Srila Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami was the principal of the Vedic school (gurukula) in Mayapur, India for many years. The following are excerpts from a series of lectures he gave in Krishna Valley, Somogyvámos.
1. Child raising begins well before the actual birth of a child. Before becoming a parent, one should first become a mature personality. Choosing the proper wife or husband is also essential; the marrying couple must share the same values.
We have to pay attention to the proper training of boys and girls before marriage. For the boys, this means they have to learn to control their senses, that is to say they have to become strong brahmacaris (students). If they don’t become good brahmacaris, later they will be unable to help their wives.
In traditional Indian culture parents knew the nature, needs, and desires of the marrying couple very well. By looking at the culture and lifestyle of the other family they were able to ascertain whether the young couple was compatible. They also consulted with excellent astrologers on these matters. Because the two families had similar social backgrounds, their moral values, desires, ambitions in life, and everything else also corresponded. Their community and their culture determined whether they wanted children and if yes, how many; how they would earn their living; what would their relationship would be like, etc.
2. The character and nature of the child is greatly determined by the consciousness of the parents at the time of conception.
Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He is the union of the husband and wife if it is done according to religious principles, for the purpose of conceiving a child. This means that it is based on planning (i.e., on choosing a day favorable for the conception) and knowledge, and it is not controlled by passion. If conception does not take place under the influence of the mode of passion, the child will be very disciplined, peaceful, and God-conscious.
3. The education of children cannot be exclusively based on disciplining; personal example and the transmission of proper values are far more important. However it is important that the parents also appreciate and follow the values and lifestyle they want to transmit to their children.
We see very often that after two people get married, they think they are completely capable of having children. And if they already have children, they are convinced they are highly capable of raising them. But human life means training, learning, and regulation.
You will give your children what you appreciate, not something else. So if you think that it’s no problem if they watch TV, it is because you yourself don’t think that watching television is bad. If you think that it is no big deal if boys and girls are flirting a little, it is because you yourself like doing it. Parents by their nature want to give what is best for their children. If you think that Vedic culture is the best, you will want your child to benefit from it and to be part of it. Of course, ultimately the decision is theirs, but at least you will ensure the best atmosphere for them.
The general idea is that children have to be raised by their parents. But we have to understand that being a parent is a rasa (a mood, an attitude), not just a biological function. Just as brahmacaris are not brahmacarisby merely adopting the externals but by acquiring the proper attitude, so becoming a parent does not equal mere externals either, but means a certain mood as well. That is why the scripture says that we should not become a mother, a father, a teacher, a guru, or a king if we cannot save those depending on us from death. This is the meaning of the parental rasa: to give shelter. The purpose of giving shelter is to take those depending on us back home, back to Godhead. If the son stays home with his parents, he will not think about the ultimate purpose of life. “Why should I worry? Eating and sleeping is provided.” By leaving his parents’ home and approaching another kind of parent, the teacher, one will become sensitive to one’s environment. In Vedic culture, the teacher is part of the complex plan of raising children in the community.