What We Teach Our Children

By: Swami Kriyananda

What We Teach Our Children

Swami Kriyananda

One of the greatest predicaments we face in our modern society is the education that we give our young. Should we cram our children’s heads with facts, or educate them for success as human beings?
We teach children how to solve problems in mathematics, but give them nothing to help them solve the problems they face in their personal lives. We flood them with a tide of facts, then tell them, as we send them out the door with their diplomas, “It’s up to you to figure out what it all means.”
The modern age is addicted to factual information. By “addiction” I mean that the fascination has reached abnormal proportions. It is necessary for us, now, to emphasise that facts by themselves cannot bestow wisdom. A blizzard of unsifted information offers no sense of direction, nor any knowledge of where one might go to find inner peace, poise, and a sense of life’s deeper meaning and joyous possibilities.
We forget that the discovery of some new fact concerning a galaxy millions of light years away has very little actual bearing on our lives here on earth. Knowledge, on the other hand, of how to get along with others, and how to be happy, has a great deal of relevance.
Spiritual and moral laws, like the laws of physics, never change. The excitement of scientific discovery has captured our imagination, but the laws that rule human conduct remain unalterable. It is the particular genius of ancient philosopher-scientists that they expressed these laws in their clearest, most practical form.
It is time to approach science from a fresh point of view. Paramhansa Yogananda offered an amazingly simple answer to modern scientists who claim that all life exists only as an outgrowth of inanimate matter. Yogananda replied, “Matter, too, is conscious, however dimly so.”
Yogananda also suggested that the effect of moral values on human nature needs to be tested, as if in the laboratory, by observing their actual effects on people. He suggested that spiritual communities are ideal places for conducting such observation. We have discovered that “children who learn to love, love to learn.”
Teachers and parents may complain that if we spend too much time teaching children these personal skills, they will be left behind in the race to acquire the information that will fit them to compete in the job market after they leave school. But this is false reasoning.
Children who learn to concentrate, to increase their awareness, and to channel negative emotions into constructive outlets are able to handle all the factual information they’re taught in school far more effectively.
There is another important dimension that needs to be introduced into schools. Children are made to study the composition of the atom. The most important question of all, however, is: “How can one find happiness?” Schools, Yogananda said, should above all be treated as laboratories for solving this most basic of human questions.
Primarily, what is needed is a system of education that will prepare children for meeting life’s challenges, and not only fit them for employment or for intellectual pursuits. And we need to see the whole of life, beyond the years spent in school, as education.
For if indeed, as most people deeply believe, life does have an ultimate purpose and meaning, then its goal must be to educate us ever more fully to that meaning. And the true goal of school must be to help prepare us for that lifelong learning process.
Discourse by Swamiji, “Opening to God’s Grace” on Nov 17 November, Bhaidas Hall, Vile Parle, 4:30 pm. All are welcome. 9820322313 / 9819015539, mumbai@anandaindia.org


The Christ Child’s Asleep

Have a blessed Christmas –

From our family to yours…

Love in Him,

Mary & Tim

PS. Peter, in the maroon shirt, is our son…

The Christ Child’s Asleep – song by Swami Kriyananda

When Does the Soul Enter the Body?

A lot of people look for this article that I wrote some time ago – so I thought I would post it again here in this scribd format

Swamiji: “Be a Peter Pan in your Heart”

This delightful talk offers  insights on children, family life and adult responsibilities such as earning money, etc.  He ends with some valuable commentary on current politics, taxes and the economic crisis.

For more on this, see my blog here:

Coming World Crisis: “Wake up now”

It contains many more in-depth resources on this topic.

Satsang with Swamiji

We had a beautiful weekend in Los Angeles for the book launch of The New Path, By Swami Kriyananda.  Sunday morning at the Chapel is wonderfully described here by Barbara Bingham. I recommend that you check out those links for a more complete reference.

