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The Glory of Motherhood

(Sri Swami Chidananda)

Lord Vinayaka is an akhanda brahmachari. He has no consort. There is a story of deep significance behind this vow of celibacy. It is said that once when He was a small child, Ganesha in a mood of playfulness beat a cat and injured it rather severely. He did not know what this ultimately implied. Later, after the play was over, he happened to draw near to His Divine Mother Parvathi and He found marks of severe injury upon her. The child was shocked and queried His Mother: "What is this? Who inflicted these injuries on you?" The Mother replied: "And just who else but you by your own hand." For a moment Lord Ganesha did not understand how this was possible. He said: "What do you mean, Mother? I have never injured you." Then the Mother said: "Try to recall, child, whether during the course of this day you have inflicted injury upon any creature?"

Ganesha reflected for a while. Immediately He remembered His play with the cat. "Yes, Mother, after all I beat a little cat; that is all." Then the Divine Mother smiled and said: "Can you not understand that whatever you see, whatever names and forms there are in this universe, it is only I who have become all these names and forms. There is nothing else in this universe except Myself. There is nothing in the universe but your own Mother." This is what Parvathi revealed to Ganesha.

This Truth entered into the innermost consciousness of this Divine Child and He realised the Truth of it then and there. He took a vow that He would never take anyone as His consort, because when He knew that the entire universe of diverse names and forms was the manifestation of His own Mother, all women became as Mother unto Him. This reveals to us the highest secret declared by the Vedas and Upanishads, in all the agamas and shastras, viz., sarvam shaktimayam jagat, whatever is in the universe is but the manifestation of the dynamic aspect of the Supreme Almighty Self.

There is another story which contains the highest wisdom of the Upanishads, sarvam khalvidam brahma, whatever is, is none other than the Almighty Being. It is this Almighty Being that has projected Itself as the entire universe. So, if we adore the Almighty we adore the entire universe.

Lord Ganesha possesses a priceless necklace of gems and the story behind this necklace is that once when Lord Siva, Parvathi, Ganesha and Karthikeya were all together, there arose a desire in the mind of the Divine Mother to test the individual calibre and knowledge of Her two great divine sons. Therefore, she held out the necklace she was then wearing and said: "Here is this necklace. He who will go round the entire universe once and reach me first-to him will I give this necklace of gems."

Immediately, Karthikeya thought that it was as good as His, because He knew that with His ponderous girth it would be very difficult for Lord Vinayaka to go round the universe. Karthikeya himself had a very fast vehicle, the peacock, which would take him quickly round the universe; immediately He was off on the peacock.

But, Vinayaka was not the least perturbed. He sat before His Parents for a long time. When He thought that it would be time for Karthikeya to return, He went round in pradakshina of Siva and Parvathi once and prostrated Himself before His Mother and held out His hand.

Devi Parvathi at once divined the depth of wisdom which had made Him do this. She saw that His intuition was such that He beheld the entire universe as made up of nothing else but Siva-Shakti. He beheld that they were immanent in all things and within them they contained the entire universe. Thus He got the necklace, and when Karthikeya returned after His strenuous circumambulation, he found that the prize had already been given to Ganesha.


TO ADORABLE AND DIVINE MOTHERS

(Sri Swami Chidananda)
Om Namo Narayanaya!

I bow again and again at the feet of all of you who are the very embodiment and symbol of the Almighty Mother. I am very happy to get this opportunity of giving this message in your service. Our most worshipful Master Swami Sivananda used to consider Indian women as the manifestation of the Universal Mother.

The key to the future development and progress of any nation is held by the women, because the mother is the first teacher of any child in every generation. Home is the elementary school for all children for inculcating good habits and higher values for the future development of the nation and the most effective element of education. Just as a potter or an idol maker takes hold of highly plastic clay and shapes it at will, likewise a mother shapes the character of a child by the manner of her speaking and conduct. Thus important and effective power is yours, and you have to keep this in mind while taking proper care and train the children in your family for building a strong future India.
The preservation of our culture is the responsibility of women and not men. Woman is the custodian of the culture of the land. Any soul born in a home gets initially conditioned and that too seriously by the atmosphere prevailing therein. The mother influences the child far more than the father. The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the nation.

You should understand yourself. The real you is your imperishable soul. The real you is neither male nor female and has neither any name nor any form. Do not forget this truth even for a moment. To realise the great divine power of the imperishable Self is as much your birthright as it is that of men. This has been firmly established in the ancient culture of India. The country, which produced great realised sages, also produced great ladies, who could participate on an equal footing with those sages in the debates on the knowledge of the Self. The main amongst them were Gargi, Maitreyee, Sulabha, Chudala, Madalasa etc. You are directly connected with this tradition. Not just in the past, but in modern times also we have great realised ladies like Anandamayee Ma, Janaki Mai, disciple of Ramana Maharshi, Sati Godavari Mai, Ramadevi, Mata Krishnabai etc.

