OUR WORK IN
SRI AUROBINDO INTERNATIONAL CENTRE OF EDUCATION
Jugal Kishore Mukherjee
Sri Aurobindo considered the formation of an Education Centre to be the best means of preparing future humanity to manifest upon earth a divine consciousness and life. It was in order to give a concrete shape to his vision that The Mother opened a school for children on December 2, 1943.
Since then, the school has continued to grow and experiment with various educational problems and issues. In 1951, a Convention was held at Pondicherry which resolved to establish an International University Centre in the town as a fitting memorial to Sri Aurobindo. Accordingly, the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre was inaugurated by The Mother on January 6, 1952. To give a wider scope and meaning to the education imparted here, The Mother decided to drop the word “University” and renamed the Centre the “Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education”.
The Centre of Education is oriented towards giving each child the possibility:
1. of being guided by his soul and following his own line of development
2. of progressing at his own pace
3. of ultimately being able to choose and take charge of his own destiny.
The Centre of Education comprises the following sections:
1. Kindergarten (1,2,3) – 3-5 years of age
2. L’Avenir (1,2,3) – 6-8 years of age
3. Progrès (1,2,3) – 9-11 years of age
4. En Avant Vers la Perfection (1-6) – 12-17 years of age
5. Knowledge (1,2,3) – 18-20 years of age
The Kindergarten of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education was started by the Mother and took shape under Her direct guidance. In December 1963 the Kindergarten moved to its present location, which is in fact ideal – an old French colonial house surrounded by a large courtyard, an emerald green lawn and a garden.
Children from three to five years of age are grouped in three classes according to age.
A common programme is basically the same for all the three years. However, there is a progression in the complexity of the material offered and the precision and refinement of skills and performance expected of the children as they mature.
Sri Aurobindo’s principle is that “nothing can be taught”. The teacher’s task is “to reinforce the true qualities native to each child and to awaken, elicit or stimulate those that are latent but not manifest”.
The teachers therefore observe each child’s inclinations and areas of habitual concentration and encourage him to develop them so that he grows according to the “dharma” of his being.
The aim is to mould, without any kind of constraint, a child who is interested in and enjoys
everything and wants always to do it better and better. The teacher’s attitude to the child is one of psychological discernment; trying to understand the needs, strengths and limitations of each; gentle yet firm, caring equally for all with no preference or attachment. The children are generally not scolded but discipline is definitely encouraged. This is always a test of the teacher’s patience.
Children imbibe a great deal not just through frontal or direct learning, i.e. what they are told or presented consciously by the teacher, but even more indelibly and pervasively through tangential or indirect learning, i.e. all they absorb by osmosis, exposure to and observation of the life and behaviour around them. Thus great attention is paid by the teachers to the quality of life, atmosphere and vibration around the children and to their own example and behaviour.
The daily routine begins with an invocation to the Mother: music and prayers in French or in Sanskrit. Then there are classes in Singing, Sanskrit or Collective Work for about 30 to 40 minutes. The class then divides into subgroups for more intensive and structured activity. About 9.45 a.m. the children are served soup and vegetables (“vitamins”) after which they play outside in the garden or in the class-rooms without any teacher’s direction but under supervision. At 10.30 a.m. they are called inside and take up either activities of their choice or those suggested or organised by the teacher.
The evening physical activities begin with a silent concentration. The aim is the training of the body consciousnesss through a diversified programme of all forms of sports, games and co-ordinated movement. It is a powerful tool in educating not just their bodies but their minds as well. They learn to become alert and disciplined, poised and conscious of themselves and of others – ready, earnest and enthusiastic participants in the art of living.
The broad lines and content of the K.G. education will be discussed under the following headings: Physical, Vital, Mental and Psychic Education.
Physical Education: To speak of the K.G. is to describe a place where children have space and equipment to run and climb and slide and swing; music to dance and skip and sing; sand and soil to dig and mould; water to play in, float things in, even swim in (yes, there is a shallow pool as well).
The children thus live in direct contact with Nature, exposed to a world of colour and light, flowers and trees, insects and birds and animals, sun and rain; exploring and discovering and observing either by themselves or with the teacher’s help with wonder and concentration.
Regular visits to the Ashram, the Library, the Park, the Aquarium, the Beach, the Art Gallery and to Exhibitions of various Ashram Departments help to extend their horizons and introduce them to the many-sidedness of life.
For such young children, movement is more natural than speech. They do not walk, they run. Their need and love of movement find adequate expression in mime and dance, both improvised and taught, and in their multifarious daily activities.
Through a programme of organised physical movements they become conscious of their bodies, acquire the notion of “laterality” (left hand, right hand), and become conscious of their body’s position in space (in front, behind, up, down, form a circle, stand in line). This corporeal understanding is then transferred to their training in the arts and crafts (left-hand side of the paper, above, on or below the line, draw a circle or a line). This training enables them eventually to learn to read and write.
However much they love to play and move, they are also expected on occasions to sit perfectly still “like a rishi”. They are ever ready to do so at a moment’s notice and, though not for more than a few minutes, a beginning has been made for the future.
In the classroom, the children live in an atmosphere of physical order and psychological comfort. Love of beauty, freshness and cleanliness in themselves and their surroundings, care for the materials and equipment are values inculcated in them and they collaborate willingly. Each thing in the classroom has its place and is to be arranged accordingly. Having an organised environment and a well-balanced, flexible routine gives the children a feeling of peace and security extremely important for their young nerves, bodies and minds.
Vital Education: Special importance is given to the training of the six senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing and mind. This is done through a variety of games, and innumerable experiments with everyday familiar objects, in order to attain precision, power and sensitivity in their functioning. The mind is thus trained first to pay attention, to record and recall accurately the sense data perceived. A child who has developed these qualities has formed in himself the building blocks of a lifelong education.
Training in the artistic and plastic arts is extremely rich and varied, both in the choice of materials and the infinite variation of their use. Paper, cardboard, cloth, thread, beads, sequins, seeds, grains, sand, stones, sticks, leather, clay, flour dough, thermocol, bottles, boxes, cylinders – all is grist to the arts’ and crafts’ mill. The children cut and paste, colour, draw and paint, mould and sculpt, sew and embroider; their efforts ranging from the initial scribble and blotches of colour to creations of line, colour and design highly imaginative and artistic.
