J. Krishnamurti "Education and the Significance of Life"
Chapter 2: 'The Right Kind of Education'
THE ignorant man is not the unlearned, but he who does not know
himself, and the learned man is stupid when he relies on books, on
knowledge and on authority to give him understanding. Understanding
comes only through self-knowledge, which is awareness of one's total
psychological process. Thus education, in the true sense, is the
understanding of oneself, for it is within each one of us that the
whole of existence is gathered.
What we now call education is a matter of accumulating
information and knowledge from books, which anyone can do who can
read. Such education offers a subtle form of escape from ourselves
and, like all escapes, it inevitably creates increasing misery.
Conflict and confusion result from our own wrong relationship with
people, things and ideas, and until we understand that relationship
and alter it, mere learning, the gathering of facts and the acquiring
of various skills, can only lead us to engulfing chaos and
As society is now organized, we send our children to
school to learn some technique by which they can eventually earn
a livelihood. We want to make the child first and foremost a
specialist, hoping thus to give him a secure economic position. But
does the cultivation of a technique enable us to understand
While it is obviously necessary to know how to read and write,
and to learn engineering or some other profession, will technique
give us the capacity to understand life? Surely, technique is
secondary; and if technique is the only thing we are striving for, we
are obviously denying what is by far the greater part of life.
Life is pain, joy, beauty, ugliness, love, and when we understand
it as a whole, at every level, that understanding creates its own
technique. But the contrary is not true: technique can never bring
about creative understanding.
Present-day education is a complete failure because it has
overemphasized technique. In overemphasizing technique we destroy
man. To cultivate capacity and efficiency without understanding
life, without having a comprehensive perception of the ways of
thought and desire, will only make us increasingly ruthless, which is
to engender wars and jeopardize our physical security. The exclusive
cultivation of technique has produced scientists, mathematicians,
bridge builders, space conquerors; but do they understand the total
process of life? Can any specialist experience life as a whole?
Only when he ceases to be a specialist.
Technological progress does solve certain kinds of problems for
some people at one level, but it introduces wider and deeper issues
too. To live at one level, disregarding the
total process of life, is to invite misery and destruction. The
greatest need and most pressing problem for every individual is to
have an integrated comprehension of life, which will enable him to
meet its ever increasing complexities.
Technical knowledge, however necessary, will in no way resolve
our inner, psychological pressures and conflict; and it is because we
have acquired technical knowledge without understanding the total
process of life that technology has become a means of destroying
ourselves. The man who knows how to split the atom but has no love
in his heart becomes a monster.
We choose a vocation according to our capacities; but will the
following of a vocation lead us out of conflict and confusion? Some
form of technical training seems necessary; but when we have become
engineers, physicians, accountants - then what? Is the practice of a
profession the fulfilment of life? Apparently with most of us it is
Our various professions may keep us busy for the greater part of our
existence; but the very things that we produce and are so entranced
with are causing destruction and misery. Our attitudes and values
make of things and occupations the instruments of envy, bitterness
Without understanding ourselves, mere occupation leads to
frustration, with its inevitable escapes through all kinds of mischievous activities.
Technique without understanding leads to
enmity and ruthlessness, which we cover up with pleasant-sounding
phrases. Of what value is it to emphasize technique and become
efficient entities if the result is mutual destruction? Our
technical progress is fantastic, but ithas only increased our powers
of destroying one another, and there is starvation and misery in every land.
We are not peaceful
and happy people.
When function is all-important, life becomes dull and boring, a
mechanical and sterile routine from which we escape into every kind
of distraction. The accumulation of facts and the development of
capacity, which we call education, has deprived us of the fullness of
integrated life and action. It is because we do not understand the
total process of life that we cling to capacity and efficiency, which
thus assume overwhelming importance. But the whole cannot be
understood through the part; it can be understood only through action
Another factor in the cultivation of technique is that it gives
us a sense of security, not only economic, but psychological as well.
It is reassuring to know that we are capable and efficient. To know
that we can play the piano or build a house gives us a feeling of
vitality, of aggressive independence; but to emphasize capacity
because of a desire for psychological security is to deny the
fullness of life. The whole content of life can never be foreseen,
it must be experienced anew from moment to moment; but we are afraid
of the unknown, and so we establish for ourselves psychological zones
of safety in the form of systems, techniques and beliefs. As long as
we are seeking inward security, the total process of life cannot be
The right kind of education, while encouraging the learning of a
technique, should accomplish something which is of far greater
importance: it should help man to experience
the integrated process of life. It is this experiencing that
will put capacity and technique in their right place. If one really has
something to say, the very saying of it creates its own style;
but learning a style without inward experiencing can only lead to
Throughout the world, engineers are frantically designing
machines which do not need men to operate them. In a life run almost
entirely by machines, what is to become of human beings? We shall
have more and more leisure without knowing wisely how to employ it,
and we shall seek escape through knowledge, through enfeebling
amusements, or through ideals.
