Soon I will be spending a few days with my two teenage daughters. They want a full-time mother and are angry that I have chosen to be with you instead of them. I am torn, because although I have been told that my greatest gift to them is getting free, it is only an idea. On the other hand, my desire for approval for being a good mother is very strong and I feel guilty being with you while they continue to suffer alone.
Would you please talk about how to break free of society’s conditioning about motherhood?
Everything depends on a very simple understanding. The whole idea that children are your possession is wrong. They are born through you but they do not belong to you. You have a past; they have only future. They are not going to live according to you. To live according to you will be almost equivalent to not living at all. They have to live according to themselves – in freedom, in responsibility, in danger, in challenge. That’s how one becomes steeled, strong.
Parents down the ages have carried the idea that children belong to them, and that they have to be just carbon copies of them. A carbon copy is not a beautiful thing, and existence does not believe in carbon copies; it rejoices in originality.
Once you understand that your children do not belong to you – that they belong to existence, you have been just a passage – you have to be grateful to existence that it has chosen you to be a passage for a few beautiful children. But you are not to interfere in their growth, in their potential. You are not to impose yourself upon them. They are not going to live in the same times, they are not going to face the same problems; they will be part of another world. Don’t prepare them for this world, this society, this time, because then you will be creating troubles for them. They will find themselves unfit, unqualified.
You have to help them to grow beyond you; you have to help them not to imitate you. That is really the duty of the parents – to help the children not to fall into imitation. Children are imitative, and naturally, who are they going to imitate? The parents are the closest people. Up to now parents have enjoyed it very much that their children are just like them. The father feels proud because his son is just like him. He should be ashamed that his son is just like him. Then one life is wasted; then his son is not needed – he was enough. Because of this wrong conception of pride in children imitating you, we have created a society of imitators.
One of the most famous Christian books was written by Kempis: Imitation of Christ. It is almost second to the Holy Bible. One great Christian theologian and a world-famous author of many, many treatises, Stanley Jones, used to stay with me whenever he used to come to my city. He was continuously going around the world, and he always kept the book, Imitation of Christ. Once I told him, “If you really understand, then this book should be burned.”