After all, what is God? An eternal Child playing an eternal game in the eternal garden. —Sri Aurobindo
The deepest desire in a parent's heart is to see one's child achieve success in life, yet how many of us realize that the most direct way to success is through spirit? In our society we don't usually make that connection--quite the opposite. We teach our children how to survive, how to behave in order to earn our approval, how to defend themselves, how to compete, how to persist against disappointment, obstacles, and setbacks. Although believing in God is often considered a good thing, spirit has traditionally been set apart from success in daily life. This is a mistake, and it has had a profound effect on all our lives, from childhood on.
Many people assume without question that success is essentially material, that it can be measured in money, prestige, or an abundance of possessions. These can certainly play a role, but having such things is no guarantee of success. The success we want our children to achieve has to be defined in many nonmaterial ways as well. It should include the ability to love and have compassion, the capacity to feel joy and spread it to others, the security of knowing that one's life serves a purpose, and finally, a sense of connection to the creative power of the universe. All of these constitute the spiritual dimension of success, the dimension that brings inner fulfillment.
If the meaning of your life unfolds to you every day, in simplicity and wonder, you have achieved success--which means, in a profound way, that every baby is born a success. Every child's ability to feel wonder in the face of everyday existence is the surest proof we have that Nature wants us to be successful. It is in our own nature to respond to life with joy. The seeds of God are inside us. When we make the journey of spirit, we water these divine seeds. The good life merely reflects our inner intention. In time the flowers of God bloom within and around us, and we begin to witness and know the miracle of the divine wherever we go.
Our responsibility as parents is therefore to place our children firmly on the journey of spirit. This is the best thing we can do to ensure their success in life, better than giving them money, a secure home, or even love and affection. I ask you to consider this spiritual notion of parenting, different though it may be from how you see your role now.
To bring about this new way of parenting we need practical principles to teach our children. The principles I have in mind were introduced in my earlier book as the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. In order to bring about a connection with spirit, a knowledge of spiritual law is essential. When we practice spiritual laws, we put ourselves in harmony with Nature. Any other way of living leads to strain and struggle. Success achieved on the basis of struggle may bring good things to us, but the inner fulfillment we seek from these things will be lacking.
In adult language the Seven Spiritual Laws are stated as follows:
First Law: The Law of Pure Potentiality
The source of all creation is pure consciousness . . . pure potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest.
Second Law: The Law of Giving
In our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.
Third Law: The Law of "Karma"
When we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.
Fourth Law: The Law of Least Effort
Nature's intelligence functions with effortless ease . . . with carefreeness, harmony, and love. When we harness these forces, we create success with the same effortless ease.
Fifth Law: The Law of Intention and Desire
Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for their fulfillment . . . in the field of pure potentiality, intention and desire have infinite organizing power.
Sixth Law: The Law of Detachment
In our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.
Seventh Law: The Law of "Dharma"
When we blend our unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.
Whether you call these "laws" or "principles" is not important. They are laws inasmuch as they govern the unfolding of spirit as it moves from the invisible world of the soul to the visible world of matter. They are principles inasmuch as we can take them to heart and apply them the same way we would apply a principle like telling the truth or being fair.
Why do we need such principles? Why not simply teach our children to love God and be good?
The answer is that the Seven Spiritual Laws put a person in touch with the mechanics of Nature. When you consciously align your life with spiritual law, you are asking the universe to support you with success and abundance. This is the key to becoming aware of your own Being and using its infinite power. The earlier someone is taught how to live in the most effortless, harmonious, and creative way, the more likely it is that all of life will bring success. This is what we are asked to pass on to our children, and if we can do it, nothing brings more joy and pride.
Every spiritual tradition contains some version of these seven laws, but they emerge in their purest form from the ancient Vedic tradition of India, which articulated them more than five thousand years ago. The Seven Spiritual Laws serve one vision, as follows:
Human beings are made of body, mind, and spirit. Of these, spirit is primary, for it connects us to the source of everything, the eternal field of consciousness. The more connected we are, the more we will enjoy the abundance of the universe, which has been organized to fulfill our wishes and desires. Only in a state of disconnection do we suffer and struggle. The divine intention is for every human being to enjoy unlimited success.
Success, therefore, is supremely natural.
Children and Spirit—The Teaching of Innocence
The language of the Seven Spiritual Laws has to be different when spoken to a child, less abstract. Fortunately, the same laws can be phrased so that even a young child is able to carry them around in mind and heart:
Everything is possible.
If you want to get something, give it.
When you make a choice, you change the future.
Don't say no--go with the flow.
Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.
Enjoy the journey.
You are here for a reason.
On the day I wrote down these simple sayings, I didn't pause to think about them much, but afterward it hit me: if I had been taught just these seven sentences as a child, my life would have been profoundly different. I would have known something precious and practical at the same time, something that would not have faded as a childhood lesson but would have ripened into mature spiritual understanding year by year.
A child raised with spiritual skills will be able to answer the most basic questions about how the universe works; she will understand the source of creativity both within and outside herself; she will be able to practice nonjudgment, acceptance, and truth, which are the most valuable skills anyone can possess for dealing with other people; and she will be free from the crippling fear and anxiety about the meaning of life that is the secret dry rot inside the hearts of most adults, whether they can admit it or not.