I believe volumes have been written about educational ideals, yet
we are in greater confusion than ever before. There is no method by
which to educate a child to be integrated and free. As long as we
are concerned with principles, ideals and methods, we are not helping
the individual to be free from his own self-centred activity with all
its fears and conflicts.
Ideals and blueprints for a perfect Utopia will never bring about
the radical change of heart which is essential if there is to be an
end to war and universal destruction. Ideals cannot change our
present values: they can be changed only by the right kind of education,
which is to foster the understanding of what is.
When we are working together for an ideal, for the future, we
shape individuals according to our conception of that future; we are
not concerned with human beings at all, but with our idea of what
they should be. The what should
be becomes far more important to us than what is, namely, the
individual with his complexities. If we begin to understand the
individual directly instead of looking at him through the screen of
what we think he should be, then we are concerned with what is. Then
we no longer want to transform the individual into something else;
our only concern is to help him to understand himself, and in this
there is no personal motive or gain. If we are fully aware of what
is, we shall understand it and so be free of it; but to be aware of
what we are, we must stop struggling after something which we are
Ideals have no place in education for they prevent the
comprehension of the present. Surely, we can be aware of what is only
when we do not escape into the future. To look to the future,
to strain after an ideal, indicates sluggishness of mind and a desire
to avoid the present.
Is not the pursuit of a ready-made Utopia a denial of the freedom
and integration of the individual? When one follows an ideal, a
pattern, when one has a formula for what should be, does one not live
a very superficial, automatic life? We need, not idealists or
entities with mechanical minds, but integrated human beings who are
intelligent and free. Merely to have a design for a perfect society
is to wrangle and shed blood for what should be while ignoring what is.
If human beings were mechanical entities, automatic machines,
then the future would be predictable and the plans for a perfect
Utopia could be drawn up; then we would be able to plan carefully a
future society and work towards it.
But human beings are not machines to be established according to
a definite pattern.
Between now and the future there is an immense gap in which many
influences are at work upon each one of us, and in sacrificing the
present for the future we are pursuing wrong means to a probable
right end. But the means determine the end; and besides, who are we
to decide what man should be? By what right do we seek to mould him
according to a particular pattern, learnt from some book or
determined by our own ambitions, hopes and fears?
The right kind of education is not concerned with any ideology,
however much it may promise a future Utopia: it is not based on any
system, however carefully thought out; nor is it a means of
conditioning the individual in some special manner. Education in the
true sense is helping the individual to be mature and free, to flower
greatly in love and goodness. That is what we should be interested
in, and not in shaping the child according to some idealistic pattern.
Any method which classifies children according to temperament and
aptitude merely emphasizes their differences; it breeds antagonism,
encourages divisions in society and does not help to develop
integrated human beings. It is obvious that no method or system can provide
the right kind of education, and strict adherence to a
particular method indicates sluggishness on the part of the educator.
As long as education is based on cut-and-dried principles, it can
turn out men and women who are efficient, but it cannot produce
creative human beings.
Only love can bring about the understanding of another.
Where there is love there is instantaneous communion with the
other, on the same level and at the same time. It is because we
ourselves are so dry, empty and without love that we have allowed
governments and systems to take over the education of our children
and the direction of our lives; but governments want efficient
technicians, not human beings, because human beings become dangerous
to governments - and to organized religions as well. That is why
governments and religious organizations seek to control education.
Life cannot be made to conform to a system, it cannot be forced
into a framework, however nobly conceived; and a mind that has merely
been trained in factual knowledge is incapable of meeting life with its variety,
its subtlety, its depths and great heights. When we
train our children according to a system of thought or a particular
discipline, when we teach them to think within departmental
divisions, we prevent them from growing into integrated men and
women, and therefore they are incapable of thinking intelligently,
which is to meet life as a whole.
The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated
individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole. The
idealist, like the specialist, is not concerned with the whole, but
only with a part. There can be no integration as long as one is
pursuing an ideal pattern of action; and most teachers who are
idealists have put away love, they have dry minds and hard hearts.
To study a child, one has to be alert, watchful, self-aware, and this
demands far greater intelligence and affection than to encourage him
to follow an ideal.
Another function of education is to create new values. Merely to
implant existing values in the mind of the child, to make him conform
to ideals, is to condition him without awakening his intelligence.
Education is intimately related to the present world crisis, and the
educator who sees the causes of this universal chaos should ask
himself how to awaken intelligence in the student, thus helping the
coming generation not to bring about further conflict and disaster.
He must give all his thought, all his care and affection to the
creation of right environment and to the development of
understanding, so that when the child grows into maturity he will be
capable of dealing intelligently with the human problems that
confront him. But in order to do this, the educator must understand
himself instead of relying on ideologies, systems and beliefs.
