Education as Service Part 1

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Education as Service.

by J. Krishnamurti.


In long past lives the author of this little book had much to do with educational work, and he seems to have brought over with him an intense interest in education. During his short visits to Benares, he paid an alert attention to many of the details of the work carried on in the Central Hindu College, observing and asking questions, noting the good feeling between teachers and students, so different from his own school experiences in Southern India. He appears to have been brooding over the question, and has, in this booklet, held up the educational ideals which appear to him to be necessary for the improvement of the present system.

The position of the teacher must be raised to that which it used to occupy in India, so that to sit in the teacher's chair will be a badge of social honour. His work must be seen as belonging to the great Teaching Department in the Government of our world, and his relation with his pupils must be a copy of the relation between a Master and His disciples. Love, protective and elevating on the one side, must be met with love, confiding and trustful on the other. This is, in truth, the old Hindu ideal, exaggerated as it may seem to be to-day and if it be possible, in any country to rebuild this ideal, it should be by an Indian for Indians. Hence there is, at the back of the author's mind, a dream of a future College and School, wherein this ideal may be materialised--a Theosophical College and School, because the ancient Indian ideals now draw their life from Theosophy which alone can shape the new vessels for the ancient elixir of life Punishment must disappear--not only the old brutality of the cane, but all the forms of coercion that make hypocrites instead of honourable and manly youths.

The teacher must embody the ideal, and the boy be drawn, by admiration and love, to copy it. Those who know how swiftly the unspoiled child responds to a n.o.ble ideal will realise how potent may be the influence of a teacher, who stimulates by a high example and rules by the sceptre of love instead of by the rod of fear. Besides, the One Life is in teacher and taught, as Alcyone reminds us, and to that Life, which is Divine, all things are possible.

Education must be shaped to meet the individual needs of the child, and not by a Government Procrustes' bed, to fit which some are dragged well-nigh asunder and others are chopped down. The capacities of the child, the line they fit him to pursue, these must guide his education.

In all, the child's interest must be paramount; the true teacher exists to serve.

The school must be a centre of good and joyous influences, radiating from it to the neighbourhood. Studies and games must all be turned to the building of character, to the making of the good citizen, the lover of his country.

Thus dreams the boy, who is to become a teacher, of the possibilities the future may unfold. May he realise, in the strength of a n.o.ble Manhood, the pure visions of his youth, and embody a Power which shall make earth's deserts rejoice and blossom as the rose.





Many of the suggestions made in this little book come from my own memories of early school life; and my own experience since of the methods used in Occult training has shown me how much happier boys'

lives might be made than they usually are. I have myself experienced both the right way of teaching and the wrong way, and therefore I want to help others towards the right way. I write upon the subject because it is one which is very near to the heart of my Master, and much of what I say is but an imperfect echo of what I have heard from Him. Then again, during the last two years, I have seen much of the work done in the Central Hindu College at Benares by Mr. G.S. Arundale and his devoted band of helpers. I have seen teachers glad to spend their time and energies in continual service of those whom they regard as their younger brothers. I have also watched the boys, in their turn, showing a reverence and an affectionate grat.i.tude to their teachers that I had never thought possible.

Though many people may think the ideals put forward are entirely beyond the average teacher, and cannot be put into practice in ordinary schools, I can thus point at least to one inst.i.tution in which I have seen many of the suggestions made in this book actually carried out. It may be that some of them _are_, at present, beyond most schools; but they will be recognised and practised as soon as teachers realise them as desirable, and have a proper understanding of the importance of their office.

