In At the Feet of the Master I have written down the instructions given to me by my Master in preparing me to learn how best to be useful to those around me. All who have read the book will know how inspiring the Master’s words are, and how they make each person who reads them long to train himself for the service of others. I know myself how much I have been helped by the loving care of those to whom I look for guidance, and I am eager to pass on to others the help I have obtained from them.
It seems to me that the Master’s instructions can be universally applied. They are useful not only to those who are definitely trying to tread the path which leads to Initiation, but also to all who, while still doing the ordinary work of the world, are anxious to do their duty earnestly and unselfishly. One of the noblest forms of work is that of the teacher; let us see what light is thrown upon it by the words of the Master.
I will take the four Qualifications which have been given in At the Feet of the Master, and will try to show how they can be applied to the life of the teacher and of the students, and to the relations which should exist between them.
The most important Qualification in education is Love, and I will take that first.
It is sad that in modern days the office of a teacher has not been regarded as on a level with other learned professions. Any one has been thought good enough to be a teacher, and as a result little honour has been paid to him. Naturally, therefore, the cleverest boys are not drawn towards that profession. But really the office of the teacher is the most sacred and the most important to the nation, because it builds the characters of the boys and girls who will be its future citizens. In olden days this office was thought so holy that only priests were teachers and the school was a part of the temple. In India the trust in the teacher was so great that the parents gave over their sons completely to him for many years, and teacher and students lived together as a family. Because this happy relation should be brought back again, I put Love first among the Qualifications which a teacher ought to have. If India is to become again the great nation which we all hope to see, this old happy relation must be re-established.
My Master taught me that Love will enable a man to acquire all other qualities and that “all the rest without it would never be sufficient.” Therefore no person ought to be a teacher—ought to be allowed to be a teacher—unless he has shown in his daily life that Love is the strongest quality of his nature. It may be asked: How are we to find out whether a person possesses Love to a sufficient degree to make him worthy to be a teacher? Just as a boy shows his natural capacities at an early age for one profession or another, so a particularly strong love-nature would mark a boy out as specially fitted to be an instructor. Such boys should be definitely trained for the office of the teacher just as boys are trained for other professions.