Let us not think in terms of principles and ideals, but be
concerned with things as they are; for it is the consideration of
what is that awakens intelligence, and the intelligence of the
educator is far more important than his knowledge of a new method of
education. When one follows a method, even if it has been worked out
by a thoughtful and intelligent person, the method becomes very
important, and the children are important only as they fit into it.
One measures and classifies the child, and then proceeds to educate
him according to some chart. This process of education may be
convenient for the teacher, but neither the practice of a system nor
the tyranny of opinion and learning can bring about an integrated human being.
The right kind of education consists in understanding the
child as he is without imposing upon him an ideal of what we
think he should be. To enclose him in the framework of an ideal is
to encourage him to conform, which breeds fear and produces in him a
constant conflict between what he is and what he should be; and all
inward conflicts have their outward manifestations in society.
Ideals are an actual hindrance to our understanding of the child and
to the child's understanding of himself.
A parent who really desires to understand his child does not look
at him through the screen of an ideal. If he loves the child, he
observes him, he studies his tendencies, his moods and peculiarities.
It is only when one feels no love for the child that one imposes upon
him an ideal, for then one's ambitions are trying to fulfil
themselves in him, wanting him to become this or that. If one loves,
not the ideal, but the child, then there is a possibility of helping
him to understand himself as he is.
If a child tells lies, for example, of what value is it to put
before him the ideal of truth? One has to find out why he is telling
lies. To help the child, one has to take time to study and observe
him, which demands patience, love and care; but when one has no love,
no understanding, then one forces the child into a pattern of action
which we call an ideal.
Ideals are a convenient escape, and the teacher who follows them
is incapable of understanding his students and dealing with them
intelligently; for him, the future ideal, the what should be, is far
more important than the presentchild. The pursuit of an ideal
excludes love, and without love no human problem can be solved.
If the teacher is of the right kind, he will not depend on a
method, but will study each individual pupil. In our relationship
with children and young people, we are not dealing with mechanical
devices that can be quickly repaired, but with living beings who are
impressionable, volatile, sensitive, afraid, affectionate; and to
deal with them, we have to have great understanding, the strength of
patience and love. When we lack these, we look to quick and easy
remedies and hope for marvellous and automatic results. If we are
unaware, mechanical in our attitudes and actions, we fight shy of any
demand upon us that is disturbing and that cannot be met by an
automatic response, and this is one of our major difficulties in
The child is the result of both the past and the present and is
therefore already conditioned. If we transmit our background to the
child, we perpetuate both his and our own conditioning. There is
radical transformation only when we understand our own conditioning
and are free of it. To discuss what should be the right kind of
education while we ourselves are conditioned is utterly futile.
While the children are young, we must of course protect them from
physical harm and prevent them from feeling physically insecure. But
unfortunately we do not stop there; we want to shape their ways of
thinking and feeling, we want to mould them in accordance with our
own cravings and intentions. We seek to fulfil ourselves in our
children, to perpetuate ourselves through them. We build
walls around them, condition them by our beliefs and ideologies,
fears and hopes - and then we cry and pray when they are killed or
maimed in wars, or otherwise made to suffer by the experiences of
Such experiences do not bring about freedom; on the contrary,
they strengthen the will of the self. The self is made up of a
series of defensive and expansive reactions, and its fulfilment is
always in its own projections and gratifying identifications. As
long as we translate experience in terms of the self, of the "me" and
the "mine," as long as the "I," the ego, maintains itself through its
reactions, experience cannot be freed from conflict, confusion and
pain. Freedom comes only when one understands the ways of the self,
the experiencer. It is only when the self, with its accumulated
reactions, is not the experiencer, that experience takes on an
entirely different significance and becomes creation.
If we would help the child to be free from the ways of the self,
which cause so much suffering, then each one of us should set about
altering deeply his attitude and relationship to the child. Parents
and educators, by their own thought and conduct, can help the child
to be free and to flower in love and goodness.
Education as it is at present in no way encourages the
understanding of the inherited tendencies and environmental
influences which condition the mind and heart and sustain fear, and
therefore it does not help us to break through the conditioning and
bring about an integrated human being. Any form of education that
concerns itselfwith a part and not with the whole of man inevitably
leads to increasing conflict and suffering.
It is only in individual freedom that love and goodness can
flower; and the right kind of education alone can offer this freedom.
Neither conformity to the present society nor the promise of a future
Utopia can ever give to the individual that insight without which he
is constantly creating problems.
The right kind of educator, seeing the inward nature of freedom,
helps each individual student to observe and understand his own
self-projected values and impositions; he helps him to become aware
of the conditioning influences about him, and of his own desires,
both of which limit his mind and breed fear; he helps him, as he
grows to manhood, to observe and understand himself in relation to
all things, for it is the craving for self-fulfilment that brings
endless conflict and sorrow.
Surely, it is possible to help the individual to perceive the
enduring values of life, without conditioning. Some may say that
this full development of the individual will lead to chaos; but will
it? There is already confusion in the world, and it has arisen
because the individual has not been educated to understand himself.
