Devo Bhava?

Our culture’s unique outlook allows a person to discover and depict the divine in his/her own way as it holds that god is but the reality that surrounds us all and one can have an infinite number of manifestations of it. One has to discover one’s god within oneself instead of imagining it as a super cosmic, scary entity and separating it from its creation altogether which leads to a very material and utilitarian view of life. So, it also encourages seeing god in every person or living thing around oneself, in one’s elders like teachers and also one’s parents.

Our culture has always placed parents on a high pedestal (maatr devo bhava, pitr devo bhava – mother is god, father is god), primarily because they are the ones who are the reason for everything  to do with us, right from being the reason for us coming into the world, to the person we eventually will be. Being compared to the divine is our culture’s way of showing gratitude to the wonderful being that is the parent, but many a times, this can be hard on both the offspring and the parent.

Children believe that their parents are perfect, flawless beings who can do no wrong. Boys want a girl just like their mother; girls want a man who is like their father. It is ingrained into them that come what may, their parents can never be wrong or do wrong. To contradict them, or to even think that they can be wrong, is a sin because after all, they are “gods”, and the children have to be forever indebted to them for the very reason that the mother has bore them in her womb and the father has put his very existence in supporting them. They have to obey every command of their parents and follow them unquestioningly. The children on their part are shattered when they discover that their idols are the very same lowly common folk which they see and loathe all the time. In case the parent in question does something which is unacceptable in a civilized society or which is a criminal act, it can make them lose faith in themselves and even the humanity.

In all this crowd of pious platitudes and moral self righteousness, what really needs to be explained to the children is that parents too, like everyone else are human beings and they are not immune to the temptations and weaknesses, just like other people. What needs to be underlined to them here is that nothing in the world is perfect, least of all human beings, and mostly it is the imperfection which makes us unique and beautiful in a way. Just like the parents have accepted them the way they are, the children too need to realize that they must accept the parents with all their faults. After all, be it any parent, he or she has the same limitations which any other human has.

Deification of a parent has the unhealthy effect of the child having unrealistic expectations from them which leads to a grudge when most of them are not met, from not being able to afford something for them which the parents of their peers are able to easily (“XYZ’s dad has brought him a bike, why can’t you?”)  to not being able to bring them up in a way which they think is right when they reach adulthood (“Why did you make me opt for this stream?”, “Why couldn’t you afford to put me in so or so college/institution?”) .

Children have to understand that parents don’t owe them luxuries nor are they there to cater to their whims or fancies, and they certainly don’t owe them a living as a lot of them are delusional enough to believe (Mine didn’t help me set up, he didn’t put a word to his contacts to help me get started).

Parents on their part, need to realize that children are not their second chance in life and that one can’t have a “made-to-order” or a “custom-made” offspring (Maybe sometime in our already scary looking future, but not today). They are not display articles, which have to be shown around in social events (“You know, he scored 90% in so and so exam, he’s got an admission in xxx or he’s a xxx in xxx company.”). They aren’t some factory made products that have to be standardized and compared to others (“XYZ has scored so many marks in his exams. He also is in his school’s debating team. Why can’t you do the same?”). They aren’t hired workers who have to be chided for underperformance, for what has been spent on them (“We have got you everything you need and what you want. Why can’t you score more marks than XYZ or have dreams of becoming an engineer like WXY?”, “How can you think of becoming a musician when it is our dream that you become a doctor?”).

Parents must understand that their children did not ask them to help them come into this world. It is them, who have for their own will and liking brought them into this world and from the moment that the children open their eyes, it is their duty to put their whole and soul in nurturing them and making a worthwhile person out of them (just like it is the children’s duty to be grateful and being good to their parents). It is a thankless and the most pious work in the world, and no one forced them to do it but they themselves have set forth to do it, and must face the consequences, good or bad, with a humble heart.

The concept of maatr devo bhava, pitr devo bhava seems like an outdated bookish adage in an increasingly materialistic society,, where parents treat their children as their meal ticket/second  chance in life/ controlled machine-cum-display piece which can be bragged about; and children treat their parents as nothing more than an ATM machine. People who blame the young generation for being useless and depraved forget who raised them in the first place. When the adults have made the world full of greed, lust and perversion, it is nothing but hypocrisy and delusion to expect goodness from the children who, from the moment of stepping out of the house are embraced by the decadence which their parents’ generation has helped create and thrived in.

How can one relate parents to the divine, who ingrain their own pettiness in their children, bring them up with a display mindset and materialistic attitude, don’t buy them any book but fill the house with tabloids, who themselves see nothing other than cheap television shows and third rate films, who squabble all day in front of their children on the flimsiest of issues, who have but empty and inflated words to say in case of moral education but no action to follow it and most important who bring up children to become adults who feel at comfort in continuing the same ways that are the bane of the society today?

One does not need to deify their parents in order to love or respect them. All that is needed is to accept that both parents and children are god’s gift to each other, the former who are great, in spite of their blemishes and imperfections, and being grateful for the efforts that they put to the best of their limited abilities in raising their children, and the latter because of the unique beauty in each one of them. If there is any complaint that the children have towards the parents from it should be rectified not by lamentations but trying to do a better job when they assume the role of parents when their time comes.

Ankur Jayawant

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