Swamiji told many stories and answered many questions. Free Videos and audio are available at this link.  I thought to highlight one special personal insight here, that may also be of help to others, also because it augments the many references I have made to the teachings of Christ on this website.

Swamiji related the story of a monk in SRF, and the turning point that moved him to dedicate his life toward seeking God alone.  This man, before becoming a monk, had been in a boating accident which had turned nearly tragic. He was about to drown, and he saw his life pass before his eyes.  In that moment, he realized that the things which he had thought were important in his life, now seemed very trivial. And some seemingly small events he now realized were very important on a soul level. As Swamiji spoke, I was struck with a very deep, prayerful concern of, “I need to know now what is very important at the moment of death! I don’t want to find out when it is too late! I don’t want to find out at my life review as my life pass before my eyes.”

I can only describe this as a deep call for reassurance, because I had read of these things in books regarding near death experiences. I already “knew” what was important…but this was a soul call for clarity. I continued to pray intensely  as Swamiji spoke…and then I felt an inner grace and strength. Clear as a bell the words came to me, in deep calmness and peace:

“…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12: 30-1

These brief yet powerful words, encapsulate everything we need to live in accordance with what is divinely important in life and in death.

Swami Kriyananda, at Forest Lawn Chapel (by B. Bingham)
Swami Kriyananda, at Forest Lawn Chapel (photo by B. Bingham)

Praying for A Spiritual Child

By Mary Kretzmann, excerpted from: Finding God in Your Family

Director of Ananda Healing Prayer Ministry

Tim and I were wedded twice. We had a family wedding, and then packed up and moved, sight unseen, to Ananda Village as our honeymoon. It was Spiritual Renewal Week, (1978) a special week of classes all taught by Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. At the end of that week, on Saturday night, we took Kriya Yoga initiation for the first time, with Swamiji. The next morning, at Sunday Service, also with Swamiji, we were married using the marriage vows written by Paramhansa Yogananda, which includes the words: “To bring souls on earth to worship God as newborn souls.”

It was a very special time for us, for we were newly married, newly initiated into Kriya yoga, and we knew we wanted to have a family. During the one of the classes at Spiritual Renewal Week, Swamiji told the following story from Yogananda, which he later put into his book, Conversations with Yogananda.

“A couple expressed to me their desire for a spiritual child. I prayed for them, then showed them a photograph. This soul, I told them, would be suitable for them, and was also, I felt, ready to be reborn on earth.

“‘Meditate on this soul,’ I said. ‘Concentrate especially on the eyes. Invite him to come dwell in your home. In addition, have no sexual contact for six months; abstinence will increase your magnetism.

“‘When, at the end of that time, you come together physically, think of that person, and think also of God. If you follow my advice in all these respects, that soul will be born to you.’

“They followed what I’d told them, and, some time later, that was the very soul which was drawn into their home.”

Conversations with Yogananda: Entry # 175

Since it was our very first week at Ananda, I assumed that Swamiji taught this often. However, it was another 20 years before I heard him mention it again! I can see why; it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I was ready for this information because I loved children, and we knew we wanted a family. I was also very motivated to do what I could to draw in spiritual souls, as I mentioned in When Does the Soul Enter the Body?

Though newly married, we had already lived together for some time; we even owned a cute little home in Arkansas. But, as we came on to this spiritual path, we realized we wanted to align our lives with Yogananda’s spiritual ideals. We no longer wanted to live in accordance with the norms of our generation, but rather with the precepts of our guru. Once we had that realization, we entered a period of celibacy, to pray for guidance. The question was not whether or not we loved each other, for we were happy together. But how do you know when to take a solemn vow?

I’ll address that process more deeply in a chapter on marriage vows. Suffice it to say, even though I’d had a deep intuition right before I met my husband that I was about to meet “the one,” I still needed a prayerful process to know that it was truly time to trust that inner voice and “jump off the dock,” so to speak, and make it real with a vow.

