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Volume III - The Art of Personality

Part I - Education

Chapter IV


The age between thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen years is the time when childhood is ending, and it is the beginning of youth. On one side there is the urge of youth and on the other childhood ending; it brings about an inner struggle in the child. The child is neither a youth nor a child, and therefore there is a struggle in its being. That is why some children appear to be very nervous at that time. This age is the period of Kamal, the period of inner conflict. And when the guardian is unaware of this inner conflict, he will find in the child a very troublesome element showing itself in many forms: but when the guardian understands that this time in the life of the child is a time of conflict, he will treat it differently. It is the time when the child must be handled most carefully. A child will show moments of passiveness and moments of activity. At times the child will show presence of mind and at other times it will be absentminded. The mind of the child is beginning to form at that time, and the foundation of the mind is being laid in that period.

In the period of Kamal three aspects of knowledge should be taught to the child: the knowledge of the land, of the water, and of the sky. The knowledge of the land is the knowledge of what is produced in the land, in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms. The knowledge of the water is of the creatures that live in the water, the dangers of the water, and the way men travel and have traveled over the sea. The knowledge of the sky is about the stars and planets, the sun and moon and the effect of wind and storm. The reason why this particular knowledge should be given at this time is that the mind is not yet definitely formed, and it should be based from the beginning on wide lines, in order that a wide building may be created on that foundation.

At that time, it is better to help the child, whether boy or girl, to keep a passive rather than an active attitude, because it is the time of absorption and not the time of expression. By urging a passive attitude upon the child one will only make it uncomfortable; but by cultivating that attitude gently, without allowing the child to know it, one will prepare the soil of its mind for a better purpose. It is, however, a difficult problem. One can cultivate a passive attitude in the child by trying to attract its interest to one's words and one's actions.

It is not desirable to force the development of spiritual tendencies in early youth; but it is desirable to help develop what little spiritual tendency there is.

Youth is the time for definite religious education. If that time is past, then a person is always shy of taking part in religion. However much attracted he may be to religion and to the religious ideal, he feels awkward and shy about it, and he does not come forward to take his part in it. One may ask if it is better to bring a child up first in one religion and to make it acquainted with other religions later on, or to teach it from the beginning that all religions are one. First the child must know one religion in order to know all religions. If it has not come to understand one religion it will not come to the understanding of all religions. Broadness is the result and not the beginning. If you make a person too broad in the beginning, in the end he will become narrow.

The culture of the mind has five different aspects. First, thought and imagination. Thought is one thing, and imagination is another. Very often people confuse these two words. Thinking is an automatic action of mind, there is no will power behind it. Therefore the dream is an imagination; only it is called a dream because it is more concrete; when a person is asleep and the senses are closed there is nothing but the imagination before the mind. But in the case of imagination in the waking state there is on one side imagination and on the other side the action of the five senses, and then imagination plays a passive part.

In helping the child to cultivate thought and imagination one may also make a mistake. Once I visited a school of thought-culture. They had made a new system, and I went to see it. There were ten or twelve children standing, and the teacher said, 'Look, what is there here?' There was nothing but a plain board before them. One child says, 'A lily'. The teacher says all right.' To another child he says, 'See, what is here?' The other child looks and says, 'A red rose.' The teacher is satisfied. And to the third child he says, 'See, what is here?' The child says, 'It is a pink rose', and again the teacher is satisfied. And then he asks another child to tell what is there, and the child says, 'I do not see anything'. I thought to myself, 'He is the one who has some sense, for he did not tell a lie.'

Now, what good will it do to the children, who say whatever comes into their heads, but have seen nothing? It is only making them imaginative and after that, what? Only worse; and after that still worse. The fate of these ten or twelve children will be the worst fate. Imagine them learning for five or six years this kind of thought-culture, by which they allow their imagination to run freely and believe that they see what they have imagined with their eyes on the board! It can only led to what might be called mediumistic culture.

The right way of helping the imagination of the child is to direct its attention to all that is beautiful, and then see what it would like to add to it to complete the beauty, be it the beauty of line, of color, of notes, or of rhythm, be it the beauty of idea, beauty of action, or beauty of meaning. In this way the child's imagination could develop. If one asks the child, 'What would you do in this situation?' 'What would you do to make it more beautiful?', in this way one helps develop its faculty of imagination.

But then comes the question of how to develop a child's thought. The thought of a child cannot be developed by getting it to think on love, or on kindness, or goodness, or anything like that. As soon as the child is given a thought to hold on to it feels uncomfortable, uneasy, just as a mule would feel the burden on its back. The best way is to find out what it is thinking of and to strengthen that thought, if the thought is desirable.

