February 2024

Following Spirituality Despite Family Opposition 

Following Spirituality Despite Family Opposition 

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From the Editor’s Desk

Are you concerned about parents, relatives, or friends opposing your choice of the spiritual path as opposed to a conventional family and work life? Following spirituality despite family opposition requires a lot of mental courage. It is not at all unusual for family members to question your choice or even to understand what spirituality means to you.

In this issue of Samarpan, we examine the reasons behind parental opposition and present viable solutions. The practical wisdom is drawn from Vedic knowledge (i.e., tatvagyan) and life management tools taught by Swami Mukundananda as He fulfills His mission toward the welfare of the souls.

Vedic Wisdom & Application

Challenge of the Month

Following Spirituality Despite Family Opposition

Reflection Questions

  • Why do family members oppose those who follow the spiritual path? 
  • What are the risks associated with a lack of parental support for children on the spiritual path? 
  • What spiritual knowledge will enable parents to allow their children to follow spirituality?

A  study by the Pew Research Center (2020) assessed the similarities and differences in religious beliefs between parents and teens from Christian, Protestant, Catholic, and Unaffiliated faiths. Of the various findings they reported, a few are most relevant for us. They found that parents and children who attended religious services together and were affiliated with the same religious organization were more likely to have similar beliefs regarding rituals and practices. Differences in shared beliefs and conflicts were noted when either teens or parents (a) did not attend church services or attend consistently, (b) were uncertain about their religious practices, and (c) did not believe in God. 

"Following Spirituality Despite Family Opposition 1"

It is not surprising to hear about disagreements between family members regarding religious practices. However, conflicts regarding the path of spirituality are more daunting for those who do not understand its fundamental premise. Typical comments that illustrate family discord are as such:

  • Are you involved in some kind of a cult?
  • You are letting yourself be brainwashed. 
  • If you have so much time to volunteer, why don’t you get a job?
  • Why do you want to throw away your career to live like a poor beggar?
  • Why do you want a new family when you already have a real one at home?
  • You’ve experimented with this nonsense! Now it’s time to return to reality.
  • You should be wary of spiritualists or you'll get duped. 
  • What do you know about the people in this spiritual group? 
  • Why are you wasting money on spiritual stuff when the family comes first?

Many spiritual aspirants may resonate with such comments from family members or friends. For them, the path of spirituality is a sacred journey to get closer to God, yet familial opposition can appear to be an obstacle in their pursuit. Opposition from parents is more likely when children are in school or college, and single compared to when they are married and have a career-driven path. Let us examine the reasons behind parental opposition, and its impact on children, and explore the wisdom that can pave the way for viable solutions.

Why do Family Members Oppose Those Who Follow the Spiritual Path? 

In this day and age of Kali, most people are inclined toward the material world, and their definition of success in life is based on financial and social accomplishments. When spiritual aspirants experience opposition from their family members, it is more often due to concerns about their children’s welfare, even if misplaced. There are many different reasons for opposition from parents and other family members when one chooses to follow a spiritual path that is different from what they know or practice. 

  1. Lack of Understanding or Different Beliefs. In today’s fast-paced world, many categories of religious and spiritual beliefs are emerging. For example, people may be religious but not spiritual, spiritual but not religious, both religious and spiritual, or neither religious nor spiritual. In cases where parents are neither religious nor spiritual or religious but not spiritual, there is a greater likelihood of a conflict with their children. The basis of conflict could be a lack of understanding regarding spirituality or misconceptions that strengthened into false beliefs.

    Especially in the case of adult children, parents may have concerns regarding the reason for affiliation with a spiritual group and how to address the spiritual struggles of their children. They question their own fundamental beliefs, their ability (or lack thereof) to institute values that they hold dear (e.g., go to temples but not join organized religious or spiritual groups), and concerns regarding their inability to answer questions about our identity as a soul. The basic existential questions create external tensions between family members. 