While he has been given some superficial freedom, he has also been
taught to conform, to accept the existing values.
Against this regimentation, many are revolting; but unfortunately
their revolt is a mere self-seeking reaction, which only further
darkens our existence. The right kind of educator, aware of the
mind's tendency to reaction, helpsthe student to alter present
values, not out of reaction against
them, but through understanding the total process of life. Full
cooperation between man and man is not possible without the
integration which right education can help to awaken in the
Why are we so sure that neither we nor the coming generation,
through the right kind of education, can bring about a fundamental
alteration in human relationship? We have never tried it; and as
most of us seem to be fearful of the right kind of education, we are
disinclined to try it. Without really inquiring into this whole
question, we assert that human nature cannot be changed, we accept
things as they are and encourage the child to fit into the present
society; we condition him to our present ways of life, and hope for
the best. But can such conformity to present values, which lead to
war and starvation, be considered education?
Let us not deceive ourselves that this conditioning is going to
make for intelligence and happiness. If we remain fearful, devoid of
affection, hopelessly apathetic, it means that we are really not interested
in encouraging the individual to flower greatly in love
and goodness, but prefer that he carry on the miseries with which we
have burdened ourselves and of which he also is a part.
To condition the student to accept the present environment is
quite obviously stupid. Unless we voluntarily bring about a radical
change in education, we are directly responsible for the perpetuation
of chaos and misery; and when some mons and brutal revolution finally
comes, it will only give opportunity to another group of people to exploit and
to be ruthless. Each group in power develops its own means of
oppression, whether through psychological persuasion or brute force.
For political and industrial reasons, discipline has become an
important factor in the present social structure, and it is because
of our desire to be psychologically secure that we accept and
practise various forms of discipline. Discipline guarantees a
result, and to us the end is more important than the means; but the
means determine the end.
One of the dangers of discipline is that the system becomes more
important than the human beings who are enclosed in it. Discipline
then becomes a substitute for love, and it is because our hearts are
empty that we cling to discipline. Freedom can never come through
discipline, through resistance; freedom is not a goal, an end to be
achieved. Freedom is at the beginning, not at the end, it is not to
be found in some distant ideal.
Freedom does not mean the opportunity for self-gratification or
the setting aside of consideration for others. The teacher who is
sincere will protect the children and help them in every possible way
to grow towards the right kind of freedom; but it will be impossible
for him to do this if he himself is addicted to an ideology, if he is
in any way dogmatic or self-seeking.
Sensitivity can never be awakened through compulsion, One may
compel a child to be outwardly quiet, but one has not come face to
face with that which is making him obstinate, impudent, and so on.
Compulsion breeds antagonism and fear. Reward and punishment
in any form only make the mind subservient and dull; and if this is
what we desire, then education through compulsion is an excellent
way to proceed.
But such education cannot help us to understand the child, nor
can it build a right social environment in which separatism and
hatred will cease to exist. In the love of the child, right
education is implied. But most of us do not love our children; we
are ambitious for them - which means that we are ambitious for
ourselves. Unfortunately, we are so busy with the occupations of the
mind that we have little time for the promptings of the heart. After
all, discipline implies resistance; and will resistance ever bring
love? Discipline can only build walls about us; it is always
exclusive, ever making for conflict. Discipline is not conducive to
understanding; for understanding comes with observation, with inquiry
in which all prejudice is set aside.
Discipline is an easy way to control a child, but it does not
help him to understand the problems involved in living. Some form of
compulsion, the discipline of punishment and reward, may be necessary
to maintain order and seeming quietness among a large number of
students herded together in a classroom; but with the right kind of
educator and a small number of students, would any repression,
politely called discipline, be required? If the classes are small
and the teacher can give his full attention to each child, observing
and helping him, then compulsion or domination in any form is
obviously unnecessary. If, in such a group, a student persists in
disorderliness or is unreasonablymischievous, the educator must
inquire into the cause of his misbehaviour, which may be wrong
diet, lack of rest, family wrangles,or some hidden fear.
Implicit in right education is the cultivation of freedom and
intelligence, which is not possible if there is any form of
compulsion, with its fears. After all, the concern of the educator
is to help the student to understand the complexities of his whole
being. To require him to suppress one part of his nature for the
benefit of some other part is to create in him an endless conflict
which results in social antagonisms. It is intelligence that brings
order, not discipline.
Conformity and obedience have no place in the right kind of
education. Cooperation between teacher and student is impossible if
there is no mutual affection, mutual respect. When the showing of
respect to elders is required of children, it generally becomes a
habit, a mere outward performance, and fear assumes the form of
veneration. Without respect and consideration, no vital relationship
is possible, especially when the teacher is merely an instrument of
If the teacher demands respect from his pupils and has very
little for them, it will obviously cause indifference and disrespect
on their part. Without respect for human life, knowledge only leads
to destruction and misery. The cultivation of respect for others is
an essential part of right education, but if the educator himself has
not this quality, he cannot help his students to an integrated life.
