Raising Children As Good Hindus (Part. 1)
Introduction: Parents Are the First Gurus in Religion, Culture and Character
Many Hindu families visiting our Hawaii monastery, particularly those with young children, ask if I have any advice for them. I usually respond with one or two strategic suggestions. I always stress the importance of presenting Hinduism to their children in a practical way so that it influences each child’s life for the better. Hindu practices should, for example, help children get better grades in school and get along well with others. Of course, there is not enough time in a short session to present all the many guidelines that a parent would find useful. Therefore, I decided to write up a full complement of suggestions to be handed to Hindu families in the future who want to know ways to present Hinduism to their kids. You hold the results in your hands: a parent’s guidebook of minimum teachings to convey to children. It is based on the teachings of my satguru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, founder of HINDUISM TODAY, distilled from insights he gained from over 40 years of closely working with hundreds of families in a score of nations. This article presents a survey of character building designed to augment any Hindu tradition or denomination. The key is this: start teaching early and don’t stop until your children leave the home. Even if you did nothing more than what is outlined here, that would be enough to send them on their way as good Hindus, well equipped to live as happy, effective citizens of the modern world.
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
Table Of Contents
- Introduction: Parents Are the First Gurus in Religion, Culture and Character
- PART ONE: TEACH AND PRACTICE HINDUISM IN YOUR HOME
- PART TWO: TEACH ABOUT THE SOUL AND OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH
- PART THREE: TEACH OF HINDUISM’S GREATNESS
- PART FOUR: TEACH ABOUT HINDUISM AND THE OTHER WORLD RELIGIONS
- PART FIVE: TEACH HOW HINDUISM GRANTS EXPERIENCE OF GOD
- PART SIX: TEACH CHILDREN HOW TO LIVE POSITIVELY IN THE WORLD
- Building Good Character
- PART ONE
- CULTIVATE NINE SPIRITUAL QUALITIES
- 1. DEVELOP A POSITIVE SELF-CONCEPT
- 2. DEVELOP PERCEPTIVE SELF-CORRECTION
- 3. DEVELOP POWERFUL SELF-CONTROL
- 4. DEVELOP A PROFOUND SELF-CONFIDENCE
- 5. DEVELOP A PLAYFUL SELF-CONTENTMENT
- 6. DEVELOP A PIOUS CHARACTER
- 7. DEVELOP PROFICIENCY IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION
- 8. DEVELOP PARENTAL CLOSENESS
- 9. DEVELOP A PREJUDICE-FREE CONSCIOUSNESS
- PART TWO
- GUIDE CHILDREN WITH LOVE, NOT FEAR
PART ONE: TEACH AND PRACTICE HINDUISM IN YOUR HOME
Take responsibility for being the primary teachers of Hinduism to your children
It is wonderful that many temples have in place educational programs for the youth that are both effective and popular. However, it is important for parents to have the attitude that these programs supplement but do not replace the need for them to teach Hinduism to their children in the home. Parents are indeed the first guru. They teach in different ways: by example, explanation, feedback and giving advice and direction. The child’s deepest impressions come from what the parents do and say. If parents follow a systematic approach to teaching children Hinduism during the formative years, Sanatana Dharma will be fully integrated into their minds, assuring that it will be with them for life.
Without your help, there is no guarantee that your children will follow their faith as adults
Look around at the younger generation of Hindus and you will find many who have no interest whatsoever in the Hindu religion. One hundred years ago, before movies, television and computers, in the cities and villages of India and Hindu communities in other countries, the Hindu temple was the most interesting place in town. Besides the pujas and festivals, there were dramas, dances, discourses and musical concerts. The temple was a social and educational center as well. In our modern world we have compelling movies, television and computers, and many Hindu children would much rather spend their free time enjoying these with their friends than being at the temple. Why is this? There are many reasons. Nowadays, families are not so close. And it used to be far easier to get children to come to the temple, since it was the center of village life and there was not much competition for their attention. Times are different. Today’s children often consider the temple boring compared to the all-pervasive and ever more compelling secular forms of entertainment that are available. So, parents are challenged more than ever to answer kids’ puzzling queries—as grandparents did not have to do—by giving sensible, pragmatic explanations of temple worship and Hinduism’s rich array of cultural and mystical practices. Kids today want answers that make sense to them. They are not at all content with “That’s the way we have always done it.” When parents are unable to meet this challenge, Hinduism does not become meaningful and useful to their children. Many youth today do not view the practice of their faith as important to making their life happier and more successful. This is the challenge every Hindu parent faces. But all is not lost. New generations are eager to hear the lofty truths, and those truths can be explained in ways that engage and inspire young seekers, counterbalancing the magnetic influences of the modern world.
Establish a shrine in the home
Hinduism is in no way more dynamically strengthened in the lives of children and the family than by establishing a shrine in the home. The home shrine works best when it is an entire room. That way it can be strictly reserved for worship and meditation, unsullied by worldly talk or other activities. This is the ideal. However, when that is not possible, it should at least be a quiet corner of a room, more than a simple shelf or cabinet.
Naturally, as important as having a shrine is worshiping there daily. In the shrine room offer fruit, flowers or food. Visit your shrine when leaving the home, and upon returning from work or outings. Worship in heartfelt devotion, clearing the inner channels to God and the Gods, so their grace flows toward you and loved ones. Make the shrine a refuge where all family members can find peace and solace, where they can connect with the Gods and offer their praise, prayers and practical needs. Train your children to worship in the shrine before any important event in life, such as a major exam at school, or when faced with a personal challenge or problem. Following this simple, traditional practice in a sacred space within the home will do much to make Hinduism relevant to them on a day-to-day basis.
Sharing festivals and establishing a home shrine bring religion into a child’s life. Dinodia.com
Worship together in the home shrine each morning
A popular saying in English is “The family that prays together stays together.” In Hinduism, ideally this refers to all members of the family participating in the morning worship in the home shrine before breakfast. The children can be trained to always bring an offering of a flower or at least a leaf. The exact routine followed depends on the family’s religious background and lineage. Typical practices include a simple arati or a longer puja, singing devotional songs, repeating a mantra, reading scripture and then meditating or performing simple sadhanas and yogas. As the children get older, they can take on greater responsibilities during the morning worship. A number of Hindus have told us that what kept them a staunch, practicing Hindu, despite exposure in their youth to other religious traditions at school and elsewhere, was the fact that the entire family practiced Hinduism together in the home.
Worship together as a family at a local temple once a week
Attending a puja at the temple every week allows us to experience the blessings of God and the Gods on a regular basis. This helps keep us pure as well as strong in our religious commitments. The religious vibration of the home shrine is also strengthened by going to the temple regularly. Specifically, some of the spiritual atmosphere of the temple can be brought home with you if you simply light an oil lamp in your shrine room when you return from the temple. This sacred act brings devas who were at the temple right into the home shrine room, where from the inner world they can bless all family members and strengthen the religious force field of the home.