Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

    Home  Thought for the Day  |  Sai Inspires 

    Articles | Avatar | Bhajans | Experiences | Messages | Miracles | Prayers | Quotes | Stories | Service | Teachings


Sri Sathya Sai Baba Articles

  The teachings of Plato on Education: A parallelism with Swami’s teachings on Educare

Part 1

Education is the foundation of society. For a healthy and happy society education is the basis, because the students of today become the leaders of tomorrow. Swami has stressed again and again the high importance of the proper educational system.

The Academy of Plato in AthensIn all times and in all different places of the world, great sages have spoken about this crucial matter of education and they have given their valuable teachings to all the coming generations. Such a great sage who shines in the firmament of ancient Greek philosophy is Plato, who is unbreakably bound with his beloved Teacher Socrates. Socrates did not write anything and his teachings are found in the dialogues written by his student Plato. In all his dialogues Socrates is the speaker and Plato does not mention anywhere his own name, showing by that a deep humility and devotion to his beloved guru. Maybe in this way he wants to give us the first great lesson and the basic foundation of education, that is the respect and love of the student to his teacher. The deserving teacher earns this love not only because of his wise teachings, but mostly and mainly because of his personal example.

Swami has given us this great saying:


Socrates was such a Divine Guru, who finally sacrificed his own life staying faithful to his words and his love for Truth, Goodness and Beauty (Satyam Sivam Sundaram).

In this brief work we will make an effort to give the views of Socrates-Plato for the most essential matter of education. As the basic source of this study we will use the famous dialogue of Plato “Republic” * , which was written on about 375 B.C. Socrates whose disciple was Plato

* The title of the book is not actually “Republic”, which means democracy, but “The City” (because it describes an ideal city, which is not democracy according to Plato! It is very strange indeed that it has been translated with this word in English.)

The first aim of Plato is not to describe an ideal city as is done in the biggest part of the book, but to inquire about Righteousness. That is why the dialogue has another title also: “About Righteousness”.

Plato wants to prove his basic thesis: the righteous man, the man who follows Dharma, is happy. The view which most of the people have, that the righteous man is unhappy because others treat him in a bad way, is totally wrong. He says:

“A moral person is happy, whereas an immoral person is unhappy”
“Immorality never gives more happiness than morality”
(Rep 354a)

To prove this he uses the following thought. He considers a City being the enlargement of a man and he starts his inquiry from the city where the different situations are more easily investigated and finally he goes back to the inner psychological and spiritual reality of the individual. He says:

“Let’s first try to see what Righteousness is in the cities; and then we can examine it in the individuals too, seeing the reflection of the larger entity in the features of the smaller entity”
(Rep 369a).

In this study we’ll mostly deal with the part of the dialogue that describes the education of the people who are going to be the citizens of the ideal city. We will present the ideas of Plato for the ideal rulers, keeping in mind that he gives us an ideal not only for the rulers but for all citizens. This ideal is the aim to which education must guide the children. Inevitably we will speak about what is Philosophy and who is the real philosopher, because after all this is the aim of the great sage, that is to turn our vision towards Truth and Light and through the right Intellect to guide us to the Being-Goodness-Beauty (Satyam Sivam Sundaram), that is GOD.


Picture3Plato starts speaking about education by giving its two basic components: Gymnastics for the body and Music for the soul (Rep. 376e). In ancient Greece the term music meant the spiritual, moral and artistic education in general and not only melody and rhythm. First of all Plato speaks for the high educational importance of stories.

“Don’t you know, that we start by telling children myths which though they are, by and large untrue, they contain elements of truth?”

And the dialogue goes on:

“Do you appreciate that the most important stage of any enterprise is the beginning, especially when it has to do with something young and sensitive? Because, that’s when the character is shaped and it absorbs every impression that anyone wants to stamp upon it.