Intelligence is discernment of the essential, and to discern the
essential there must be freedom from those
hindrances which the mind projects in the search for its own
security and comfort. Fear is inevitable as long as the mind is
seeking security; and when human beings are regimented in any way,
keen awareness and intelligence are destroyed.
The purpose of education is to cultivate right relationship, not
only between individuals, but also between the individual and
society; and that is why it is essential that education should, above
all, help the individual to understand his own psychological process.
Intelligence lies in understanding oneself and going above and beyond
oneself; but there cannot be intelligence as long as there is fear.
Fear perverts intelligence and is one of the causes of self-centred
action. Discipline may suppress fear but does not eradicate it, and
the superficial knowledge which we receive in modern education only
further conceals it.
When we are young, fear is instilled into most of us both at home
and at school. Neither parents nor teachers have the patience, the
time or the wisdom to dispel the instinctive fears of childhood,
which, as we grow up, dominate our attitudes and judgment and create
a great many problems. The right kind of education must take into
consideration this question of fear, because fear warps our whole outlook
on life. To be without fear is the beginning of wisdom, and
only the right kind of education can bring about the freedom from
fear in which alone there is deep and creative intelligence.
Reward or punishment for any action merely strengthens
self-centredness. Action for the sake of another, in the name of the
country or of God, leads to fear, and fear cannot be the basis for
right action. If we would help a child to be considerate of others,
we should not use love as a bribe, but take the time and have
the patience to explain the ways of consideration.
There is no respect for another when there is a reward for it,
for the bribe or the punishment becomes far more significant than the
feeling of respect. If we have no respect for the child but merely
offer him a reward or threaten him with punishment, we are
encouraging acquisitiveness and fear. Because we ourselves have been
brought up to act for the sake of a result, we do not see that there
can be action free of the desire to gain.
The right kind of education will encourage thoughtfulness and
consideration for others without enticements or threats of any kind.
If we no longer seek immediate results, we shall begin to see how
important it is that both the educator and the child should be free
from the fear of punishment and the hope of reward, and from every
other form of compulsion; but compulsion will continue as long, as
authority is part of relationship.
To follow authority has many advantages if one thinks in terms of
personal motive and gain; but education based on individual
advancement and profit can only build a social structure which is
competitive, antagonistic and ruthless. This is the kind of society
in which we have been brought up, and our animosity and confusion are
We have been taught to conform to the authority of a teacher, of
a book, of a party, because it is profitable to do so. The
specialists in every department of life, from the
priest to the bureaucrat, wield authority and dominate us; but
any government or teacher that uses compulsion can never bring about
the cooperation in relationship which is essential for the welfare of
If we are to have right relationship between human beings, there
should be no compulsion nor even persuasion. How can there be
affection and genuine co-operation between those who are in power and
those who are subject to power? By dispassionately considering this
question of authority and its many implications, by seeing that the
very desire for power is in itself destructive, there comes a
spontaneous understanding of the whole process of authority. The
moment we discard authority we are in partnership, and only then is
there cooperation and affection.
The real problem in education is the educator. Even a small
group of student becomes the instrument of his personal importance if
he uses authority as a means of his own release, if teaching is for
him a self-expansive fulfilment. But mere intellectual or verbal
agreement concerning the crippling effects of authority is stupid and
There must be deep insight into the hidden motivations of
authority and domination. If we see that intelligence can never be
awakened through compulsion, the very awareness of that fact will
burn away our fears, and then we shall begin to cultivate a new
environment which will be contrary to and far transcend the present
To understand the significance of life with its conflicts and
pain, we must think independently of any authority, including the
authority of organized religion; but if in ourdesire to help the
child we set before him authoritative examples, we shall only be
encouraging fear, imitation and various forms of superstition.
Those who are religiously inclined try to impose upon the child
the beliefs, hopes and fears which they in turn have acquired from
their parents; and those who are anti-religious are equally keen to
influence the child to accept the particular way of thinking which
they happen to follow. We all want our children to accept our form of
worship or take to heart our chosen ideology. It is so easy to
get entangled in images and formulations, whether invented by
ourselves or by others, and therefore it is necessary to be ever
watchful and alert.
What we call religion is merely organized belief, with its
dogmas, rituals, mysteries and superstitions. Each religion has its
own sacred book, its mediator, its priests and its ways of
threatening and holding people. Most of us have been conditioned to
all this, which is considered religious education; but this
conditioning sets man against man, it creates antagonism, not only
among the believers, but also against those of other beliefs. Though
all religions assert that they worship God and say that we must love
one another, they instil fear through their doctrines of reward and
punishment, and through their competitive dogmas they perpetuate
suspicion and antagonism.
