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Sunday, November 05, 2006

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Conceiving a Child is a Sin
I am of the firm conviction that conceiving a child is a great sin. The highest goal for a soul is to attain liberation from mortal existence, that is, to break free from the cycle of births and deaths. Giving birth is the exact opposite of liberation. A couple who conceive a child are directly responsible for encaging a soul in a mortal body. If we ourselves aspire for liberation, how can we justify the trapping of another soul in a body? By giving birth, people imprison a soul in a mortal body without thinking of the suffering they will put it through. We have no right to give such a bondage to a soul (At this point, I would like to make it very clear that I am not trying to imply that I will never father a child. I will try my best not to, but then, everyone can be lured into committing a sin, and I am no exception).
Life is not a bed of roses. Suffering is a part and parcel of everyone’s life. Some have more of it, some less, but everyone goes through it. To battle with innumerable terrifying problems of different types is part of man’s life and he cannot escape from them. He will be thrown in the midst of baffling trials, may have to face natural calamities, and undergo punishment for his ‘past’ misdeeds. From the very moment a person takes birth, suffering is his constant companion. Everyone has diseases and illnesses in life. Everyone goes through emotional suffering. And life is a constant struggle. People have to start their struggle right from childhood, from their school days. Then college, if they reach that far. Then finding a job; then a life partner; facing the loss of near and dear ones. And all the while we are enslaved by the body and its demands, be it hunger, sleep, sex, etc. Everyone has to work in order to maintain his body. Even breathing is work. Our body’s metabolism is constantly at work. We have to supply it with food so that it can keep on working. And we have to work so that we can obtain that food. But if our soul is not bound in a mortal body, it will be totally immune to all pain and suffering.
Before conception, no one knows what exactly the future of his offspring will be. It could be physically handicapped; it could be mentally deformed; it could be blind. And then, as life progresses, any kind of misfortune can strike it. Either or both of the child’s parents can die, when their child is still young, leaving an irreplaceable void in the child’s life. They could be separated. The child could end up being a total failure in life. It could end up in prison.
No one comes to this world on his own will. It is the will of the parents which gives birth to the child. They are solely responsible for bringing it into existence. And whatever hardships a person faces in life, whatever pain or sorrow comes his way, his parents are entirely to blame for it.
Some people tell me that if all humans stop reproducing the world would come to an end, and that seems like a very frightful idea to them. I tell them that this planet would actually be far better off without humans. Besides, Earth has existed for millions of years; humans appeared just about a hundred thousand years ago. Humans are part of this planet. We don’t own this planet.
Once I was discussing my theory of not conceiving with a lady and told her that if someone has a child, it could be born blind. She said that is a one in ten thousand chance. I told her that the phrase “one in ten thousand chance” is used in gambling, so basically it means you are gambling with someone’s life. She had no choice but to agree. By reproducing we are actually gambling with someone’s life. Do we have a right to do so?
I feel the only difference between humans and animals is the fact that we can willfully abstain from reproducing. In all other ways, we are not much different from animals. We are just more intelligent than other animals and have used our intelligence to improve our life with comforts and sensory pleasures.
If one believes in transcendental spiritualism, which says that the soul should be freed from the cycle of births and deaths, then to understand that giving birth is the opposite of liberation is more of a logical conclusion, something akin to a mathematical equation.
I am sure that during the course of civilization there would have been people who would have propounded this theory. Maybe their ideas did not get too popular – there were not many means of spreading writings and ideas to the masses in ancient times. Maybe a lot of people who could have written about it chose not to, for reasons best known to them. The views and teachings of lot of spiritual and philosophical people were propagated orally by them, and were written and compiled by others, thus diluting the content and authenticity of the original. It was said that the Buddha was preaching childlessness. One does not need to read between the lines to understand what the Buddha meant when he said that birth is accompanied by suffering (Buddha’s noble truth to sorrow{suffering}: birth is attended with pain, disease is painful, death is painful, union with the unpleasant is painful, separation from the pleasant is painful, unsatisfied craving is painful).
