“Maharaja Parikshit, the grandson of the Pandavas, was from his very childhood a great devotee of the Lord. Even while playing with dolls, he used to worship Lord Krishna by imitating the worship of the family Deity.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.15)
स वै भागवतो राजा
कृष्ण-क्रीडां य आददे
sa vai bhāgavato rājā
kṛṣṇa-krīḍāṁ ya ādade
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often instruct first-time parents that the best way to pass on the tradition of sanatana-dharma, of ensuring that the dependents new to this world fulfill the destiny of never taking birth again, is to simply set a good example.
The idea is that they will learn through watching. Children will try to imitate whatever it is the parents do, and this can also be a negative. If the father is prone to excessive alcohol consumption, the child may very well take up that unhealthy habit in the future.
The flip side is the opportunity for the most positive upbringing, wherein without hearing any direct instruction the child becomes inclined towards worship, understanding the importance of spiritual matters based solely on the authority of the father.
1. Timely worship
“I’m sure this is true of all children, but I thought a lot of the things my parents did was weird. It didn’t make sense, as many of the other children I knew at the time had a totally different family life. They were of different spiritual faiths, and so maybe that was the reason.
“Anyway, one thing I noticed early on is that my father would take a bath in a timely manner. In the morning of each day, not long after arising from bed. He was probably taking a shower, but we referred to it as a bath since that was the extent of our experience at the time. We children considered bathing to be a chore, and we resisted every time it was compelled.
“After showering, my father would approach an altar area that my mother had set up in the home. He still had the towel draped around his waist. In a reverent mood, he would light a few sticks of incense and wave them in front of different pictures that were assembled. Those pictures were obviously of various gods of our tradition, but I had no clear picture.
“Pretty soon thereafter, surely at the amusement of my parents, I started to do the same thing. I remember my mother was worried since she thought I might start a fire from not knowing how to light the incense sticks. Others might have found it funny that I suddenly developed an interest in being clean.
“The routine did not last a long time, but I certainly stuck to it for consecutive days. I viewed it as important because of my dad. Now that I am an adult, I never miss the opportunity. I am so fixed in my routine that I might forget from where I first learned the practice. I am so proud to have come upon this way of living, but in truth I learned it from someone else: my dad.”
2. That Shri Hanuman is the best
“My father was never the type to instruct with lectures or extended conversation. He was quiet in that sense, though he certainly engaged in meaningful dialogue with his friends. Maybe it was just with me, but there were few words spoken. Only if I directly asked him something or if he had to correct the many wrongs that a small child is known for committing.
“In his dedication to worship, I got the strong sense of respect and love for Shri Hanuman. My dad was always fond of that hero from the Ramayana, who is known as the greatest devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the avatara of Shri Rama, the warrior prince of Ayodhya.
“To give you an idea of the level of allegiance, when my father developed severe brain issues later in life, he could not remember basic facts like the year, the president of the country, or what he was doing a mere five minutes ago. But he could still recite the entire Hanuman Chalisa. He still sat down for timely worship, every Tuesday evening. That made a lasting impression on me.”
3. That kirtana music can be great
“One time we were taking a long road trip. My parents were with me, and I was driving. Not really sure how to entertain them, I played a CD of kirtana music in the car. This thing played for an entire hour and no one really said anything. I was quite fond of the music because of the glorification of Shri Krishna and such.
“A few minutes after we arrived at our destination, one of the hosts asked my father how the trip was. My dad said it was fine, but that everything was made better by the music that we heard in the car. He had this huge smile across his face. My brother later told me that our father had always had this affinity for glorification, especially the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Actually, any person who learns even a single lesson that advances the state of the consciousness, wherein they become closer to God and understanding the difference between matter and spirit, is greatly fortunate. Shrimad Bhagavatam describes the case of Maharaja Parikshit and his affinity for worship of the family deity since the time of childhood.
Shrila Prabhupada explains that even in the case of misfortune and lacking proper guidance during childhood, there is still every chance for elevation. He cites the example of Narada Muni and how that great traveler of the three worlds was the son of a maidservant in his previous birth. Through meeting saintly people everything changed, and thankfully the entire universe is still benefiting from that encounter.
Everything to me gave,
My future wellbeing to save.
But not through words spoken,
Or large gift token.
Just from the example set,
Idea of spiritual life to get.
That all glories in Hanuman found,
And sacred the holy name sound.
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