Four Primary Principles of Conscious Childrearing, Chapter Two: Discipline Is an Act of Love within the Culture of Expectation



Four Primary Principles of Conscious Childrearing

Chapter Two

Discipline Is an Act of Love
within the Culture of Expectation

Adi Da: Only true, spiritual, and moral
community provides the human functional basis for the continuous
testing and schooling of human qualities. When people exist outside
the cultural bond of community, all the forms of anti-social and
self-possessed aberration appear, and, once having appeared, they
cannot truly be changed unless the individual is restored to the
condition of community. Therefore, devote your freedom to community.
Put your energy into human things.
(Scientific Proof of the
Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House.)

Session One

A Review of the Instructions on
Discipline

This session is a review of the published
literature on discipline. It begins with “The Initiation of the
Challenging Force” from Ice Cream & Shoe, the toddler manual.
This consideration of the artful application of the challenging force
is included here because it does not only apply to toddlers. Can your
child receive and always respond to a clear demand to go beyond
himself or herself? The challenging force is best initiated and the
positive response to it established at the toddler age, but if this
has not taken place, then it must be done at whatever age spiritual
life is embraced. Also addressed in “The Initiation of the
Challenging Force” is the dynamic of challenge-nurture, “the two-man
con.” This also does not merely apply to the toddler age but should
he understood as a principle of growth throughout a
lifetime.

Adi Da has said that students must not be afraid
to “discipline and love one another”—in other words, to serve
one another as we have been served by Him. True discipline is love.
It arises out of the compassionate regard for all others that is
awakened in students when they “hear” the Teaching of Truth and “see”
the Spiritual Master.

Children do not have the will or understanding
necessary to choose a spiritual Way of life apart from our consistent
offering of that choice to them. It is part of our Practice to create
a culture that actively expects that children will live this Way of
life. Apart from such a culture, they cannot mature
spiritually.

Adi Da: Children are simply incarnate human
beings at a very early stage of development. They do not enjoy
responsibility of a very sophisticated kind at all. Thus, they
require and depend upon the human cultural environment around
them—not just the natural environment—to come to the
position of responsibility in which they can live as mature human
beings.
(unpublished talk)

All practitioners are called to “discipline and
love” the children of our community through a “culture of
expectation” that is alive at all levels of maturity. If the demand
to practice is presented to children only by the parents or only by
the teachers, rather than being universally present in the culture,
then it is much more difficult for the child to learn the necessary
lessons of life.

The “culture of expectation” is coincident with
the “expanded sphere of intimacy.” Thus, true discipline is simply
the obligation of relationship. It does not arise from any politics
of power that the parent may assume by virtue of age or size! Such
politics only threaten children and create reactivity. True demand
comes culturally. It is benign and diffuses the one-on-one dynamic of
parent and child. Adi Da speaks further of the primacy of the
cultural influence in developing the child’s capacity for
self-transcendence:

The true community makes demands on children for
socialization, and the parent is allowed another role altogether.
Apart from community, the parent or teacher is attempting to get the
child to do something. He or she is failing to orient that child to
the circumstance of community, in which these demands are made by the
community as a whole. When demands for socialization are made by the
community, it is much more amusing and interesting for a child. It is
also necessary. If a child is to truly socialize his life, he must
adapt to the demands that are communicated to him through many
intimacies, through the agency of community—and not simply to
the demands communicated by a parent who for some apparently
arbitrary reason wants him to do such and such a thing. The parent or
teacher should be an agent of the community’s demand. At some point
the child must begin to recognize and value the sacred community. All
the people who in one way or another make demands on him should be
viewed by the child as agents of that community. In that case, his
relationship to them is much more humorous. In other words, the whole
field of individuals in which he lives and matures is then understood
by him to be a kind of game of development. When he sees himself in
relation to a game of development, then he can play it. It is no
longer merely an arbitrary demand for control. Therefore, what you
must do is literally to displace the “parent game,” the exclusive
bond of intimacy and authority that leads to characterize the
parent-child relationship, and orient children toward community life.
In that case, the disciplines that are required are much, much easier
to maintain from the child’s point of view. It is not a dilemma.
(from “Childhood as a Game of Development”, 1975)

There is much understanding and healing,
self-inspection and blessing, that must occur in order for this
culture of expectation to come alive. A community of devotees
actively involved in making cooperative agreements in relation to the
children’s culture creates a cultural structure wherein children do
not need to resort to the unhappy strategies of the separate self.
Instead, they can turn to the structure and Wisdom provided for
them.

The vision of cooperative community is the truly
humanizing and ultimately spiritualizing structure of human life. In
traditional cultures in which children are characteristically happy,
emotionally strong, calm, and sensitive, what stands out is the
community’s embrace of every child, as well as the culture as a whole
valuing intimacy above independent achievement. In such cultures
children are not regarded as an independent segment of the culture,
and therefore there is no distinction enforced “between authority (or
the adult world) and children (or those who are supposed to be
followers or duplicators of the ideal)”.
(“No Praise, No
Blame”) Only such an integrated structure of
culture—one that recognizes the inherent enjoyment of intimacy
with children and allows for emotional vulnerability, bodily
intimacy, and free exchange of Life-Force among all members of the
culture—can humanize children and so prepare them for a
spiritual Way of life.