Dogmas, mysteries and rituals are not conducive to a spiritual
life. Religious education in the true sense is to encourage the
child to understand his own relationship to people, to things and to
nature. There is no existence without
relationship; and without self-knowledge, all relationship, with
the one and with the many, brings conflict and sorrow. Of course, to
explain this fully to a child is impossible; but if the educator and
the parents deeply grasp the full significance of relationship, then
by their attitude, conduct and speech they will surely be able to
convey to the child, without too many words and explanations, the
meaning of a spiritual life.
Our so called religious training discourages questioning and
doubt, yet it is only when we inquire into the significance of the
values which society and religion have placed about us that we begin
to find out what is true. It is the function of the educator to
examine deeply his own thoughts and feelings and to put aside those
values which have given him security and comfort, for only then can
he help his students to be self-aware and to understand their own
urges and fears.
The time to grow straight and clear is when one is young; and
those of us who are older can, if we have understanding, help the
young to free themselves from the hindrances which society has
imposed upon them, as well as from those which they themselves are
projecting. If the child's mind and heart are not moulded by
religious preconceptions and prejudices, then he will be free to
discover through self-knowledge what is above and beyond himself.
True religion is not a set of beliefs and rituals, hopes and
fears; and if we can allow the child to grow up without these
hindering influences, then perhaps, as he matures, he will begin to
inquire into the nature of reality, of God.That is why, in educating a
child, deep insight and understanding are necessary.
Most people who are religiously inclined, who talk about God and
immortality, do not fundamentally believe in individual freedom and
integration; yet religion is the cultivation of freedom in the search
for truth. There can be no compromise with freedom. Partial freedom
for the individual is no freedom at all. Conditioning, of any kind,
whether political or religious, is not freedom and it will never
Religion is not a form of conditioning. It is a state of
tranquillity in which there is reality, God; but that creative state
can come into being only when there is self-knowledge and freedom.
Freedom brings virtue, and without virtue there can be no
tranquillity. The still mind is not a conditioned mind, it is not
disciplined or trained to be still. Stillness comes only when the
mind understands its own ways, which are the ways of the self.
Organized religion is the frozen thought of man, out of which he
builds temples and churches; it has become a solace for the fearful,
an opiate for those who are in sorrow. But God or truth is far
beyond thought and emotional demands. Parents and teachers who
recognize the psychological processes which build up fear and sorrow
should be able to help the young to observe and understand their own
conflicts and trials.
If we who are older can help the children, as they grow up, to
think clearly and dispassionately, to love and not to breed
animosity, what more is there to do? But if we are
constantly at one another's throats, if we are incapable of
bringing about order and peace in the world by deeply changing
ourselves, of what value are the sacred books and the myths of the
True religious education is to help the child to be intelligently
aware, to discern for himself the temporary and the real, and to have
a disinterested approach to life; and would it not have more meaning
to begin each day at home or at school with a serious thought, or
with a reading that has depth and significance, rather than mumble
some oft-repeated words or phrases?
Past generations, with their ambitions, traditions and ideals,
have brought misery and destruction to the world; perhaps the coming
generations, with the right kind of education, can put an end to this
chaos and build a happier social order. If those who are young have
the spirit of inquiry, if they are constantly searching out the truth
of all things, political and religious, personal and environmental,
then youth will have great significance and there is hope for a
Most children are curious, they want to know; but their eager
inquiry is dulled by our pontifical assertions, our superior
impatience and our casual brushing aside of their curiosity. We do
not encourage their inquiry, for we are rather apprehensive of what
may be asked of us; we do not foster their discontent, for we
ourselves have ceased to question.
Most parents and teachers are afraid of discontent because it is
disturbing to all forms of security, and so they
encourage the young to overcome it through safe jobs,
inheritance, marriage and the consolation of religious dogmas.
Elders, knowing only too well the many ways of blunting the mind and
the heart, proceed to make the child as dull as they are by
impressing upon him the authorities, traditions and beliefs which
they themselves have accepted.
Only by encouraging the child to question the book, whatever it
be, to inquire into the validity of the existing social values,
traditions, forms of government, religious beliefs and so on, can the
educator and the parents hope to awaken and sustain his critical
alertness and keen insight.
The young, if they are at all alive, are full of hope and
discontent; they must be, otherwise they are already old and dead.
And the old are those who were once discontented, but who have
successfully smothered that flame and have found security and comfort
in various ways. They crave permanency for themselves and their
families, they ardently desire certainty in ideas, in relationships,
in possessions; so the moment they feel discontented, they become
absorbed in their responsibilities, in their jobs, or in anything
else, in order to escape from that disturbing feeling of discontent.
While we are young is the time to be discontented, not only with
ourselves, but also with the things about us. We should learn to
think clearly and without bias, so as not to be inwardly dependent
and fearful. Independence is not for that coloured section of the
map which we call our country, but for ourselves as individuals; and
though outwardly we are dependent on one another, this mutual
dependencedoes not become cruel or oppressive if inwardly we are free of
the craving for power, position and authority.
We must understand discontent, of which most of us are afraid.
