By Suma Varughese July 2006 What is the world of those brought up by spiritual parents like? What advantages do they have from the rest of us? And what can we learn from them in bringing up our own children? Rama Devagupta, a student of Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga, as taught by Shri Ram Chandra Mission, and a dedicated mother living in the US, recounts the moment when she found that her spiritual convictions and thinking had actually percolated to her children. It was on the fateful day of September 11, 2001. She and her children, Sriram, a first-grader then, and Shanta, a preschooler, watched the horrific images on TV together; then, with a heavy heart, she went into the kitchen to fix dinner. She says, ‘A few minutes later, Sriram said, ‘Amma, those people who crashed the planes into the buildings, they are not bad people. They only made a bad choice.’ ”Yes,’ I replied. ”But it is not their fault,’ he insisted. ‘Looking at me with wide open eyes, he repeated, ‘Yes, Amma! It is not their fault! It is their mothers’ fault. When those people were little, their mothers did not tell them what is right and what is wrong.’ ”Oh!’ I said. ‘Yes, Amma,’ Sriram said, and began elaborating his thought process. ‘You are always telling us what to do and what not to do; you always tell us what is right and what is wrong. But their mothers did not tell them about these things when they were small. If their mothers had explained about right and wrong, they would not have made these bad choices today.’ ‘A few minutes later, Sriram continued, ‘But it is okay. All the people who have died in those planes, they will all go to God. They will stay with God, and they will be happy to be with God. But those people who crashed the planes, even though they will get to go to God, they will not be able to stay with God. They will have to come back to earth once again, learn to do good things, and then, when they have learned how to do what is right, then they will get to go back to God. And that is when they will get to stay with God!’ ‘On that fateful day, on September 11, 2001, Sriram’s words created such a deep impression in my mind and heart, leading me to a condition which I will never be able to forget. I realized that by the grace of my master and my meditative practices, my children were learning everything there was to learn about spirituality – without being taught in a didactic way. And while the outside world and everybody around me were experiencing shock, disbelief, horror and fear, my heart was filled with hope and a child’s wisdom in the midst of destruction and chaos.’ When I hear of a tale like that, complex emotions run through me. Sriram’s wisdom makes me sob. How beautiful that a child can see things in this way! How beautiful too that a mother should have taken the trouble to make her children see things from this deeply compassionate, non-judgmental stance. Envy speaks up too. How lucky Sriram is to have a spiritually active mother. How lucky to be able to see things in this way and therefore be free of the anger and judgmentalism that hamper the rest of us. Our upbringing is one of the most crucial factors in making us who we are. For those of us who grew up with religious parents, there is a certain amount of baggage or conditioning we needed to free ourselves from. Coming as I did from a Syrian Christian background, I had to first brave the wrath of an angry God when I gave up faith at age 14, endure a godless existence for a good many years and finally, through spiritual insight, vend my way to an individual understanding of God. I had to painfully learn the spiritual perspective over many years, recognizing that we make our own reality, that growth is the purpose of life, that we are co-creators with God of our destiny and that the universe is an ethical and deeply loving place. However, there exist a small minority of people who were born to spiritually inquiring parents. These are the second generation spirituals, people who have not had to reinvent the wheel because their parents already taught it to them. So what is their world like? Are they really to be envied as much as I envy them? Do they really have an edge over the rest of us? Are they free of the materialistic scarcity-driven mindset that the rest of us are painfully unshackling? Do they understand that we are souls and not body? Are they more joyous, confident, loving and giving? Are they less fearful and insecure? The truth is, there is no one answer. It all depends on the individual. Yes, a spiritual upbringing does give undeniable advantages, but in the ultimate analysis, they too have to walk the path, discover their own truths and forge their own equation with the divine. Yes, their path is frequently shorter, and the conditioning less dense, but a spiritual background can