What Is a Real Family?
Lesson of the Day
September 7, 2007
What Is a Real Family?
How to strengthen family ties is a very important question these days. It is said that Jawaharlal Nehru was instrumental in breaking up the extended family structure in his attempt to industrialize India. After that, once tightly-knit families really suffered as age-old family ties became loosened. The wealth of extended families dispersed in many directions as nuclear families formed and money was unnecessarily spent to maintain the ever-increasing needs of a multiplicity of households.
Let’s explore what a family actually is. People seem to have forgotten. In America before the First World War there were wonderful, well-established and large joint families, with twenty, thirty or more people all living as one unit, often in one home. Everyone had chores. And they all knew their place within the family structure. They loved and cared for each other, and mother was always in the home. We may be a long time in rebuilding family togetherness to the point where the extended family is back in vogue, but meanwhile we are still faced with maintaining family unity. Hindus around the world are working hard to rediscover their roots and strengthen family values. Our staff of Hinduism Today had many inspiring interviews with bright young Asian Hindus in America who are working in their communities to make a difference and reestablish the old culture of caring for one another. We congratulate them and welcome their efforts, for they are the leaders of tomorrow.
I tell parents who seek my advice that one way to keep a family together is to show all members that you want to be with them, that you need them in your life. Not: “Get out of my life, you are bothering me. I have other things to do. I have goals in life that don’t include you.” This hurtful attitude is based on the belief that when children reach age eighteen they should leave home and support themselves. In the West, this pattern is the result of two world wars, when every able-bodied young man left home to join the armed forces. This callousness on the part of parents leads to alienation from their children, who then begin leading independent lives. That leads to the first step in leaving home: keeping secrets from the parents.
With each secret kept, a small distance is created. A large distance is created when five or ten secrets accumulate and deception becomes a habit. When too many secrets mount up, parents and their children don’t talk to each other much anymore. Why do secrets create a distance? Because every secret must be protected. This requires cleverness, sneaking around to keep the matter hidden, even lying. Secrets give rise to angry outbursts to keep others away, such as, “I’m insulted that you would even suspect me of that!” Arguments erupt that go unresolved, and an impenetrable barrier is established.
Mom and Dad are heard confiding to one another, “They’re so different now. I can’t reach them anymore.” Of course, the children have been taught to be cautious, in a sense forced into keeping secrets, lest unloving parents curse them or physically punish them without mercy for transgressions large and small. Many are afraid of the wrath of mothers and fathers who rule their families by fear. In today’s world it is so easy to leave home. It is so easy for the family to break up. It’s even expected. Husbands’ and wives’ keeping secrets, similarly, creates a distance between them. The final divorce decree started with the first secret.
In an ideal family, children should be able to tell their mother and father anything and everything. The parents should want to understand and realize that if they don’t understand but misunderstand, they participate in the break-up of their own family. Of course, it might be hard for them to deal with certain experiences their children are having, but all they have to do is look back at their own life, actions and private thoughts to know that their children are living out the same fantasies. The children repeat the still-active karmas of their parents. Children are born into families with karmic patterns that are compatible with their own. I can predict what young people are going to do in their future, and the temptations that will come up, if I know the karmic patterns of their parents. With this knowledge, it is easy to guide them through life, helping them avoid temptations and unwholesome experiences that their parents lived through. All of these experiences are set into motion by the individual himself, by his own past actions. ….Read More