One of the hardest things a parent can do is send a child away to school, especially a four year old child, yet that’s precisely what Kama Nagari and I did. We sent Vrindavan, our first son, to school in Vancouver, 6000 kilometers and three times zones away. We had decided our children were going to have a spiritual education, which met a Guru Kula education, so Vrindavan was our first to follow this course. A Guru Kula is a traditional Hindu school, a little too similar to the traditional Islamic madrases I’m sorry to say. Literally guru kula means the house of the teacher, a place where young children would to go for a Vedic education, which in our case included a highly attenuated western education. In those days we lived under the rule that modern education was a ‘slaughter house for the soul’, and ‘we’ll teach a little modern history just so the karmis don’t think our children are fools.’ These were the words of our guru, and as good disciples, we accepted these ideas.
Dutifully, but with a heavy heart, I purchased two Air Canada tickets, one return and the other a one way, and flew to Vancouver with Vrindavan. It is important to understand in those days Vancouver was a lot farther away from Toronto than it is today. There were no cell phones, no Internet, no video chats or any of the other things that make the world flat as it is today. A landline call was extremely expensive. In short, Vancouver was a great distance a way!
By devotee standards the Vancouver Temple was clean and had the appearance of being well-run. The children in the school seemed happy and properly looked after. So my mind was somewhat relieved. I spent as little time in Vancouver as I could. I simply met with the teachers and the headmaster, Bala Krishna, paid the tuition and made my way back to Toronto. The whole affair was just too painful. My distinct memory was how easily Vrindavan accepted his move away from home and to the school. It was like placing a fish in water. Whoosh, and he was gone. It was almost insulting. I was a mass of emotion, yet he accepted it so naturally. While this made me feel better, it seemed entirely unnatural. The return flight to Toronto was terrible. I was a cloud of tears and doubt. Did I do the right thing? Should I have left a four-year-old so far away from his family. Inside I was dying. Yet I convinced myself that I was being the spiritual hero, following the orders of my guru. I was exercising detachment from family life. I was giving my son a foundation of spiritual life and saving him from ‘the slaughterhouse’ of modern education. These were the thoughts running through my head as I flew back to Toronto.
That year I left Vrindavan in Vancouver turned out to be one of the hardest times of my life. Not only was I carrying the burden of whether I had done the right thing, I struggled with business and the politics of running a spiritual community and then, as if to rub salt into the wound, Vrindavan had health issues, nothing serious, but things like colds, cough and fever, childhood ailments. I felt helpless. He was so far away and I couldn’t know what his situation truly was. There seemed little I could do other than rely on the teachers, the school and Krishna. I was tempted to bring him back, but I never did. I didn’t want to disrupt the process we had started. Kama Naragi and I thought, if we’re doing it, we’re doing it. Sending a young child so far away for school is not an easy thing, nor is it a natural thing. I’m not sure who suffered more Kama Nagari or myself. It was hard to tell. She tended to not show her feelings, yet she seemed to take it better. Kama Nagari was more of an ISKCON person than I. She had been living in a temple, I had never done that. Regardless, we were both trying to do the right thing for our family.
This was the year 1980 when Vrindavan was just fours years old.
Beautifully written. Being a parent now of three young babies, I can imaging how difficult that decision must have been for you both.