There is also an assortment of toys and games in wood, plastic and metal to manipulate and construct. A child can make a car or whatever he fancies by screwing rods and wheels with nuts and bolts or by fitting parts together. Blocks in many shapes and sizes are ideal for imaginative and creative play. Toys to pull or push, cars to ride or send whizzing by, paper planes to fly are wonderful outlets for the boundless energy of some children, while playing house or pursuing musical activities absorbs the energies of others.
The children are assiduously taught to reject fear, to be brave and fearless, not to cry if they fall or cannot do something; instead to call and quietly ask for help. They are always urged to “try” and soon they experience the thrill of achievement or of overcoming their fear. This is one of the most fundamental learning experiences in the K.G. and perhaps one of the most rewarding for both teacher and student. They thus grow in consciousness, always enthusiastic and willing to progress.
They are expected to tell the truth at all times. Very soon, telling the truth becomes second nature to them, especially since they learn by experience that they will never be scolded when they do so. As regards food, they are encouraged to eat and taste all kinds of food, to be happy with what they receive but to refrain from being greedy or demanding.
Social Awareness and Harmony: Since the children are enveloped in an atmosphere of love and understanding, they understand easily when asked to share their favourite toys, not to hit each other, or to speak one at a time without shouting. Occasionally they also enjoy learning to work together for about half an hour or more; building a mountain in the sandpit or perhaps a forest or an airport in the classroom. Getting along well with others, though easy for some natures, is a slow and difficult process for others, but they do progress eventually. The most effective method of correcting misbehaviour is the threat of being sent outside the classroom or home and the most effective leverage for good behaviour is to remind them that they are children
of the Mother, Her “hero-warriors”. However, the children are ever eager to share with all the sweet or snack brought from home and they await patiently its division and distribution. It is an experience many recall fondly in later years.
Mental Education: In the K.G. a balance is maintained between two kinds of learning: Analytic and Synthetic. Analytic learning consists of games of vocabulary and memory, puzzles, recognition of forms, board games of all kinds, exercises in logical thinking and logical sequences in space and time; preliminary notions of numbers, relations and rhythmic patterns; a preparation for reading and writing.
Synthetic learning is the process by which the child integrates what he has learnt, feels and knows to create his own world according to his imagination or need of the moment – through words or blocks or colours or dance. Often he involves the teacher in this world and in his actions – and so begins a mutual adventure through a rapport intimate and meaningful.
French is the lingua franca. It is spoken to them from day one. In a few weeks, they communicate, first with “regarde” (look) then with “donne-moi” (give me) and in a month or two, they manage to express what they want or need to say. In six months, they are babbling away in French.
Much attention is paid to correct pronunciation, intonation and expression, though not always with smooth and easy process.
Children love to sing, recite, and have fun with words and rhymes, so songs and poems stimulate them to learn French naturally and quickly. Listening to songs and stories on tapes and watching silent films with the teacher’s commentary are wonderful aids. But the medium par excellence is story-telling, especially those stories which they love and want to hear over and over again. Finally the biggest stimulus is their need to express themselves; to communicate and share with their teachers and each other the things they love or experience.
Sanskrit also is taught twice a week, for the Mother envisioned Sanskrit as the national language of India.
Often, to celebrate the “Darshans”, each class gives a short performance. Some years, an end-of-term play is staged by all the classes. This achieves a sort of culmination and integration of all the class-work, the play becoming the focus of many kinds of learning. Each class works on the theme in its own way, by researching certain topics, through creative expression. Often the theme is significant and symbolic, making it an elevating and inspiring experience for all.
Psychic Education: The aim of education is the growth of the consciousness, in love, beauty and truth. Thus it is not simply a lifelong process but an eternal one; for the conscious individual preserves from one life to another what he has truly learnt.
To be around children is to experience a new creation, the promise of a new being, a new future. Are we not unfailingly drawn to them by the radiance of their smile and the transparent, innocent clarity in their eyes? Their irrepressible joy and energy, their concentration, awe and infinite delight in the tiniest thing and their capacity to love and be one with all lead us back to the inner country, intensifying the living in our own soul. Perhaps it is this that explains the secret of their irresistible charm and attraction for all and especially for those of us who are the companions of their youthful hours.
A child knows how to be. He scatters joy and love like raindrops, cool and refreshing. Around him one also learns how to be strong and free, simple and pure, loved and loving, a true child of the Mother we love.
L’Avenir (The Future)
From the Kindergarten children move on to the Avenir Section in the Delafon Building, also known as the Flower Room. They spend the next three years in large and airy classrooms overlooking a small, but beautiful garden, complete with green lawn, trees, flowering creepers and bushes and a fish pond. Here the primary education of the children commences.
The medium of instruction is French. Sanskrit continues to be taught but written Sanskrit, English and the mother-tongue are introduced only in the second year of Avenir. All other activities are common to the three years.
The subjects taught at this level are: French, English, Arithmetic, Sanskrit, the mother-tongue, Handwork (including Carpentry), Singing (Indian and Western), “Body Movements” to Music and Story-telling by the teachers. Embroidery and Indian Dance are optional.
The work done in the language classes does not consist only of reading and writing but includes language-games, mime, conversation based on pictures and video-films, poems, story-telling, and enacting plays. Lessons in grammar are presented in the form of stimulating games.
Similarly the teaching of arithmetic is not limited to practising the four operations and problem-solving, but includes a variety of maths-games, activities for training the logical faculties and basic geometry.
Sometimes the children, either through dancing to music or in group discussions, create their own story which occasionally is interesting and worthwhile performing before other students. Apart from the main value and objective of such a work, there are often many side-benefits which the teachers utilise to awaken and lead the children on to new areas of learning. In a recent play about a shooting star, the teachers elaborated a whole study of the planets and concluded by making models of the planets with the children and hanging them in their respective positions as decor for the play. This gave the children and their audience (mostly other children) a vivid visual picture of the size and relative positions of the planets in the sky.
In the course of the week, some hours are set aside when the child is left free to choose his own activities. He may decide to paint a picture, make something with clay, wood or paper, read a story-book or a book of information or have a lesson or a difficulty explained by the teacher. It is a time when a personal contact is established with the teacher who looks into the special needs of each child.
