Parents Teaching Hinduism to Children, Part 3

Bodhinatha gives more suggestions on teaching Hinduism to your children. Parents should use a systematic approach to teaching their children Hinduism as they grow up. Teach them about the greatness of Hinduism. Instill in children a pride for Hinduism based on its wise precepts for living. This is evidenced by the fact that many aspects of Hinduism have been taken up by others around the world, such as vegetarianism, reverence toward the environment, nonviolence, tolerance, the whole world is a family, karma, reincarnation, yoga, meditation and seeking personal experience of Divinity.

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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, everyone!

Continuing our series on 'Parents are the first Guru - Suggestions on teaching Hinduism to your children'. I will read the Introduction again, just so the tape and video have continuity.

Many times Hindu families, who are visiting our Hawaii Monastery, particularly those with young children, ask me if I have any advise for them. I usually respond with one or two general suggestions. The most common response I give is to stress the importance of presenting Hinduism to their children in a practical way so that it influences the child's life for the better. Hindus practices should, for example, help children get better grades in school.

Of course, there is not enough time to present the many guidelines that they would find useful. Therefore I thought, why not write up the suggestions as a booklet and hand the booklet to Hindu families who ask for advise. In there are some important suggestions on teaching Hinduism to your children drawn from the teachings of Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.

One more introductory paragraph here.

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.

So we have a new section for today. This is called 'The Greatness of Hinduism'.

Instill in your children a pride in Hinduism based upon its wise precepts for living.

Since the middle of the twentieth century, Hindu teachings have become more widely understood throughout the world and as a result, different aspects of the Hindu approach to living have been taken up by many thoughtful individuals of diverse religions and ethnicities all around the world. This is because they find them wise and effective ways of living. This includes such beliefs and practices as following a vegetarian diet, a reverence toward and desire to protect the environment, solving conflicts through non-violent means, tolerance towards others, teaching that the whole world is family, the belief in karma as system of divine justice, the belief in reincarnation, practice of yoga and meditation, seeking to personally experience Divinity.

Swami Chinmayananda in his first public talk in 1951, made a powerful statement about the effectiveness of Hinduism. "The true Hinduism is a science of perfection. There is in this true Hinduism a solution to every individual, social, national and international problem. True Hinduism is the Sanatana Dharma of the Upanishads."

The traditional Hindu vegetarian diet has many benefits, both personal and planetary. Many individuals switch from the meat-eating diet of their parents to a vegetarian diet as a matter of conscience based upon the personal realization of the suffering animals undergo when they are slaughtered. The common saying is, "I won't eat anything that has eyes, unless it is a potato!"

This is, of course, also the Hindu rational for a vegetarian diet and is called Ahimsa, refraining from injuring physically, mentally, or emotionally anyone or any living creature. The Hindu wishes to follow the path of non-injury and naturally adopts a vegetarian diet.

A second aspect of vegetarianism has to do with our state of consciousness. When we eat meat, fish, fowl and eggs, we absorb the vibration of the instinctive creatures into our nerve system. This chemically alters our consciousness and amplifies our own instinctive nature, which is the part of us prone to fear, anger, jealously, confusion, resentment and the like. Therefore, being vegetarian is a great help in attaining and maintaining a spiritual state of consciousness through our spiritual practices. Some individuals take up vegetarianism for this reason.

The third aspect of vegetarianism is that it uses the planet's natural resources in a much wiser way. In large measure, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rain forests to create pasture lands for livestock, loss of top soil and the consequent increase of water impurities and air pollution have all been traced to this single fact of meat in the human diet.

No single decision that we can make as individuals or as race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology, as the decision to not eat meat. Many seeking to save the planet for future generations have become vegetarian for this reason.

Hindus hold a deep reverence toward planet Earth and toward all living beings that dwell on it. Many thoughtful people share the Hindu point of view that it is not right for man to kill or harm our animals for food or sport. They believe that animals have a right to enjoy living on this planet as much as humans do.

There is a Vedic verse in this regard that says, "Ahimsa is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one's mind, speech or body." Another Vedic verse states, "You must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever."

Hindus regard all living creatures as sacred - mammals, fish, birds and more. Hindus are stewards of trees and plants, fish and birds, bees and reptiles, animals and creatures of every shape and kind. Hindus acknowledge this reverence for life and their special affection for the cow.

Mahatma Gandhi once said about the cow, "One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world."

Many individuals are concerned about our environment and properly preserving it for future generations. Hindus too share this concern and honor and revere the world around them as God's creation and work for the protection of the Earth's diverse resources to achieve the goal of a secure, sustainable and lasting environment.

