A satsang given by Swami Satyananda Saraswati on July 30, 1976

What improvements should be made in the education and upbringing of children?

"As human beings, we are supposed to discharge some duty which is beneficial for ourselves and for the society in which we live. If the child is too young to realise his duty, then there must be someone older to remind him, either quietly and sweetly or else through fear. Fear can be utilised as long as the child feels that the elder person loves him. For example, a young boy misbehaves, so the father tells him, 'You have to behave properly or I am not going to have anything to do with you.' Certainly the father reprimands his son out of love, not because he hates him. This must be understood.

Sometimes fear is necessary for the development of the personality and realisation of one's aim. If fear is absent, hysteria becomes rampant. Hysteria is an abnormal, psychic state. Hysterical thinking, hysterical behaviour is a deep psychological problem. In order to bring the child out of that state, fear is sometimes essential. However, a fear complex can also have a negative influence on children. If they think that someone hates them and wants to put them down, then fear is generated and this distorts the personality, therefore we must have love and tolerance for the child and not generate fear in him unnecessarily.

The relations between parents and children are deteriorating day by day. Moreover, the parents have developed abnormal patterns of thinking and behaviour and the children inherit their samskaras. Now the husband and wife love their child so much that he becomes the centre of their attachment. As a result of that, proper training at home is lacking. The child, being constant association with the parents, is unable to wash off these parental samskaras and influences.

The father and mother can never train a child without the help of relatives such as grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt etc. The child learns how to behave in the company of all these. He develops a more mature sense of behaviour which is totally absent in children today. More than the parents, it is the grandparents who play an important role in developing a mature psychology in children. Seriousness comes when children live with grandparents. If they do not have this opportunity, the entire behaviour of the youngsters is changed. When they grow older, they will have problems at home, problems with the teacher in school and there will be absolute anarchy.

Although the modern educational system is developing better and more comprehensive teaching methods, still the student-teacher relationship is steadily declining. A code of ethics should be established for the teachers and after that a code of ethics for the students will come by itelf. First of all, the teachers must act with idealism, then the children will respond to them more positively, because I have found that children are always idealistic. The child's mind hates artificial mannerisms, pomp and show. If he knows that you are telling a lie, he will never agree.

When children grow up in an idealistic atmosphere in the company of parents, friends and elders, then they are influenced very positively. In India there is a wonderful system of education known as gurukul. Guru means 'teacher' and kul means 'family'. The guru lived somewhere away from cities and towns, in a village or in the jungle, with his wife and family. They kept a little land on which they lived, having no connection with the outside world. The students used to come and stay with the guru's family for a period of ten or twelve years, learning literature, arts, archery, etc. There were different gurus for different arts.

Even today in India there are many good gurukuls where the students are kept just like the guru's own children. Early in the morning they are woken up in the family atmosphere, then they do prayer, play study and join in many other duties and activities. They remain with the guru for many years, leading a simple, pure and holy life. They do not return to their home until their study is over. The life of the teacher and students in the gurukul is absolutely exemplary and idealistic. Boys coming out of the gurukul are very disciplined, well behaved and intelligent children.

The problem of education as I see it, begins in the home. Whereas children want parents to be idealistic, parents want children to be obedient, efficient and intelligent. They do not want them to be idealistic. As a result, children are unable to to formulate their own philosophy or hypothesis of life and therefore, it is very difficult for them to express themselves or to develop according to their own nature. If our student community has lost its direction, the blame should go to the parents. They are unable to guide the child properly and to stucture the patterns of thinking which the child has to develop. In the west, even religious education has failed to influence the life of youngsters. The malady is incurable. Something must come, perhaps a war or a revolution, to set things right."

What can be done to prevent anarchy?

"Arnold Toynbee, the great historian, has once remarked: 'In a civilisation where the emotional side of man is left undeveloped and inchecked, many mistakes will be made at national and political levels.' Because, after all, the leaders of the country are no different from people like you and me. Where there is emotional stress, emotional breakdown and absolute lack of self-control, the whole race moves along the wrong path, war takes place and the civilisation is completely destroyed. This has happened a number of times in history.

In order to prevent national and racial disaster, the emotional side of man, of the race, of the nation, should be properly channelled. In order to channelize the emotional personality of man, bhakti yoga is the best path, because it consumes the unused, surplus emotions in man which otherwise become anarchical. Another way is service to the nation and to the poor. This is also a good way of sublimating the emotions. After all, when we serve others, we only help ourselves. Service of the poor is nothing but the adjustment of unused and anarchical complexes, and that is why in spiritual life it is said that you must serve the poor.

In service there must be love, but bhakti is not loving man, it is loving God in every man. When you serve a poor man, this type of bhakti is more or less useful for society. It may not bring in cash revenue, it may not increase industrial output, but in the long run, this type of bhakti will help the society to survive through the political accidents, because the abnormal, emotional complexes of the society are being properly guided, coded and controlled by bhakti as a whole. When this type of control is brought into the society, then the people will try to think a number of times before they take particular steps, and that is how the society survives the accidents of history. Toynbee spoke beautifully on this point, 'There are cultures which have always based their traditions, society, economics and politics on faith in God, and these cultures have survived the ravages of time.'

If you loved your fellow men as you ought to, then there would be no problems; but how to love them? First of all you must develop bhakti, love for God. After having checked all you emotional complexes, you can slowly start serving the poor, that should be the second step. However, you must realise that actually you are serving yourself and not them. Also you have to use your judgement in deciding when to help and when not. There are many forms of service. Service is not only giving material aid. Even in a wealthy society, people need mutual help. Sympathy can also be a form of service. I think that service can be done at all levels through all kinds of people."