By Kesava Krsna Dasa

If a devotee child grows up to be a non-devotee, is this evidence that the parents mood at the time of conception was anything but Krishna conscious? Are the parents to be blamed, or are there other factors that determine this outcome?

Is it possible that in spite of the parents best interest and loving Krishna conscious attention given to their children, that such children can turn their backs altogether, to pursue life, as they desire most? Would there have to be a major problem for this to occur, or is “desire” the one insurmountable force that eludes all but themselves?

It might sound extreme to say that such grown-up kids can relinquish Krishna consciousness altogether. Can it really happen? As we, all get older and mature as adults, and look back at the folly of our rebellion from parental conditioning – depending on how helpful it was – we often revert to the assurances of our earlier years. “Mum and Dad knew best,” I suppose.

This seems to be a likely outcome in many cases. It can appear somewhat strange for younger devotees to see how active senior devotees, being good examples for the rest, but whose grown-up children prefer more worldly pursuits. These observances might also strengthen the case for being a staunch brahmacari or sannyasa. Would anyone go so far as to judge whether conception times for the parents were properly focused or not?

How many of us were born into mleccha families, but somehow came to Krishna consciousness, and had parents who planned Immaculate Conception of the non-virginal kind for us? By some great fortune, could they have heard a couple of hidden bed bugs screeching, “Om Narayanaya Namah” when uniting for us? Anything can happen. In the unlikely event that our own non-Krishna conscious parents somehow had Krishna in mind as we took shelter of a womb, indicates that other causes are at play.

The same applies for devotee parents too. Sometimes the example of Hiranyakasipu is given as “proof” that being Krishna conscious at conception time produces an immaculate child such as Sri Prahlada. The demon heard two birds – Narada Muni and Parvata Muni in disguise – chanting “Om Narayanaya Namah,” while performing austerities. The intrusion of the name of his absolute nemesis so disturbed him that he left and went home for a while. Being negatively Krishna conscious, thanks to those two sages, he and his wife had a unique conception. This incident is recorded in the Nrsmha Purana.

We know Srila Prabhupada repeatedly said that being Krishna conscious at conception time would produce like-minded children. Is it the only criterion for ensuring this? Isn’t there a continuation of “previous impressions,” or the principle of, “Bhakti begets Bhakti” to consider as well? Those from mleccha backgrounds certainly came to be devotees based on these two causes. Could we say that it would definitely be advantageous if parents were deliberately attuned, when planning for a child?

With these other causes for different degrees of devotional commitment, it would be unfair and inaccurate to presume that parents were unmindful of Krishna alone. Then there is the exposure of the children to the daily lifestyle of the parents and other devotees. The common notion of, “Once a devotee, always a devotee” must sway in their favour. Whether they be educated in civil or devotee schools can further determine their future desires.

While experiencing all of these events, what really counts for our youngsters is the loving and understanding attention of the parents. This can help counter all negative exposures they face. The extent the parents expose their children, to help lend balance in their lives, can be done either fanatically or loosely. To help prepare children for the “real” world, they need to know about cinemas, sports activities and the usual vices. Over-protection, and keeping young ones isolated, can cause more harm.

If at some stage, after reaching the late teens or so, it appears that some of our youngsters are turning their backs for certain, then there must have been something serious to cause this. Largely most devotee young adults will simply mirror what the adults are already doing; that is living a life as undercover devotees in civil society. This could be mistaken for turning away.

In cases where youngsters really do turn their backs, then the parents should still know the cause. Could it be that they want to experience life of the sort they were never exposed to before? Perhaps they are not truly relinquishing everything, but are registering an indirect protest of some sort – get “burnt” by the glare of material energy, then come back to what their parents desired for them. Ultimately, no child can give up the strong bonds of genuine Krishna conscious parental concern.

If the parental relationship is not so strong however, and is tinged with artificial applications of renunciation, or purposeful detachment, this is the easiest unspoken break in the bond that a youngster can detect. It may be very well to say, “You go your way, and we’ll go ours,” but there is nothing wrong with being attached to Krishna conscious family members. It is required for balanced human sanity, let alone devotional family life.

These sorts of misunderstood impositions that break family bonds will not help us as a society of devotees, considering how other major religions are spreading rapidly through human reproduction. One can retain the understanding of detachment while administering love and affection for our children. This detachment should reflect our selflessness. Surely, no child will turn their backs on selfless parents, even if apparently they go astray.

The identification of such parents with the process of Krishna consciousness is certain to help us into the future. We may not have the rapid numbers of devotees at present. Better to have the quality of bonds that can encourage any youngster to share their good fortune of being born to devotee parents. Aside from all other association, their tender formative years are guided by emotion, and the parents are all our kids have.

In the case of Prahlada, he was an exception to the norms of parenting. He still loved his demoniac Dad, and he possessed an uncommon understanding of detachment and renunciation. For us parents to mimic his ways incorrectly, which may cause our youngsters to rebel politely or otherwise, is an injustice, and an impediment to encouraging their “previous impressions” to blossom.

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