Also, as we were coming onto the spiritual path, I was surprised to find that I was feeling called to be a nun in catholic convent, even though I’d barely been to church since I had left home! When I was a girl, I wanted to be a nun, as a form of dedication to God, and Jesus and Mary. That seemed a long while ago, but that feeling came back at this time. It was not overwhelming, but it was strong enough to get my notice.  We were new at meditating, but there were several times that I felt Divine Mother’s loving guidance in this prayerful time. One day, I felt Her grace enter the stillness of my heart with these words, “In this life, to learn unconditional love, be a mother.”

My heart was at peace. I knew my path.

So – by the time we heard Swamiji’s class, we had already been prepared in many ways. We knew about the power of having times of celibacy because of that prayerful time. And, we had found, in general, there was a special spiritual power in waiting, perhaps for a month or more, between those special times of coming together as a couple.  The mind enters a more sublime state. The practice of meditation, plus a vegetarian diet, gives the body a sense of calmness that makes this more readily attainable.  (Fruit is especially calming and uplifting.) We were young and in love, and still very romantic. We would laugh, hug, and kiss, and generally enjoyed being with one another, but we also had this other goal, and so we wanted to save the energy, and we knew that it was worth it.

I mention this because each couple has to find their own way with this process, but I couldn’t relate to being a cold fish about it all.  There was a still natural sense of joy and affection in those times, yet with a sense of restraint.  Sexual freedom and connection is almost worshipped these days (especially in the media) so I feel a bit strange mentioning that your life as a couple, and as a devoted soul, can be enhanced with periods of celibacy, or “moderation,” define it as you will.

I also address this topic in my healing visualization, Psalm 23 in the Chakras:

“He leadeth me beside the still waters”

…The physical expression of love is an important, tender connection for many couples. It is often best, then, to focus on bringing in greater love, and lessening any sense of lust in the act, rather than to become radical and “renounce” it all prematurely, in the name of spiritual zeal.  As a married couple learns the balance between sexual expression and inner stillness, great love can deepen between them, if they are mindful also to find other ways to express their purified love for each other, lest they become too austere. Be deeply kind to one another, always. Seeing the Divine Beloved enshrined in one another’s forms, the couple can both give and receive deeper love. In this way, love can, over time, be transmuted from the second chakra up to the heart center. This process must proceed with self-honesty, and compassionate consideration toward the needs of the beloved and of oneself…

So, we were ready in our own way to ask the blessings of God, Christ, Guru in our marriage, and in our desire for spiritual children. There was a deep blessing, and a powerful opening at my spiritual eye, that accompanied the time of our daughter’s conception.  I felt the grace of our Guru perfecting the process, helping to uplift our consciousness, because we were still such neophytes on the spiritual path. A special grace, power and upliftment accompanied the conceptions of our other children as well. In addition, I sensed their basic soul essence, and needs for growth in this lifetime. This has helped me as a parent.

It is a noble goal even to attempt this process of inviting a spiritual soul to your family.  God grace answers such prayers, and sincere intention and efforts, in this direction. Your prayers and your intention are a magnet in and of themselves.  This is an important point, and it must be a large part of the reason that Paramhansa Yogananda put that line is his marriage vows, “To bring souls on earth to worship God as newborn souls.”

That registers as a prayer in the ether, and helps those couples, I believe, even if they aren’t able to practice the 6-month celibate period as stated, above. The principle of conserving your sexual energy, to build spiritual magnetism for this prayer, however is very important. Do whatever seems kind and reasonable for your marriage. Stretch yourselves, but not to the breaking point. Over the years, I have counseled some couples on this matter, and that is why I stress this directional, rather than absolute, approach.

I have seen that it can be helpful to some couples, and more attainable, to have a 6-month period of intentional “moderation,” rather than complete celibacy. This may be more reasonable for some couples, and can still help build spiritual magnetism for your meditations, and for your prayers to invite a spiritual soul to your family. Some traditions suggest only coming together physically once a month. This will help the process. Again, think about it, and pray about it; ask to be guided on what would be right for you now.

