Why do Indian parents never force their child to read the Bhagavad Gita?

Force is never a good thing. Children should never be forced against their will, but they should be trained up from an early age in the process of self-realization. For instance, in stead of reading some fiction to their kids, parents could read them a passage from Bhagavad Gita, and discuss it with them.

At least, in India kids grow up with adventure stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, stories about God and real people. When I was a kid I grew up with Marvel characters like Batman and Superman. It hardly gets anymore fictive than that. And these fictitious characters, so loved by Western kids, don't even come close in prowess to the heroes of the Vedic tradition. In fact, a guy like Bhima makes Batman and Superman look like fitness instructor

Srila Prabhupada in his book Teachings of Prahlada Maharaja writes:

Prahlada Maharaja says that everyone is attached to family affection. If one is attached to family affairs, he cannot control his senses. Naturally, everyone wants to love someone. Society, friendship, and love are needed. They are demands of the spirit soul, but they are being pervertedly reflected. I have seen that many ladies and gentlemen in your country have no family life, but they have placed their love in cats and dogs. Because they want to love someone but do not see anyone suitable, they place their valuable love in cats and dogs.

Our concern is to transfer this love -- which has to be placed somewhere -- to Krishna. This is Krishna consciousness. If you transfer your love to Krishna, that is perfection. But now, because people are being frustrated and cheated, they do not know where to place their love, and at last they place their love in cats and dogs.

Everyone is entangled by material love. It is very difficult to develop spiritual life when one is advanced in material love, because this bondage of love is very strong. Therefore Prahlada proposes that one should learn Krishna consciousness from childhood. When a child is five or six years old -- as soon as his consciousness is developed -- he should be sent to school to be trained, and Prahlada Maharaja says that his education should be Krishna conscious from the very beginning. The period from five to fifteen years is a very valuable time; you can train any child in Krishna consciousness, and he will become perfect.

If a child is not trained in Krishna consciousness and instead becomes advanced in materialism, it is difficult for him to develop spiritual life. What is materialism? Materialism means that all of us in this material world, although we are spirit souls, somehow or other want to enjoy this material world.

The spirit of enjoyment is present in its pure form in the spiritual world, in relation to Krishna, but we have come here to partake of contaminated enjoyment, just as a man on the Bowery thinks he can enjoy by drinking some liquor. The basic principle of material enjoyment is sex. Therefore, you will find sex not only in human society but in cat society, dog society, bird society -- everywhere. During the daytime, a pigeon has sex at least twenty times. This is his enjoyment.

The Srimad-Bhagavatam confirms that material enjoyment is based upon nothing more than the sexual combination of man and woman. In the beginning a boy thinks, "Oh, that girl is nice," and the girl says, "That boy is nice." When they meet, that material contamination becomes more prominent. And when they actually enjoy sex, they become more attached, completely attached. How?

As soon as a boy and girl are married, they want an apartment. Then they have children. And when they have children, they want social recognition -- society, friendship, and love. In this way their material attachment goes on increasing. And all of this requires money. A man who is too materialistic will cheat anyone, kill anyone, beg, borrow, or steal -- anything to bring money. He knows that his buildings, his family, his wife and children cannot continue to exist perpetually.

They are just like bubbles in the ocean: they have come into existence, and after a little while they will be gone. But he is too much attached. He will sacrifice his spiritual advancement for the pursuit of money to maintain them. His perverted consciousness -- "I am this body. I belong to this material world. I belong to this country. I belong to this community. I belong to this religion. I belong to this family." -- becomes greater and greater.

Where is his Krishna consciousness? He becomes so entangled that money becomes more valuable to him than his own life. In other words, he can risk his life for money. The householder, the laborer, the merchant, the thief, the dacoit, the rogue -- everyone is after money. This is illusion. One loses himself in the midst of this entanglement.

Prahlada Maharaja says that in this state, when you are too much implicated in materialism, you cannot cultivate Krsna consciousness. Therefore one should practice Krishna consciousness from early childhood. Of course, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is so kind that He says, "Better late than never. Even though you missed the opportunity to begin Krishna consciousness from childhood, begin now, in whatever position you are."

That is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's teaching. He never said, "Because you did not begin Krishna consciousness from your childhood, you cannot make progress." No. He is very kind. He has given us this nice process of chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Whether you are young or old -- no matter what you are -- just begin. You do not know when your life will be finished. If you chant sincerely, even for a moment, it will have great effect. It will save you from the greatest danger -- becoming an animal in your next life.

Although only five years old, Prahlada Maharaja speaks just like a very experienced and educated man because he received knowledge from his spiritual master, Narada Muni. That is disclosed in the next chapter of the Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.7].

Wisdom does not depend on age, but on knowledge received from a superior source. One cannot become a wise man simply by advancement of age. No. That is not possible. Knowledge has to be received from a superior source; then one can become wise. It doesn't matter whether one is a five-year-old boy or a fifty-year-old man. As it is said, "By wisdom one becomes an old man, even without advanced age."

So although Prahlada was only five years old, by advancement in knowledge he was imparting perfect instructions to his classmates. Some may find these instructions unpalatable. Suppose a man is already married and Prahlada says, "Take to Krishna consciousness." He will think, "Oh, how can I leave my wife? We talk so nicely together, sit together and enjoy. How can I leave?" Family attraction is very strong.

I am an old man -- seventy-two years old. I have been away from my family during the last fourteen years. Yet sometimes I also think of my wife and children. This is quite natural. But that does not mean I have to go back. This is knowledge. When the mind wanders to thoughts of sense gratification, one should at once understand, "This is illusion."

According to the Vedic system, one has to forcibly give up family life at the age of fifty. One must go. There is no alternative. The first twenty-five years are for student life. From age five to age twenty-five, one should be educated very nicely in Krishna consciousness. The basic principle of one's education should be Krishna consciousness, nothing else. Then life will be pleasing and successful, both in this world and in the next. A Krishna conscious education means one is trained to give up material consciousness altogether. That is perfect Krishna consciousness.

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