In the system of yoga, there are many practices which contribute to the efficiency of the body and mind of a child and adult. The purpose of yoga is to evolve the dormant potential faculties in the brain. It is not only adults who need yoga for their development, but children need it too. Many thousands of years ago in India, the education began with yoga. Here is a bird’s eye view.
In India, the education of children started at the age of six, seven or eight. This was considered to be an important stage in the life of a child. Education of the child began with three practices.
The first practice was surya namaskara, salutation of the sun, the second practice was Gayatri mantra and the third practice was nadi shodhana pranayama, alternate nostril breathing. These three practices comprise the yogic education.
There is a scientific reason behind this. The pineal gland in the human body usually begins to decay from the age of seven or eight. The pineal gland is situated at the top of the spine, and it is like a stop cork. It controls and is able to regulate the function of the pituitary gland. The pituitary is the master gland which is responsible for all actions in the body.
The posterior pituitary secretes twenty-one hormones to the body. When these hormones intermingle in the physical body, they create various manifestations on the mental, physical, emotional and sexual planes, but this pituitary body needs a controller. If this pituitary body begins to secrete these hormones at the age of eight, nine or ten, then it will cause a lot of imbalance in the child’s personality. Imagine if a child of eight begins to think like a person of twenty-five. What will be the state of his mental balance?
As much as mental retardation is a disease, mental acceleration is also a sickness. If the pituitary gland goes unchecked, then there is an abnormal symptom in human life which we call emotional, nervous, sexual acceleration. A child of eight can experience frustration. A child of ten can experience carnal passion, but his body is not ready, his nerves are not strong, his balancing faculties are not yet developed. Therefore, it is most important to control this acceleration.
As long as the pineal gland is healthy, the pituitary will be under control. The pineal gland is the stop cork or regulator, and therefore the first motive of yoga practice is to teach children how to keep their pineal gland healthy. For many years surya namaskara, nadi shodhana pranayama and mantra were practised in order to maintain proper functioning.
Apart from these three, there is another important practice for maintaining the health of the pineal gland. It is called dharana. Dharana is a practice which means conceptualising, feeling, reacting, and visualizing many, many things through the mind and sensorial mediums. This practice relates to the past experiences of the child, and they are able to improve the quality and efficiency of the mind.
In the Yoga Sutras of Rishi Patanjali it is written that in dharana the mind becomes efficient. When the mind becomes efficient, it is able to function in every sphere. Children should be taught dharana which relates to the various experiences of the sense organs.
We have ten sense organs: five motor organs, karmendriyas, and five sensorial organs, jnanendriyas, through which we experience sound, touch, smell, taste and form. These fivefold experiences are experienced through five channels, and the impulse or effect is conveyed to the mind. The influx of these experiences keeps on flowing through the five mediums into the brain.
When you are listening, the influx of sound through the organ of audition is being conveyed to you. Similarly, when you are looking, the form is being conveyed into you. In this way, throughout the day, you keep on receiving the sense impressions through five channels and these expressions or experiences are recorded there. After these sensorial experiences are recorded, you need to reproduce them from time to time. Therefore, there has to be a ratio between registration and what we call expression or reproduction.
Reproduction is the first training we have to impart to children in the field of raja yoga. It is so helpful for spontaneous performance in school. The quality of reproduction has to be developed in them. However, the quality of reproduction depends on the quality of the process of registration. If the registration is direct into the subconscious mind, or the deeper layers of the mind, reproduction is easy. If the mind of the child is dissipated, the registration cannot take place directly.
Here is a very simple example. You look at your face in the mirror. It reflects you exactly, but if the mirror is broken, how will it reflect your face? That is the mind of a child who is sometimes dissipated. This could be due to social factors, endocrinal influences, or imbalances of hormonal interaction. Therefore, registration becomes an inefficient process.
Therefore, the first task the teacher has to accomplish is to initiate in him a process of one-pointedness. The process of one-pointedness can be accomplished by two methods. The first method is to ask the child to concentrate on one point. Some children find this easy while others find it difficult. The other practice is, you ask the child to close his eyes, and gradually you take him through a process of inner dharana. You use the dharana related to all the five channels. You ask him to experience the taste of chocolate, to experience the smell of a flower, to remember the tune of a particular song or the sound of an instrument, to remember an experience of the touch of his mother, brother, sister or friend. In this way you can ask him to exercise the capacity of dharana.
You will see that the child may not succeed in practising dharana on all five senses, but with one of the five he will be successful. This will be the deciding factor. Either the child’s optic system or tactual sense is sensitive. It is on that basis the teacher will have to fix a system of registration.
Many people have difficulty understanding when they hear something, but when they read a book, the understanding is very fast. When I was a student, I could read a book and understand everything by one glance, but when my teacher spoke about the topic for one hour, I did not know what he spoke and I could never reproduce it.
This is the secret. Teachers have to understand, first of all, the most sensitive organ of the child and then develop it. The brain is connected to five channels and all five are not equally efficient. By constant practice, however, they can be made efficient.