There is an ancient Indian story about eight Vasus (liberated souls or demigods) who played a prank on a holy man. The holy man was angry at them for playing a prank on a mortal, they themselves being liberated souls. He cursed them to spend one life as humans on earth. They were terrified by this curse. It shows how dreaded human life is for a liberated soul. After they pleaded for mercy, the sage agreed to reduce the curse for seven of the Vasus. Seven of them would be killed, or liberated the day they were born. The only punishment they would have to suffer would be the nine months in a human womb. Hearing that they would be killed the day they were born, the Vasus were ecstatic and thankful to the holy man for reducing the severity of the curse. The eighth Vasu, Prabhas, who was the main culprit, would live a full life on earth in a mortal body as a punishment for his misdeed. The eight Vasus were born to king Shantanu and his wife Ganga. Ganga killed the first seven children the day they were born. The eighth child went on to live as Bhishma, who played a pivotal role in the Indian epic the Mahabharata. (The killing of the children by Ganga seems to explain to some extent the verse “What is night for all beings is the time of waking for the disciplined soul; and what is the time of waking for all beings is night for the sage who sees{or the sage of vision}” – B.G. II 69).
The Mahabharata is a very integral part of ancient Indian and Hindu culture, and the holy book of the Hindus, the Bhagvad Gita is part of the Mahabharata. This story clearly illustrates that life on earth is a punishment. It is surprising why this point has never been noted and stressed upon through the ages. Moreover, there is a verse in the Bhagvad Gita, in which Krishna describes knowledge as “Indifference to the objects of sense, self effacement and the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, sickness and pain” (B.G. XIII 8). This verse clearly states birth as being evil. Millions of people have read the Bhagvad Gita through the ages, and not just Indians. It is very surprising that no one has tried to infer or comment on this verse.
It is an act of lust which gives birth to a child. The result of an act of lust can never be right or holy.
I would like to clarify at this point that I am not saying sex is bad or wrong. I mean if sex results in giving birth, that is wrong. But it is a sensual act, and if one wants to be childfree he / she would have to ensure sex doesn’t result in conception. Sex is one of the strongest instincts all living beings possess and I don’t feel anyone should try to suppress their desires as long as they don’t end up harming anyone.
Death is certain for one who is born. In effect, when we give birth, we automatically gift death to that person as well. Therefore a person who gives birth is also responsible for murder. These ideas may sound absurd and crazy to many people. But then, at some point down the ages acts such as thievery and robbery must have been considered normal, and if someone termed them as being sinful it might have sounded absurd and crazy to many. Throughout history it has been the norm for conquerors to lead barbaric campaigns of mass murder and plunder without any qualms. The yardsticks and values pertaining to sin and morals differ from people to people. Even today there are many who see no wrong in committing various heinous acts. There are many criminal tribes in India in which stealing and robbing are family traditions. People have to be taught what sin is or what is right and wrong – they are not born with knowledge ingrained in their minds. One needs to open their mind and think rationally and logically. Most people get very defensive when I tell them that conceiving a child is a sin. They are not willing to make any attempt to understand this theory or to listen to the reasoning behind it with an open mind. They vehemently oppose this theory outright, mainly because they are too much in love with the idea of having their own children and definitely don’t want to believe that they are committing any sin in doing so. Desire and love cloud our mind and logic.
Some people say that by giving birth you are giving a chance to a soul to be born as a human and thus giving that soul an opportunity to seek liberation. Can anything sound more stupid than this? It’s like putting someone in prison in order to give that person a chance to break free.
It is very essential to understand the soul for a person to possess any kind of spiritual aptitude. The soul, if not embodied, needs nothing to survive and cannot face any kind of pain, sorrow or damage – fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it, a sword cannot cleave it. For a free soul, a human is like a perpetually sick individual who needs matter in all its three forms (gaseous, liquid and solid) in order to survive, just as a sick man needs medicines to survive. If we see someone who needs regular medical treatment, like insulin injections or dialysis, we pity that person. We don’t realize that all of us need to breathe air, drink water and eat food in order to survive – we are all patients, pitiable ourselves. A liberated soul needs none of these things. We should not pass on this disease called life to other souls by reproducing.