    When parents do not know about the mission of a specific spiritual group, they may also worry about their children’s internal moral struggles, involvement in supernatural elements, and required mental austerities (e.g., living like monks, begging on the streets, or starving without sustenance). 

  2. Fear of Abandonment. Many parents expect their children to be like Shravan Kumar and take care of them in their old age. Driven by anxieties about their own future, they worry that spiritual pursuits may lead their children to renounce them to follow the spiritual path. Especially in the Indian culture, parents align life goals with the four Varnashram principles (i.e., dharma, arth, kama, and moksha). They fear giving up worldly responsibilities may result in abandonment.

    Additionally, some parents also worry about children searching for a deeper spiritual connection that is beyond what they or their religious practices can offer. They feel helpless, increasing their fear of abandonment due to different beliefs and practices. 

  3. Worry about Deception. Universally, there has been enough media coverage regarding the increased prevalence of fake spiritual practitioners across all religions, raising genuine concerns about the well-being of their children. Parents worry about their children being coerced into a belief system or a cult in their search for an identity or some higher spiritual experience that they do not understand. They may also worry about how they would take care of their children should they experience any adversities in pursuing the spiritual path. 
  4. Financial Apprehensions. Even though the scriptures in most religions emphasize the principle of selfless service (i.e., seva) and responsible financial stewardship, in reality, many family members oppose such practices. This may be due to different beliefs or the fear that financial contributions to spiritual organizations may divert resources from supporting the family – an important material dharma.
  5. Fear of Children Deviating from Societal Norms. In a world where marriage and family are cherished norms, many parents feel concerned that if their children follow the spiritual path, they may reject these societal norms and expectations. The fear of change also increases their worry about the potential social consequences or judgment from others who may question their parenting style as the cause for children going against the tradition. Their biggest worry related to this aspect is how to address the concerns of relatives and friends who assume that something must be wrong with their child who is dismissing marriage and family life. 
  6. Attachment to Materialistic Pursuits. Many parents who value material success in life desire for their children to prioritize worldly success as opposed to spirituality. They aspire for their children to advance in their career prospects, rise in fame and fortune, and make them proud parents. This is especially true for parents who have atheistic beliefs and who desire to fulfill their dreams for material success vicariously through their kids. 
  7. Concerns about the Practicality of a Spiritual Lifestyle. Parents tend to associate spirituality with the life of an ascetic or sadhu living in a monastery. They worry about life in an ashram, requirements for austerities, and the source of daily sustenance. They also worry about not having anything to fall back upon if children decide to give up spirituality after experiencing the hardships that come from a lack of detachment from the material world. While they may be thankful and credit themselves for bringing their children back to “normalcy,” they may also worry about the stigma of returning to the material world due to challenges. 

What are the risks associated with a lack of parental support for children on the spiritual path?

Youth and adult children who lack parental support on their spiritual journey may face potential risks such as:

  1. Lack of Guidance. Without parental support, children may struggle to find proper guidance and mentorship on their spiritual journey. They may veer toward organized religious groups that may not meet their spiritual needs. 
  2. Social Isolation. If their parents do not understand or support their spiritual pursuits, youth and adult children may feel isolated or misunderstood, which can affect their sense of belonging and community.
  3. Doubt and Discouragement. The absence of parental support may lead to doubt and discouragement in children, making it challenging for them to stay committed to their spiritual path.
  4. Difficulty in Practicing Spirituality. Children may face obstacles in practicing their spiritual beliefs and rituals if they do not have the necessary support and resources at home. In addition, they may forget the critical knowledge and not be able to draw upon it when needed. 
  5. Emotional and Psychological Challenges. The lack of parental support can create emotional and psychological challenges for children, as they may struggle with conflicting beliefs and values within their family environment.

Parents need to provide understanding, encouragement, and guidance to their children who choose to follow the spiritual path, fostering an environment that supports their spiritual growth and well-being. Children in return, can share credible sources of divine knowledge that increase their parents’ understanding. 