Hinduism is respected for solving conflicts through non-violent means. Mahatma Gandhi's strong belief in the Hindu principle of ahimsa and his non-violent methods for opposing British rule are well-known throughout the world. The non-violent approach has consciously been used by others as well. Certainly one of the most visible uses of non-violence was by Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King, after many years of giving careful thought to the problem of racial discrimination in the United States, selected the Hindu principle of Ahimsa as exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi's tactic of non-violent resistance, as the most effective method for overcoming these unjust laws. In 1959, Dr. King even spent five weeks in India, personally discussing with Gandhi's followers the philosophy and techniques of non-violence, to deepen his understanding of them before putting them into actual use.

Hinduism has great tolerance, and considers the whole world to be a family.

In the world of the twenty-first century, a prime concern is the many clashes between groups of people of different religions, nationalities, ethnicities. They are all based on hatred on one or both sides. The opposite of hatred is tolerance and in that Hinduism excels. The Hindu belief that gives rise to tolerance of differences in race and nationality is that all of mankind is good, we are all divine beings, souls created by God. Hindus respect and defend the rights of humans of every caste, creed, color and sex. Hindus think globally and act locally as interracial, international citizens of the Earth. They honor and value all human cultures, faiths, languages and peoples, never offending one to promote another.

Hindus do not accept the concept that some individuals are evil and others are good. Hindus believe that each individual is a soul, a divine being who is inherently good. Upanishads tell us that each soul has emanated from God as a spark from a fire and begins its spiritual journey which eventually leads back to God. All human beings are on this journey whether they realize it or not. The Hindu practice of greeting one another with namaskar, worshipping God within the other person is a way this philosophical truth is practiced by Hindus on a daily basis.

This is taken one step further in the Vedic verse,"The whole world is one family." Everyone is family-oriented. What we do has to benefit all members of our family. We want them all to happy, successful and religiously fulfilled. When family is defined as the whole world, then it is clear that we wish everyone in the world to be happy, successful and religiously fulfilled. The Vedic verse that captures this sentiment is, "May all people be happy."

Many people throughout the world firmly believe in karma and reincarnation. In the second half of the twentieth century, these concepts became more and more popular and influential in the West. For example, every year more Westerners take up the belief in karma and reincarnation as a logical explanation of what they observe in life. A common explanation for karma is, what goes around comes around. In Hinduism, karma is the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, both good and bad, come back to us in the future helping us to learn from life's lessons and become better people.

Reincarnation is the belief that the soul is immortal and takes birth time and time again. Through this process we have experiences, learn lessons and evolve spiritually. Finally, we graduate from physical birth.

The belief in karma and reincarnation gives a logical explanation to what otherwise seems to be an unjust or godless world. The answers to questions such as the following all have logical explanations, when viewed through the beliefs of karma and reincarnation.

Why do some people die so young? Why are some individuals so much more talented than others? Why do some people act in evil ways? What will the consequences of this action be?

The beliefs of karma and reincarnation also give a spiritual purpose to our life. We know that the reason we are here on earth is to mature spiritually and that this process extends over many lives. We know that karma is our teacher in this process, teaching us both what to do and what not to do through the reactions they brings back to us in the future.

Hinduism is bold in its teaching that man can experience God and live in a spiritual consciousness. Throughout the world today, many who are on the spiritual path want to have a personal spiritual experience. They want to see God. Hinduism not only gives them the hope that they can achieve this goal in this lifetime but it gives them the practical tools, such as, the disciplines of yoga and meditation through which this goal eventually becomes a reality.

The focus of many religions is on helping those who do not believe in God, to believe in God. Belief in God is the beginning and the end of the process. Once you believe in God, there is nothing more to do. However in Hinduism, belief is only the first step. Hindus want to move beyond believing in God to experiencing God.

There is a classic story that illustrates the Hindu perspective of experiencing God from the life of Swami Vivekananda, one of Hinduism's most well known modern teachers.

When Vivekananda was still a University student, he asked many of the foremost religious leaders in the Calcutta area where he lived, if they had seen God. However, he never got a clear and authoritative answer from anyone of them until he met Sri Ramakrishna. It was during his second meeting with Sri Ramakrishna that he asked the question, "Sir, have you seen God?"

Calmly, Ramakrishna replied as follows, "Yes I see Him as clearly as one sees an apple in the palm of the hand. Nay, even more intently. And not only this, you can also see Him."

This deeply impressed the young Vivekananda, who soon after accepted Sri Ramakrishna as his Guru.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Feel more pride about Hinduism?