A young student is in direct touch with three things generally;the teachers, the text-books and the surroundings. If these three centres of forces emit the Indian spirit, and mould the child silently, the child as a grown up man will feel no conflict of ideals. (l) The teacher should be a living spirit, equipped with the traditional treasures of ancient India. He should bring himself to the centre of Indian life in thought and action, but at the same time he is required to be up-to-date, being in touch with the foreign cultural elements that he may weave the new into the old. He must be purely Indian in the habits of life, dress, language, manners and so on. We should teach morality not by preaching of abstract principles, but by the doings of our own life. Morality is the expression of the active aspect of hnman mind. Intellect cannot satisfy will, it is rather will that can influence will.
So examples and not precepts should be the lessons in a class-room of morality. Too much preaching makes the mind dull and dead to all stimuli, for, from our very faculty of habit, passive impressions by being repeated grow weaker, according to the law of diminishing returns. (2) The text-book. Student’s text-books should be written in an Indian spirit. The glorious traditions of the past should supply the bulk of the matter. The method of teaching of the Western people is more scientific and critical, their ways of looking at things can be profitably used to interprete what is beautiful and real in the Indian life. Take the case of History, now-a-days, students are to read the political history of India ; kings and wars, as in the West, form the centre of historical interest, and the focus of the reader’s attention. History of India must be religious in its essence, mighty spiritual forces should make the main stream, whereas the political and social events should form the attractive eddies and whirlpools as created by the main current. Similarly the literary text-books should be full of characters bearing the stamp of the national cultnre. Dogs, cats and insects should not occupy the major portion ot the text, as is fhg case with the current school books published by so and so.
Nature-study is important, but it should not be materialistic. Nature is not a lump of matter evolved, students should know that ‘there is a spirit in the wood’. The materialistic influence of the present day education is so very great on the poor victims that one, to be a gentleman, must laugh at everything ancient, supernatural or spiritual. That fellow criticises everything without entering into reality, and adopts whatever is new and attractive at the cost of the old, or if he is conscientions enough, he tries to reconcile the new to the old by keeping a long tuft, worn in a knot on the Albert cut of the hair and a French cut of the beard. These show that these people have no stamina, no sign of life. They are the proud products of this costly education.
(3) The surrounding is a matter of last importance for the moral, religious and aesthetic training of the child. Students should be surrounded with the beautiful paintings of the great religious teachers and heroes along with the striking scenes and event, from the puranas and histories. Children, as a rule, should be kept in a place where the superiors pass their usual periods in divine contemplation, and other religious practices.These will give a definite conception of life to the children who will discover that for themselves. Schools and colleges of residential type are preferable, for they can create a favourable atmosphere. So it becomes clear that religion should fill the child imperceptibly through its feeling, as morality should approach the child through its will. The abstract principles of religion which are nothing but philosophical theories, should not be taught in mere words. The conception that God or Soul pervades the Whole universe, may be impressed upon the mind of a young student, even as Svetaketu was taught by his father in the Chhandogya Upanishad. The father told his son to get a glass of water, put some salt in it, taste the water from the various parts, up, middle and bottom. All the parts of the water would taste saline though salt is not seen. Similarly God or Soul pervades the whole universe though He is not seen. If the student comes to believe that an Omnipotent, Omniseient Being pervades the earth, fire, water, sky and everything of the universe, he will shirk from doing or thinking any evil. The idea of an extensive living God, will enable the student to drown his individual self in the Universal Self. This is the crown and glory of Indian life.
Extracts from Vedanta Kesari, an English monthly of the Ramakrishna Order, published from Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.