Ice Cream & Shoe

The Initiation of the Challenging
Force

Adi Da: The growth process is one in which
the individual is progressively differentiated and granted his or her
independence, but not presumed to have that independence completely
until he has also demonstrated the concomitant responsibilities. We
must familiarize the child with the world as he grows, and look to
place him in a position of sympathetic contact with the total world
more and more every day. When you see that the child is established
comfortably in that level of contact, then allow it, grant it,
presume it. At the same time, expect and demand that the child behave
responsibly within that sphere of contact with the universe. You must
give children lessons as well as freedom.
(“Children Must Be
Liberated”, 8/5/78)

If our service to them is to be more than
conventional child care, it must be founded in recognition of their
inherent spiritual nature. Our children depend upon us for
instruction in and demonstration of the devotee’s disposition of
Blessing, the personal disciplines, and meditative and devotional
practices. If we provide this demonstration, they can be naturally
and gracefully attracted to the happy life of Communion with the
Spiritual Master in God.

The toddler stage, which generally takes place
between eighteen and thirty-six months, characterizes that part of
the first stage of life in which the child needs to differentiate
physically from the mother. It is the time when energy and attention
begin to be loosened from the child’s preoccupation with dependence
on the mother for sustenance and begin to become available for
intimacy with a more expanded sphere of relations. It is therefore
the time during which adults must introduce the simple beginnings of
morality in relationship—responsibility for love in the
toddlers’ actions in the world.

Adi Da points out in His essay and commentary,
“Education, or My Way of Schooling In the Seven Stages of Life,” that
“Spiritual Communion, Communion with the Living Force, is based on
individuation, on your knowing that you are there participating in
and surrendering into it.” Prior to the first year and a half of the
child’s life, he or she will have been almost exclusively exposed to
the nurturing or sustaining force of life, primarily via the mother.
Adults have not expected the child to take responsibility for his
reactions to life’s frustrations. However, at about eighteen months
the child enters a new stage of expansion, accompanied by a growing
sense of separation from what is not self. In the beginning, this
awakened sense of individuality may cause the child to react by
randomly or regularly waking up at night crying, or even screaming,
for no apparent reason. Also, the child discovers “No” as an
expression of his independence. This emerging willfulness and sense
of self coincides with the child’s exploring and socializing
capacities.

Adi Da points out that willfulness, while clearly
the sign of a developing ego, and a more independent being, can be a
regressive movement in a child, one that works against his real
responsibility for himself by placing him In the “omnipotent infant”
position:

There comes a time with children, somewhere in the
neighborhood of two and a half years of age, when you must present a
will to them stronger than theirs. Otherwise they will become
omnipotent infants, and will actually regress. Their willfulness is
not progressive, but regressive, a way to preserve their infantilism,
the mommy-baby level of existence. Willfulness is a way of standing
off and it works against their real growth. Therefore, you must
propose a will that is stronger than their own, you must require
things of them. This does not mean to suppress them. Never suppress
children, but do become more strongly willful and make demands of
them. Particularly at this age, break them out of the omnipotent
infant game which they will tend to animate. This helps them to move
on, to grow.

Children are always naturally expanding from the
egg level. They are becoming more and more socialized, more and more
capable of expanded relations and expanded functioning, expanded
activity. One of the liabilities of the usual mommy/daddy game that
we play with children is that it prevents them from expanding, from
socializing, from breaking out of the infantile mode. Thus, we must
grant our children the freedom of engaging relations outside the
parent bond. One of the virtues of living in community is that there
are many individuals with whom our children can associate—many
talents, many qualities. Thus, we must not “own” our children. We
must be sensitive to them and let them be free and not create the
neurosis that all of you are obliged to deal with in your twenties,
thirties, forties and beyond. Even In the best of circumstances,
everyone will have these frozen characteristics, the problems that
belong to infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Nevertheless, our
motive should be to create the most ideal circumstance possible for
our children. They have their own karmas, you see, so you can not
perfect them no matter how well you raise them, but your basic intent
should be to provide them, through real sensitivity, with the best or
the most optimum circumstance for their continuous growth throughout
their childhood and adult life.
(from an talk, 11/27/82)

Adi Da describes the toddler age as a time when
parents must begin to release the child into association with the
larger culture:

At the age of two we really begin to observe this
socializing tendency. That tendency is a reflection of the sense of
independence or self-consciousness that the child has, the sense that
he no longer must be identical to the mother—he does not need
the mother as he did as an infant. He has a relationship to the
mother, but also on a certain level he is free, and therefore wants
to become familiar with other things and people. The age of three is
another important moment, in which children begin to say things quite
spontaneously and parents begin to remark about how mature the child
looks and so forth, how they suddenly seem to have grown up. You
begin to have a feeling about them sometime around this age that they
are independent in a way they never were before, and you are not in
the mood any longer to indulge their infantilism. You may have the
sense that they should be a lot more grown up, even though it is not
quite true.

