By encouraging a child to breathe deeply from their stomach, parents ensure that the child’s connection with the abundant flow of the universe is not severed, and they stay rooted in their Buddha nature,
says Sanjiv Ranjan
In the times of Lord Buddha, there lived a Brahmin called Bhaggava Gagga who held a high office in the court of King Pasenadi of Kosala. One night, his wife gave birth to a son. On consultation with an astrologer, he was told that his son was born under the constellation of robbers.
This indicated that the child would have within him the nature of a thief. Bhaggava was perturbed. He disclosed this information to the king. The king reassured him and told him to educate the child so that he may lose his evil propensity. The child was called Ahimsak, which means one who can do no harm.
As the child grew up, he was extremely well-behaved and unusually strong in body. He was studious as well as intelligent. In due course, Ahimsak was sent to Taxila and accepted as a disciple by the foremost teacher at the exalted place of learning. Over there, Ahimsak served his teacher dutifully and humbly, and soon become his teacher’s favourite student.
This ignited jealousy in the heart of his fellow students and they hatched a plot to alienate him from his teacher’s love. The first group of students went to the teacher and told him that Ahimsak was plotting against him. They were reprimanded by the learned man and sent away.
But the students persisted and finally were successful in poisoning the teacher’s
mind. He began to doubt that a man with as strong a body and mind as Ahimsak
would not harm his interests at the university. So, when his studies came to an end,
Ahimsak asked his beloved teacher what he could offer to him as Guru Dakshina.
His teacher said, “You must bring me a thousand human little fingers of the right
hand. In that way, you would pay homage to all that you have learned from me.” The
teacher thought that in this way, Ahimsak would probably be killed or caught by the
king’s men and suffer the penalty of execution.
Ahimsak was shocked at his master’s outrageous demand. But when told that
everything that he had learned would not bear any fruit, till he submitted what had
been asked, he relented and set out to fulfil his commitment to his teacher.
He equipped himself with weapons and went into the wild forest where he would
attack travellers and take a finger from each one of them. He hung these fingers in a
garland around his neck, from which he received the name Angulimala. He collected
999 fingers this way and was waiting for his last victim so that he could fulfil his
promise to his master.
The Buddha knew that the king had issued an order for Angulimala to be caught and
slain. And so, he decided to go into the forest to save him. He was warned to leave the
forest, but the Buddha paid no heed. When Angulimala saw the approaching monk,
he took out his sword and followed him. The time had come for his penance to end. He
was about to get his 1000th finger.
He began following the Buddha, but even though the Buddha was walking at a normal pace, he could not catch up with him, for no one can do so with a person who is flowing in the river of existence.
He then called out to the Buddha and the latter stopped. With the deepest compassion in his eyes, he looked at Angulimala and said, “I stopped forever when I took the vow of non-violence to every living being. You are the one who is running away from yourself.” He was calm in the face of death. He looked at Angulimala steadily in the eye. A great change of heart came over Angulimala. A current ran through his body, and his suppressed purity broke through the dam of an enforced cruelty. He fell at the Buddha’s feet who ordered him to enter the monastic order.
And so, Angulimala became a Bhikshu. He was asked to centre himself on his breath. But each time he tried to meditate, images of the people he had slain would come surging up into his mind. He would run away from his past and open his eyes. The Buddha knew that this had to be healed; otherwise, he would never know his true self.
So he sent Angulimala to beg for alms in a house where a woman was going through a very difficult childbirth. Angulimala felt deeply moved by her suffering. For the first time since he had been ordained, he felt compassion stir in his heart. He went back to the Buddha and
told him what he saw. The Buddha ordered him to go back to the woman and heal her misery by saying, “Sister, since I was born, I have never purposely deprived a living being of life. By this truth, may you and the infant be safe.” To this, Angulimala said that he could not speak of such a grave falsehood. He had claimed many lives.
The Buddha then asked him to go and say, “Sister, since I was born again with a noble birth [his transformation], I have never purposely deprived a living being of life. By this truth may you and the infant be safe.” So Angulimala went to the woman and sat beside her and spoke these very words. The Buddha knew that only truth can heal powerfully. The woman delivered her child safely. This incidence had a deep impact on Angulimala. By saving her, he felt redeemed. He could now accept his past and breathe deeply. Through his breath he entered Vipassana and through Vipassana he attained to sainthood.
