“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.” (Rishabhadeva, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.18)
Friend1: Okay, so anyone who is familiar with the Shrimad Bhagavatam knows about the crucial piece of advice given to parents.
Friend2: Which one? From the Dhruva story, about how to approach Vishnu for fulfilling desires instead of anyone else? From the Prahlada story, about describing the science of self-realization to the child in the womb in hopes that they end up a devotee?
Friend1: I’m talking about the advice on the purpose. That is to say the idea behind having children.
Friend1: Where it says that a person should not become a mother or father unless they can release their dependents from the cycle of birth and death.
Friend2: There are a few other roles mentioned also, I believe. Guru.
Friend1: Spiritual master.
Friend2: The general idea is clear. If you are in a position of authority, where you have people dependent on you, there is a higher purpose to fulfill. For the teacher, it’s not just teaching ABCD and mathematics. For the parent it is not just ensuring that the child gets into a good college and subsequently earns a lot of money in the industry of their choice.
Friend1: In fact, those things may not work out at all. The child may not be materially well off in adulthood. The student may be the worst in their class.
Friend2: And they can still be liberated. That is the meaning of causeless, Divine mercy. It is available to everyone. Material conditions are not a determining factor, though they can play a role in helping or hindering.
Friend1: Here’s the thing. I learned from the Bhagavad-gita that consciousness is the key.
Friend2: The key to what?
Friend1: Liberation. The nature of the consciousness at the time of death determines the type of existence in the subsequent life.
Friend2: “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Friend1: Yes, exactly.
Friend2: Do you not understand that? Is there some confusion?
Friend1: None at all. It is an important teaching because it puts everything else into perspective. You can be completely renounced, living in a temple and constantly chanting the holy names, but still not attain liberation.
Friend2: Right. Your consciousness might be elsewhere. Detached on the outside, attached on the inside.
Friend1: Or you could be living in a congested city, full of traffic, with people generally in the mode of ignorance, and still be saintly in quality. Not only do you think of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, while quitting the body, but the thoughts are dedicated to Him throughout every moment of living.
Friend2: As you said, consciousness is the key.
Friend1: Okay, so then why the burden on the parents?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: If I’m supposed to make sure my children are liberated from birth and death, it means that I have to ensure that they have the proper consciousness while quitting the body. That is what counts most.
Friend2: For sure.
Friend1: But consciousness is a choice. I can’t guarantee what you or anyone else will be thinking at a particular moment in time.
Friend2: Well, it’s a choice for you, too. Does that mean others can’t help you along?
Friend1: They can definitely help me, but they are not fully responsible. They don’t guarantee that I will be spiritually realized at the most critical moment of leaving the body.
Friend2: Well, they actually can. I know there is always a choice, but there is this special mercy for those who follow the bhakti path. They are actually liberated from the beginning.
Friend1: How does that work?
Friend2: Because a sincere effort is enough. They may not succeed in one lifetime, but they are on the path. The people who helped put them there get some of the credit, too. That is the meaning behind that teaching. Help to put your dependents on the right path. You can’t guarantee to where they will fly once leaving the nest, but you do have control over the foundation. Don’t become a parent unless you can create that foundation. Otherwise, your children are not reaching their full potential.
Friend1: Oh, I see.
Friend2: The same with the guru. They can’t force their disciples to think a certain way, but with training, with enough guidance, hopefully everything will turn out okay. Just a little association with the Divine, through the sounds that represent Him, the deity forms in the temple, and the teachings He presents in works like the Bhagavad-gita, can go a long way.
Leader, guru or father,
Or even demigod or mother.
That role only accepting,
When fate of dependents protecting.
That no more rebirth to see,
From clutches of kama to free.
Since only on pure consciousness getting,
Meaning that proper foundation setting.