Parents Teaching Hinduism to Children, Part 1

Bodhinatha spoke this morning in Kadavul Temple on "Some Suggestions to Parents for Teaching Hinduism to Their Children." He outlined areas for training, which includes living the example of a Hindu to inspire and nurture children in the home. 1. Take full responsibility for the child's training in the Hindu religion and don't depend on outside people or institutions. 2. Establish a shrine in the home and worship there regularly and together. 3. Visit the local temple together regularly and bring the blessings back to your home shrine by simply lighting a lamp. 4. Teach them that Hinduism is special, a grand religion, and that all religions are good but not all are alike. Hinduism is the great faith for knowing God directly and personally.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

Good Morning! Very nice ceremony!

I am working on a little booklet called, 'Suggestions for Parents on Teaching Hinduism to Their Children'. A few ideas to share. It starts out with an introduction.

Lots of times, I meet Hindu families in the Guru Peedam and particularly the younger ones quite often, with small children and they ask me for advise. "Do you have some advise?" I have about two minutes to give them a lifetime of advise! So if I say something, I usually say, "Try and teach your children Hinduism in a practical way so that it influences their life in very specific ways. It should be so practical that it helps them get better grades in school."

Of course, it doesn't cover the gamut of issues in teaching Hinduism to your children. The idea is to just have a number of points with short explanations so that I can hand it to them, "Here, I am glad you asked."

So if someone asks, here is some advise. That is the idea.

The first advise, you can probably guess what it is. Parents should take the responsibility of being the primary teachers of Hinduism to their 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 parents to teach Hinduism to their children in the home. Parents are indeed the first guru. They teach in many different ways, such as, by example, explanation and giving advise and direction. The child's deepest impressions come from what the parents do and say. Therefore, if the parents can follow a systematic approach in teaching Hinduism to the child as he or she grows up, when the child reaches adulthood this will make the practice of Hinduism much more integral in the child's life and therefore much less likely to be abandoned.

Next advise. There is no guarantee that when Hindu children reach adulthood and marry, that they will be practicing Hindus. Look around at the younger generation of Hindus and you will find many who have no interest whatsoever in practicing 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 as well, the Hindu temple was the most interesting place in town. Besides the festivals, there were dramas, dances and musical concerts. The temple was a social center as well. In our modern world, we do have movies, television and computers and many Hindu children would much rather spend their free time enjoying them with their friends rather than being at the temple.

Why is this? It is because Hinduism has not become an integral part of their life. They do not view the practice of Hinduism as important to making their life happier, more religious and more successful. This then is the challenge that all Hindu parents face.

Advise. Establish a shrine in the home.

Hinduism in the family is greatly strengthened by establishing a shrine in the home. The home shrine works best when it is an entire room. This is the ideal. However when that is not possible it should at least be a quiet corner of a room. In the shrine room, offer fruit and flowers or food daily. Visit your shrine before leaving the house and after returning. Worship with heartfelt devotion, clearing the inner channels to God and Gods so their grace flows towards you and your loved ones. Parents can train their younger children to worship in the home shrine before any important event in their life, such as, a major exam in school.

Advise. Have the entire family worship together at 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 together in the morning worship in the home shrine before breakfast. The children can be trained to always bring an offering of a flower or as least a leaf. The exact routine to follow depends on the religious background of the family. Typically practices include a simple arati or longer puja, singing devotional songs, repeating a mantra, reading scripture and meditation. As the children get older, they can take on greater responsibilities during the morning worship.

A number of Hindus have told us over the years that what kept them a staunch, practicing Hindu, despite exposure in their youth to other religious traditions in educational institutions was the fact that the entire family practiced Hinduism together in the home.

Advise. Have the entire family worship together at a local temple once a week.

Attending a puja at the temple every week allows us to experience the blessings of God and 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 can be strengthened by going to the temple regularly.

Specifically, some of the religious atmosphere of the temple can be brought home with you if you simply light an oil lamp in the shrine room when you return from the temple. This simple act brings devas who were at the temple right into the home shrine, where from the inner world they can bless all family members and strengthen the religious force field of the home.

Advise. Teach about the Vedic statement, "Truth is One. Sages describe It variously."

Sometimes Hinduism is described in believing in a trinity of separate Gods. Brahman the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Siva the destroyer. This, of course, is not the case. All Hindus worship the Supreme Being. It is simply a matter of the different Hindu denominations referring to the Supreme Being by a different name. In fact, all Hindus believe in the same Supreme Being as do other religions. As a country has only one king, so does the Universe have only one Supreme Being. It is just a case of the different religions using different names to describe Truth.

Advise. Teach the correct meaning of the Vedic statement, "Truth is One. Paths are many."

Sometimes Hindus teach their children that all religions are one. This is actually a distortion of the Hindu belief that Truth is one, paths are many. The correct teaching is that Hindus believe that all religions worship the same truth, the same Supreme Being. However, this does not mean the religions are identical and therefore it does not matter which religion you are in. The beliefs and practices of the major world religions are in fact quite different. The truth they worship is one but each of the many paths is quite distinct.

Advise. Hindus believe all of the major world religions are valid paths and feel everyone is well placed in the religion of their choosing.

Hindus do not proselytize. They do not try to convert members of other religions to Hinduism. Proselytizing is based upon the belief that one's religion is the only true religion and therefore everyone in another religion should join them.

Hindus hold the opposite point of view, which is that all religions are good and that members of those religions are just fine remaining in the religions they are in.

Advise. Hinduism has a vast number of practices within it that many religions do not.

If all you want is to live a virtuous life, religions are all very similar at that basic level of practice. But if you have an interest in personally experiencing God, then only a few religions have within them the advance practices that lead to that experience.

A good example of this fact has been occurring in Catholic monasteries for decades. Some of the monks in these monasteries have the desire to personally experience God. What do they do to pursue this? They turn to Hindu scripture such as Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms to provide them proper guidelines for deep meditation, as there are no teachings regarding this in Christianity.

Using modern terminology, all religions are computers. However some religions are personal computers, some are mini computers, others are mainframe computers. But Hinduism, of course, is a super computer!

Anyway, that has got a lively start to it!