In every civilization there have been a few who were concerned and desirous of bringing about good human beings; a few who would not be involved in sacred structures or reform, but who would not harm another human being; who would be concerned with the whole of human life, who would be gentle, unaggressive and so would be truly religious entities. In modern civilization throughout the world, the cultivation of goodness has almost disappeared. The world is becoming more brutal, harmful, full of violence and deception. Surely it is our function as educators to bring about a quality of mind that is fundamentally religious. We do not mean belonging to some orthodox religion with all its fantastic beliefs, its repetitive rituals. Man has always tried to find something beyond this world of anxiety, suffering and endless conflict.
In his search for that which is not of the world, he has invented, probably unconsciously, god and many forms of divinity, and the interpreters between himself and that which he has projected. There have been many interpreters, highly sophisticated, talented, learned. Historically from ancient of times this cycle has continued: god, the interpreter and the man. This is the real trinity in which human gullibility has been held. The world has been too much and each human being wants some comfort, security and peace. So humans have projected the essence of all this into an outside agency and that too we are discovering to be an illusion. Not being able to go beyond and above all the limitations of human struggle, we are returning to barbarism, destroying each other inwardly and outwardly.
Can we as a small group begin to think upon these things and, freeing ourselves from all the invented superstitions of religion, discover what is a religious life and thus prepare the soil for the flowering of goodness? Without the religious mind there can be no goodness.
There are three factors in understanding the nature of religion: austerity, humility and diligence.
Austerity does not mean reducing all of life to ashes by severe discipline, suppressing every instinct, every desire and even beauty. Outward expression of this in the Asiatic world is the saffron robe and a loincloth. In the Western world it is taking vows of celibacy, utter obedience and becoming a monk. Simplicity of life was expressed in outer garments and a restricted, narrow cellular life, but inwardly the flame of desire and its conflict was burning steadily. That flame was to be put out by strict adherence to a concept, to an image. The book and the image became the symbols of a simple life.
Austerity is not the outward expression of a conclusion based on faith but to understand the inward complexity, the confusion and the agony of life. This understanding, not verbal or intellectual, requires a very careful, watchful perception, a perception which is not the complexity of thought but clarity this clarity brings about its own austerity.
Humility is not the opposite of vanity, is not bowing one's head to some abstract authority or to the high priest. It is not the act of surrender to a guru or to an image, which are both the same. It is not the total denial, a sacrifice, of oneself to some imaginary or physical being. Humility is not associated with arrogance. Humility has no sense of possessiveness inwardly. Humility is the essence of love and intelligence, it is not an achievement.
And the other factor is diligence: it is for thought to be aware of its activities, its deceptions, its illusions; it is to discern the actual and the false in which what is actual is transformed into what it should be. It is to be aware of reactions to the world outside and to the inner whispering responses. It is not self-centred watchfulness, but to be sensitive to all relationship. Above and beyond all this is intelligence and love. When these exist all the other qualities will follow. It is like opening the gate to beauty.
Now I come back as an educator and a parent to my stumbling question. My students and my children have to face the world which is everything other than intelligence and love. This is not a cynical statement but it is so, palpable and evident. They have to face corruption, brutality and utter callousness. They are frightened. Being responsible (I am using that word very carefully, and with deep intention), how are we to help them to face all this? I am not asking the question of anyone but I am putting it to myself so that in questioning I become clear. I am greatly troubled by this and I certainly do not want a comforting answer. In questioning myself, sensitivity and clarity are showing their beginnings. I feel very strongly about the future of these students and children, and by helping them to use words, intelligence and love, I am gathering strength. To help one boy or one girl to be like this is sufficient for me, for the river begins in the high mountains as a very small stream, lonely and far away, but it gathers momentum into a huge river. So one must begin with the very few.