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Teach with Faith, Patience and Love

Address to the teachers of Lalaji Memorial Omega International School,5th September 2009, Chennai, India

Dear sisters and brothers,

I didn’t know what Teachers’ Day is until I saw in this morning’s newspaper that it is Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday. So I am happy to be here to celebrate his birth anniversary because, as I was telling these people, when I was a student in the Benaras Hindu University, he was my vice-chancellor, and of course I owe much to him for what I know of the Hindu religion. And I hope from somewhere he is watching us and giving you all his blessings.

The teacher of teachers, you know, is only God. The second teacher is the guru. The third teacher is your life. For those who have no access to God or guru, life teaches very capably, provided you take life as a lesson to be learnt, to be mastered, and from which we have to evolve into what I would like to call a knowledge-less universe or world, which Sahaj Marg calls the Brighter World. Unfortunately, we all treat life as something to be enjoyed. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Sahaj Marg, how many of you actually practice it, and how many of you read the literature — because Babuji’s messages from the Brighter World, transmitted to us and published in two volumes already under the title Whispers from the Brighter World, emphasises again and again this point that suffering is a blessing from God.

When I was first going to Europe after becoming an abhyasi, Babuji told me, “You have to give talks. Don’t talk of suffering because they will run away. The Europeans have no spine...” (excuse me, my apologies), but he said, “They have no spine for suffering.” They are afraid of the word. They are intolerant. All they can do is to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, not knowing that the philosophy of pleasure says, pleasure will turn to pain, in keeping with the old adage that everything turns into its opposite. And it goes on like a sine curve, you know — pleasure-pain, pleasure-pain, pleasure-pain. This wisdom if you don’t learn as teachers at least now (assuming perhaps wrongly that you haven’t learnt it so far and hoping with all the hope that I can hope for, that you will try to learn this philosophy), you will find that what teaches are the so-called sufferings, pains and difficulties that we overcome.

I see these movies where people are running like mad: marathons, jumping over obstructions, climbing mountains, diving from a hundred feet, swimming like fish. Because they don’t know what to do with the energies which should have been utilised in welcoming with a smile the problems of life, overcoming them with the inner strength that we have all got from God, and developing spiritually, morally. But we do all these things for pleasure. And the well-endowed nations of the West, they come back, have a beer, after that take a nice shower and perhaps, or why ‘perhaps’, generally indulge in a little romance and the day is over — well-spent as they think. My guru said, it is not well-spent at all. It is another day wasted in a human life which is very rare to get, because human life comes at the culmination of an evolutionary chain beyond which lies — what? — we don’t know yet. We are at the sort of meeting point between two dimensions: the physical, spatial dimension, space-bound, time-bound, samskara-bound, and separated from the higher dimension where there is no space, no time, no nothing.

So this is very much essential, you know, very, very essential that you should at least get familiarised with this concept, coming as we do today from a modern culture, so-called civilisation, where at the least sign of a headache for instance, you run for the aspirin bottle. They keep it ready in their handbag, in their pockets. “One or two?” “Two, for better effect.”

So you see, we must not run away from pain; at the same time you must not make the mistake of doing what some yoga cults have done, in deliberately inflicting pain on yourself, because that is against nature. Pain inflicted wantonly, unnecessarily, is a crime against nature. Pain refused when it comes to us is a crime against yourself. Pain accepted cheerfully (my Master always emphasises ‘cheerful’ —cheerful acceptance) is a gift which ennobles us, strengthens us and prepares for our onward march into future realms, wherever they may be.

Now this sort of education you must be prepared to pass on to the children you are teaching, in a subtle way. Do you have the strength to do it? Do you have the conviction to do it? I sometimes wonder how much conviction teachers bring to their job. Are they convinced that they are teachers? Are they convinced that they can teach? Do they love what they are doing, and do they love the children to whom they are trying to teach whatever they know? Because teaching is a matter of love. To me it is a love affair where we adopt children and treat them as our own and try to pass on to them whatever we can, wisely, knowing their shortcomings as children, knowing the difficulties that we ourselves faced when we stumbled in our various tasks and subjects, so that you have understanding of what the child is likely to face.

