“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“I didn’t remember this until long after the fact, but I actually read a little bit of Bhagavad-gita As It Is when I was a child. I think there was a copy of it in my room, on the bookshelf, placed there after a purchase by an elder. Perhaps my grandfather, but just see the benefit accrued. You never know who will come around and take notice.
“My interaction at the time was brief. I remember finding the cover to be intriguing, and so I expected some kind of story about a war. I was disappointed to discover the entirely philosophical content, but I did browse through the pictures. One of them stuck with me: the changing bodies. I remember being surprised that a person gets shorter as they get older.
“Anyway, there are many similar mature topics discussed. Shri Krishna explains, for instance, how the host of beings becomes manifest again and again, after similarly being annihilated. That really puts time in perspective; you learn how insignificant a single lifetime is.
“My question relates to the association for children. I have heard it said that there isn’t necessarily different instruction required based on the age. The comparison is to the thunder heard during a storm. Both the adult and the child inherently understand what is going on.
“If a child learns that the conditioned souls take birth again and again, won’t that cause depression? They will have negative sentiments associated with a sacred text. How is that a good thing? Why do we want to tell people who have full potential in life that none of their pursuits will really matter?”
Whether explained in the beginning or later on, the truth remains the same. The child can learn early on the proper role of action [karma], and the defects with sense gratification [kama]. Or they can realize the same truth much later, after repeated endeavor. After much time spent in the cycle of happiness and distress, with repeating years, with further accumulation of wealth and no commensurate increase in contentment, they come to learn something potentially taught to them much earlier.
While a certain verse or two paints a bleak picture, there is also the positive. A child can focus on the unlimited benevolence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. While birth and death take place at regular intervals, for as long as the individual soul desires separation from the spiritual world, there is also the image of being lifted up from that dreadful ocean, which is vast and seemingly has no end.
ये तु सर्वाणि कर्माणि
मयि सन्न्यस्य मत्-पराः
मां ध्यायन्त उपासते
तेषाम् अहं समुद्धर्ता
भवामि न चिरात् पार्थ
ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi
mayi sannyasya mat-parāḥ
māṁ dhyāyanta upāsate
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)
We have the example of Prahlada Maharaja, who not only had exposure to the science of self-realization at a young age, but fully assimilated the teachings. He was more realized that any of the adults around him, and we see that he was anything but morose.
Rather, the intimate connection to the Almighty is joyful. The devotee conducts service to Him in a blissful mood, with renewing enthusiasm [utsaha]. They are never satisfied in their efforts, but this is a blessing rather than a curse.
Any point along the timeline of existence is ideal for reconnecting with our best, well-wishing friend. He has travelled with us through many lifetimes already, and He will continue to do so going forward. His association is the best reward any person could ask for, and if we are fortunate to receive it at a young age there is only the positive to look forward to.
For the person just starting out, they can find whatever appeals to them based on the current level of progress. If that involves storytelling, there is plenty of material. If there is attraction for issues relating to success in studies, in how to focus on a particular objective, there is sufficient information to consult.
मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य
ये ऽपि स्युः पाप-योनयः
स्त्रियो वैश्यास् तथा शूद्रास्
ते ऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम्
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya
ye ‘pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās
te ‘pi yānti parāṁ gatim
“O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers]—can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
Everyone follows the Supreme Lord in some way; the connection is never totally lost. If He were only available to the wise, to the mature, to the male, or to the advanced scholar, then there would be limitations based on time, place, and circumstance. That is not the case with pure devotion; any person has the opportunity for reaching the supreme destination, param gatim.
Child shastra book to hold,
Where terrifying truths be told.
Not left scarred and afraid,
Where again hesitant to wade?
Prahlada at young age taking,
And blissful outlook making.
Something for everyone proving,
With best friend never losing.