“How can we worship in various ways the Divine, who is not within our reach, if we neglect mother, father and guru, who are within our reach?” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 30.33)
अस्वाधीनं कथं दैवं प्रकारैरभिराध्यते।
स्वाधीनं समतिक्रम्य मातरं पितरं गुरुम्।।
asvādhīnaṃ kathaṃ daivaṃ prakārairabhirādhyate।
svādhīnaṃ samatikramya mātaraṃ pitaraṃ gurum।।
“One teaching from the Ramayana particularly stands out for me. It might not be the subject of many discourses, Rama-katha, or the primary lesson to take away from that historical tale written by Maharishi Valmiki, but for some reason it resonates with me.
“The situation is that Shri Rama, the avatara of the Almighty described in that work, has made the decision to honor the wishes of the father, King Dasharatha, and leave the kingdom for fourteen years. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, refuses to stay in Ayodhya alone. She insists on accompanying Rama.
“Sita’s husband at one point asks a rhetorical question in relation to worship of the gods that we can’t see. This is one of the primary criticisms of followers of sanatana-dharma, that they prostrate before imaginary divine figures. They offer food and clothing to inanimate objects, like statues made of stone, but neglect the needy within their communities.
“Rama asks how the Divine can be worshiped properly when the mother, father and guru get neglected? The latter are both worshipable and animate, while the Divine remains far away, at least for those who are still conditioned.
“I like this teaching a lot. I most certainly concur. If society treated parents properly, gave them due respect, we would have a lot less problems. But there is also the other side. What if our parents are not necessarily supportive? Say they are steadfastly against our practice of devotion to the Supreme Lord? Should we still worship them? Should they still receive the same honor?”
1. The tradition is considered satanic
“Don’t worship false gods. You don’t need to stray into something that is more or less satanic. We have our tradition. We have our faith. We have the community to support everyone. Why are you being different for no reason?
“I understand that you have a lot of unanswered questions. So does everyone else. But you don’t see them falling victim to this new age stuff, do you? They are strong-willed. They know that turning away from their faith is a guaranteed way to spend eternity in hell.”
2. Wanting their children to earn money and enjoy life
“Why are you giving up so easily? You are so young; you have no idea what is out there. Endless potential. Don’t you want to get a good job and own a house? Wife and children?
“The path you are choosing will bring loneliness and sadness. You will be ostracized from society. Don’t you want to have friends? Why are you limiting enjoyment in this world, for no reason? You only get one life. I believe in God, too. Trust me, I do. But you don’t see me running away from the world and living in a forest.”
3. Vishnu is the enemy
This is the extreme case, highlighted in the interactions between Prahlada Maharaja and his father, King Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada showed spontaneous devotion, bhakti, at a young age. The father objected. Prahlada did not argue or criticize. He simply explained the reasoning behind the decision, in a rational and coherent way.
The respect carried no reciprocation. Hiranyakashipu so hated Vishnu, the Supreme Lord, that he chose to apply force to stop any signs of worship in the kingdom. This is the most extreme case, where the parents will simply refuse to accept the decision of the child.
The objections are not rooted in intelligence or knowledge. Vishnu is the well-wishing friend to the entire population of creatures. The tradition of spirituality which explains the entire cosmic manifestation, its component elements, and the relationship to the individuals living within is certainly superior to any tradition based merely on faith or blind allegiance to a particular book which has been edited and translated many times over since the origin.
The parents may lament that their child has chosen renunciation in spirit, where they are still part of this world but not affected by it. But that decision actually brings more happiness than anyone can imagine. This is the best decision in terms of the interests of the parents, as well. I should be most proud that my child has decided to dedicate body, mind and speech to the Supreme Lord, for it will reflect well on me.
Should be proud others to tell,
Since reflecting on me well.
That my child with this decision,
In face of criticism and derision.
To dedicate body, mind and speech,
To Vishnu and in this way teach.
That material life for the wise not meant,
For highest purpose to this world sent.