kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
It’s your first child. You’ve seen children before. This is not your first time around them. You’ve held them in your arms, made funny faces and strange noises, and even changed a diaper or two. Yet this time it’s different. This time the child is yours. They are fully dependent on you. They will listen to whatever you say, at least until they realize they don’t have to.
While gazing at the cute little bundle of joy, you promise to sacrifice everything for their happiness. You know how much of a struggle life in the material world is. You remember all the difficulties you had growing up. You don’t want your child to suffer. You want the best for them.
But what exactly should you wish for? If you are honest with yourself, you acknowledge that some of the greatest struggles helped to make you stronger. Many times, it was not until you finally had to do things for yourself that you became more capable. That withstanding, should you be hands off with the child? What do you want them to do in adulthood? When they are old enough to act independently, how should they use that independence?
1. Don’t fall into ignorance.
The Bhagavad-gita explains the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Consider these three to be like ingredients, which can be mixed up in so many different proportions and combinations. That’s how you get the 8,400,000 variety of species.
Out of this variety, the human body is the most auspicious. That is because it carries the potential for enlightenment, which correlates with the mode of goodness. Your child has made it to the rare human birth, so the last thing you want is for them to regress. Let them avoid addiction to intoxication. Let them steer clear of the most dangerous behavior that will only bring ruin.
2. See the folly of the mode of passion.
The majority of the human population is in the mode of passion. When a teacher asks a student, “What do you want to do when you grow up,” they are really inquiring about how the child will act in the mode of passion when they are an adult.
The mode of passion is a step up from ignorance, for sure, but the wise person sees that it only leads to the same place. Consider the athlete who wins a gold medal at the Olympics. They get fame and notoriety as a result, but by the time the next competition comes around, the past is forgotten. The interest shifts to who will win in the future. Thus through the passage of time, the athlete finds themselves in the exact same position. Their indulgence in passion made very little difference.
Let your child have the good sense to notice this pattern. Let them not throw their days away in video games or useless pursuits of fame and money meant only for personal enjoyment. Let them go beyond.
3. Understand the difference between matter and spirit.
That beyond is the mode of goodness. The person in this mode sees the difference between matter and spirit. Only with this spiritual vision can a person stay above passion and ignorance. Let them do things like read the scriptures and teach others about the highest wisdom that is Vedic philosophy. Let them strive for the advancement of the consciousness. Let them not be bogged down by the temporary. Let them see things as they actually are, where an individual soul and the Supersoul live within each living thing. Let them be like those Krishna describes in the Bhagavad-gita as the ones who actually see.
samaṁ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati
“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.28)
4. Be one of the fortunate ones described by Shri Chaitanya.
There is a famous verse in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that describes the good fortune of the living entity who comes in contact with a spiritual master and receives from them the seed of the creeper of devotional service. These two gifts are rare to any species, let alone the human being.
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)
The seed is not found just anywhere. It has to be received by someone who already flourishes in devotion, or bhakti. Only such a person can give it to another. The lone requirement is humble submission. This is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna advises Arjuna to approach a spiritual master and inquire from him submissively.
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
Still, there is some good fortune required, as a bona fide spiritual master usually isn’t to be found around every corner. Let the child have a sincere desire to understand the Divine, without trying to compete with Him in areas of opulence such as beauty, wealth and strength.
5. Take up bhakti in earnest.
If they are fortunate enough to get the seed of the creeper, let it blossom into a full blown tree through following bhakti. In fact, this wish supersedes the previous ones. The child may be in ignorance, stuck in passion, not know anything about the difference between matter and spirit, or even have never met a spiritual master - but if they can take up devotion to God in earnest, then they have succeeded in life.
Bhakti is a choice, so it cannot be forced upon anyone. No matter how much love I have for my child, I cannot guarantee that they will make the choice towards love and devotion. One step towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead does so much to earn His favor. Rare is the person who even attempts to understand Him; one out of thousands. Out of that select group, hardly one knows Him in truth. Still, at least attempting bhakti does so much. It brings the direct association of the Supreme Lord, and in the mature stages the devotee is able to both realize and relish that presence. Blessed with that association, the father has succeeded.
Greatest blessing coming to you,
That holding in arms your child new.
The most happiness in future let them see,
From ignorance and passion be free.
Good fortune through guru getting seed,
Creeper into tree through devotion to feed.
To take up bhakti most important of all,
Let Shri Krishna be best friend to call.