All the ‘Buddhas’ of this world are centred in the river of existence, as well as your precious child when they are born. Every child is born with Buddhahood in their being.
Understanding the river of existence
The river of existence is a potent energy field which traverses the entire universe and connects everything which forms a part of it, living as well as non-living. Like all the great rivers which are actually born of the sea, the movement of this river is always towards ‘The Source.’
Because it is all-pervading, present everywhere, information can be relayed across the universe instantly. This energy field is a highly benevolent force. It loves us with an intelligence which is intense as well as purposeful. All life is borrowed from the river of existence, and when we die, it is returned to its perennial flow.
But even though it loves us, it does not interfere with our free will. We are free to connect or disconnect with it. When we connect to the river of existence, we move into the flow. It begins to orchestrate our world. We begin to resonate and respond to the supreme intelligence which created the universe. Synchronicity and miracles flood our life, and we can fully feel in our blood, the adventure of being alive. We cannot be controlled or manipulated by any force which resides outside us.
But if we disconnect from it, we lose out on our essence. We forget that we are powerful beings having an occasional human experience, and that we are here on this planet to lend to it our fragrance. We feel condemned and unsupported. We feel rootless in a ruthless world. We can now be controlled and manipulated by forces outside us. Life becomes an uphill task. We connect through our breath .
We are connected to the river of existence by our breath. Our breath is the essence of our life. If you have ever seen a newborn baby breathe, you will notice that they breathe with their whole body. The breathing is deep, gentle, and rhythmic abdominal breathing.
Deep abdominal breathing keeps the child centred in being. They are completely available to themself. They are nurtured by the river of existence and cannot be controlled by anyone. We all know how babies are a law unto themselves. They sleep when they want to, they wake up when they want to, they feed when they are hungry, and for that, they have their own time schedules. A baby will smile only when they feel like it and not in any compliance with your mood. They will cry if they are uncomfortable and not alter their crying unless they want to.
When we connect to the river of existence, we begin to resonate and respond to the supreme intelligence which created the universe. . We fully feel in our blood, the adventure of being alive. We cannot be controlled or manipulated by any external force.
Nothing can be more vulnerable than an infant and nothing can be as out of our control. This is the essence of living in the flow. It endows you with a vulnerability which is powerful and which makes you grow and evolve with every second, at an astonishing speed. But as the infant grows into a child, they become susceptible to their environment. They are extremely vulnerable to the energy of people around. And then, societal conditioning begins.
The tragedy of etiquette
The moment an infant evolves into a child, we begin subjecting them to social rules in the garb of enforced etiquette. This is where the tragedy begins. Etiquette demands that the child be inducted into the concept of right and wrong. They are subjected to judgement and are taught to please elders with ‘good behaviour.’
They are considered to be a well-mannered child if they do not ruffle any feathers, do as they are told, and can be controlled. Any deviation from the above, results in a subtle rejection, where the child senses through the mannerisms or words of those around them, that they (the child) have unforgivably erred. They learn that when they do what they feel like, they are socially unacceptable. This generates tremendous stress in their tiny being. This shearing stress can express itself in any form, the three most common being fear, shame, and guilt. These feelings create repression in the child’s psyche, and they learn to hold back their feelings instead of freely giving vent to them.
They learn to numb themself to the overflowing, overwhelming energy which threatens their status quo with those whom they love the most. To do this effectively, the body moves into shallow breathing. Shallow breathing does not allow feelings to be deeply felt. It does not allow an overflow. Shallow breathing favours repression. The moment the child moves into shallow breathing, they are pulled out of the river of existence. They stand upon the shores of society—naked, trembling, and vulnerable. They can now be manipulated and controlled because they have lost their connection with the flow. They have lost the current which would have taken them to their Source.
One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is to not coerce them into conforming to anything which generates stress within them. And the most powerful gift you can give your child is to ensure that their breathing stays deep forever.