-You are absolutely right.
-Shall we then allow our children to listen to any stories and take into their souls values, which contradict those we want them to hear as adults?
-No, we won’t allow that at all.
-So our first job is to inspect the work of the storywriters and accept any good story they write, but reject the others. We’ll let nurses and mothers tell their children the acceptable stories and will have them devote themselves using these stories to form their children’s souls, far more than using their hands to form their bodies…”

(Rep. 377a,b,c)

So the need of selection of the right stories is emphasized. A careful checking shows that many mythological traditions, which are contained in the works of many writers and poets are improper for the children; because in these stories Gods are full of human passions like jealousy, sensual desires, lying, hatred, avarice, cowardice etc. If however the Gods who should be the ideals for men, are described in such a way, what is the example and the values that the children will imbibe from such stories?

So, Plato in accordance with relative views of older philosophers like Xenofanis and Heraklitos suggests with no hesitation the rejection of such a wrong poetry from the ideal city.

He ends in the two basic principles concerning the content of the stories with regard to God. The first principle is that

“God is not responsible for everything, but only for good”
(Rep 380c)

That is, we must have faith in God’s goodness and not blame Him about the bad things that happen in our daily life, as it often happens with people. In Swami’s words the first principle is that God is Premaswarupa, Embodiment of Love.

The second principle to which spiritual discussions and literature must conform is that

“God is entirely straight and truthful in words and deeds and He does not delude men in anyway “ (Rep 382e)

That is, in Swami's words, God is Satyaswarupa, the Embodiment of Truth.

Going on, Plato mentions the virtues that the stories must cultivate in the hearts of children. First of all is the fearlessness for death. Death must not be presented like a calamity and the lamentations do not suit to brave men. Here we would like to give a relative text from the tradition of the Far East, which shows the great importance of this virtue.

“Tajima-no-kami was a great swords-man and teacher in the art to the Shogun of the time. One of the personal guards of the Shogun one day came to Tajima-no-kami wishing to be trained in fencing. The master said, “As I observe, you seem to be a master of fencing yourself; pray tell me to what school you belong, before we enter into the relationship of teacher and pupil.”

The guardsman said, “I am ashamed to confess that I have never learned the art”.

“Are you trying to fool me? I am a teacher to the honorable Shogun himself, and I know my judging eye never fails.”

“I am sorry to defy your honor, but I really know nothing.”

This resolute denial on the part of the visitor made the swordsmaster think for a while, and he finally said, “If you say so, it must be so; but still I am sure you are a master of something, though I do not know of what.”

“If you insist I can tell you. There is one thing of which I can say I am complete master. When I was still a boy, the thought came upon me that as a Samurai I ought in no circumstances to be afraid of death, and I have grappled with the problem of death now for some years, and finally the problem of death ceased to worry me. May this be at what you hint?”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Tajima-no-kami. “That is what I mean. I am glad that I made no mistake in my judgment. For the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released from the thought of death. I have trained ever so many hundreds of my pupils along this line, but so far none of them really deserve the final certificate for swordsmanship. You need no technical training, you are already a master.”

From Eugen Herrigel's book, "Zen in the Art of Archery"

Swami says, that we have to remember always three things:

Never believe in the world
Never forget God
Never be afraid of death

But as the young men must not be carried away by the calamity of death, they must not be prone to laughter either, because "the stronger the laughter, the stronger the consequent emotional agitation" (Rep 388e)

Swami always teaches that we have to be equal on both joy and sorrow and He emphasizes that equal mindedness (samatvam) is essential for the spiritual aspirant.

Lying is totally wrong and no one should have anything to do with lying (Rep 389b – 389d). The next virtue is self-discipline of which the most important aspects are obedience to those in authority and establishing one’s own mastery over the pleasures of drink, sex and food. (Rep 389d)

Then we have patience and resistance to all kinds of temptations (390d), avoidance of avarice and bribery (390e), devotion to Gods (391a –392a) and love for righteousness (392b – 392c).

Here the discussion about the contents of the stories is finished and Plato goes on with the style and form the stories should have, that means the presentation techniques. He mentions that there are two basic styles, the pure narrative and the representation (role playing). Both have to be used but as far as representation is concerned, Plato says: “Any roles the young men take on, must be appropriate ones. They should represent people who are courageous, self-disciplined, pious, just and generous; they should never play a role of anyone who is bad or unrighteous in case the role becomes reality. Haven’t you noticed how repeated representation becomes a habit and a second nature and has an effect on a person’s body, voice and character? (395c)

Now we have finished with the aspect of music (spiritual study), which relates to stories; both the content and the way in which it has to be taught have been already discussed.

