need to be fed by their vital energies. Teach them to breathe deeply and lift the sexual energy from the lower chakras to the higher ones and hold it there, as if to feed and water these flowers. Teach them that chakras are also rooms of consciousness, and the energy we put into the chakras awakens this consciousness and makes us very alert and intelligent.

In other words, as soon as your children can understand, you can begin teaching them about their energies. In this way, you give them the tools to handle their sexual nature so that their forces do not run away with their mind during puberty. In this way, you will open channels to talk freely with them about sex when the time comes. Many parents give absolutely no guidance in this area to their children, who then have to learn from other children or from the Internet, alone in a room, about this natural function of their life. So, be a wise parent and begin early. Remember, there are only two basic areas to cover: prana and chakras. Your own intuition will guide you as to how to proceed.

Be Firm But Kind

Children respond well to correction, discipline, talking and explaining, and being treated like the intelligent beings that they are. Many parents these days are afraid of their children and dance around them, as if they were things to be avoided. They bribe them with toys and sweets, bow before their every whim and appoint them, by default, the head of the house. Truly, children these days like to be told what to do, but also to be told the reasons why.

The “Obey me because I said so” stance will not work anymore for the Western-educated child. What will work is, “Obey me because this is what our family needs and wants you to do, because we love you and want you to remain a member of this family, and these are the reasons why….” This approach even a truant kid will accept, because he or she still needs to eat, still wants a roof over head, clothes to wear and, in the future, maybe a paid-for education. Less obstinate children will conform because they love their family and intuitively know how to fit in when they are urged to and have been given clear directions, explanations and expectations. Yes, there are children in the Western world who do not throw temper tantrums at home, who are still nice to their elders, who will turn off the TV when asked and even show appreciation for all that their parents have done for them.

Who are the mentors of the home, the kids or the parents? Children raised on bribery or raised in fear will in their future bribe others, subjugate others by instilling fear of their wrath and unruly ways. If you are ambivalent and insecure, your children will not listen to you. This may be embarrassing, but nonetheless true. It is not necessary to let your children go headlong into Western ways. It is not necessary or even helpful to leave them alone to find their own values in life, from the streets, from peers, from people more confused than they are. What is most helpful is for you to share with them the Eternal Path, with all of its values, all of its insight into humanity and Divinity. What is most helpful is for you to spend lots of time with your children. Many parents these days minimize the hours they spend with their kids and don’t even have time for an in-depth conversation anymore. Just “Hello” and “Good-bye” and “Why did you get a low grade on your report card?” Kids need more, more of you, more of your time, more direction and more guidance. Don’t be afraid to give to them what they need most — all of you, not just a token part. Teach them traditional religious and cultural values at an early age. Don’t be afraid that they will be different from the other children. They are already different. They are Hindus, inheritors of India’s fountainhead of mystery and Truth.

An all-pervasive mental disease has come to the planet. It started in the West and is spreading worldwide. It is the modern way that parents talk to their children, by stating a question when actually giving direction or instruction, such as, “Why don’t we all get in the car now?” “Why don’t you put on your coat?” “Don’t you think it’s time for you children to turn off the TV and go to bed?” These kinds of phrases are used in the family homes and in offices throughout the modern world. Children given the choice “Why don’t you?” before the instruction of what to do are disadvantaged. They are forced to make a yes-or-no decision before complying with the request, and sometimes it might be “no.” When undecided, children comply reluctantly. Giving these kinds of choices to young people, which is being done today even at the five-year-old level and younger, is a new way of raising them which puts parents at a disadvantage. They become beholden to their child’s every mood, thought and preference.

The “Why Don’t You” Approach

It does not take long for even very young children raised in the “why don’t you” method to catch on and understand that they are permitted, indeed expected, to make a personal choice in all that happens in family life. An aggressive few of these children will take over the home and begin giving orders to the parents, unkindly, abusively. Most often, when choices are given, they take the opposite point of view. When you ask a child, “Why don’t we turn off the TV?” he may answer, “No, I’m not turning off the television, because the program I’m watching has not ended yet.” When you suggest, “Shall we all get into the car?” he will respond, “I am not getting in the car. You all go. I’m staying home.” If you then force him to change his decision after asking him to make a choice, you are considered unreasonable. When this happens, respect is lost and is hard to regain.

