“One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.18)
गुरुर्न स स्यात्स्वजनो न स स्यात्
पिता न स स्याज्जननी न सा स्यात् ।
दैवं न तत्स्यान्न पतिश्च स स्या-
न्न मोचयेद्य: समुपेतमृत्युम् ॥
gurur na sa syāt sva-jano na sa syāt
pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt
daivaṁ na tat syān na patiś ca sa syān
na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum
Friend1: What would you say is a good dad?
Friend2: Are you asking what or who? Two different questions.
Friend1: I am not looking for a specific person. We don’t want to shame people or run an unfair comparison. I am thinking more along the lines of ideal behavior.
Friend2: We should judge by the end-result, no?
Friend1: As in how the children are as adults?
Friend2: Because of the obvious retrospective with adult criminals. If they end up doing something bad, people look to the parents. The father might conduct a self-review to see where they went wrong.
Friend1: Okay, let’s not get too extreme here. Take the situation of a first-time father. Someone who is raising a son or a daughter. They want to look back later on and not have regrets.
Friend2: In relation to how they cared for the dependents?
Friend1: I understand people will always have regrets. They will wish they could have corrected this mistake and that. It would be nice if there was some way to gauge. Run an impartial assessment.
Friend2: Okay, so let’s start with your opinion. What do you think makes a good father?
Friend1: I would say that someone who provides sufficiently. Food, clothing, shelter. If education is required, then that should be accounted for, as well. And no abuse, obviously.
Friend2: As in physical violations?
Friend1: Not constantly yelling and screaming, for no reason. No addiction to intoxicants. I guess setting a good example.
Friend2: Okay, that is a pretty fair definition.
Friend1: But is it? Shouldn’t the parent go above and beyond?
Friend2: I don’t know. You are the one asking the question.
Friend1: There has to be some guidance. What is the point of view of shastra? Is a good father someone who makes sure their daughter gets married at the appropriate age?
Friend2: That is certainly a component.
Friend1: And then for raising a son, as long as they turn out self-sufficient, law-abiding, and the like, everything is good?
Friend2: If you are considering from a material point of view, understand that good and bad ultimately merge into one. Piety and sin are basically the same. The great equalizer is time. If birth and death continue in the future, then there isn’t much difference between having a good father and a bad one.
Friend1: Okay, but what about the spiritual component?
Friend2: The name for son in Sanskrit is putrah. The literal definition is one who delivers from the hellish region. The son is capable of offering pinda sacrifice to the departed ancestors. This enables them to eat, to have the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even if they should happen to fall into inauspiciousness in the afterlife.
Friend1: I see. That is the duty upon the son, but what about the father who is raising the children?
Friend2: A verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam says that a person should not be in a position of authority unless they can deliver their dependents from the cycle of birth and death. That is the straight-up answer to your question. A good father is someone who leads their dependents towards the shelter of the Divine.
Friend1: Because that will stop rebirth?
Friend2: Genuine religion, dharma, is the ideal destination of the human birth. The father who helps to make this birth my last has done a tremendous service. It is a favor that can never be sufficiently repaid. As the father in this case is a representative of the Supreme Lord, the good fortune of the dependents reflects well on everyone in the family line, tracing back to the origin of origins Himself.
Friend1: You could say that King Dasharatha was a bad father for banishing his eldest son to the forest for fourteen years.
Friend2: Again, that is a material estimation. If the same person had behaved in the opposite direction, choosing personal interest over dharma, they would be less susceptible to criticism. But that would not necessarily be best for the dependent.
Friend1: Hiranyakashipu’s heinous crimes led to the direct advent of Vishnu as Narasimha. Does the Daitya leader get credit for that?
Friend2: Absolutely. Hiranyakashipu inadvertently strengthened the level of devotion in his son, Prahlada. Obviously, we shouldn’t try to imitate. We should not lean on the side of enmity with God, but in that case the end-result was auspicious. The father did his job and so he was liberated.
Imagine asura father getting,
How into auspiciousness setting?
When the worst example to see,
Symbol of adharma is he.
But like for Prahlada deserving,
Narasimha from pillar emerging.
From Hiranyakashipu to the son a gift,
Blessed since through devotion to lift.