Next we still have to discuss about the melody and the rhythm, that is what we call music today. In the beginning the selection of melodies is done; the plaintive musical modes that suit for laments, as well as the soft and loose that suit for drinking parties are excluded. Only these melodies are left, which perfectly represent the great deeds of self-disciplined and courageous men, both in failure and success, both in battle and in time of peace (398e – 399c).

Afterwards Plato makes a selection of the instruments and he keeps Apollo's instruments, that are the lyre and the guitar or even the windpipe for the herdsmen in the countryside. He excludes the complicated instruments, which are designed to produce a wide range of modes, remaining established in his basic thesis for simplicity and frugality and restriction of luxury and pleasure (399c – 399e). On the same principle the selection of rhythms is made, making sure that we avoid complexity of rhythm and a wide variety of tempos, but we should try to discern the rhythms of a life which is well regulated and valiant, and we’ll force the meter and the tune to conform to the words which express such a life (399e – 400c).

Rhythm and harmony are of primary importance, because they sink very deeply into the soul, and bring with them Beauty and Grace. He who will be properly educated through music, will be able to discern beauty from ugliness and he will appreciate and enjoy only fine things, accepting them into his soul as nourishment, therefore becoming perfect in values and truly good. (401d – 402a)

A really learned man is he who knows in depth the values of self-discipline, bravery, generosity, broadness of mind and all the relative virtues and he can instantly discern them from their opposite vices wherever they occur (402c)

Now, because self-discipline and excessive pleasure cannot go together, Socrates suggests that the authentic love should not have body involvement, because sexual pleasure is the greatest and most excessive pleasure. So the lovers should love each other like relatives and never give the impression that there is more to it. Otherwise they will be blemished for lacking spiritual and moral sensitivity (402e – 403c). Here the discussion about music, that is spiritual education, is completed.

The sketch of physical training that follows, stresses moderation of diet. Neglect of a simple and moderated diet is the cause of ill health, as the neglect of discipline in emotion is the cause of corruption (403d – 404e). The result of corruption and ill health is the growth of the professions of lawyer and doctor respectively. But when a community needs doctors and lawyers this is the most clear evidence that the educational system is bad, because it promotes ill health and moral corruption (405a).

Finally Plato concludes that correct education means a balanced combination of spiritual learning and physical exercise (music and gymnastics) so that both the basic elements of the soul are cultivated harmoniously. These two elements are the will power and the spiritual knowledge. With these two the Soul becomes both virtuous and brave (411e).

Swami gives us the four F’s :

Follow the Master (Conscience)

: Spiritual Knowledge
Face the devil (vices) : cultivated by “Music”
Fight to the end : Will power, Bravery
Finish the game : cultivated by Gymnastics


What is important in the community is the integrity and unity and not the great number of the population. As Swami says. “quality, not quantity” For this to be done, the most crucial factor is the quality of education, which has to be kept pure, as it is stated before; any dangerous change or innovation must be avoided, “because any change in the spiritual education affects the most important laws of the community” (424c).

The children must engage in lawful games right from the start, because when the games become lawless it is impossible for the children to grow in law-abiding, exemplary adults. On the contrary when children play in a proper manner and their cultural education instills law and order into their souls, lawfulness accompanies them in everything they do and guides their growth.

In this way they learn to have good manners like to be silent in the presence of older people, to give up their seats for their elders, to stand up when elders enter the room, to look after their parents, to take care about their combing, clothing, footwear and in general about the way they present themselves. (424e – 425b)

All these do not have to be legislated, because they come as a natural result at the primary spiritual and moral education. In the same way there is no need to make special rules and regulations for all the commercial deals people make with one another. If the citizens are pure and have mutual love, then bureaucracy is totally useless. (425c,d,e)

A genuine legislator does not have to deal with laws of this kind in either a badly governed or a well-governed community. In the first case they cannot help and don’t accomplish anything; in the second case all these trivial laws are not necessary as they follow automatically from the good character the citizens have already acquired. (427a)

The most important, valuable and fundamental laws are those which define how to build temples, to conduct sacrifices and how in general to worship gods, deities and heroes, how to conduct the burial of the dead and all the services to propitiate those who have gone to the other world. All these are defined by Apollo, God of Light and Music, who has His seat at the earth’s navel and He is our paternal Guide (427b,c).