Most of the recommendations apply, I think, to all countries, and to all religions, and are intended to sound the note of our common brotherhood, irrespective of religion or caste, race or colour. If the unity of life and the oneness of its purpose could be clearly taught to the young in schools, how much brighter would be our hopes for the future! The mutual distrust of races and nations would disappear, if the children were trained in mutual love and sympathy as members of one great family of children all over the world, instead of being taught to glory only in their own traditions and to despise those of others. True patriotism is a beautiful quality in children, for it means unselfishness of purpose and enthusiasm for great ideals; but that is false patriotism which shows itself in contempt for other nations. There are, I am told, many organisations within the various nations of the world, intended to inspire the children with a love for their country and a desire to serve her, and that is surely good; but I wonder when there will be an international organisation to give the children of all nations common ideals also, and a knowledge of the real foundation of right action, the Brotherhood of Man.

I desire to thank my dear mother, Mrs. Annie Besant, for the help she has given me while I have been writing this little book, and also my dear friend, Mr. G.S. Arundale--with whom I have often talked on the subject--for many useful suggestions.



In _At the Feet of the Master_ I have written down the instructions given to me by my Master in preparing me to learn how best to be useful to those around me. All who have read the book will know how inspiring the Master's words are, and how they make each person who reads them long to train himself for the service of others. I know myself how much I have been helped by the loving care of those to whom I look for guidance, and I am eager to pa.s.s on to others the help I have obtained from them.

It seems to me that the Master's instructions can be universally applied. They are useful not only to those who are definitely trying to tread the path which leads to Initiation, but also to all who, while still doing the ordinary work of the world, are anxious to do their duty earnestly and unselfishly. One of the n.o.blest forms of work is that of the teacher; let us see what light is thrown upon it by the words of the Master.

I will take the four Qualifications which have been given in _At the Feet of the Master_, and will try to show how they can be applied to the life of the teacher and of the students, and to the relations which should exist between them.

The most important Qualification in education is Love, and I will take that first.

It is sad that in modern days the office of a teacher has not been regarded as on a level with other learned professions. Any one has been thought good enough to be a teacher, and as a result little honour has been paid to him. Naturally, therefore, the cleverest boys are not drawn towards that profession. But really the office of the teacher is the most sacred and the most important to the nation, because it builds the characters of the boys and girls who will be its future citizens. In olden days this office was thought so holy that only priests were teachers and the school was a part of the temple. In India the trust in the teacher was so great that the parents gave over their sons completely to him for many years, and teacher and students lived together as a family. Because this happy relation should be brought back again, I put Love first among the Qualifications which a teacher ought to have. If India is to become again the great nation which we all hope to see, this old happy relation must be re-established.


My Master taught me that Love will enable a man to acquire all other qualities and that "all the rest without it would never be sufficient."

Therefore no person ought to be a teacher--ought to be allowed to be a teacher--unless he has shown in his daily life that Love is the strongest quality of his nature. It may be asked: How are we to find out whether a person possesses Love to a sufficient degree to make him worthy to be a teacher? Just as a boy shows his natural capacities at an early age for one profession or another, so a particularly strong love-nature would mark a boy out as specially fitted to be an instructor. Such boys should be definitely trained for the office of the teacher just as boys are trained for other professions.

Boys who are preparing for all careers live a common life in the same school, and they can only become useful to the nation as men, if their school life is happy. A young child is naturally happy, and if that happiness is allowed to go on and grow in the school, and at home, then he will become a man who will make others happy. A teacher full of love and sympathy will attract the boys and make their school life a pleasant one. My Master once said that "children are very eager to learn and if a teacher cannot interest them and make them love their lessons, he is not fit to be a teacher and should choose another profession." He has said also: "Those who are mine love to teach and to serve. They long for an opportunity of service as a hungry man longs for food, and they are always watching for it. Their hearts are so full of the divine Love that it must be always overflowing in love for those around them. Only such are fit to be teachers--those to whom teaching is not only a holy and imperative duty, but also the greatest of pleasures."