To consider women as the weaker sex is a retrograde view point. You are all very powerful. You have the power to uplift man from the state of incompetence and deficiency. You are the very embodiment of the all powerful Divine Mother. You will not find this elevating sentiment about women in any other society. During marriage ceremonies in Bengal the bride is given a sharp knife, when the bridegroom and the bride come into the marriage pandal. This symbolises the liberating power which can release man from bondage. You should understand this well and preserve your exalted status bestowed on you by the Indian culture.

Even in the polluted atmosphere of today you can make home a heaven on earth. Conduct daily prayers in the home. Display pictures of great saints. Read life stories of Sarada Devi, Meerabai, Madalasa and other female devotees and realised souls. Tell your children the stories of devotees, patriots, warriors and hermits. Stop all worthless talk. Your home itself will be converted into heaven if you maintain a sublime atmosphere in the home. Safeguard and perpetuate the flame of the lamp of Indian culture.

May God bless you all! Hari Om Tat Sat.

PARENTS, BEWARE!

(Sri J.P. Vasvani)

I saw a little child sitting on a stone, in a pensive mood.

"What ails you, my child?" I asked him.

And he answered: "I feel lonely. It seems as though there is no one to care for me in this spacious, starlit world."

"Where are your father and mother?" I asked him.

And with tear-touched eyes, he answered: "Daddy is busy with his factory, and Mummy spends all her time in social work. I have all the comforts at home. A car comes to leave me in the school and fetch me back home. There are servants to look after me. All my needs are provided for. But my heart craves for love."

I met the parents of this boy. I said to them, even as I have said to many other parents: "Suppose you were given a diamond as big as the Kohinoor; how much care would you not take of it! And yet, diamonds bigger than the Kohinoor have been placed by God in your hands; they are your children. Alas! You do nothing to look after them. They need your love. The nature of the soul is love. Deprived of love, no child can grow in the right way. You must give them time. You must try to sow in their plastic minds seeds of character, without which life can have no meaning or value. You must help them to grow in the love and fear of God!"

I recall having read of a boy in France. He was sentenced to hard labour. He received the sentence calmly. Later, he shouted aloud, so that everyone in the court-room could hear: "I have nothing against the judges, for they have sentenced me justly. And I have nothing against the guards, because they have done their duty. However, I can never forgive two persons in this court-room-my father and my mother. For, they paid no attention to my upbringing. They did not object when I visited cinema-houses, where scenes of crime are shown so vividly that they easily impress themselves on the imagination of children. They did not take care of the company in which I moved. And so, here I have grown, full of vice and crime. The fault is theirs, but I have to pay for it, by going to prison."

A number of parents do not seem to realise their responsibilities towards children. It was William Penn who said: "Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children."

The question arises: "How should parents raise their children?" By proper guidance and patient, loving discipline. Without discipline no art can be learnt and, most of all, the art of living. Today, the cult of "self-expression" is there. I am told we have imported it from America. I hear the people say: "Don't restrain your children. Don't discipline them. Let them express themselves freely." But what 'self' is it that seeks expression and defies all rules of discipline? Surely, it is not the higher Self of man. It is the lower self, the ego-the self of desires and unruly passions, of cravings and animal appetites. When man surrenders to the lower self, he behaves no better than does a brute beast.

I read a headline which appeared in an American newspaper: "School Gang Violence Near Epidemic: Vandalism, Murder, Arson, Burglary." And the paper quoted a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors as saying: "We are going to have to return to discipline. Without discipline in the home, we are not going to have it in the schools or in the streets. We must arouse public opinion for a change." The paper also reported how three teenagers-aged fourteen, fifteen and seventeen-had killed a woman and a man to steal from them three dollars and ten dollars respectively. India beware!

Discipline is necessary. But discipline must not be confounded with suppression. There was a little boy who, asked what his name was, answered: "Haresh Don't!" Every time he wanted to do something, his parents said to him, "Haresh, don't!" That is not true discipline. We must prepare our children by explaining to them the purpose of life and teach them the rules and the discipline needed to reach life's goals. Our mothers taught us through examples and precept and by telling us wonderful stories from the ancient scriptures how life must be lived in the right way, by devoting our energies to the service of certain high ideals. The scriptural stories, learnt in the years of childhood and boyhood, leave an indelible impression upon young minds.

And discipline must be blended with love, so that the child has the assurance that he is not alone, that there is someone who cares for him, and to whom he can turn, at any time of the day or night.

May I, in this connection, be permitted to offer a few practical suggestions to parents, desirous of bringing up their children in the right way? The suggestions are as follows:

(1) There is a difference between children and adults. Children live in the now; they are free from anxieties of the past and fear of the future. If a child is in need of something or wants an answer to a question, never say to him, "I shall fulfil your need or answer your question tomorrow or at my leisure." There is a story about a young man, the son of a famous writer, who was sent to jail and whom the judge admonished, saying, "You should be ashamed of yourself: your father is such a great man!" Without hesitation, the young man retorted: "It is true, my father is a great man. He is always busy with his writing work. Each time I went to him with a question, he said to me, 'Not now, my child. I haven't the time to answer your question. Come tomorrow!"

