“Nonsensical habits like smoking, drinking, and meat-eating have entered society simply due to the urges of the tongue. Actually, there is no need for these things. A person does not die simply because he cannot smoke, eat meat, or drink liquor. Rather, without these indulgences he can elevate himself to the highest platform. It is therefore said that one who can control the tongue can control the urges of the other senses also.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Beyond Illusion & Doubt, Ch 12)
What is an age of a person, really? A measurement in time arbitrarily assigned significance due to the expected presence of attributes and characteristics, the end can actually arrive at any moment. As an example, nine months after the time of birth is no guarantee of specific skills. One infant can already walk after this time has elapsed. Play a basic game of peekaboo and quickly thereafter they start playing it back. They hide behind the sofa and come out later for a surprise attack. The resulting laughter and smile are oceanic.
Yet another child of the same age might be more docile. They don’t even know how to crawl. They remain still and content. They are not active. The parents know that the potential is always there, however. Once a person reaches adulthood, the age at which they started walking is no longer relevant.
Another factor associated with age is instruction. Those older are supposed to teach those younger. This is nature’s way. Life experiences passed on in a descending process, hopefully preventing danger and wasted time.
Due to their innocence and associated behavioral patterns, an interesting reversal can occur, where much is learned by the adults. Studying their children can open eyes about certain unwanted aspects of life, anarthas, and their value to living in this world.
1. Not addicted to intoxication
The children have no concept of it. They are dependents, after all. Whatever the parents feed them is what they will eat. They can urgently request certain items like breast milk, but it is always up to a higher authority to provide. Perhaps they get a taste of intoxication with certain over the counter medications, but again, the interaction is usually limited.
How do they survive? How do the children manage the day without the pick-me-up of coffee in the morning? How do they unwind in the nighttime without an adult beverage? They don’t have to quit smoking because they’ve never touched a cigarette.
The same can be very difficult for an adult. The obvious lesson is that such intoxicants are not necessary for living. In fact, a person can be very happy without them. Sobriety is the natural way of life, and children show that the addictions result from artificial needs created through bad association.
2. Understand something inherently wrong with animal killing
Take a child to a slaughterhouse and they won’t like what they see. The heart is pure at such a young age. Cruelty is not appreciated. There is no joy from watching another life suffer needlessly. The child can survive on milk just fine. The same milk is produced by the cow due to love; mother to child.
Yet in adulthood the same person can become anesthetized to the violence. They accept the excuses of the elders, such as that slaughterhouses are necessary for feeding a population. Meanwhile, a child can survive the first few years simply off milk. All the required nutrients arrive through this miracle food of nature, which does not rely on violence.
The child has a basic understanding of fairness and equality. If they want their own life protected, why not that of another? This truth becomes more difficult to see in adulthood, due again to the unwanted association, which may in fact be handed down through family tradition.
3. Have natural affinity for God
Play a bhajana glorifying the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and a child might dance along. They get a big smile on their face hearing someone describe the gunas, or transcendental qualities, belonging to the most fortunate one, Bhagavan.
In an amazing case, a baby barely nine months old shows that their favorite internet video is of a Vaishnava describing the chatuh-shloki of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Not talking animals. Not song and dance of nursery rhymes. A lecture on the four verses which summarize the ripened fruit of Vedic literature, accurately describing God’s position with respect to this world and its population.
When taken into a house of worship the child seems to have an inherent understanding of the nature of the area. They see an altar where God in a transcendental form, archa-vigraha, gets worshiped and they immediately have some respect. When they just learn how to talk and verbalize their visual identifications, they tell others, “This is Bhagavan-ji. We should pay respect.”
No one has to teach them. The intelligence is already there. From the Bhagavad-gita, we know that the Supersoul is the invisible factor. He is in the background, providing both memory and forgetfulness.
सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो
मत्तः स्मृतिर् ज्ञानम् अपोहनं च
वेदैश् च सर्वैर् अहम् एव वेद्यो
वेदान्त-कृद् वेद-विद् एव चाहम्
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
4. Unconditional love
The child shows unconditional love. They are not afraid to share their preferences. They cry for their mother as if they wouldn’t survive without the association. They insist that their best friend sit next to them while eating. They greet the father with a beaming smile in the morning. They don’t require much; just that the loved ones stay nearby.
In adulthood the same heart becomes hardened. Placed on guard due to bad experiences, the same sentiment lies deep within, though. This is due to the link to the Supreme Lord. The dharma of the individual, who is spirit soul, is to serve in love. This is the only way to true bliss, ananda, which is the reason for living.
In adulthood the way to unlock the enthusiasm and hope of the early years is through the association of the spiritual master. The guru shows the way towards eternal life in bliss. He reveals that the soul is meant to love God. This trait can never be acquired and neither can it be removed. It is as eternal as the living being.
Bhagavan is the ideal recipient of that love, and through steady practice in bhakti-yoga the spontaneous attachment gets revived. Something as basic as chanting the holy names can remove the unwanted habits and sentiments acquired during the difficult journey through life: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
My child most amazing to see,
That actually teaching me.
When Bhagavatam verses to hear,
Towards television going near.
As if knowing all along,
Dancing to devotional song.
Of unwanted habits no need,
Way for every soul to proceed.
Categories: the four