Child Teacher and Teacher Education - Notes relating to spiritual education

Notes relating to spiritual education

Notes relating to spiritual education

There are three respects in which spiritual education will differ from religious education, and as a consequence, will render it free from the objection that it is inadmissible or  controversial as far its relevance to common schools is concerned.

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First of all, spiritual education will build itself on strong foundations of physical, vital and mental education, without which the sources of spiritual education will remain dry and infertile.

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Secondly, spiritual education will combat dogmatism in regard to any theory or doctrine, -- scientific, philosophical, theological, religious, moral or aesthetic, -- and will admit critical inquiry and insist on continuous quest so as convert any belief, faith or hypothesis into verifiable knowledge and experiential evidence.

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Thirdly, spiritual education will provide to students, appropriate to their age and ability, acquaintance, thought and experience of the objects of the spiritual domain, namely, soul, God and their respective energies and powers.

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It may be added that all those who advocate spiritual education, normally, consider spiritual entities and their energies and powers to have supervening

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Notes relating to spiritual education

and integrating role in respect of the development of the body, life and mind, and would therefore regard the education of these elements (viz., body, life and mind) to be incomplete and inadequate without recourse to spiritual education and would therefore regard education in its very fundamental nature and principle as spiritual.

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In religious education, a special emphasis will be laid on the promotion of specific rituals and ceremonies and prescribed acts as the only means of approaching the domain of Spiritual Knowledge and experience. There will be also a special emphasis on providing those rational arguments which would favour the preferred belief or doctrine.

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In spiritual education, a special emphasis will be laid on eliminating or subordinating the role of rituals, ceremonies and prescribed acts and would thus liberate the processes from routines tied up with the institutional frameworks of any given religion. Thus, spiritual education would provide, only optionally, acquaintance with churches, temples, mosques, etc., and that, too, only as illustrative information about religion, without any intention or provision for advocacy of any adherence to any particular religion.

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In particular, spiritual education would lay emphasis on yogic disciplines which consist of exercises by which human consciousness can be trained to develop its normal operations so as to develop their actual and latent capacities and lead them to the perfection.

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Notes relating to spiritual education

The distinction of yogic disciplines is that they aim at the experiences of the processes, energies and entities of the spiritual domain, and insist on their methodised verification and repeatability.

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Finally, spiritual education would insist on developing and promoting research in spiritual knowledge by means of appropriate tests that would eliminate elements of subjectivity and exclusivism, in favour of objectivity and integrality.

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It is true that religions, when they are freed from the limitations of mechanical rituals and ceremonies and from the dogmatism of doctrines, beliefs and faith, lead to spirituality or experience or realisation of the energies, powers and entities of the spiritual domain, but this is not certain. More often than not, adherents remain confined to some sense of sacredness or sense of commitment or piety and nothing more, or even to confinement to the routines of rituals and ceremonies prescribed by religious authority.

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On the other hand, spirituality can also be attained through methods of yoga, which are based on constant processes followed by constant results and which may involve religious practices and beliefs, but which are not indispensable and which carry with them tests and methods of scrutiny by which authenticity, objectivity and truth-claims can be judged and verified.

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Notes relating to spiritual education

It is true that even in the field of yoga, exclusive claims of truth which reject the rival claims of truth are and have been advocated. But, in the field of yoga, on account of its methodology, the conflict among the rival claims can be combated and resolved by means of methods and disciplines of enlargement, integration and inclusiveness.

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Yoga librates the spiritual effort from the following limitations with which it is normally confined in religions:

  • Institutional framework, including the necessity of allegiance and obedience to the system of hierarchy of authority for judgement of propriety of right conduct and scriptural interpretation of truth of belief and doctrine.
  • Routine of rituals and the ceremonies.
  • Exclusivism of the doctrines or beliefs regarding the methods of the effort and the experiences to which these methods lead.

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Yoga insists in its methods on psychological refashioning of elements of consciousness in the individual, permitting each individual the freedom to develop on one’s own line of growth appropriate to one’s own psychological make-up, temperament and combination of cognitive, conative and affective elements as also appropriate to one’s own rhythm of growth and force of personality.