Some very saintly couples are naturally inclined to be celibate, living mostly as “brother and sister” except when coming together solely for the purpose of having children. The parents of Paramhansa Yogananda were such a couple, as were the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.  So, if your marriage is also in this category, you are in very august company, and you should able to apply Yogananda’s instructions rather naturally.

The parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Louis and Zelie Martin, prayed for saintly children, and all 5 of their children were deeply dedicated to God.  This is from her sister, Celine:

“…Not only my father when he was young, but my mother also, had desired to enter the Religious Life. With the disappointment of their hopes, they both turned towards the married state, but aimed at realizing in it the maximum of Christian Spirit…After having lived for many months as brother and sister, they then wished to have many children in order to offer them to God…

…Between our parents there was a perfect agreement of heart and mind. My father often spoke to us of our “saintly mother,” as he called her. On her part she wrote to her brother: “What a holy man my husband is! I wish every woman in the world could have his equal.” The Father of the Little Flower: Louis Martin (1823-1894) By: Celine Martin (St. Therese’s Sister)

Saintly Parents of Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda’s mother confided to his sister that only once a year did they unite together as husband and wife, for the purpose of having children. Otherwise, they each had a private bedroom, which suited their deeply spiritual and meditative natures. He wrote of his parents in Chapter 1: My Parents and Early Life:

…Father and Mother were Bengalis… Both were blessed with saintly nature.  Their mutual love, tranquil and dignified, never expressed itself frivolously. A perfect parental harmony was the calm center for the revolving tumult of eight young lives…

Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda

So, my purpose is only to inspire you in your next step. I certainly don’t mean to intimidate you with these wonderfully noble examples. If nothing else simply get a holy picture or statue that reminds you of God’s love, and every time you see it, ask God to bless your family with spiritually inclined children. Even that will help, because it gets your energy going in that direction.  And then, add in whatever else of what I have said here that you feel able to do, while being loving toward your spouse, and yourself.

Special Circumstances

Some couples go through the heartache of miscarriages or infertility, and simultaneously also want to pray for a spiritually receptive child.  This requires special prayers suited to this situation. The couple may be reluctant to practice long periods of celibacy in order to build magnetism to draw a high soul. They don’t want to create an obstacle toward conception. Several needs coexist at once:

1)      The desire for a child, in general

2)      The need for the body to be healed in order to conceive

3)      The hope for a spiritually inclined child

4)      Prayers for guidance on how long to “try”

5)      How many options and expenses are worth pursuing

6)      When to let go, and simply enjoy the blessings of a peaceful meditative life

7)      How to feel that life is always a gift, even when our deepest desires are denied or delayed? How to avoid having this upset our lives, or marriage, or friendships?

8)      How to gracefully enjoy the children of your friends and relatives

You may be going through all of this, simultaneously. If so, you must give yourself space to find the right balance for you and your spouse in this situation. Pray your way through this – together and individually. For the most part, men are more easily philosophical about all this. That’s because fatherhood seems an abstract idea, and responsibility, yet his loving concern for his wife, and her happiness, is very real. Strive to remain a source of love, joy and comfort to each other. Keep it that way, no matter what the process and outcome. Prayer and peaceful meditation will help you very much in this regard.

Couples will vary in what steps they will consider in order to conceive. One young couple asked for prayers because they were going to try in vitro fertilization. The prayers were for the success of the method, because this was their only chance, but I also knew that the prayers could help with the magnetism of drawing a spiritually inclined soul to them. It was successful all around and they were blessed with a healthy baby girl. The child is still very young, and has a lovely, joyful nature.

