If the person chooses to be religious – simply religious, not belonging to any organization, not belonging to any church – that’s perfectly good. He has chosen freedom. But it is personal, intimate, absolutely his own affair; nobody can interfere in it. But parents start interfering from the very beginning. Why the hurry? The hurry is that later on the child will argue, later on he will ask why he is a Jew – because he was not born a Jew; no child is born a Jew or a Christian or a Hindu. All children are born as a tabula rasa: a clean slate. Nothing is written on them…pure innocence.
The first thing to remember is, don’t reduce the child into a thing, by any of your efforts. Give him individuality; don’t impose personality on him. Individuality he brings with himself; personality is imposed by the parents, by the society, by the educational system, by the church. If you understand, you will not impose anything on the child, you will help the child to be himself.
Certainly it is difficult. That’s why all the societies of all the ages have chosen the simple path: it is simpler to impose something on the child. Then he is obedient; then he is not rebellious. He does not give you any trouble, he is not a nuisance. But if you give him total freedom and help him to be free and individual, he is going to give you trouble about many things. People have chosen to destroy the child rather than accept the troubles.
If you are so much afraid of troubles, it is better not to give birth to a child. But to give birth to a living being, and then to destroy it just for your peace of mind, is very inhuman. Children are the most enslaved class of people in human society, the most exploited – and exploited “for their own sake.”
The child, if he is free, is going to ask questions which you don’t know the answers to. And your ego does not allow you to say, “I don’t know” – it is better to force the child to keep his mouth shut. Every parent is continually telling the children, “Shut up. Sit silently. When you grow old you will know the answer.”
My grandfather used to tell me the same thing in my childhood. Year after year I continued to ask the same questions, and I asked him, “I am growing, but your answer remains the same: Shut up…when you grow up. Can you please tell me at what age I will know the answer?”
The day I asked him, I was fifteen. I said, “I have been hearing this for ten years. In ten years nothing has changed, and I suspect that even in a hundred years nothing is going to change. My question will remain a question and there is not going to be any answer. And you cannot look directly into my eyes. You also don’t know the answer, but you don’t have the guts to accept it.”
He was taken aback, shocked, but he thought that it would be better to say something, because it was going to happen again and again. He said, “You are right; I am sorry. I don’t know the answer, I was just postponing it. I thought you would forget all about it. And that’s how it has been all along. I had also asked the same question and I was told, ‘When you grow up you will know.’ And now I am seventy-five, just on the verge of death, and I have not got the answer. Just by growing old, you cannot get the answer. I was hoping that you will also grow old, you will have your children asking you the same question, and you will say to them, ‘Grow old and you will get it.’ This is how it has been done for centuries.”