From Rikhiapeeth Satsangs 2, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Can you speak to us about the education of children? Nowadays, the culture which children are being exposed to in cities is just music, dance and glamour. What can we do about their spiritual exposure?

As far as spirituality is concerned, each child will have to decide for himself. Parents cannot decide that for the child. They can only give samskaras to the child and inculcate good habits in him. They may train the child on how to live in society and what disciplines to follow for the body, mind, family, home and ultimately, for the larger society in which he lives. They can give him health tips, education tips, career tips, marriage tips and religious exposure.

This much the parents can do, but as far as spiritual life is concerned, the child will have to discover it for himself, because spirituality is the seed of human life. It is in everyone, regardless of gender, nationality, class, creed or religion. Whether it is a child in Mumbai, New York or Mongolia, or even the remotest recesses of the North or the South Pole, the spiritual seed is in one and all. What is that spiritual seed? The root of the spiritual seed is awareness of the Self, or rather, the divine awareness of God, which is there in everyone.

Do not equate or confuse social qualities with spirituality. For example, you teach your child to be good because it is good for society. Your child should be good because he has to live in society. You impress on your child the need to be educated because he has to have a career. You insist on marriage because that is the way society is structured. You can only guide him in the avenues which will make him capable of surviving in the society into which he is born. However, apart from all this, without any guidance from you or anyone, sometime or the other, he will discover for himself an invisible presence of God.

In fact, that is the only thing that parents should be able to teach a child, but they cannot. It is not at all possible for parents to teach a child the invisible presence of God. They cannot fulfil that role. Therefore, children should be allowed to follow a free career in life. Children should be given freedom by parents to pursue a career, hobbies and interests of their choice. Children should also be exposed to music. Music is one way through which a child can enter into spiritual life. If the child likes yoga, pooja and worship, reading the scriptures, well and good. But if he does not, don’t force him. Instead, push him towards music, because nobody dislikes music. Even a venomous cobra snake likes music. Once you push a child into music, whether it is folk, pop, disco or classical, any kind of music where there is rhythm, his journey of self-discovery will start and the seed will begin to sprout.

Power of music

Music is not just holding a mike and singing. Music is a powerful medium by which the mind directly deals with sound. Music is the system in which you deal with the mind through sound. Whether it is vocal, instrumental, fast or slow, sitar, veena, violin, guitar, tabla or drums, they all emit sounds of different frequencies and intensities. Once the mind deals with sound, a definite change takes place in the level or sphere of the brain waves. Altered brain waves produce an altered state of mind that is more harmonized, balanced, homogeneous, and in tune with the self. This results in a highly subtle and refined awareness. The moment your mind alters from gross to subtle, you are spiritual. That is why people who deal with music are always highly spiritual and very close to the awareness of that unseen presence, God. In the Puranas, when Lord Vishnu is asked by one of his most ardent admirers, Narada, “Lord, please tell me where do you reside,” he replies, “Look Narada, I do not reside in Vaikuntha (paradise), I don’t even reside in the hearts of the yogis. I reside in the place where my bhaktas sing my name.”

Naham vasaami Vaikunthe, yoginaam hridayena cha;
Mad bhakta yatra gaayante, tatra tishthaami Narada.

It is a definite fact that music, dance and the fine arts can help in developing your spiritual personality. It is music, dance and art that distinguishes man from animals and other forms of life. Music and dance are expressions of a refined mind, a mind that can dive deep into inner experience.

So, don’t blame Mumbai and Chennai for cultural decadence. Let the children listen to all kinds of music because it is the rhythm in music that influences the mind. That is why everyone likes kirtan. Rhythm is the heart of a kirtan. It is not the words or the singer, but the rhythm or the beat the kirtan follows that does the magic of transporting the listener to the dimension of ananda or bliss.

October 2007, Rikhiapeeth