Question: What is the greatest thing we can do for our children?

Sri Chinmoy: Here in the West, there is a kind of freedom that I do not endorse. Some parents say that America is the land of freedom and they give their children the freedom to find out for themselves what is best for them. I tell you, this policy has ruined thousands and millions of young children. In the formative years, when children are being brought up, parents should always tell the children what is best for them.

Parents say, "Let them grow up. When they get older they will see for themselves what is best for them." This is what many parents have done in America and they have lost their children. When the child comes into existence I know the child needs milk. I feed the child milk. I do not say, "Let the child drink milk or water, whichever he prefers, and when he gets older he will realise that milk is better for him." By that time he will have left the world. So what I know is best I will give. Let the child drink milk until he is ten or twelve years old and then, if he does not like milk, I shall let him drink something else.

If I know that the best thing for me to do early in the morning is to pray, I will encourage my child to do this. But if I say, "No, I have come to this realisation at the age of forty, so let my son also wait until he is ready," then I am making a deplorable mistake. For forty years I did not accept the spiritual life but wallowed in life's ignorance. How much I suffered and how much suffering I caused for my dear ones! But now I know that the spiritual life is the answer. So when I have the child in front of me, I will inspire him to pray and meditate. The thing that I feel is best I will tell my child. Then, when he grows up, if he feels that what I have said is not the right thing for him, then he can accept something else. But I shall guide him along the road I have discovered to be right until he is old enough to choose his own road.

In the beginning, if the child is not instructed, if the child is not taught, how will the child learn? The child cannot be left to learn in his own way. The lesson has to be given right from the beginning. I know a truth which I will tell my children. Later, if they discover that there is a higher truth or that the truth I have taught them is wrong, then let them reject it. But unfortunately, it is not happening this way in the West. Here I see thousands of children who have been misguided by their parents in the name of freedom.