Some years ago, on a visit to the home of a very dedicated & senior grhastha devotee, I saw an attractive printed poster displayed prominently in the living room, that declared:
"By the time you realize your parents were right, you have children who think you are wrong.
It did not take me long to understand that this poster had been put up by this devotee for the benefit of his teenage son, with whom he was then experiencing a strained relationship.
Happily, the son has now grown up, is married, & shares a very warm bond with his father.
Even as I relished the witty humor of that poster, I could appreciate the underlying purport raising children is not an easy task.
But it is a task that must be done. Otherwise society would crumble.
The grhastha ashrama has a very important place in society. It is the one that maintains the other three ashramas. It is the ashrama in which members of all the four ashramas are born & raised.
Thus, giving birth to good progeny & raising them properly is a great responsibility of the grhastha ashrama. It will not be an exaggeration to say that this is perhaps the most important contribution of this ashrama to the society at large. How would society go on without this?
However, generating & raising progeny is not to be seen just in quantitative terms i.e. in terms of the number of children generated to populate the world. The scriptures & wise men through the ages have exhorted us to be conscious of the qualitative aspect of producing & raising offspring, for the sake of bringing forth into these world individuals who are truly cultured & evolved. Such noble progeny strive for their own spiritual perfection whilst simultaneously working assiduously for the welfare of all, with knowledge, & in a spirit of sacrifice, compassion & devotion.
Srila Prabhupada would sometimes quote the celebrated "moralist” Chanakya Pandit, well known for his pithy & wise sayings on all aspects of life. Consider, for instance, the following:
"What is the use of many, unqualified children, who bring only pain & sorrow?.."
"Just as a single tree laden with fragrant flowers spreads its fragrance throughout the forest, a good offspring brings glory to the entire dynasty:'
"Just as a dried tree catches fire & burns down an entire forest, a bad offspring can destroy an entire dynasty:”
And here is one that Srila Prabhupada quoted many times: "It is better to have one qualified son than to have a hundred worthless ones. One moon can destroy the darkness of the night whereas a thousand stars cannot."
Such is the emphasis on creating & raising quality offspring in the Vedic culture, that the preparation begins even before the child is conceived. From then on, all the way through birth, childhood, adolescence & beyond, the Vedic scriptures prescribe a series of reformatory or purificatory ceremonies,& a way of life in general, that are meant to create good, spiritual consciousness in the individual.
Such good progeny can transform this earth into a veritable spiritual paradise.
On the other hand, unqualified progeny can create havoc for all & render this beautiful earth into a hellish nightmare. We read in the First Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that this is exactly Arjuna's fear, as he explains the reasons for his reluctance to fight in the Battle of Kurukshetra.
Raising children in a way that will facilitate their becoming cultured, noble & spiritually evolved human beings is the prime, & indeed, dire, necessity in the world. With every passing day in this terrifying age of Kali, this need assumes greater & greater urgency, to the point of being justifiably considered an emergency.
There are many books & courses commercially available these days on Parenting. But they hardly ever deal with the topic from the perspective of raising children to eventually help them become pure devotees of the Supreme Lord. Their approach is mostly mundane. They miss out on the most essential ingredient - the ultimate spiritual goal towards which the children have to be gently, lovingly but firmly & expertly led.
There are certainly many practical 'nitty-gritties' to deal with in the realms of physical, social, psychological, moral & other dimensions of a child's upbringing, & parents do need to acquire these skills as well, but without the Krishna conscious or spiritual focus, the whole point is lost.
This wonderful book, 'Art of Parenting" contains illuminations on all these dimensions, to give the reader valuable tips that blend spiritual principles with practical realities. Coming, as it does, from the experiences & realizations of a wide variety of devotees, some men & some women, some householders & some from the renounced orders of life, this book makes for a comprehensive guide for those who are parents, those who want to be parents, those who wish they had never become parents,& also for those who guide parents & children.