Through these activities the teachers try to achieve the following objectives:
to try to understand the true needs of every child in an integral way -physical, vital, mental and spiritual — and find suitable means to satisfy them. Sri Aurobindo says: “The best way is to put the child into the right road to his own perfection and encourage him to follow it...”
to offer a variety of interesting activities both within the regular subjects and outside so that learning becomes a joyful process. Games of intelligence, observation and concentration,
games for training the senses and the memory are played regularly in the classes because “the perfection of the senses as ministers to thought must be one of the first cares of the teacher”.
to instil the love for perfection and the habit of doing things perfectly. Whatever activities are undertaken in the class, whether it be copying a song, drawing a picture or making a wooden toy, much attention is paid to do it as perfectly as possible.
to create a happy and beautiful environment in which the child can grow freely. Children are encouraged to keep their classroom neat and clean and to decorate it, thus providing them with an opportunity to give free expression to their imagination and artistic sensibilities and to feel the joy of working together for a common goal.
to instil a love for work and learning and an awareness of Nature and the life around them. Children are regularly shown educational video films and taken to the City Park, the Sea Beach and the Lake Estate. They love to work outdoors and observe and discover Nature either by themselves or with the teachers’ help.
to build self-confidence so that the child can work independently. The children are either grouped all together or divided into smaller batches. The type of work proposed and the speed of each group varies according to the capacity and interest of the individuals composing it. An attempt is always made to give individual attention to each child and to help him grow in self-confidence. This is also achieved by encouraging the children to act in playlets or by making them explain their classwork to visitors during exhibitions.
“The finest present one can give to a child would be to teach him to know himself and to master himself,” says the Mother. Therefore, the children are encouraged to observe themselves, to understand why they do certain things and to try to discipline and develop themselves. Stories, anecdotes and discussions help the children to cultivate the desired qualities.
In order to develop their artistic faculty and train their taste, they are constantly “led to appreciate, taught to love beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things, whether in Nature or in human creation”.
“Progrès” and “En Avant Vers La Perfection”
A General Introduction
After l’Avenir, the student spends the next nine years in the main school building. It is no accident that our school buildings are located in beautiful natural settings. The first view that catches the eye as one enters the school is the sprawling courtyard covered with lush green grass and canopied by a spreading “Realisation” (Gul Mohur) tree. On the north-end of this lawn is a permanent stage in Indian-red tiles shaded by a sturdy “Patience” (Bokul) tree; and by its side is a fairy-tale bower complete with a lily pond and a fountain glowing magically blue in the evening dark.
The students are always very excited about coming to the “Big School”. New and wider horizons, academic, artistic and practical, open before them.
Academic: The following subjects are now offered: English, French, History, Geography, Indian languages, Mathematics and Sciences which progressively include Botany, Zoology, Physiology, Biology, Hygiene, Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Applied Science, Solar Science and Computer Science. The Centre is bilingual. French is the medium of instruction for French, Mathematics and Sciences. English is the medium for English, History, Geography and almost all other subjects taught in the school. Sanskrit is taught in all the Sections as the Mother envisioned it as the national language of India and most students study their mother-tongue. Many senior students also study an additional Indian language like Tamil or Hindi.
Languages are taught by the direct method. A teacher teaching a particular language always communicates with his/her students, in class or outside, only in that language. This approach makes learning a natural living process and gives good results.
The methods of teaching include collective lecture classes, group discussions guided by the teachers, “the project system”, individual tutorials or consultations with the teacher. A detailed exposition of the “project system” is given in the Report of the EAVP Section.
The syllabus for each subject is drawn by a Board of Teachers constituted for that subject. The Boards are also responsible for maintaining the quality of teaching and an adequate standard in their subject. However, the approach of the class-teachers is highly flexible – the aim being the need of the student and his or her active involvement in the learning process.Aside from the above academic subjects, a student is offered a wide range in the Creative Arts: Drawing, Painting, Handwork, Needlework, Carpentry, Pottery, Leatherwork, Music (Indian and Western – both vocal and instrumental), Dance (Indian and Western), Dramatics. Until the age of fourteen, these activities are part of the regular school programme, after which the students exercise their options.
The atmosphere in the School is so rich and vibrant in the performing arts that students above fourteen years of age pursue their particular field of artistic expression on an extra-curricular basis, making time for them despite their regular school and physical education schedules. It is a refreshing experience to enter the School Courtyard of an evening and see groups of students busy rehearsing on the stage a dance, a song or perhaps a play, hear a student practising the piano or the tabla.
Manual Skills: Some students are given the opportunity to work one day a week in an Ashram Department such as the Automobile Workshop, the Electronics Workshop, the Electricity Department, the Dairies, the Farms or the Gardens.
In addition, there is always scope for new developments. The Art Room, the Library of educational cassettes, records and videotapes, the Ecolake Project, the Aquarium – to name a few – have all started and grown in response to the students’ needs and interests.
Exhibitions, either of class projects or end-of-term displays of the work of a class or section done during the year or general exhibitions of photography, painting and other art form are a regular occurrence.
Every few years there is a Flower Exhibition generally organised by the teachers and students of EAVP but in which finally everyone participates, so pervasive is the love of flowers in the Ashram.
Coming to the “Big School”, makes the students feel grown up and ready to assume responsibilities. Their interests grow and the field of information widens considerably. Their activities increase and their behaviour patterns become more individualised. They are therefore given more individual attention and a wider variety of educational material to satisfy their curiosity. In addition to the regular English, French, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Sanskrit and the mother-tongue they also have classes in General Knowledge.
The teachers’ presentation of subjects is always “from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be”. In all the work done by the students, emphasis is placed on the following: Neatness and cleanliness, such as beautiful and legible handwriting, enthusiasm and diligence in work, acquiring study skills like learning to use reference material such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias, increasing reading capacity and power of comprehension, learning to present the information gathered in a clear and methodical way.
In the study of languages, a good vocabulary, correct pronunciation, clarity of thought and accuracy of expression are given their due importance. Exercises in work-books or on work-sheets (sometimes prepared by the teachers themselves) and free composition help to develop the students’ writing skills. There are various oral exercises, such as telling a story, narrating an incident, reciting a poem, reading a text aloud. Grammar is introduced to make students aware of the intricacies of the language, and for greater accuracy and correctness of expression.
Science offers them the joy of discovering the wealth and beauty of the world of Nature around them as well as the wonders of modern inventions.
