Spiritual education: Foundation for true education

by Expat Life

by Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, MD., MRCPsych (UK)

Former Minister of Education. Thailand

This paper is about spiritual education as applied to the modern concept of the true education. The word Education is derived from the Latin root Educere, which means to bring out what is inside. What is it that has to be brought out? Every form of knowledge and capacity is latent in us. We are endowed with all types of potentialities – physical, mental, and spiritual. The true aim of education is to make explicit the innate powers of humans. There are two types of knowledge: one relates to the knowledge of external world, and the organ that manifests this power is the head (brain). The other relates to the “internal world” and the organ that enables one to bring out the inner knowledge is the heart. The former relates to physical existence while the latter to the mental and spiritual realms. Life will become ideal only when both these types of knowledge are made to manifest in harmony. 

Spiritual education is defined as inner study of humans: it is the study of what is beyond the mind – in order to discover our real Self. There are two kinds of study: inward looking and outward looking. The information that we learn by rote is the outward looking study. On the other hand, taking our studies into your heart, feeling its fullness and experiencing it is the inward looking study. These have been differentiated by the terms: Education and Educere.  All ancient wisdom traditions have one thing in common: Man, know thyself.  We are taught by ancient wisdom traditions that in the depth of the mind we will find our inner Self, our real Self and we are all sparks of the same Self.

True education

True education, Educere, is the inward journey because it is the type of education that will help us discover our real Self. The word Educere means to bring out that which is within. Educere means to bring out human values. Human values are hidden in every human being. One cannot acquire them from outside; they have to be elicited from within. ‘To bring out’ means to translate them into action. The fundamental principle underlying the ancient wisdom traditions is: The source of all knowledge and experience is really within our own inmost Self. Within the heart lies the hidden splendorous truth of both heaven and earth. All we need to do is to go within and tap this “knowledge” and experience. This is true education or Educere.

The path from body to mind to the Self

The most comprehensive and coherent steps, as described in most ancient wisdom traditions, are: The inward journey from body to mind to the Self. Here is the path:

  1. We start, in our waking state, with the physical body. We have to prepare our physical body well so that it is conducive to our inward journey. We have to provide the body with the right type of foods, water, air and exercises. Imagine what a wonderful machine our body is and we do not know how to operate it and make the best results out of it. We must use our bodies intelligently, to promote the welfare of ourselves and others; use them with moderation and with the idea of loving service to the community, to all.  
  2. Educere will have to deal with how to educate ourselves about right breathing: right awareness, rhythm, rate and depth. We have to train ourselves, and the young, on how to regulate our breathing. Activities like devotional singing and prayers are useful in promoting the awareness and rhythmic breathing. 
  3. Once we have prepared the ground work for the body, the next step is of utmost importance: the control the senses: both perceptive and action sense powers. The principles of training the perceptive senses are: to train the eyes to see the right things, ears to listen to the right things, etc. For action senses, the most important is right speech. We have to speak only what is true, kind and necessary. Only then will our eyes attain sacred power by which we will be able to visualise the Self. 
  4. We will now be ready to deal with the mind. The main function of the mind is to direct, focus and sustain attention. The mind should be trained to turn away from the senses and turn within to focus on the Self. The Kingdom of Heaven is within; the real knowledge worth knowing is within. Therefore, we should direct our mind to focus within on the real Self. This process is called concentration and gradually it will move to contemplation which will finally give way to meditation. When we engage in this concentration, the two main obstacles, dullness and distraction, tend to overcome us. When we try to be silent and practice concentration to listen to the Song within, we either fall asleep or let the mind wander. But with constant practice, the Divine Song will be louder, clearer and sweeter. To be free from dullness, we have to be intensely alert and at the same time eliminate all causes of distraction by paying utmost attention to the task at hand. Distraction can be overcome by devotion to the object of concentration. The path of selfless action helps us tackle dullness and the path of devotion is the best remedy for the distraction of the mind. In concentrating one’s whole mind on the Self within, one can be so fully conscious as to exclude all other thoughts and feelings. The Self transcends the mind; therefore, the mind cannot understand the Self. The mind can only look to the Self, period.
  5. Interior to the mind is the ego. Ego is the fabricated I. It is the false sense of the real I. We can practice transcending the ego by consulting our discriminatory faculty. We must not identify with our ego. We have to be selflessly engaged in service activities, seeing them as a “training ground” to eliminate our egoism. We have now made our journey inward far enough to listen to our real Intelligence. Practice listening to the conscience. Be calm. Listen to the inner voice. Contemplative prayers accelerate this process.
  6. We will now move to be centred on the Self. It is no different from Love. Love becomes the guiding principle of our life. If we stay focused on the centre of our being, Love and Joy spontaneously radiate from our being. We start to develop equal vision of seeing the Self in one everyone. If we hurt others, we hurt ourselves. We realise that we are one with all. 

True education or Educere is a gradual unfolding of our inner consciousness; in other words, it is the process of bringing out the inner knowledge and values. It is comprehensive and scientific in that it can be tested by anyone who cares to explore his or her consciousness and to practise the above steps diligently.

Summum bonum

The ultimate result of Educere is that our true nature spontaneously manifests. We are awake, all loving, despising and fearing none. We know the Self and are no different from the Self. We become ultimately come to the final stage of Self-realisation. We see our real Self in everything. Everything is divinely beautiful. When we behold the primordial beauty of everything in the universe, everything is an unending radiant of Joy and Love. This all inclusive, all pervading Beauty is not merely an exercise in creative imagination. It is the actual vision of the universe. At this stage, it is not something we have to put an effort to imagine, because it is the actual awareness. Every object is an object of luminous Beauty there is only the Self, in all His or Her radiant wonder. All the good and the evil, the very best and the very worst, the virtuous and the devious, each and every one, are absolute manifestations of the Self. We will realise That. 


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