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Yoga demands no allegiance to any doctrine or scripture or any sanctioning authority. Even its

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tradition of knowledge of the truths, principles, powers and processes that govern the achievement, experiences and realisation is not indispensable.  For yoga can begin with a Word that can be heard by the individual within his own heart, and the required knowledge and guidance can grow within oneself, petal by petal, by the power of inwardly felt aspiration to know, possess and to the highest and the best. The commencement of yoga may come about by one’s own natural development; and one can reach it by the influence of a religion or the attraction of a philosophy; one may approach it by a slow illumination or leapt to it by a sudden touch or shock; one may arrive at it by a pressure of outward circumstances or by an inward necessity, by a single word that breaks the seals of the mind or by long reflection, by the distant example of one who has trod the path or by constant and daily influence. Yoga has no fixed gate for entry, and it admits hundreds of gates or alternative gates, and even a direct opening into the realm of experiences of the Soul and Spirit, of Infinity.

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The pursuit of Yoga follows methods of personal discovery or living repetition and possession of past discovery and working out of all the things found. Again, the methods of yoga are those of practical psychology, similar to those in physical sciences, and they are formed upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant result. Yoga depends upon this perception and experience that our inner psychological elements, combinations, functions forces can be separated or dissolved, can be combined and set to novel and

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Notes relating to spiritual education

formerly impossible workings or can be transformed and resolved in its new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. Yoga is an attempt to realise perfection of the being, -- psychological and physical – by devising self-conscious means and willed arrangements of activities and by ever-increasing expression of inner potentialities in a persistent and guided effort to untie our being with the divine reality and divine nature.

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There are several features in Yogic methods which are similar to those in religions.  In Bhaktiyoga, for example, there is an important role assigned,  not only to faith,  but also to prayer,  adoration and worship.  Rituals and ceremonies, too,  are not entirely excluded.  But the important point is that Yogic methods aim at living contact with the object of faith, prayer, adoration and worship.  Experience and realization of the Divine love and the perennial source of that love are to be experienced and realized.  Moreover, in Yoga,  there is constant insistence on consecration, discipline and purification,  renunciation and concentration of consciousness,  and there is a constant freedom to utilize methods of Yoga of Knowledge,  Yoga of Divine Will and Rajayoga and Hathayoga,  in accordance with the needs of each individual's temperament and complexity of consciousness. Even as a part of Bhaktiyoga, where faith plays a prominent role, doubt is not excluded.  Doubt too has a utility and necessity.  If doubt is excluded, one would remain obstinate in an ignorant belief and limited knowledge,  and one is unable to escape from errors. Ignorance and blindness in the faith

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Notes relating to spiritual education

are obstacles to a large success, invite much disappointment and disillusionment, fasten on false finalities and prevent advance to greater formulations of truth and perfection. What is needed is a great and wide spiritual and intelligent faith, intelligent with the intelligence of that larger reason which assents to high possibilities.

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            Even real religion, which is spiritual only begins when outward worship corresponds to something really felt within the mind, some genuine submission, awe or spiritual aspiration.  But so long as it is only an idea of the Godhead to which one renders reverence of homage, we have yet not got into the beginning of Yoga. The aim of Yoga being union, its beginning must always be a seeking after the Divine, a longing after some kind of touch, closeness of possession.  When this comes on us, the adoration becomes always primarily an inner worship; we begin to make ourselves a temple of Divine, our thoughts and feelings a constant prayer of aspiration and seeking, our whole life becomes service and worship. It is this new soul-tendency which is the heart of Yoga.  Outward worship may not necessarily be dispensed with, but it will increasingly become only a physical expression or outflowing of devotion and adoration, the wave of the soul throwing itself out in speech and symbolic act. In Yoga, there must be accompaniment of self-purification and this purification will be much more than moralist's seeking for the right and blameless action;  it is a constant effort to grow into likeness to Divine,  it is a constant effort of liberation from our lower nature so to change into Divine nature. 