Mathematics helps to develop the logical faculty and makes the mind supple, clear and accurate in its workings. In the words of the Mother, mental arithmetic “is more difficult but greatly increases the capacity for inner visualisation and reasoning”. Mathematics can also help to develop the power of intuition. Various exercises, oral and written, are given in the form of games.
In all the three years of Progrès a few periods in the week are kept free for the student to take any subject of his choice and to work under the guidance of a teacher. It is an excellent means of developing self-reliance and independence. When the work is completed, the student presents his work to the whole class.
En Avant Vers la Perfection (EAVP)
In “En Avant Vers la Perfection”, the name given by the Mother to this section, the students are expected to become more and more conscious of perfection. The will for progress and perfection must now become second nature to the students, enabling them to assume responsibility for their integral development.
To recapitulate: the goals, direction and attitudes of the education already begun in the Kindergarten and continued with increasing emphasis and complexity in each progressive section are meant to engender:
an awareness of the world around them and within through observation, research projects, and creative work;
an appreciation of the beauty of Nature, and the beauty of art, in various forms;
a development of the powers of comprehension and expression – to encourage the students to express themselves clearly, logically, beautifully and creatively in both oral and written work;
an originality that encourages the students to write, paint and create what they feel and see and think, rather than copy others; a teamwork developed through work on projects and exhibitions that are subsequently put up by the students on the theme of their study and research;
a building of character which in the words of Sri Aurobindo helps the children “to grow up into straightforward, frank, upright and honourable human beings ready to develop into divine nature”.
This in essence is the basic programme in all the sections of EAVP.
The Project Method: Periodically, for a specified time, the regular time-table is set aside and the students work on a project.
Some of the projects on which the students have worked are the sea, water, trees, colours, shells, human habitation, the Renaissance.
We shall now describe the Project Renaissance. To begin, the teacher briefly introduced the subject, selecting a number of pertinent topics suitable to the mental level of the students. The topics were a very brief history of the Renaissance, lives of the painters and sculptors, the invention of printing, scientific discoveries such as circulation of the blood, the discovery of new sea routes, and discoveries in astromony.
The students then formed small groups choosing their own topics which they researched by referring to encyclopaedias, maps, video tapes, books of reference. While researching “printing”, the students actually worked with a small printing press and learnt type-setting, composing and printing. The result of their work was summed up in the form of individual essays which were corrected by the teachers and then read out to the class by the students themselves. Thus each student benefited from the work of his classmates.
Once the project work was completed, the students presented their work in an exhibition. They selected extracts from their essays, chose relevant quotations from famous authors and wrote them out on hand-made paper in elegant calligraphy which they had learnt as part of their study. They collected prints of famous paintings and sculptures, drew and coloured maps and charts, made clay models to demonstrate scientific inventions and discoveries and arranged them all in their class-room.
The project-method helps:
1. to develop the ability to concentrate and work in some depth on a topic
2. to develop the capacity to collect and organise scattered information, data and present it in a coherent form
3. to inculcate the sense of discipline and responsibility necessary to complete the work within a given time
4. to generate a sense of fulfilment for having done something creative
5. to generate interest in new subjects not yet encountered in the normal academic courses.
In EAVP 2 and 3 the students range from thirteen to fifteen years of age. It is a challenge and a privilege as well as a responsibility to deal with adolescents who are undergoing various physical and psychological changes in a constantly changing world. They are not simply grouped together as a class but treated as trustworthy, seeking individuals. The relationship established between teacher and student is one of mutual trust and respect, with problems both academic and personal being solved on that basis.
In line with the above, logical thinking, evaluation and reflection on new ideas are carried out not only through various class exercises but through discussion of books, video films, cultural programmes and other activities outside the classroom.
A project was done recently in EAVP 3 to discover the basic elements of the “Hero Quest” as seen in ancient mythology as well as in modern fictional characters. The students saw the initiation, trials and failures that various heroes go through before coming to a crucial, life-changing experience. They saw that the success or failure of this experience usually depended on whether or not the hero was acting ultimately for his own sake or for something greater than himself and that only upon the successful outcome of this experience would the hero be able to return with boons to bestow on others. The students saw these elements depicted in various ancient mythological characters such as Perceval, Perseus and Arjuna, and in modern fictional characters such as Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” trilogy, Indiana Jones on his quest for the Holy Grail, as well as in their own personal quests. The students told each other myths, read stories and saw movies to illustrate this process, wrote papers outlining the elements of the quest and finally composed myths themselves incorporating the elements they had learned about.
The students spend one day a week at the Lake Estate to develop and deepen their contact with Nature. The work of these students and their teachers over the last twelve years has been responsible in no small measure for changing certain areas of the Lake Estate into a landscape green with trees and lush with vegetation. Many activities and projects have also developed such as experimenting and researching for the kinds of trees that grow well in lateritic soil, bunding, bird-watching, bee-keeping, growing flowers. Besides reinforcing the students’ love for Nature, the practical work in the field is invaluable in helping the students to transfer and apply their theoretical knowledge (what they learn in the classroom) to practice and vice versa. Work at the Lake Estate also gives them ample opportunity to develop independence, organisation, teamwork and sharing – qualities which are stressed in all the subjects taught. In the science classes, they conduct experiments on their own; in the language classes, they prepare talks, and write and put up playlets.
In EAVP 4 the stress is laid upon the growth and development of the various faculties of the mind. “There is in fact”, says Sri Aurobindo, “hardly any subject, the sciences of calculation excepted, which in the hands of a capable teacher does not give room for the development of all the general faculties of the mind.” Students are encouraged to pursue their studies more on individual lines than in a collective class but there is provision for those who do not have the aptitude for working so freely to attend regular classes.
Many possibilities and study options are placed before the students: worksheets with texts, exercises in comprehension, essay writing, translations of texts, development of language skills, courses in rapid reading.
Group classes are held intermittently for discussions, debates or small symposiums. Students often raise questions that refer not only to their academic difficulties but to their psychological and emotional problems. The teacher helps them to find answers to their questions in the writings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
With the recent entry of Television and Video into the classroom it has been found that they are an excellent medium for the teaching of languages. For the study of French, there is a regular video session once a week, in which students come into direct contact with the French mores and culture, with the people and the language as it is spoken in France. The show is followed by questions and discussions which develop their comprehension and appreciation, with frequently a follow-up by written work to ensure closer control of the students’ grasp and assimilation.