A sympathetic teacher draws out all the good qualities in his pupils, and his gentleness prevents them from being afraid of him. Each boy then shows himself just as he is, and the teacher is able to see the line best suited to him and to help him to follow it. To such a teacher a boy will come with all his difficulties, knowing that he will be met with sympathy and kindness, and, instead of hiding his weaknesses, he will be glad to tell everything to one of whose loving help he is sure. The good teacher remembers his own youth, and so can feel with the boy who comes to him. My Master said: "He who has forgotten his childhood and lost sympathy with the children is not a man who can teach them or help them."

This love of the teacher for his pupil, protecting and helping him, will bring out love from the pupil in turn, and as he looks up to his teacher this love will take the form of reverence. Reverence, beginning in this way with the boy, will grow as he grows older, and will become the habit of seeing and reverencing greatness, and so perhaps in time may lead him to the Feet of the Master. The love of the boy to the teacher will make him docile and easy to guide, and so the question of punishment will never arise. Thus one great cause of fear which at present poisons all the relations between the teacher and his pupil will vanish. Those of us who have the happiness of being pupils of the true Masters know what this relation ought to be. We know the wonderful patience, gentleness and sympathy with which They always meet us, even when we may have made mistakes or have been weak.

Yet there is much more difference between Them and us than between the ordinary teacher and his pupil. When the teacher has learned to look upon his office as dedicating him to the service of the nation, as the Master has dedicated Himself to the service of humanity, then he will become part of the great Teaching Department of the world, to which belongs my own beloved Master--the Department of which the supreme Teacher of G.o.ds and men is the august Head.

It may be said that many boys could not be managed in this way. The answer is that such boys have been already spoiled by bad treatment.

Even so, they must be slowly improved by greater patience and constant love. This plan has already proved successful when tried.

Living in this atmosphere of love during school hours, the boy will become a better son and a better brother at home, and will bring home with him a feeling of life and vigour, instead of coming home, as he generally does now, depressed and tired. When he, in turn, becomes the head of a household, he will fill it with the love in which he has been brought up, and so the happiness will go on spreading and increasing, generation after generation. Such a boy when he becomes a father, will not look on his son, as so many do now, from a purely selfish point of view, as though he were merely a piece of property--as though the son existed for the sake of the father. Some parents seem to regard their children only as a means of increasing the prosperity and reputation of the family by the professions which they may adopt or the marriages that they may make, without considering in the least the wishes of the children themselves. The wise father will consult his boy as a friend, will take pains to find out what his wishes are, and will help him with his greater experience to carry out those wishes wisely, remembering always that his son is an ego who has come to the father to give him the opportunity of making good karma by aiding the son in his progress. He will never forget that though his son's body may be young, the soul within is as old as his own, and must therefore be treated with respect as well as affection.

Love both at home and in the school will naturally show itself in continual small acts of service, and these will form a habit out of which will grow the larger and more heroic acts of service which makes the greatness of a nation.

The Master speaks much on cruelty as a sin against love, and distinguishes between intentional and unintentional cruelty. He says: "Intentional cruelty is purposely to give pain to another living being; and that is the greatest of all sins--the work of a devil rather than a man." The use of the cane must be cla.s.sed under this, for He says of intentional cruelty: "Many schoolmasters do it habitually." We must also include all words and acts _intended_ to wound the feelings of the boy and to hurt his self-respect. In some countries corporal punishment is forbidden, but in most it is still the custom. But my Master said: "These people try to excuse their brutality by saying that it is the custom; but a crime does not cease to be a crime because many commit it. Karma takes no account of custom; and the karma of cruelty is the most terrible of all. In India at least there can be no excuse for such customs, for the duty of harmlessness is well known to all."

The whole idea of what is called "punishment" is not only wrong but foolish. A teacher who tries to frighten his boys into doing what he wishes does not see that they only obey him while he is there, and that as soon as they are out of his sight they will pay no attention to his rules, or even take a pleasure in breaking them because they dislike him. But if he draws them to do what he wants because they love him and wish to please him, they will keep his rules even in his absence, and so make his work much easier. Instead of developing fear and dislike in the characters of the boys, the wise teacher will gain his ends by calling forth from them love and devotion; and so will strengthen all that is good in them, and help them on the road of evolution.

