Question: Do you feel that parents should give young children religious instruction, or should children be free to choose their own form of worship when they are old enough?1

Sri Chinmoy: When a child is young, he does not know which food is nourishing and which food is bad. So, as a parent, it is your responsibility to give him what you feel is good for him. This is not an imposition; it is an offering. You have discovered that something is true, that something is good or bad. Is it wrong for you then to offer your discoveries to your child? If we do not feed the child because we do not know what he will like, he will simply starve to death. In the spiritual life also, it is your bounden duty to feed your child right from the beginning by teaching him to be good and generous, to have faith in God and pray to God or repeat God's Name. Otherwise, how will he learn these things?

When the child is thirteen or fourteen and his mind has developed, at that time he can make his own choice. When the child is old enough to make his own discoveries, let him discover his own path. If the child does not stay with his parents' path, if he feels that he knows everything better, then that is his business. But at least the parents have given him some foundation upon which to build a good life.

America is the land of freedom, so right from the beginning parents give their children endless freedom to do anything they want. Then, when the children grow up to be ignorant and undisciplined, the parents say, "Oh, I never expected my children to be like that." But it is the parents' fault. When their children are growing up, the parents cannot simply lead their own lives and ignore their children. They must give them boundless love, affection and concern. If one day their children do not respond to their love, the next day they must be ready to give more. They have to give unreservedly today and, even if they do not get any response, tomorrow they have to give again. Parents' business is to give, give, give and not to expect. They have to know the meaning of patience. When the time comes, the children will be grateful.

  1. MUN 431. 18 May 1973.