Walking with Gandhi’s Ideas on the Development of the Mind, Body and Heart

The article encourages us to rethink our fetish with the decoration and beautification of the body without paying attention to the growth of spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Looking at Gandhi's ideas on the same, the writer raises important questions.

Increasing obsession with building the physique often by consumption of steroids or excessive exercise may drench one both emotionally and spiritually/ Pixabay
Increasing obsession with building the physique often by consumption of steroids or excessive exercise may drench one both emotionally and spiritually/ Pixabay

Gandhi often said, “development of the mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul…By spiritual training, I mean education of the heart.”

While undermining the physical exercise done by the students of the schools and colleges in city and calling it as artificial, Gandhi raises a very important point with regard to our physical strength and endurance.

Body builder boys of the schools and colleges appear to be very strong and powerful from outside, but in reality they are like a log of wood hollow from inside. They are so delicate and sensitive that the slight exposure to sun gives them headache and causes dizziness. Their efforts at gym every day for a couple of hours seem to get wasted as it does not provide them with the real physical fitness required. 

Also a growing trend of consuming mass gainers, vitamins and supplements can be seen in the urban boys craving desperately for six or eight pack abs and trying to find out every short cut to gain muscles. Even I myself was the victim of this thought process once. Other than the lack of real physical stamina and endurance, people in the cities today are also characterized by moral and spiritual anarchy.

The true economics of education according to Gandhi requires harmonious combination of mind, body and heart. I think we should first of all deal with each of them separately and then we will try to combine them.

When we talk about the education of body, one should remember that the mother is undoubtedly the first teacher of the child. Educating a child about his/ her own body parts and senses is first of all the task of parents. One should emphasize not on the display of attractive features of the body as we have discussed earlier, but the focus should be on the techniques of controlling one’s senses. When an individual learns gradually to control his own senses, it becomes possible for him/ her to utilize them in the right and desired direction. Also control over one’s own body will enable an individual not to fall into the trap of consumerism and refrain from conspicuous consumption, a term coined by Thorstein Veblen.

Another crucial point that strikes my mind in relation to the education of body is the lesson of self-acceptance. We are never taught to accept ourselves, but are always motivated to become like others. A fatty person is always humiliated and advised by everyone to lose some fat. A lean and thin guy is always taunted by others to eat something and gain weight. A girl with dark complexion consults a beautician, applies fairness creams and eats capsules to reduce the melanin pigment from her body. A boy with less height consumes special height enhancement drinks in the hope that his height might increase which will save him from the comments of society. Along with the increasing consumerism, a good amount of credit goes to advertisement companies that creates instantaneous desire in the mind of the consumer. 

However, it does not at all mean that one should give up the spirit of self- improvement, but adopting unfair means to improve in order to please others is problematic. We throughout our lives try to please the society and its members in which we are living. We have always tried hard to improve ourselves in order to get accepted by society, but have we ever tried to accept ourselves as we are. The moment we accept our own reality, we will stop pleasing others and it will solve most of the problems we are facing. This acceptance of our originality for me is intertwined with the education of body as its main component. In the education of the body, the family plays a very vital role through its primary educators, i.e.mother and father.

The next question that arises is regarding how the education and purity of mind can be achieved. In this respect, school as an institution and teacher as an educator plays a significant role in the education of mind. After mother, teacher acquires a great importance in the life of a child. Whatever is taught to a child in his/ her early days of school by a teacher is capable of bearing upon him throughout his life. If the moral values and altruistic feelings like kindness, helpfulness, perseverance, obedience, sharing, caring, etc. are inculcated in a child from the very beginning of school life, it will definitely make a base for further life and easy for upcoming institutions like colleges and universities to act promptly and effectively in utilizing them. Shaping of mind essentially takes place through the intervention and efforts of the teacher in the life of a student.

Third important aspect as considered by Gandhi is the education of heart which connotes with spirituality. For me, purity of heart can be acquired with the help of a religious institution by its preaching of Gandhi’s truth and ahimsa which is a common element amongst most of the religions. Imagine a boy taught by the pujari of a temple, the crux of the Gita, the core of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Think of a girl taught to serve the meal twice a day to every person, rich or poor that happens to visit Gurudwara. Imagine a boy taught at Madarsa to respect every religion of the world or a Jain who refrains even from killing an ant or mosquito. A Vaishnava who is always taught to indulge in imaginative identification of other’s suffering and act in empathy with the person. A Christian who is advised to do fasting on Sundays and donate the proportionate share of the food to the needy. I strongly feel that such purity of heart can be achieved effectively through the intervention of religious institutions.

I have discussed so far the three institutions- family for the education of body, school for the education of mind and religious institution for the education of heart. But they do not mark the watertight compartments and overlapping actually happens in each sphere. For example, the school not only participates in the education of mind but also in the education of body and heart. Spiritual aspects of an individual are dealt by family as well. But yes, these institutions should mark the major contribution in the development of the attributed aspect.

As Gandhi talks about the cooperation and harmonious coordination of three faculties of mind, body and heart, we need to combine the three institutions of the society and consider them altogether- family, school and religion. When all the three will function together with greater efficiency and coordinate with each other, the result will be a complete and composite individual

 

 Ayush Kushwaha is pursuing his Masters in Sociology from J.N.U. , New Delhi

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