Praying to conceive, while also practicing times of celibacy, are not at cross purposes with each other, because physically the process is enhanced with a time of waiting. Often couples are counseled to wait until the woman is more fertile each month, as this allows the husband’s sperm count to increase and strengthen. This waiting period could be spent praying for a spiritual soul to be born to you. Think and pray about what you can offer the child in terms of spiritual guidance and fulfillment. (You can read my book, “Finding God in Your Family” for ideas on that.) Hold this intention and feeling up in prayer, and then leave the results in the hands of the Divine.

Read this on scribd – I added photos, and more…

Video of home of St. Therese (with one of her poems set to music)

Teen Years

Note from Mary Kretzmann: Yesterday and today, as I sat to write a chapter on the teen years, I realized I wanted to add material written by Swamii Kriyananda (J.D. Walters) and it went beyond simple quotes. So,  I’ve included 2 whole chapters, with permission. I feel this topic is so important, and yet so easily misunderstood, that it needs all the helpful foundation possible before I add my own family’s journey through those years.

What Swamiji has written here adds invaluable insight into how to keep inspiration thriving in teens.  I was also struck, as I reread the chapter, how his whole book had been inspired by a dream, which he shares, below.

Education for Life:

Preparing Children to Meet the Challenges

by J. Donald Walters

Chapter Eighteen
The Willful Years

The immediate inspiration for this book was a dream I had, in which a group of aggressive teenage boys surrounded me arrogantly. I wasn’t apprehensive, but I do recall experiencing a deep concern for them.

As we walked up a street, talking together—they, hunching along in the self-conscious manner of many teenagers—I remarked, “Doesn’t it seem that life ought to offer us something really worth living for? Surely kindness and friendship are worth more than being considered important? And isn’t happiness something worth striving for, rather than something to reject as impossible?”

“That’s right!” they exclaimed a little sadly. “It’s what we all want.”

And I felt their own deep intrinsic worth, their sense of innocence betrayed by an upbringing that had stripped them of everything in which they might have had faith.

The problems of modern education are evident during all the four stages, but they become glaringly so during the teenage years—the third stage.

It is, as I’ve already stated, during this six-year stage that the child feels a special need to test his will power. It isn’t that he won’t test it sooner, any more than a child during its first six years, though focused on developing bodily awareness, doesn’t express its emotions. (As I remarked earlier, it is probable during those first years that he’ll seem to be expressing little else!)

A child with a naturally strong will may show willfulness in the very cradle. Yogananda used to say that it is a mistake, though one that is often committed for the parents’ convenience, to discourage willfulness. However, just as the best time for learning to control the emotions is during the second six-year stage, so also the best time for consciously developing the will power and directing it wisely is during the third stage, up to the age of eighteen.

Idealism, for example, develops naturally with only a little encouragement during the six years preceding a child’s twelfth birthday. But it tends to be an idealism more sentimental than practical. With the adolescent’s dawning instinct for expressing his will power, there comes the inclination to put idealism into practice. Such, at least, is the opportunity of adolescence. Alas, it proves all too often an opportunity either overlooked or unrecognized.

For with the onset of puberty there comes a growing preoccupation with oneself as a self—as an ego separate and distinct from other egos. The child’s developing sexual awareness forces upon him a major redefinition of his priorities—of how he sees himself, how he relates to others, and what he expects from life.

Sexual awareness tends to pull the adolescent’s energy and consciousness downward, toward spiritual “heaviness.” This directional flow, coupled with his natural self-preoccupation, is contractive in effect, resulting in deep psychological pain for the child. If, moreover, his natural mental inclination is upward, this unaccustomed downward flow brings him also into a period of spiritual confusion.

With sexual awareness also, on the other hand, there comes a sense of potential inner power, of creativity, which, if not directed into right channels, may easily be diverted into destructive ones.

Should the mind, during this third stage, be brought to repudiate the idealism it held as a younger child, it may reject ideals altogether and employ all of its creative power cynically, in acts that are deliberately negative.

How can an adolescent be encouraged to keep his early idealism? Advantage may actually be taken of the changes occurring in his body and psyche with the advent of puberty.

