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
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
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
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
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.