Ancient Wisdom – by Negeen Zinovieff

The truth is as old as the hills, Gandhi points out. In discovering the educational theories of the great master of Chinese philosophy, Confucius (born 551BCE), we find they are often similar to that of Gandhi who insisted that teachers should be role models for their pupils. How far this idealism can be practised is anyone’s guess.

By comparing Confucius to Gandhi I’m not in the least bit suggesting that Gandhi knew of Confucius’ writings. For Gandhi as for Confucius learning did not usually mean the accumulation of facts for their own sake, it meant the gathering of knowledge for the sake of guiding one’s conduct. The constant learning to which Gandhi and Confucius were devoted was the pre-requisite to achieving improvements in others. People must be impeccably moral.

Gandhi writes,

“The condition has been growing upon me that whatever is possible for me is possible even for a child”. (Trust in God, p13)

The relationship with the subconscious is important. The subconscious is the heart and knows more than the mind in certain cases. For instance, the subconscious of everyone knows it has a godhead but that she does not have a past life. So Mr X is a healthy being with a soul who has past lives and has not forgotten them all. It is outrageous to tell a person that in his or her past life he or she was illiterate and that is why he or she must suffer. The heart and mind are likened to a coin: on one side is reason, the other side the heart. Why teach a people that their sorrows come from a previous life? The poor psyche has enough problems consuming inadequate facts in his or her own culture without teachers insisting that the psyche has previous lives.

Confucius writes,

“The principle that education should be readily available to all who seek it follows naturally from the idea that all men are born equal in the sense that every man has the innate capacity to develop into a sage”.

Gandhi too believes that literacy in itself is no education. He writes that a child’s mind should not be cluttered with facts and figures.

“By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man – body, mind and spirit”. (The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, p.379)

Both Masters attached importance to culture, which enriches the whole person. Again Gandhi writes,

“I attach far more importance to the cultural aspect of education than to literacy”.

For Confucius too literacy was of no importance except in so far as it served the purpose of moral training. Gandhi says by spiritual training he means education of the heart.

“A proper and all round development of the mind, therefore, can take place only when it proceeds with the education of the physical and spiritual faculties of the child.” (Ibid p.378)

He continues to say that one is not mere intellect not the gross animal body, nor the heart and soul alone. A proper and harmonious combination of all three is required in the true making of the whole human person and constitutes the true recovery of education.

I studied philosophy of education at the Institute of Education (University of London) and they had no clue what the heart and soul implied and considered a human being as mere moral intellect. By culture one means the way of life and both Gandhi and Confucius knew how attractive morals are. Confucius thought that

“it was equally true that history’s purpose was to serve as a moral guide to present conduct”. (Confucius, Raymond Dawson, p.15)

Both Masters thought that the teaching of morals (by a strictly moral person) was the foundation of education. Therefore a person, says Confucius, who had shown himself to have learnt certain lessons could be described as “fond of learning”.

Gandhi emphasises that a child should learn a handicraft so he uses his faculties from an early age. Using the imagination is essential in educating people. Another common feature is that Confucius and Gandhi are against any violence and give different terms to a nonviolent way of life. Confucius says that ideally the enemy should be won over by a display of China’s superiority rather than being conquered militarily. (Ibid, p.15)

Gandhi believed the truth had been uncovered many times for humanity by saints and sages. Carl Gustav Jung believed in the collective subconscious. It is not really surprising that Confucius who is a Master should have approached the theme of education in the same way as Gandhi.

Negeen was educated in various universities in Russia, USA and Iran and is a writer.

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Categories: Spirituality & Religion


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