Today, whole families are adopting sannyas life, and becoming individual units in a larger sannyas family. Others are sending their children to the ashram for short and extended periods of training. The benefits which are gained by a child in sannyas life are immeasurable. The child who is given the opportunity incorporates higher values and principles that provide the basis for a future life which will have exceptional value for mankind. If parents can make the sacrifice and allow the guru to awaken the child's consciousness towards its full potential, then they will live to see their child soar free of the limitations which are usually adopted by children growing up in society. No matter how much parents love their children and want the best for them, they cannot help but instil their own insecurities, limitations and inadequacies into the extremely sensitive awareness of the child.
If a child is educated in an ashram, the education is a real one - the best possible preparation for life ahead. It is the greatest gift any parent can give a child. Parents who are strong enough to forego the security and attachment they instinctively feel for their children, and allow them to spend a few months or a few years in the ashram environment, will never regret it. Their child will grow up as a most exceptional being, strong in mind and character, decisive in thought, with clear intuitive awareness. He will emerge a spiritual giant able to effectively lead others out of suffering and ignorance and towards a happier life.
The education which is instilled in the school system today is far from ideal. Being geared to the needs of the society rather than to the needs of the children themselves, it distorts their perceptions so they will fit into a society which is based upon values which are at best mediocre. Children are subjected to a crammed syllabus of subjects which develop the intellect at the expense of intuitive awareness and nowhere are they given a viable code of living which they can follow throughout their lives, which will bring them happiness, self fulfilment and inner guidance.
A child is born with a pure awareness and an infinite capacity to feel, to know and to love, without uncertainty, self-doubt, recrimination, competitiveness or jealousy. A child's heart and mind are pure and open; his awareness is expanded, sensitive and vulnerable. In our education systems we do little more than inhibit that awareness, stifle the innately spiritual consciousness, disillusion the capacities for faith, hope and love. In their place we instil all the imperfect ideals, beliefs, double-standards, and repressions that society as a whole follows. In preparing the child for the 'real' world, we effectively blot out intuitive awareness, stifle latent creativity in the bud, and encourage conformity to a set of values which blind man to higher life. We imprison him in a socially acceptable role in which fulfilment and lasting peace of mind will never be experienced.
The real object of education can be best understood by considering the derivation of the word itself. It comes from two Latin roots - 'e' meaning 'from, out of' and 'ducere' - to lead. Therefore to educate a child means to lead its budding inborn potentials out of dormancy and into full expression.
The ashram environment, under the direct guidance and supervision of the guru, is a most conducive atmosphere in which a child can be educated in this real sense. Here, free from the limitation of social expectations, the child has the chance to grow effortlessly in a totally self-enhancing way. He is able to discover and assert the many facets of his or her precious individuality in the positive, spiritually charged environment of the guru's home. The child who is fortunate enough to live with the guru for some time, grows into a man or woman in the truest sense, possessing greater self awareness, and higher spiritual understanding and responsibility throughout life. This child develops spiritual samskaras and avoids the negative impressions which result in suffering, under achievement and unhappiness later on in life.
Many children do not do well in school simply because there is no encouragement or development of their special gifts and inclinations. They are forced to study subjects for which they have no natural affinity and enter society with an occupation for which they are riot suited, resulting in a frustrated, unhappy life.
Children who daydream in school are not failures, they are often budding geniuses who are simply bored because their higher faculties are going to waste, unchallenged and uninspired. Similarly, 'troublesome' children who can never settle down in school, who are rebellious and behave badly, are expressing themselves in this way only because there is no suitable outlet provided in which they can express themselves positively and creatively. Children who seem to be 'misfits', 'dreamers' or 'under achievers' are often more aware and intelligent than their well behaved peers, and their strong reactions or their boredom reflect this. They are longing to be inspired, and it is not their fault that no suitable avenue is provided. Many exceptional children later on fall foul of society as delinquents or criminals, or else live a frustrated and unhappy life trying to fit into a role which gives them no inner satisfaction.
It is often such children who discover themselves and their capabilities as sannyasins. The guru can see clearly what they need in order to express themselves in a positive and self-enhancing way. Under his guidance they are transformed into extremely creative and powerful swamis. The path of sannyas enables them to fulfil a great destiny in the service of mankind. When they are introduced to the openness and spontaneity of ashram life, and are led towards their own particular mode of self expression, they never look back. Such children should be exposed to sannyas life and allowed to decide whether it is for them.
Most children adapt effortlessly to ashram life. A child is happy in any environment where he can express himself freely. Children need guidance they can respect and discipline they can understand. These are provided by the guru. For the child, sannyas is a natural continuation of life rather than an active renunciation. At a young age, the mind is not set in patterns of attachment and insecurity, and adjusts easily to new situations. He does not feel that he has lost' or 'renounced' anything, but has set out on a new and exciting adventure in life. Just as other children choose an occupation, a course of study or a job, and prepare to leave their home, so the child sannyasin chooses his lifestyle. In the active and open atmosphere of the ashram, he can satisfy his curiosity, making friends with swamis of all ages and countries- and learns something from each of these dedicated souls. He or she has a very special relationship with the guru, who provides the emotional security of a father and mother combined. Child sannyasins do not suffer from insecurity or other emotional problems so common in children growing up in society, because ashram life provides ample opportunity for outlet of their natural feelings.
Children are born with spiritual awareness. In ashram life this awareness is enhanced and encouraged. The guru leads the child towards spiritual development rather than a purely material lifestyle. While a child leads a normal life, he plays most of the time; but in the ashram he is led into karma yoga. He learns to find satisfaction in his duties, and he can be serious about his work, even at a tender age. He does hot learn that work and play are separate but learns to play in his work. He does not feel that he has to be like an adult, but is free to be himself. In fact, all sannyasins are like children, because their minds are free of tension and problems.
A child can take sannyas at any age. If the guru feels the child can adapt to sannyas life, if the child shows an inclination towards it, the guru accepts responsibility for his welfare, guidance and education.
When a child becomes a sannyasin, he or she lives in a responsible, creative and self-disciplined manner, forming his ideas and habits from the guru. Thus spiritual understanding manifests effortlessly and spontaneously. Child sannyasins discover through direct perception all the wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures. Unassuming and natural in their behaviour, these young swamis will spread spiritual inspiration wherever they go and in whatever they apply themselves to later in life.
They learn to read and write effectively, mastering the skills of self-expression and communicating with others. However they are not forced to study anything which is not directly applicable to everyday life. Any further formal education in the modern sense of the term, will be of little use to them. They are prepared for a life of selfless activity in service to mankind.
Sannyasin children receive a revolutionary education. They are educated to be free of limitations. They have no textbooks or examinations. They are full of the bubbling joy of life which is progressively sapped away in the ordinary classroom. They are not instructed in morals, but develop their own intuitive sense of right and wrong as they grow up. They achieve a practical knowledge in living which no school teacher can impart. It will ensure that they always land on their feet and respond positively in all the conditions they will face in life. They learn to think clearly, to feel fully, to love openly and to trust and follow their own inner intuitions, all under the watchful eye of the guru.