Raising a child prodigy

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married couple in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a whizkid.  In today’s hyper-competitive world, harried parents are incessantly searching for and investing in innovative methods to secure the ultimate edge for their bewildered toddler.   In the mad rush to turn the child into the next Einstein, one area which seems to have been overlooked is the time before childbirth.   Few seem to have asked the question : can the pre-natal period be exploited to pre-select a genius?  The answer is yes, and it can be done without exorbitantly priced genetic engineering; all you need is just conscious  aspiration and prayer.   Read on…

That first passage was tongue-in-cheek 🙂

On a serious note, there are instances of gifted children being born as a result of the conscious aspiration and post-natal preparation done by their parents.  Frank Lloyd Wright‘s mother aspired for a child who would build beautiful buildings. She decorated his nursery with engravings of English cathedrals to create an atmosphere which would shape his outlook.  More recently, we have the case of Keshav Dahanukar, a seven-year-old child with no formal training who played the tabla(hand-drums) at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.  He learned the intricacies of the musical instrument merely by watching the hand movements of another tabla player.  His mother Gopika, speaking of the pre-natal period,  says, “I feel a deep connection to Krishna – I was singing many songs to Krishna before he was born. Keshava was my favourite name of Krishna and I dreamt that my son should be born with curly hair and it happened.” [1]

Let us read what various sages have to say on such cases of precocious children.

Ramana Maharshi on the effect of past-life development

A young prodigy was mentioned. Sri Bhagavan remarked that latent impressions of previous births (purva janma samskara) were strong in him.
Disciple: How does it manifest as the ability to cite well-known saints? Is it vasana (subconscious impression) in the form of a seed only?
Ramana: Yes. Predisposition (samskara) is acquired knowledge and kept in stock. It manifests under favourable circumstances. One with strong samskara understands the thing when presented to him much quicker than another with no samskara or weak samskara.
Disciple: Does it hold good with inventors also?
Ramana: “There is nothing new under the sun.” What we call inventions or discoveries are merely rediscoveries by competent men with strong samskara in the directions under consideration.
Disciple: Is it so with Newton, Einstein, etc.?
Ramana: Yes. Certainly. But the samskaras, however strong, will not manifest unless in a calm and still mind. It is within the experience of everyone that his attempts to rake up his memory fail, whereas something flashes in the mind when he is calm and quiet. Mental quiet is necessary even for remembrance of forgotten things.  The so-called genius is one who worked hard in his past births and acquired knowledge and kept it in store as samskaras. He now concentrates his mind until it merges in the subject. In that stillness the submerged ideas flash out. That requires favourable conditions also. [2]

The occult mental formations which gifted children can embody

(Why do children suddenly develop talents and begin to fluently mimic virtuosos of yore? The Mother Mirra Alfassa says such cases occur when the children subconsciously tap into and embody occult mental formations which were fashioned by past savants.)

Authors, writers, who were inspired and serious in their creative work, that is to say, who were concentrated in a kind of consecration of their being to their literary work, form within themselves a sort of mental entity extremely well-constituted and coordinated, having its own life, independent of the body, so that when they die, when the body returns to the earth, this mental formation continues to exist altogether autonomously and independently, and as it has been fashioned for expression it always seeks a means of expression somewhere. And if there happens to be a child who has been formed in particularly favourable circumstances—for instance, the mother of this little girl is herself a poetess and a writer; perhaps the mother herself had an aspiration, a wish that her child would be a remarkable, exceptional being—anyway, if the child who is conceived is formed in particularly favourable circumstances, an entity of this kind may enter into the child at the time of birth and try to use him to express itself; and in that case, this gives a maturity to  the child’s mind, which is quite extraordinary, exceptional and which enables him to do things of the kind we have just read.

There are similar examples, for instance, among musicians.  There are pianists who have individualised their hands and made them so wonderfully conscious that these hands are not decomposed— not the physical hands: the hands of the subtle physical and vital—they are not decomposed, do not dissolve at the time of death. They remain as instruments to play the piano and always try to incarnate in the hands of someone playing the piano. I have known some cases of people who, as they were about to play, felt as though other hands entered into theirs and started playing really marvellously, in a way they could not have done themselves.

I saw the same thing in someone who used to play the violin and another who played the cello—two different cases —and who were not very wonderful performers themselves.  One of them was just beginning his studies and the other was a good performer, but nothing marvellous. But all of a sudden, the moment they played the compositions of certain musicians, something of that musician entered into their hands and made their performance absolutely wonderful.

