How can we take children to the path of spirituality?

If you want your children to be attracted to spirituality, you will have to show them the internal form of spirituality, not the external form. Only then will they accept it. The internal form of spirituality is seva, selfless service, and working for the well-being of others. To share your wealth with those who do not have enough, to share your happiness with those who are unhappy is the real aim of spirituality. The external form of spirituality and religious rituals are often disregarded by people. Children don’t want to blindly follow the practices of their parents. I was able to draw children to spirituality everywhere in the world. I achieved what their parents were not able to. How? The first thing is: if your children don’t listen to what you are telling them, then tell them something else. If you force things on them, it will not work.

When I first went abroad in 1968, I realized that Advaita Vedanta was not going to work, only hatha yoga would work. I caught the pulse of the people. Therefore, I first taught hatha yoga then introduced raja yoga and thereafter, bhakti yoga. Eventually, even the pictures of gods and goddesses that I would carry with me would be completely sold out. So if you want your children to come to the path of spirituality, send them to a guru. We are bird catchers; we know how to trap birds. You people are not bird catchers. If you tell your children something, it is likely they will go the other way.

The biggest problem with parents is that they want their children to be their carbon copies. The next generation should not be like the last one. Listen carefully. If you want your children to be your carbon copies, then the world will remain where it is. We may enter the twenty-third century, but our generation will belong to the sixteenth century. The rest of the world will have changed, but we will remain where we were. Therefore, you should be able to turn out children who are not like you. If parents have not thought of this in the past, then future parents should make sure their children are not their shadows. Young people should remember this in particular.

The next generation should be able to think in a new way, which can be different from their parents’ ways. Why should they become a reflection of the parents? The world has become much smaller today. You can reach from Delhi to London in the time it took to reach from Deoghar to Bhagalpur twenty years ago. Today, whatever happens in any corner of the world influences the villages and cities everywhere else. Therefore, we have to prepare our children in such a way that they are capable of being world citizens. Realized sages have said that your children may have been born of you, but their souls do not belong to you. Your child’s soul has come from somewhere else; it does not belong to you. Always remember this.

How can we deal with the sadness of not having any children?

People become so restless on not having children as if they have been constipated for days. They keep asking: what should we do? This is because for many thousands of years we have been through a kind of brain washing, a mental programming.

I am not talking about the place of children in one’s life, I am talking of the restlessness that you feel if you don’t conceive a child. Conceiving is a natural process. If you do not do so, it means there is a physical problem somewhere, but the reactions in the mind are psychological. This is particularly true in India.

To experience the pleasure of having children, to express the vatsalya bhava inherent in a human being, in the West they adopt children. Thousands of children from India are adopted every year. They do not differentiate between boy or girl, Hindu or Muslim, low caste or high caste, dark or fair. A child is a child. So if you do not have a child due to natural causes, this is the solution.

Give your affection to another child. After all, what is the difference between your own child and an adopted child? There is no difference. So don’t go into these things. Don’t go to sadhus and astrologers to find solutions. Adopt a poor person’s child and bring him up. You can even adopt a child from among your relatives or acquaintances. Give him your affection and let him have a good life so he can also experience the joy of having parents and a family. The child need not be born of your womb. He is a human being, so give him your love, give him happiness. You don’t need to perform worship and sacrifices for this.

Our children don’t want to listen to us; they are obstinate and trouble us continuously. What can we do?

You are asking this question of a person who has had no experience in the matter. If there was a sadhu who had been a grandfather, he would have given you practical solutions. So if you object to what I say, don’t comment or criticize.

I think it is necessary for children to be obstinate. Not only children, every individual needs to be obstinate. Obstinacy can also be interpreted as fighting for your rights. Without obstinacy, you do not get your rights. However, when children express this quality, adults don’t like it. When a person grows up, he forgets that when he was young he too was obstinate. You people have forgotten your childhood. How obstinate was Krishna! Surdas has written beautiful verses on that.

There is one thing I must say, however. Parents tend to depict themselves as very big to their children. They emphasize their status as a magistrate, a famous person or an important person in society. The mind of the child catches hold of the thought ‘my father is a big man’ and then he makes demands. If parents keep a low profile in front of their children, then perhaps their obstinacy can be brought under control. The child will then know that his father is not so rich that he can buy him a motorbike or a colour television. Parents should keep their wealth and power hidden from children until they get wise.

In the West, children know they do not have any right over the wealth of their parents. That is the social tradition there as well as the law. Whether the child is a boy or a girl, they don’t have a natural right over the wealth of their parents. And that is a good law. In India, the natural right over the parents’ assets goes to the son. Even if the father does not write his son’s name in the will, he will acquire it all. These laws must be changed. For all their lives the parents sweat hard and when the time to enjoy the wealth comes, the son says give it to me!

The son should be able to live on his own earnings. The duty of the parents towards their children is only until a certain age. Until the child learns to walk, carry him in your arms. Until he learns to understand things, protect him. But if you have to look after him even after he is married and has had a few children you are following an inappropriate and unnecessary social custom. Do not be a slave to your habits and customs. If you want your son to attain something in life, he should not be the natural inheritor of your wealth. For, there is a difference between the wealth that has been earned and that which comes free.

The tendency to make demands is mostly there among city-bred children. In the villages they don’t have anything other than a broken hut and one small radio, so what demands will the children make? When you have money, investments and assets, your children will make demands. They are asking for their rights. The only solution is that the laws of our country are changed. Right to property should be according to what has been willed, not a natural transfer. In many countries people will their wealth away to public institutions such as hospitals, colleges, schools, churches, research institutes, libraries, etc. Therefore, in countries such as the US, institutions are much more powerful than individuals and work very efficiently. If children have unlimited access to their parents’ wealth, they will fritter it away. This destroys the culture of a nation. Think about this.