(2) Every child is a human being, with a heart and a soul. Never let him feel unwanted. And never forget that the child is an individual, with his own personality and innate talents. Understand him and encourage the creative principle within him to express itself freely. Guide him in a healthy, constructive way by bringing out the best that is in him. Do not impose your will on him and say: "I am a doctor, so my son should become a doctor!"

(3) In your treatment towards children, do not discriminate. Do not let them feel that a particular child is your favourite. Children are very sensitive creatures.

(4) Keep your child very close to yourself, until he is at least three years of age. He needs your affectionate touch. It is a great blunder to hand over little children to ayahs or baby-sitters.

(5) It becomes sometimes very necessary to scold children. Whenever you do so, avoid being emotional. Let your words on such occasions be like whips of love. Explain the fault clearly to the child, and allow him to speak out, if he has anything to say.

(6) Even at a young age, children should be trained to attend to household chores. Let them grow in reverence for manual work.

(7) Let children grow in a spirit of unselfishness by training them to share food with the starving ones. Sri Krishna says in the Gita: "He who cooks for himself alone, is a thief!" Before you eat your food, set apart a share for a hungry one-a man, a bird or an animal. Example is always a better teacher than precept.

(8) The home is a door to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of true Happiness. Let all the members of the family gather together, at an appointed time every day, at a prayer meeting-even if it be for ten to fifteen minutes. This will give a new tone to the home. In a prominent place keep a big, beautiful picture of some great one-Krishna or Rama, Buddha or Jesus, Zoroaster or Guru Nanak, Baha'u'llah or a Saint or Saviour of humanity-to whom you feel drawn. Whenever you or the children leave the house or enter it, bow down to the picture and offer a small prayer.

My beloved Master, Sadhu Vaswani, often said: "New India will be built not in the Assembly or Parliament, but in the home and the school." Therefore, give to your children the right type of training in the home and to your students the right type of education in the school and the college. An urgent need of India, as it seems to me, is a new type of education which may integrate the character of the pupils through a proper development of the body and training of the will-power and the emotions, an education which may give a triple training of the head, the hand and the heart. The heart must not be ignored.

The problems that are before civilisation today, will not be solved by the head alone. Illuminated hearts are needed. Current education has failed, because it has, at best, taught us to be literate. Literacy is not education. The alphabet may be the "alpha" of education; let us not mistake it for the "omega". For, a literate person can be uneducated, even as an illiterate person can be highly educated.

***

7 year old Krishna came home from school and the mother said:
"Please, before you go out to play, first do your homework!"
"Yes mummy," Krishna said, "but you have to sit here with me and adore me!"
Love your children! Adore them! It is like sun and rain for a plant that wants to be beautiful!

THE PROTECTOR OF CHILDREN
(Sri Swami Gurudevananda Mataji)

In July 1970 we received Swami Chidanandaji at Kennedy Airport in New York. It was the first time that he would meet the new arrival to our family, six-month-old Christina. She was a beautiful baby, a mass of golden curls, always happy, pleasant and pleasing. I was just waiting to hear Swamiji's praise of her. And so I had taken her all the way to the airport, carried her all the way to the gate and held her high up, so she would be the first one Swamiji saw and the first one to receive his blessings. The airport was crowded with people. Due to stormy weather conditions many flights were disrupted and unhappy passengers were camping on the floor to find some rest while they waited for arrivals or departures. Swamiji's flight was only slightly delayed.

Our gaze was fixed on the gate as Swamiji finally slipped through the door. Tall, draped in his orange robe, freshly shaven and with a big smile on his face, he recognized family and friends. For a while we all moved over to a corner of the room and basked in that divine joy Swamiji brings with his presence. He greeted us, blessed us, prayed and chanted for some time. We offered flowers and gave him a cup of tea. But he did 'nt say a word about the baby.

Suddenly he got up and waved to the group to move on. He reached for the baby in my arms, propped her up on his shoulder and started to walk. No one could keep up with his swift walk; he was far ahead of us, aiming towards the exit of the airport. It was quite a sight to see this serene looking monk from India carrying a baby on his chest. People just stopped, looked, turned around and were amazed. We were somewhat behind him and could clearly observe.

At the last gate, just prior to the exit, was a large crowd waiting to depart. It seemed that the passengers had been waiting for many long hours. Most of them conversed in Spanish. They were complaining, and it was a very tense and stressed situation. We saw one mother hitting her two young children and displaying great fits of anger. It was then, that divine intervention took place. Swamiji stopped, shifted the baby from his right shoulder to his left and embraced with his right arm the two little ones who had just received a severe spanking. The children clung to him and sought protection from their mother's wrath. Swamiji then looked into the woman's face and spoke to her calmly: "Do not hit these children, they are divine."-It was an intense moment. There was dead silence. All held their breath. Swamiji then reached in his pocket and pulled out a prayer card and gave it to the woman. It was the prayer of Saint Francis. She took it quietly, looked down and began to read:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying to the little self that we are born to eternal life.
At that point Swamiji turned and walked towards the exit.


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