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The Parent Trap - "G.O.D. ...gawd!"

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About "The Parents' Trap" :  Students of Vedanta learn that Atma cannot be defined but may be understood only as what It is not! That process of logical negation, ‘Neti Neti’ (na iti meaning ‘not this’), explains that Atma is not the Body nor the Mind nor the Ego or Intellect; that Atma is neither the Sky, the Earth, Light, Wind and so on. It transcends all that exists and at the same time, pervades all existence!  This knowledge pretty much helps to describe my column. It is not about parents, nor about traps. It is not about schools, children, babies or brats.

My column is, well, the color that pervades Life's highs and lows in their infinite shades. Like yoga, that is union of Body, Mind, Soul, this column is a confluence of Life as a whole.

I'll share 50 years of personal experience; observation, introspection and some revelations. Perhaps through the lens of a nurturing heart, my column will celebrate living as an art.  I will share my experiences as a parent, teacher and child to present all of  the colors that manifest as Life

Chapter - 4
G.O.D. ...gawd!
When we look back at some of the jaw dropping moments in our life, they undoubtedly appeared as milestones to help determine the future course of our journey. One such moment occurred sometime in 1993 when it was my turn to drive the carpool to school. My van carried four cute little first graders approximately seven years of age, whom I would engage in car games like ‘I spy’ and snap quizzes.  We had a jolly good time until that joltful Monday morning!
“What did you do this weekend, guys?” I shouted over the amplified Disney cassette and the incessant chatter in the back. Little Ryan promptly announced “I went to church!” My son added animatedly, “Hey you know Ryan, you know, even I went to the temple on Sunday!” I could hear the excitement in his voice as if they had both experienced the same ride at the amusement park. What followed was entirely unexpected. Ryan turned towards my son and laughed, “HAH! That’s not real!” His head was nodding from side to side, swinging its mop of straight dark hair. “Only Jesus is real!” he asserted with a smile.   I shot a glance into the rear view mirror to check my son’s reaction and saw a pink cheeked Question Mark staring at his friend! The situation required a quick, sensible response.  “Well”, I spoke in my cheeriest ‘sing song’ voice, “We know there is only one Power, right? And we call That Invisible Power, God, Ram, Jesus ….” and before I could reel off my repertoire of sacred Idols, I was interrupted by an emphatic, “Yeah! And you know Ryan we also call That Power, Ganpati!” Thankfully, the Question Mark had recomposed into a 100 watt smile like the sun reappearing through a cloud.  Now, Little Ryan was a picture of confusion!
As parents we have the privilege to wield infinite power upon the minds of our little offspring. They fall into our lap, as clean slates, eager sponges, ready to absorb every word, watch every action and even mimic our subtlest mannerisms. We have the power to condition our children to think the way we want them to think. We can either sow the seeds of peace by instilling a sense of open minded, inclusiveness within the future generation or continue to breed distrust, intolerance and chaos by dragging innocent minds into the realm of historical religious prejudice.
Religion, we know, is a human construct, a conditioning from early childhood to conform to the ideas of a leader. Naturally, a child who is taught to follow a specific religion will be expected to reject all other ideas. It is no secret that ‘Religion’ as it is practiced today, has failed; is outdated; clearly dysfunctional and downright dangerous for the progress of our civilization. Little Ryan will possibly spend a lifetime confined to his Parents’ Trap of narrow thought and vision. Worse still he might enforce his stifling conviction upon others, for religion by its very concept, demands conversion.
The above incident was an indication for me to help bring about universal spiritual awareness and broaden children’s minds. Thus, I launched my career as an educational consultant in schools and mainstream institutions. In my previous blogs, I have touched upon three aspects of the Parent Trap...the first being emotional guilt, from which both parents and children seek release ; the second, where children and parents are caught in a web of multinational identity; the third, when the parent and child relationship is victim to stifling family politics. In this blog I put forth why it is important for parents and children to flee the confines of divisive religion and spread their wings to discover their Universal Spirit.
When my sons were growing up and dating a Korean and a Chinese girl, (two of the sweetest, worthy people I have met), one of my sons asked me, “Mumma, what if this friendship grows to become serious? She is Christian and I am Hindu”. My response to him was, “There is no difference between a true Hindu and a true Christian, (or any true seeker for that matter) for they are equally immersed in the same wisdom”.
