Home > The Book > 15. A Need for Proper Education

Chapter Fifteen
A Need for Proper Education

A brahmachari is one who practices brahmacharya — a word that has become associated mainly, over time, with sexual self-control, though its full and true meaning is "flowing with Brahma.” To flow with God, or divine inspiration, is to be in tune with the Lord in every aspect of one’s life.

Brahmacharya is also the first of the four classically designated ashrams, or stages of life: the student stage. The other three ashrams are grihastha (householder), vanaprastha (partially retired from worldly life), and sannyas (full renunciation).

There is therefore a special link between the first and the fourth stage of life. Both of them were specifically directed toward offering one’s life up to God: the first stage, in preparation for seeing Him as life’s true goal; the fourth, in devoting one’s life to the quest for liberation. The ashram system in India was specifically directed toward living in godly ways. It originated during a higher age, when the concept of life’s purpose was understood widely enough to become crystallized in an actual system. Though such is not nowadays the case, there is at least the possibility of creating examples within society where it can be practiced: in special schools, for example, where children can be educated in this system; and in separate communities, which members join with the conscious intention of living spiritually.

I should add that such schools and communities already exist. I myself have founded eight of them. In most of them, moreover, we already have “Living Wisdom” schools based on the principles expounded in my book, Education for Life.

Even our Living Wisdom schools, however, still need to introduce the concept of renunciation. Thus, although in a sense we teach the children to “flow with Brahma,” we have yet to introduce more fully the concept of renunciation, whether as tyagis, brahmacharis, or as swamis.

I suggest that it is time now to give serious thought to teaching the need for self-control before the growing adolescent finds himself trapped in habits that must, in time, ruin his life, or may at least make it very difficult to steer it in an upward direction.

Already in our Ananda schools we teach the need, and give reasons for, upholding higher values in life than the usual craze for money, fame, and worldly power. Even when a child desires these goals, he is taught to see them as a means for doing good in the world. Ananda children learn the benefits, to themselves, of including other people’s happiness in their own. They are taught the importance of self-control. And they learn, in addition, the value to themselves of all true virtues.

In national tests, our children usually score in the ninety-fifth percentile.

When they graduate or go to other schools, they invariably become outstanding students in their new situations, and often rise to become leaders, whether of the student body, or in the world.

Children at Ananda schools learn not to tamper with hallucinogenic drugs or with alcohol. They learn self-discipline, concentration, cooperation with others, and the importance of living by high spiritual ideals.

We have not yet been able strongly enough to emphasize sexual self-control. The importance of deep spiritual commitment is, I think, not so much taught as implied. I suggest that, in future, not only Ananda schools but schools everywhere include all these ideals in their curriculum. For as the children are raised, so does a society become.

I suggest that, in time, gurukuls(1) be created as in ancient India. It would be well, even today, for people to study that system and see which of its features might be adopted.

One thing I recommend is that boys and girls be separated during their adolescent years. Sexual awakening is a time of great emotional upheaval. A child needs to learn how to cope with new feelings that, with puberty, are virtually inflicted on him by Nature itself. Separation of the sexes can give the adolescent a chance to learn for himself how to handle the sudden, disruptive imperatives of his own body.

In my book, Education for Life, I state that each of the six-year periods of life leading to adulthood has its own specific needs. During the first six years, the primary need is to develop physical coordination. During the next six years, until the age of twelve, there is a need to channel one’s emotions rightly; from twelve to eighteen, the need comes to direct the will with discrimination; and from eighteen to twenty-four, the need is to hone and refine the intellect. Ideally, education should (and, in the actual school of life, does) continue to the age of twenty-four, after which time one has — as well as he ever will have — the tools to cope with objective reality.

The “will” years, from twelve to eighteen, are extremely important for inculcating in the growing child an understanding of how to use his will power for self-conquest, not for the conquest of others: how to rule himself, and not to impose his will on others.

An adolescent’s energy is often directed primarily toward making a conquest of someone of the other sex. A boy thinks, “How can I win her affection?” A girl thinks, “How can I best attract him?” It is important for both to learn not only the “facts of life,” but how to direct that knowledge upward, toward a higher understanding of the uses and abuses of the sex instinct. Sound reasons need to be given, to which the adolescent can relate intelligently.

Every generation considers itself the first ever to discover sex. Adolescence is a time of exaggerated ego-consciousness, arising from a heightened spirit of competition, which develops with puberty and the following “will” years. Teenagers may tend to be overconfident — almost ridiculously so — or just the opposite: to develop an almost pathetic sense of utter incompetence, and an ego-paralyzing inferiority complex.

I suggest even what, in some societies, has been called a “rite of passage.” This rite should be conducted for children of both sexes, and not only — as has been traditionally the case — for boys. Boys, especially, should be taught that what is at first pleasurable often ends in misery, if the energy is not brought under control and wisely directed. Girls should be taught that, while it is easy to attract boys with “feminine wiles,” they will lose the boys’ respect and will only, in the end, alienate them. Each should be taught above all to respect the other, and should be given good reasons not to view anyone in terms of conquest.

I suggest the rite be conducted by several adult (that is to say, truly mature) men or women — men, obviously, for the boys, and women for the girls. It could be a formal ceremony, at which every participating adult addresses some specific aspect of the meaning of true maturity.

There could then be a fire ceremony, into which the participating children symbolically cast their former expectations: that of being forever cared for and supported (emotionally and financially), and that of being childishly dependent on the will of others (of their parents, of course, especially). From now on, they’ll need to act, will, and think more for themselves. Teenagers have a natural tendency, anyway, to test the knife-edge of their will. It seems wise to help them to direct this tendency toward their own highest good.

Each child may then be given a token of his acceptance into this new phase of life: perhaps a yellow badge of some kind, which can be pinned on clothing as a constant reminder, especially to oneself, of the high principles that have been embraced.

The ceremony should consist of a prayer and a pledge. The prayer should be for divine guidance in one’s life, for God’s acceptance of one’s devotion, and for the grace to be able always to share with others whatever blessings one receives in life.

The fire ceremony should be accompanied by the Mahamrityunjaya mantra:

    Aum, triambakam yajaamahe sugandim, pushti-vaardhanam

    Urvaarukameva bhandhanaan mrityor mokshiya Maamritaat.

    (We worship the three-eyed One who is fragrant and who nourishes all beings.

    (May He liberate us from death and bring us immortality, even as the cucumber is severed from its bondage to the creeper.)

After repeating it three times, as a demand for liberation from all physical, mental, and spiritual karmas, the participants should cast a handful of rice into the fire to symbolize the burning of the seeds of their past karma.

The pledge, after an invocation to God and His great saints, may be as follows:

“I know that that action is best which most truly brings me happiness.

“I understand that I am happiest when I include the happiness of others in my own.

“I will seek always to be useful and helpful to others, to society, and to all mankind, and will try to find happiness not only for myself, but for everyone.

“I will always be grateful to my parents for the good they have given me, and will forgive them for any hurts, for I know that I myself will suffer most if I hold negative feelings in my heart toward anyone.

“I will treat my body as a temple of God, and will do my best to keep it clean and holy: as a place where I can humbly worship.

“I will try to live always by the highest ideals — for my own and for others’ happiness and well-being.”

After each verse in the above pledge, each participant should offer a small teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter) into the flames as a symbol of the purity of his intentions.


Chapter 16: A Vision for the Future


  1. Schools — generally, outdoors — in ancient India, where the teaching was on all areas of life, including spiritual practice, and was done by gurus or sages.
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Autobiography of a Yogi

A Renunciate Order for the New Age

Nayaswami Kriyananda

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