When Narayan Desai, fondly referred to by Gandhiji as “Babla,” decided to quit the village school running on the colonial education system in favor of the “school” of working for Gandhi at the ashram, he was convinced it was the right course of action to preserve his dignity–and he was in 6th grade! Gandhi embraced the idea fully, especially because Narayan was so firm in his conviction, listening keenly as he was to his inner voice that was guiding him toward the path of selfless service of a free India. Cultivating this deeper awareness of conviction and choice in Narayan was a key part of Gandhi’s work with him, and Narayan attests that later in life (he passed away in 2015) those skills continued to guide him. He held onto the Gandhi’s idealism for the rest of his life, taking charge of the Nai Talim program for decades, and even serving as head of Gandhi’s Shanti Sena or Peace Army.
So, the first step to all of this was really Narayan listening to the voice of inner conviction about what a nonviolent education meant to him. When Gandhiji gave Narayan permission to work with the ashram team instead of going to school, he assigned him his own personal teacher: Mahadev, Narayan’s own father and Gandhi’s personal secretary. A very busy man in his own right, he took up the duty with cheer, tempered with a healthy sense of practicality to match Gandhi and Narayan’s idealism. He (Mahadev) told Narayan that while he certainly supported his decision, if he ever wanted to change his mind because he felt unsatisfied, he would support that, too. He added, “While you’re with me, I’ll teach you as best as I can. But mostly you’ll have to teach yourself. I’ll help, but most of the work will be yours.” Rousing initiative, guiding but not dominating, these are key features of a nonviolent approach to teaching. What better guide than one’s own parent, when possible; nonviolent parenting and nonviolent teaching in one package.
What is your heart calling out for you to learn or from whom to learn? Follow its guidance.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com