How should we control children, and how can we bring them to the right path?
Before you do that you have to control yourself and bring yourself to the right path. You have to be an example for your children. It is only through example and practical experience that you can instruct your children to develop their potential and creative nature. Just teaching a child all sorts of morality will not improve him, if you tell him that he should not do this or that, but do the same things yourself. Children are very observant, they are very pliable and you can mould them to any shape.
The first thing that you have to do in order to improve the quality of the child's consciousness and awareness is to let him express himself freely; even if he comes to abuse you, let him. If you cannot let him abuse you, you are suppressing his nature, but if you allow his mind to flourish by giving him freedom of expression, whether verbal, moral, physical or intellectual, he will grow up to be a very intelligent and creative person.
Many children come to the Munger ashram. They stay here for one to five years, then they go back home, and when they come again they decide to stay on and become sannyasins. Children here have complete freedom of expression. They can do anything, they can abuse you and you cannot say anything to them. They can be very gentle, like angels and they can be very naughty, like Dennis the Menace.
Freedom of expression is important and it has to be accompanied by proper samskaras. You can give them proper samskaras through the practice of asana and pranayama, and gradually introduce them to the different practices and principles of yoga so that they are able to build a very solid foundation for their future. If they begin to practise yoga from a very early age you will find that in their later life they will not face the same type of tension and frustration that you face, and even if they have to face it they will be welt equipped to handle those situations that you are not able to handle yourself because you have never been given the basic training.
If you want to bring your child to the right path, give him this basic yoga training which will enable him to cope with all eventualities.
At what stage does the mind of a child become conditioned? Can yoga prevent it?
The yogic tradition says that initially the mind is totally un-programmed. The programming of the mind on the subtle levels of the unconscious and subconscious begins from the fourth or fifth months after conception. External programming commences when we start our education.
On a deeper level, we are involuntarily storing impressions, ideas and concepts which build our personality. While the deeper self is receiving this input of impressions and instinctive experiences, there is no blockage via intellectual concepts of right and wrong. So, regardless of samskaras or karmas, this is something physical and external which happens after birth.
Yoga views the growth of the externalised faculty of intellect as a main barrier to the full awakening of the potential of the mind. Mind is only twenty-five percent intellect, while the remaining seventy-five is intuitive and experiential. This has been the classification of mind in the descriptions of manas, chitta, buddhi and ahamkara, which comprise twenty-five percent each.
By awakening the external faculty of buddhi (intellect) and not allowing the aspect of viveka in buddhi to evolve naturally and spontaneously, the intuitive and experiential faculties of mind are blocked. So, at a later stage we become fixed in our own concepts, ideas, beliefs and direction in life. Often, when people begin to rediscover their own true nature through various practices and meditative techniques, they go through a process of purging of impressions, of eliminating ideas and concepts which have created a false self-image of themselves as individuals, At a later stage of life, when purification takes place, one becomes more receptive, because with the elimination of the intellectual blockage, the intuitive and psychic faculties are able to express themselves naturally. In a child, these faculties are fully active. Yoga does not consider this as a transcendental state of mind in a child, but rather as the process of spontaneous growth in the child's consciousness.
How responsible are parents for their children's direction in life?
Yoga states that parents play a very vital role in the lives of their children. Children in their early stages of development are very susceptible to the influences imbibed from their parents. It is the behaviour and attitude of the parents which can shape and alter their lives. Parents have a commitment towards their children which should be understood: that is to provide them with good samskaras which can help them progress in the life they choose. Children should be given the knowledge of how to maintain mental clarity. They should imbibe the knowledge of what is just and unjust.
Parents should not try to project their idiosyncrasies on their children in any way but allow them to grow independently. When parents are unable to provide their children with good samskaras and yet have high expectations of them, when they do not reach their expectations, they feel that they have failed in bringing them up. Children are independent beings who need their own space in which to develop, and they require your encouragement, support and guidance; they need positive understanding from you.
In every respect it is the samskaras which play a very vital role in your children's lives, and if you can help them awaken the samskaras within them, then you fulfil your obligation as parents.
To what extent can yoga affect the foetus?
There has been a tradition, not only a belief, but a tradition which has always maintained that right from the moment of conception we can provide good, positive samskaras to the foetus, to the baby inside the womb. There have been many examples in history, and I think that modern science is even recognising this concept where after the third month when the soul actually enters the womb of the mother, it is possible to give positive samskaras, positive education to the unborn child so that when the child is born it will be a different child altogether.
Many people are experimenting with such ideas and practices of yoga and I have personally seen people having very good results. The quality of children taking birth after a yogic connection between their parents is incredibly different to those who have bad no connection with a spiritual tradition or a yogic tradition. I can only say that it is possible to train the foetus through yoga and in the course of time that person can become a genius.
How can parents set a good example for their children?
Parents, especially mothers, have a lot of emotional and psychic influence on their children. Fathers have an intellectual influence on their children, and mothers have an emotional influence on their children. It is best if the father and mother together can make an effort to provide a good understanding in the child by becoming an example of the life which they wish the child to lead. Children tend to pick up many things psychically, not intellectually, not logically or rationally. Children know when you are telling them a lie; they feel it intuitively. They may not be able to figure out the sentence in which you said the lie but they know that you have told them a lie somewhere. They have a very keen, very active intuitive ability up to the age of eight or twelve years. Then the intellect begins gradually to take over.
From the yogic point of view it is said that all parents must be able to provide their children with good samskaras as well as an understanding of the lifestyle. This can only happen if you live your own life sincerely, without imposing your ambitions and your expectations on your children. So you have to make an effort to change yourself first, because only through being a righteous example can you teach others how to live in the right way.