Question: How can one most effectively influence children spiritually?

Sri Chinmoy: Parents can offer their children most effective spiritual help only by leading the divine life themselves — that is to say by action, not by preaching. Whatever you tell a child to do, you yourself have to do it first, every day. Parents often ask their children to do something which they themselves do not do. Or they do something and then ask their children not to do it. They say, "I can do it, but you can't." You may tell your children, "Get up at seven o'clock and pray and meditate," but the next morning you will be sleeping. Similarly, you may tell your children not to tell lies, but you yourself will tell lies. Everything you do you will justify by saying, "Oh, I have passed your stage; these things don't affect me."

If you ask your children to get up and meditate and you yourself do the same, automatically they get added strength. But if you don't do the same thing, already half their strength goes away. Their attention is immediately diverted. They think: "If this is really good, how is it that my mother is not doing it?" or "If this is really bad, how is it that she is doing it?"

You have to feel that since your children are very young, you are responsible for them. If you feel that milk is really good for your children, then because you are responsible for your children you give them milk. You don't wait for them to become eleven or thirteen years old and discover for themselves that milk is good. As long as the Supreme has given you the realisation that milk is most nourishing, you have to share that realisation with your children. When their mind is developed, then let them make their own choice. It is the same with the spiritual life. What you call best, let your children also call best. Later, when their mind is developed, if their mind wants to take them away, let them battle with the mind and decide whether you were right or wrong.

Always try to become an example for your children. If you ask your children to draw something, and you yourself start cooking, you will be making a mistake. You should not cook at that time; you have to go and draw with the children. Even while the children are playing, it is better always to be one with them. If the children are playing with a ball, although you may feel that you have important things to do, the most important thing for you to do is to keep the children company. There can be nothing more important in your life. If you really want to see their progress, if you want them to enter into the spiritual life, make them happy — not by becoming indulgent, not by giving them twenty toys at a time, but by doing something for them. When you are with them, give them the feeling that they are good and divine. Tell them, "God loves you most. You are His chosen child. The whole world is waiting for you."

This is what I mean by making them happy. To give them real happiness, make them feel that God wants them. This is not insincere flattery. When parents admire and adore a child, even if the qualities that they are admiring are not at the fore, they come to the fore. In India when a child is born blind the parents give him the name "Lotus-eyed." They compare the child to the cosmic gods. Now people may say this is silly, but these parents are doing the right thing by saying that their children have the special grace of the cosmic gods. They are invoking the presence of the cosmic gods. So when you appreciate, admire and adore your children, please try to feel that you are helping them develop the qualities that you feel ought to come to the fore in them; you are bringing to the fore their dormant inner divinity.

Also, tell them about God, but do not speak about Him as an old man. Always make them feel that He is somebody of their age. If the children are three years old, then God is also three years old for them. Tell them He is their good Friend, their eternal Friend. Tell them to be prepared for Him. He is coming to them as their most intimate Friend, so they have to behave well.