In EAVP 5 and 6 the accent on the intellectual development of the students is reinforced. Now that they stand on the threshold of “Knowledge” or the Higher Course they are expected to be intellectually capable of grasping all kinds of complex or abstract ideas and be ready to study the major works of Sri Aurobindo.
In keeping with our vision of the unity of knowledge, there are no separate streams for the arts and sciences.
The students are now increasingly exposed to the vast and rich world of classical English, French and Indian Literature. The workload in the sciences also increases at this level, and many of the students also opt for Computer Science.
However, some students develop a preference for certain subjects to which they would like to devote more time. A special provision has been made to accommodate them. Thus, for students who are not keen on literature, fewer language classes are assigned. Similarly, students who are not interested or capable of studying the regular science subjects are advised to take the easier course of Perspectives of Science.
Knowledge (The Higher Course)
I. Introductory Remarks:
The Higher Course represents the final stage of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. In general, undergraduate and advanced courses of study are offered there. The ages of the students studying in the Higher Course range from eighteen to twenty years. Thus, the students of the Higher Course are mature enough to understand the deeper import of our existence upon earth and pliant enough to hearken to the call of the “Adventure of Consciousness”.
The Mother has very significantly chosen the designation KNOWLEDGE for the building for our Higher Course studies, for it is indeed meant for those students who seek to derive the maximum benefit through a sustained and sincere pursuit of inner as well as outer knowledge.
It should be well understood that knowledge implies an inner knowledge as well as – or even more than – an outer knowledge. For effective action and proper manifestation in whatever field of creative activity, self-knowledge, atmajnana, always takes precedence over world-knowledge, visvajnana. Svarajya or self-mastery is a necessary precondition to samrajya or the establishment of mastery over one’s outer environment.
This self-mastery cannot be effectively brought about through the application of a rigorously imposed discipline; no outer measures can fulfil that task. It has to grow from within through the process of the individual becoming more and more conscious of himself and of all the movements of his dynamic nature.
Hence, sufficient freedom should be given to the individual. And to fulfil this purpose we offer to our students of the Higher Course a novel system of education called the Free Progress System. In an intellectual atmosphere of genuine freedom – freedom to grow in consciousness and freedom to move ever forward in self-chosen fields of knowledge, in true liberty of choice as distinguished from whimsicality and blind preference, in an atmosphere of inner joy of progress, altogether free from artificial and arbitrary constraints, – our Higher Course seeks to offer all possible help and opportunities for the total growth of our students.
II. Higher Course Studies: (A few salient features)
Since the Free Progress System governs all studies in the Higher Course —
1. there is no compulsion with regard to any subject of study 2. the choice of a subject for study is made by the student in accordance with his real and serious quest 3. each subject or topic selected constitutes a short or a long project,according to the nature of the topic and the decision of the student 4. in exploring each subject of study, students take the help of the teacher or teachers whom they choose 5. in guiding their students, the teachers are expected to widen and intensify the area of exploration to avoid narrow specialisation and wide superficiality 6.each student’s programme of studies should be flexible and evolutionary 7. in the selection of topics of study, students are not confined to a single faculty such as Arts, Science or Engineering Technology even though they may belong predominantly to any of these faculties 8.the period of study for the predominantly Arts/Science students is three years and that of the predominantly Engineering Technology students five years 9.in the Free Progress System the exact amount of work to be covered by each student for his selected course cannot be determined, but to have completed the course he should have shown (i) sustained effort, (ii) development of capacities, (iii) understanding of his subjects and (iv) the power of answering relevant questions orally and in writing with clarity and precision. The quality of the work done is more important than mere quantity of work, although the latter should be commensurate with our high standards.
III. How are Free Progress studies organised?
In order to facilitate the choice of topics, teachers of various subjects present to the students of the Higher Course a list of suitable topics. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of each academic session the students are provided with two different lists:
(a) a teacherwise list of subjects, indicating the different subjects each teacher offers, and (b) a subjectwise list of teachers showing the names of the different teachers available for teaching each subject. These lists are not necessarily exhaustive; any student or any group of students may suggest other study-topics for consideration.
After consulting the two lists and exploratory interviews with teachers of their own choice, students indicate what lines of study or what topics they would like to explore.
The themes thus chosen may be pursued in three different ways depending on the preference of the student:
(i) the “Comprehensive Project” is a deep and extensive study, (ii) the “Major Project” is a less elaborate study (iii) the “Minor Project” is only an outline study.
While pursuing a project or study-theme under the guidance of a teacher, the student should clearly indicate which kind of project he would like to undertake.
The total number of projects or study-themes which a student pursues should be commensurate with the time at his disposal, so that – (i) no theme offered for study is perfunctorily pursued;and also (ii) the available study-hours are not wasted.
IV. Concluding Remarks:
1. The Free Progress System in the Higher Course does not permit any simplistic assessment of the performance of the students. It aims at an integral growth of all the different parts of the being and personality and hence, the assessment must also be multi-dimensional. Thus, there is no provision in our system for the assignment of classes, divisions or grades, nor is there any question of a common syllabus for all the students studying a subject with different teachers or even with the same teacher.
2. To receive a Certificate at the conclusion of one’s studies is not the aim of education here. We want to produce a new type of student who loves to study, without any other motivation than self-perfection through knowledge. “The aim of education is not to prepare a man to succeed in life and society, but to increase his perfectibility to its utmost.”
( Article culled from “Our Work in Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education” by Jugal Kishore Mukherjee in the book Ever to the New and the Unknown, First Edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1993. )
WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN SRI AUROBINDO STUDIES?
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Sri Aurobindo Darshan: The University of Tomorrow
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LIFE AT MIRAMBIKA : A FREE PROGRESS SCHOOL
Nestled among the trees in the premises of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in South Delhi, is Mirambika. The approach to Mirambika is the ‘Sunlit Path’ which has the statue of Sri Aurobindo, signifying the road taking Sri Aurobindo’s vision to the outside world. Wide open, green spaces lined with eucalyptus trees surround the school which has swings, slides, neem groves – which at various junctures provide space for learning activities for different groups.
