Three Ways To Incorporate Children Into Bhakti

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]“On the plea of disturbance of the bodily air and metabolism, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu acted as if crazy. Thus in His school He began to explain the grammar of verbs through Krishna consciousness. Explaining everything in grammar in relationship to Krishna, the Lord induced His students to refrain from worldly education, for it is better to become Krishna conscious and in this way attain the highest perfectional platform of education.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.7 Purport)

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“You have probably heard these issues voiced before, and I may have come across them myself, but right now one situation directly applies to me. Therefore, I need some help. I absolutely enjoy the bhakti process. Chanting the maha-mantra is not an issue for me. I love attending programs which can be summarized as chanting, dancing and feasting.

“The thing is, I also have a small child. I want to spend time with them. I don’t want to use devotional service as an excuse to avoid my responsibility as a parent. I think I have read His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada once advised that child worship is more important than deity worship. I understand exactly what he means, but I was wondering if there is a way to combine the two. I want to incorporate bhakti into my child’s life.”

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu behaved similarly in this regard. At a young age He was engaged in the occupation of schoolteacher. As the Supreme Lord Himself appearing as the golden avatara, He could not very well settle for speaking on mundane topics rooted in duality.

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]To satisfy both the innate desire and the outstanding responsibility, He used to teach Sanskrit grammar through the medium of Krishna. He would explain everything as a connection to the Supreme Lord. The children thought He was a madman, but the effort did not go to waste.

1. Take letters of the alphabet

A classic that is sure to keep the children engaged. Applicable to any era, even one full of backlit screens and games played on the television. A basic set of blocks, with numbers and letters. Early on the child can stack them. Pick them up and transfer them to a different place. Then return them to the original destination.

[toy blocks]Sometime later, the parent can use the letters to explain the Supreme Lord. For instance, the block with the letter K can be used to sound out the name of the Supreme Lord that means all-attractive. “R” is for Rama. “L” could represent the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi Devi. In fact, a single letter could serve as impetus to list many names for the Almighty, as He is full of transcendental features. He also engages in eternal pastimes in this universe and others.

2. Take numbers

The blocks have letters on one side, and numbers on the other. A single number can represent something significant about God. For instance, with the block that has a 4 digit imprinted on it:

“This is the number of sons born to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. They were all incarnations of Vishnu, but Shri Rama is considered the full expansion. He is God Himself, and the younger brothers are like Him, but in a different role. They follow, anuja, and Rama leads, agraja.”

3. Dance to sankirtana

The television is there. No way now to close Pandora’s box. Might as well face reality. If something is going to be playing, take advantage by seeing and hearing sankirtana. This congregational chanting of the holy names can lift any person out of illusion: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

If the child gets bored listening to you explain Vedic concepts in relation to numbers and letters, then set aside some time to dance together to the music. Everyone will be happy in the process. Responsibilities and advancement towards liberation do not have to be at odds. Though the interests seem to be contradictory, when dovetailed with Shri Krishna they merge together.

In Closing:

Though interests diverging,
With Shri Krishna converging.

So that young child taught,
By toy blocks bought.

And of God learning,
Through lila’s pages turning.

Television even auspicious where,
Child raised with devotion and care.

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