Do young people benefit from ashram life as much as older people?
Young people actually benefit the most from ashram life because they have the most energy. They can mould themselves completely, whereas adults cannot do this because their habits are already formed. Their requirements and demands are more than the ashram can fulfil, and their patterns of living cannot be broken.
However, young children can adapt themselves, and for them learning is easy, whether it is the science of yoga and tantra, or of life or technology. You can teach them anything. There is no 'why' or 'what'; they are able to grasp everything easily. You don't have to give them lectures or such things; they just learn by the ashram pattern of life. They don't have to attend classes. Whether to learn how to run the press or how to teach yoga, formal instruction is not necessary. You just have to stay in the ashram for a few years and the knowledge comes to you. That is how the ashram is set up.
Can children come to stay in the ashram without their parents?
Many children come to the ashram for different periods of time. They stay for several months or several years; it depends on what purpose they come for, and how long they want to stay or their parents want them to stay. It is up to them.
Recently, a girl aged nine came with her father. As soon as they reached the ashram, she told him, 'Please leave me and go back home. Why are you wasting your time.' Then two boys from Andhra Pradesh came to visit the ashram. Their parents wanted to admit them into a gurukul school. I told them, 'There are no gurukul schools in India anymore. They have all been modernized in the English style of education.' I said that if they wanted to leave the boys in the ashram, well and good, but this ashram does not provide the facility of regular education.
Those boys, aged eleven and twelve, decided to stay in the ashram, and within one week both of them had shaved their heads, without asking anyone. They took little dhotis and dyed their underwear. Then they began insisting that their parents should go back home. The parents wanted to stay for one month but the children said, 'No, no, we do not need you here.'
Should the decision of coming to live in the ashram be left completely up to the child?
If the child wishes to come to the ashram that is best. Then you don't have to spend years trying to persuade him. Let the child decide for himself and come, like anybody else.
Of course, as parents, you have to expose your children to the idea of ashram life or sannyasa life, because otherwise they may not understand anything about it. In the regular school system, children are never taught about ashrams, sannyasa or our actual tradition. So you have to give them an idea of ashram life without pressing it.
This will be a great contribution, not only to the country, but to the whole world. If, as a child, I had remained in my family, I may not have even helped the ten or fifteen members of my family. However, as a swami, thousands and thousands of people come and seek guidance from me. They experience more tranquility and better health from their contact with the ashram.
Nobody should weep or argue with a child who decides to leave home for the sannyasa life. You should 'be glad and proud that your family has contributed such a person.
Parents all wonder what will happen to their children after they finish their studies. What will they become? Most parents hope to see their sons and daughters happily married. This may be right in some cases, but not in every case, because everyone is comprised of all three gunas - tamas, rajas and sattwa. Many of us are not meant for sannyasa life and others are not meant for married life. Everybody cannot be a businessman, an industrialist or a householder. So the young person has to decide for himself which path he wants to walk, in which direction he wants to face - the east, towards the life of sannyasa, or the west, towards the life of a householder.
Some parents may feel that they are pushing the child into joining an ashram. How should such feelings be resolved?
Parents should not feel guilty about this; rather, they should feel glad. If parents begin to think in a broad way, with amplified thoughts, then they will feel proud of having helped one of their children to follow such a path.
You may have noticed that now more children than ever are entering the spiritual path. It is better for your child to follow this path than to be like so many boys and girls who are wasting their time and energy, seeking name and fame on other paths.
Many parents feel that spiritual life holds no security or future for their child. But even in worldly life there is a chance that your child may fall sick or become paralyzed and a burden for life. Or perhaps something more serious happens, and the child dies. The parents or relatives have to consider the child's future in all ways. Instead of following the demands of society, make your own plan for the greater future of your child. That would be better.
Many boys and girls fall into the wrong company and they become restless, disturbed and unhappy. Instead of that, it would be of more use to fill their minds with better thoughts. If you have encouraged even one of your children to join sannyasa life, you should be glad. You may not have been able to serve society yourself, but at least you will have given your children the opportunity to develop in a greater way so that they can serve society. Not only by making material contributions can they serve, but also by disseminating spiritual knowledge.
I am not telling you to send your child to the ashram so that he becomes a preacher or a teacher, but rather for the purpose of spiritual life. Then, not only your family, but the whole of humanity benefits from his peace and tranquility If one amongst thousands becomes a sannyasin, then he becomes the storehouse of peace for so many hundreds and thousands who receive his guidance.
Sannyasa life is one of the greatest and most virtuous of paths. How can you say that this would be doing your child an injustice? Many boys and girls who have been forcibly married become unstable or depressed because married life does not suit them. Is this justice?
I am not talking about everyone. I am only speaking of the rare cases who are inclined towards sannyasa life. You can easily identify such children. If you refuse to understand their feelings for spiritual life, then these children will be difficult for you. However, if they ask permission to take sannyasa, and you gladly give it without worrying about what will happen in the future, then these children will become the spiritual lights.
But isn't an education necessary to fulfil the child's future ambitions?
I don't think it is necessary. When you attain the actual knowledge, peace and tranquility, then what is the necessity of getting a certificate from a school or college? Do I need a certificate to give a lecture to you? Do I need a diploma to go abroad and teach yoga?
By living the spiritual life in an ashram you learn so much without ever being taught. You gain so many things, even languages and abilities which you cannot attain in ordinary life. And this knowledge remains of great value to you for the rest of your life.
If your daughter lives in the ashram for one year before marriage, she will become a better housewife. After education, if your son stays in the ashram for some time he will become a better businessman. I won't say he will become a millionaire overnight, but definitely his life will be more successful. Through living in the ashram, even without any formal education, you can obtain a comprehensive form of knowledge.
Are sannyasins needed in society as much as doctors, teachers and other professionals?
We don't need sannyasins just to make the ashram bigger; but to help the society in a better way, a wiser and more practical way. Otherwise the big mental hospitals will keep on growing and the courts will have more and more cases to decide.
Of course, engineers, advocates, doctors, etc. are required in the world today. But sannyasins are required even more. Whether in hospitals, clubs or colleges, sannyasins can be fitted in anywhere and can be utilized everywhere. They can be of advantage to everyone, from sick people to aspirants.
A sannyasin can help everybody in every manner but a professional person can only help in a limited manner. If you become a professor you can only teach in a college, but as a sannyasin you can do this and help as a doctor as well. However, by becoming a sannyasin, you also have to follow the life of a renunciate.
The sannyasin's main purpose is his contribution of wisdom, tranquility and peace of mind - a positive solution to the pain and sorrow of the people. Each and every one of us has his own way, but we should also consider the possibility of spiritual life. After all, our nature is towards the spiritual.
Nowadays there is a great demand for sannyasins. The ashram is a factory for producing sannyasins, but still the raw materials are required for this production. How to get them? All of you must provide them. Society should offer its sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mothers or fathers, whoever is inclined towards this way of life, all those who have a spiritual sankalpa to serve humanity.
Society should gladly offer its children for this good cause. Their friends and family may be unhappy at having to part with them, but thousands will benefit as a result. Am I making you happy or unhappy by coming here? So if any of your children become sannyasins and go into the world to teach yoga and give good wisdom, they will similarly be making others happy.
Sannyasins are urgently required, because they can help you anywhere and can fit in anywhere. Those sannyasins who renounce for the achievement of enlightenment of higher knowledge and accept the path of service to humanity, to them you should be grateful and thankful. For them you should make a sankalpa that the world may once again be filled with many sannyasins, in the proportion of one sannyasin per hundred people. Only then may the satya yuga come.