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How to be good parents?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
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The verse says: A seeker of liberation, who being learned; able to discriminate between the Real and the unreal, believing the Vedas as the authority, fixing his gaze upon the Self, the Supreme Reality, and being seeker after liberation, will he, like a child, consciously run after the unreal, which will surely be the cause of one’s downfall?

Vivekachudamani, Verse 337

Questioner(Q): Dear Acharya Ji, my question is, who is the child in the above verse? Also, I would like to understand my child’s behaviour, as the child keeps running behind unreal things most of the time. There is no schedule or discipline; even not taking care of his own health and hygiene. When we request in any form or guide or suggest, he wriggles. He displays disrespect towards parents, shows anger through his words. Not helping even in the smallest works and his attitude is becoming more and more aggressive.

Acharya Prashant(AP): So, there are two parts to this question. The first part is; who is the child being talked of, and then the second part relates to a personal problem.

Who is the child being talked of? One must understand the child. Physicality is formed and it starts expressing itself as soon as it is formed. Divinity remains just as a seed; that’s the child. All flesh and bones, body behaving exactly as per his physical conditioning, guided by nothing except the bodily impulses; that’s the child. That’s how man begins his journey, as merely the body.

And that is why at the outset itself, man is not very comfortable. The child cries when he is born, and it will be rare to find the child restful. The child runs hither and thither; the child grabs; the child explores; the child is always busy with things. That’s how we all are born: restless. Obviously, if one is born restless, it would be great if restlessness reduces or obliterates—and that is the purpose of upbringing and education; to rear the child of his innate biological tendencies that give him no joy but keeps him occupied and tied down.

Instead, if the upbringing and the education are not proper, not deeply spiritual, not divine at the core, then the child becomes all the more conditioned. He was already restless due to biological reasons and he becomes even more restless due to his upbringing and other social reasons. Few, very few, are those, who are lucky enough to grow up in a way that brings them closer to peace and fulfilment.

Adi Shankara is referring to those lucky few in this verse. He is saying: if you are someone who is now not taking the physical or psychological tendencies himself; if you are someone who is now one with the Supreme Self, then would you ever again go back to your childish ways? That’s his way of saying that once you have tasted the joy of Self, then the various pleasures of the body start appearing very-very childish. Joy is the pleasure of another order; Joy is the pleasure that is never threatened; Joy is the pleasure that doesn’t wax or wane; Joy is the pleasure that you don’t have to try to obtain; Joy is the pleasure that doesn’t make you more restless.

Once you have immersed yourself in the joy of Truth, what value can you accord to the childish pleasures of the body? It is not renunciation; it is common sense. Once you have something very-very fulfilling, why would you give it up for something that is not even remotely as fulfilling? Who wants to compromise the great for the small, the everlasting for the ephemeral, the total for the partial? And if someone does want to give up the total for the partial, then he is just being childishly foolish. That’s what Adi Shankara says.

Then you have mentioned about your son, the kid at your home, and you have mentioned about his unkempt ways, his neglect of health and hygiene, the shabbiness and the other things. That’s how we all are, aren’t we? Look at the young one, the young one of human beings, the young one of animals, a human kid, a pup, the kid of a goat, a kitten, little rabbit. Look at any of them and see how they are. They are not driven by any higher pursuits: that’s not for them. They want their feed regularly. They want their food and water and security. It doesn’t matter much to them whether the mother is contended or not. The kid clamours for his personal feed. The child says, “Give me food. Where is my sweet? Where is my bread?” and it doesn’t matter to him where the bread is coming from. The parents might have stolen the bread from somewhere. It doesn’t matter to the kid. The kid is not going to ask where did the bread come from. The kid wants his toy and papa must have the money to get him the toy. The father might be a corrupt man, and the money might be ill-gotten, but it doesn’t matter to the kid. All that the kid wants is the toy.