Discontent may bring what appears to be disorder; but if it leads, as
it should, to self-knowledge and self-abnegation, then it will create
a new social order and enduring peace. With self-abnegation comes
Discontent is the means to freedom; but in order to inquire
without bias, there must be none of the emotional dissipation which
often takes the form of political gatherings, the shouting of
slogans, the search for a guru or spiritual teacher, and religious
orgies of different kinds. This dissipation dulls the mind and
heart, making them incapable of insight and therefore easily moulded
by circumstances and fear. It is the burning desire to inquire, and
not the easy imitation of the multitude, that will bring about a new
understanding of the ways of life.
The young are so easily persuaded by the priest or the
politician, by the rich or the poor, to think in a particular way; but the
right kind of education should help them to be watchful of
these influences so that they do not repeat slogans like parrots or
fall into any cunning trap of greed, whether their own or that of
another. They must not allow authority to stifle their minds and
hearts. To follow another, however great, or to give one's adherence
to a gratifying ideology, will not bring about a peaceful world.
When we leave school or college, many of us put away books and
seem to feel that we are done with learning;
and there are those who are stimulated to think further afield,
who keep on reading and absorbing what others have said, and become
addicted to knowledge. As long as there is the worship of knowledge
or technique as a means to success and dominance, there must be
ruthless competition, antagonism and the ceaseless struggle for
As long as success is our goal we cannot be rid of fear, for the
desire to succeed inevitably breeds the fear of failure. That is why
the young should not be taught to worship success. Most people
seek success in one form or another, whether on the tennis court, in the
business world, or in politics. We all want to be on top, and this
desire creates constant conflict within ourselves and with our
neighbours; it leads to competition, envy, animosity and finally to
Like the older generation, the young also seek success and
security; though at first they may be discontented, they soon become
respectable and are afraid to say no to society. The walls of their
own desires begin to enclose them, and they fall in line and assume
the reins of authority. Their discontent, which is the very flame of
inquiry, of search, of understanding, grows dull and dies away, and
in its place there comes the desire for a better job, a rich
marriage, a successful career, all of which is the craving for more
There is no essential difference between the old and the young,
for both are slaves to their own desires and gratifications.
Maturity is not a matter of age, it comes with understanding. The
ardent spirit of inquiry is perhaps easier for
the young, because those who are older have been battered about
by life, conflicts have worn them out and death in different forms
awaits them. This does not mean that they are incapable of purposive
inquiry, but only that it is more difficult for them.
Many adults are immature and rather childish, and this is a
contributing cause of the confusion and misery in the world. It is
the older people who are responsible for the prevailing economic and
moral crisis; and one of our unfortunate weaknesses is that we want
someone else to act for us and change the course of our lives. We
wait for others to revolt and build anew, and we remain inactive
until we are assured of the outcome.
It is security and success that most of us are after; and a mind
that is seeking security, that craves success, is not intelligent,
and is therefore incapable of integrated action. There can be
integrated action only if one is aware of one's own conditioning, of
one's racial, national, political and religious prejudices; that is,
only if one realizes that the ways of the self are ever separative.
Life is a well of deep waters. One can come to it with small
buckets and draw only a little water, or one can come with large
vessels, drawing plentiful waters that will nourish and sustain.
While one is young is the time to investigate, to experiment with
everything. The school should help its young people to discover
their vocations and responsibilities, and not merely cram their minds
with facts and technical knowledge; it should be the soil in which
they can grow without fear, happily and integrally.
To educate a child is to help him to understand freedom and
integration. To have freedom there must be order, which virtue alone
can give; and integration can take place only when there is great
simplicity. From innumerable complexities we must grow to
simplicity; we must become simple in our inward life and in our
Education is at present concerned with outward efficiency, and it
utterly disregards, or deliberately perverts, the inward nature of
man; it develops only one part of him and leaves the rest to drag
along as best it can. Our inner confusion, antagonism and fear ever
overcome the outer structure of society, however nobly conceived and
cunningly built. When there is not the right kind of education we
destroy one another, and physical security for every individual is
denied. To educate the student rightly is to help him to understand
the total process of himself; for it is only when there is
integration of the mind and heart in everyday action that there can
be intelligence and inward transformation.
While offering information and technical training, education
should above all encourage an integrated outlook on life; it should
help the student to recognize and break down in himself all social
distinctions and prejudices, and discourage the acquisitive pursuit
of power and domination. It should encourage the right kind of
self-observation and the experiencing of life as a whole, which is
not to give significance to the part, to the "me" and the"mine," but
to help the mind to go above and beyond itself to discover the real.
Freedom comes into being only through self-knowledge in one's
daily occupations, that is, in one's relationship with people, with
things, with ideas and with nature. If the educator is helping the
student to be integrated, there can be no fanatical or unreasonable
emphasis on any particular phase of life. It is the understanding of
the total process of existence that brings integration. When there
is self-knowledge, the power of creating illusions ceases, and only
then is it possible for reality or God, to be.
