We recently saw the Kerala Story. It was a painful fact check of the reality that our youngsters fall prey to anyone who brainwashes them, because they are not rooted. Why have we stopped telling our children about the greatness of our religion and culture? Why are they so vulnerable and confused that they doubt their beliefs and start believing their doubts? It’s an urgent wakeup call for the safety of our progeny.
One thing that really hit me hard was that the vulnerable, become soft targets. In this case the girls who were not rooted enough in their beliefs, were not able to stand up for themselves. There are certain things that all parents should teach their children as an essential part of parenting. Children must be taught to be aware of divinity. At the same time how can you change your religion? Can you change your mother? There is only one best mother in the world, and every child has her! So too, your religion is not changeable!
If we don’t practise our traditions they shall be forgotten. Our parents taught us to join our palms and look at them, first thing in the morning and say, “Kar aagre vaste Lakshmi, kar madhya Saraswati; Kar moole tu Govinda, prabhate kar darshanam.” Meaning: At the tips of my fingers resides Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. In the midst of my palm resides Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning. At the base of my palms resides Govinda (or the chosen form of God). Thinking in this manner, I offer my obeisance to all, early in the morning!
Why were we taught to do this? When we show reverence to Goddess Lakshmi, there is a subtle learning that wealth should be earned by pure means; it should not be wasted. When we extol Goddess Saraswathi, we reiterate that knowledge and wisdom should be respected. Children should be educated to gain knowledge, skill and have holistic learning. Earning money is important to buy all essentials of life, but it is not everything. We need intellectual and spiritual growth to be a complete human. Reverence of Govinda means revering God in any form that pleases you. Your Isht-Devta may be Krishna, Rama, Shiva or any other form of God.
Just like man may be addressed differently by his parents, spouse, children, friends, colleagues etc. being called Papa, Sir, Bhayia etc. does not make him, that many different people. Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “Names are many, but God is one.” This is the beauty of our culture. We worship the one and only God having numerous forms and names.
Another important thing we need to teach our children is that food and water are not to be wasted. It is important to teach our children to pray before they eat. This is what Sri Sathya Sai Baba taught us, “Harir Daata, Harir Bhoktha. Harir Annam Prajaapatih, Harir Vipra Shareerastu. Bhunkte Bhojayathe Hari!” Meaning: Oh Lord Hari! You are the food, You are the enjoyer of the food, You are the giver of food. Therefore, I offer all that I consume at Your Lotus Feet.
Praying before eating also cleanses the food of the impurities caused by the absence of ‘Patra Shuddhi’ (cleanliness of the vessel), ‘Padartha Shuddhi’ (cleanliness of the food) and ‘Paka Shuddhi’ (cleanliness in the cooking process). Also, once the food has been offered to God, it becomes Prasadam and is not to be wasted.
Our culture is beyond the imagination and comprehension of many. Sadly we seem to have forgotten its profundity. Let’s nourish our roots … let us learn what we have missed out on and pass it on to our next generation too. Let not the Kerala story extend its tentacles beyond …
Each of our customs is rooted in science and spirituality. If we are rooted, we can soar higher and still higher!
This piece is published in the HT on 23.07.2023. It can be viewed here https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/the-importance-of-teaching-our-children-about-religion-culture-and-tradition-a-wake-up-call-for-parents-101690099018219.html
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