Inner education and outer education1

Dear friends, dear seekers, dear education-servers and wisdom-lovers, I deem it both a signal honour and an unusual privilege to be here with you to give a talk on education. My own education commenced with a simple prayer. The Vedic seer-teachers of the hoary past taught me not only how to pray soulfully, but also what to pray for:

Asato mā sad gamaya.
Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya.
Mṛtyor mā amṛtaḿ gamaya.

Lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Lead me from darkness unto Light.
Lead me from death to Immortality.

The modern teacher-reformers of the twentieth century have taught me how to revolt dauntlessly, and what to revolt against: bondage-day and ignorance-night.

I wish to speak on outer education and inner education. Education means success in the outer life. Education means progress in the inner life. Success is our conscious or unconscious self-aggrandisement. Progress is our spontaneous self-unfoldment. Success is the discovery of our temptation-hunger. Progress is the discovery of our birthless and deathless satisfaction-feast. Success wanes sooner than the soonest. Progress grows larger than the largest.

In the outer life, education is self-reliance. In the inner life, education is God-reliance. Self-reliance is quite often threatened by binding, blighting and teeming doubts. God-reliance is always inspired and energised by illumining and fulfilling faith.

Human education is a constant search for greatness. Divine education is a constant search for goodness. Greatness satisfies our sense of superiority, our sense of separativity, our dominating ego-personality. Goodness satisfies the illumining and fulfilling universality of our true divine existence.

Yesterday, from my animal education, I learned that might is right. Today, from my human education, I learn that right is might. Tomorrow, from my divine education, I shall learn that only light is might, only light is right. I shall ceaselessly learn to give constantly. Self-giving will be my divine might. I shall eternally grow into and become light. Indeed, this will be my supreme right.

There was a time when I thought that education was nothing other than the transmission of world-information. There was a time when I thought that education was nothing other than the dance of the mind’s supremacy, the ability to lord it over others. But now I have come to discover that education is at once self-mastery and God-discovery.

Each student has two special teachers, a philosophy teacher and a science teacher. The philosophy teacher tells him, “Look up, young man. Right above you, above your head, truth is looming large. Look up, and claim this truth unreservedly as your own.” His science teacher tells him, “Look forward, young man. Truth is right before your very eyes. Look forward and claim it dauntlessly as your own.”

Each teacher is also a student, and again, each student is a teacher. When a teacher claims to be an all-knowing authority, then he has failed to learn the most basic lesson. When a teacher claims to know next to nothing, then he knows the most important thing. Each teacher is aware of the truth that the mind-knowledge is an experiment of sound-reality, and the heart-wisdom is the experience of silence-reality.

With our egotistical vital, we declare the supremacy of our knowledge: we know everything. With our humility-light, we reveal to the world at large that we know nothing. Socrates is a radiant example. He realised that what he knew was next to nothing. His inner being and outer existence-reality were inundated with wisdom-light.

A seeker is blessed with the powerful teachings of three significant teachers: the religion teacher, the spirituality teacher and the yoga teacher. Each one has a special way to teach his students. The religion teacher says, “My son, be afraid of God. If you fear Him, then your earthly problems will be solved. Not only that, but fear of God will expedite your heavenly prosperity; therefore, cultivate the fear of God constantly in the very depth of your heart.”

The spirituality teacher says, “My son, love God. You are of Him and He is for you eternally. If you love Him, then your earthly problems will be solved and your heavenly progress will be faster than the fastest; therefore, love Him, for He is always with you and for you.”

The yoga teacher says, “My son, you and God are inseparably one, eternally one. Claim Him as your own, very own, and make Him the unique Goal of all your thoughts and actions. Your earthly problems will be solved in the twinkling of an eye, and you will become consciously one with your eternal Source.”

I have often been asked by my students as to how to educate a child. The spiritual education of children is of paramount importance. I wish to say that the education of a child starts from the very moment he sees the light of day. The moment he cries for the first time, the mother has to ask the soul of the child why he is crying. There can be two reasons. One reason is that the child has suddenly entered into the earth-arena and the vast ignorance-sea has frightened him. If the mother feels that this is the reason, then the mother has to tell the soul of the child that the ignorance-sea is shortlived. A day will dawn when the child will be the conscious possessor of wisdom-sea.

