Introducing Your Child to Karma Yoga and the Concept of Nishkama Karma:
By Jayaram Rajaram
This post is for the parent only and must be used to guide children so they lead contented, healthy and happy lives.
The Bhagavad Gita has inspired millions of people for thousands of years and its teachings are timeless and relevant even today. A primary teaching by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battle field is the importance of Karma Yoga and Nishkama Karma. The meaning of Nishkama Karma is to do ones duty without worrying about the results. Arjuna (Representing the Pandavas) had to fight the Kauravas who were his own cousins. While he felt emotional, Krishna who was Arjuna’s charioteer cleared his doubts by saying, fighting bad people had to be done to protect good people. So, Arjuna felt relieved that fighting was his duty at that point and he had to do it to protect Dharma or righteousness.
Now several children are committing suicide because they do not get good marks. This is very sad and parents and teachers are sometimes largely to blame for this sad state of affairs. As parents it is our duty to tell our children that it is their duty to study to learn. We have to reassure them that no matter what the outcome or results are, we will love our children. Whenever children study, emphasize the importance of learning rather than focussing on the outcome. If the child is merely by hearting things, step in and help him/ her understand concepts logically wherever possible.
Similarly ask your children what problem in the world they wish to solve when they grow up? Two or three generations have been spoilt and have become unhappy because they have been asked what they want to become and the narrative has been ambition based rather than duty based. Ambition and desire are the root causes of unhappiness as per Sanatana Dharma. Many people believe lack of ambition is laziness. Nishkama Karma and Karma Yoga is all about action for the benefit and well-being of the world (All benefit that comes to an individual is merely a by-product of action that is done without hankering after rewards and recognition). Today even many doctors and hospitals focus more on how much they can earn rather than patient care. At least the next generation should start focusing on how they can help others by acting in the right way and spirit.
Tell children that duty for the sake of duty, no matter what job they take up, will keep them happy. Giving everything in life their best shot and not worrying about the outcome is the best way to nurture a stable, happy, peaceful and contented future generation.
This is a tough task, but this is must be the highest priority among parents if we are not to repeat the mistakes made by the west. Modern examples of Karma Yogis are Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam and E Sreedharan (Delhi Metro).
You could ask your children the following questions:
What problem will you solve when you grow up?
If your child is younger, just ask them what they will do when they grow up and accept all answers while guiding them without putting too much emphasis on duty as their level of understanding may be limited till the age of 8. But use the word duty when they mess a room and make them put back their toys after they play etc.
Who will the work you do when you grow up help?
What is your duty as a kid?
Answer to this should be: Learn to the best of your ability (and don’t worry about marks), Be Good, Do Good, Be Happy
Do you know who the greatest and best people are?
Allow your child to answer and then emphasize that the best and greatest people in the world are those who help others by doing their duties wholeheartedly. So explain that even their grandmother / great grandmother are great for their selfless service to their families even if they never worked outside the home (This will remove money from the equation and recognize service and duty as something that is recognized and important). This way as parents we have to get it into the child’s subconscious that duty-bound action is better than ambition-based action and people with big bank balances, famous people and actors aren’t the real role models, unless of course they are good people who help others (Then they are worth emulating, provided they have all-round values worth emulating). Basically this will help your child treat everyone equally and understand that duties and rights are two sides of the same coin while slowly realizing that making money and becoming famous as a by-product is better than gunning only for riches and fame at any cost. They will also start understanding that an entitlement mindset* and fighting for rights without doing their duty is a sure-shot way to self-destruction and unhappiness.
*Children who grow up thinking the whole world owes it to them have very difficult lives.
Note: This has to be done carefully, as we should not paint a picture that money and rich people are bad, because this is not true at all. Nishkama Karma is about doing your duty well and not hankering after rewards. If you are an IT professional, by virtue of being in a job one must give it his / her 100% during office hours, go back home and play the role of a father/mother, husband/wife 100%. If a person is an entrepreneur he/she must work towards solving their customers’ problems and helping their employees and shareholders improve their lives (As a byproduct of this dedication to his / her duty the entrepreneur’s life improves, but that should not be the primary goal if one wants contentment and peace of mind). So Nishkama Karma and Karma Yoga is a shift in attitude and thought process which will definitely help anyone no matter what their background, ethnicity, nationality is, live a more balanced, happy, healthy, peaceful and fulfilled life.
Bring in the importance of dignity of labour by asking them to thank the bus driver / auto driver / maid for the service and help they render.
Build on this and as a parent keep course correcting based on the situation so your child knows what is expected of him / her.
Most importantly start practicing Karma Yoga and live the Nishkama Karma philosophy yourself (It is a liberating experience and definitely worth the effort). Also, our kids learn by watching us, so we have no choice but to live the life we want our children to learn and emulate!
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