Discipline means training of the mind so as to make it accept willingly the control of rules or orders. In short, it is spontaneous obedience to superior authority It is a valuable lesson to learn. The great nations of the world attained greatness by subjecting themselves to the most rigorous discipline.
The ancient Hindus as well as the ancient Spartans insisted on the need of leading a life of restraint, even of self-denial. They knew that without strict control, man’s energies often go in waste, in useless efforts.
Discipline is necessary, in the first place, for one’s moral life. Self-indulgence is a natural temptation for all men. Our senses seek easy satisfaction. But if we give way to this craving, we will, in course of time, think of nothing but this. It is easier path, to lead life of pleasures like a bed of roses; but ultimately this leads to misery.
Therefore, we must keep our passion under fullest check. We can do this in two ways,—first, we must accept a noble ideal. Man is greater than all animals because man is ready to sacrifice the pleasures of life for a noble cause. Secondly, we must accept the guidance of our respected leaders. To submit to the orders of this leader is no shame. At school we must submit to the order of the teacher; on the playground, of the captain, at home of our superiors. We should remember, — “He alone can command who knows how to obey”.
Discipline is equally necessary in our intellectual life. This intellect must function under the strict control, if it is to do any real work. For example, if a man is unable to fix his attention on any one topic till it is mastered, he will not learn anything. But the man who accepts discipline in the intellectual pursuits, he is sure to achieve “some work of noble note.”
Discipline is necessary in our spiritual life. The spiritual activity must be guided according to a system. This is religion. Discipline is of supreme importance in the military life—in the battlefield. The order of the commanding officer has to be obeyed, come what may. For the soldiers who march to the battlefield, the motto is “Theirs not to reason why; theirs not to make reply; theirs but to do and die.” For the young-man who responds to the call of the country, there is the supreme need of subordinating his own impulses and desires to the direction of the leader. After all, to accept discipline is always to be on the road to success. It develops our higher virtues of higher nature. Self-control, obedience, single-minded devotion to duty, the capacity for self-sacrifice — these are the virtues fostered by a sense of discipline. Can there be anything higher than these?
Discipline is not slavery. It may at first appear severely painful but will soon make one used to it. But obedience may have to be rationalised on rare occasions and should not be done by ignoring one’s conscience. It has a higher object in view. The slave shows blind subservience to the master’s will. True discipline lies in a conscious and spontaneous subordination of self to the achievement of some higher purpose.
Hence, discipline must not be mechanical; for man is no machine. It cannot mean the negation of independent judgment. To accept discipline is by no means very pleasant. It means a surrender of personality that is irksome. If we place before us something higher than mere’ self, discipline will only be willingly but cheerfully accepted. It has an uplifting effect on character.