But there is another reason why the child may be compelled to cry. The soul of the child may have realised that here on earth it will not be able to enjoy divinely and supremely its previous closeness to its Source. If this is the answer the mother gets from the soul of the child, then the mother has to tell the soul of the child that he has come into the world for a special purpose — to please God, to fulfill God, to serve God in a special way. She has to tell the soul of the child that God is allwhere, on earth as well as in Heaven; therefore, the child need not miss God’s Light and Delight which it enjoyed in the realm of the soul. In either case, the mother has to speak to the inmost being of the child, to the real within him, to the soul.

The unification of two illumining and fulfilling processes can bring about abiding satisfaction. One is the involution process, and the other is the evolution process. If we believe in the ultimate transcendental Spirit and feel that this ultimate Spirit is Reality, we consciously enjoy the involution process. At that time we feel that God the Father is watching us, guiding us and leading us at every moment. If we believe that matter is reality, and that there is nothing as important or significant as the fulfilment of the material life, then we are unconsciously enjoying the evolution process.

At this point, our Father Heaven teacher tells us. “Children, become and give.” Our Mother Earth teacher tells us, “Children, give and become.” In the involution process, we give and become. We become and give in the evolution process.

There are many world teachers who have awakened human consciousness and enlightened human life. My heart is inspired to invoke the presence of three world teachers or world liberators, three spiritual Masters of the highest height: Sri Krishna, the Buddha and the Christ. I wish to show how the teachings of these three spiritual giants lead us and guide us faithfully to the same destination.

Sri Krishna’s loftiest message to his dearest friend and disciple was, Nimitta matram…: “O Arjuna, be a mere instrument,” for Sri Krishna knew that only if we become an instrument of the Highest will we have abiding inner peace and satisfaction.

The Lord Buddha used to say to his dearest disciple, Ananda, “Ananda, believe in and follow the Dharma, the inner code of life,” for he knew that only if we follow the code of the inner life soulfully, unreservedly and unconditionally, can we attain the everlasting bliss of Nirvana.

The Saviour Christ offered a most significant prayer to His Heavenly Father on behalf of humanity. This peerless teacher prayed to his Heavenly Father with divine simplicity, “Father, let Thy Will be done,” because he knew that for aspiring and crying humanity, oneness with God’s Will is the only way to achieve boundless joy and satisfaction. All of these teachers knew that by becoming conscious and constant instruments of a higher Will we get abiding satisfaction, and by walking devotedly, unreservedly and soulfully along the road of the inner life, we receive boundless peace and bliss.

There are three kinds of education: human education, divine education and God education. Human education is world-information. One is curious to know what is happening here, there and everywhere. Divine education is conscious self-giving. We learn to offer ourselves to the world at large in order to make the world happy and prosperous, or in order to better the consciousness of the world. God education is satisfaction in perfection. How do we achieve satisfaction in perfection? We can do so only by pleasing God in God’s own way, according to His divine Will.

Each country has a special way of approaching the possibilities, potentialities and inevitabilities of education. India’s traditional way is by plain living and high thinking. America’s traditional way of approaching education is by promise-making and freedom-spreading.

When we think of education, immediately we think of truth. And what is truth? Truth is illumining beauty. This is why Keats’ utterance is immortal: “Truth is beauty, beauty truth.” Education tells us that we have to see beauty in truth and truth in beauty. Then finally, we have to see both as one truth in the form of beauty and beauty in the form of truth. When we see both truth and beauty as identical, then we can cry with Emily Dickinson’s heart, “I die for beauty.”

India’s motto is Satyam eva jayate: “Truth alone triumphs.” The Truth-Consciousness of the Absolute is Beauty itself. Truth, beauty and reality together move and together grow. They are inseparable.