To some people my views on life sound negative and pessimistic. They feel that life is full of joy and pleasures, it is beautiful and is to be enjoyed. Ignorance is bliss - that is all I can say for them. Sensory pleasures are the biggest delusion for humans. That is why we humans enjoy far more pleasures and means of sense gratification than animals. It is because humans would understand the futility of life, since they have the intelligence to do so if these sensory pleasures were not present to fool us and to make us fall deeply in love with life. A person who feels that the ultimate goal in life is to indulge in sense gratification is an immature fool. Just as we don’t enjoy playing with children’s toys as we grow older, when one attains spiritual wisdom he loses interest in enjoying any kind of sensory pleasures. We enjoy pleasures which are appealing to humans when our soul is embodied in a human body. But if our soul is to be embodied in a vulture’s body then the taste of carrion will be pleasurable for us, and human pleasures and comforts will be of no interest or use to us. It is only when the soul is enlightened that it attains the wisdom to rise above worldly delusions.
I feel that if someone does not conceive a child, whether willfully or due to reasons beyond his or her control, that person breaks the cycle of bondage and is thus entitled to liberation.
If, however, someone is really keen to have a child they should bear in mind certain things before conceiving. It will still be a sin, but a sin of a slightly lesser degree.
First of all, before planning a child, the parents should ensure that the child will have a financially secure future and a comfortable upbringing, in a healthy society. Those people who are monetarily poor or who live in poor and underdeveloped countries commit the greatest sin by giving birth to a child. Such a child is brought up under miserable conditions and has a dark and gloomy future lying ahead of him. In a country like India, marrying and having children is something everyone just has to do. But life in India is virtually like living in hell. The country is very backward and underdeveloped. There is poverty and misery all around. A person working in India would earn in a month what a person in the USA would earn in a day, doing the same kind of work. The result is a sharp contrast in the standard of living. Public amenities like medical facilities, state transport, water supply, sewage & sanitation, electric power, schools, colleges, etc. are very limited, and whatever there is, is literally in ruins. There is widespread corruption, unemployment, and human rights abuse. The weather is also very hostile and most people cannot afford air-conditioners. Poor people lead a life akin to that of animals. Most of them cannot even afford a square meal for themselves everyday. But still these people continue to give birth to children, and not for a moment do they realize the injustice they are doing to innocent souls by doing so. When they see their children suffering and leading a life of drudgery, they put the entire blame on destiny. It is not destiny, but their own will that gives birth to a child, and they are solely responsible for its destiny. Giving birth to a child and then blaming destiny for its misery is like shooting a man and saying "It was his bad luck that he had to die, so I am not to blame for it".
In this respect many humans are far worse than animals. Animals in the wild, if they foresee a shortage in food supply or feel that their habitat is under threat or is no longer suitable, refrain from reproducing. But there are lots of humans, especially in third world countries, who being well aware that they cannot afford proper food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs for their child, still feel no compunction in reproducing.
Once in New Delhi, I saw a boy of about fourteen being bullied by seven older boys. There was a police jeep with three policemen standing nearby, and this boy came running towards it, with the older boys following him. He asked the policemen to save him from the older boys. They, in turn, said that he had provoked them. Instead of protecting him, one of the policemen slapped the younger boy repeatedly, and started checking his pockets for money, blatantly, in front of everyone. Whatever the boy had, the policeman snatched from him. This incident took place in the capital of the world’s largest democracy, in the heart of the city, at a busy crossing at rush hour, witnessed by many a mute spectator. Such incidents are rife in India. This is the state of security and human rights ordinary citizens of India enjoy. Still, people continue to give birth to children in such a country.
As it is, giving birth is a sin, but one should not accentuate the sin by giving birth despite knowing that the child will have a bleak future. After all, giving birth is not compulsory. We humans can realize this, and these days birth can be prevented even after conception.