Human beings must be integrated if they are to come out of any
crisis, and especially the present world crisis, without being
broken; therefore, to parents and teachers who are really interested
in education, the main problem is how to develop an integrated
individual. To do this, the educator himself must obviously be
integrated; so the right kind of education is of the highest
importance, not only for the young, but also for the older generation
if they are willing to learn and are not too set in their ways. What
we are in ourselves is much more important than the additional
question of what to teach the child, and if we love our children we
will see to it that they have the right kind of educators.
Teaching should not become a specialist's profession. When it
does, as is so often the case, love fades away; and love is essential
to the process of integration. To be integrated there must be
freedom from fear. Fearlessness brings independence without
ruthlessness, without contempt for another, and this is the most
essential factor in life. Without love we cannot work out our many conflicting
increases confusion and leads to self-destruction.
The integrated human being will come to technique through
experiencing, for the creative impulse makes its own technique - and
that is the greatest art. When a child has the creative impulse to
paint, he paints, he does not bother about technique. Likewise
people who are experiencing, and therefore teaching, are the only
real teachers, and they too will create their own technique.
This sounds very simple, but it is really a deep revolution. If
we think about it we can see the extraordinary effect it will have on
society. At present most of us are washed out at the age of
forty-five or fifty by slavery to routine; through compliance,
through fear and acceptance, we are finished, though we struggle on
in a society that has very little meaning except for those who
dominate it and are secure. If the teacher sees this and is himself
really experiencing, then whatever his temperament and capacities may
be, his teaching will not be a matter of routine but will become an
instrument of help.
To understand a child we have to watch him at play, study him in
his different moods; we cannot project upon him our own prejudices,
hopes and fears, or mould him to fit the pattern of our desires. If
we are constantly judging the child according to our personal likes
and dislikes, we are bound to create barriers and hindrances in our
relationship with him and in his relationships with the world.
Unfortunately, most of us desire to shape the child in a way that is
gratifying to our own vanities and idiosyncrasies; we
find varying degrees of comfort and satisfaction in exclusive
ownership and domination.
Surely, this process is not relationship, but mere imposition,
and it is therefore essential to understand the difficult and complex
desire to dominate. It takes many subtle forms; and in its
self-righteous aspect, it is very obstinate. The desire to "serve"
with the unconscious longing to dominate is difficult to understand.
Can there be love where there is possessiveness? Can we be in
communion with those whom we seek to control? To dominate is to use
another for self-gratification, and where there is the use of another
there is no love.
When there is love there is consideration, not only for the
children but for every human being. Unless we are deeply touched by
the problem, we will never find the right way of education. Mere
technical training inevitably makes for ruthlessness, and to educate
our children we must be sensitive to the whole movement of life.
What we think, what we do, what we say matters infinitely, because it
creates the environment, and the environment either helps or hinders
Obviously, then, those of us who are deeply interested in this
problem will have to begin to understand ourselves and thereby help
to transform society; we will make it our direct responsibility to
bring about a new approach to education. If we love our children,
will we not find a way of putting an end to war? But if we are
merely using the word "love" without substance, then the whole complex
problem of human misery will remain. The way out of this
problem lies through ourselves. We must begin to understand our
relationship with our fellow men, with nature, with ideas and with
things, for without that understanding there is no hope, there is no
way out of conflict and suffering.
The bringing up of a child requires intelligent observation and
care. Experts and their knowledge can never replace the parents'
love, but most parents corrupt that love by their own fears and
ambitions, which condition and distort the outlook of the child. So
few of us are concerned with love, but we are vastly taken up with
the appearance of love.
The present educational and social structure does not help the
individual towards freedom and integration; and if the parents are at
all in earnest and desire that the child shall grow to his fullest
integral capacity, they must begin to alter the influence of the home
and set about creating schools with the right kind of educators.
The influence of the home and that of the school must not be in
any way contradictory, so both parents and teachers must re-educate
themselves. The contradiction which so often exists between the
private life of the individual and his life as a member of the group
creates an endless battle within himself and in his relationships.
This conflict is encouraged and sustained through the wrong kind
of education, and both governments and organized religions add to the
confusion by their contradictory doctrines. The child is divided
within himself from the very start, which results in personal and
If those of us who love our children and see the urgency of this
problem will set our minds and hearts to it, then, however few we may
be, through right education and an intelligent home environment, we
can help to bring about integrated human beings; but if, like so many
others, we fill our hearts with the cunning things of the mind, then
we shall continue to see our children destroyed in wars, in famines,
and by their own psychological conflicts.
Right education comes with the transformation of ourselves. We
must re-educate ourselves not to kill one another for any cause, however
righteous, for any ideology, however promising it may appear
to be for the future happiness of the world. We must learn to be
compassionate, to be content with little, and to seek the Supreme,
for only then can there be the true salvation of mankind.