Because if their breath is deep, they will never lose their connection with the river of existence, whose very nature is the ability to look after all its children— effectively, efficiently, and resourcefully. If their breath is deep, they will live authentically, by virtue of being able to honour and express all their feelings fully, without judging them in any way. By being able to transform their emotions through love and awareness, they will have full control over their thought processes.
Total control over their mind would bestow upon them the ability to live from a vision which is grand, clear, intuitive, and extremely innovative and creative—something which emanates from within them and serves the universe in a way which they and only they can execute.
Truth—the Hara connection
All spiritual traditions, no matter what culture or religion they belong to, give tremendous importance to the breath because it is only through your breath that you can know your true nature. The Japanese tradition of being centred in the Hara is one such phenomenon. The Hara centres the child in the Hara. Whenever any living being becomes centred in the Hara, their Buddhahood surfaces is an energy vortex, a few fingers below the navel. It is believed that within the Hara lies the ‘elixir of life’ which flows into the river of existence.
When your breathing becomes deep and when it touches the Hara, your being dips into the elixir of life. You begin to know your true nature. When you know your true nature, you become fearlessly centred in the truth. Truth is a function of being at ease with your ‘self’. If you are not at ease with yourself, you will never be truthful. You will always seek to hide under subterfuge. You will always run away from yourself.
No matter how much you discuss the evil of telling lies, no matter how many sermons you give notwithstanding the punishments you dole out to encourage the truth, know that your child will never be truthful if their breathing has become shallow. If you want your child to be truthful you will have to spend time and energy restoring the depth of their breath; something which they were born with but was robbed from them by society and insensitive or ignorant parenting. Deep breathing centres the child in the Hara. Whenever any living being becomes centred in the Hara, their Buddhahood surfaces. They become aware of the fact that they were enlightened at birth. A deep, calm fearlessness, even in the face of death, surfaces. The very presence of such a person is life-transforming, even if the presence is that of a child. When the breath touches the Hara, the individual mind merges with the ‘whole’. It moves into a complete resonance with the universe, just like it happens when an enlightened one stabilises in samadhi, the cosmic union. The unified mind has no beginning and no end. Its potential is vast, limitless, without any boundaries. It can gaze at infinity with an effortless ease. It can travel to stars billions of light years away because the clouds of the ego have not been allowed to restrict true vision. Every infant is centred in samadhi. The Hara is a biological reality . The Hara is not an intellectual concept. It is a biological reality. Why else would a foetus in a mother’s womb, first breathe through the navel?
Our first experience of breathing is through our umbilical cord, which is attached to our mother’s blood vessels. The foetus directly breathes through the Hara.
This is because it needs to be connected to the river of existence to be created perfectly. The number of chemical, physical, and biological changes taking place within the foetus in utero is mind-blowing. Cells are rapidly integrating and differentiating through millions of chain reactions.
Even if a single step is missed or ill-timed, it can result in gross deformities. Hence the river of existence, like a loving mother, ensures that the phenomenal intelligence which gave birth to the universe is available to this newly-forming ball of life.
Hara-kiri—the bane of a child’s life
The Japanese term for suicide is hara-kiri. Hara-kiri was a suicide ritual where disgraced officials were told to slash open their abdomen with a sword.
When you disgrace your child, no matter how innocuous it may seem to you, you wound the Hara. The injury could stem from something as simple as calling the child a bad boy or a bad girl. Remember that a child comes to us from another world, a world where there is no judgement. So being called a bad boy or bad girl severely injures their relationship with the self. They stop loving the self due to the shock to their being.
When you disgrace your child in any way, you disembowel them in a metaphorical context. You have left them on the shores of society to die slowly each day, minute by minute— minutes which span a lifetime. Most childhood traumas stem from three main deviations from love:
The child comes to this world from a place where all beings are equally loved, where there is no sin, no virtue, no concept of good or evil. That is why when the child first experiences judgement, it comes as a shock. One of the worst things that you can say to your child is that they are a bad boy or bad girl.
When a child feels judged, it destroys their spirit. It destroys their self-love and their connection with their own sacredness. The child does not need your judgement to become discerning. Discernment stems from love for the self. If your child loves their self, they will never let themself be sabotaged, neither by them nor by anybody else. But if a child feels judged or condemned, they will feel the need to punish themself. They will feel that they do not deserve good things in life and by believing so, won’t allow them into their life.
