A young girl asked her mother, ‘Amma, who made the earth?’ ‘Brahma,’ replied the mother, confidently. ‘And who made Brahma?’ There was a pause. ‘You’re getting late for school. You better get ready soon,’ came the answer. The child had touched the borders of the unknown very gently. Here was something that even her mother did not know. Yet there had to be an answer. When your child asks you, ‘Amma, does God like chips or does he eat only fruits?’, what do you say? Here is a chance to prove that God does not like junk food! But then, when the child would still want to eat his chips, he would have to hide it from God. So, what should your reply be?
Sense of security in children
Children, more often than not, have a personal connection with the Divine in a very simple and innocent way. They accept the presence of Divinity with openness. It is a playful relationship that can gently instill and nurture the values needed for the blossoming of a child. Ganesha loves sweets—so yummy! He helps you get over any challenge; he rides on a little mouse. Karthikeya has a pet peacock and is so brave and courageous. Parvati loves lions and tigers—she will protect you always! And Krishna loves the little cows and plays the flute. He is so joyful and makes everybody smile. When you tell them all this, children love it because God loves fun just like they do. Animals fascinate them—they feel closer to nature. And they start recognizing the presence of a higher power that is taking care of them at all times. This sense of security is the biggest gift to every child.
As life throws its many challenges at them as they grow older, it is very important that they never feel alone. A few years back, in a school in Kolkata, a child of eight years stood up in a school assembly and said, ‘I am depressed. What should I do?’ I skipped a beat when I heard this! This is not a word meant for the vocabulary of such a young one! Not long after, a Japanese educationist shared his concern about the increasing rates of suicide in schools in Japan. ‘They barely even smile,’ he said. The UK government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness! So many people suffering from depression because of loneliness... This situation can never arise when they know that the Divine is always there, watching over them and taking care of them. The Divine is the source of the greatest strength.
When children see that we are unperturbed in the face of trying situations, they too feel that strength.
The problems and challenges that we encounter in our daily lives define the supposed reality that we live in. But only with the dawning of real wisdom does one realize that God is the ultimate reality. All else is ever-changing and impermanent. When you are anchored in the unchanging truth, then storms cannot shake you. When children see that we are unperturbed in the face of trying situations, they too feel that strength. When they see that prayer brings peace, they know where to turn when they are faced with tough times.
Happy times and not-so-happy times come and go. We move from one achievement to another, from day to night and back to the day again, often following the same routine. Fortunate are those who question this routine and wonder if there is a higher purpose to life. This spirit of enquiry is natural in a child and can be easily nourished. Yet, to find answers to such deep questions, to translate words into experience, to integrate wisdom into one’s life, the presence and guidance of an enlightened Master is essential.
Respect for teachers
It’s the parents’ responsibility to inculcate respect for the teacher in a child. When parents show reverence to teachers, children follow their example. When they take their children along to meet learned people, they understand that this is an integral and important part of life. As children they follow their parents innocently but, in later years, they feel grateful for what they have imbibed from them. They understand the real depth and value of such meetings.
The Divine is infinite and intangible. The Guru is infinite yet tangible. When the child feels connected to the Divine through his or her master, it is like the drop that feels connected to the ocean. The child can feel the strength of the ocean. The mother is the first Guru for the child. Then comes the father. Going further, they learn from all their teachers and friends. When you know a little, you realize that there is so much that you still don’t know. So, in the process of learning, when the child once again touches the borders of the unknown, of that higher purpose, the spiritual Guru can take them by the hand and lead them.
Having this kind of a support system and guidance at every stage, the child is bound to live a happy life. When the birds sing, the flowers bloom and the children laugh, for sure the world will be a beautiful place.