Classes: There are no graded classrooms in Mirambika. Children are grouped according to their age and each group has a name given to it. For the younger children the groups have names of colours which are chosen by the teachers namely - the youngest group is called the Red group and has children from 3 to 4 years of age. The next group is the Blue group having children of 4-5 years of age followed by the Green group (5+ years), Yellow (6+ years), Orange (7+ years), Progress (8+ years). The two senior most groups are Humility (9+ years) and Receptivity (10+ years). There is an overlap of ages in all the groups. In the older groups names of the groups change and the teachers and the students decide the name of their group at the beginning of the year. The names given for the older groups suggest the focus of the group and the stage through which the children are going and the mental faculty/qualities the school wants to develop.
Uniform: The school does not have any prescribed uniform. Children are asked to wear simple clothes that do not obstruct movement. Since clothes ‘express something of a personality’ uniformity in dressing is not expected by the school.
Teachers - The ‘Diyas’: The teachers in Mirambika are called ‘diyas’. Teachers are not salaried staff but are paid a token stipend which varies for full time and trainee teachers. The teachers are chosen on the basis of their interest in working with children, affection and motivation to do their job. According to a school official, Mirambika has had from the very beginning teachers from rural as well as from urban backgrounds. Teachers in Mirambika are : full time teachers i.e. those residing in the Ashram, trainee teachers i.e. those doing B.Ed, practice teaching and volunteers who are part-time teachers. The volunteers are mainly subject specialists who take up some specific activity (like aero-modelling) and are from various institutions like I.I.T., Delhi University and private organisations. They are only paid conveyance allowance. The trainee teachers are those doing B.Ed, from Indore University (summer course), while taking up practice teaching in Mirambika, and are associated with the school’s teaching programme. The number of teachers keeps changing from time to time because of the volunteer’s leaving and joining the school, however the student-teacher ratio is approximately 3:1. Mirambika has a Teacher Training Wing on its premises which conducts ongoing training for its teachers-in-service as well as pre-service. The training programme focuses on the school ideology and
philosophy, principles of learning which form the basis of teaching-learning in school.
Day Structure: A school day in Mirambika starts at 8.30 a.m. and continues till 3.30 p.m. The children dressed in colourful clothes start their day by having breakfast together i.e. teachers along with the students. Mornings begin with sports in which both students and teachers enjoy themselves in the field. Thereafter students and teachers together clean their rooms. This is followed by playing of music for meditation. During this the students along with their teachers sit quietly and silently with their respective groups. In the mornings, children of all age groups do ‘project work’. During this time they work in small groups on specific projects which integrate different subjects and activities like viewing films, drama, model making, experimenting, art, craft, music etc. The students choose an activity of their liking while working on a project. After project work the children along with the ‘diyas’ have lunch together in the school. They are served vegetarian food prepared in the Ashram kitchen. In the afternoon thrice a week, formal teaching or ‘training’ of specific subjects like English, Hindi and Mathematics takes place. Also, twice a week in the afternoons children have ‘club’ activities in areas like cooking, management, jewellery making, calligraphy, art, craft, pottery making. The children are free to choose and participate in an activity of their interest. The day schedule is not rigid and is subject to change depending on the nature of activity being undertaken by the children. At the end of the day everyone sits and concentrates on the day’s happenings with meditation music playing softly. Before going home they have a glass of milk/juice with snacks under the trees, chatting and laughing together.
Curriculum: Mirambika has a multi-level learning system, i.e. children within a group may perform at different levels in different subjects and teaching is done specifically at their individual level (Prospectus). The school follows the project approach to teaching and has no fixed curricula or syllabus. However for each group, goals in terms of qualities, mental faculties and skills to be developed during the course of one year are decided and delineated into quarterly targets. Within this broad framework the child is provided varied learning experiences by working on projects which are interdisciplinary in nature.
During the actual course of project work, children do a lot of activities related to the project chosen by a particular group. Children collect information, experiment, have group discussions, quiz competitions, put up exhibitions and have debates on the topics. Sometimes field trips are also arranged. The groups are monitored to provide for formal learning in informal settings. A child’s learning is paced according to his/her capabilities, e.g. a child may be performing a year lower to his/her age in one subject and at a higher level in another. In the afternoons the children are taught specific subject areas, e.g. English, Hindi and Mathematics. Subject specialists teach in small groups or individually depending on the need of the child, keeping in view the minimum learning required for a particular age group. The curriculum is not rigidly structured and is open-ended and evolves ‘organically’ i.e. in accordance with the needs and capacities of the child.
Evaluations: No tests or exams are conducted at any stage in any group (class) in
Mirambika. The teacher decides the goals to be achieved during a specific time. In accordance with the group goals, activities are planned by the teachers in advance. In normal course, the teacher plans for the week. Evaluation is done to know how much the child has covered and what more is needed. The teacher makes the child’s profile covering all areas of learning (mental, physical, vital and psychic). No marks or grades are given; the progress is measured against the child’s own record and not with others in the group. It is viewed as feedback of child’s work by the teacher to parents, is descriptive, non-judgmental and discussed individually with each parent. This is followed up by concrete action plan for the child by parents and teachers. In higher groups children undergo self-evaluation, peer evaluation on completion of a topic or activity for which proformas and schedules are prepared by the teachers.
The Teachers Training Wing: Aim of the teacher education programme according to the school is thus ‘not only to prepare teachers to teach children, but to go beyond the immediate objectives of teaching in school and addressing the more fundamental questions of human growth and evolution’. Mirambika teacher education programme is dynamic and flexible. It is an ongoing participative process and much of its curricular details are worked out by students and teachers together as the programme proceeds. With Integral Education at its core, certain broad areas are essentially covered as part of development of human values. The programme is further integrated at each step with practical work in Mirambika. Continuity between theory and practice and a constant endeavour to improve and learn is the spirit of the teachers training programme (Basu, 2005). The course is offered to any individual who has an inner aspiration, shows initiative and is enthusiastic, receptive, sincere and hardworking. The trainees come from all parts of the country and from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Mirambika teacher education offers courses at two levels; Pre-primary and Elementary. The pre-primary level student teachers learn through first hand experience, i.e. practically. They spend half the time working with the children initially under supervision, learning by observing and interacting with the children and through feedback. In the afternoon they have theory classes largely for their self-growth, understanding children’s behavioural pattern, making teaching aids and in translating the school philosophy in their life and work. The elementary level student teachers are gradually inducted in the teaching learning process once they cover the various aspects of Integral Education starting with physical education. Their practical learning and experience in the classroom starts after a period of one year. Both the levels follow experimenting with learning, developing new strategies in teaching and have freedom to explore under guidance (Basu, 2005).
