It has already been pointed out that according to the teachings of the sages and our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, God dwells in all names and forms. That is why our Spiritual Darlings are taught to respect and treat with care even inanimate objects like a chair, table, etc. If such is the case, care and respect for animals, birds. and plants should be even more so.
Parents must inculcate in Spiritual Darlings reverence and protection of nature, and love and kindness for birds, animals and plants. Kindness and compassion for all dumb creatures should be developed from early childhood. Any type of cruelty to animals indulged in by children in early life will have a repercussion in later life.
There have been many cases reported where children who were cruel to animals, later turned out to be murderers. When Spiritual Darlings commence to be cruel, whether in relation to their playmates or towards animals and birds, it is a sign that should alarm their parents.
Allowing Spiritual Darling to be cruel to animals will root out from their tender hearts every feeling of compassion and pity. It is true that treatment of animals has an influence on the character of the Spiritual Darling.
Parents should take time off to teach their Spiritual Darlings how to be kind to animals. They should be taught that kindness and mercy to human beings are virtues of true manhood and womanhood. Regular daily prayer, Bhajan and attendance at the Yoga Camps will be futile if Spiritual Darlings practise cruelty towards animals and birds.
The practice of kindness to helpless creatures is of greater value in the formative years than arithmetic, reading and writing. Such training would make Spiritual Darlings more responsible individuals, nobler adults and better citizens.
Animals are part of our world. They feel pain and hunger just like human beings. The life of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, is a most illuminating example of how to show kindness and compassion to animals, birds, snakes and fish. He upheld the rights of animals, and showed strong disapproval if anyone infringed upon their freedom.
Spiritual Darlings must be taught that every kindness shown, every service rendered, either to a person or to a dumb creature, does them more good than the one for whom they do it.
Under no circumstances should parents allow Spiritual Darlings to undertake animal experiments at school. The vivisecting of small animals is a ghastly deed, and destroys all sentiments of love, compassion and kindness in the hearts of children.
Learning to be kind and just to all helpless life, will help Spiritual Darlings to develop their character. It will instil in their young hearts a sense of responsibility, pity and compassion, thus preparing them to become nobler citizens.
If spiritual life forms the main foundation of the household, then everything else goes on smoothly. If parents and their Spiritual Darlings take complete refuge in God and in the Guru, then all problems, whether mental, physical or material can be solved without much difficulty. God or the Guru takes complete charge of those who surrender to Him. This is indeed the goal of this human birth.
1. Both parents and their Spiritual Darlings should be trained to perform daily Bhajan and Kirtan. They should study holy scriptures and the books of saints and sages. If Spiritual Darlings are taught to sit in silence with closed eyes and perform their Japa or recitation of the Divine Name, they will soon develop a serene and peaceful attitude.
Spritual Darlings of today are extremely restless. They cannot sit still even for a few seconds. Sitting in silence during Satsang, and during the morning or evening prayers, will help them to overcome their restless nature.
Reflexology is a very effective method of calming Spiritual Darlings when they are inclined to get restless.
2. Spiritual Darlings should be thoroughly trained to take refuge in God, in the Guru, and in the Divine Name. This can be done through regular daily prayer and attendance at Satsangs. The one day monthly Yoga Camp is a must for all Spiritual Darlings of the Divine Life Society. They should be taught how to call for God during times of temptation and danger. The power and glory of the Divine Name should be brought home to them. They should be taught to repeat the Divine Name at all times during the course of the day.
3. If Spiritual Darlings know how to call for God or the Guru, and how to take refuge in the Divine Name, they will be able to meet all dangers, trials and temptations successfully.
Spiritual Darlings of the Divine Life Society are taught to repeat the formula: Gurudev, please protect me, Gurudev, when they encounter any danger and temptation. They are taught to keep the Sri Ram Mantra always on their lips. They repeat the Mantra the last thing when they are about to fall asleep, and the first thing when they wake up in the morning. They are taught to always keep in mind the following powerful formula: "When Gurudev or God is near why should I fear."
The above positive attitude will also help them in their performance at school. It will give them more concentration and will-power.
It must be clearly noted that without a firm spiritual foundation, success in bringing up Spiritual Darlings will not be easy.
Prayer & Service
Regular daily prayer at home in the morning and evening should form the most important routine of both parents and their Spiritual Darlings.