One of the practices you can teach your children in the school is this dharana of raja yoga. Instead of developing their capacities in relation to a particular subject, you should try to develop their capacities in general. You select a story for them, and it must contain human beings, different types of elements, different natural settings, various sounds, various types of fragrances and different types of temperatures or feelings of touch. And this should be so properly organized that it looks like a story.
First you must talk to the conscious mind of the children. You can teach them the things or they can read from an illustrated book, or you can explain everything to them. When they have understood it through the conscious mind completely, then you must have a small class of ten to fifteen minutes in which you go on speaking and the child goes on practising dharana. He is visualizing the form; he is hearing a sound; he is trying to recapitulate a type of touch. These lessons must be changed from time to time otherwise they become monotonous.
It is not necessary for children to remember them. After a week or so, you change the whole lesson, and then have a new set of dharana. In the course of time, you will find that your children are able to reproduce and register as efficiently as possible.
This practice must continue for about fifteen to twenty lessons. After this, this faculty must be applied to their educational system. You can apply this faculty in mathematics, in geography and in almost all fields, and you can teach them their lessons when they are reposing in dharana. Also, in order to improve the quality of dharana, you can teach them some breathing techniques.
Education is not a system which is put into the child from outside. Education is not an injection. Education should be the expression of the faculty which is already in the child. No child is an idiot. Every child has complete and total faculties embedded, dormant and inbred within. The seed is pregnant with knowledge, and therefore a system has to be improvised which will help the child to express what is already inside.
The external form of knowledge acts as a stimulus. Within the human brain there are millions and millions of forms, or mandalas. They are not mythological objects. It has been found by eminent thinkers, scholars and scientists that these forms are present not only in the brain, but in each and every cell of the body. Each and every cell of the body is intelligent, as intelligent as the brain, and these cells in the body are in billions and billions.
These cells are so potent, even omnipotent. When one studies these cells it appears that they are a complete person. They are not mechanical entities. They are very intelligent. It has been found that before the onset of cancer, these cells fight with the cancer cells like an intelligent army, with all kinds of strategies. If this is the reality of the physical body, how can one say that the child is an idiot?
Often many idiot children are only so at school but intelligent elsewhere. They don’t understand their lesson; they don’t understand what is taught to them, because their capacities are not adjusted accordingly. If the child is to be properly educated in the modern system, the block of that personality will have to be removed.
Here is a simple example. When I was at school, I was very bad at mathematics. In history, geography and every other subject, I scored more than first-class marks, but mathematics, zero. During examinations I used to go into the class. I did not understand anything. I closed the book and came out. My teachers used to be very sorry. They did not know where this mathematical block was. So, I did not study mathematics. I wanted to study science, but not mathematics. I studied Eastern and Western philosophy. However, today I am first class in mathematics. I do not have to multiply and divide by writing on paper. I just do it mentally with my inner computer. I can understand numbers today much better than letters.
How this change has taken place, I do not really know. I have not studied any special way of mathematics, but I know that the block has gone. In the same way, a child is never an idiot. There is a block, and that block must be related to his physiological constitution. I do not deny the reality of psychological blocks, but these bio-physiological or bio-chemical structures in the body are so important that they should be looked into first.
Mandala is a form which has a force. Every form has energy, whether it is a flower, tree or mountain. It is a form, but not just matter. It is a manifestation of force.
These mandalas are in the forms of animals, human beings, divine beings, in the form of half human and half animal. These are the most important mandalas, known as theomorphic and anthropomorphic mandalas. They were known to the Greeks, but later this idea was destroyed. Therefore, for thousands of years, the Western culture did not know about mandalas, but now the psychologists have been working with the force of symbols. They have discovered that within the human brain, many symbols are present in the form of certain formations.
The most important form is yantra. The yantra is a geometrical formation which represents the whole person, the whole child, the whole of his personality. These geometrical formations are not just a few, they are many.
Once upon a time, these geometrical formations were current in every culture of the world. The ancient Celtic, Babylonian, Judean and Egyptian cultures had these geometrical diagrams or yantras. If you expose children to these yantras and mandalas properly, it will explode various faculties from their deeper mind.
Visualization is an important beginning. Just as children are taught the primary alphabets, then small words, small sentences, small paragraphs, small lessons, and finally literature, in the same way the brain must be developed. First visualization, then seeing the objects, hearing the sounds, until the difference between outside and inside experience is minimized.
At first the sound is imagined, later the imagination becomes stronger, and for a short time one hears the sound internally. Finally, one hears the sound so clearly that the external and internal sounds appear similar.
Here is an experiment you can do. Try to feel that somebody is pricking a needle in your arm, and you experience pain. Perhaps you can imagine the pain, if not try again. As the imagination becomes deeper you will also imagine the pain a little more. There will come a moment when you will feel that someone is pricking you with a needle, you actually feel the pain and jump up. It is not mere imagination. It is a living experience.
Dharana improves the efficiency of the mind. Dharana produces the living experience of a thought, it is philosophic attention. This is important for children because genius children have the capacity of philosophic attention.
—23 June 1984, Condorcet College, Paris, France