( Courtesy: A brief excerpt from the book “ Life at Mirambika: A Free Progress School” by Anjum Sibia published by NCERT )
EDUCATION : PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
The cardinal principle in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is that of the concept of evolution—an evolution of consciousness. It is the divine consciousness-force or the cit-sakti which reveals itself in the march of time through different evolutionary forms which correlate to the emerging levels of the consciousness.
His ideals of education too fall in line with his concept of evolution. He did of course plan to take up seriously and to formulate a system of national education during the period when great minds in Bengal were trying to institute an alternative educational system for India. He wanted to take up this effort because he felt deeply that the British system of education that was imposed on our country was ‘...denationalising, degrading and impoverishing to the national mind, soul and character because it is overshadowed by a foreign ... substance and spirit.’ (SABCL, Vol.17, p.191 ) So, when Satis Chandra Mukherjee founded the National Council of Education in Bengal and set up in Kolkata the Bengal National College, Sri Aurobindo agreed to become its first Principal which he did after resigning from his lucrative job with the Gaekwad of Baroda.
Even in the first decade of the last century, Sri Aurobindo was clear in distinguishing universal education and national education. It is a distinction that is applicable more so in the first decade of the present century when the cultural differences seem to be vanishing fast and there is the danger of the emergence of a monotonous and drab western style of living and thinking. In his own words: ‘And, finally, the objection grounds itself on the implicit idea that the mind of man is the same everywhere and can everywhere be passed through the same machine and uniformly constructed to order. That is an old and effete superstition of the reason which it is time now to renounce. For within the universal mind and soul of humanity is the mind and soul of the individual with its infinite variation, its commonness and its uniqueness, and between them there stands an intermediate power, the mind of a nation, the soul of a people. And of all these three education must take account if it is to be, not a machine made fabric, but a true building or a living evocation of the powers of the mind and spirit of the human being.’ (ibid., p. 196)
But, before launching on what a national education should be, Sri Aurobindo took up an analysis of what is true education, ‘its essential sense, its fundamental aim and significance’, (ibid., p. 197) so that with the needed variation it could be adapted to any system of national education in any country. The three distinctive and fundamental theories that have to be taken into account in any living education are, according to Sri Aurobindo : (a) the man, the individual in his commonness and in his uniqueness, (b) the nation or the people, and (c) universal humanity.
In different books, like The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle, etc., Sri Aurobindo has given us great details of the man, the nation and the humanity—their uniqueness and their interrelatedness. What is important to note in the analysis of the social and human evolution of man, as seen in the above mentioned books, is that there is an ever-growing movement towards a greater unity. It is the very goal of nature to bring about an ultimate unification of humanity, feels Sri Aurobindo.
The first unit in the evolution of the human social body was the family— it is the unbreakable atomic unit of nature. In the passage of time, there came up around the family a clan or a tribe : these too later enlarged into the living organism of a village. Even this was surpassed and there were formed city-states,princedoms and kingdoms— all of which ultimately got merged in the nation unit.
Till the emergence of the nation unit, the focus on all the levels was the individual man. All institutions— princedoms, kingdoms, etc., centred on the individual. So, education too followed the general rhythm and laid stress on the development of the individual’s outer personality.
Education was more in the form of apprenticeship, the gurukula type where the individual was the centre of learning. All education was tailored to his need depending upon his social status and the social role that he was to fulfil in the community at large. For example, a carpenter’s son learnt the trade from his father in an atmosphere of ease and followed a value-based life.
Of course, the central value that was focused upon was the spiritual building of character, which was also the central aim of education. ‘The Guru was generally a Yogi who put his influence for the growth of the student’, remarked Sri Aurobindo. (Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo , Second Series, A.B. Purani, p. 140). Spiritual life centred on the Vedas was the aim. Of course, there was also cultural training, but it was not the main thing.
‘The main basis in India was spiritual in contrast to the Greek ideal of education. In Greece it was intellectual and aesthetic. The Greeks tried to give intellectual training but not through giving information and teaching different subjects. They rather allowed the intellect to grow freely and there was an atmosphere in which capacities and activities could grow.’ (ibid., p. 141)
However, as and when each country became a true nation, the stress on the individual shifted to a collective consciousness. Most of the great educationists of the past century had tried to contribute to this mid-stage of the evolution of education that would be suitable to the growth and development of India as a nation. Be it Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, with his pioneering efforts through Banyatrana Samiti—which trained students in the spirit of social service, or Satis Chandra Mukherjee who triggered off the effort in self-reliance and self-rule in the field of national education, or M. K. Gandhi with his Nai Talim or Education for life emphasizing on self-education through productive works or vocation,or RabindranathTagore in his establishment of Santiniketan—all of them concentrated on building up a strong, moral and self confident nation based on the principles of non-violence and self-reliance.
For some decades our education on the national level was influenced by these ideals and they were also tried out in the institutions that were started by some of these stalwart thinkers. And most of them succeeded very well in implementing the ideas and the ideals, as was seen for example at Santiniketan. Each institution gave birth to great thinkers and leaders who influenced the Indian social texture and further strengthened Indian culture and the nation.
Outside of these institutions, most of which are now defunct, there grew up a completely different system of national education which has resulted in the present state of education in our country—an all-round picture of gloom and despondency. Still there is a silver lining. Many schools are trying to bring in new methodologies, new systems based on new philosophies of education. Most of these are imported and people are trying to implant them on the Indian soil. These new philosophies of education have realized, in common, that the child must develop an integral personality, that the process of learning must be through play-way method, the teachers must be more guides and helpers, etc. There are a handful of such pioneering schools, which are trying to bring in a new revolution in education. Apparently, they are gaining marginal success and are able to attract the educated parents.
But, there is an inherent flaw in these newly transplanted philosophies. They lack the ideal, the direction, the aim. These schools and their authorities may argue that they indeed have a great aim and objective. What is it? We may ask. ‘It is to prepare the student to succeed in life and society’, they answer in a chorus. What they want to bring forth is highly successful social beings or shall we say, commodities. They enter the social machinery where they get rubbed, polished and then, branded. Finally, they are in demand depending upon the needs of the society. The successful ones attract the best price in the commercial market as well as the marriage -market!