Early morning meditation, evening Satsang, repetition of the Sri Ram or any other Mantra during the day, reading the Divine Master's books, study of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata should be taken up either daily or weekly. Regular attendance at Satsangs and Yoga Camps is a must for all. Likhit Japa and some Asanas must be practised by all Spiritual Darlings from an early age.
Selfless service should form an integral part of the life of both parents and Spiritual Darlings. And in this, charity and sharing should play an important part. Our Divine Master was without parallel in the art of charity.
In order to inculcate the spirit of giving, parents should take care to allow the child to make the offering at Satsangs and at places of worship.
Children love to give. Once, a child noticing her father taking out money from his pocket to offer to his Guru, grew eager and impatient to make her offering also, and at once began emptying her father's pocket! Needless to say, the delighted father allowed her to do so.
In conclusion, we may state that that home is heaven on earth where both parents and Spiritual Darlings do daily Bhajan, pray together and lead the Divine Life. Such a home will enjoy peace and harmony.
The one area in which most parents seem to have great difficulty is that of discipline. Often parents unknowingly impose negative forms of discipline that have far-reaching effects on Spiritual Darlings. Negative forms of discipline include the use of corporal punishment and psychological abuse, which frustrate children and make them defiant.
The following guidelines offer positive disciplinary codes of conduct.
1. Love and discipline should go together.
2. Discipline is quite necessary as the Spiritual Darlings are innocent and continuously learning, with the parents being their foremost teachers.
3. The most important thing in dealing with your Spiritual Darlings is to practise the art of praise, appreciation and encouragement. Always attempt to be positive, and avoid negative comments about the child. Believe in them, so that they can believe in themselves and emphasize their assets and strong points. Acknowledge their attempts to complete their allotted tasks. Also point out your joy at any improvements. This will help build their self-confidence.
4. Spiritual Darlings want the attention of their parents. Parents must ensure that they get this attention for good behaviour and not for being mischievous. This can be achieved by praising good deeds and ignoring minor faults and mischiefs that are not embarrassing and destructive.
5. Parents should let their Spiritual Darlings face the consequences of their actions (within obvious limits of safety). For example, if the child forgets his jersey let him feel the cold.
6. State clearly the mutually accepted basic rules and the consequences of breaking them. Be consistent in applying the rules. However, if new information regarding an issue becomes available, be flexible and adapt your interpretation to the situation.
7. Parents should strictly monitor the viewing of TV, as a lot of havoc is caused by it. If possible it should be given up completely. In the booklet Solving the Problems of Kali Yuga it is stated how our spiritual merits are lost through bad company, free mixing with the opposite sex, reading books dealing with murder, sex and violence, visiting gambling houses and liquor shops, and witnessing or participating in vulgar dancing, etc.
Parents should also keep a vigilant eye on their Spiritual Darlings to ascertain whether they are associating with bad company, taking drugs, indulging in immoral acts, etc. Many of these habits are acquired by watching TV, or while they are at school. Steps should be taken to counteract these habits.
8. Regular practice of Yoga Asanas, physical exercises and games are absolutely necessary. Spiritual Darlings must be trained to "go beyond the comfort zone". This will develop will-power and physical strength. They must be encouraged to do physical work that is demanding. This will make them tough. Spiritual Darlings should not be unduly protected from rain and sun. This would make them less hardy. If they perform difficult and responsible tasks at home, they will grow strong enough to meet the challenges at school. They will not succumb to peer pressure.
9. Use the power of free and sincere communication and interaction. Use reason to make Spiritual Darlings see and understand their bad behaviour. Teenagers especially feel highly elated if they are consulted in family matters and decision making. This is one way in which to approach the teenager in a positive manner by building his self-esteem and increasing his sense of responsibility.
10. Withdraw certain meaningful privileges if Spiritual Darlings are dishonest or naughty.
11. "Time-out" or a period of removal to a quiet place until the Spiritual Darling is ready to behave appropriately is very effective, especially in the middle childhood period.
12. Ignoring temper-tantrums, especially in the young Spiritual Darling, is very necessary. In this way the parent does not fan the flame of anger and frustration but allows it to die down, after which the parent can speak to the Spiritual Darling and try to understand the frustration that is causing the tantrum. It is a well-known fact that Spiritual Darlings sometimes use a temper-tantrum to gain parental attention.
