Learning to Unlearn|Jun 14, 2009 2:23 PM| by:

Practical Hints for Spiritual Education

A complete psychic and spiritual education is a life-long process, and yet, in so far as they truly give meaning to the life-development, they must determine the entire process of the education of the child and the youth. In fact, they must truly be the starting-point of all education. A few indications and ideas which would govern this programme of education are given below:

It may first be noted that a good many children are under the influence of the psychic presence which shows itself very distinctly at times in their spontaneous reactions and even in their words. All spontaneous turning to love, truth, beauty, knowledge, nobility, heroism, is a sure sign of the psychic influence.

To recognise these reactions and to encourage them wisely and with a psychic feeling would be the first indispensable step.

It is also important to note that to say good words, give wise advice to a child has very little effect, if one does not show by one’s living example the truth of what one teaches. The best qualities to develop in children are sincerity, honesty, straightforwardness, courage, disinterestedness, unselfishness, patience, endurance, perseverance, peace, calm, and self-control; and they are taught infinitely better by example than by beautiful speeches.

The role of the teacher is to put the child upon the right road to his own perfection and encourage him to follow it, watching, suggesting, helping, but not imposing or interfering. The best method of suggestion is by personal example, daily conversation and the books read from day to day.

These books should contain, for the younger student, the lofty examples of the past, given not as moral lessons but as things of supreme human interest, and for the older student, the great thoughts of great souls, the passages of literature which set fire to the highest emotions and prompt the highest ideals and aspirations, the records of history and biography which exemplify the living of those great thoughts, noble emotions and aspiring ideals.

Opportunities should be given to the students, within a limited sphere, of embodying in action the deeper and nobler impulses which rise within them.

The undesirable impulses and habits should not be treated harshly. The child should not be scolded except with a definite purpose and only when indispensable. Particularly, care should be taken not to rebuke a child for a fault which one commits oneself. Children are very keen and clear-sighted observers: they soon find out the educator’s weaknesses and note them without pity.

When a child makes a mistake, one must see that he confesses it to the teacher or the guardian spontaneously and frankly; and when he has confessed, he should be made to understand with kindness and affection what was wrong in the movement and that he should not repeat it. A fault confessed must be forgiven. The child should be encouraged to think of wrong impulses not as sins or offences but as symptoms of a curable disease, alterable by a steady and sustained effort of the will — falsehood being rejected and replaced by truth, fear by courage, selfishness by sacrifice and renunciation, malice by love.

A great care should be taken that unformed virtues are not rejected as faults. The wildness and recklessness of many young natures are only the overflowings of an excessive strength, greatness and nobility. They should be purified, not discouraged.

An affection that sees clear, that is firm yet gentle and a sufficiently practical knowledge will create bonds of trust that are indispensable for the educator to make education of the child effective.

When the child asks a question, he should not be answered by saying that it is stupid or foolish, or that the answer will not be understood by him. Curiosity cannot be postponed, and an effort must be made to answer the question truthfully and in such a way as to make the answer accessible to the brain of the hearer.

The teacher should ensure that the child gradually begins to be aware of the psychological centre of his being, the psychic being, the seat within of the highest truth of our existence, that which can know and manifest this truth.

With this growing awareness, the child should be taught to concentrate on this presence more as a living fact.

The child should be taught that whenever there is an inner uneasiness, he should not pass it off and try to forget it, but should attend to it, and try to find out by an inner observation the cause of the uneasiness so that it can be removed by inner or outer methods.

It should be emphasised that if one has a sincere and steady aspiration, a persistent and dynamic will, one is sure to meet in one way or another, externally by study and instruction, internally by concentration, revelation and experience, the help one needs to reach the goal. Only one thing is absolutely indispensable: the will to discover and realise. This discovery and this realisation should be the primary occupation of the being, the pearl of great price which one should acquire at any cost. Whatever one does, whatever one’s occupation and activity, the will to find the truth of one’s being and to unite with it must always be living, always present behind all that one does and that one experiences, all that one thinks.

There are aspects of the mental, vital and physical development which contribute to the psychic and spiritual education. They can be briefly mentioned.

In its natural state the human mind is always limited in its vision, narrow in its understanding, rigid in its conceptions, and a certain effort is needed to enlarge it, make it supple and deep. Hence, it is very necessary to develop in the child the inclination and capacity to consider everything from as many points of view as possible. There is an exercise in this connection which gives greater suppleness and elevation to thought. It is as follows: a clearly formulated thesis is set; against it is opposed the antithesis, formulated with the same precision. Then by careful reflection the problem must be widened or transcended so that a synthesis is found which unites the two contraries in a larger, higher and more comprehensive idea.

Another exercise is to control the mind from judging things and people. For true knowledge belongs to a region much higher than that of the human mind, even beyond the region of pure ideas. The mind has got to be made silent and attentive in order to receive knowledge from above and manifest it.

Still another exercise: whenever there is a disagreement on any matter, as a decision to take, or an act to accomplish, one must not stick to one’s own conception or point of view. On the contrary, one must try to understand the other person’s point of view, put oneself in his place and, instead of quarrelling or even fighting, find out a solution which can reasonably satisfy both parties; there is always one for men of goodwill.

And there are many such exercises.

A wide, subtle, rich, complex, attentive and quiet and silent mind is an asset not only for the psychic and spiritual discovery, but also for manifesting the psychic and spiritual truths and powers.

The vital being in us is the seat of impulses and desires, of enthusiasm and violence, of dynamic energy and desperate depression, of passions and revolt. The vital is a good worker, but most often it seeks its own satisfaction. If that is refused totally or even partially, it gets vexed, sulky and goes on strike.

An exercise at these moments is to remain quiet and refuse to act. For it is important to realise that at such times one does stupid things and in a few minutes can destroy or spoil what one has gained in months of regular effort, losing thus all the progress made.

Another exercise is to deal with the vital as one deals with a child in revolt, with patience and perseverance showing it the truth and light, endeavouring to convince it and awaken in it the goodwill which for a moment was veiled.

A wide and strong, calm but dynamic vital, capable of right emotion, right decision, and right execution by force and energy, is an invaluable aid to the psychic and spiritual realisations.

The body by its nature is a docile and faithful instrument. But it is very often misused by the mind with its dogmas, its rigid and arbitrary principles, and by the vital with its passions, its excesses and dissipations. It is these which are the cause of the bodily fatigue, exhaustion and disease. The body must therefore be free from the tyranny of the mind and of the vital; and this can be done by training the body to feel and sense the psychic presence within and to learn to obey its governance. The emphasis on the development of strength, suppleness, calm, quiet, poise, grace and beauty in physical education will ensure the contact of the body with the psychic centre and the body will learn to put forth at every minute the effort that is demanded of it, for it will have learnt to find rest in action, to replace through contact with the universal forces the energies it spends consciously and usefully. By this sound and balanced life a new harmony will manifest in the body, reflecting the harmony of the regions which will give it the perfect proportions and the ideal beauty of form. It will then be in a constant process of transformation, and it will be possible for it to escape the necessity of disintegration and destruction, and death.

At a certain stage of development, when the seeking of the student is found to be maturing, he can be directed more and more centrally to the psychic and the spiritual discovery. And here we come to yoga proper, the nature and problems of which have to be studied separately.

Kireet Joshi