These are all signs that the child does not need
you as a parent in the same way he did before. He needs a different
kind of relationship to you in which he has more freedom but also
more responsibility. You must make the lesson of responsibility at
that age, when the moral growth of the truly human character should
begin. From that point the child should be granted more contact with
a larger society in the best of circumstances, where many women share
responsibility for children. There should be a more formal approach
to his learning and also a more formal approach to his
responsibilities in relation to other people and in relation to the
things with which he has contact. At the age of three, then, children
need more demands placed on them, while at the same time they need
acknowledgment of their relative freedom from the mother-child game.
(“Children Must Be Liberated”, (8/5/78).

When the child does awaken to a felt sense of
individuation at the beginning of the toddler age, he or she may
engage behaviors which psychologists call “rapprochement,” or
“re-approaching” of the mother. The growing sense of separation and
individuality is disorienting, and the child seeks reassurance from
the mother. The mother should certainly give the child the assurance
he or she needs, while not insisting on giving more mothering than is
actually required. In this way, room is made for the father force to
enter the child’s life and mature him. This in no way means that the
motherly or sustaining force should be removed from the child’s life.
Adi Da points out that “children need intimacy as the constant
occasion of their existence.” The nurturing force should be full, but
the responsibility to be Happy, and to resort to relationship, must
begin to shift from others to self at the toddler age. The agency of
this transition is the father force. To the degree that the parent is
not free of his or her own childhood wounds, he or she will tend to
reinforce the sense of separation and bondage to the parent cult by
trying to console the child, rather than requiring self-transcendence
and resort to inherent Happiness.

Adi Da: Women and men must grow up
spiritually and humanly, and then relate to children rightly and not
make a self-indulgent neurotic connection with them. Women tend to
have relationships with children that are expressions of their
neurosis. A woman, in her feeling of being unloved, becomes attached
to her child in the same way that little old ladies become attached
to their poodles. She feels there is an inherent bond of love. The
child loves her, and that feeling is more important for the woman
than the fact that she loves the child. She loves the child, but that
love is largely dependent on her receiving signs that she is loved by
the child. Women particularly use their relationship to the child in
this way. They feel inherently loved by the child and indulge him or
her in various ways merely to keep the child in a mood in which the
child expresses the signs that the woman interprets to be love. Thus,
the woman, who basically has a neurotic problem about feeling loved,
indulges in this relationship with the child, who she feels loves
her. She does not really serve the child’s development into
adulthood. She keeps the child in a rather infantile, animal-like
state, like the poodle. She indulges the child and does everything
she can to keep the child in a good mood, attracted to her as mother,
shining innocently at her, and so forth. She rarely considers what
the child needs for his or her development.
(“The Dynamic of
the Two-Man Con”, 4/18/84).

Adi Da also compassionately explains the origin of
this lack of service:

You must love everyone, but you are in love with
only certain people with whom you enjoy a special intimacy. When we
fall in love with children we feel an extraordinary passion. This is
why people fail so often at being parents. They do not rightly serve
the future of their children because of this love-connection. They do
not relinquish attachments.

Parents—both mother and father—are
inherently in love with their children. The mother Is especially in
love with her son or daughter. There is no question about it. The
child might as well be a stranger, you see. The child is a stranger
who fell out of her body. But she is in love with this person. In
Love! Just as she is with her husband. It is not sexual. It is a
profound love-connection. Parents must know what serves their
children so that they will relinquish the clinging tendencies of this
love-attachment for the sake of their children.
(“I Love
Everyone with This Passion”, 5/8/84).

Thus the toddler age is the time in which the
dynamic of “two-man con” or the play between nurture and challenge,
which is the principle of growth, is set in motion via the
introduction of the challenging or fatherly force.

Adi Da: I have spoken about the “two-man
con” in the world of salesmanship. My father used it, in
fact—not at all to swindle people, but simply as part of the
process of persuasion.

This is how it works: Two men with entirely
different qualities approach the people they are trying to persuade.
One plays something like the feminine role of being on the side of
the people to whom they are making the sale. He is very sympathetic
with them, communicating a sense that he might be able to influence
the other guy, who plays the male role, hard-line, hard-edged,
pressing them to make a decision.

Although this dynamic is frequently used in
salesmanship, the principle is taken out of life. This same dynamic
is what persuades us, moves us on, makes us grow. It may take the
form of conflict, but it is intended to work creatively. These two
principles are present in every aspect of our lives. One is
nurturing, supportive, and connects us to everything, makes us feel
loved, makes us feel familiar, and evokes the loving, radiant
disposition in us. The other makes the demand, frustrates us, evokes
the capacity in us to overcome an obstacle, deal with ourselves, deal
with what is difficult, move into new areas of experience and so on.
(“The Dynamic of the Two-Man Con”).