Is the child being disobedient? Well, yes! And well, no. Yes, by responding in opposition to the expected answers, and no because the question itself invites them to decide, and one possible response is to refuse. Such questions from adults tell the child that each one in the household is an independent entity, free to go his or her own way. The child is being taught how to do this by the parents themselves, by the way they phrase their directions. Some parents want their kids out of the home, on their own, supporting themselves. Others don’t.

There are only two ways: teach dependence or teach independence. Independence should be taught when the child has become an adult and is educated well enough to make it on his own, not before. Then he is responsible and will do right by his parents when they are older, because he understands dharma, duty, because he depended upon and flourished under their direction, their love and their wisdom for oh-so-many years. Don’t let them leave home too early and then continue to learn by their own mistakes. What a sad and often painful way to learn. Don’t let them face up to this. Protect them while you can. Simply don’t give choices. They will never notice the change in your approach and will appreciate the security of positive direction: “Let’s all get into the car. Come along.” “It is time now to turn off the TV. We are all going to bed.” Keep affirming that “Our family is a team. We move together. We are loyal to each other and tell each other everything, keeping no secrets. We will always stay together and care for one another.” This should come up at every opportunity, at least three times a week.

What is the binding force that keeps youths in the home? Love. If you love your children completely, they won’t want to leave. You won’t be able to force them out of the house, even if you try. You are bound together by bands of steel made of love. Within this loving relationship, you can guide them and watch over them and help them to live a good life without getting into trouble. Three hugs a day keeps trouble away. How can you apparently practice Hindu bhakti, which is love of God, Gods and guru, and not have enough love in your heart for your son or daughter to make them want to be close to you? If you don’t love your children, they will find someone else to love them.

Financial Independence

In summary, Hindu parents should make decisions for their children and refrain from giving them choices until they are educated and about to leave the home. Offering children freedom with money has similar problems. By giving adolescents financial independence too soon, parents breach the protective atmosphere of the home and invite exploration of who knows what in the world. It begins with an allowance that they can squander any way they want. They soon learn that by putting heavy demands upon parents they can get more. Then parents add gifts for good behavior, a form of bribery not recommended. In training adolescents, any money they handle should be accounted for and the change returned to and counted by the caring parents. This teaches honesty, accuracy and cooperation with the core group, the parents.

Many times I have seen an allowance lead to a desire for a summer job or to work after school, more independence, more time away from home and family. The summer job taxes the child when he or she should be playing, resting, going to school or doing wholesome extracurricular reading. The early-morning paper route or the job after school takes precious time away from education. Adolescents should not be allowed to handle their own money or to earn an income until their high school education is nearly complete. Then any money earned, the full amount, should be given to the parents, and all spending money accounted for. This will mold the young adult into a frugal, income-producing person.

One choice young people can and must participate in is their profession. A jyotisha shastri, Vedic astrologer, will help in this. In principle, the karma of the child is to accept the profession of the parent. He had a choice and could have been born into another family. He chose you. So, don’t compromise him or her, and be sure that you have unanimous agreement with all members of the family when the choice of profession or occupation is made. The ideal, of course, is for the children to work in the family business and develop the wealth that can be passed along to others in the family, generation after generation. This is the way Hinduism has persisted through trial and tribulation, siege and battle, oppression and subjugation for the past 10,000 years. Let’s not allow it to stop now. It is all up to you, the mom and dad, and how you phrase your direction, how you discipline with love and patience as their growing-up process continues. Raise your children right, and you will be rewarded by the justly fair law of karma when you are on the other side of life, about to experience moksha. Don’t raise your children correctly, and you will be born again into an unwholesome, adharmic household and learn by feeling how they felt under your neglect.

Responsible Chaperoning

I described the importance of chaperoning in Nandinatha Sutra 149: “Siva’s followers accept the serious responsibility of guiding the private and social life of their children. They chaperone and monitor friendships to help ensure that young ones grow up safe and celibate.” An Indian lady once told me what she considered to be her most important duty in life: that she would never, ever let her daughter out of her sight until she was married and well settled. Someone asked, “Don’t you trust her?” The lady’s answer was, “No.”

Why do swamis of traditional orders like ours go out only in pairs? Is it because we don’t trust them? We trust the soul and we trust them individually, but we don’t trust worldly people they might encounter who would love nothing more than to deter them from their dharma. We follow the ancient traditions so that problems don’t arise.

