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Why should we raise spiritually aware children?

Generation Alpha. This is what children born after 2010 (until 2025) are called. The true inhabitants of the 21st Century, Generation Alpha, the offspring of the now famous demographic ‘Millennials’ – seem to have it all.

Generation researchers (yes, there is such a field of study) have identified the Alphas as being the most ‘materially endowed’ of us all, tiny as they are.

From the tips of their hair washed with paraben free, sulphate free shampoo to their soft little toes snuggled in locally handspun garments or the biggest international fashion labels, Generation Alpha represent everything that makes Millennials the game changing generation.

Rather than spending on buying houses and cars, Millennials live by the You Live Only Once mantra and seek pleasures in day-to-day life – good food, clothing and travel. Saving for a future that they can never have enough money to secure is not as enticing as creating meaningful experiences for today. And, to elevate their sense of self is the ever faithful technology that makes them feel valued, heard and in many ways, respected.

Millennials are also the first group of people to experience the technology boom, the first generation since the World War to witness economic depression and the first generation to realise the degrading impact of capitalism on our physical, emotional and environmental health. These contradictory notions of indulging in a materialistic life without guilt, yet being concerned about the ethics of consumption – is what makes Millennials fascinating as parents.

The biggest impact on Gen Alphas perhaps is the fact that these children already have a strong sense of personality. Their social media savvy Millennial Moms and Millennial Dads have probably documented every stage of their growth from the time they took their first breath. Many tiny Alphas are celebs in their right, starring in videos and pictures made viral by the irresistible web of the internet. By the time they learn how to walk, they may very well know how to choose their favourite video on the phone or tablet. Their passports with baby faces are most likely stamped more number of times than those of their grandparents.

Yet why is it, that much like their 20 or 30 something parents who wake up checking Instagram stories and Tweets, children of Generation Alpha are showing signs of anxiety and fear? Study after study has shown increasing mental health concerns in Millennials and Generation Z, which precedes Gen Alpha. While it could be that talking about depression and other mental illnesses is becoming more normalised, one cannot skim over the factors that are contributing to these troubles that assail the mind.

For starters, the constant need to be tethered to the phone is creating needless anxiety – it is hardly possible to live up to the standards of success that are being portrayed on social media. Should one abandon passion and tread on the path that fetches financial security, or should one abandon financial security for passion? Is a strong person one who puts themselves first, or recognises their role in keeping the social unit together?

There is also no way to filter the barrage of information that we are bombarded with everytime we unlock our phones – the internet offers plenty of opportunities to worry about situations that simply may never occur to us. There is the question of the complicated relationship with money – Millennials have been forced to depend on their parents as adults to a much larger extent than previous generations.

Why are all these things important to understand? The simple fact is that these pressures invariably affect the way Millennials parent their children.

Interestingly, studies have also found that Millennials have either withdrawn from religion or have an ambiguous relationship with spirituality, discarding several rituals as redundant in today’s times.

While the world may become more prosperous, more connected, more ethical in the material sense – all wonderful changes, the erosion of spirituality as the fulcrum of daily living, especially for us in India, means that many Millenials are unable to cope with the pressures in a way that would bring peace rather than conflict to the mind.

When the definition of success changes from being the better version of yourself to lessen the karmic baggage to one that is measured by how much money one makes, how many countries one has visited, how many likes one has got for one’s posts, how morally upright one seems to their friends or how loved one is by another, mental health is bound to suffer. The locus of control is always in the hands of other people, ideas or standards.

The reality is, no matter how ‘advanced’ one may think one is, in terms of one’s education or social status or generally as a society, a nation, a civilisation, we will always be confronted with questions that have troubled human beings for, ironically, millena – why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? Is happiness the end goal? How can we learn from our mistakes? What are our duties to ourselves? What is our role in society? How do we live a fruitful life?

The answers to all of these tormenting questions are open to anyone who seeks to walk the path of Sanathana Dharma. This is why, now more than ever, there is a need to raise spiritually aware children, who are not swayed by what they see and hear, but know that their birth is not an accident, but a chance for their soul to right the wrongs in the long journey toward moksha (the ultimate goal of human life). The understanding of righting wrongs, of setting aside seemingly intrinsic behaviour that brings conflict and dissatisfaction, the very understanding of time as a cyclical concept rather than a linear progression toward more and more advancement (which always seems far out of reach) are all important tools that will help children navigate the complexities and the banality of our ever smiling, ever connected world. 

Allowing a child to find the pleasure in a flower blooming or in a deep orange sunset would spark the rasa of adbutha that is innate in children. Teaching them timeless stories of Rama and Krishna will create inroads about right and wrong, courage, dignity, strength of character, the need for patience and humility and most importantly, the power of detachment toward results. 

The glorious heritage of Sanatana Dharma is an invaluable treasure that lives and breathes in our land, the guiding force that makes us seekers of the divine rather than mere organisms at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of life. The very knowledge of our place in the world, how at once it is both vast as the universe and as miniscule as a speck of sand, can act as a balm to our troubles – we are both capable of going to any extent to protect dharma, and letting things go because our thoughts don’t hold relevance to the larger scheme of things.

This essence of spirituality is what will help our children face fear and anxiety, feelings of inadequacy or temper the overblown sense of self.

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