The father force must be a consistent factor in
the child’s life, but it must be brought artfully and sensitively. If
the father force is brought too soon or too suddenly the child will
interpret it as unlove, but if it is not brought strongly enough,
growth is stunted. The transition from dependence on others for
sustenance and nurturing to the capacity to receive and accept
challenge, a “non-negotiable” demand, without collapsing into the
mood of betrayal, begins around eighteen months and can mature at the
age of four, if the demand has been brought to the child consciously,
compassionately, and consistently. In other words, a child may be
capable of receiving an absolute demand without feeling unloved and
betrayed by the age of four if he or she has been rightly
disciplined.

In the beginning, the adult will have to attract
the child into consenting to receive the demand for practice. Once a
two-year-old was sitting at lunch with her mother, surrounded by
other ladies, one of whom was a teacher at her school. When the
teacher pointed out to the girl that she was not eating the
cauliflower she had been given, the girl replied, “I don’t like it.
It doesn’t taste good.” The teacher tried coaxing the girl, in effect
focusing the girl’s attention on doing something she didn’t want to
do. Then, remembering the Master’s injunction to draw children into
the love-relationship, the teacher began to invoke the girl’s
feeling-service. She pretended to listen to the cauliflower, and told
the girl somberly, ‘The cauliflower says she’ll cry if you don’t eat
her.” Just then, the girl’s mother finished her lunch and was getting
up to leave. The girl called out, “Wait! I have to eat this
cauliflower!” and promptly ate it happily.

There may be times when a child needs to be drawn
into the challenge through negotiation, i.e., your help in exchange
for their cooperation. For example, if a child has been asked to
finish a plate of food he doesn’t like, and he will not consent
immediately, it is fine for the adult to step back from the demand
and offer help In deciding which of the foods he definitely has to
eat and how much and if he can then have an extra bite of something
he does like. The point of stepping back from or softening a demand
you have already forcefully made, or making a “deal”, is to allow the
children to feel their relationship with you, and to allow you to
re-initiate the challenge at the highest level at which they are able
to receive it and actually practice. Such a gesture also communicates
the graciousness of God. If the force of the demand has been too
strong because you forgot to exercise humor and compassion, feel free
to change the situation and to assert your own vulnerability.
Children react when they have lost intimacy. Let them feel your love
so that your demand doesn’t come off as an impersonal decree that
they don’t know how to cope with and will tend to collapse in the
face of.

Adi Da reminds us: It is not easy for a child to
recognize what is valuable in the midst of the bombardment of
experience which anyone encounters during childhood. If we are to
help children to realize that intimacy is the primary value, then
love must prevail in the child’s life. Only in this way can intimacy
be brought into the foreground of his or her experience If the
pleasure of intimacy is absent, if love is not freely given, then the
child is automatically reduced to manipulative, reactive efforts to
attain love and attention.
(Look at the Sunlight on the Water,
p. 66.)

Summary Points

1. The growth process is one in which the
individual is progressively differentiated and granted his or her
independence, coincident with demonstrated responsibility.

2. You must propose a will stronger than the
child’s. Otherwise, regression results.

3. Children need intimacy as the constant occasion
of their existence.

4. At the age of three, children need more demands
placed on them.

5. Prior to the toddler age, nurturing is the only
force actively brought to a child.

6. With the event of the challenging force in the
child’s life, the dynamic of the “two-man con,” nurture-challenge, is
set in motion.

7. The father, or challenging, force must be
artfully and sensitively introduced and increased. This is to be done
consistently, constantly, and compassionately.

8. A non-negotiable demand can begin to be given
at the toddler age and, if applied artfully throughout ages two and
three, can be fully received by age four.

The Culture of Expectation

based on a talk, 6/20/82, (Look at the Sunlight on the Water)

Children must be “up against” themselves. They
must be involved in self-transcendence. Unless parents begin to
educate their children according to the principles of this Way in the
early years of life, they will turn out to be the usual rebellious
adolescents. Most of the time teachers and parents let the children
“off the hook.” Almost all children have a complete self-orientation,
pursuing their own amusement, their own vitality, except when adults
demand a little bit of them now and then. The discipline of
self-transcendence must be obliged constantly! It is frequently being
abandoned by children because parents and teachers abandon it
themselves. Because the adults do not consistently bring the
discipline to their own lives, they also do not bring it to the
children. They tend to think that every child’s life must be play,
amusement, and pleasantries, but that is just the usual life of
Narcissus.

