Now that my daughter Amrita is two, the focus of my parenting has shifted from questions on navigating our way through the daily routines of life, to more philosophical ones. She has started to ask “what?” and “why?” There are many questions to which I have straightforward answers, but I find myself increasingly thinking about how I will answer the more esoteric ones. I have my beliefs and assumptions and of course would like to share them with Amrita, but I do not claim to be all-knowing.
When I was a child and would ask my mother similar questions, I remember how puzzled I was that she didn’t know all the answers. It seemed odd to me that we humans came into existence only to wander in a fog of confusion and ignorance. I found it especially strange that the intricacies of how our own bodies function was a mystery that we were still working to unravel. My mother explained to me that life is a growing experience for your soul, and if you had all the answers from the start, what would be the point?
Not all parents see the world this way, and is that not the beauty of existence—to be free to interpret the world as we see fit? I began to wonder how I would respond to Amrita’s questions to which I have absolutely no idea of the answer. I decided that when confronted with such a situation, I will tell my daughter honestly that I do not know, but that we can look it up together. What then, will I do when the question has no concrete answer or there are conflicting beliefs in the world? Let’s take one of the BIG questions that arises at some point in childhood: what happens after you die? I believe in reincarnation and will share my belief with her and why it resonates with me. But do I really know for a fact that this is what happens after death? Can I prove it to her? No, so if I tell her about reincarnation and I am wrong, am I planting false truths? Is there really only one correct perception of reality?
I want to be able to give Amrita my perceptions of existence and reality, without stifling her ability to decide what feels right to her inside. “Come into the silence of solitude, and the vibration there will talk to you through the voice of God.” (Paramahansa Yogananda) Go inside to find your truth. I went inside and found that this method is also the answer. These words by my Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, embody how I will encourage Amrita to form her own perceptions of the universe.
Yogananda’s teachings encourage “self realization” through Kriya yoga and meditation, and I was thus always given the freedom to find my own path by my parents who were also Yogananda’s devotees. I will relate to my daughter what I believe, because it feels right to me when I am in that meditative state of pure balance. Her name, Amrita, means the nectar of God. It is the substance in the brain that is released when all your chakras are in alignment and you are perfectly in balance, so you can taste the sweet, pure essence of oneness with all existence. It is said that a spiritual name serves as a personal mantra, guiding one to that destiny.
Hopefully this practice of tuning into herself and what feels right will teach Amrita to navigate her way through life, serving her not only as a tool for the big questions in life, but also as a way that helps her trust her perceptions of people, the world around her and her path in life. When a person can look within to find truth and balance, I think he or she in turn will be more inclined to respect other’s beliefs and realities when they differ from one’s own.