“Spiritual education” is still a new concept for most people. Many adults are only too familiar with the superficially related, but fundamentally different term of “religious education.”
The indoctrination and coercion embedded in this latter approach drove many people away from any form of religious practice. Their reaction has often resulted in an unwillingness to share any higher principles with today’s children.
We see the unfortunate consequences of this approach in the heartrending statistics on teenage drug use, sexuality, violence, and even suicide. In 1925 Paramhansa Yogananda wrote an article titled “The Balanced Life:”
Educational authorities deem it impossible to teach spiritual principles in public schools because they confuse them with the variety of conflicting forms of religious faiths.
But if they concentrate on the universal principles of peace, love, service, tolerance and faith that govern the spiritual life, and devise methods of practically growing such seeds in the fertile soil of the child’s mind, then the imaginary difficulty is dissolved.
It is the greatest mistake to ignore this problem just because it is seemingly difficult.
Here at Ananda we have tried to take these words to heart. Beginning in 1972 with the founding of our elementary school, we began evolving what has become known as “Education for Life.”
The basic principles of our approach, as outlined in the book by Swami Kriyananda, emphasize the need for helping children develop four main “Tools of Maturity:”
· The body
This simple approach has far-reaching consequences. In focusing on the body, children learn to recognize and release unwanted stress and also to recharge the body with energy whenever it is needed.
Through working with feelings comes the ability to redirect harmful emotions such as anger, jealousy, and greed into peace, contentment, and the willingness to share.
By developing the will, students learn not only how to manifest their goals, but to do so in harmony with the needs and feelings of others.
Finally, the intellect can be cultivated in conjunction with the other three tools to produce clear, creative, solution-minded thinking instead of fact-heavy ruminations or unproductive theorizing.
Imagine starting your adult life with these skills already intact!
There has now been a whole generation of young adults who have benefited from the Education for Life approach. You can see some of their biographies on our website.
Over the years we have added a high school in 1997 and a college in 2003, in addition to other elementary schools in Palo Alto, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Encinitas, and Assisi, Italy.
In all of these places it has become abundantly clear that spiritual education is not only possible, but urgently needed if we want to truly serve our children.