Teaching Meditation to Children
by Swami Rama
From: Let the Bud of
When you practice meditation, initially you come in touch with yourself and all your thought patterns; you come to understand your inner dialogue. Then, you learn to discriminate—to select and reject; and finally, you learn how to work with yourself. These seeds should be sown in childhood.
Instead, believers of all faiths, clinging to external rituals, impose their ideals on their children and force them to participate in their time-honored customs. Children are taught to love and to worship pictures of Christ, Krishna, or other gods and goddesses, and sometimes even community or religious leaders. This does not help them to become independent or to acquire peace of mind. Children need to be taught how to cultivate divine virtues within themselves; they need to be taught how to look within, and how to find within in order to attain freedom. I think if everyone were to be given a spiritual education in childhood, they would have fewer problems living in the world. Without understanding the values of spirituality, with all its currents and crosscurrents, one becomes lost living in this jungle that is called world. The world is the real jungle; that which is considered to be the jungle is not the real jungle.
Most diseases originate in childhood. Children become ill because they have not learned the means of acquiring peace of mind. Why do you not lead your children to silence before they learn to be active? Mothers can do this if they are friends with their children. But these days mothers have no time. They go out and enjoy themselves while their children remain at home. The lack of communication between the younger generation and the parents is creating great chaos. First of all, you have to learn to respect the family institution where parents become counselors to their children, and where children accept their parents, not only as parents, but also as friends.
When you make meditation a part of your life, your children will follow your example. Exemplary education is very important for children. Children imitate their parents; you don’t have to teach them to meditate. Never do that. You should teach your children through example how to sit quietly and make their minds one-pointed. When you sit in meditation, your child will also come and sit next to you and pretend to do what you are doing. In this way the child will come to know what you are doing and will also form the habit of sitting with you.
I used to do that in my childhood. When my master would sit in meditation, I would sit next to him. When I wanted his attention, I would climb onto his lap. He wouldn’t say anything to me, so I would do something to get his attention. Then he would rub my forehead, and I did not know what had happened. I am sure I was not sleeping. If you sit in meditation, and your child comes and sits next to you and closes his eyes, it is very helpful for the child. Do you think the child is meditating? I say the child is meditating better than you are. Even when a child simply imitates you when you are meditating, it is very helpful for the child.
Meditation is a very powerful thing that gives helpful vibrations to all. When you meditate, it definitely affects your children. If you record the brain waves of a child who is sleeping while you are meditating, you will find a difference. Even your plants and your pets are affected when you meditate. Instead of imposing your ego or your emotional problems on your children in the name of discipline, please discipline yourself, and then your children will also learn.
As a part of our educational training we must define spirituality in its most precise and universal terms. Spirituality means that which helps us to discipline our thoughts, speech, and actions; that which leads us toward the center of consciousness, and thereby helps to unfold our inner potentials. Education based on such spiritual guidelines will help humanity to become self-reliant and confident. Only education based on spirituality can bring harmonious balance to both our external and inner life.
We need not force children to believe that there is a God. However, we should provide them with the opportunity to unfold their inner potentials, to gain confidence, and to become inspired to search for God according to their own inner tendencies and capacity. For children to learn to cultivate divine virtues within themselves, the knowledge of theories that prove the existence of God is not as important as to learn how to discipline oneself. Through self-discipline God can be experienced directly.
Spiritual practices, undertaken at an early age, have a profound and long lasting effect. Human beings have tremendous potential provided they are taught to train themselves on all levels—physical, mental, and spiritual. Let us teach our children how to become aware of themselves on all levels. With a calm and one-pointed mind, children can obtain a glimpse of true peace and happiness.