I was raised and educated in the cave monasteries of the Himalayas and my “family” was my master, a great sage who raised me from the age of three, after my parents had died. My master was both mother and father to me, and in my entire life, I have not met anyone since who has exhibited such complete love and dedication—he did everything possible for my welfare, and he never took anything for himself.
At times I have felt some sadness, because there was nothing I could give him to fully express my appreciation. He would never even accept a flower from me as a gesture of love. To me, he was the living example of unconditional love and selflessness. Throughout my training with him, he expressed his love in many diverse ways, which changed as I grew. Whatever good I have achieved in life actually belongs to him. He was the perfect parent, able to give total acceptance, and yet also to be honest and stern when I needed correction.
At times I was a nuisance; as a young child I was sometimes naughty when I wanted his attention, and I distracted him from the depths of his meditation, but he accepted the responsibility of training me with love. This loving relationship provided the foundation of my life, and it is how I understand the great power that parents have to guide and help their children on the path of life.
Many of those who are sincerely pursuing the path of spirituality are parents. This role is of great importance in life, not only for the future welfare of the child, but also because taking on the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood can have such significant effects on the parents.
Some people enter into the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood with great wisdom, recognizing the importance of the duties and challenges they are accepting as part of their growth. Others have little insight or understanding of the real meaning of this task. They think that marriage and parenthood exist as institutions to make them happy and to satisfy their emotional desires. They think that all their relationships exist only for the pleasure they can provide. The most profound pleasures of parenthood, however, are experienced when parents love their children without expectation of reward. Family life is the most practical, psychologically satisfying way of living and can provide many joys, especially the joy of watching children grow.
I love to see the children as I travel; they are so pure and their faces are so open and honest. Children are a delight to me. They are so pure that if you love and accept them, they know it and respond, and if you don’t love them, they also know it. If you want to see the image of the living God, you can see it in the faces of children.
Children are sensitive to things that many other people cannot perceive, especially when they are very young, because they have not yet learned to lie and conceal the truth. But by the time they are older, they have developed this sense of false self, especially in families where they did not feel loved or safe.
Throughout my life, I have observed many great souls who have all loved children. Gandhi used to love to play with children; they would run to him and make noises in his face and play games, and adults would try to keep the children from bothering him, but he would reply, “Leave us alone; I am playing with my friends.” For a person who has the capacity to love and see the divine within, the greatest joy in the world is a child. Children reflect their inner beauty so freely; they are the most entertaining companions. Sometimes modern parents seem to be unable to appreciate this beauty, perhaps because they are so stressed and rushed in the modern world that they have no time to enjoy the best part of their lives.
This process is important for parents, because in parenting and being a loving partner there is a tremendous opportunity to make spiritual progress. The process of living in a family can teach us to become more loving, open, accepting, and selfless. When we love we can see the Self of all in the faces of those we love. We can work to remove the limitations of our own petty egotism by challenging ourselves to accept and serve others without selfishness. Those parents who knowingly accept this challenge and meet it wisely can achieve levels of personal maturity, wisdom, serenity, and love as a result of their learning in the family. The path of spirituality develops as you learn to love and continually expand that capacity to love, from your spouse and family to your community, to your nation, and eventually the entire world.
Source: Love and Family Life by Swami Rama