Developing Spiritual Understanding
Human beings are endowed with spiritual capacities. An understanding of the spiritual, positive values and virtues provides individuals and societies with moral accountability, which is the basis of human integrity. A spiritual foundation, irrespective of a person’s religion or values system, provides a deeper context to a child’s activities, be they academic, physical, social, or in time, professional. Such a focus helps children develop universal values and virtues such as trustworthiness, compassion, humility, courage, kindness, and patience in an effort to assist them to expand their ability to better perceive, participate, experience, empathize, and comprehend the world around them.
Spiritual understanding can combine with reason to transform rational thinking and material growth into a continuous stream of self-improvement and aid spiritual as well as material progress.
There is a natural connection between science and spirituality as two important yet connected vehicles for the discovery of the world and its inner realities. Children need to learn to appreciate both. Mere knowledge of ideals and principles is not enough; there is a need to translate these ideals into action.
All human beings, Bahá’u'lláh states, “have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”
A school can teach universal spiritual values without infringing on the individual identity of religions. In a Education for Protection and Security, values clarification goes a step beyond critical analysis and intellectual appreciation by connecting it to volition and a desire to excel.
Such an education puts greater emphasis on the discovery of the inner realities of life rather than only its outer, more visible aspects. A human being can be compared to a tree. When the inner roots are strong, the outer tree will be also. By giving more importance to inner over outer aspects, the foundation becomes strong. As a Jesuit Priest once said: “Give me a child for his first seven years and I’ll give you the man.”
Children moulded in such a school environment also have a greater sense of purpose. They are more respectful, compassionate and conscious individuals, and they are more motivated to serve their communities through their careers and professions. Through good counsel and modeling of these virtues and values, a school community can transform the lives of individuals, the family and society. In such an education, teachers aim to exemplify the values and virtues they teach and the school organizes its material and human resources for the best and highest possible development of a child´s spirit.
Create a Climate of Encouragement
A child’s spirit is nurtured by an inspiring school environment. The future of humanity rests upon what kind of environment is provided within the four walls of a school. The soft side of education, the school ethos, has a profound impact on the psychology of a child. It nourishes his inner spirit. Just like our spirit is attracted when we walk into a temple, a church or into nature, so likewise a child’s spirit is attracted as s / he walks into school. Schools need to create a new culture and provide a new climate of encouragement.
At CMS, daily prayer-assemblies are well planned to be spiritually nourishing. The integration of All Religions Prayer before the commencement of every event is an innovative way to teach tolerance for difference and create awareness of and reverence for all religions. Students attired in traditional costumes of each religion render their special prayers one group after the other. The melodious prayers performed in an atmosphere of reverence make contact with the deeper emotions of a child and address their spirits most profoundly.
In a Education for Protection and Security, particular care is taken to teach children respect for all religions. Values are inculcated through all activities of a school, by their integration in all subjects and through carefully implemented family education programs. One test of success of such an education is that children have an inclination for things spiritual and they aspire to become ‘good’ people. They exhibit a set of personal values and they appreciate the importance of their spiritual lives. They also desire to lead conscious lives.
At CMS, values are taught in a non-intrusive way to a religiously diverse student body from the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Baha´i, Parsi and other faiths. This has been an incredibly complex task but the CMS experiment has been successful in implementing this new approach to teaching values. It has researched many concepts and perfected several methods over the years for the development of spirituality in children, maturing in its ability each year to build tolerance, acceptance and respect for diverse beliefs and viewpoints, to appreciate the other and to lead virtuous lives. Thereby, CMS has been able to prepare several generations of children and their families for the goals of peace and unity. This awareness has given rise to a non-sectarian yet spiritual approach to education.
Parents of different faiths who were initially opposed to such practices by CMS, now greatly appreciate the spiritual focus their children receive. Many parents enroll their children at CMS precisely because of the school´s stress on inculcating values, prayerfulness and thankfulness and for putting highest emphasis on the development of a child’s spiritual reality.
From All-Religion Prayer Ceremonies to the daily discourses on education and spirituality on cable television and radio, CMS expands its circle of influence to its parents and to society at large. These discourses serve as frequent reminders against religious and communal factionalism. CMS has thus influences millions of people nationally to the goals of harmonious living and peaceful coexistence.