The children’s condition of existence must be one
in which they are obliged to live with sensitivity. They must be
obliged to be relaxed, they must be obliged to practice service in
all relations, and they must be sensitive to and mindful of one
another. They need to learn to serve others consistently as a real
responsibility. Children must only occasionally be allowed play that
engages their vitality vigorously. Of course, it is not that they
should never have physical activities or play. But the kind of play
in which they are allowed to be just little vital creatures should be
available to them only like an occasional “dessert.” As with adults,
so with children. If adults do not enter seriously into the process
of spiritual practice, then they will not oblige their children to do
so either. Thus children tend to be happy little superficial egos who
cannot be responsible when they are confronted with the real facts of
existence. As soon as children begin to feel our demands or feel that
life itself is a demand, then there is nothing but reactivity from
them.

Children should express a feeling, quiet energy.
Therefore, adults must introduce a “culture of expectation” for
children and maintain it. And it must be maintained to be effective!
They tend to think they are supposed to make life casually pleasant
for children. This is not true. Every time a child dramatizes his or
her particular strategy to gain the attention of others, he or she
should be confronted with a definite expectation—an expectation
that is not superficially enjoyable, so that the child will be made
to see his or her own Narcissistic activity. Children must come to
understand that they may be required to do things that they may not
want to do. In other words, children must be given the structure in
which to learn about both pleasure and pain. If children only lead a
life of play, they will never be impressed by truly moral
circumstances, nor will they be impressed with the total world of the
Divine Reality. They will not see significant things about
themselves—except their vital game—and this does not serve
them. The being grows through confrontation, difficulty, and demand.
Children are very repetitive. They repeat the same vital games day
after day. Where are the new signs of their adaptation, where is
their higher growth?

We must be consistent in our service to children
all day long. There must be this true or moral demand. Never step
aside from it. If we consistently change our expectations of
children, they will not change! Introduce requirements and discipline
children if they do not meet them. Do this in the midst of a life of
loving intimacy, for intimacy is the healing principle. Children must
learn to be calm all day long, whatever they are doing. Adults make
them stressful by allowing or encouraging them to lead a
self-oriented vital life, and in this sense their play is disturbed.
Calmness is pleasant, whole-body feeling is pleasurable. Children’s
wild, vital play is actually disturbing them, and they become
dependent on feeling disturbed. They feel it is necessary for
happiness, whereas it is a calm, balanced, feeling life that is truly
pleasurable. We must help children become sensitive to other people
and teach them how to cooperate and serve in all their relations.
Also, children should learn to bring feeling and sensitivity to the
meditative exercise, as given in What to Remember to Be Happy, and to
other devotional practices appropriate to their stage of life. These
activities serve the process of the child’s relationship to the
Mystery of existence.

One child recently boasted, “I am supposed to
remember the names of the characters in the Disney book One Hundred
and One Dalmatians.” Children should not be given such trivial
education. An assignment such as this is the equivalent of junk food
in the diet. Thus far, their diet is actually better than their moral
training. This random moral instruction of them is the equivalent of
junk food, whereas they should be talking about spiritual life, about
the Mystery. They should be talking and learning about spiritual
Teachers, and studying moral, religious, and spiritual stories.
Children should be introduced, constantly and all day long, to a
non-ordinary way of life. Find a way to make their lessons be aligned
to the Teaching of Truth and with this spiritual Way of life. Their
lessons should have moral and spiritual significance, and children
should not be instructed in a way that merely impresses them, but
that truly awakens their understanding.

Another common misunderstanding relative to
children is that parents and teachers often think children are
supposed to feel that they are the center of everyone’s life, almost
to the point where they begin to think

they are the center of the universe. There is no
reason why anybody should have that tendency reinforced. Even at a
very young age there is no cause for children to think they are the
center of everyone’s world. They must be brought into relational
force with others. They must be served to move out of their
independent self-involvement into the condition of
relationship.

My Teaching as it applies to education has been
available for many years, but it has not been used. The situation of
children in the community is the same as that of the adult
practitioners. The instructions are very clear, but nothing changes.
Parents and teachers will sit down with their children and talk to
them every now and then, and have occasional serious considerations
with them, but they never communicate to them a consistent cultural
expectation. Thus, their moral teaching is only “dessert” to the
children and is not really taken into account. It is only a momentary
diversion from the child’s life of vitalizing.

In the usual life of children everything is play,
and they are very lazy when it comes to service. There is an
inconsistent demand placed on them without proper consequences for
their actions. They are constantly involved with their superficial
egoic dramas, instead of being calm, considerate individuals. In a
traditional setting children would attend a brahmacharya school and
live a completely regimented life under very severe discipline, with
play as an occasional diversion. In modern American society, play is
a way of life. The ultimate ideal is to be totally self-involved and
even make your living out of being self-involved.

In traditional spiritual societies, however, play
was considered a “dessert.” Teachers and parents fail to understand
this. They constantly return to the “life-as-play” idea. Because
their demands are not consistent, the children escape the edge of
discipline necessary for true human growth. Children should not be
permitted to casually leap around and vitalize. That kind of play
should be a “dessert.” The basic life of a child should be quiet and
sensitive. It should be a learning process, an intuitive life of
positive feeling and free energy and attention. If children’s
intuitive capacity is developed at an early age, they will not suffer
from, and have to deal with, the usual self-centered orientation in
their later lives.

