“Unless one finds a superior engagement, he will not be able to give up his inferior engagement. In the material world everyone is engaged in the illusory activities of the inferior energy, but when one is given the opportunity to relish the activities of the superior energy performed by Krishna, then he forgets all his lesser pleasures.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)
1. Painting the walls
“They try to warn you about the many, unexpected expenses when purchasing a new home. It seems that everything that can break will, and soon after you move in. One of the things that got me was the condition of the walls. According to the real estate laws, I guess there is nothing saying that the walls need to be sparkling clean.
“Prior to moving in, we decided to paint everything. Too much work to do ourselves, so we hired a professional. It was not cheap, to say the least. It cost a good amount of money, but the drastic change in appearance was worth it. People remarked that ours looked like a new construction home, when it wasn’t.
“Needless to say, when I came home one day and saw the living room walls riddled with marks I was not too happy. My child had taken to using the walls as paper, practicing her writing with permanent markers.
“Telling her to stop has not worked. The next day I found her handprints on the walls. The appearance keeps getting worse. If you tell her to stop, she outwardly acknowledges the mistake and agrees to avoid the behavior in the future. But we all know how such promises work with young children.”
2. Using food as a basketball
“To keep my child occupied during the day, I bought one of those indoor slides. It is plastic, but still sturdy enough to withstand the weight of a small person climbing up and sliding down. On the side is a basketball hoop, which I must say has been a lot of fun. I think I use the toy more than my kid does, but don’t tell anyone.
“Well, recently my child has become imaginative in determining what is appropriate to throw through the basketball hoop. She took a container of food and did a sort of slam dunk. My wife started screaming. She was not happy. For some reason, my child thought it was the funniest thing.”
3. Screaming for no reason
“Working from home has not been easy. It seems that as soon as a meeting starts, my kid starts screaming from downstairs. I mute the phone, head to the stairs, and let out a few strong words of admonishment. That seems to keep the child quiet for about a minute or two.
“The worst is when I am trying to troubleshoot an issue of utmost urgency. This requires concentration and peace and quiet. I am not able to get either due to the situation at home. I don’t know what it is, but my kid likes to randomly scream throughout the day. If I put on headphones to block the sound, they find a way to come upstairs and knock on my door. It is really ridiculous.”
4. Jumping on the bed
“There are popular nursery rhymes referencing monkeys jumping on the bed, calling a doctor for help, falling out of bed, getting hurt, and so forth. It seems that listening to those songs does not help the situation or prevent injuries at home.
“My kid loves to jump on the bed more than anything. I know that one small mistake and they will fall straight to the ground. They are trying to mimic professional wrestlers, who face even more danger with their maneuvers. No matter how much I yell at my kid, they will always revert back to jumping sooner or later.”
5. Using the smartphone for hours
“Some parents are happy with the innovation. If the child is really acting up, stick a smartphone in their hands. They will then play for hours. Personally, I don’t like it. Kids have been growing up for centuries without these devices, and so there shouldn’t be a reliance on them today.
“But what am I supposed to do? Once they get hooked, they start to insist. It is like their favorite toy; one they can’t live without. I think this is a sign of things to come. If we don’t change the habits now, they will be glued to these screens for the rest of their lives.”
One of the best techniques to handle such situations is to provide a superior engagement. Rather than constantly admonish and use the “no” word, provide the child something constructive to work on. Open their world, let the imagination run free, and see their natural inquisitiveness at play. They will be better off for it, in the long run.
In the same way, spiritual life at the advanced levels has many rules and regulations. For instance, in the tradition passed on by saints like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, there is the prohibition on four primary activities: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex.
Prolonged abstinence in these areas carries accompanying qualities, which are the bare minimum to be produced by a genuine religious system. If a person can follow such regulation, they are on the path to becoming a brahmana, which is someone realized in the Absolute Truth.
A child may be able to avoid these activities without issue, but for the seasoned adult there might be tremendous difficulty. It feels as if they are being tortured, with the greatest pleasures in life removed for no good reason.
The better approach is to find a substitute. Replace the activities with something else. In the sense of advancing the condition of the consciousness, the positive side is more important. That is to say, if I make a routine out of chanting the holy names, that will bring me further along than simply avoiding the four pillars of sinful life.
Since the positive side in the bhakti-yoga tradition targets the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the beneficiary, the potential is as unlimited as His glories. This means that I do not have to stop with chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I can introduce a routine of preparing and offering food in the mode of goodness. I can use artistic talents to produce paintings and drawings. I could compose literary works to glorify both the Supreme Lord and those who represent Him.
यत् करोषि यद् अश्नासि
यज् जुहोषि ददासि यत्
यत् तपस्यसि कौन्तेय
तत् कुरुष्व मद्-अर्पणम्
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
Layering on top of the positive activities, I might eventually reach a point where I unintentionally follow the recommendation of Krishna in Bhagavad-gita, where He says to do everything as an offering to Him. With the positive energy of devotion, the influence of the negative diminishes.
For years allegiance I paid,
You’re reminding me now today.
But higher taste I’ve found,
In holy name’s sound.
In remembering all-attractive one,
Who delighted as Yashoda’s son.
Your company now leaving behind,
Since eternal engagement to find.
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