DEVOTEES TRY TO MOLD their lives around Krsna. They know that when they begin to love Lord Krsna, their hearts will bloom like flowers in the rising sun. So in the early-morning stillness, long before the postman comes, devotees are up, absorbed in spiritual practices. ** (In bhakti-yoga these are known as sadhana (literally, "the means by which to attain something") or sadhana-bhakti, the process of regulative devotional service, which includes chanting Hare Krsna, wor-shiping the Deity, studying scripture, and so on.)
Picture the scene: Your five-year-old daughter blows the conch shell to signal the start of the arati. ** (A ceremony for worshiping the Deity with offerings of incense, fans, flowers, water, singing, music, and dancing.) Family members quickly finish dressing or putting on tilaka ** (Auspicious clay marks that sanctify a devotee's body as a temple of the Lord.) and race into the temple room. ** (You may not have the space in your home to dedicate a room solely for this purpose. But try to make a temple in a space within a room, a special area.) Your seven-year-old son picks up the mrdanga ** (A double-headed drum designed to be played while one dances.)—it's his turn to lead the singing. Your daughter, ringing a bell in her left hand, be-gins to offer items to Krsna with nervous concentration. Your baby moves his arms happily as you carry him in yours. Your spouse plays karatalas ** (Small brass or bell-metal cymbals.) and sways to and fro with the rhythm of the kirtana. ** (Literally "glorification of the Lord." Devotees generally use the word to refer to congregational singing accompanied with instruments, as done in the temple or on the street.) Perhaps another family is visiting you. They join in and play instruments, clap, and dance. The tempo builds. Your small temple room begins to shake. A surprised postman glances in at the window.
Can We Do It?
You may be thinking of your own family and wondering,"Is a morning program like this possible for us?"
Changes are often difficult to make, you might think, especially one like this. Perhaps you feel pitted against inertia, your children's reluctance, or your own lack of confidence. So start small, even if at first you're alone trying to do something for Krsna's pleasure. Your decision is half the battle. At first you could simply offer a stick of incense and a flower to a picture ** (One can worship a picture of Krsna as one's household Deity.)as you sit before it chanting Hare Krsna. Then you could read a little from Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam. The whole affair may take only ten or fifteen minutes, but it's a start.
Your family members may not show much interest at first, but they will sense your enthusiasm and commitment. You can let them know how important you feel Krsna conscious-ness is, and how much it would mean to share a little daily Krsna conscious time with them. Once they begin to try it, the difficulty and strangeness will soon be forgotten. Krsna consciousness is natural and easy.
Gauge the length of the different aspects of your morning program by the enthusiasm of your children—if one day they aren't enjoying the kirtana, end it quickly. They'll feel relief instead of pressure. Better things be short and sweet than drawn out and forced. You could break up a long Srimad-Bhagavatam purport into small portions, or paraphrase difficult passages. Perhaps you could alternate Srimad-Bhagavatamwith days of reading Prabhupada Nectar. ** (Anecdotes about Srila Prabhupada compiled by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.)Anything to hold interest. As Srila Rupa Gosvami prescribes,yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet: somehow or other fix your mind upon Krsna.
Parents have a great challenge. Children have largely been liberated from the seen-and-not-heard ideology. They feel a much greater sense of equality with adults today and are less fearful and suppressed. The "nuclear family" has dispensed with many traditions in family interaction.
Now each family must establish its own mini-society. And parents must clearly know what they are doing, and why, especially in spiritual life. Force a child and you risk losing him later. Srila Prabhupada often cautioned his disciples that the art of spiritual leadership means to evoke—not stifle or kill—a person's inherent tendency to serve and love Lord Krsna. So don't sacrifice the essence for external ritual. If a child's interest is awakened, if he's having fun, external things like obedience and regulation will easily follow.
Visiting the Big Temple
Once you establish your small temple at home, a visit to the big one will become more significant. Your children will feel less like spectators and more like participants. If at home they are accustomed to play karatalas and mrdanga, offer arati, leadkirtana, give class, chant japa, ** (Meditational chanting on beads.) and help pre-pare offerings of food for Krsna, visiting a place where all these things go on in grand style will inspire them with fresh enthusiasm and ideas. Back home you may notice them singing a new tune or developing their method of offeringarati.
In other words, your children will see a pilgrimage to your local temple not as an outing only slightly different from a visit to a theater or circus, but as part of what's already their way of life. The spiritual culture of Krsna consciousness will be firmly rooted in their hearts. And not only will you feel satisfied to witness their spiritual growth, but you will be fulfilling your sacred duty as a parent—to give them the best start in life. As it is said, "Good beginnings make good endings."
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children.