There should not be a lot of wild, vital play.
Children do not know anything about true play! We have to consciously
introduce them to play. We have to teach them in a way that is a
balanced expression of whole-body equanimity. Otherwise children use
play as a form of self-possession.

Unfortunately, parents and teachers bring this
kind of discipline to children only occasionally, whereas it must be
maintained constantly. It must be obliged all day long. A child’s
life should not be anything that adults are committed to in their own
childish and adolescent strategies. Adults as well as children are
committed to vital stimulation, amusement, and distraction; this is
the way most people are driven to live. It is already a big deal for
people to put aside an hour for meditation. Therefore, meditation
cannot serve any useful purpose, because as soon as the hour is over
they either return to their stressful life of “getting things done”
or to their self-indulgence of random vitalizing. Thus, no real
energy is brought to the practice of spiritual life or to the
creation of true community.

If adults fail to bring this discipline to their
own lives and to their children, then they give their children no
gift. If there is no discipline of expectation for children, then
adults are performing a total disservice to them. In the life of
every child there must be calmness, sensitivity, and behavioral
appropriateness. And the key to the fulfillment of this expectation
is to vigorously maintain it all day long, every day, throughout the
childhood years. Only then is the child’s energy and attention free
to feel and participate in the Mystery of existence.

There is a basic principle that should be the
underlying structure in the life of every child: Strict cultural
discipline, maintained consistently for a very long time. During
childhood that is basically how children should be served. Their
casual play and vitalizing should be restricted in a disciplined
culture of expectation, while they learn to fully adapt to the
responsibilities of the second and third stage and the laws of mature
human life. People have to make a turnabout relative to the way they
serve their children and what they expect their lives to be. If you
were to maintain this discipline over many years, you would see a
profound change in the children—but it has to be maintained. If
people would seriously approach this Teaching and use the wisdom that
is given, then a very different level of maturity can emerge in the
lives of their children.

Unfortunately, people do not want to deal
rigorously with themselves. They want life to be a constant
diversion, not a discipline. And when they choose a life of
discipline, they tend to spend most of their time with their
reactions. People have to learn how to generate discipline from their
own Place. Instead of being hyperactive and exploiting life, they
have to become sensitive, calm, and observant. This is the best way
for an adult to live, and likewise it is the best way to raise and
educate children. Establish a disciplined spiritual culture of
expectation, and oblige children to its demands and responsibilities.
Otherwise, by the time they are twenty, they will only be
self-involved chippies and punks, like every other self-centered
adolescent, suffering and screaming their brains loose. Why bring
them up for that?

Summary Points

1. Children must be constantly obliged to
transcend themselves. Otherwise, they develop a self-orientation that
leads to conventional adolescence.

2. Children must be obliged to be relaxed, to
practice service in all relations, and to be sensitive to and mindful
of one another. If children only lead a life of play, they will not
see significant things about themselves, and they will not
grow.

3. We must be consistent in our service to
children all day long. If we consistently change our expectations of
them, they will not change.

4. Children should be talking and learning about
spiritual teachers and studying moral, religious, and spiritual
stories.

5. Children should be served to move out of their
self-involvement into the condition of relationship.

6. Because of our conventional life-as-play idea,
children escape the edge of discipline necessary for true human
growth.

7. If children’s intuitive capacity is developed
at an early age, they will not have to suffer the usual self-centered
orientation in their later years.

8. Children need to be instructed to play in a way
that is an expression of whole-body equanimity. Otherwise, they use
play as a form of self-possession.

Session Two

A Disciplined Life Is about
Enjoyment

One of the reasons we tend to shrink from
discipline is that we ourselves do not want to submit to a
disciplined life, and thus we have the idea that a formal,
disciplined, orderly life is dull, gloomy, and restrained. And we
pass this idea onto our children in subtle and overt ways, letting
them “off the hook,” just as we indulge ourselves. Discipline and
order, however, are simply the right context of ecstasy, the
environment in which energy and attention are free for intimacy, true
pleasure, God-love. Spiritual life is not about being “neat, skinny,
and right.”
(I Am Happiness, p. 55.) It is
about the “infinite pleasure of love.” In this session we will
continue to consider the necessity of a disciplined life for children
and its means.

Spiritual Discipline as the Structure of Life

(excerpts from a talk by Adi Da, 12/12/81.)

