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Chapter 35 - People live with ideas and beliefs unrelated to their daily lives
Cruelty is an infectious disease, and one must strictly guard oneself against it. Some students seem to have this peculiar infection, and they somehow gradually dominate the others. Probably they feel it is very manly, for their elders are often cruel in their words, in their attitudes, in their gestures, in their pride. This cruelty exists in the world. The responsibility of the student- and please remember with what significance we are using that word responsibility-is to avoid any form of cruelty.
Once, many years ago, I was invited to talk at a school in California, and as I entered the school a boy of ten or so was passing me with a large bird whose broken legs were caught in a trap. I stopped and looked at the boy without saying a word. His face expressed fear, and when I finished the talk and came out, the boy, a stranger, came up to me with tears in his eyes and said, 'Sir, it will never happen again'. He was afraid that I would tell the headmaster and there would be a scene about it; but because I didn't say a word either to the boy or to the headmaster about the cruel incident, his awareness of the terrible thing he had done made him realize the enormousness of the act.
It is important to be aware of our own activities. If there is affection, then cruelty has no place in our life at any time. In western countries, you see birds carefully nurtured and later in the season shot for sport and then eaten. The cruelty of hunting, killing small animals, has become part of our civilization, like war, like torture, and the acts of terrorists and kidnappers. In our intimate personal relationships, there is also a great deal of cruelty, anger, hurting each other.
The world has become a dangerous place in which to live. In our schools any form of coercion, threat, anger must be totally and completely avoided, for all these harden the heart and mind, and affection cannot co-exist with cruelty. You understand, as a student, how important it is to realize that any form of cruelty not only hardens your heart but it also perverts your thinking, distorts your actions. The mind, like the heart, is a delicate instrument, sensitive and very capable, and when cruelty and oppression touch it, then there is a hardening of the self. Affection, love, has no centre as the self.
Now, having read this and having understood so far what is said, what will you do about it? You have studied what has been said; you are learning the content of these words. What then is your action? Your response is not merely to study and learn, but also to act. Most of us know and are aware of all the implications of cruelty and of what it actually does both outwardly and inwardly. We leave it at that without doing anything about it, thinking one thing and doing just the opposite. This not only breeds a great deal of conflict, but also hypocrisy. Most students do not like to be hypocrites; they like to look at facts, but they do not always act. So the responsibility of the student is to see the facts about cruelty, and without any persuasion or cajoling to understand what is implied and do something about it. The doing is perhaps a greater responsibility. People generally live with ideas and beliefs totally unrelated to how they conduct their daily life, and so this naturally becomes hypocrisy. So don't be a hypocrite, which doesn't mean you must be rude, aggressive or overly critical. When there is affection, there is inevitably courtesy without hypocrisy.
What is the responsibility of the teacher-who has studied, learned and acts-toward the student? Cruelty has many forms: it can be in a look, a gesture, a sharp remark, and above all in comparison. Our whole educational system is based on comparison. We say that A is better than B, and so B must conform to or imitate A. This in essence is cruelty, ultimately expressed in examinations. What is the responsibility of the educator who sees the truth of this? How will he teach any subject without using reward and punishment, knowing that there must be some kind of report indicating the capacity of the student? Can the teacher do this? Is it compatible with affection? If the central reality of affection is there, has comparison any place at all? Can the teacher eliminate in himself the pain of comparison? Our whole civilization is based on hierarchical comparison both outwardly and inwardly which denies the sense of deep affection. Can we eliminate from our minds the better, the more, the stupid, the clever, this whole comparative thinking? If the teacher has understood the pain of comparison, what is his responsibility in his teaching and in his action?
A person who has really grasped the significance of the pain of comparison is acting from intelligence.