The greatest teacher in India is woman in our family tradition. Our scriptures say: “Matri devo, pitri devo, acharya devo.” Devo means “bright being.” This saying means that the mother is the first teacher, the father the second, and the spiritual teacher or religious teachings become the third teacher in the child’s life. These three teachers provide the child’s educational foundation and give the necessary guidance. The mother, from whose loving bosom the first lessons of life are learned, is the first and foremost teacher of the child. If she does not sow the seeds of good conduct and health, the other two teachers will find great difficulty in discharging their duties. It is said that a child starts learning 21 years before birth. This means that the mother should be trained before she conceives a child so that she can love and educate her child in a manner that is comfortable and healthy for both.

A woman should actually work hard before having a child if she really wants to have a healthy child. Not only should she strive to improve her physical health, she should also work on herself and try to transform her personality for the sake of her child. When a woman is expecting a child, she should have a very nutritional diet, she should exercise, and she should read inspiring books. Her husband should treat her very nicely. He should respect her, look after her, and should not create any emotional problems for her; he should understand that she needs love and sympathy. The child is affected by the way the mother thinks before and during pregnancy and will have the same tendencies as the mother has. Therefore, when a woman is pregnant she should not think in a negative way, she should not be depressed, and she should not become emotional. The mother’s thoughts and behavior affect the child she is carrying because the child’s sensitive heart accepts anything and everything.

The education of the child can begin from the first day of pregnancy. You can read an example of this in the Mahabharata, one of the great epics of India. Arjuna was the great warrior of the battle of the Mahabharata. When he would come back from the battlefield, he would discuss the techniques of fighting with his wife, who was pregnant. She was not interested in listening to these things. So he said, “Listen, I am telling you these things to educate our child. Please listen to me. I will tell you the techniques of fighting so that our child learns.” She said, “How is it possible?” He said, “Make a note of what I am saying.” Then he explained to her the technique of how to build a fort that the enemy could not penetrate. He also wanted to explain how to invade the fort of the enemy but he was not able to complete the lesson because his wife had fallen asleep. At the age of 12 years, their son, Abhimanyu, could describe how to create a fort that the enemy could not destroy. He knew this because of the subtle samskaras he had received when he was in his mother’s womb.

Nature has provided a wonderful mechanism for the mother to freely enjoy the company of her child for nine months. She alone can communicate with and feel the child she is carrying. She should realize this is something great and learn to enjoy it. During the months of pregnancy the father does not directly feel the living presence of the child as does the mother. Before the child’s birth the father simply feels excitement, curiosity, and pride for his child. Man does not have the power that woman has to carry a child for nine months. If you put a little pebble on a man’s abdomen, and tell him to carry it for two or three days, he will not be able to do so. Woman is superior to man; woman has tremendous strength and capacity to go through many pains in life. Man has been irresponsible throughout the ages. The family institution was established by woman. It was woman who felt the necessity of establishing a home and shelter for her child, so woman is actually the first architect. Now, it is woman’s responsibility to build our society. That which man has not been able to do, woman should do because she can do it. All women should be aware of the wealth they have. No woman should ever feel she is inferior because she is a woman. Woman has great power and great responsibility. The child’s education is totally in the mother’s hands. If all mothers would decide to do their duties lovingly toward their children, in one day they could considerably reduce the misery of the world. All mothers should realize that they can change the whole course of their child’s life. Although raising a child is a mutual responsibility, most men do not care to know or understand the necessity and importance of loving, caressing, and teaching the child. It is man’s nature to be extroverted. It is more difficult for him to be sensitive to the responsibilities of child raising. Usually the man is not helpful to his wife in caring for an infant.

Reprinted from Let the Bud of Life Bloom, an HIHT publication.