Teach Your Children Well: Parenting as a Spiritual Path
Jan 07, 2016 04:11PM
● By Seijaku Roshi
“I am confident when I say that the two most powerful actions one can commit in the Universe are Love and Shame.” ~ Seijaku Roshi
In a recent “Daily Meditation”, Richard Rhor, OFM, points to Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book, The Biology of Transcendence, “where he points to both culture and cultural entrapment… as blockages to potential growth toward transcendence.” He explains that, “Each stage of brain development provides a biological window to connect with higher levels. But if the child or teenager is threatened or shamed, these possibilities for higher connection die off and the connection to the more primitive, reflexive, reptilian brain—which is hardwired for defense and survival—are strengthened. People stop developing or they even regress.”
The dictionary defines “parenting” as, “to bring forth” as in nurturing the ground for authenticity and true self-expression. Our culture’s approach to childbearing is usually to try and shape and form the child into the parents own image or, someone else's image or expectation including, their notion of God, good, religious, spiritual, patriotic, righteousness, and all the rest. This approach usually focuses on “shaming, threatening, and punishing” as a means toward bringing the child to compliance. This approach has nothing to do with “parenting” and I believe has caused more suffering in the world than anything else. Rohr concludes that, “The great spiritual teachers throughout history intended to awaken us to the illusion of culture and the reality of our transcendent nature.”
Buddhism teaches that each of us are born into the world possessing an “inherent nature” or what Zen refers to as one’s “True Nature”. We are spiritually and biologically hardwired for loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom, as well as for “defense and survival”. Like the acorns which cover the grounds here at Pine Wind, when you look at one what you are really looking at is an “oak tree”. Everything that acorn requires to “grow and transcend” is already in there, except for one thing—a “conducive environment” which the forest will provide according to its “true nature”. Something must thwart this natural mystery toward what the Buddha called— “pure potential”.
I believe like every generation the hope of the worlds future lies in our children, and “parenting” is the most important spiritual path there is. Like the teacher, he or she possesses enormous power toward whether or not in the future our planet will be populated by adults who have been nurtured toward being a force for healing and peace, or more suffering and wars. What is required of us now in this very place in time is a real cultural and social redefinition of the meaning of life, especially for parents and their natural and true purpose for child bearing; and just like it takes an ecosystem to sustain the forest and its individual members, it takes a village to parent a child.
So parents (and I speak as a single parent of a beautiful 6-year-old daughter), here’s a New Year’s resolution that will make a real difference—“I vow to teach my children well!”
I love you… let your children know you love them!
Seijaku Roshi, founder of The Zen Society/Pine Wind Zen Community, is Abbot of Jizo-an Monastery, in Shamong, NJ, 609-268-9151, PineWind.org.