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Notes relating to spiritual education

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            Prayer is often supposed to be a thing irrational and necessarily superfluous and ineffective. But prayer in Yoga is essentially an ardent aspiration, and it is a bridge of relationship between the individual soul and God. The prayer is not a bribe offered to God for favour, but it is a spontaneous breath of the soul in search of God, and this search receives response from God.  Every response of God to prayer demonstrates the effectivity of prayer.  The form that we normally give to prayer is not itself essential, so long as there are living vibrations of the will and aspiration. Prayer is only a joy of relationship with the Divine. At higher and higher reaches of Yoga,   one can reach the highest motiveless devotion, which is that of Divine love pure and simple without any other demand or longing.

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            In the process of spiritual education, all the methods of Bhaktiyoga have a place, provided two important conditions are fulfilled: one, external formalities are subordinated and are made optional; and secondly there is a constant pressure towards building up living relationship with the Divine, which can be tested,  verified and can be repeated. The important point in Yoga is that the object of Yoga is constantly emphasized, namely, union with the divine, and psychological change by means of which the faculties of body, life and mind are sought to be perfected.

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The central thrust of the critique of spiritual education is to demand justifiable epistemology and ontology of spirituality, and it rightly questions if formulations such as cultivation of inner space, search

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Notes relating to spiritual education

for meaning, spiritual quest and manifestations such as awe, wonder, mystery sensing can distinctly be equated with spirituality. It is true that these formulations, do refer to some of the preliminary steps that belong to the realm of spirituality, but we need to go farther so as to arrive at a clear precision. 

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The central issue in regard to the proposal for spiritual education is that of the truth claim of spiritual knowledge. Is there, it is being asked, a domain of reality distinctly correspondent to spirituality? Can that domain be known? Can there be evidence of that domain, and can that stand scrutiny of critical rationality?

Indeed, if spiritual experiences were a matter of sporadic occurrence or of a sudden momentary flash, - then, considering the variety of spiritual experiences and considering the conflicts in regard to the truth-claims of various spiritual experiences, one would have hesitated to assign much value to the realm of spiritual experiences. But the dismissal of the claims of spiritual experiences on the ground that they are occasional or extremely rare or riddled with conflicts turns out to be untenable in the light of the systematic body of knowledge with regard to spiritual experiences that has been developed over millennia by a large number of seekers in different parts of the world. Methods of spiritual seeking have been developed, and their assured results have come to be verified, repeated, reiterated and even expanded. In India, these systems have come to be grouped under the word Yoga, the connotation of which includes methodized efforts:

  1. which aim at self-perfection, and
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  1. which are marked by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being, as also
  2. which are claimed to lead to a union of the human individual with the universal and the transcendental Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the universe.

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According to Yoga, spiritual experiences, are in themselves not hazardous or accidental. There is always a psychological base for these experiences. Certain intensity in the being is a precondition; that intensity may pertain to the operations of thought or emotions or will, or even to some bodily condition or even to some subtlety of sense experience. Even if they seem to occur suddenly or without any conscious or willed psychological preparation, they are always connected with some secret processes of preparation of which the conscious mind may not be aware. Yoga goes farther and points out that spiritual experiences can be made to occur, even at will, by a conscious application of certain specific methods on a regular and sustained basis. During the long history of Yoga, methods have been developed, tested repeatedly, and the resultant spiritual experiences or supra-physical experiences have been tested; thus, as in science, so in Yoga these methods are formed upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant result. In India, Yoga has been recognized, and on account of millennia of experimentation, it has come to be regarded as shastra or science, which consists of the systematic body of the knowledge of the truths, principles, powers and processes that govern the spiritual experiences and

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Notes relating to spiritual education

spiritual realizations. This shastra has been built upon the perception and experience that our inner elements, functions, forces can be separated or resolved or they can be new – combined and set to novel and formerly impossible workings or can be transformed and resolved into a new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. Yoga is an attempt to realize psychological and physical perfection for our being by devising self-conscious means and willed arrangements of activity and by ever increasing expression of inner potentialities in a persistent and guided effort to unite our being with the divine reality and divine nature.