13. Attention-seeking behaviour is usually presented in the form of negative, destructive behaviour, which often elicit negative response from the parent. Be careful of this and do not react negatively. Ignore the negative behaviour of the Spiritual Darling until he quietens down, and then in a positive and firm manner talk to him and offer appropriate guidelines for acceptable behaviour.
14. In conclusion we would like to state that the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, was quite firm in the matter of disciplining Spiritual Darlings. Said the Master in one of his poems written about fifty years ago: "Children should not be allowed to indulge in reading novels, attending the cinema and smoking. If they persist in these evil habits make them starve for one full day!"
According to our saints, it is quite possible to will the conception of a child capable of manifesting the highest ideals of Hindu Dharma. The mother's state of mind during her pregnancy, the living environment, as well as her own spirituality, markedly influence the child that she is to bring forth. For example, Swami Vivekananda's mother ardently prayed to Lord Siva for a divine child. The result was that she brought forth the great Swami Vivekananda.
If a mother is surrounded by peace, calm and beauty, if her thoughts are pure and noble, she would give birth to a child with noble qualities. Thus, the nature and character of the child to be born depends much upon the mother's thoughts, her feelings, her environment and the ideals cherished by her during pregnancy.
During pregnancy the mother should be careful to partake only of Sattwic and nourishing foods. She should be regular in her daily prayer, Bhajan and Japa. She should read books like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata. If she is a devotee of the Divine Life Society, she should read the works of our Divine Master, especially his biography, From Man to God-man, Sivananda's Gospel of Divine Life and Guidance in Daily Life.
The mother-to-be should avoid social gatherings, moving about freely in streets, visiting places of gambling and vulgar dancing, and places where liquor is consumed. The unholy vibrations in these places are sure to have an adverse effect on her and on the child to be born.
She should be careful not to take harmful drugs, tobacco, liquor and impure foods. She should always remember that she is moulding a new body that is to carry a soul. Her every thought, word and action will affect the child to be born.
We see today many children that are not normal, either physically or mentally. This may be due to the above reasons.
The development of the child from birth onwards is an ongoing process. Thus, parenting also is an ongoing process. The guidelines given in this section should be followed consistently throughout the period of growth, and will apply to any given time. Parents should handle the problems of their Spiritual Darlings by understanding the various stages of their growth from childhood to adulthood.
A toddler cannot be punished for playing with electricity or with fire, as he does not understand the consequences. Spiritual Darlings are often punished for things that they do not understand or are even aware of. This makes them confused and fearful.
Spiritual Darlings are curious beings, learning through the senses of touch, sound, sight and taste. Their intellects are ever expanding. Try to understand your Spiritual Darlings and teach with patience and love. With the older Spiritual Darling, begin to reason, and teach through open communication and not so much through commands. Consistent disciplining through love and reason goes further than army tactics.
The adolescent years are the most turbulent years of growth, and very stressful on the parent-child relationship. Remember that during this period the children are neither little Spiritual Darlings nor adults. They are more independent than Spiritual Darlings, but not totally independent of their parents. They need to be understood within this framework.
Living the spiritual way is of paramount importance during these turbulent years, as it is the time of identity formation of the individual. During this period peer group and significant models of leadership have a major impact on future development. The role of spirituality within the family, and the influence of the Divine Life Society on our adolescent Spiritual Darlings will help contribute towards an integrated image as unique persons.
Attendance at Satsangs, Yoga Camps and all the major functions of the Society are important, as are daily home Satsangs, maintenance of the spiritual diary and reading of our Divine Master's books. Special importance must be given to practice of Brahmacharya, as the adolescent period is the period of rapid sexual development through puberty into adulthood.
That our parents are our first God is a basic teaching of Hinduism. Obedience to God and Guru is impossible without obedience to parents. Parents must discuss this with their Spiritual Darlings, as they are now at an age when they are intellectually able to understand the reasoning behind this injunction.
1. Understand the individual nature of each child. Do not compare or criticize your Spiritual Darlings. Know the strengths, limitations, talents and potentials of each Spiritual Darling and help him positively according to his own individual make-up. Spiritual Darlings have to be consulted in their own growth. They should be allowed to expand in accordance to their inner nature. There can be no greater error than for parents to arrange prematurely what their Spiritual Darlings should be. Parents should not pre-arrange the careers of their Spiritual Darlings, but they should not hesitate to guide them with patience, kindness and understanding. Forcing Spiritual Darlings against their wishes will do permanent harm and negatively affect their natural growth.
