The Bhagavad Gita, or the Gita, is the discourse that takes place between Lord Krishna and Arjun before the start of the Kurukshetra war. The teachings by Lord Krishna helped change Arjun’s perspective about life and, thus, his life path. While the Gita is many centuries old, the logic and knowledge inherent in its every word, makes it a timeless guide.
Understanding the ageless guiding principles of the Bhagavad Gita can help us gain a deep insight into the how’s and why’s of life. And, assimilating the teachings of the Gita into our lives will encourage the habit of self-inquiry and guide us towards adopting a pragmatic approach to life. Here are ten life lessons that both adults and children can learn from the Bhagavad Gita.
1. Develop the right perspective: Just before the Kurukshetra war was about to begin, Arjun felt confused and dejected. He refused to fight as he failed to visualise the outcome of his actions. Perceiving things in the right way plays a critical role in helping us understand what we should do, why we should do it, our role in the scheme of things, and shaping our attitude.
How to help children learn perspective-taking: Based on our experiences, we learn to think in a certain way. Gradually, we begin to believe that only our beliefs are right, and those who differ from us are wrong. So, teach your child that it is necessary to understand the feelings of others, but it is not mandatory to agree with them. Encourage him to look at situations from the viewpoint of others.
2. Understand that change is the law of nature: According to the Gita, everything has to change. We know that our body, feelings, emotions, and perceptions, as well as everything around us is in a state of flux. Yet, when we are told that we need to change, we are reluctant to accept the advice or adamantly oppose it. To be successful, an individual needs to adapt to new situations, innovate and come up with better solutions, and explore new opportunities. So, while you enjoy the experience of being in familiar surroundings, be ready to usher in reforms and have new experiences.
How to help your child accommodate changes: Answer your child’s questions about any impending changes. Reassure her that the change would take time to occur, and she will have time to adjust to the new situation. Also, tell her about the positives that the change would bring into her life.
3. Practise tolerance and forgiveness: Tolerance teaches us to face the hardships of life with equanimity and desist from using force even when provoked. Forgiveness helps us pardon injustice and overcome the feelings of animosity. Both these qualities are crucial to maintain and nurture relationships, develop feelings of empathy and love, and overcome divisive thoughts. These two values formed the bedrock of the relationship that bound the Pandava brothers.
How to teach your child to be tolerant and forgiving: There is a treasure trove of stories and examples reflecting tolerance and forgiveness. Tell your child some such stories. Also, make him read about real-life instances of individuals being tolerant and forgiving.
4. Change the way you think: Having positive thoughts help us achieve a balanced perspective, stay confident, overcome negative notions, prepare well to meet challenges, and channelise our energy to achieve our goals. So, do not let negative thoughts take over your mind and ruin your chances. Being grateful, meditating, giving back, reading positive literature are a few techniques that can help foster positive thoughts.
How to make your child change his way of thinking: Teach your child to be flexible in the way she thinks. Tell her that instead of feeling frustrated at things not working out, she should try and work out a new approach. Practising this technique will help her adopt flexible thinking.
5. Stay calm: A calm mind will help us control our impulses, stay unperturbed and hopeful through both the good and the bad times, and keep stressors under control. It will also help us achieve clarity of thought, weigh our options, and channelise our energy towards gainful endeavours. The knowledge that change is inevitable plays a big role in helping us stay calm.
How to teach your child to stay calm: Children are easily upset as they don’t have adequate coping skills. Teach your child how to keep himself calm when he feels upset. For example, taking deep breaths, counting to 50, or taking a short break.
6. Work for the welfare of the world: Most of our actions are performed solely for our own benefit. We rarely worry about how our actions may affect others. This mindset makes us act in a selfish manner and detaches us from those around us. On the other hand, selflessness helps us realise that the world is one family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). Our actions should be such that they help make the world a better place and help us bond with those around us.
How to teach your child to be charitable: To help your child have a charitable nature, make her do activities like donating her toys and clothes, helping her peers, and engaging in voluntary activities.
7. Be fearless: Fear is one of the primordial emotions present in every living being. In humans, fear arises out of lack of knowledge and the consequent inability to manage emotions. So, be steadfast in your efforts to gain knowledge and wisdom. For, these are what will help you understand the unknown, and overcome your fear and hesitation.
How to help your child overcome fear: Children begin to worry, and eventually feel scared, when they don’t have sufficient information about factors that make them anxious. Encourage your child to share with you his worries and concerns.
8. Manage your anger: Anger impedes our ability to reason, which leads to confusion and chaos. It decreases our clarity of thought, and distracts us from pursuing our goals. The unpleasant experience gives rise to negative thoughts and pushes us towards committing destructive acts. In the Mahabharata, it was Duryodhana’s anger which prevented him from behaving in a reasonable manner and caused him to go to war with his cousins.
How to help your child manage anger: Tell your child that it is natural to feel angry at times and teach her techniques to deal with anger. For example, belly breathing, taking a time-out, practising relaxation skills like yoga, and reminding herself that anger won’t solve problems.
9. Dream big: Most remarkable achievements that we read or hear about are nothing but someone dreaming big and making their dream come true. So, do not be scared or doubtful about dreaming big and putting in unwavering effort to make it come true. At the same time, do not let easier goals distract you and make you lose focus from your higher objective.
How to make your child dream big: Here are some ways you can help your child dream big: encourage creative play, ask him to maintain a dream diary, share your dreams, set goals to achieve, teach him to use technology in an innovative manner, help him manage failure, and get him good books to read.
10. Accept that nothing is permanent: The example of day turning to night and into day again best illustrates the fact that nothing in this world is permanent, including success and failure. Those who have failed in their attempts should take heart from this example and keep striving for success. And, those who are going through bad times should keep persevering until they are able to change the tide.
How to explain impermanence to your child: It is very difficult for a young mind to grasp the concept of impermanence. However, you can try and explain it using some simple examples — sit with your child and ask her to look at the clouds in the sky. Show her how they change shape or move away after a few moments. Show her a bud that is about to bloom and tell her how in a few hours it will change into a flower. You can give numerous other examples.
According to *Swami Mahamedhananda, “Children should be trained and encouraged to work in the garden, to plant trees, to conserve water and other natural resources, to not waste food, to recycle whatever can be reused and to dispose waste in a responsible way. Although these look like very small acts, they will teach our children to understand and respect their relationship with nature. In whatever way, whatever work they do, they (children) should strive to give back more than what they receive. This is the spirit of sacrifice.”
*Swami Mahamedhananda is the editor of 'The Vedanta Kesari', a monthly cultural and spiritual magazine published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
Hope you liked this article. To get expert tips and read interesting articles on a wide variety of parenting topics, subscribe now to our magazine.