“Shrila Jiva Gosvami remarks in this connection that every child, if given an impression of the Lord from his very childhood, certainly becomes a great devotee of the Lord like Maharaja Parikshit. One may not be as fortunate as Maharaja Parikshit to have the opportunity to see the Lord in the womb of his mother, but even if he is not so fortunate, he can be made so if the parents of the child desire him to be so.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.12.30 Purport)
As much as we would like it to be, life isn’t all fun and games. As a parent you have to eventually get serious, if you haven’t already. While it would be great to sit around and enjoy video games with the children, where there is no need to search for a playing partner, the realities of growth and maturity dictate otherwise. You could spend a significant amount of time in leisure activities, but there is the nagging feeling in the background that you should be doing more:
“How will I instill values in them? Everything that I have learned in this lengthy journey through life, I don’t want them to require experience in the same areas. Let them take the advice from me. But what if they don’t listen? What if they are rebellious, thinking that the parents are fools who know nothing?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives a helpful reminder that children simply imitate the adults. If the desire is to pass on good activities, then just show them what those look like. Indeed, children are known to imitate the adults in so many areas.
1. Speaking on the phone
You didn’t even know that you were doing it; a habit developed over time. Taking business phone calls is not fun. Those conversations require a little more thinking than the typical chats with friends and family. As if to match the tension, you start pacing back and forth.
The young child obviously notices. A few days later she is seen holding a mobile phone in her hands, walking back and forth in the living room. As she is too young to speak many words, she makes a sound every few seconds that is awfully similar to the grunt of agreement in typical adult conversations. In between those sounds she speaks some unintelligible words. The behavior is quite endearing, as she is obviously imitating what she sees with you.
2. Turning on the fan
After doing some work in the living room, you decide to head to the bedroom to take rest. The child follows right behind. Before she settles onto the bed to relax, she reaches down towards the fan that is placed on the floor. She presses a few buttons and then continues on her way. She doesn’t know what she is doing. She saw the parents turning on the fan before, so now she thinks that is part of the routine of entering the room.
3. Washing the windows
Coming back from a corporate lunch, one of your colleagues has to stop at home to pick up something. You decide to remain in the car. From your position in the driveway you notice something interesting. A young child is washing one of the windows in the upstairs bedroom. They are not using the typical cleaning product, but the behavior is endearing nonetheless. When your colleague returns, he explains that the child sees the mother washing in such a way on a daily basis and now wants to try for himself.
4. Reading a book
After a long day at the office, when you arrive home you decide to relax for a little bit in the living room. Sitting in one of the comfortable chairs near the window, your child comes up to you holding a book. They try to force it into your hand; their way of persuading to open and read. They are too young to speak many words, but they see you reading books all the time. They want to be able to do the same, to be like an adult.
5. Worshiping the Supreme Lord
It doesn’t take much in this area, either, but the benefits are beyond measure. Vedic teachings put forward this idea of the auspiciousness of the human birth. Athato brahma-jijnasa. “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, or spiritual life.” Brahman is also the true identity of the individual.
अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं
स्वभावो ऽध्यात्मम् उच्यते
akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ
svabhāvo ‘dhyātmam ucyate
“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)
How to get the urgency across to people in a world where illusion takes hold immediately upon entering it? Children want to play, after all. As adults they will be busy with daily responsibilities, which revolve around survival, i.e. eating and sleeping. For someone to just take the time to hear about devotional service, the essence of living, and the need for connecting in yoga is rare.
Yet just as the child will imitate basic activities like reading and talking on the phone, when they see the adults engaged in regular worship of the Supreme Lord, they can’t help but follow along. The activity could be something as simple as sitting down in front of an altar for japa meditation, chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Perhaps the father waves a lit incense stick as a kind of offering. There may be distribution of prasadam afterward. The sanctified food has a purifying effect on the consciousness. The child doesn’t know the ins and outs or even the justification for such routine practices, but they have the ability to love. Through the connection to the Supreme Lord, the loving tendency finds its proper outlet, and if the habit remains into adulthood then the parents have done their job.
Child with phone in hand pacing,
Holding book towards you facing.
Turning on fan without a thought,
Repeating sounds previously caught.
Parent concerned over how to teach,
But easy with imitation in reach.
Worship of the Supreme Lord show,
And likewise towards bhakti to go.
Categories: the five