I have found in my experience that brilliant teachers are useless. They jump; they don’t understand the student body before them. They exhibit their own brilliance and they will say, “Four plus four — how much is it?” “Seven.” “Stupid, don’t you know four plus four is eight?” But those sorts of teachers, you know, they are far too many in this world. I had them in my school; I suffered silently and I watched some of my teachers suffer themselves, not so silently, much later. Because, if you can’t love children, you can’t love yourself. When you love children, not as “My child,” you know, “My son, my daughter,” not like that — all are mine. When you are able to love like that, you see yourself as you were as a kindergarten child, as a child in the fifth, as a child in the eighth, as a child facing its first board exam, the problems of teenage, you see yourself reflected at various stages of your life in each and every child. That is what we need in you all. I want you all to see yourself in what you are teaching. See in them the difficulties that you faced when you were being taught, and understand that the so-called stupid child in front of you is no more stupid than you were and has the same difficulty that you had, and must receive (if you were lucky) the same understanding from a good teacher that you received.

There is no use celebrating Teachers’ Days and all these funny things, you know. Teachers’ Day is every day. It is a celebration of life. It is a transmission of knowledge, of experience, and of the wisdom gathered by living life, not by enjoying life. When you enjoy life, you gain nothing except eventually satiation, boredom; and the search for more pleasure lands you in problems, into dangerous alleyways and byways of pleasure seeking and you are lost. So a teacher who is lost — what should I call him? He has been his own enemy. He has condemned himself to pain, to suffering, to shame, until — if you have all read the beautiful book The Picture of Dorian Gray — unable to face yourself, you run a sword through the picture and you find you are dead, because it is you.


So every time you castigate a child or punish a child or criticise a child, remember you are only — three fingers pointing at you, one there. And if the child should stand up and ask, if any child has the guts to ask, “Sir (or Miss), did you understand this when you were my age?” if you are honest, you would have to say, “No, I didn’t.” “Then, sir, how will you teach us?” “Because, my son (or my daughter), I have had thirty years subsequently in which to learn my subject. I have learnt humility and I have learnt to love.”

So I need the knowledge of what I am going to teach. I need the humility to know that I can never teach it as well as I should, and that while I am teaching I am also learning from you all. Isn’t it? That is humility, because learning never ends. And, I must have the courage to accept. Then such a teacher is loved. He becomes the darling of his students. They pass without knowing how they pass. They top the class without knowing how they do it. Because anything learnt with love, when it is taught with love… you know, as an arena in which there is love and not hatred, acceptance and not defeat. And this is natural growth into knowledge, and through knowledge into wisdom which I hope the school will be able to produce in the coming years. Teaching must be a visionary attitude. It must have behind it idealism that, “God has given me perfect souls in perhaps not so perfect bodies, with perhaps less than perfect brains, but I have been entrusted by Him with this job.” We are trustees and if I don’t fulfil my trust, I shame Him who trusted me, I shame myself who undertook the trust, and I am a shame to all that I have to do.

There is a beautiful novel by Nevil Shute called Trustee from the Toolroom. You must read it: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Trustee from the Toolroom (Nevil Shute) — how he fulfils a trust that he took upon himself. I don’t want to tell you the story. You must learn to learn while you are teaching. You must learn to teach while you are learning, and always know that it is a process of mutual exchange, a symbiotic relationship where I teach by learning and they learn by teaching perhaps me, what I should teach. When I see bewilderment on the face of a child, I should understand I haven’t done my job. When I see the face flower with understanding, I should thank God for giving me the capacity to have brought that smile to that face.

Discipline with love. If you have read Shakespeare, you know the famous episode concerning Shylock the Jew and Portia — justice administered with mercy. “You can take your pound of flesh but not one millionth of a gram more or less!” We cannot get away with our conscience intact by teaching less, and saying, “Oh, they can’t take it.” Who said so? There is nothing more beautiful than the human mind. You must all have seen the movie, A Beautiful Mind, about the life of Dr. Nash, who created game theory and won a Nobel Prize; who was crazy, and [yet] he did it. Crazy people are crazy, or thought to be crazy, only because they do things in a crazy manner; not necessarily peculiar as we say.

So we need understanding: Why is this child like this? Why is this child like that? If you are unable to understand children, which means you don’t love children enough to be able to understand them, then you should look for another profession. Teaching is not your metier, it is not your forte, though we come here to earn some pittance. It is my submission that no teacher who is worth the salt that he or she eats can be paid what is called ‘adequately’. There is no adequacy in teaching. In our old system in India when we had these Veda paathashaalas [schools where Vedic knowledge was imparted], as they are called, there was no money. The teacher was always, you know, in penury and he depended on his students. One brought an apple, one brought a banana, one brought some potatoes — that was what was called gurudakshinaa [teacher’s fees]. And they cooked and ate it together, they lived together. And there comes the question of what the guru should be, what the teacher should be. He must teach by example.