A New Responsibility and an Expanded Role
A school should lead others in society. As parents are increasingly unable to provide spiritual nourishment to the young child as they once did, schools must take on a new responsibility. They must both set and meet new standards of ethical conduct. By demonstrating the effectiveness of this Education for Protection and Security, CMS has not only become a valuable experiment, it has also helped hundreds of thousands across the globe acknowledge the importance of spiritual education in the schooling process.
It is true that education can determine whether a child will become potentially the light of this world or its darkness. Without an Education for Protection and Security that is based upon spiritual principles, it can be asserted, society has no sure basis. An individual lacks direction and his life can becomes anchorless, purposeless and hollow. In the microcosm of the city of Lucknow, it has been possible to witness the impact of this Education for Protection and Security where this experiment has been run consistently for several decades.
When religious riots broke out throughout India because of demolition of a medieval Mosque in Ayodhya, which is said to have been constructed on the site of an ancient Hindu temple, violence and killings engulfed India. Lucknow was an exception as it remained calm. This is despite the fact that Lucknow is the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh in which the demolition took place and where violence was the worst. It is also rather remarkable that Ayodhya city is nearby, with only 80 miles separating the two cities. Lucknow is also religiously diverse with over thirty percent of its population Muslim. Many have attributed this exceptional phenomenon to the long-term impact on the citizens of Lucknow of a Education for Protection and Security provided by CMS.
There are many eyewitness accounts of these successes such as ‘A Bold Experiment in Teaching Values’, Educational Leadership, May 1996, USA; ‘35 Inspiring Stories from Around the World, European Centre for Conflict Prevention, 1999, the Netherlands; and ‘Conflict Resolution: 50 Success Stories from Around the World’, Oxford University Press, U.K., September 2001.
Such a tremendous impact is possible only by efforts that put more emphasis on the qualities of the heart over qualities of the mind, on love instead of hatred based on differences, on peace in our hearts instead of war on our streets, and on respect and reverence for all forms of life.
Such an education stretches the definition of what is possible to accomplish with human potential during the process of education. Despite growing social disintegration, the experiment at CMS has shown that schools can create a new reality. Along with creative methods that address all aspects of a child’s development, this tunnel of learning is transformed into a tunnel of enlightenment. A child emerges as an enlightened citizen of his community and the world. S/he is confident, articulate, positive, enthusiastic, open-minded, and above all else, has the wisdom to know right from wrong. Johnny can tell right from wrong!
The results are visible. As some studies and observations have shown, children coming out from the portals of CMS are significantly more conscious of their true station, more spiritual, endowed with values and virtues, have a sense of mission, and also aim for excellence in all they undertake. Observers have noted that CMS is like an oasis in the desert. One evidence is the endorsement of parents, who by choosing CMS as their choice of school, have made it the largest school in the world with its entry into the Guinness World Records as early as 1999 and since. Such an outcome has further given credence to the demonstration value created by CMS in the need for a spiritual and human education, in addition to material.
In fact, because Education for Protection and Security puts more stress on spiritual and human education, children’s context is widened. They do better in their academics also. It underscores the hypothesis that when children are provided with a broader framework for their lives, education becomes more meaningful. Children progress more in their academic work when compared to an education that is focused primarily on academics.
CMS is testimony to the fact that even a large school community that mimics a public (government) school, drawing as it does children from all strata of society, can produce consistently the best results year after year. By combining spiritual education with academic preparation, CMS has shown it is possible to engage the highest in a child and to motivate him from within. It further makes life more meaningful for him.
In such an education, reaching for excellence becomes a value in itself. Students show an internal desire to excel and to stretch the boundaries of their human and spiritual potential. Students aspire to perfection both within and without. They increasingly become what we refer to as TQPs—Total Quality Persons, that is, persons who are balanced in all aspects of life, inner and outer. It is no wonder, therefore, that CMS students have won countless awards in every subject, and have excelled in music, the arts and the sciences, and at the same time as they have become more conscious and compassionate individuals.
CMS literature on spiritual education has been translated and used in several countries including in Macau, China, Russia and Zimbabwe. A recent enquiry was made by the Zambian Ambassador to the US on how she could set up a non-profit educational society in her country based on the CMS principles. In South Africa, a Member of Parliament has taken the CMS ‘Excellence in Character Series’ and implemented it in many schools in South Africa over the last two years. People worldwide are attracted to this model of education.