Now the ideal community has been founded and Plato locates its four basic elements: Wisdom, Bravery, Self-discipline and Righteousness (427e).

Wisdom is the science of right discrimination (428b)

Bravery is the ability to retain under all circumstances a true and lawful notion about what is right and what is wrong. No pleasure or pain or fear or desire can change the principles that the ideal citizens have taken deep inside their souls through the right spiritual and physical education (430b)

Self-discipline is the control over the pleasures and desires (430e) and a harmony between the parts of society as to which of them should rule in the community (432a).

Finally, Righteousness is doing one’s own job and following his duty. In Bhagavad Gita it is said,

“One’s duty, though imperfect, is better than another’s duty well discharged. Better death in one’s own duty; the duty of another is full of fear.”

- Bhagavad Gita, 3-35

Righteousness is when each of the three classes (the one that works for a living, the military class and the governors) performs its proper function and does its own job in the community (434c). Picture4

Now Plato comes back to give an answer about what is Righteousness in an individual. As he said from the beginning the community is just an individual’s enlargement and through the definition of Righteousness in the community we can define it in a person too. The three classes of the community correspond to the three parts of a person’s being. The first is the rational part, the intellect (buddhi), which has the capacity to discriminate between right and wrong, between truth and untruth, between what is permanent and what is transient. The second is the assertive, the brave part, which is an auxiliary of the rational part, unless it is corrupted by bad education (441a). The third is the desirous part, the one that feels lust, hunger, thirst and in general is stirred by desires and pleasures. Since these three parts are precisely analogous to the three classes of the community, Plato now defines righteousness in a way parallel to his analysis of the community. The rational part has the right to rule, because it is wise and looks out for the whole of the soul. The assertive part is its assistant and ally. And once these two parts have received the right education they have to be in charge of the desirous part, which is the insatiable and greedy one (441e – 442a).

When each of these parts does its own job and there is a harmony between them, then the individual is righteous. So, Righteousness is harmony of thoughts (rational part), words (assertive part) and deeds (desirous part). Swami says:

“Body is like a water bubble,
Mind is like a mad monkey.
So, don’t follow the body,
Don’t follow the mind,
Follow the Conscience.”

Body is the desirous part and Conscience is the rational part. The one that has to rule, the Master, must be always the Conscience, that is the Rational part.


Picture5Plato goes on and states that the only solution to political and personal troubles is for true philosophers to become kings, or for current rulers to become true philosophers. But who deserves to be called philosopher?
Philosophers are those who perceive That which is permanent and changeless and not those who are lost in the midst of plurality and diversity. Those who perceive Beauty Itself behind the multiplicity of beautiful things, the One behind the many, Unity in diversity, Satyam Sivam Sundaram – Truth, Goodness, Beauty. True Science is the knowledge of philosophers, the knowledge of the Pure Being. The knowledge of the external things that are perceived with the senses is false knowledge and in no case can be called science or those who have this false knowledge to be called philosophers. The true philosopher loves the study that reveals That Reality, which is Eternal, beyond generation and destruction or any other change. He finds nothing more attractive than Truth. He yearns only for spiritual pleasures and has nothing to do with the pleasures of the body and the senses. He has self-control and is not interested in money. He has broadness of vision and contemplates on the Eternity of time, so he does not place much importance on human life and he is not afraid of death. He is moral, gentle and well mannered; he has got memory and an inherent sense of proportion and elegance.

“The true philosopher is a genuine Lover of wisdom and he is born to aspire to the Pure Being (Sat) without being attached to the multiplicity of all the external things that are assumed to be real. He moves on with his love ever intense and steady, until he is united with the Being Itself, with the part of his soul, which is akin to It. And when he has been united with It, intellect and truth are born; he earns the real knowledge and lives a true life, ever free from the pains of birth”

(Plato's Republic, 490 a-b)

Part 2

Source: Radio Sai E-Magazine 15th April 2004

Best Resolution 1024x768 -- Copyright © 2004-2015 SAIBABA.WS. All rights reserved. Please read Disclaimer.