The break up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s coupled with the end of communism saw a sharp fall in the standard of living of most Russians, resulting in a marked decline in the birth rate. In terms of intelligence and education of the general populace, Russia is far ahead compared to third world countries – that is probably what helped many Russians to opt not to have children in adverse circumstances.
There are lot of world leaders, philanthropists and organizations working for the upliftment of the downtrodden all around the globe. A huge amount of time, money and effort is spent in this endeavour. If they can make the poor understand the wrong in conceiving children without having the means and resources to support them, their task would become much easier. It is far better to prevent the problem from taking birth rather than allowing it to crop up and then trying to busy oneself in attempting to cure it.
Another point people should bear in mind before conceiving a child is the level of their capability. By the time a person becomes mature enough to have a child, he is well aware of his abilities and shortcomings. A person who is not very capable and successful in life should avoid conceiving a child. A child inherits mental and physical qualities from its parents, and chances of giving birth to an incapable child are higher if the parents themselves are incapable. A lion will give birth to a lion, and a lamb, to a lamb. A donkey can never give birth to a lion. If someone has some weakness or is deficient in some respect, he should see that his spouse can make up for it. If a man who is considerably underweight should marry a woman who is also underweight and physically weak, the result will be that their child, too, will be underweight and weak. Similarly, if a man of limited intelligence marries a woman of his kind, they will most probably bear an unintelligent child. A person could be a coward, or very lazy, or of a weak moral character. All these traits can be passed on to his offspring. If a person cannot find a spouse who can make up for his deficiencies, he should desist from having a child. He himself has suffered because of his weakness. Why should he make another soul suffer for the same?
A person suffering from a serious disease or medical disorder should also refrain from reproducing. It is not a very pleasant experience for any child to have a sick parent. Moreover, if it is a hereditary disease, like diabetes, it can be passed on to the offspring.
The ingredient most essential for our survival is the air we breathe. Humans can live without water and food for hours and days but cannot survive without air for more than a couple of minutes. People pay lot of attention to the quality and hygiene of the water and food they consume, but they don’t seem much concerned about the quality of the air they breathe. All around the world most of the capable and successful people live in big cities, where the air is by no standards pure and clean. They bring forth children to breathe in polluted, unhealthy air. Does it prick their conscience - or are they too insensitive to even give it a thought?
Sometimes I wonder – if people possessed the ability to communicate with the soul and it said it did not wish to be born to them, or born at all, would they still go ahead and trap it in a mortal body?
A child’s life is directly linked with that of its parents. If the parents are successful and prosperous, the child will have a comfortable upbringing. But if the parents are poor, life will be very difficult for the child. If a parent commits a sin and is punished for it, indirectly the child also bears the brunt of the punishment. If God punishes a man for his sins by snatching his wealth or crippling him, his children will be affected as well. Why should children suffer for their parents’ misdeeds? Is this God’s way of meting out justice?
A question that often baffles me is ‘Why do people have children?’ For their emotional happiness; to have someone they can call their own and depend upon; someone who can help them in their work and look after them in old age; someone whom they can pass their wealth on to; someone who will carry on their generation. These are all very selfish motives. People put a soul through such torment and suffering to fulfill their selfish desires.
I consider emotional attachment to anyone, whether father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife, lover, friend, etc., to be nothing but foolishness. A person would have had near and dear ones in his previous life. But in his current life, he will not remember who his parents or children were in his previous life. Nor would he remember his current family members in his next life. In his next birth, his soul could well have been in the chicken that lands up on his son’s dinner table!
When I am talking about not being emotional it is from the spiritual point of view, I don’t mean a person should be cold and insensitive. But once a person attains spiritual enlightenment then all worldly wants and desires are effaced. Very few people manage to attain spiritual enlightenment, and I am not there either. For the uninitiated it would not be easy to understand or appreciate the nuances of Hindu spirituality. We all have different philosophies and beliefs and my intention is not to offend or contradict anyone’s beliefs