To a practicing ‘mild’ Hindu in our country, modernity presents multifarious challenges. South Africa, being a rainbow nation, is particularly, in a unique position, where society with diverse races and religious beliefs, is trying to balance tumultuous lifestyle changes with the traditional family values. How problematic ‘parenting’ can actually be is anybody’s guess.
The present Post is reproduced from a booklet on ‘Parenting – A Hindu Perspective’, containing articles on many interesting Hindu ideas on parenting skills. It was freely distributed to the delegates who attended a seminar hosted by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville in commemoration of Holy Mother’s 156th birth anniversary celebration at KZN University on Sunday, 13 December 2009. It was a great success with 500 delegates from even distant places attending with enthusiasm. I was given the honour of releasing this booklet on that important occasion. My grateful thanks to Sister Pravrajika Ishtaprana mataji.
First let us see the dynamics of parenting with regard to individuals who constitute a ‘family’. The adults in very many cases make themselves the focal point of their attention. Parents who are prisoners of their own predilections such as careers, extra-marital relationships, or just in their own heads all of the time, often have lonely, depressed children who doubt their parents’ love and affection. Studies have already shown a very high percentage of teens experimenting with drugs and alcohol are from homes where the parents are too self-absorbed to notice or to pay attention to what is happening with their own kids.
On the other hand, let us consider the sacrificing parents whose uppermost aim is the greater good of the family. This dynamics becomes the breeding ground to resentments and underlying tensions found in most households. In their enthusiasm, the adults often give up their dream jobs, drop out of higher education, or stop having a social life outside of the family. Because, at some point along the way, it perfectly seemed to provide the probable answer to some predicament. For whatever reason, there is no time, energy, or money left for the adults even to visit temples and ashrams when all is said and done. The parents unwittingly try to become martyrs to their kids or ‘The Family’. Indeed, It is very difficult for the parents to find a healthy balance between these two extremes.
Take another scenario. How many times we hear that the children should always come first – at any cost. Well, this has too a negative effect. Children who are raised to be the blue-eyed favorites, grow up to be adults with a firm belief that they have a rightful place as the center of everyone else’s universe too. Is it fair to teach the children that they are more important than everyone else? Don’t they become self-esteemed monsters and bullies? The world out there is going to teach them a very different lesson. People will not like them no matter how special Mommy and Daddy think they are. What is at stake here is everyone is equal in regards to needs, hopes, dreams, responsibilities, and other aspects of getting along in the world. Madhu’s need to jump, run and play is in no way less than Mommy’s need for mental peace.
Now what happens when families start focusing on each individual’s needs, schedules, etc.? Parents are busy conducting their own lives while the teenagers are living independent lives – dropping by the house to eat and sleep, communicating only through emails or cellphones. And lo! the little ones are so busy with soccer leagues and music lessons and play ‘dates’ with their friends that they have no real sense of what family is all about. Everyone is happy, busy, flourishing individuals, but ‘The Family’ as a unit has almost completely disappeared; the inter-connection among the members of the family is absolutely lost!
Safe and Secure?
Is there any remedy? In comes the Hindu perspective of parenting. Though copious examples can be quoted from the vast scriptural literature, I would in brief, like to stress on the first three verses of the glorious Gita as contained in Chapter 16. These verses give us a behavioral dictum that can make every member of the family enriched with the necessary tools to face the challenge of about-turn modernity versus abiding old values.
Bhagawan Sri Krishna enumerates a total of 26 noble qualities (see box) that can lead each and every one of us to be a responsible citizen of the society. The spiritual view of parenting includes not only the elaborate preparation of wedding, giving birth to children but also the manner in which the children are brought up. Children start learning from the womb. It is essential that would-be-parents adapt their life as per the 26 noble qualities. Then only they would be able to transmit them to their children. These three verses should be read on a daily basis by both parents and children and be given to byheart. Children learn by example, therefore the role of parents is vitally important in their upbringing. A home that radiates love and warmth will automatically make children feel safe and secure.
Pray and stay?
I have seen some parents very reluctant to talk certain religious subjects and make the children feel that these topics are taboo! Healthy discussions amongst children and parents should be the keynote to every family life. Collective living-in should be cultivated and to begin with, a common daily prayer is of utmost importance in every household: A family that prays together stays together as they say.
Parents as devotees of the Ashram must ensure that children take note of the activities and allow their children to be familiar with them. They should be encouraged to assist adults in providing meals, clothing, gifts, medical help, etc to the less privileged. A feeling of compassion with humility, and at the same time an overwhelming sense of joy in serving the poor will contribute to the furtherance of the social fabric that will ultimately lead to universal love.
It is the duty of parents to present a bright and shining example of a morally well-balanced and spiritual living to pave the way for their children to follow.
The 26 divine qualities that should be cultivated by every one: sri-bhagavan uvaca abhayam sattva-samsuddhir jnana-yoga-vyavasthitih | danam damas ca yajnas ca svadhyayas tapa arjavam || ahimsa satyam akrodhas tyagah shantir apaisunam | daya bhutesvaloluptvam mardavam hrir acapalam || tejah ksama dhrtih shaucam adroho nati-manita | bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijatasya bharata ||
“The Lord said: 1 – Fearlessness; 2 – purification of one’s existence; 3 – cultivation of spiritual knowledge; 4 – charity; 5 – self-control; 6 – performance of sacrifice; 7 – self-study; 8 – austerity; 9 – simplicity; 10 – non-violence; 11 – truthfulness; 12 – free from anger; 13 – renunciation; 14 – tranquillity; 15 – not fault-finding; 16 – compassion for all living beings; 17 – free from covetousness; 18 – gentleness; 19 – modesty; 20 – steady determination; 21 – vigour; 22 – forgiveness; 23 – fortitude; 24 – cleanliness; 25 – free from envy and 26 – free from the passion for honor — these divine qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.”