By Mary Kretzmann
Revised from: “Life Begins”
Children ask about the beginning of life. It may come up after they heard something on the schoolyard, and when we the parents aren’t quite ready for it. It might be sparked by things in movies, discussions at school, or by items in the news. And, of course it comes into discussions with teens, regarding dating and the other sex, etc. (I’ll address that topic more deeply in another chapter.) So this question can come up in various ways in a child’s life, and it is helpful to be able to provide more than just the clinical “facts of life” to a child, but also a little bit of the spiritual aspects.
The information in this chapter is foundational for nearly any stage of parenting in which you currently find yourself as you read this book. It is especially helpful if you are hoping soon to start your own family, or to add to your current family. If that is indeed the case, may your prayers for a spiritual child be guided and blessed, for all such souls serve to uplift the general vibrations of the planet, and in that way, bless us all.
My husband and I, very newly married, first heard Swami Kriyananda mention this topic in a spiritual seminar the very first week that we moved to Ananda Village. I was deeply struck by the information because I loved children very much, and we wanted to start a family sometime soon. In addition, I had most recently worked in a preschool and was very aware of the individuality of the children there; this seemed to go well beyond whatever the parents could have done to influence the children once they were born to them. Some kids could only be explained by the fact that they were born way, with certain qualities already established.
I loved all of the kids, and I even loved the “difficult” ones more, in a way, due to the amusing charm of their individual natures; but honestly, when you work in a preschool, surrounded by 24 children, the thought of becoming a parent can begin to look a bit like a mild form of Russian roulette. We sign on for a very long and expensive contract as parents, and this goes well beyond the financial costs, which are legend, but also includes our intense conscientious care and attention for the better part of 2 decades. So, I was happy to know that parents could influence matters by praying for a spiritual child to be born to them. At the time, the tender age of 23, I thought “spiritual” might also mean “easier on the parent.”
Many years later, I can now say it is not necessarily always easier, but at least the children will likely be receptive to the spiritual values in your heart and soul, giving a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment to this intense life commitment. I now see that when we invite spiritual souls into the family, there is an increased responsibility to follow through with appropriate spiritual support and training. This, of course, is the topic of this book, and it is an ongoing process of discovery. It was my nature to want to do these things; still, I was only later stuck by the fact that it was my responsibility to do them, as well.
Paramhansa Yogananda addressed the point of when the soul enters the body in numerous writings. Most of them go way beyond what you need to tell to child, no matter what the age. Those deeper writings are for married couples desiring to pray in a special way at the point of conception, in order to invite a spiritual child to their family. (Of course, the love, goodness, and spiritual devotion of a couple also serve as a divine magnet, helping to draw a more spiritually receptive child.) The story below carries the essence of this deep truth, and frames it in a simple manner that can be broken down and used appropriately, depending on the age of the child.
Swami Kriyananda was often present when Paramhansa Yogananda spoke privately with disciples, received visitors, or discussed his writings. These conversations are recorded in a wonderful book, Conversations with Yogananda. This basic question of life is addressed in entry #177:
It is a common belief these days that until a child is actually born, it is not yet a consciously developing human being. This belief is fallacious.
“When does the soul enter the body?” someone asked the Master.
“At the moment of conception,” he replied. “When the sperm and ovum unite, there is a flash of light in the astral world. Souls there that are ready to be reborn, if their vibration matches that of the flash of light, rush to get in. Sometimes two or more get in at the same time, and the woman has twins, triplets, or even – well!
“It is important, therefore, to come together physically with an uplifted consciousness. That flash generated in the astral world reflects the couple’s state of consciousness, especially as they felt during the moment of physical union.”
Some sensitive, intuitive parents report feeling the soul being born to their family in that moment; and that the soul feels like a fully conscious, matures presence that then becomes the baby. Some parents say they can sense something of the soul’s strengths and challenges, and how to best guide that soul, once he or she is born, and ready for the School of Life. It is by no means every devotee parent who feels these things – but it does happen, and it helps shine some light on this topic.
Interestingly, in his teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, Paramhansa Yogananda said that the moment the sperm and ovum unite is when soul is “born” to this plane, and, therefore that is the ideal moment from which to draw an astrological chart. However, since that is highly impractical, using the moment of the baby’s first breath is the second best option, and is considered only to be approximate. (For this reason, and others, he said only a true God realized Master can do an astrological chart with complete accuracy.)
Some of these things can be given to a child in small doses whenever the “birds and the bees” questions come up. They appreciate this image of a flash of light that calls the child’s soul to the parents. You know your child, and you will know if and when to share any of these things. It is comforting for the child to know that we are always the soul – but sometimes we have a physical body, and sometimes (such as after death, and before life) we have an astral body, made of energy and light. I have seen these ideas help many children, young and old.
Paramhansa Yogananda also taught that when the flash occurs, from the sperm and ovum uniting, the new body starts to create the medulla oblongata, the seat of the “ego” in the body. He sometimes referred to the ego as the “soul identified with the body.” Interestingly, I first heard about some of the metaphysical aspects of the medulla in a pre-med Anatomy and Physiology class at University of New Hampshire, in the 1970’s. The professor, in front of 500 students, said the medulla is the most metaphysical point in the body, and that it is also called the “mouth of God”, and it is where life force enters the body. I later heard these same things when I came on this spiritual path less than a year later, and I have since wondered if he had read Yogananda’s teachings!
All of this knowledge serves our children as they grow older, and must make moral decisions in their personal lives, as well as in the various ethical questions that can come up in an ever-advancing, scientific society that continues to offer us more options individually, and as a society. The scope of this book is not meant to serve as a precise ethical guide on any of these related issues, but rather give you tools with which to guide your children in how they might make their own decision on these things. The knowledge in this chapter can at least serve as a guiding light in weighing out pros and cons of various issues, and can especially serve to stem the tide of pronounced spiritual relativism that can sometimes enter such discussions. I will address some of these issues in another chapter about dating, and will leave this chapter on this high note:
It is truly a gift to us all that Paramhansa Yogananda, a God-realized Master, made so many teachings available regarding all areas of life. As the age progresses, these things will work their way into the general knowledge of the culture, at least for sincere seekers. It is already happening in many ways. Swami Kriyananda writes:
Paramhansa Yogananda was sent on earth with a divine message for this age…His mission was to complete the message of Kriya Yoga. The first disciples of Kriya Yoga practiced the divine technique in the privacy of their own homes. Theirs was a hidden role, intended to build the magnetism of this great gift of God’s to the world. Yogananda’s coming was intended to complete that mission by showing Kriya Yoga in Action. In this role, his life was strongly reminiscent of similar roles that he played in lifetimes as an instrument of God. For it is not enough that a few people take the Kriya teachings within themselves, only. The full effect of these revolutionary teachings must be directed outward also. Their role is, thereby, to transform society itself.
What the world needs now is a general uplift of consciousness. Such, our Masters have declared, is the function of the new rays of energy and consciousness that are entering the planet at this time. The role of Kriya Yoga is not intended only to inspire a few people to withdraw from outward activity and seek inner union with God. Its role is to show mankind how to live together on earth in higher awareness.
As I reflect on these things, I recall the old saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” As spiritual parents we are given the special opportunity to uplift the hearts and minds of our children. These efforts have a profound effect not only on our own little families, but also gradually on our entire earth family.
May we all be blessed.
For further inspiration:
A Way To Awakening is a television program, filmed in India, in which Swami Kriyananda reads passages from the book, Conversations with Yogananda. Highly recommended. Each show is about 25 minutes and includes the story, a short talk, and music. Sometimes we watch these as a family, and new shows are added each week.