There was even a person—a woman—who used to play the cello, and the moment she played Beethoven, the expression of her face completely changed into Beethoven’s and what she played was sublime, which she could not have played unless something of Beethoven’s mind had entered into her. [3]

The aspiration of parents before childbirth also plays a role.

Question: Sweet Mother, is it possible for the mother and father to give birth to… to ask for the soul they want?

Mother Mirra Alfassa: To ask? For that they must have an occult knowledge which they don’t usually have. But anyway, what is possible is that instead of doing the thing like an animal driven by instinct or desire and most of the time, without even wanting it, they do it at will, with an aspiration, putting themselves in a state of aspiration and almost of prayer, so that the being they are going to form may be one fit to embody a soul which they can call down to incarnate in that form. I knew people ― not many, this does not often happen, but still I knew some ― who chose special circumstances, prepared themselves through special concentration and meditation and aspiration and sought to bring down, into the body they were going to form, an exceptional being.

In many countries of old ― and even now in certain countries ― the woman who was going to have a child was placed in special conditions of beauty, harmony, peace and well-being, in very harmonious physical conditions, so that the child could be formed in the best possible conditions. This is obviously what ought to be done, for it is within the reach of human possibilities. Human beings are developed enough for this not to be something quite exceptional. And yet it is quite exceptional, for very few people think of it, while there are innumerable people who have children without even wanting to.

It is possible to call a soul, but one must be at least a little conscious oneself, and must want to do what one does in the best conditions. This is very rare, but it is possible. [4]

 

Photo: author unknown

Kahlil Gibran on children.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

References

  1. Little Keshava’s tabla journey began at 2.  Hindustan Times.  October 11, 2010   http://www.hindustantimes.com/Little-Keshava-s-tabla-journey-began-at-2/Article1-611321.aspx (Accessed Dec 5 2010)
  2. Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 2000, p 365.
  3. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 8. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, pp 319-320.
  4. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 8. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p 201.
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20 thoughts on “Raising a child prodigy

  1. V. Arvind

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married couple in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a whizkid. ”

    Nice post, and a creative paraphrase of Jane Austen!

    Reply
  2. Supriyo Bose

    Dear Sandeep,
    Delightful to read Jane Austen starting your post. Speaking of which, did you know that “Mother’s Service Society” has been running a series of programs on “Pride and Prejudice”, it seems, for some years now ?
    And now, they are using the the insights and lessons in that book to teach Sri Aurobindo’s “The Life Divine”. You can get the recordings of those talks (by Garry Jacob) here: http://karmayogi.net/

    -Supriyo

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Interesting to see Pride and Prejudice being related to The Life Divine.

      I realized I could have paraphrased the second line from Jane Austen as well to illustrate the phenomenon of helicopter parents: “However little known the feelings or views of such a child may be on his first entering a family, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of the parents.”

      Reply
  3. ipsa

    Every parent wants to do the best for their child. How the best can be done and the whole process to do that needs some attention and practice. With that intention, when each parent needs some homework and training to bring the best out of their child, just as one goes for training to learn on other subjects and practice the lessons. So the child’s parents have to practically implement their intention and give the best gift to their child, which the child will treasure in its heart. Nowadays everything has become so practical that one can have all resources and training to have this intention materialize. It just needs effort and thought to ensure that child is going to inherit and the child’s life will blossom to his full potential and the soul of the child will sing all life long the tune of best divine intentions. This would be the best gift ever his parents can give.

    The post initiates the thinking that the child needs that support and its the child birthright.
    Examples given here shows that development is a process just as child birth is a process.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Practice Yoga ! Reduce TV and internet usage; watch less movies; do not eat junk food; exercise and meditate regularly; talk less, etc.

      When the energy which is tied in sensual pleasures is released upwards, then the brain automatically starts functioning better. In the Rig Veda section X.108, this fact is symbolically depicted in the story of Sarama (the hound of intuition) who releases the cows (i.e. knowledge) which were imprisoned in the caves of the Panis (i.e. the subconscious).

      Reply
  4. Pingback: When does the soul enter the body? | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  5. Sandeep Post author

    Beautiful Young Minds

    This documentary which first aired on BBC 2 tells the story of some of the brightest mathematical brains of a generation. Each year, exceptionally gifted teenagers from over 90 countries compete for medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad. The film follows a group of brilliant teenagers as they battle it out to become the chosen six selected to represent the UK.