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Just as in science, we first observe the natural force of electricity or of steam and its normal occurrences or normal operations, and then we handle these operations scientifically by means of experimentation and willed arrangements, so that we can generate electricity or steam at will and in the measure of requirements, even so Yoga observes and deals scientifically with the ranges of the psychological being, and it arrives at the discovery and utilization of greater secrets of physical, psycho-physical and other higher realities. As in all true science, the object is an assured method of personal discovery or living repetition and possession of past discovery and a working out in full details of all the things found. As in science, so in Yoga, there is a high intention to hold the truth, the light found in our inner power of being and turn it to our power of being, our psychic self, our spirit, our self of knowledge and will, our self of love and joy, our self of life and action.

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Notes relating to spiritual education

There is a view that because the Spirit is other than and distinctive from Matter, Life and Mind, the former is also the negation of the latter; consequently, there is a view that spiritual education is the education relating to the Transcendental, and therefore of withdrawal from Matter, Life and Mind.

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This view is present in various religions of the world, if not in all of them, and if not equally prominently or predominantly. But there is in them also an ideal aspiration that has been expressed in the religious formula of the Kingdom of God on the Earth or of the City of God, -- a view which can be sustained only if God is not only transcendental and immanent, but also having a Will to be tied up with earth sovereign.

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It has also been argued by a number of educationists that school education has been designed all over the world, (and this is particularly true of the common schools in the modern world,) in order to equip the children to relate their selves with the universe, and specially with the planet earth, and to empower the children effectively and enjoy fruitfully activities on the earth, and it is for this reason that the idea of spiritual education is resented by them on the supposition that since spiritual education is transcendental in character, it will defeat the very purposes of the school education. They conclude, therefore, that spiritual education should have no place in school education.

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Notes relating to spiritual education

Undoubtedly, if spirituality has the only or ultimate message that the salvation of the earthly human beings is supra-terrestrial or supra-cosmic or acosmic, then school education which deals with the requirements of the terrestrial life, can at the best been only conceived as a preparatory programme, not as a necessary or indispensable programme.

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Indeed, spiritual education is in common schools would be justified as indispensable only if the spiritual is not only the culmination of earthly faculties and powers but also their condition of their fulfilment and perfection.

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Spiritual education would ideally consist of two processes. First, it would be a process of discovery, -- discovery of the soul and of the Supreme Divine of which the cosmos is a partial and evolving expression.

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Secondly, it would be a process of combining and reconstructing of the cognitive, affective and conative processes as a result of which inertia, on the one hand, and feverish activities, on the other, are so purified, balanced and enlightened that equilibrium and equality are so established that peace and self-existent bliss replace our transitory satisfactions which are besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering.

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It is in accomplishing these two processes that our entire psychological complex undergoes a radical change and we feel gifted with new faculties of cognition, affection and conation, and our personality

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Notes relating to spiritual education

comes to be guided by wisdom that is accompanied by courage and heroism to conquer the causes of injustice, and the motive of harmonisation becomes empowered by skills that can execute the needed works effectively and dexterously.

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It is acknowledged that this is a life-long process, and education that is given in the schools can only be a preliminary and introductory process. It is also acknowledged that in this process of progression, a time comes when there is, psychologically, a pressure to consecrate oneself to these processes entirely and whole-heartedly, and this is the time when the individual has to exercise will for the needed efforts which can be successful only if that will is truly free, autonomous and self-conscious.

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The implication is that the process of education must be so conducted that the individuals are constantly given opportunities to learn the experiences of freedom, and the entire process of progress in learning should be irrigated by the atmosphere of quest and discovery conducted in freedom that generates self-consciousness, self-criticality and self-determination that acts impartially, disinterestedly and luminously.

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It will be found that the educational processes will be the processes of widening, heightening and deepening of consciousness, and there will be a central attack on inertia, dualities of pressures of the narrowness of egoism and confusion, errors and half-lights. The process of spiritual education will, therefore,

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battle against this attack and the central experiences of spirituality will flower and the soul and the Supreme Divine and Divine Will are discovered and possessed by process of expansion, universalisation, union and knowledge by identity.