Again, the idea of expulsion, of getting rid of a troublesome boy instead of trying to improve him, is wrong. Even when, for the sake of his companions, a boy has to be separated from them, the good of the boy himself must not be forgotten. In fact, all through, school discipline should be based on the good of the boys and not on the idea of saving trouble to the teacher. The loving teacher does not mind the trouble.

Unintentional cruelty often comes from mere thoughtlessness, and the teacher should be very careful not to be cruel in words or actions from want of thought. Teachers often cause pain by hasty words uttered at a time when they have been disturbed by some outside annoyance, or are trying to attend to some important duty. The teacher may forget the incident or pa.s.s it over as trivial, but in many such cases a sensitive boy has been wounded, and he broods over the words and ends by imagining all sorts of foolish exaggerations. In this way many misunderstandings arise between teachers and boys, and though the boys must learn to be patient and generous, and to realise that the teacher is anxious to help all as much as he can, the teacher in his turn must always be on the alert to watch his words, and to allow nothing but gentleness to shine out from his speech and actions, however busy he may be.

If the teacher is always gentle to the boys, who are younger and weaker than himself, it will be easy for him to teach them the important lesson of kindness to little children, animals, birds and other living creatures. The older boys, who themselves are gentle and tactful, should be encouraged to observe the condition of the animals they see in the streets, and if they see any act of cruelty, to beg the doer of it very politely and gently, to treat the animal more kindly. The boys should be taught that nothing which involves the hunting and killing of animals should be called sport. That word ought to be kept for manly games and exercises, and not used for the wounding and killing of animals. My Master says: "The fate of the cruel must fall also upon all who go out intentionally to kill G.o.d's creatures and call it sport."

I do not think that teachers realise the harm and the suffering caused by gossip, which the Master calls a sin against love. Teachers should be very careful not to make difficulties for their boys by gossiping about them. No boy should ever be allowed to have a bad name in the school, and it should be the rule that no one may speak ill of any other member of the school whether teacher or boy.

My Master points out that by talking about a person's faults, we not only strengthen those faults in him, but also fill our own minds with evil thoughts. There is only one way of really getting rid of our lower nature, and that is by strengthening the higher. And while it is the duty of the teacher to understand the weaknesses of those placed in his charge he must realise that he will destroy the lower nature only by surrounding the boy with his love, thus stimulating the higher and n.o.bler qualities till there is no place left for the weaknesses. The more the teacher gossips about the faults of the boys, the more harm he does, and, except during a consultation with his fellow teachers as to the best methods of helping individual boys out of their weaknesses, he should never talk about a boy's defects.

The boys must also be taught the cruelty of gossip among themselves. I know many a boy whose life at school has been made miserable because his companions have been thoughtless and unkind, and the teacher either has not noticed his unhappiness, or has not understood how to explain to the boys the nature of the harm they were doing. Boys frequently take hold of some peculiarity in speech or in dress, or of some mistake which has been made, and, not realising the pain they cause, carelessly torture their unfortunate schoolfellow with unkind allusions. In this case the mischief is due chiefly to ignorance, and if the teacher has influence over the boys, and gently explains to them what pain they are giving they will quickly stop.

They must be taught, too, that nothing which causes suffering or annoyance to another can ever be the right thing to do, nor can it ever be amusing to any right-minded boy. Some children seem to find pleasure in teasing or annoying others, but that is only because they are ignorant. When they understand, they will never again be so unbrotherly.

In every cla.s.s-room these words of my Master should be put up in a prominent place: "Never speak ill of any one; refuse to listen when anyone else speaks ill of another, but gently say: 'Perhaps this is not true, and even if it is, it is kinder not to speak of it.'"

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Education as Service Part 1 summary

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