2. Of course, parents should encourage their Spiritual Darlings to excel in their academic career, but they should take care not to pressurise them. Allow them to learn and grow naturally by means of praise and encouragement rather than by scolding and threats.
3. Parents should aim to teach their Spiritual Darlings how to make personal sacrifices and lead a hard life. They should try to follow Swami Sivananda's principle of simple living and high thinking. In addition, they should be taught to joyously participate in household tasks. Spiritual Darlings should be given difficult tasks in and around the house. If they tackle such tasks with enthusiasm, they will become strong both physically and mentally. As outlined earlier, reward Spiritual Darlings for work well done.
4. Teach Spiritual Darlings by example how to be thrifty. Avoid extravagance and unnecessary opulence. Encourage activities like missing a meal or two, sleeping on the floor, having an occasional cold bath in winter, giving up sugar or salt for a couple of days, etc. Such simple penance and self-denial will help Spiritual Darlings to experience how the less privileged live. It will develop in them love and sympathy for those who are poor and needy. This exposure will be very helpful to them to cultivate value systems.
5. Parents should be careful to dress in accordance to Hindu ideals. Set standards for yourself, and your Spiritual Darlings are sure to follow your example.
1. Parents must set a good example to their Spiritual Darlings by being exemplary role models. Children are very good imitators. Modern children especially are observant, sharp and critical. They easily detect the flaws in their parents, and their trust in them then begins to wane.
2. Parents should be well disciplined, and practise living by strict moral and ethical codes. Ethics and morals are the basis of life. These values need to be emulated by Spiritual Darlings. Parents should teach by example that there should be no compromise of principles and values. In their daily life, be it at work, within the home or socially, they should exercise their minds and will through deliberate acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice.
3. Parents should carry out their daily spiritual practices regularly, and bring home to their Spiritual Darlings the importance of prayer and the power of the Divine Name. This will show the Spiritual Darlings that with faith and devotion to God no problem will be too difficult to overcome. During difficult times, prayer and repetition of the Divine Name should be intensified.
4. Parents should inculcate in their Spiritual Darlings values such as honesty, truthfulness, loyalty, kindness, love, compassion, respectability, forgiveness, obedience, humility, courtesy, courage, tolerance and discrimination. Spiritual Darlings will imbibe these virtues readily and easily only if parents practise them.
5. Virtues can be taught to Spiritual Darlings through the medium of stories from the writings of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, and scriptures like the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagavata. Hero-worship is not difficult to awaken in young minds.
6. Spiritual Darlings must be taught the basic principles of Hinduism, such as Ahimsa (non-injury), Karma (the law of cause and effect), reincarnation, etc.
7. Parents should be mindful that their Spiritual Darlings live in a culture of violence. This is seen everywhereâ€”on TV, in the media, at school, in the neighbourhood, in the country, and in the whole world at large. This is the age of hatred, intolerance, violence and indiscipline. This social disturbance and psychological imbalance, together with a decline in the practice of positive values and rise in crime, is very destructive to the developing psyche of Spiritual Darlings. That is why they have weak nerves and a different mental make-up. Unhealthy mental impressions developed during childhood leave scars that will be carried over to the next birth.
8. Working parents must be careful not to bring home their work-related problems. Leave work concerns behind and organise quality time at home for the family.
9. Parents need to spend quality time at home with their Spiritual Darlings. This quality time should involve positive, free and sincere interaction with all members of the family.
10. Responsible shared parenting is necessary at home, especially where both parents work. The father, too, must take responsibility for the growth and development of his Spiritual Darlings, helping them in their education, discipline and spiritual growth. Self-confidence and self-reliance must be encouraged.
11. Parents must ensure that the diet of their Spiritual Darlings is free from too much sugar and spices, as these make the mind restless and increase tension. They should adopt a Sattwic diet. Many illnesses are probably related to meat-eating, due to the presence of chemicals present in it.
In the Divine Life Society of South Africa all children are referred to as "Spiritual Darlings". This most beautiful and endearing term was used by our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, when he wrote to one of his disciples.
Swami Sivananda says that the bringing up of Spiritual Darlings is a great art and science. It can only be successfully accomplished if parents have right knowledge and adequate training.
