“Every child is potentially the light of the world—and at the same time its darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance.”
A group of children laughing and bantering come walking in a large group down the street in a bustling neighborhood. Picking bright yellow flowers from a wild bush on the way, they bring them to the home of a young mother who teaches them each week about spiritual qualities. After greeting their teacher boisterously, they put a mat out and decorate the center of it with the flowers, quickly quieting down as they ready for prayers. They chant several prayers together by heart in loud, earnest voices and then the teacher helps them to start learning a new one. They sing a song and discuss a quotation from the sacred writings about trustworthiness before listening attentively to a story in which this quality is practiced. They play an active cooperative game and then settle into an almost meditative state while coloring a picture related to the quotation they learned.
The teacher, though initially struggling with helping the children to get into the rhythm of the class, now finds that there is no need of traditional harsh discipline to encourage the students to adopt appropriate behavior; the atmosphere is permeated by love, cooperation and mutual respect, and the children’s consciousness of what it means to lead a spiritual life is deepening. When they go home, the children share their pictures with their families and the teacher encourages their parents to help them maintain the habit of praying every morning and evening, even to hold devotional meetings in their homes.
Thousands of such scenes unfold across India every week as local youth, men and women arise to open their homes and serve as teachers of classes for the moral and spiritual education of children in their own neighborhoods. In the classes, rather than focusing on just knowing about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, emphasis is placed on the development of spiritual qualities and the beliefs, habits and patterns of conduct that enrich a person spiritually. Efforts are made to cultivate a consciousness among a larger swathe of the population in a given neighborhood or village so that all of the members of the community can work together to reinforce what the children are learning.