His awakening sense of inner power can be directed toward making his ideals practical, instead of rejecting them negatively as the figment of dreams. Early dreams must now be translated into dynamic action—refined in their definition, perhaps, but not abandoned cynically.

Adolescence needs a cause—or, better still, an abundance of causes. It needs something to do. It is like dynamite: if exploded above the ground it may only destroy; but if placed carefully underground and exploded there, it may help in the building of roads over which cars will pass later.

Adolescence, when approached and understood rightly, is a wonderful time, rich with some of life’s greatest opportunities for self-development. The important thing to understand is the youth’s need for action, and not for mere theories.

Physical discipline is important. So also is any call to good deeds without the expectation of personal reward—the greater the self-sacrifice entailed, the better, provided, of course, that the child’s welfare isn’t endangered.

Self-reliance needs to be stressed in numerous ways, including camping out in the wilderness, boy scout activities, tests of personal endurance and the like.

Other tests can be given the teenager for developing his will power. If he feels a cold coming on, for example, he might try casting it out of his body by sheer will power. (This can be done quite effectively, provided the cold is caught at an early enough stage.)

He can be encouraged to test the power of positive thinking, and to see how it affects his own life, the lives of others, and objective circumstances. A positive, strong will power has been shown to be capable of influencing objective events, and above all one’s own consciousness, for the better.

The teenager, so often pampered by worried adults, actually needs just the opposite from them: challenges! Dare him to do better than he imagines possible. But draw him forward, don’t yank him or push him. His responses must arise out of himself; they must not be imposed upon him unnaturally by ambitious grown-ups.

What is to be done about teenagers who are already going in wrong directions? It is all very well to approach adolescence as a wonderful time of life, provided we can begin working on the adolescent right from the age of twelve. But what about the great numbers of older adolescents who have already developed strongly negative behavioral patterns? Is there any hope for them?

Indeed there is, though admittedly, in this case, the task will be more difficult. All of the above guidelines will apply. Negativity must be recognized and dealt with honestly. Faith in the child’s potential, however, must be the underlying attitude; never accept his negative self-image.

The important thing is to realize that most children do want true values. Their negativity is symptomatic, usually, of disillusionment, because they’ve been deprived of faith.

Two courses of direction have the potential to transform the currently destructive atmosphere surrounding youth in society. One would be a spiritual renascence of some deep, experiential kind. This, obviously, is not something that can be produced to order. The other would be the opposite of pampering: firm, but kind, discipline.

Disciplining children without love never really works. I don’t recommend a boot camp type of training, which would only undermine the good work done during the ages of six to twelve, the feeling years. But it might help for people at least to understand the value of stern discipline, lest love be equated with feeble smiles and futile remonstrances.

In the Swiss army many years ago there was a regiment that consisted of the lowest and roughest elements of society, men who categorically refused every form of discipline. They rose in the morning whenever they felt like it; showed up for drill or not, as it pleased them; talked back to their officers, and made it abundantly clear that they had nothing but contempt for a law that made it mandatory for every adult male in Switzerland to serve his time in the army. The officers were afraid of them, and didn’t dare to enforce discipline on them.

Then a new colonel was placed over them. This man was not the type to put up with such nonsense. Impatient with their slovenly behavior, he decided that what they needed was severe discipline, not laxity. His fellow officers waited with bated breath for the inevitable-seeming shot in the back.

But this regiment somehow accepted the colonel’s no-nonsense approach. Within a few months, they became the best-disciplined group in the entire army, and the unit with the highest esprit de corps.

I don’t recommend such Spartan measures with teenagers, but as long as parents and teachers are afraid to be firm, even in much milder ways, poor discipline will be endemic in the schools, along with the many negative attitudes that result from it.

Too many adults, unfortunately, are more concerned with being loved than with loving. If they really loved, they would give the children what they really need. During adolescence, the child’s will power needs to be tested and strengthened, not merely shrugged off as a test for the grown-ups.