Walk into your local bookstore and ask a clerk to help you locate a book about parenting. Chances are, he or she will lead you to shelves upon shelves of books. Search “parenting” on Google, and in less than 0.2 seconds, you will have a million links at your disposal. Flip through the channels on your television, and you will find countless programs that aim to promote “positive parenting” and “family values”. From magazines to seminars to counseling, today there are numerous resources to aid parents as they take on the important and difficult task of parenting. These resources address the odds and ends of parenting needs, identifying what children should eat, how they should be disciplined, and even the kinds of music they should listen to in order to stimulate brain activity.
Here’s the catch: can parenting be taught through tools and resources? At most, they may identify how to be a good guardian or caretaker; but, a parent has a certain “X” factor that distinguishes him or her from those other roles. What is this X-factor? Unconditional love.
I think back to my childhood, remembering my excitement when my brother was first born. My exuberance quickly lapsed into jealousy as my brother began receiving the attention that once exclusively belonged to me. Like any toddler, I was not ready to share. So, I took up arms. I paraded around in saris while my mom was feeding him, knowing she would laugh and look my way. I drew her pictures and made her hang them up on her door as a constant reminder of my presence. I would push myself to read more and more, so that I could run to my dad and impress him with my progress. I did everything my three-year-old mind could fathom to fight for the love and attention of my parents. I ate more, I smiled more, and I learned more. It took a few months to realize that my fight was futile. There was no need to fight. My parents loved me all the same; brother or no brother. Sixteen years later, I realize that love is not shared. It is given, and given unconditionally.
What a child needs most is unconditional love. And no book, seminar, or counselor can teach parents how to give that to their children. It comes from within. There is no one who has been able to exemplify this more than P. P. Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His unconditional love for his devotees is like an ideal parent’s true love for their child. His love manifests itself in his ability to connect with everyone he meets, his understanding guidance and, most importantly, his willingness to sacrifice time for others.
Forging an Individual Connection:
Premprakash Swami vividly recalls the first time he met Swamishri. He was ten-years old at the time and was staying at the Gadhada mandir under the care of Devcharan Swami. One day, during his stay in Gadhada, Swamishri called for Premprakash Swami. Swamishri began to ask: “What is your name? Which town are you from? Who is your father? How did you come to be in Gadhada? Oh, to study? What do you study?” One after another, the questions kept coming, and Premprakash Swami would answer some, while the Kothari sant at the time, Harjivandas Swami, would answer others. Harjivandas Swami informed Swamishri, “He is Dev’s [Devcharan Swami’s] disciple.” To this Swami replied, “Oh really now! We’re Dev’s [God’s] too, you know.” Swamishri’s wit charmed the young boy.
Harjivandas Swami then voiced a subtle complaint: “He’s young, but a bit too smart; he’s always got an answer for everything.” Swami took the complaint light-heartedly and replied, “That is good. He will be very good in scriptural debates. So make sure you study hard and become a scholar. You do pay attention to your studies don’t you? Concentrate on both your studies and seva.” Swami then added, “It is nice to have all the answers, but be aware that you don’t talk back to the elders. Respect them. Be humble and polite with them.”
A couple days prior, Premprakash Swami had been anxious about meeting Pramukh Swami — the president of such a large organization. He expected Pramukh Swami to be strict and admonish his mischief. However, that day, Swamishri changed his perceptions. That day, Swamishri forged a connection with him and planted a seed of inspiration that blossomed years later and gave him the courage to walk on the spiritual path as a sadhu.
Although each of his devotees is simply one of thousands, Swamishri knows and loves them each as individuals. No one is cast aside or considered a stranger. And in turn, each also feels loved, nurtured and has a unique bond with Swamishri. This in itself is a testament to Swamishri’s parenting ability. His unconditional love allows him to connect with not one, but all.