frequently carry its own sword to bear. Deep Mehta (39) is a businessman-turned-spiritual teacher. In his spacious house at Khar, an upmarket Mumbai suburb, which he has converted to the No Mind Zen Meditation Center, he teaches an eclectic range of disciplines from Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, J. Krishnamurti’s philosophy, Ramana Maharshi’s philosophy, to the Upanishads, in partnership with his wife, Sneha. Deep’s mother, Mridula, was one of Osho’s principle devotees and indeed was entrusted with the upkeep of the ashram when he went away on his ill-advised trip to Oregon, USA. As a teenager, Deep traveled with his mother across the length and breadth of the country, holding meditation camps and conducting exhibitions promoting Osho’s books and cassettes. Says Deep, ‘Osho was everything to us.’ Looking back at his upbringing and his exposure to spirituality, Mehta is grateful for much that he learnt from his mother. ‘Spirituality made her more loving and considerate of people. She would take superb care of participants during camps, attending to the smallest detail. She also had a very giving nature. Wherever she went, she would pick up dozens of local specialties like kurtas from Lucknow or bangles from Hyderabad, and distribute them around. I feel I inherited all these qualities.’ Deep also acknowledges the spiritual principles that she encouraged him to live by. He says, ‘She always taught that everything is in the mind and that we make our own reality. She would also urge us to do our utmost and then leave the rest to Existence.’ Yet in many ways, he outgrew his Osho heritage and opted for a path that acknowledged wisdom from many sources, without identifying with any. He says, ‘Somewhere along the way, I became disillusioned with Osho and began to look at other paths like Buddhism and vedanta. That is when I saw the real meaning of satvik thought. In comparison, I feel what I got from Osho was insubstantial. I was also disillusioned with his focus on bodily needs and luxury. I felt that he did not live up to his philosophy.’ Regardless of the inheritance, whether spiritual or religion, when we test it against the fire of our own convictions and reason, we often experience a dissonance. The painful task of breaking with received wisdom, letting go of the idol we had worshiped and believed in, and finding our own individual answers, seems to be an inevitable part of the growth process. Others too have experienced a schism between what they were brought up to have faith in and what they themselves have chosen to identify with. Businesswoman Leena Thakkar was brought up in a family that swore allegiance to Swami Ramdas (a Kerala- based saint whose Anand Ashram is till today a center of devotion to Lord Ram) and his principal devotee, Mata Krishnabai. Papa and Mataji, as the two were referred to, dominated her childhood. She says, ‘I never met Papa and met Mataji only once, but there was awe around them. The adults communicated very emphatically that they were more than human and we could not question it.’ She recalls compulsory participation in satsangs and mandatory visits to the ashram. ‘We were never given a choice.’ Her older brother Dhiren, associate dean of the Graduate Education and Scholarship School of Pharmacy, adds, ‘We grew up in an environment of strong devotion to Papa-Mataji. Everything my parents did in life had to pass the test of ‘Will Papa-Mataji approve?’ I believe that if I did not have a strong innate sense of independence, I would have become emotionally and intellectually dependent on apa-Mataji like my dad and uncle have.’ At 16, Leena broke away from the prevailing familial allegiance to the gurus and became drawn to the iconoclastic wisdom of J. Krishnamurti. ‘He was attractive because he was forbidden. Besides, he encouraged you to question everything,’ she says. ‘I had many reactions,’ she shares. ‘I used to rebel against the large portraits of Papa-Mataji in the house, and I often used to perceive that my family used the gurus to further their own ends. For instance, all my siblings live in the US and my father would justify his visits there by saying that it was Papa’s will that he should go.’ Despite her considerable reservations to the way her family practiced spirituality, Leena attributes many progressive traits within the family to their spiritual background. ‘There has always been a great generosity within the family. My father and uncle, who run a business together, are very good with the staff. Mataji would always ask them whether the staff was happy, and paid well. It was considered imperative to take care of them.’ She adds, ‘What I found most attractive is a freedom from rites and rituals. For instance, my mother used to earlier keep a separate set of crock
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