In an open-ended survey, referred to as the Parel Survey, Matthew J Parel, former Principal and Head of several Army Public Schools in India interviewed 14 and 15 year olds at two well-known schools, one of which was CMS. He posed three questions, of which the qualitative answers are enumerated on page 23. Data was quantified based on the qualitative survey.
As the Parel Survey demonstrates, such a focus has created a demonstration value and raised expectation from education. Education for Protection and Security at CMS has given direction and meaning to its student body. It has motivated, for example, more of them to dedicate their life’s efforts to the betterment of society, not just for personal material gain.
There are a number of new terms, concepts, methods and innovations that are part of this unique experiment with an education for protection and security. They include the reorganization of educational structures and instructional content to facilitate the highest possible emphasis on spiritual development.
True progress of humanity is not possible unless and until the goals to which education is geared are completely revised – with spiritual development at its center, not as an add on at the margins of education. These new goals for education will free it from its largely economic context. This revises greatly our expectations of human potential and its outcome through education.
We have tested the hypothesis that when a school provides an education founded upon spiritual principles, it educates by it not only the students but also the parents and society at large. It thereby becomes a lighthouse of society.
In this new role, a school presents enormous new possibilities and has the power to transform both individuals and society.
• The goal of education is to inspire every child to become both good and smart, a pride of the human race, a citizen of the world and a light of humanity.
• Such an education acknowledges that man is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value and the purpose of education is to draw out the hidden gems from within each child, to visualize the gem in the rock and to polish each piece until each shines like a gem.
• It defines education as a continuous and creative process.
• Despite the constraints of an old and archaic system of education focused on material gain, a school can become the lighthouse of society, influencing the individual, the family and society at large.
• By giving more importance to the inner over outer aspects and taking practical measures that support these directions, a child can become a light of this world, serving her community in unique and creative ways, with a sense of purpose and motivation that comes from within.
• Knowledge, wisdom, spiritual perception and eloquent speech, with deeds not words as testimony, are Four Outcomes of an Education for Protection and Security. These are the most important outcomes from education.
Such an education ignites the fire that is already latent in each child, just like a mighty tree that is latent within each seed. Education must recognize the young plant that will, in time, become a tree that would bear fruits one day. It must prepare the environment for his highest development. Just like a young plant needs a guiding stick, so does a young child need guidance. The most important lessons a child will learn are the lessons about his spiritual life. These lessons become the propelling forces that allow the tree of human being to grow into an upright and fruit-bearing tree.
Deepen Spirituality Through Music
Music is an essential aspect of the development of the inner spirit of a child. The end result of providing an education in music as food for the soul, among others, is the enormous creativity it develops within its students, staff and parents. Children and teachers write new songs and soul stirring music. Their original compositions are based on the schools’ vision. Such soul stirring music helps deepen emotion and nurture the spirit of children.
Inculcate Values Through Inspiring Films
To promote good qualities and inspire children and to inculcate the school’s philosophy of Jai Jagat! (Hail the World) and Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (The Earth is One Home), the CMS Film Division makes films for children on such titles as “Anmol Ratna—Priceless Pearl” ‘Maa—Mother’ ‘Sabak—Lesson’, ‘Roshani—Light’, ‘Aao Dosti Karain—Come, Let’s Be Friends’, among others. These films are shown on a continuous year round basis at a centrally located Capitol Cinema in the morning hours so that children from across the city schools can view them. In 2009, CMS also launched its first International Children’s Film Festival. The second such film festival concluded in April, 2010. It presented 233 children’s films from 38 countries of the world along with CMS Films to motivate and inspire human greatness. Over 55,000 children and over 500 schools from across Lucknow participated free of cost.
Radio can be another powerful means to communicate a schools’ vision. For this purpose CMS runs two FM Radio Stations (90.4 MHz) from two locations of Lucknow.
News Print Media
Several local newspapers carry frequent articles on CMS’ Education for protection and security. Well written and informative articles are published on such topics as: Strong character makes a better individual, Let your deeds distinguish you, Parents need to be sensitized, Balanced development is the key to peace, Let your virtues distinguish you, Spare some time for your child, etc.
Over 300 articles related to the Education for Protection and Security by Dr Jagdish Gandhi have been published by leading dailies such as The Indian Express (8 articles), The Hindustan Times (87 articles) and The Pioneer (239 articles).