What spiritual knowledge will enable parents to allow their children to follow spirituality?

Children can convince parents to allow them to follow the spiritual path by using any or all of the below options, many of which are drawn from Swamiji’s teachings in his lectures, Q&A sessions, and his latest book, Questions You Always Wanted to Ask

  1. Seek Guidance from Your Spiritual Mentor or Guru. Seek sage advice and wisdom from a true Guru or a spiritual mentor who can provide guidance and support to both children and their parents. Receiving divine wisdom will help address any concerns or doubts of parents, especially if they have the opportunity to meet their child’s Guru.
  2. Open and Honest Communication. Family members often oppose the decisions of their children due to fear of the unknown – how it could affect their lives. Reflecting on their perspectives through open and honest communication can bridge the gap between conventional expectations and spiritual aspirations.

  • Approach family opposition with compassion and empathy. Engage in open-hearted conversations rooted in love and understanding to pave the way for mutual acceptance. A calm and respectful conversation about your spiritual aspirations is necessary. 
  • Share information about the positive effects of spirituality on personal growth, well-being, and character development. Help parents understand how spirituality can provide guidance, moral values, and a sense of purpose through scriptural knowledge for credibility. 
  • Provide opportunities for parents to observe the positive impact of spiritual practices on your thoughts and actions, which can be a powerful catalyst for acceptance. Parents want their children to be happy, thus observing you live your life aligned with spiritual principles, will become a testament to the transformative power of spirituality. 
  • Alleviate the fear of parents by describing the realities of the material world – the miseries of worldly life, statistics on marital discord and rate of divorce, struggles of raising kids in a degenerating material world, and societal degradation as a result of moving away from spirituality. 
  • Draw inspiration from the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (i.e., the world is one family). Spiritual wisdom encourages an inclusive mindset. Families can find solace in the idea that spiritual pursuits contribute not only to personal growth but also to the collective welfare of humanity.
  1. Educate Parents about the Philosophy. Parents may also need to be exposed to the philosophical aspects of the spiritual organization with which their children affiliate. Here are a few things that parents can benefit from knowing:
    • Information about the philosophy of the spiritual organization and its mission from an objective perspective can be helpful. Increase their knowledge regarding the true source of happiness and the ultimate purpose of life. They may benefit from knowing about our true identity as the soul as opposed to the physical body and the importance of engaging in thoughts and actions that elevate the soul. However, keep their sentiments in mind and do not mention anything about decreased attachment to family members.
    • Expose them to your spiritual practices (e.g., Roop-Dhyan, contemplation, kirtans, etc.) that fill the heart with joy and connection with God. Enable parents to discern practices based on divine knowledge of the scriptures from those without credible sources, fostering trust and understanding. 
    • Explain to parents that in a true spiritual tradition, the decision to renounce is not based on one’s proclivities and desires but on the true Guru's sage advice and practical wisdom. Their concerns may be alleviated if they receive the opportunity to meet the Guru in person and clarify their doubts. 
    • Explain the importance of devotion for you but do not argue with family members if their objections continue. Prevent an escalation. 
  2. Show Commitment and Responsibility. Demonstrate your dedication to both spiritual and worldly responsibilities.
    • Assure your parents that you will balance your spiritual pursuits with practical obligations and commitments. Using compassion and a sense of duty, provide a guide to embracing spirituality without forsaking familial duties. Drawing insights from the holy Bhagavad Gita, convince parents about the intention to strike a balance between spiritual pursuits and familial responsibilities. Convince them that they will not be abandoned (e.g., Swamiji’s commentary on verse Bhagavad Gita 18.48). 
    • Share the biographies of true saints who were married and raised children while practicing spirituality. You may also share biographies of famous people like Charles Darwin and John Lennon, whose personal struggles in life left them with an internal emptiness, leading them toward spirituality. 
  3. Patience and Understanding. Understand that it may take time for parents to fully accept and support their children’s spiritual path. Be patient and empathetic and continue to demonstrate the positive impact spirituality has on your life. Your transformation may inspire them to change as well. Above all, do not lose hope. 