I notice that children often do not show signs of
real interest in anything in the universe. They often act very dull,
as if they are completely uninvolved and unenthusiastic about
anything in the universe at all. This is a sign that they are only
involved in dramatizing their egoic dilemma. They must become
involved in studying and doing something that is of great and
challenging interest to them. Otherwise, they are all just a bunch of
“low-brows.” And children should not be confined in their
discipline—their life must be about something. The difficulties
children express are not always a matter of a lack of discipline.
What you must do is put their attention on something other than
themselves and their problems. You must begin to attract them into
other areas of existence and oblige them to stop dramatizing their
egoic psychology. Discipline should be the structure of
life—that is all there is to it. Children have to know where
they stand, and they have to know what is expected of them. Any child
who dramatizes a rebellious, punk, egoic strategy must be served
immediately. It is not to be permitted. They must know that anything
contrary to the discipline of true spiritual Practice is not
acceptable. A disciplined life is not merely not doing certain
things, but it is about enjoyment. It is about enjoyment with people
and things with which they are interested. You must divert children
from vital, ritualistic, imitative games of jealousy and power, in
which they are merely reinforcing a worldly psyche that will only
make them conventional adolescents when they enter the third stage of
life. They must very clearly understand what the disciplines are. In
fact, write the disciplines that they are responsible for on charts
on the wall and make sure they know exactly what their responsibility
is every day. They should know exactly what they have to do, and they
should just do it. They must be taught that the root of discipline is
Happiness, Ecstasy, and God-Communion, and they must learn how to
express their life as enjoyment through the disciplines. Children
should not always be with adults. When I was young, from about age
six on, I was hardly ever around adults. It is true that children
need supervision, they need help, and they need the discipline and
guidance of adults, but part of the problem dramatized by children is
the lack of ability to live freely. Living freely, however, must take
place in a structure of understanding and sanity. Thus, granting them
freedom to do new things should be part of their education. Part of
your acknowledgment of them is that they can be responsible for
themselves. They are given freedom only on the basis of living the
moral and practical disciplines of their spiritual life. Thus, the
more disciplined they are and the saner they are, the more freedom
they can have. This freedom is not about children wandering around
together whenever they want, but it is about being able to spend time
alone, being able to do different things by themselves where they are
not always observed. Children should not feel that they are always
being observed, perpetually under the eye of an adult. They must
understand that if they show the signs of responsibility and live the
disciplines appropriate to their stage of development, they can be
given access to such freedom. The activities that children enjoy
should only be allowed when they show the signs of this
responsibility in their disciplined life. Thus, their life is
fundamentally based on the incidents and activities that they enjoy,
on a life of intimacy and happiness, but it is also rounded on a life
of structured discipline. If they are not disciplined, then the
enjoyable aspects of their lives are not granted. This is a very
basic psychology in serving children. This is the way they must begin
to live.

Summary Points

1. Dullness and lack of enthusiasm in children is
a sign that they are only involved in dramatizing their egoic
dilemma. They must he involved in study and activities that are
interesting and challenging.

2. Discipline should be the structure of life. A
disciplined life is about real enjoyment. Children must be taught
that the root of discipline is Happiness, Ecstasy, and God-Communion,
and they must learn how to express their life as enjoyment through
the disciplines.

3. Children should understand that freedom is
granted on the basis of responsibility. The activities they enjoy
should only be allowed when they are founded in a disciplined
life.

Discipline Is the Means of Adapting to the Laws
of Life

(excerpt from a talk, 1/5/76)

Student: Adi Da, we tend to be afraid to
discipline our children. We think that it’s going to stunt their
growth or that they are not going to be free and able to express
their freedom.

Adi Da : Individuals have a negative idea
of what discipline is, as if it were always a matter of preventing a
child from doing something. Real discipline is the providing of
conditions through which children may adapt to the laws of life. It
is not hand slapping. Punishment is one form of discipline.
Punishment, however, is only useful when you already have the love
and confidence of a child. In that case, stopping them from doing
something works as a discipline because they feel the possibility of
separation from you. The basis of such discipline is natural
affection, not their dislike of you or your dislike of them. When
discipline is not based on love, a shock is created between the child
and the adult so that the Life-Force cannot flow between them. If
that occurs, you must temporarily remove the child from the situation
and allow him to be in a restful, easeful condition. When there is
real conflict between an adult and a child, basically you must take
them out of one another’s company for a little while in order to
serve them.

Children and the Vital Dimension of
Life

(based on conversations with Adi Da)

All relationships are forms of spiritual Practice.
All relationships, all experiences, are conditions in which to
understand, conditions in which to fulfill the obligations of
spiritual life. It is useful to learn how to deal with children
because they represent something in you that you are reluctant to
encounter and transcend. The vital dimension of life is what you are
reluctant to deal with, and children are very vital beings. They do
not fundamentally represent much else. Whenever the opportunity
arises to interact with the vital dimension of life, we usually
become complicated and disturbed. Where the force of life is manifest
to us, we are required to make choices. When we confront a child or a
forceful person or a dramatic event that demands response from us, we
are put in contact with the vital dimension in ourselves and all the
complications that it represents. Learning how to live with a baby or
with children is a great lesson, therefore. It is not simply the
lesson of tolerating the disturbance they can create for you. It is a
matter of really learning how to live with children. In the process
you will also serve the undoing of the point of view of vital shock
in your own case. All relationships are useful conditions for
spiritual Practice because they all bring you to life, whereas the
discipline conceived in isolation as a self-effort leading toward a
goal does not involve the confrontation with life, does not involve
the undoing of vital shock. Rather, it involves the exploitation of
your need to escape the implications of vital life.