Parents should take advantage of all the facilities provided by the Divine Life Society, both at Reservoir Hills and at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy. Many Spiritual Darlings regularly attend the one day monthly Yoga Camp at the SICC, where the teachings of the holy scriptures and of our Divine Master are imparted to them. These teachings play a very important role in their mental, emotional and spiritual growth.
The most beautiful Sivananda International Cultural Centre is located at La Mercy, about half an hour drive from Durban. Situated amidst rolling hills and green canefields, it overlooks the Indian Ocean.
At this centre various facilities have been provided for Spiritual Darlings. "Ganga Rani", the large enclosed swimming pool is a great attraction. The magnificent "Sivananda Stadium", sportsfields and playparks provide healthful recreation. Training in the recently introduced gymnastic drill programme enables the Spiritual Darlings to develop qualities like discipline, concentration, how to interact with others, etc. This type of physical training, together with instructions on prayer, moral and ethical values will help Spiritual Darlings to grow into successful and strong adults, well equipped to meet the challenges of life. Various arts and crafts programmes help to develop their talents further.
There are lovely shrines to uplift and inspire Spiritual Darlings. A section next to a shrine houses beautiful pictures of animals, birds, flowers, scenic wonders, etc. This is called the "Sivananda Nature Reserve". It teaches Spiritual Darlings to protect Nature and to show love and compassion to birds, animals and even to plants. This section, too, is a great attraction to all Spiritual Darlings as well as to adults. The attractive water fountain "Bhagirathi", with water cascading from one fountain to another, uplifts the hearts of Spiritual Darlings. Darlings.
From "Sivananda's Gospel of Divine Life"
Only Misery in the World: The Master had emerged from his cottage and reached the road on his way to attend Satsang. He heard songs from a gramophone record from a house where a marriage ceremony was being conducted.
He put a question to Mrs Hellman, "Is there happiness or misery in the world?"
She answered, "Plenty of both."
The Master disagreed with her, saying, "There is only misery in the world. Your answer should have been that there is only misery in the world. Worldly happiness is the cause of pain. Birth is the cause of death. If you want to avoid death, you should avoid birth. If you want to avoid pain, you should avoid pleasure.There is no happiness in the world. These people are playing gramophone records and celebrating a marriage, so they are happy now. But this happiness will be only for today. Tomorrow the wife will say, 'Bring me a new sari!'"
Mrs Hellman said, "If life is full of misery, then what is the harm if one puts an end to his life by committing suicide?"
"That is foolishness," said the Master. "One should not end one's life. Life is a most precious gift. It is meant for singing sacred songs, repeating the Divine Name and meditating, and finally evolving to attain eternal bliss. Death is followed by rebirth. It will not do."
Mrs Hellman said that she had read in a book that there was no harm in putting an end to one's life.
The Master at once said, "Then the author of that book is a fool. His disciple also is a fool. Life is meant for realisation of God. Moreover, the soul suffers greatly after suicide and will get a worse birth in its next life."
By this time the Master passed the room where Matha Satchidananda was staying. She came out, and he put her the same question, "What is there in the world, happiness or misery?"
She answered, "It depends on the mind."
The Master said, "No, there is only misery in the world. When you scratch a part of your body that is itching, you get some pleasure. Is that happiness? Does scratching give you happiness? The sense-pleasures of the world are no more than the pleasure got by scratching an itching part of the body."
Case Histories of Those Overcoming Suicidal Tendencies
Once a Christian lad who had suicidal tendencies was brought to Swamiji by a school principal. Swamiji asked him to repeat the famous Jesus Prayer used by the Desert Fathers: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me". The lad took refuge in the Divine Name and later said that his whole life was changed by repeating it. Such is the power and glory of the Divine Name!
Recently, one of our devotees had a strong urge to ring a friend of his. He did so and, after visiting his friend at an odd hour, spoke to him and gave him a copy of the Society's booklet, Solving the Problems of Kali Yuga. The next day his friend told him that he was just about to commit suicide, when the phone rang. He then waited for our devotee. He said that after reading the booklet, which contained practical information on overcoming suicidal tendencies, he had a new birth. He came to the Ashram on Swamiji's request. Swamiji encouraged him, giving him some useful instructions, and said that he must now become a spiritual ambassador and help others with such problems. He is practising daily Agni-Hotra and also participated in the recent Kavadi festival at the Umgeni Road Temple in January.
The above section on "Depression & Suicide" was compiled by Sri Swami Sahajananda from the writings of the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda.