“Be spiritual to raise spiritual children”, The New Indian Express

This article was originally published in The New Indian Express, here.

The way to raise spiritual children is to help them stay connected to what they’ve come into this world with, which is the awareness that we’re all One

By nature children are spiritual. We teach them to be materialistic. Look at what makes children happy. What are the greatest joys for children?

Their mother’s arms, lying on their back and playing with their toes, having someone stare lovingly into their eyes, connection.

When you give them expensive gifts, you often find they are more excited about the box, wrapping paper or ribbon than the toy itself.

We have to tell them, “No, no, no, that’s not the present! That’s just the box!” Then we thrust the “real” present in their hands. We teach them to be materialistic.

We teach them that a shiny new truck is a greater source of joy than their toes.

If you have a child who is still holding that spirituality, fortunately you don’t have to do much. All you have to do is not squeeze it out of them. Children come into this world so deeply connected, connected to the Universe. No child ever said, “You’re black, I’m white; you’re poor, I’m rich; I won’t play with you. You’re Christian, I’m Hindu; we can’t play together. You’re ugly, I’m pretty. You can’t use my toys.” No child ever said that. We’re the ones who say, “No, don’t play with him, you can’t go to her house; they are different.” We’re the ones who squeeze that spirituality out of our children. So the way to raise spiritual children is to help them stay connected to what they’ve come into this world with, which is the awareness that we’re all One. Let them stay grounded in the love they feel for all people who smile at them, the love they feel for nature, the love they feel for other people.

To raise spiritual children just help them stay connected with what Pujya Swamiji calls our inner GPS. Children’s inner GPS guides them in a much deeper way than the rules of society.

That inner GPS connects them to the Earth and to each other. Raising spiritual children can actually be very easy unless you have your own agenda about how they need to be in order to fit better into society.

If you are able to refrain from squeezing their internal wisdom out of them at an early age, you gift them with a wonderful beginning.

Also, as children grow, as they enter school, as they spend more time with friends, more time with the external culture, you’re going to have to give them a little bit of re-anchoring at home.

Home is the first school. Home is where we get the foundation for our life. As children grow, as they get a little bit more indoctrinated by society, by their friends, by TV commercials, you have to re-anchor them.

What anchors them is how we behave. You cannot raise spiritual children if you are materialistic. We cannot complain that our children are not spiritual when we are the ones, saying, “Oh my God, did you see what she was wearing? My God, he got fat! What is she doing with that haircut, what is she thinking? My God, she wore that same sari last week; does she not have any other clothes?”

We have these types of conversations at home and in the car, in front of our children; we engage in this type of superficial gossip, and then we wonder what’s gone wrong with our children. So, this is a very important point: for us to raise spiritual children, we have to raise our spiritual selves.

I have a friend who’s deeply spiritual and a very committed Yogi and meditator. One day when her daughter was five or six, my friend found her daughter sitting in her temple area.

My friend said something to her and the girl turned around and said, “Shhh mom! Can’t you see I’m meditating?”

She only knew that because she had seen her mom meditating and heard her mom say, “Shhh. I’m meditating.”

Children pick up how we are and what we do, so the best way to raise a child who’s spiritual is be spiritual, the same way that the best way to raise a child who’s honest is be honest, to raise a child with integrity is to have integrity. In raising them, we raise ourselves.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, who lives and teaches at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram on the banks of the River Ganga, has written Come Home to Yourself: Wisdom for Life from Parmarth Niketan Ashram