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Spiritual education will exclude no domain of knowledge, and humanistic, aesthetic, scientific and technological studies will all be encouraged in their fullness and in their interconnections. These studies will have sharpness and criticality, so that their boundaries are constantly expanded and knowledge is constantly remedied of its partialities, angularities and errors.

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In this integral vision of spirituality, Spirit is not only transcendental, but all here, the cosmos in its totality is the manifestation of the Spirit. Thus, there will be no barrier between the knowledge pertaining to this cosmos and the knowledge that pertains to the Spirit.

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This will justify the recent trends on education towards the education of the whole child, integral education and interdisciplinarity. The only deficiency is that of a programme that can foster these trends with the needed focus and centrality. We need a programme for integral development of personality that will foster value-oriented education, skill-oriented education and that will introduce to the students the connections between values, skills, and interdisciplinary information, knowledge and wisdom,

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which will unite science, philosophy, humanistic studies, art and spirituality. That minimum introductory programme may be tentatively regarded as a programme of spiritual education in common schools.

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In practical terms, what does spiritual education amount to?

Discover of Soul and God and His Power and Attributes:

These are not to be manufactured; but they are to be discovered, and manifested in our surface consciousness of the mind, life and body.

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The child does not have mental capacity to think about them, but the child has a remarkable sensitivity to feel the Soul and God.

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The child is sensitive to affection, care, attention, warmth and assurance of security, whenever needed.

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Here the role of the parents is of paramount importance. For parents can provide affection, etc.

There are, however, occasions, which require special treatment, and where ideas regarding Soul and God, articulated in the form in which children can understand, can be transmitted to them.

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For example, one of the occasions is when the child confronts darkness and is seized with the fear of the unknown.

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Words such as the following can be very comforting:

“In your heart is a light, a fire that can never be extinguished. Allow the light to radiate all around. Darkness will do no harm to you.”

“In you and all around you is the Presence of all-loving God, your Protector and your Friend. Call Him, and He will protect you. Darkness will do no harm to you.”

Indeed, this is a process of invoking FAITH and a belief in the Soul and God.

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Is invoking Faith irrational?

Is nourishment of a belief unjustified? Is it indoctrination?

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Invoking Faith would be irrational, or non-rational, if Faith cannot be sought to be transformed into experiential and verifiable and repeatable knowledge.

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But Yoga affirms that there are methods by the practice of which Soul and God can be known.

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Hence, our next step should be to introduce to the children, as early as that can be practicable, to the ideal of practices of concentration, of heroic courage and prayer in humility by which one can be put on the path to know the Soul and God.

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For example, we can narrate or present to

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children:

But between the first step and the second step, many other things can be done:

            (a)       Stories                        With themes of Help in Darkness
            (b)       Songs                          and Loneliness can be very useful.
            (c)       Poems
            (d)       Film Strips                

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There are also Fairy Tales or Tales of help from invisible beings.

(In our times, stories of this kind are discouraged. But these stories have in them spiritual truths, which can be verified in deeper experiences.)

(This is the reason why
            Myths
            Legends
            Fairy Tales and
            Folklore have thrived and will continue to thrive.)

In today’s world, children will, sooner than later, come to hear comments such as:

“These stories are not true.
There are no fairies.
There is no God. Science does not believe in God, and we need to be scientific.
These stories are imaginary.
Miracles do not occur. Stories of miracles are all false. Do not believe in them.”

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Let us not be disheartened by these comments. But explain to the children:

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Notes relating to spiritual education

Many of these stories are SYMBOLIC, and how even in Science, we use symbols like 3+b = 5, where b symbolises 2.

Discuss Symbolism, if the children can endure the discussion.

Explain that

MIRACLES do occur and all experienced and mature people have experienced miracles.

(Historically, true stories of miracles are those of JOAN OF ARC.)

Science should be encouraged, and children shall be encouraged to understand how Yoga utilises proven methods for verification, and how superstitions, dogmas and mere beliefs shall be sought to be tested by the methods of Yoga.

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