I like to use the analogy of mathematics to explain this to my students. Anyone can obtain the same understanding of mathematics since the principles are universal even if they have been taught by different Masters, in various languages, through infinite techniques. There is never bloodshed over which Math is more real! Similarly, wisdom or ‘Godhood’ can be attained by anyone since the principles are universal, regardless of the Master, the language or method through which they are obtained.
All Masters throughout history have sought to convey the same essential Wisdom but in its translation, Wisdom has been construed through a kaleidoscopic lens projecting as multiple, apparently different ‘wisdoms’, called religion! Only true seekers can look beyond this perceived multiplicity. They know that all living beings are connected since they pare down to the same Consciousness.  A true seeker understands that we share our Consciousness with infinite living forms as Energy and the laws of Energy apply equally to every being. For the true seeker all religions appear as one and when there is ONENESS what do you convert to?  So religion is an external construct while spiritual wisdom is the internal platform. “Should either of you try to convert the other to ‘your religion’ “, I warned my son, “It would only reveal your ignorance and spell definite trouble”. It turned out to my disappointment that both girls were trapped in the illusion of “religion”!
It boggles my mind when intelligent, mindful parents, who are alert to their children’s pulse, fail to think out of the box in their attempt to fulfill their social responsibility towards their children. They rush to enroll them in the local religious missionary schools and feed them ‘spiritual literature’ (!) such as Amar Chitra Katha comics in the hope of passing their inheritance of cultural identity! Rather than break out of a mould, this herding only helps to reinforce their children’s limited, exclusive self view as Hindu, Muslim Christian, Sikh etc.  I often refer to the two paths of learning as: the ‘Discovery channel’ of learning, (the evolved path of self exploration) vs the ‘Disney channel’ of learning, (the traditional path of least self exploration). There is no greater injustice to the free, unconditioned mind than being cheated of its right to discover its greater potential! In truth these schools merely provide a comfort zone for their patrons.
If our greater objective is to broaden our children’s perspectives how relevant is it for them commit to A school of thought? In the greater scheme of things, how important is it to memorize the family tree of Gods and Goddesses and detail their exotic, often bizarre circumstances? Why crystallize our children’s ego by encouraging them to rattle off spiritual chants for competitions rather than nurture humility by absorbing the true essence of the chant? Spiritual progress is the freedom to reinvent but our eagerness to fit into a proselytizing culture only reproduces faulty wheels!
What redeeming value do mythological stories have, that are out-of context, full of gore and violence, without appropriate symbolic explanation? What objective do they serve other than provide fantasy and entertainment? Stories from the Bible and the Puranas were meant to explain abstract concepts, but have taken a life of their own and snowballed to assume absurd proportions. I once overheard an elderly Indian woman engage a Caucasian gentleman in a serious explanation about how an elephant’s head was, in fact, physically attached to the young boy’s body in the ancient past! Stories of heroic figures may inspire but wouldn't it be far more empowering to know that those heroes are all within? Children need practical tools to deal with their life situations. To imprint a graphic ‘picture of God’ on an ‘empty page’ is to rob that child of an awesome personal experience.
Shouldn't we have a more enlightened approach in our understanding of the concept of God?
My decades of association with children have proved that given innovative techniques, contemporary references and imaginative guidance, very young minds have a brilliant capacity to visualize, logically investigate, analyze and arrive at open minded conclusion. They cannot sustain blind belief. The scriptures never state that Gana Isha must be interpreted as an elephant with a mouse. This human artistic expression, however ingenious, reveals its deeper significance only after children have discussed the real meaning of the word, Ganesha. Many teachers argue that children must be given traditional graphic illustrations to understand abstract concepts. They remain rooted in archaic, uninspiring methods of delivery. As the Masters advise, “We cannot change others”, but we can, at the very least release ourselves from the bondage of mediocrity and seek a user friendly language, a more engaging path in our attempt to explore the mysteries of our existence.
About the Author Mona Vijaykar is  the Director of The Globasaurus Program, a series of classes designed to bring deeper understanding of Vedanta for children of all backgrounds. Vedanta is the core wisdom of all religions and helps connect people of seemingly different cultural backgrounds. Mona, a mother of two grown sons has always been engaged in teaching spiritual values to children through books, which she writes and illustrates; musical theater which she scripts and directs as well as through classroom presentations (India in Classrooms) in schools,  across the Bay Area. 
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What a breath of fresh air