From the physical and practical point of view, education is graduation. But if education is graduation, then we receive a deplorable experience. There is an oft-quoted story in India about a young graduate who said to the world, “World, look at me. I have finished my studies and got my degree.” The world said to the proud and haughty young man, “Sit down, young man. You have learned only the first letter of the alphabet. Now complete your education.” If education is self-illumination, an ever-transcending illumination, our starting point is aspiration and our journey’s close is realisation.

But once we enter into the world of aspiration, there is no rest for us. In the words of America’s immortal poet Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep; but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” According to the highest interpretation, each individual soul has made a solemn promise to the Absolute to realise and manifest Him, and before that promise is fulfilled the soul can have no permanent rest. Here Robert Frost carries us not only into the world of aspiration, but also into the world of realisation. Aspiration is a continuous process. Once you enter into the world of aspiration, there is no rest. No matter what you receive, achieve or grow into, it is only the starting point for a higher achievement. It is an experience that grows and glows into realisation, and realisation itself is the beginning of a new experience — God-manifestation — which also is an endless process.

I have just said education is aspiration. Now I wish to say that education is dedication. When we are truly educated, inwardly or outwardly, we feel that it is dedication that has made us well educated. God does not want us to be His slaves. He wants us to be His friends. He serves us as His friends, as His comrades, as His compeers. The poet Rabindranath Tagore said, “God loves to see in me not His servant, but He Himself.” But we see God as an entity different from ourselves. We see or want to see Him according to our own idea, our fantasy, dream or mental hallucination. But God sees us as a prototype of His self-same Reality.

I come from India, while you are all either from America or from some other part of the world. The human mind will say, “I am a stranger here.” My human mind will also make me feel that you are strangers to me. Tagore most soulfully solved this problem for us with his poetic illumining vision. His poem is at once soulful and fruitful when it says: “Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.” His poem tells us that our love of God illumines the darkness, makes the unfamiliar familiar, brings the distant near and transforms the sense of separativity into the song of oneness.

The question may flash across our minds whether a teacher can be a good teacher if he is not spiritual. I wish to say that no teacher can be good unless and until he is spiritual. But spirituality is a vast field. Spirituality does not necessarily mean only the life of concentration, meditation and contemplation. Spirituality encompasses the vast reality. If one is simple, humble, sympathetic, dedicated, or has many other divine qualities, then he undoubtedly is spiritual. A life of simplicity, a good moral character and a pure nature undoubtedly indicate spirituality. Spirituality is our birthright, although we may not consciously practice or cultivate spirituality in the strict sense of the term. But if a teacher embodies spiritual qualities such as honesty, simplicity, clarity, humility, purity and so on, then that particular teacher undoubtedly is spiritual; therefore, his teachings can be imprinted in letters of gold on the students’ aspiring hearts.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father and teacher of the Indian nation, nonviolence is the best form of self-education and God-manifestation. Self-education and God-manifestation, according to the seekers, are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. When we educate ourselves, then the real in us, the divine in us, the Supreme in us, gets the opportunity for full manifestation. Inner cultivation and God-manifestation perfectly complement each other. Cultivation is the seed-reality and manifestation is the fruit-reality. They are inseparably joined. Here in America, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. also offered something significant, not only to the American nation, to the soul of America, but to the world at large. Largely inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, he has contributed something great, divine and supreme. His inner feeling was that an unarmed truth and an unconditional love can alone have the last word.

All of us here are either students or teachers or both. To be on the safe side, we can say that we are all students, eternal students, like Socrates. God Himself is both a teacher and a student. When He cries with the earth-consciousness, He becomes a student. When He smiles with the Heaven-consciousness, He becomes a teacher. When He cries, He achieves. For whom? For us. When He smiles, He proceeds. For whom? For us. We are His yet unrealised reality-existence.

Since many of us here are teachers, for a few minutes let us offer our soulful prayer to the Supreme Teacher, the Absolute, our Beloved Supreme.

The following talk was given to a group of teachers and professors on 10 November 1976, at All Angels Church in Manhattan.