To all these devotees engaged in this valuable service of helping young minds grow in the soothing & blissful light of Krishna consciousness, I hope & pray that this book will give much guidance, inspiration, & well ... relief. Here's wishing you fulfilling & happy parenting in Krishna consciousness. I offer my gratitude to the numerous authors whose articles appear in this book. I also offer my congratulations to VOICE, under the inspired & able guidance of H.G. Radheshyam Das Brahmachari, for taking the initiative & effort to bring out this helpful volume for the devotee community. I am sure this effort will not be in vain.
An artist at work on a canvas makes a series of lines and curves. He mixes colors and adds details to finally make a complete picture. Like the artist, a parent too works on a child with lines of discipline, curves of love and colors of commitment to shape the child into a work of art!
"There is no limit to Krishna's artistic ability, because Krishna is the seed of all creation (bija mam sarva-bhutanam) ,” Srila Prabhupadas lecture at an art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand February 1972.
The Lord is the Supreme Artist (S. Bhag. 8.3.6) and we are but His instruments. When the Lord paints broad strokes unto the canvas of our life, He gives us a chance to draw closer to Him.
After hopelessly floundering in the material pool, we finally find solace and shelter at His lotus feet. As parents it is natural then that we desire to give our children the Lord's shelter. The Srimad Bhagavatam (5.5.18) too reinforces. 'One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master a father a husband a mother or a worshipable demigod.
But is being a parent so straightforward today? The ego is like a lump of clay. In childhood the ego is soft and can be molded to achieve the qualities of humility gratitude honesty amongst others. With age rigidity increases and suppleness decreases. This clay too is not just dead matter which can be shaped anyway you want it reacts in unbelievable ways. That is the challenge of parenting.
Life styles today are also completely contrary to the traditional way of living. The hectic pace of life has families struggling to spend time with each other. Kids are left to their own devices and so get easily pulled towards wrong habits. The much needed advice of older people is absent as young parents live away from extended families. As the generation gap widens with each passing year children mature faster due to exposure to the Internet, television and other media.
This affects devotee families too! For devotee parents therefore the objective is twofold first to equip themselves with the necessary skills to deal with children effectively and second to acquire training and education to give their children a solid Krishna conscious upbringing.
VOICE Publications therefore makes a humble attempt to offer priceless wisdom on parenting through a compilation of articles by leading sanyasis, grihastas and bramcharis. This is a one of a kind book where many senior devotees have shared their experiences observations and valuable advice on relevant issues which are of practical importance to devotee parents.
The different sections in the book can be understood through the analogy of a gardener and his garden. As a gardener carefully plants seeds in the soil, waters it fences it protectively and tenderly administers to the growing sapling. parents too care for the needs of their child from conception to adulthood.
A farsighted gardener envisions a beautiful landscape of blooming flowers and lush greenery even before a seed is planted! Similarly the deeper significance and broader meaning of spiritual parenting is explained lucidly in the 'Vision' of this book by senior sanyasis.
Caring for tender lives is a great duty! In the same way parents play the role of gardener by trying to execute their role and responsibilities as spiritual partners and care givers. The second part entitled 'Responsibility' gives a detailed account of this.
Training is the best method to become an expert gardener. Likewise the articles under 'Training' will help parents understand the science of parenting while preparing themselves for the immense task before them.
Sowing seeds is an art. Without precise knowledge it can stunt the growth of the plant! Therefore through the right kind of 'Education' parents can sow the seeds of knowledge at the correct time.
The tiny sapling requires sustenance and shelter. By providing a 'Culture' of love based on values we can protect our children without choking their progress.
The gardener is happiest when he finally sees the fruits of his loving labors in the form of blossoming flowers. However harvest time is very crucial. Similarly teenage is critical for parents as well as their children. The book therefore concludes with how healthy communication and relationships in adolescence will help develop 'Respect' on both sides that will sustain for life.
This volume can thus help devotee parents steer clear of the many menaces of Kali Yuga while keeping their family anchored firmly to the teachings of Guru, Sadhu and Shastra. The highlight of this book are excerpts from Srila rabhupadas letters, lectures and Bhaktivedanta purports which throw valuable light on matters of childcare, home and family, parental responsibilities, school and teacher, etc. We hope that this endeavor on behalf of Srila Prabhupada will help parents make the loving offering of a masterpiece to the Lord in the form of their children.
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