Teachers should not think that they teach only from what they have learnt and from the degrees that they have earned. Are you a good example to your children? Do you behave as you should — always cheerfully, always with understanding, always, you know, with a nod, “Yes, my son, there but for the grace of God, I am”? Are we able to set an example assuming that you are a double PhD and what not, post-doctor, experienced in psychology (mispronounced as ‘psycho’-logy by all Indians) — which means we don’t take the trouble to even learn what we are doing. “What are you?” “Psycho-logy M.A.” It jars on my ears, you know, when we learn and we don’t learn. We don’t learn; we just repeat parrot-wise something, enough to impress an examiner who is even less interested in you than in himself, and we get our degrees, our degrees to hang on the wall, our salaries. We are at the end of the year evaluated by a committee of bored people who assemble only to get the job done and to collect their travelling allowance, and they say, “Okay, okay. Oh, Susheela? I know. Sampath, who is he? Oh you know him, okay!” This is the sort of evaluatory tactics we adopt so that all the filters are bypassed, by — what? Matter which shouldn’t go up at all to the top.

Now I don’t believe that I am going to evaluate or I am going to permit the school to evaluate you in the traditional way. How many children from your class passed? Not relevant. I take the example of Albert Einstein who was a school dropout and who shook science by the foundation, sitting in his office, just by thinking, thinking, thinking — the greatest scientist after Newton, and all [by] sitting and thinking.

So the essence of learning is here [the head], the essence of teaching is here [heart]. With this you teach [heart], with this [head] they learn. But if this [heart] is lacking, this [brain] will not learn. Brain to brain there is no match; it is always through the heart. So you must learn, pray for a second. Look at your heart, pray — “Please, modify what I am saying to be what the heart should say and send it out,” and it will work. You never speak with your head. Always, whether it is love or hatred or responsibility, everything comes from here [heart]. Why don’t we use this properly? This [brain] is like a computer which has no morals, which has no ethics; this [heart] is something fine from which all ethical and moral principles must flow. We have to combine the two so that what I say, what I teach becomes in effect moral, ethical instruction.

We don’t need to go to churches and temples. Our classroom must be our temple. And what is it we can learn from? Shakespeare says in a famous passage — I can’t quote fully, but he says, you find instruction in everything that you see. If a geologist can pick up a piece of rock and say this comes from the Pleistocene or the Miocene age seventy million years ago, look at a fossil and say what life form it was fifty million years ago, can distinguish between sedimentary and igneous rocks and say therefore there must have been a volcano here — from mere pieces of rock, fossilised wood, fossilised insects, can we not do the same? So Shakespeare says, “Books in brooks, sermons in stones…” et cetera.

We must find knowledge that lies hidden in every event, in every object, in every situation, in every child. A child is a book that you must learn to open and read. You don’t need information about parents and society and culture. With love, everything is open. Without love, everything is closed.

I think I have already said too much. You are all intelligent people, educated people. I lack your education, but I have what I should have: I have patience and faith, and it is impossible to have patience without faith. It is the faith that this child will and must grow. If I do my job rightly, that gives me patience to wait. Otherwise we are like monkeys which tear apart the petals of a flower or rip apart the wings of a fly to see what is inside. Patience makes things unfold. That patience is what faith comes from, and the combination gives you what I think is love, which is like the heat of the sun making coconut plants grow, making flowers open, making bees buzz around and pollinate, and life goes on beautifully, splendidly, colourfully, generation after generation without human help.

So dear ones (if I may say so), I would pray that all of you instil this in your heart that we need a salary to live and exist by. Without it in today’s society, no child will bring you bananas and potatoes and cabbages. So you need something. For your needs you are entitled to demand from God; He will not let us down. But for your wants, as Babuji said, “You need food, but you are asking for aloo paratha [potato stuffed chapatti] and badam kheer [almond beverage] and what not.” A nice pizza with a triple topping — God does not know what is a pizza. God has never eaten aloo paratha. He says, “You want food? Here,” and it comes. Or like in the Indian tradition, mysteriously the stomach is filled without having eaten.

So you see — faith, patience coming out of faith, culminating in love which is the warmth of existence itself which creates the divinity itself in you where the Divine comes and says, this is a fit place for Me to reside in, and then He takes over the work and that is it.

So thank you for listening patiently. And I hope this school will produce, not what schools usually want to produce — so many IAS and so many IFS. I want people to have the wisdom of the ages with them when they leave the school, who have the patience which they learnt from their teachers, with the love that has passed between them, and who will remember their teachers even when they are dying and say, “There I learnt not so much the subject [but] how to love, how to have faith and how to be patient.”

Thank you.