Repression is a by-product of the social evil known as conformism. Right from the moment a child is born, they are trained into societal submission. As long as the child does what pleases others, they receive the validating love that they need for their survival. But the moment the child wants to do something in their own way, they are heavily crushed if it does not suit the moods of adults around them. Through punishment and reward, the child is manipulated and trained in behaviour which is socially acceptable. They have to wake up, sleep, play, study, and interact in a way which pleases everyone around them. They cannot even express their distress or pain without somebody trying to distract them or talk them out of it. In the beginning, the child struggles against the injustice doled out to them in the name of concern for their welfare, but eventually, they relent.
They learn to be non-available to themself through shallow breathing. Their emotions get trapped within their unconscious mind, from where they rule their world and give rise to misery later in life. Repression gives birth to an unhealthy thought process. It fractures and fragments the child. Repressed anger simmers forever as rage. Repressed sadness turns into depression.
It is not too difficult to prevent repression. All it needs is a little bit of love and lots of awareness.
Coercion is a slightly different variation of repression. Every infant is highly attuned to themself. They know what their requirements are and when to ask for them. Children are highly sensitive to food. There is no such thing as a universally good food.
If a child tends to avoid certain food articles, then it is best to refrain from forcing them to eat these foods, no matter how essential you may feel it is. The child will simply listen to their body and avoid anything which does not work for their physiology. There are plenty of children with milk intolerance, cucumber intolerance, and egg intolerance who have to resort to subterfuge in order to escape from such foods being forced down their unwilling gullets.
Another form of coercion which severely damages the psyche is being coerced to go to school on a day they are not feeling up to it. Many children subconsciously create illness because they know that resisting their parents on this account will be a futile exercise. Therefore, it will be good if parents can allow them, once in a while, to not go to school while explaining to them the importance of attending school regularly.
Very often, children are coerced to behave in a certain way with elders or when they are in a social gathering. While it is okay to teach them good manners, the parents should never stop respecting the child’s own sense of discrimination, which is far superior to that of grown-ups most of the times. If you observe them avoiding an elder, do not to persuade them to go near him.
Never force a child to do anything that they do not want to do. It will only spark off rebellion. Instead, have faith in your love for your child. That faith, on its own, will show you the way.
Shallow breathing—the mother of all powerless states a dysfunctional state is recognised only when it affects a small part of the world population. If something is universally present, applicable to all, then it is considered to be a part of the human experience.
Something akin to the above phenomenon has already happened when it comes to breathing.
Most of the world population has grown accustomed to shallow breathing and it is considered to be the normal way to breathe. In fact, if you remember your school times, you will remember the command: Chest out, stomach tucked in.
Stomach tucked in does not give you the space required for deep abdominal breathing. In fact, the command should be “stomach out each time you breathe in and forget about the chest.” It will fill up on its own.
As you have already understood, shallow breathing does not let you drink from the elixir of life. It takes your attention to the mind. You become the thinker of confusing thoughts. Your mind now rules your life. Fear, guilt, and shame thrive within you, turning your life into a powerless whirlpool of misery.
Your body cannot regenerate. You become afraid to accept your feelings and allow them to flow. Truth becomes a burden which you carry in your heart because you are afraid to own up to it. You are not at ease with yourself. That is why ‘dis-ease’ finds its way into your body, mind, and spirit.
We cannot allow our children to succumb to this deadly disease. We have to prevent it. If
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it has already gripped our children, then we need to find a cure for it. Even before we teach a child history, maths, and geography we need to correct their breathing. Teaching anything to a child before correcting their breathing is akin to teaching the art of lucid dreaming to someone who has insomnia. In fact, any education system seeking to do real good to humanity and having a lasting impact should aim at the resurrection and preservation of deep breathing in all phases of childhood.
Every child is born with the same purity which Ahimsak had.
Every child is centred in their breathing and does not recognise fear unless it is taught.
Every child is nurtured by the river of existence.
Every child is completely at ease with themself and the truth, until his love for themself is destroyed.
Let us preserve the powerful act which deep breathing is, if we want the planet as well as humanity to flourish and continue.
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