For example, a child said to its guardian, 'I would like to have a magic wand. Where would I get it?' The guardian said, 'If you had a magic wand what would you do with it? The child answered, 'I heard that if a person has a magic wand, he has only to wave it and everything will come.' So the guardian said, 'What do you wish?' At first the child hesitated, because he felt very shy about telling his wish, but in the end he expressed his wish. As soon as the guardian knew he said, ' You do not need a magic wand; the wish itself is a power if you can think about it.' The child said, 'I always think about it.' The guardian said, 'Think about it still more.' It is not giving a child a new thought, but just strengthening its thought. From that moment the child who was looking for a magic wand thought the magic wand was in itself; that if it thought about the magic wand it would get what it wanted.

A child always has a good memory, but it acts only in things it is interested in. Where the child has no interest it will not remember. It does not mean that it cannot remember, but that it will not remember. It is not a mistake of the child's memory, but it is the mistake of those who force upon its memory something that will not stay there. And very often the greatest mistake of school-teachers is that they force upon the mind of the child something in which it is not interested, that it does not want to look at, or think about. How cruel it is that in order that the child should pass an examination, its mind should be forced and urged to hold an idea which it is not capable of holding! The best way of developing a child's memory is to give it something it remembers, likes, and is interested in, and to ask the child about it, to take an interest in it oneself and to keep that flame burning.

Many children do not like the study of mathematics. If it is not their temperament. If it is not in their nature they will not like it. Mathematics are easy for those who have that temperament, who are born with that tendency; but there is another tendency which is quite opposite to figures, to mathematics.

When a child is interested, for instance, in poetry, and yet cannot remember it, this shows that it has no concentration. But that will improve by giving the child a greater interest in poetry, and encouraging it to read more and recite it, and by showing appreciation of what it does. Very often a guardian is interested in telling a story to a child, but is not interested in hearing that story from the child. But this is a great training if one can do it; if having told a story to the child one asks it to tell the story again after three months, and then sees how its memory works. In this way memory can be developed.

Some children have the reasoning faculty developed in them and others do not. But this is a faculty upon which the future of the child depends, upon which its whole life depends. Where the reasoning faculty is not developed there is always a danger for its life. It can be easily cultivated in the child by asking questions for and against everything: if it must be, why it must be; and if it must not be, why it must not be; and sometimes quite the contrary question. When a child says, 'This is right', it must be asked why it is right; if the child says, 'This is wrong', it must be asked why it is wrong. The guardian must take the same attitude that the child has, always asking why, instead of letting the child ask why. The guardian must become a child and ask why of everything; and in this way reasoning is developed. Any child that shows the quality of reasoning has the promise of a wonderful future before it.

It is not always advisable to play with children's emotions. Often it might be a pleasure to the guardian to see how the child is affected by a certain thought, a certain word. But by doing this one weakens that faculty. The best thing is to keep the feeling of the child untouched, in order that this deepest faculty may still grow deeper and stronger, so that when the child comes to the age when its emotion must show itself, it is perfected.

In the culture of mind the most important problem is the thought of 'I'; and this thought develops very strongly in a child of thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen. It is very keen about saying I and my. And if this faculty is softened at that particular period in childhood, while the child is growing up, it will be much better. This faculty shows itself especially when the child is cross, when it is in a temper, when it wants to defend itself, and when it wants to express, 'This I own, this is mine, and nobody else must touch it, and nobody else must take it.' At such times it must be softened. At thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen, the child is more thoughtful, and if at times of anger there is an effort made by the guardians to help it to look at things rightly and from their point of view, it is easier at this time than it was in early childhood.


Youth is divided into three parts. Thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen years are early youth; sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen, the middle part of youth; nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one complete youth.

There is a tendency on the part of guardians to encourage the development of a youth in whatever direction he chooses to take. But to encourage a youth in any direction is like urging on a very energetic horse which is already running very fast. What a youth needs most is not encouragement; what he needs most is balance. The tendency of a youth, both in the right direction and the wrong direction, may prove unsatisfactory in the end if his action is not evenly balanced.

There are two important things to be considered by guardians in the development of the youth. One is that very often guardians think this is the same child who used to be a baby and a little child running about, and they go on treating the youth in the same way as they have done before. They underestimate his comprehension, his maturity of mind, the development of his spirit. And in this way very often they delude themselves. And then there are others who take the opposite course. When the youth begins to say things that show a greater intelligence, they believe that they can tell him anything and everything, without waiting for the appropriate time to mention a certain thing, a certain idea. And therefore mistakes may be made both by considering a youth to be an experienced person, and also by considering him to be still a child that does not know anything.

