Our teenagers and their Religion

by Dr. Parviz Dehghani​

One of the great tragedy facing our youngsters in the West is in their confrontation with the modern secular world, especially in the absence of their parent’s culture. This is more true of those who are born and raised outside their cultures along with others who are sent to the West to study under the protection of their relatives at an early teen years. Of course, the parents of the latter group hope the risk they take, if not chances, is for the sake of their children. They are happy they gave an early jump start to their loved ones who would just explore the new world and come back home soon or would have their parents relocated to the West so they could baby sit their grand children while their children are at work. At face value it seems to be a very good deal. However, little do they know that they are setting themselves up to a rude awakening. Because they do not realize that modern secular Western ideas are so powerful that they have already reached Eastern cultures in Trojan horses burning away not Troy this time but what is left of the old traditions and Religions of their ancestors. If they were aware of this fire in the theater, then it would make sense to quickly arrange their children’s escape from it. But the level of ignorance is so high that instead of sending them away to a safe place they rather send them to the West which has the facade of a safe haven. And worse is when some of us, so called intellectuals, criticize these parents as if our cultures are immune to the onslaught of modernism. No wonder the Hippies of the generations ago went back to their country having been disappointed with what they had seen which was nothing but the loss of values and spirituality in those ancient cultures. There is ,however, a third group who come to the West after the teen age period is finished. This young generation, if they had a good religious upbringing, then they can by and large absorb the shock much easier. First of all they speak their language and they are a lot more traditional compared with other youngsters who though speak better English with less native accent, they seem to suffer from identity crisis. As a result, on the one hand they want to follow their parent’s culture and religion and on the other hand they feel they must behave like their Western friends. In other words, they feel they are obliged to act as if they have the same problems as other Westerners. The first two groups, namely, those born and raised here and those who were sent at an early age are brought to the Buddhist Temples, in the beginning regularly and later only on occasions. Once our children of those days become teen agers many of them avoid going to the Buddhist worshipping places. Why? First because of the pressure the mid and high schools put on them to adjust to the Western world. Besides we also do not want them to get behind this rat race of ‘progress’. “But progress towards what”? This is the question that even the west is asking now given the systematic destruction of our planet. This gradual suicide has been the consequences of the selling our own souls to the devil for more knowledge against which Jesus Christ warned us more than two thousand years. We in the Eastern countries looked at the interest of the Westerners in our spirituality with a bit of suspicion. We told them, you guys just do not want us to reach the scientific and technological advances you have made. They were telling us, wake up before it is too late. We have eaten the poison and now are hurting and morally we are collapsing and reaching decadence. After all Rome fell from within not from without. No matter how hard we try to teach our language to our children, they will end up only speaking it for a while. Second, we have disappointed our children with our contradictory and inconsistent attitudes and behaviors as Buddhist parents. When we are asked why we are in the West our answers are: “we are here because of our children”. But are we here for them? If this is the case, then why do we want to have our cakes and eat them too? Our kids are not whole bunch of dummies. They are watching each and every move we make. No matter how busy we try to keep them with all different kinds of activities besides their homework, they will soon question us whether we have been good role models for them or not. Having turned them into jacks of all trades and masters of none, they begin to rebel against their families. But unlike the Hippies of the sixties, they embrace the secular culture they have been raised in. While the west is hungrily learning more about their Religion by publishing hundreds of books every year, they are running away from Buddhism. And once they enter the academic world, their whole perspective will change. They must now compete with other students in order not to get behind of the train of ‘progress’ towards better future. Even though they may take a course or two in World religions or Buddhism, they are still following the footsteps of the Westerners and they act as if they have also been starving to death spiritually in order to stay faithful to the Western life style. And if the Colleges and Universities happen to take Buddhism seriously thanks to the efforts of Dali Lama and others like him, then they also follow what is popular. While following the Western trend, they suddenly become awakened not by sitting under the pipal tree, but to the reality that this is the Religion they were born into to begin with. Little do they know that they themselves are still followers who are suffering from an inferiority complex no matter how hard they try to fit in. They follow their classmates to the same Buddhist Temples their parents took them when they were young. We, as parents, have also failed to set good examples for our youngsters when it comes to following the teachings of Buddha. We remember how our teen agers used their homework or games as excuses in order not to come to the Buddhist Temples. Now we wonder how to answer their philosophical and religious questions. Perhaps we did not realize that though we own our kids at least for a short time, the Western world will claim them for itself for the rest of their life. We now have to wait till they get married and have their own their children and only then will they remember to come and bring them to the Temples. However, the question is whether or not they would teach their children how to swim before the flood? What we have perhaps never did and as a result we lost them.