(The principal of a large school in Bombay gave us a list of frequently asked questions by 13 year old children in her school and asked us whether we can prepare answers in the light of a spiritual perspective. When we looked at the question we found that they are not mere “kid-stuff.” Most of them are either fundamental and existential questions related to world and God or psychological problems faced by most of us. This series is an attempt to answer these questions from the children’s perspective in the light of a spiritual vision of life. We don’t know how far we have succeeded in communicating to the children. Nevertheless, we hope these answer may be of some help to teachers and parents who have to deal with children. There are around thirty questions with answers given in the light of a spiritual vision of life. We will post these questions at regular intervals.)
Why do we come to School
Why we have to go to school? Is this your question? A profound query which touches upon the very purpose of education. The traditional answer would be to study, learn. But why study, what to learn? What is the use of studying mathematics, like algebra or calculus and rack your brain over such mathematical abstractions? What is the use of learning the dates and wars of the past and the stories of dead kings in history? The question has to be understood at various levels.
To study, learn and know is undoubtedly one of the aims of going to school because to know is one of the fundamental motives of our consciousness. Just like body needs food, our mind need to know. And when you are a child this need of the mind manifests as a natural inquisitiveness and curiosity which asks questions like the one you have asked, “Why do we come to school.” Our mind grows by such enquiry. A good school must encourage such questioning and help the student to find the right answers. However a good school must also teach what to know and how to know and how much to know and what is the most important things to know. For example, in our body, if we eat too much or eat unhealthy food, it will become sick. We must know what is the type of food which enriches our body and helps it to grow in a healthy manner. Similarly is we stuff our mind with too much of unnecessary or harmful information, the mind becomes sick. We must know what the type of knowledge which enriches the mind and help us to become a better human being and lead a better life or in otherwords, it must be knowledge useful for our growth.
But what is useful knowledge? We should not be confined with too narrow meaning of usefulness. For example knowing basic mathematics like addition, subtraction or multiplication or division is very useful and necessary for the practical dealing with life like buying things in a shop. But algebra or calculus may not be of any practical use for the conduct of life. But it has a higher use in a long-term perspective; it develops some higher intellectual faculties like the capacity for logical and analytical thinking which will be useful to you in future, especially when you want to become a professional like an engineer, scientist, computer programmer, manager.
There are six types of useful knowledge which we may call as the Art and Science of Living. The purpose of going to school is not to learn chemistry or physics or other arts and sciences but to learn Art and Science of Living. Learning physics or chemistry may be a part of this greater science but they are not the entire education, as it is happening in most of the schools. Let us briefly examine the five types of knowledge which make the science of living.
- The first that which helps you in practical dealing with life and provides a basic mental preparation for further learning and growth. Reading, writing, basic mathematics and science, other subjects like history or geography and in our present world, computer skills, belong to this first type of knowledge.
- How to lead a physically and mentally healthy life like for example, basic rules of health, how to keep the mind calm and peaceful, goodwill in thought and feeling, energy in the body and vitality, how to sleep well and how to relax.
- How to learn like, for example, how to read, how to observe, how to think deeply, how to develop the faculties of understanding, how to keep the mind silent to receive the intuitive knowledge beyond the intellect.
- How to know oneself and control oneself: It is much more important to know what we are made of than to know what the atoms and molecules are made. We must know fully the entire structure of our being: our body, mind, heart and soul, what they are made of, how they work, what are the sources of our instincts, impulses, motives, feeling, sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas, perceptions and our higher aspirations for truth and knowledge, love, beauty and goodness, unity and harmony. In other words we must know how to become fully conscious of our whole being. And this increasing consciousness or self-awareness is the basis of self-mastery and self-control. For we can only command and control what we are conscious of. However this ability to control and master ourself is also something we have to learn and should be taught in school.
- How to grow into a balanced human being with all the potentialities of our body, mind, heart and soul fully integrated into a harmonious whole. But what do these words mean? It means health and strength in the Body; light and clarity in the Mind; love, compassion and generosity in the Heart; courage, force and energy in the Vitality and dynamic faculties of Action; firmness, persistence and determination in the Will and all these integrated and harmonized around the aspiration of the Soul for truth, beauty and goodness.
- And finally the sixth, which is the foundation of other four type of knowledge, is the understanding of the aim and purpose of life. Everyone of us must have an aim because as the Mother points out:
“An aimless life is a miserable life—Everyone of you should have an aim. But do not forget that on the quality of your aim will depend the quality of your life.”
But how to discover this aim and what is the right aim which will lead to a better quality of life? Here is Mother’s answer, “Your aim should be high and wide, generous and disinterested; this will make your life precious to yourself and to others.”
The aim for our own growth could be perfection which means, to attain our highest and total potential. We have discussed this concept of perfection in some detail in our earlier articles. We must keep in mind we can give to others only what we have. I can help others only if I have the thing which will help him. For example if I want to give some material help to the poor like food or shelter, I should have the money to do it. Similarly with every other things like knowledge, love, happiness, strength, courage. I cannot give these things to others unless I have them. So our own perfection is the basis for helping others. However our aim should not be exclusively personal. Whatever capacities, qualities or riches we possess or whatever perfection we attain within ourselves─material, psychological and spiritual─must be used or given for the progress, happiness, wellbeing and fulfillment of others and the world around us. This help or giving must be done without expecting anything in return.
These are the six forms of knowledge which constitute the science of living. And the purpose of going to school is learn this Science of Living.