    Many youngsters see maths as an ordeal, but for these teenagers it’s a passion they are completely devoted to. We also hear how, for some, their extraordinary talent has left them ostracized at school. At just 15, Jonathan is the youngest contender in the group. A rocket-building enthusiast, he has already broken several UK distance records. However, Jonathan’s academic gifts and scientific interests have led to him being bullied for being geeky.

    See the six-part video documentary @ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/beautiful-young-minds/

    Reply
  6. ipi

    Integral Education: Every human being carries hidden within him the possibility of a greater consciousness which goes beyond the bounds of his present life and enables him to share in a higher and a vaster life.

    Some have a vague intimation of its presence; a good many children are under its influence, which shows itself very distinctly at times in their spontaneous actions and even in their words. Unfortunately, since parents most often do not know what it is and do not understand what is happening in their child, their reaction to these phenomena is not a good one and all their education consists in making the child as unconscious as possible in this domain and concentrating all his attention on external things, thus accustoming him to think that they are the only ones that matter.

    -Mother has told wonderful things on child education on this page

    Reply
  7. Sandeep Post author

    Excerpts from a Scientific American article How to raise a science fair champ

    What does it take to make it as a finalist at the Google Science Fair, where winners earn hefty scholarships and internships at CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider?

    First, let’s look at some basic statistics. It does help if at least one parent is a scientist. Of the 14 finalists I spoke with, only 5 had two non-scientists for parents; 5 had one scientist parent and 4 had two scientists for parents.
    […]

    As for schools, 10 finalists went to general public schools; two attended specialized public schools that focused on math and science; and 5 attended general private schools. (I counted one finalist twice for spending time in two different kinds of schools)….
    […]
    Leaving stats aside, the top things finalists named as the foundation of their interest in science was having a family member who was interested in science and making trips to the local science museum….
    […]
    Some finalists recalled their parents’ efforts to introduce math and science in a fun, unintimidating way. Vighnesh Shiv’s parents (his dad is a computer scientist, and his mom studied journalism and literature) began teaching him to count and do basic arithmetic on his Magna Doodle toy before his second birthday
    […]
    TV and movies can also inspire an interest in the sciences
    […]
    So it seems that having fun—whether out at a botanical garden or at home, while watching TV—is the way to nurture an interest in science in kids. It may even lead to a career in science. Nearly all of the finalists I talked to want to major in science or engineering in college, and to research, program or build devices for a job.

    Read the full article at
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/budding-scientist/2011/07/27/how-to-raise-a-science-fair-champ/

    Reply
  8. Pingback: How to bring up a child | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  9. ipi

    The Downside of Being a Child Prodigy:

    Alissa Quart:
    “Designating children as gifted, especially extremely gifted, and cultivating that giftedness may be not only a waste of money, but positively harmful,”

    “Emphasize the work in itself, the process itself, the activity. The kids are trying, they’re doing a good job, they’re learning how to do something. Each thing they do is discrete; it’s not part of a larger identity of being spectacular.”

    Source:
    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1532087,00.html

    Reply
  10. Sandeep Post author

    Would you believe it?

    Parents Also Proud Of Unsuccessful Child

    VIENNA, VA–John and Helen Blauvelt, proud parents of recent Duke Medical School graduate Diane Blauvelt, told their other, unsuccessful child Monday that they are proud of him, as well. “Jonathan, you may not be accomplished, impressive and destined for great things like your sister, but we love you, too,” Helen told her undistinguished son Jonathan, 24, who dropped out of community college in 1994 and has done nothing with his life since.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/parents-also-proud-of-unsuccessful-child,3746/

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Difference between genius and mysticism | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  12. Sandeep Post author

    Are Prodigies Autistic?

    A study of eight child prodigies finds that share some striking characteristics, most notably high levels of autistic traits and an overrepresentation of autism in their close family members

    …every single prodigy scored off the charts in working memory — better than 99 percent of the general population. In fact, six out of the eight prodigies scored at the 99.9th percentile! Working memory isn’t solely the ability to memorize a string of digits. That’s short-term memory. Instead, working memory involves the ability to hold information in memory while being able to manipulate and process other incoming information.

    …Both prodigies and savants demonstrate extreme attention to detail, exceptional memories, and high ability in rule-based domains

    Read more: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201207/are-prodigies-autistic

    Reply

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