It is mostly the education of the home, if it is not given properly, that spoils a youth. The time of youth is a time of nervousness, of restlessness and of agitation. If the education given at home recognizes antagonizes the youth, he is spoiled forever. If the good opinion that he had before of his guardians is changed, then youth is the time when guardian and child become estranged. Youth builds a wall between the guardian and the growing child. The growing child finds consolation with friends, with neighbors, with acquaintances, who sometimes take advantage by saying, 'Yes, you are right. Your people at home do not understand you. It is a great pity, it is a shame'. And the great opportunity of making the link with the youth more strong is lost by the guardians who do not understand this situation properly. A child who shows friendship, response and the feeling of comradeship with the guardian during his youth, will be a great friend all his life.

It is like training a horse. There is a certain time when a horse learns to obey, but if at that time the trainer makes a mistake, that mistake remains forever in the horse. And if at the time of maturity of its mind, when the horse is beginning to respond to the trainer, it is given a right direction, then all through life that horse works rightly.

Some guardians show their helplessness in not being able to control a youth, and criticize the youth who is not under their control and does not listen to them. They think it is hopeless, that the youth is spoiled, and that he has gone out of their hands. They help the child very little, because they are only conscious of his bad points. And by showing their dissatisfaction they do not help the youth, they spoil him. The guardians need not be severe with the youth, they need not be too firm, nor too pessimistic in regard to his advancement. The more they trust him and the more they have confidence in themselves, the more they are able to help the child. Nothing helps more than trusting in the good points of youth, appreciating them, and encouraging him in that direction.

There are, however, others who out of their love and sympathy spoil the youth. They pour out so much love and sympathy that it blinds them in what they are doing. Also, the child is not meant to be forever with the guardians. What will happen when the guardian is not there and the child has to face the world? Everybody will not spoil him, everybody will not give sympathy; and then the life of the child in the world will become wretched. Often children who happen to be the only child of their parents or in the family, and who are much cared for and receive much sympathy and love, become so spoiled that the very sympathy and love that has been given them proves to be a bitter pill. They never receive it again in life, and all through life they suffer for it.

It is wiser for the guardians to make a point of decreasing the strong hold that they had on a child as it grows to become a youth. But how can they decrease it? Just as a rider makes the rein looser and looser, but gradually. Those who do not understand this have kept it firm in childhood, and then in youth have let it go. But it must be loosened gradually, and it must be loosened on the lines of the child's development. At every step forward in the development of personality, of humanity, one must trust the youth and give that much more freedom of thought and action, yet holding the rein and keeping it firm, being conscious of the responsibility of the guardians to help the youth through that most critical period.

The best way of helping the youth is to give him desirable impressions of conditions, of situations, of personalities, and in this way, by giving him impressions, to let the child learn by himself without being taught in words.

There is a story of a father who saw that his young son had a tendency to certain vices. He told him often to keep away from them but the boy would not listen. He did everything in his power. In the end, when he was dying, he called his son and said, 'Now I will never tell you anymore not to do things that you have always liked to do. But will you remember the last words of your father, that whenever you want to gamble you must gamble with greatest gamblers, and whenever you feel like drinking you must drink with great drunkards.' The son thought these last words more desirable than anything he had heard from his father before. And when he went to gamble he began to ask people, 'Who are the great gamblers in the city?' They said, 'Great gamblers are not to be found in gambling houses. You must go and look for them outside the city.' So when he had heard their names he went there. He found that they were playing with pebbles, because they had lost all the money they had. And he said, 'I have heard about you people, and here you are playing with pebbles. I thought you would be playing for millions of pounds!' They said, 'No, we played for millions and now we are playing for pebbles. Come along, if you wish to play with us. We have nothing more left.'

He got a lesson from this and he said, 'Nothing doing in this direction. Now I must go somewhere else to find great drunkards.' And the people in the city gave him two or three names of well-known drunkards and he went there. He did not find any bottles, any drink, nor anything. And he said to them, 'I have heard your names. Everybody talks about you. You are great drunkards. But there are no bottles. What are you drinking?' They said, 'All the money we had was spent in drinking. No money is left. We have now some snakes. When we want to drink we let the snakes bite us. That gives us a kind of intoxication. If you like we will bring a snake for you.' And he ran away and never came near them again. That gave him another lesson.

The education of youth depends mostly upon impressions. Sometimes you may make a youth read books that will not help. And sometimes you may tell the youth fifty times or a hundred times, 'This is right', 'This is not right', 'This is not good', and he will never listen. But once you show him the phenomena, the example of what you are saying, and let the youth see with his own eyes what are the effects of different causes, then the teaching is given in an objective way; and in this manner wise guardians educate a youth.

checked 18-Oct-2005