Young Prahlada says in Srimad Bhagavatam (7:6:1),
kaumAra AcharEt prAjnO
dharmAn bhAgavatAn iha
durlabham mAnusham janma
tad api adhruvam arthadam
A wise man would practice devotion and follow the spiritual path towards God right from the tender age of childhood; for only in the extremely rare and transient human birth can we attain the goal of eternal happiness.
Prahlada, who was a born devotee of the Lord, realized early that the Lord is actually interested only in our devotion. In the above sloka, he emphasizes the importance of taking to a spiritual path at a young age, in order to make full, proper use of our human birth, which is very rare to obtain.
No one reflects sincerity and innocence better than a small child. Children believe what they are told. The practice of telling stories about the lilas of Krishna, the epic Ramayana, etc. instill in them a strong faith in God and flower divine love for Him. Faith gives them hope and the feeling that they are never alone.
Children who are raised in spiritual surroundings are also happier, more optimistic, more thriving, more flexible, and better equipped to deal with life’s ordinary (and extraordinary) traumas than those who are not. Teenagers, in particular, are exponentially better off when they are in touch with their spiritual sides. Children imbued with spirituality grow into adults who can count their blessings, feel a sense of calling in their work, regard human relationships as sacred, and see misfortunes as opportunities. As kids see the adults chant the Divine Name or hear about Mahans, and follow their footsteps, they too are amazingly inspired. The Name of God has a divine life and power to it. Even a baby can be calmed through the mere sound of the Divine Name.
When we drop a small pebble in the center of the pool, ripples are formed. These ripples continue to expand and travel to the edges of the pool. Similarly, when we chant the Divine Names of God, the energy that we create expands and expands until it touches the universe. It was just a mere throw of a small stone!
So many of the things that children do are naturally spiritual. They can observe ants on an anthill for hours. That’s mindfulness. They feel a sense of despair when they see a homeless person. That’s compassion. Elementary-aged children are profoundly concerned with fairness or justice, and they feel uplifted by helping other people. That’s charity.
We, as parents, just need to provide them the right ambience for their inherent spirituality to flower in the right direction, in the path of devotion. For this, the best and simplest way is for us to chant the Mahamantra – Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare – at home and to encourage our children also to chant and make this mantra an integral part of their lives.
As HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji says,
kaliyaiyum bali koLLum thuLi niyamum illAda
kIrthanam pAdIrE! kIrthanam pAdIrE!
There is no better or simpler way for kids to deal with today’s emerging and ever-increasing stress, and to attain lasting happiness, than to fall into the devotional path. And the easiest way to flower devotion and faith is through the Divine Name of the Lord.
Kavita Subramanian, Dallas TX