Ruby Sahay's picture

What a breath of fresh air this is! Even before reading the article, I knew I wasn't in for a sermon but something more illuminative :)

Paradoxically, in a world that's desperately attempting to break barriers, there are these innumerable Little Ryans who continue to build new ones. In such a world riddled with bias and bigotry, the need to " have a more enlightened approach in our understanding of the concept of God" becomes paramount, as also the need to do away with all sorts of religious affiliations. So much for the message that you share.

I personally savored the bit where you talk about your boys dating girls from different cutural and religious backgrounds, and your comfortable acceptance of the same. I am a mother to a boy who's in the formative years of young adulthood and living a huge geographical distance away from me, and a young teenage girl. Although religion has never been the basis of my judgements so far, I pray that when the time comes for me to accept my children's decisions of the choices they make (where religion may distinguish us), I should have the good sense to embrace the same most graciously. If I am able to do that I shall consider myself to have absorbed the true essence of the Bhagwat Gita that I read not as a devout Hindu, but as a true human being who seeks clarity and purity in thoughts, words and deeds... 

I'd like to share an aricle I had written sometime back with a similar theme:


Warm regards



Breath of frsh air

Ruby Sahay...thank you sincerely...I was afraid that this outpouring of mine would result in brickbats but I am so rewarded by your spontaneous response. I look forward to reading your blog :) God bless!

My Daddy Strongest

What a brilliant write, Mona. Spoken with the distilled Understanding of a true Vedantist.
When we speak of the ONE God and our speech is nothing but a parroted rhetoric ( you can always tell by the Outburst Quality) it simply betrays we dont really understand the word "ONE" ,and , yes, we begin to flunk in that Divine Math Lesson ..
For if we really had been in Discovery channel we wouldnt be Disney- like" My daddy strongest". Had we really known Daddy, we would have known He is ONE!!!

And this brings me to an even more serious corollary( we are onto Math!) Even within the same family , sometimes, some kids like to think of their Dad as More THEIR dad.
So too, i'm wary of the disservice those people usher in, when they dont want to hear a word more about their God, other than what doesnt fit into their own understanding-This is a Bid to 'Tailor make" God! a little parable from my writings:
Once God allowed people to tailor His clothes.
and Lo! they were very ill fitting.
and all the while he waited patiently as they tried to measure him up with their tapes.

"God" , declared the master tailor finally,
"is too large to fit into our small ideas"
and thus saying, he did save them from the error of thinking that it was God who did not measure up .

My Daddy strongest!

Thanks again Shail...:) your response is invaluable worth sharing!

Nice article - loved it

Very well written. Loved the content.

Nice article

Thank you for taking the time to read...:)

Nice article

Thank you...I sincerely appreciate your having read it!

Stories first please!

I like the way you've articulated, Mona. In my own personal experience, I have enjoyed the fascinating stories, pursued the curiosity, nurtured some necessities to find the ultimate truth and relished the beauty of the pursuit. Today I am able to appreciate the beauty of God outside and inside as the same. At the same time, I am glad to have been introduced to it externally through stories till I was ready to assimilate it internally. Same with respect to children. I would not change this approach. At the same time, I am all for giving your entire package for the ready and mature minds. Maturity is pursuit beyond time and space and independent of age. Some children are ready while others are getting ready. I am all for starting with the stories and graduating to the truth, symbolism and significance of the stories. This is why our combined approach works wonders

Stories first please

Thank you so much Raji for your comments, which prompts constructive discussion. I am all for stories which can be applied appropriately to a concept so that it is better understood. I don't advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water but to ensure that the stories don't lose their power due to lack of explanation. Love

Amazing Work !:)

I somehow missed this email when you sent it out.

You have articulated your thoughts & emotions very well.
I enjoyed reading it!:) Your experience & expertise is very obvious.

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