And then, the kid has to entertain himself. The copy of the Upanishads might be kept, but for the kid, it is just a plaything. And the kid is tearing the pages apart. It doesn’t matter to the kid. The kid has no higher order values. That’s the thing with the body. It knows no higher order values. All it wants is self-preservation and furtherance of itself. May I stay protected and the ‘I’ means the material me. That’s what the kid is saying. Right? So, that’s the default state. That’s how everybody is born. So, you cannot complain if your kid is rowdy or raucous or deviant. That’s how all kids are born.

And then begins a process through which the biological tendencies are purified. Who’s the initiator of that process? Who is responsible for that process? The kid is what the kid is. And all the kids are just born as just biological entities. Even if Buddhahood is there, it is present in them just as a seed. This biological entity, if then educated, refined and the purpose of that education is to align tendencies with the Truth.

Who is responsible for that education? The parents and the teachers. The parents are constantly educating the child at home. The teachers are educating the child at school. And if the child’s tendencies remain as they were at the time of birth or get even worse, then what does it show? That the child’s education is failing; that the ones who are teaching the child are not doing justice to their work as teachers.

So, is the problem with the child, or the teachers of the child? Should we look at the condition of the taught, or the teacher? The taught one is hardly responsible for himself, for he is born disorderly. The question is what then the teachers have been doing. So, the question then, turns to the questioner, to the mother. What kind of education is reaching the child? What are you teaching him? And the child is not only learning through your words but through your conduct and through your total being. The child is absorbing everything. What is it that you are displaying to the child every day?

And even if the teachers at school are failing, who chose those teachers and that school for the child? The mother did and the father did. So, the mother and the father have to answer. What kind of teachers are they? But then, if before the teacher can be of value to the taught, first of all, the teacher must be self-illumined. Is the teacher self-illumined? Is the mother really a realized one? And if the mother is not someone who understands, if the mother is herself caught in tangles, then how is the child going to grow beyond the disorder?

The disorder is innate, the disorder is biological. The question is, why have the bringers of order fail? Because, this order that is brought to the child, is not a commodity, it is not a thing. It is something that must radiate from your being. You cannot hold it in your hand and hand over to somebody. It is a contagious thing. You must have it to give it to the other. To help the other candle, be lighted. First of all, the helping candle must have some light. The child will not be born enlightened. That’s not how Prakriti operates. Light has to touch him. He carries light within, like a candle. But the light within, will gain expression only upon right association. The child must be touched by someone who is full of light. Does the child have that company? And if the child doesn’t have that company, should we blame the child?

So, you know Pari, you know where the problem is and therefore where the remedy is. It is impossible for learned parents to be poor parents. And, when I say learned, I do not mean learned in terms of knowledgeable or scholarly. I mean wisdom. I mean realisation. I mean love. Your wisdom, your love, is the necessary teacher. You must first of all awaken your own wisdom. You must first of all, call forth your own love. And then the child will surely respond.

The child then is a reflection of who the parent is. The growth of the child then, is the barometer of the growth of parents. The state of the child then is the litmus test on the state of the parents and the teachers. It’s wonderful that children are unable to conceal their disorderly instincts. They are unable to wean their disabled state of mind.

Adults too are deeply disorderly, but they conceal their disorder with etiquette, with politeness, with all kinds of socially accepted behaviour and protocols. With kids, that doesn’t happen. The inner chaos gets directly reflected in the behaviour of the kid. The kid is not yet cunning enough, to conceal. It’s great! Because the kid cannot yet conceal, so the parents cannot yet deceive themselves. The kid’s behaviour exposes the state of his education. The kid’s behaviour is an open irrefutable proof. The proof will be available only for a limited time; the kid will grow up. And just as he is absorbing all sorts of things from his environment, he will also absorb, that he needs to display socially correct behaviour. And then, there will be no flagrant evidence available. Disorder would still be there, but hidden, camouflaged. Right now, the disorder is open, expressed, undeniable. So, this is an opportunity. Somebody is holding the mirror to you. If you do not know, how you are doing in life, then honestly look at the state of your child; you will know.

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