We Should Wish Big For Our Children
Leading our day-to-day life at times seems arduous - working to earn, meeting the needs of near and dear ones, warding off threats, surviving amidst fair and unfair competition, straddling relationships with well-wishers as enemies, handling one's own likes, dislikes, desires etc. It takes efforts, energy and persistence to go through these and find meaning for our lives. In securing the future for our children in such a stressful and unforgiving world, we strive to provide what we believe are the necessary support and resources: seek admission in a good school, provide materials and opportunities to keep their spirits high, arrange for the right resources and guidance to do well in exams, secure seat in a professional course leading to well paying employment and so on. Our wishes and plans for our children are typically centred around these. While these are essential duties as parents, should our wishes for what our children should be limited merely to these? Our culture has always valued a person much beyond being able to make a mere living. It is abound with examples of perceiving meaning for life beyond the ordinary and believing in living those lofty ideals.
Our thoughts shape our child, so did Jijabai's. Jijabai, mother of Shivaji, during her pregnancy shared her thoughts as her prayer to God. She said "Bless our land and people. To defeat our invaders and to protect our nation and Dharma, bless me with a son like Rama who is a Dharmayoddha or a daughter like Durga who slays demons.". By narrating tales of Ramayana and Mahabharatha she filled a sense of Dharma and inspired Shivaji to protect his people and nation. She guided him in his successful endeavour of fighting the mighty enemies and in establishing the Maratha kingdom. It has been also established through various scientific studies that the emotional, intellectual and social abilities in children are largely influenced by the emotions of the parents. Expectant mothers are advised to maintain positive emotions and thoughts about themselves, the outside world and the baby growing in her womb as studies have found that these emotions have significant impact even when the baby is fetal stage. Mahabharatha talks about how the making of a true warrior in Abhimanyu started while he was in his mother Subhadra's womb. It is not just about kings and warriors where parents have wished big for their children. In our culture, as evident from our folk literature, ordinary people talked to their infants through songs and stories about how large-hearted and responsibility-driven (dharma) they should be when they grow up. A part of the folk song sung for an infant wishes the child to be the king of right action, owner of high morals, well-wisher and the giver-of-light to the entire world!
ಆಚಾರಕ್ಕರಸಾಗು ನೀತಿಗೆ ಪ್ರಭುವಾಗು ಮಾತಿನಲಿ ಚೂಡಾಮಣಿಯಾಗು | ಕಂದಯ್ಯ ಜ್ಯೋತಿಯೇ ಆಗು ಜಗಕೆಲ್ಲ
In the year 1411, Lakshmidhara, a minister of a king Pratapadevaraya had a song his mother had sung in his ears, while he was still an infant, inscribed on a stone. Her song reads
ಕೆರೆಯಂ ಕಟ್ಟಿಸು, ಬಾವಿಯಂ ಸವೆಸು, ದೇವಾಗಾರಮಂ ಮಾಡಿಸ ಜ್ಜರೆಯೊಳ್ ಸಿಲ್ಕಿದನಾಥರಂ ಬಿಡಿಸು, ಮಿತ್ರರ್ಗಿಂಬುಕೆಯ್ ನಂಬಿದ ರ್ಗೆರೆವಟ್ಟಾಗಿರು, ಶಿಷ್ಟರಂ ಪೊರೆ ಎನುತ್ತಿಂತೆಲ್ಲಮಂ ಪಿಂತೆ ತಾ ನೆರೆದಳ್ ಪಾಲೆರೆವೆಂದು ತೊಟ್ಟು ಕಿವಿಯೊಳ್ ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮೀಧರಾಮಾತ್ಯನಾ
She exhorts the infant, who barely understood anything as an infant, to build tanks and wells, build temples, support the helpless, stand with friends, provide everything to people who look up to him and protect good people.
"ಕೆರೆಯನ್ನು ಕಟ್ಟಿಸು, ಬಾವಿಯನ್ನು ತೋಡಿಸು, ದೇವಾಲಯಗಳನ್ನು ನಿರ್ಮಿಸು, ಬಂಧನಕ್ಕೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕ ಅನಾಥರನ್ನು ಬಿಡಿಸು, ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರಿಗೆ ಸಹಾಯಕನಾಗು, ನಂಬಿದವರಿಗೆ ಆಶ್ರಯದಾತನಾಗು, ಸತ್ಪುಷರನ್ನು ರಕ್ಷಿಸು"
Queen Madalasa, mentioned in Markandeya Purana, goes even further in the lullaby for her child. Her words espouse the real essence of the Bharatiya philosophical thought.
शुद्धोसि बुद्धोसि निरँजनोऽसि सँसारमाया परिवर्जितोऽसि सँसारस्वप्नँ त्यज मोहनिद्राँ मँदालसोल्लपमुवाच पुत्रम्। “You are pure, enlightened, and spotless. Leave the illusion of the world and wake up from this deep slumber of delusion”
भूतनि भूतैः परिदुर्बलानि वृद्धिँ समायाति यथेह पुँसः। अन्नाम्बुपानादिभिरेव तस्मात् न तेस्ति वृद्धिर् न च तेस्ति हानिः॥ "The Elements [that make this body] grow with accumulation of more elements or reduce in size if some elements are taken away. This is what is seen in a body’s growing in size or becoming lean depending upon the consumption of food, water etc. You do not have growth or decay"
यानँ चित्तौ तत्र गतश्च देहो देहोपि चान्यः पुरुषो निविष्ठः। ममत्वमुरोया न यथ तथास्मिन् देहेति मात्रँ बत मूढरौष। "The vehicle that moves on the ground is different from the person in it similarly this body is also different from the person who is inside! The owner of the body is different from the body! Ah how foolish it is to think I am the body!"
As Madalasa's verse says, the philosophical foundations of our culture consider every individual living being to be fundamentally God himself - infinitely capable. The environment that the individual finds oneself in has a significant impact on what one turns out to be. If the environment is vibrant and rich, the possibilities are promising. If the environment is limiting, so is the intellectual and emotional growth. Our thoughts and wish of what our child should be, in essence, impacts the environment we provide and in turn our child's development. If we wish and believe that our child has a larger purpose and is capable of doing good to people beyond himself and his family, the aspiration we set for the child and the guidance we provide can be aligned towards such a bigger goal. If our worry is of our child scoring good marks, securing a job and becoming financially capable of making a decent living, we end up creating a self-limiting environment. Wishing big for our child and believing in such a bright possibility while based on hope and positivity, need not necessarily be foolhardy. Maybe there is a possibility however small the chance turns out to be. On the other hand, wishing that it is enough that our child achieves a decent living brings forth our fears and insecurities. यद् भावं तद् भवति. Wishing big for our children is based on the belief that every individual is infinitely capable - capable of acquiring high intellectual prowess, acquiring uncompromising moral and emotional strength, adopting right conduct under all circumstances to be able to do good to the family, society or humankind at large. It is our duty to give that hope a chance. It is a crime if we don't.
1. Emotional relationship between mother and child: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426791/
2. The lullaby of Madalasa: https://medium.com/@madhavbahl10/the-lullaby-of-queen-madalasa-the-madalasa-upadesha-4e06e1813b10