Many parents are faced with the dilemma of sending children off to college for a higher education at the risk of their exposure to undesirable influences. I tell my devotees, if you want your son and daughter to attend the university, you should, if at all possible, move into a home near that campus so you can be close to them and keep them from getting into trouble, share meals with them, monitor their friendships. You will be investing a lot of money to put them through school, and if you are not there, you will be investing a lot of worry.

If sending them to a far-off school is unavoidable, and you cannot move to a home nearby, remind them to at least perform simple puja every day and tune into a picture of you, and of the family guru and the Gods of our beautiful religion. The object of going to college, you can explain, is to learn what they need to learn and come out the other side as a professional, able to make their way in the world. So, explain to them that they are not going to college to make friends, to join sororities or fraternities, or to get side-tracked in any way by the temptations of the world as it is today. Encourage them to treat everyone the same, with a happy smile, to not take sides, to not like one person more than another.

There is a wonderful lady from the Tamilian community who sent her two sons off to the University of California, and every day, to stay close, she cooked a meal for them, packaged that meal and sent it by courier to their apartment 400 miles away. Another pattern that has worked in our congregation is for young people to marry and then, as a married couple, move near a university for the husband to attend school. Then he is naturally chaperoned by his wife as they grow up together.

Many children don’t follow their parents’ religion, don’t want to be sheltered or restricted and want to leave home in their teens and go off on their own. I say that if you have really made the religious teachings a part of your life, you will naturally be able to convince your family and friends of those wonderful truths. Your youth will see the wisdom of not going out without a chaperone, be it an adult or a trusted peer. If you can’t convince your family of the teachings, that shows that they are just intellectual thoughts that in practice don’t mean anything to you.

I watch for those in my international congregation who can do this, who are deeply involved, active and committed members who can bring others along the path that they themselves have trod. And I watch for those, indifferent and apathetic, who can’t and are just hanging on because of the social benefits or the mystique.

Our Young Missionaries

All of the young people here today, each and every one of you, must be proud that you are living the Saiva Dharma. You must be proud to be Saivites, proud that you know this great God personally. Now, this is not an egotistical kind of pride which sets you apart from everyone. It is a pride of humility which makes you very compassionate toward all. Stand strong for Saivism. It is your duty to help spread the Saiva Dharma throughout the world, to let each one hear about Siva, about the great Mahadeva Ganesha, about the great Mahadeva Murugan. Let them accept or reject, as they choose, but first they must hear your message. You are all the young missionaries of our religion, the young missionaries of Saivite Hinduism. You must study this religion most diligently. Study hard so that you can turn the minds of others towards goodness, towards selflessness, toward Godliness. You must study very, very hard, very diligently, committing the Saiva Dharma to memory so that when you are asked questions about your religion you have a ready and convincing answer and can give forth that answer with confidence. You must be strong, for there are many more temptations in the world today than when your parents and grandparents were raised. Those who are young nowadays face far more temptations than ever before, especially from the Western world.

Proceed with confidence and with courage, and your life will be a strength to others who are waiting and longing for your message. I ask each of you young adults and children here tonight to grow up tall and proud of our Saivite religion. How do you do this? Through discipline and obedience. Nothing was ever accomplished on this Earth without these two qualities. Be self-disciplined, cultivate self-control. Obey your gurus. Obey your mothers. Obey your fathers. Obey your elders. Obey your Saivite teachers. Don’t be influenced by Western ways. Western ways are based on a Christian belief structure. If you do all of this, you will become the leaders of the Saivite Hindu temple tradition.

Religious learning is the greatest learning, the only permanent learning. All else is transitory and changing. Religion is the knowledge of the soul. God Siva created your soul. Your mother and father created your body, brought you into this world. But you create your own experiences in this life from the sum total of experiences in your past lives. You came to this Earth for one purpose: to learn of your religion. You are on this Earth for the evolution of your soul. You are not here to earn money. You are not here to gratify yourself through excesses. You are not here to fight with each other. You are not here to accumulate material conveniences. You are here to learn of and then to fulfill your religion. It is knowledge of religion in your life that makes the soul evolve. So, learn your religion fully, properly, intelligently, and it will guide you through this life into a better birth or on into moksha, liberation from earthly existence.

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