Things I Am Grateful My Father Did Not Teach Me

'The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.'  ~ Nichiren Daishonin

My dad is superman. The flurry of fathers’ days posts this weekend drove this point home to me more forcefully than ever before. Not superman in the sense of being a man of steel, but in terms of being what every man should be (not all of which is steel, by the way). More than what he has taught me, I am grateful for what he did not teach me. Here are some things he did not teach me for which I will remain eternally grateful.


All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others

Dad chose to skip this lesson, and allowed me to grow up respecting all people equally, regardless of their erudition, ethnicity or economics. I was taught to treat those less fortunate than me with the respect that is due to all sentient beings, and the question of discriminating never occurred to me till I began to see it in others as I grew up.

The only function that women have is to serve men

Growing up and as a grown up, I saw the women (all of them, yes) in my father’s life being accorded the highest importance and regard possible. He showed me with his own behavior that women were not only equals, but stronger and more important in many ways. He helped me to understand why nature and the earth were referred to as female.


Morality is an absolute

Dad showed me and continues to show me, through his own behavior, that morality is something that evolves, and that at no point of that evolution can it be looked down upon by someone who is at another point. He also showed me that morality is relative to circumstances, not an easy lesson to transmit, and he has done so through his own actions.

There is one god, and all other gods are false

I gave up trying to discuss god and religion with my father very, very early in life. He professes to be an atheist, yet lives the most spiritual life one can lead. He very pointedly asked me to figure out the god business on my own. Yet, he also instilled in me the deepest respect for all religion and spiritual beliefs. He is one of the few men that I know about whom I can say he follows a universal religion.

Dad in front of the memorial for Madan Tamang

If you cannot beat them, join them

Dad is a writer, and though he is highly acclaimed as a scholar, he has struggled all his life to create what he believes is truly enduring commentary on the human condition. In this struggle, he has faced all odds. He has been the man who sits and writes while his wife works a job to support the family. He has refused to write what he does not believe in, sometimes at the cost of material and financial comfort. Through it all, he has never wavered, never lost hope, and I have never heard him regret his choices. He has consistently worked at creating a body of work that speaks loudly of his conviction and opinion.


On fathers’ day, I thank him for not teaching me to define the word "father" in a limited way. For not teaching me to view myself through the lens of subjective ego. For not teaching me to fall prey to the vicissitudes of life. For not teaching me to judge and condemn those that do not see things the way I do. For not teaching me to give up.

On fathers’ day, I thank him for helping me see that the function of a father is to connect you with the wisdom that lies within you. For helping me deal with the eight winds of prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering and pleasure with equanimity, humility and gratitude. For helping me understand connecting with one’s mission and remaining true to it is the greatest glory of all. My dad really is superman.

51 comments:

  1. No comments...want to meet your dad who allowed you to be who you are today... Hats off Subho's Superman!

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    1. You must, Bhavana. The real origins story lies there!

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  2. Wonderful post and one that I was able to understand and relate to. I am sure your father is very, very proud of you and your children will be proud of their father too. :)

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    1. I am sure too. All things will be made whole. Nice to see you here, Madam. Must write more such posts.

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  3. A lucky you , and a great Dad , to have a son who admires him so much. May your tribes increase.

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    1. Thanks, Pattu. Must resume work on the tribes increasing bit. :)

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  4. Lovely to read what your father did and did not teach you! I also have a dad I look up to. And his strong silences and actions taught me much more than his words ever could.

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    1. Most of my lessons about "being a man" were rewritten as I began to understand the workings of my Dad. I know a little about silence.

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  5. What a great man. A heartfelt post.

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  6. Great Post, no wonder values can come only from Family and can not be taught any where else... Please pass my respect for your Dad...

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    1. Will do. Thanks for your kind words, Prasad.

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  7. Dad's are special! Ènjoyed reading this heartfelt post about your dad Subho.

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  8. I don't have much to say on this, except salute you super hero. For the being he is and for making the being you are..

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  9. You're indeed lucky that you grew up with him who instilled such great values in you. It's heartening to see that he doesn't compromise with his creativity or with his beliefs. Like father, like son. Happy belated Father's day.

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  10. Thank goodness for such moral, wise and upright Indians. And may they continue to forget to impart such 'ways of the world' learnings to their children, just as your father forgot to.
    What a priceless human being.

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    1. He is truly priceless, Rickie. My Mom keeps saying that. And then banging her head against the wall! :)

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  11. That was indeed a really touching post :)

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  12. Food for the soul, Subho. God bless superman. May his spirit possess us as well. It's hard to describe the joy your writing brings to me. So I won't. Stay blessed, friend.

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    1. I cannot tell you what this comment means to me, Srini. Thanks a lot.

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  13. Food for the soul, Subho. God bless superman. May his spirit possess us too. It's hard for me to describe the peace and joy your writing brings to me. So I won't try. Keep writing. Stay blessed, friend.

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  14. Unique tribute. Hats off. I cant agree more when you say you are grateful for his indirect lessons too.

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  15. Unique tribute. Hats off. I cant agree more when you say you are grateful for his indirect lessons too.

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  16. Thoughtful one.....undoubtedly "its different" and "heartfelt" :)

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  17. That's very cool.
    Such a neat structure and your Daddy is the strongest! :)

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    1. Thanks, Nivedita. You need to meet these guys. They rock!

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  18. Dads have always been great but underestimated by all Moms.

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  19. Brilliant lessons from your Dad. The "evolving morality", being the best and the most unique. Using the same analogy, I guess, a lot of these lessons are the ones that must be self taught but now you look back and relate your father's words and actions to those, hence giving him the credit. That's your evolving high morality. Kudos!

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    1. True that, Prateek, and thanks for sharing this perspective. If I can only be a fraction of what my Dad is, I will consider it a big achievement.

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  20. All Fathers are supermen in their own right. Loved reading this heartfelt post, lots to learn for someone like me. :)

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  21. A great man and an awesome tribute. Splendid Subhorup!

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  22. Of all the Father's day posts I have read, this one struck a chord. I start believing in mankind again when I read something like this.

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    1. Thanks, Amit. I hope this post conveys the same sense of hope to all who read it as it did to you.

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  23. Truly warms up my heart reading your thoughts on "Father". It revives belief in the importance of moral values, even contemporary times.

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    1. Thanks, Anita. One of the tragedies of our times is that value education has not only disappeared from the educational system, but is gradually slipping away from parenting too. It is essential that parents of today start bringing this back from early childhood to counter the influences of the environment that kids are growing up in.

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  24. Truly warms up my heart reading your thoughts on "Father". It revives belief in the importance of moral values, even more for the contemporary society. Thanks, Anita Desai

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  25. Subho.. this post just touched me. Not only I now have immense respect for your dad, I also now know why and how you are, what you are. I look upto my father and am very thankful for the many things he taught me. This post has reassured that if parents give the right teachings to their children, world would surely be better.

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    1. Thank you so much, Surabhi. I am indeed very fortunate.

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  26. he is truly a fortunate man to evoke this response hope someday my daughters would have some s.

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  27. Wonderful post about a truly wonderful father!!! You are definitely a blessed person

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