It is that time of the year again. The time to adjust to a new routine after sending the kids to university. We can also say that this is the time to shed the old and embrace the new, and time to adjust to the vibes of the changing season.
Every year I see parents struggle to cope with the new beginnings during the months of September and October. The dual nature of life is most prominent during this time. On the one hand, families work together to achieve the desired education for the child, and get together for festivities, and on the other hand, there are tears of separation, the anxiety of new beginnings and the pain of being an empty nester. No matter what novel change you are facing as a parent, I want to remind you not to lose sight of the fact any transition in life opens the door to new possibilities. You may see your child drifting towards a new life and finding new adventures that do not include you, but they are able to do that because you rightfully fuelled their minds with curiosity to explore their world and find their ground.
While contemplating the best advice a parent can give their children and themselves during this transition, I could only think of the pearls of wisdom in the Vedas and the ancient scriptures that hold so many lessons for the modern world. One of the most profound texts in Vedic history is the beautiful and deep conversation between Saga Vasishta and Lord Rama. Its significance lies is the fact that a guru is imparting knowledge of moksha or liberation to his student, the avatara of Narayana himself, Rama. This reinforces the importance of a guru and knowledge in life.
There came a time when young Rama, barely a teenager, developed strong dispassion, which became a matter of concern for his father, Dashratha. Rama had just returned to his palace after finishing his education and his father saw the future King in him since Rama’s soul was highly awakened, but he had not yet established its reality. He was confused and questioned the purpose of living in a temporary world. Rama wanted to know how to live life to the fullest without getting attached to the pain and pleasures that embody everyday experiences. The answers to his questions, as given by Sage Vasishtha, became a guiding light for Rama’s life, and they also hold the power to guide today’s teenagers.
The above episode is also a reflection of the positive parenting that was prevalent in ancient times. After knowing about Rama’s dispassion and desolation, King Dashratha did not remind him of his duties towards the world and family. Instead, he went to look out for someone who could reason Rama out of this state of mind using knowledge and wisdom. He gave Rama the freedom of expression and guided him gently towards the path of self-discovery. I wonder how many parents in today’s time can display such patience.
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Though the full text of The Supreme Yoga is potent with knowledge, I will share four points, or the ‘Four Gateways of Freedom’ narrated by Yoga Vasishtha to Lord Rama. These can guide teenagers to live a balanced life as they embark on a new adventure.
1. Shanti (Self-control )
I rank self-control as our biggest asset. In today's time, its unavoidable to be surrounded by distractions. The chaos in society is a manifestation of our confused state of mind. The inner turmoil and complexity have given rise to the limitless chaos in the outer world. The challenge to quieten an already agitated young mind has manifolded many levels. At such time, as parents you can help your teen by laying a solid ground of authenticity for them to hold on to. Bring simplicity back into life and allow their natural nature of staying in the moment nurture. Encourage children to set goals that test their willpower in small things. This could be going for a walk every day for 15 minutes, cleaning the room every week, waking up early, limiting browsing time etc. Try to talk to your teen about making small positive goals in life. Remember, don’t force. Just let them explore how liberating self-control is. By eliminating chaos and bringing some order, they will have room to make better independent choices.
As Yoga Vashishta says, When there is self-control, even the food you eat tastes better; else it tastes bitter. He who even while hearing, touching, seeing, smelling and tasting what is regarded as pleasant and unpleasant, is neither elated nor depressed — he is self-controlled. He who looks upon all beings with equal vision, having brought under control the sensations of pleasure and pain, is self-controlled. He who though living amongst all is unaffected by them, neither feels elated nor hates, even as one is during sleep — he is self-controlled.
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2. Vichara (Spirit of inquiry)
Another powerful reminder is to train the mind to think about the infinite possibilities. These are different from infinite choices. Possibility is drawn out of imagination. It’s the seed that gives a positive and creative outcome to a thought. Someone thought that it was possible to fly; thus, we have aeroplanes. Encourage your teen to think beyond the obvious and find a way to break the wall of set self-limiting beliefs to explore more. This is fuelled by knowledge. Only the one who knows that possibilities have a potential will work towards walking that path. This requires knowledge of self and curiosity to learn. Guide your teen gently to understand their talents and strengths. This will also help them set priorities in life.
The wise man regards strength, intellect, efficiency and timely action as the fruits of inquiry. even as darkness disappears as you turn towards light, ignorance disappears if you turn towards the light of the self.
3. Santosha (Contentment)
The plight of our times has made a simple concept of contentment the source of confusion in our life. We work towards achieving something that will make us happy and content without putting our focus on ourselves to understand what true happiness and success mean to us. What is it that we are measuring when there is no set number to quantify it? Like us, teens are equally confused about what they set out to achieve. There is always something that they are chasing, and the race never seems to end. Yes, many have achieved a good university or scores but is there peace?
We as parents need to remind children that peace is in the process not just the outcome. There is no race, no competition. The thrill is in embracing the learning that comes from the journey. Whatever one longs for is contained within oneself. What is that success which will make one feel that this is it? Think deeply, nothing.
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4. Satsanga (Good company)
Just as a steady boat, O Rama, is obtained from a boatman, so also the method of crossing the ocean of samsara is learnt by associating with great souls.
Good company is the conditioning ground that allows one to grow and expand with love and wisdom. The need to be popular amongst their peers is exhausting and quite an unnecessary exercise but the times are such that young teens are eluded in this trap. The more they indulge in trying to fit in a group, the more they lose insight into who they are.
Speak to your teen about the importance to being with the right mindset. Discuss with them the quality of conversation, the ease and emotional safety. Encourage them to read inspiring stories so they find good company in their intellect. This will organically lead to attracting people of similar mindset in life.
These four guidelines encompass the whole knowledge of self. The wisdom of this text gave allowed young Rama to delve deeper within and understand his life’s purpose. They are not just wise words for the teenagers, but their truth is valid for each one of us. We all must elevate and rise together in wisdom so the human consciousness can reach the heights that it had achieved in ancient times. I want to conclude by this beautiful line by Sage Vashishtha that summarises it all.
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Satsanga is the best companion to the destination. The spirit of inquiry itself is the greatest wisdom and, self-control is supreme happiness.
Ekta Bajaj is a writer, visual artist, motivational speaker and Co-Founder of the award-winning publishing company, Author In Me. She is also the author of the empowering book, ‘The Voice of Kali’, and co-author of ‘Book of Affirmations for Children’. Her deep passion for storytelling and positive thinking has inspired her to research the ancient knowledge of Vedanta that provides a holistic approach towards developing mental and emotional strength.