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Jiva Regrets and Children
Questioner: Dear Sundari, thank you for your last email.
I am very happy to see that the book is now available.
We have bought it and will begin to study it.
Yesterday and today I have been plagued by regrets to do with my relationship with my daughter and general painful feelings around my family. I quit my career when my daughter was born.
I had been meditating for five years and really could not maintain the life of a meditator.
I was really happy for a few years and threw myself into fatherhood, worked in crappy jobs, meditated and had a lot of wonderful epiphanies.
When my daughter was seven, my partner decided to leave – my idea of a holiday was a retreat and hers was more like clubbing. Fair enough, we weren’t suited, and she was already having an affair – though I did not know that at the time.
It was all horribly painful. I was briefly free at a certain point, but then fell into a bad relationship and marriage – really in order to recreate the family situation – it was a failure and again caused a lot of pain.
I was quite lost for a while, and then entered my current relationship, which has lasted, as we are both basically spiritual seekers.
My daughter is a problematic person (as am I!!!) – she harbors a lot of resentment towards me and my partner and has quite a few bad habits – dope-smoking, etc. – she is now 21. I am beginning to get better at dealing with her, but have been through long periods when I really didn’t want to.
I know you have a daughter – I would like to open a discussion about how you have a non-dual relationship with children.
Do you have any initial thoughts or pointers?
Sundari: Thanks for your very frank email, as always. As to your relationship with your daughter, there is no quick fix for it, I am afraid. Although you can have a non-dual relationship with her by seeing her as the Self while honouring her apparent nature as a jiva, you cannot expect her to see you the same way; it does not work that way. For that, she needs to commit to Self-inquiry, which is not up to you. She is an adult now, so you cannot tell her what to do, how to live or what to think. But you can teach by precept and example, and with complete honesty about your regrets. Speak directly to her about her antagonism to you and your partner, ask her how this makes for happiness. Ask her if she would be open to hearing that there is a logic to existence, that it is possible to understand how the mind functions and how it relates to the big picture that makes sense of everything; that there is another way to live other than through hurtful emotions and blame. You cannot make her listen, but the Self knows itself, so if you never give up and relate to her as the Self, even when she is being really difficult, something may just get through. But, as I said, it’s not up to you though. Nobody comes here to resolve another person’s karma, not even “our” children, who are not our children but Isvara’s, as is everyone else in our environment.
Ask for her forgiveness for failing her expectations of you as a parent and explain that sometimes we just do the best we can, given our knowledge at the time, which is not always ideal. If she is not receptive to you and still holds on to blame, it will be very hard to make any real connection with her. The important thing is that you forgive yourself for not being able to be the “ideal” parent for her. After all, what is ideal parenting? We are all flawed as jivas, and until we have Self-knowledge we are bound to make mistakes and get many things wrong. The role of parenting is much misunderstood by most parents who have little or no Self-knowledge. The best would be to be totally transparent with her about the past and how you handled it. Tell her in simple terms about how you felt when your marriage broke up, explain your journey since then without any excuses or self-judgment. You will be surprised how receptive children and young adults are to honesty from their parents. No child expects their parents to be perfect; they just want to be seen and loved.
Carrying guilt about your failure as a parent is a waste of time. You did not make the jiva the way it is, and you are not the doer; the way you responded to life was according to your level of knowledge and ignorance at the time, i.e. your vasana load. Now that you have found Vedanta, the teachings must translate in your life to work. Karma yoga along with taking a stand in awareness and practising the opposite thought must be your default position to every thought, word and deed. With this knowledge you know that “your” daughter is not your daughter, she is the Self under the spell of ignorance, and for reasons you will never know, Isvara gave her the karma she has in this life, which has played out the way it has.
There is no blame and no shame. Love her and love yourself, forget the past and what transpired, there is nothing you can do about it. Focus on what you can change, which is how you relate to her now. Remember that your story as a jiva is not real, it’s all in the dream of Maya. We need to understand the jiva program to be free of it, but it is simply a construct that belongs to Isvara, who facilitates the jiva’s karma. Since you have found Vedanta and are committed to moksa, you have found the Holy Grail, life’s true purpose, realizing the Self.
I don’t think I sent you this last time we spoke, so I have attached something I put together from the writings of the Upanishads for you and your partner to contemplate.
~ Much love, Sundari