“Hopelessness is disrespect to God who has blessed us with an incredible number of graces.” 

~ Swami Mukundananda

Tools for Your Personal Growth

Are you concerned about parents, relatives, or friends opposing your choice of the spiritual path as opposed to a conventional family and work life? Do you wonder about the best way to convince them? Use this contemplation tool to figure out some possible ways to communicate your decision. However, you must read the tatvagyan on this topic before using the tool. .

A downloadable tracking sheet is available for you to use.

Following Spirituality Despite Family Opposition: A Reflection Tool

Are you concerned about parents, relatives, or friends opposing your choice of the spiritual path as opposed to a conventional family life?

Love to Hear from You

Please share your comments under “Join the Discussion” below.

Gems of Wisdom from Swamiji

Here are a few books and YouTube video titles where Swamiji has described how to deal with family opposition on the path of spirituality. 

Hold Your Breath! Check out Upcoming Events

We are very excited to share a dynamite event with you!   

JKYog’s Saint Tyagaraja Aradhana

The annual celebration of Saint Tyagaraja Aradhana will be held on February 17 & 18, 2024, at the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen), the official US Headquarters of JKYog. 

Tyagaraja Aradhana is observed every year by artists, gurus, students, and connoisseurs of Carnatic music around the world to pay homage to the great saint composer Saint Tyagaraja (1747-1847). He composed thousands of kritis in Telugu and some in Sanskrit, in invocation and praise of Lord Ram. 

Pushya Bahula Panchami, the Samadhi day for Saint Tyagaraja, is commemorated annually by group singing five of his Pancharatna compositions (i.e., five gems). Typically, group singing is preceded by individual renditions of Tyagaraja kritis by students of Carnatic music.

A grand Vocal Concert will be presented by Vidushi Dr. Pantula Rama. Also, there is an opportunity for music lovers to savor the bliss of classically trained artists singing Tyagaraja Kritis or Pancharatna Kritis, or playing an instrument (violin, veena, flute, etc.).

We invite you to join us for this wonderful occasion to savor the bliss of divine music.

JKYog Transforming Communities

In this section, we share the amazing activities and news about programs and events at various JKYog centers in the U.S.  

JKYog’s Radha Krishna Bhakti App

JKYog, under the guidance of its Founder, Swami Mukundananda, launched a very amazing app called Radha Krishna Bhakti. It is the world’s first and only AI-powered app for Bhakti Yog. It provides access to all the tools that are necessary to rise higher on the spiritual path – from simple inspirational quotes to an AI bot that responds to our quest for answers. 

Here are some of the most notable features:

  • The app provides access to the Bhagavad Gita in six languages. Users can hear their favorite verses repeatedly, or sequentially go through one verse at a time as per convenience. 
  • This app also helps to intensify sadhana practice through devotional kirtans and soulful guided meditations directly by Swamiji. 
  • Swamiji’s video lectures on YouTube can be very easily accessed simply by scrolling down the app!
  • Above all, if spiritual aspirants need immediate answers to questions about divine knowledge of God, practical tips to solve life’s problems, or identify specific verses from the Bhagavad Gita on specific topics, the AI Bot (i.e., Ask Swamiji) is your tool!

Embedded in this app, is the most recently launched 21-Day Challenge on Get Closer To God (#GetCloserToGod), which is established on the three pillars of bhakti – Wisdom, Sadhana, and Seva.

Register at the dedicated page to receive details: JKYog.org/get-closer-to-god

Download the App: https://jkyog.live/App

#jkyog #swamimukundananda #radhakrishnabhakti #getclosertogod #21daybhaktichallenge


Glimpses of Past Events

Want a glimpse of our recent event? This month we share beautiful glimpses of the celebration in honor of the inauguration of the Lord Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.