The deepest nurturing you can give your child is spiritual nurturing.
I am not talking about forcing hard-and-fast rules on your children, the way we teach them to be good or risk being punished. Each of the Seven Spiritual Laws should be conveyed not as a rule or rigid precept but as your own way of looking at life. As a parent, you will teach much more effectively by who you are, not what you say. This itself is part of the spiritual perspective.
Every child has a spiritual life already. This is because every child is born into the field of infinite creativity and pure awareness that is spirit. But not every child knows that this is true. Spirit must be cultivated; it must be nourished and encouraged. If it is, then a child's innocent spirit grows up to be strong enough to withstand the harsh realities of an often unspiritual world.
Losing touch with spirit does nothing to the infinite field of creativity, which is beyond harm, but it can do much to damage a person's chances in life. With spirit we are all children of the cosmos; without it we are orphaned and set adrift.
Let's take an example. The Seventh Law says, "You are here for a reason." A child's reason for being here can be put in simple, everyday terms, such asHow did I make a difference today?
What talent did I uncover?
What came to me--a gift, a lesson, a beautiful experience--that made me feel special?
What did I do to make someone else feel special?
These are all simple variations on the basic question Why am I here? We all asked that question as children and only quit asking it because we felt that our parents and teachers didn't really have an answer.
A child who has not learned to look for meaning in simple ways will one day have to try to find a purpose in life under much more difficult circumstances. Usually we postpone the search until our late teens or early twenties, sometimes not until midlife, unfortunately the most turbulent stages of personal development. "The meaning of life" gets confused with rebellion and the roller coaster of emotions that are typical of late adolescence, or the growing awareness of mortality that comes in midlife. In school we grapple with the ideas of the great religious teachers and philosophers. The debate over whether existence even has a meaning engulfs us. (I think anyone who lived through the sixties can painfully identify with all these phases of struggle.)
However, a child who was taught from the age of three or four "You are here for a reason" would face a very different future. Such a child would see the search for meaning in life as a natural thing, the spiritual equivalent of learning your ABCs. There would be no years of postponement, followed by desperate inner turmoil. "Why am I here?" doesn't have to be a fearsome existential question. It is the most joyful exploration a person can undertake, and we do our children an immense favor by presenting it as such. A child who paid attention to just this one principle would have a far richer life--a more successful life--than countless adults for whom "spirit" and "God" remain forever locked in a world of abstraction.
Real spiritual growth changes a person in a paradoxical way. It brings understanding at the same time as it preserves innocence. As parents we are sorely tempted to distance ourselves from childhood. We do this by seeming to know more about life, when in fact we have usually just experienced more. We have gotten good at knowing the rules and avoiding punishment, at hiding our weakness with a show of strength, at never letting slip the mask of invulnerability. There is no better recipe for destroying a child's innocence than to destroy our own.
In the eyes of spirit, everyone is innocent, in all senses of the word. Because you are innocent, you have not done anything that merits punishment or divine wrath. You are new-made every day. You are a receptor for experience that never ceases to inspire delight and wonder. There is only one spiritual difference between the innocence of children and the innocence of grown-ups: we grown-ups are innocent with understanding--and that is what we are meant to impart, while retaining the pure, fresh, pristine quality that comes with true knowledge.
How to Start
From the day your baby is born, you are a teacher of spirit. If you create an atmosphere of trust, openness, non-judgment, and acceptance, those qualities will be absorbed as the qualities of spirit.
In a perfect world, parenting would come down to one sentence: Show only love, be only love. But in the world we all cope with, children grow up to face much non-loving behavior, primarily outside the home but sometimes within it as well. Rather than worry about whether you embody enough love to qualify as a spiritual teacher, look upon spirituality as a skill in living, since that is what it is. I believe in imparting these skills as early as possible by whatever means a child can understand.
Infant, 0-1 yr.
Key words: Love, affection, attention
Fortunately for our generation, the misconception that children need to be trained and disciplined from the cradle has been discarded. An infant is pure spiritual gold. Cherishing her innocence is the way to find the path back to our own. So in a very important way it is the parent who sits at the feet of the baby. Spiritual bonding with your infant comes through touching, holding, providing security from harm, playing, and giving attention. Without these "primitive" responses from the environment, the human organism cannot flourish; it will languish and wither as surely as a flower deprived of sunlight.
Toddler, 1-2 yrs.
Key words: Freedom, encouragement, respect
This is the stage in which the child is first gaining ego. Here I mean ego in the simplest sense of "self," a conviction of "I am." This is a precarious time, for the toddler is testing detachment from the parent for the first time. The lure of freedom and curiosity pulls in one direction, but there is fear and insecurity pulling in the other. Not all experiences of being on one's own are pleasant. It is therefore up to the parent to communicate a spiritual lesson without which no child can truly grow into independent selfhood: that the world is safe.
Feeling safe as an adult means that some time before the age of two, you were not conditioned by fear; you were encouraged instead to expand without limit, to value freedom despite the occasional wound that can come when a child bumps into the things of this world. Falling down is not the same as failing; being hurt is not the same as deciding that the world is dangerous. Hurting is nothing more than Nature's way of telling a child where the boundaries lie--pain exists to show a toddler where "me" begins and ends, to help a child avoid potential dangers like burning oneself or falling downstairs.