Summary Points

1. The vital dimension of life is what we are
reluctant to deal with. We usually become complicated and disturbed
when the force of life is manifest to us and we are required to make
choices.

2. Learning how to live with a baby or with
children is a great lesson. All relationships are useful conditions
for spiritual Practice because they bring you to life.

Self-Transcendence Is a Necessity from the
Beginning

(from a talk by Adi Da, 11/23/80)

Many of the so-called games that children play are
ways of reinforcing attitudes and behaviors that are relatively
negative. If you watch children playing spontaneously, you will
notice that they usually play and are animated by power games and
neurotic self-ideas. A great deal of what we call spontaneous play on
the part of children is really not spontaneous. It is rather
mechanical exploitation of the problems they have. Therefore, the
most useful form of bringing up children is one that constantly helps
and obliges them to bypass neurotic patterns of self-involvement. In
traditional religious communities, therefore, the upbringing of
children was relatively formal. Formality, however, does not
eliminate the possibility of spontaneous, happy play. It does require
children to deal with formal demands and adapt to them rightly,
rather than blithering along “spontaneously.” Children must deal with
real conditions, real demands, and overcome their own
limitations.

I can observe karmic personality characteristics
in an infant. I am sure you all can observe these characteristics,
too. They are there from the very beginning. These qualities are not
acquired through the child’s social life or through their childhood
experience. Their childhood reinforces those qualities, adds a
certain emphasis here and there, but there is a karmic personality
present from the beginning. Therefore, from the very beginning of a
child’s life, a useful education is one that enables him to transcend
himself. It is not that you are obliged to overcome yourself only
when you are older. The karmic limitations of personality are there
to be overcome from infancy. That is why I have spent so much time
considering with you all how to rightly educate children in the first
three stages of life and help them to overcome limitations, require
them to adapt, to really grow, so that when they are adults, they are
not the usual neurotic individuals who must seek from scratch for the
meaning and force of existence.

In the case of an individual who is uncommon,
highly developed spiritually or psychically, there should be signs
that you may observe in them relatively early in life. For them the
same education that is appropriate for all children in the religious
culture is appropriate. However, your observation of them will cause
you to serve them in a somewhat different manner, perhaps, to
encourage the sensitivity you have observed. When you notice a child
with a certain dimension of spiritual qualities—and the freedom
that represents—you will not want to suppress those qualities
through conventional demands for certain kinds of behavior or
personal qualities. There are some individuals—tulkus in the
Tibetan tradition, for example—who are actually in the stream of
helping in the world in some fundamental sense, who have transcended
the ego base already. They are inserted into this lifetime,
therefore, for a fundamental spiritual purpose, rather than the
conventional, mechanical purposes of an ego. If someone is observed
to have these qualities, then serve the development of the life that
they are here to live. Whenever we notice an individual of this type,
we will consider what should be done differently with
them.

In any case, all the children should be brought up
in the essential formality of true culture. You must be sensitive to
them as individuals to see what neurotic patterns we must help them
work beyond, as well as what exceptional qualities we must draw out.
Exceptional qualities might appear in terms of ordinary human
capabilities, and if we observe those in children, we will help them
to develop these capabilities. Likewise, ask all the children about
their dreams and about their visions. The “eyes and ears” exercise in
What to Remember to Be Happy, in which the children practice
inversion and seeing things at the level of the psyche, should not be
merely a game in which they make up things to tell you. Children do
see all kinds of things and dream all kinds of things. You can
condition them to not see certain things, to believe that certain
things are unreal and to have a Westerner’s state of mind about it
all, but if you do not implant them with that limitation, you will
observe them communicating about a psychic life.

It is true that before puberty the being often has
more of this free, psychic life. At puberty a certain force of
physical existence begins to manifest, and the psychic life recedes,
but this is not to be viewed as a negative event. It is simply a
characteristic of our development. It is generally true that the
state of the psyche changes at that time, and the glandular system
operates differently. At puberty, the pituitary body, the sexual
hormones, and all the related growth mechanisms begin to come very
strongly into play. Previous to that time the subtler features of the
endocrine glands and the pineal body are in dominance, and thus there
is more free psychism. Therefore, it is true that children, if you
avoid conditioning them in the limited terms of conventional Western
thinking, have a kind of psychic life that they can communicate
about. The exercise in What to Remember to Be Happy is intended to
enable children to be communicative about their psychic existence.
When children are communicative in that way, you have an opportunity
to observe their characters in a way that you could not perhaps
otherwise observe. In this case, you have the opportunity to discover
which among the children have more of this extraordinary dimension
active in them, and you can acknowledge it and help to support it
throughout their lifetime.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

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Conscious Childrearing Table of Contents
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