Astonishingly, the condition of the main-stream education in India seems to have been the same even as far back as the second decade of the last century, as is seen in Nolinikanta Gupta’s book, Education and Initiation (originally published in Bengali as Siksa O Diksa in 1926). This avant-garde educationist of the time writes : ‘From the very outset, a massive load of subjects has been thrust upon him and he has been told to master them all. In the second place, consequent upon what has been stated above, no recognition is being given to the existence of things like human personality, his individuality. All, without exception, have been led through the same system; all are being hammered and cast in the same mould. The individual is lost in the collectivity. The country, the nation must develop as a whole. We need, therefore, philosophers, scientists, ethicists and warriors. That is why the country has set up schools or machines for such education, and the educated people, like goods manufactured by machines, are all being spread over the country’s market.’
What we can conclude from this long trend of education in our country is that the collective aim of education overshadows the individual aim. The collectivity or the society puts out its list of demands which vary depending on the developmental stage of the society. After independence, as India launched into a phase of industrial development, its demand was for engineers and doctors. And all able and capable minds were sucked into those professions. As the demand increased, seats for medicine and engineering were auctioned for a high price. The rich licked them up irrespective of their innate capability for the jobs. Then, as India launched into the technological age, the society demanded computer brains overnight. Computer Training Centres spread in India like virus. This also entered into the schools, starting courses in computers. They disrupted the cosy, slow educational pace of the school. Everyone, all the managements, parents, teachers and students caught the vibration of tension and anxiety. A new competition broke in. The already soulless educational systems became more soulless; students battled in becoming computer-wizards and ended up in becoming automated morons!
What has come of these attitudes and efforts ? A tremendous upsurge of materialistic values! Life is money and money is life, it is said. All success is evaluated in terms of money. More success means more money, and more money means more comforts, material comforts.
Do we have time to think about the direction? Or, like rats in a tunnel, keep running, stampeding over our brethren,even killing all nature for our hunger and desires.We have become so very used to our materialistic values, that if we are asked to change tracks we feel uncomfortable and even become suspicious of our well-wishers. If someone were to speak to the adolescent students of the metropolitan cities of India about a different dimension of existence, they would disbelieve the spiritual masters and look at them askance!
This is partly because in India a spiritual life was meant to be an ascetic or religious life—a life that is cut off from fun , from the mesmerising pleasures of life! And, in the modern times, when life seems to be offering a plethora of pleasures and possibilities of material advancement, if a student is asked to think of spiritual life he even reacts in fear! This is the damage done by the old religious attitude. Maybe, it is in order to evade such a religious attitude, which threatens to divorce them from their love of life that the students are subconsciously embracing the materialistic values. But, materialistic life without the support of the spirit is a false life; it is suicidal. Life fulfilled with the spirit as the centre of one’s life is the only life worth living for.
The living truth behind the contemporary trends of education lies in the deeper evolutionary vision behind the march of mankind. The present stress on a collective demand on the individual is in fact the mid-stage of the social evolutionary pattern. The present pattern of collective education is the child of the Industrial Revolution when reason came into prominence overruling other faculties in man. The present trend of a mass-production of doctors, computer engineers, etc., is nothing but a reflection of the industrial system of mass production of articles. They lack individuality, character or personality. So are the students who form part of this mass production system—only items or articles in the job market!
Perhaps we cannot escape the Time-Spirit of collective evolution. Schools like ‘Mirambika’ in New Delhi and ‘New Creation’ in Hyderabad are trying to bring back the individualistic trend. But, their success is in peril if they do not look to the demands of the future. Till now, the success of such new schools, including the one at Pondicherry, is limited because, as we know, after the preliminary or secondary stages the students are forced to join the so-called ‘mainstream’! It is the mainstream of the collective consciousness, the demand of the time where materialism, like an oceanic wave, is engulfing thousands of young minds cutting across divisions of religion, caste, creed, nationality and even race.It is a stage, a necessary stage in mankind’s evolution. If humanity has to move towards a future harmony, a world unity, the rigid barriers of nationality, race and religion have to be dismantled. If we analyse the evolutionary progression of mankind, we see that it is gradually moving towards a greater unity. Starting from a family, a village, a clan, a city-state, a nation, mankind is moving towards the largest of its aggregates—human unity. So, from the individual we have moved on to the collectivity and from the collectivity of the nation and its development we are now moving towards a unified humanity at large.
Spiritual visionaries like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo foresaw the coming of the universal humanity or human unity, the stage of evolution that is the finale of human evolution. So, they sowed the seeds of a future education that would help in ushering in the third level of human evolution: unity of mankind.
Though Swami Vivekananda seems to have stressed the six pillars of education, i.e., spirituality, service, culture, character, science and concentration, the emphasis was on a ‘man-making and character-building’ education based on a Vedantic approach to life. His great emphasis on the integration of apara-vidya and para-vidya and on ‘freedom and truth’ should be the seed-thoughts of the education of tomorrow.
Sri Aurobindo too goes, in a sense, beyond the stage of a nationalist education and concentrates on the ushering in of a new stage of human evolution—the stage of human unity that would flower in a ‘subjective age’. He envisages the coming of a subjective age after the present age of Individualism. In his book The Human Cycle, Sri Aurobindo speaks of the five stages of social evolution : (a) the Symbolic, (b) the Conventional, (c) the Individual, (d) the Subjective, (e) the Spiritual. Mankind has on the whole passed through the first two stages, and, many cultures at present are going through the ‘individualistic age’ where there is an acute emphasis on the egoistic self—which, in fact, is the central philosophy of Materialism that has engulfed all the nations at present. Some countries have stepped into Subjectivism where the emphasis is in the discovery of the true inner self, the soul.
Sri Aurobindo’s conception of education is essentially oriented towards the building of this subjective age, although he would perhaps agree with Swami Vivekananda who had said : ‘We must have the whole education of our country, spiritual and secular, in our hands, and it must be on national lines, through national methods, as far as practical.’ Each nation has its own unique soul, its own peculiar mind and therefore each country will express in its own way the universal soul and mind of humanity in the coming subjective age, believes Sri Aurobindo. Because of this basic insistence on the inner growth and expression of man, it is difficult to dig up ‘the nationalist roots’ in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of education. His introductory essays on ‘A System of National Education’, published in the Karmayogin in 1910, contain only certain general principles of a healthy and sound system of education which could form the basis of a national system of education in any country that chooses to follow them.
However, luckily for us, the Divine Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram has given us a systematized five-fold education which reflects completely the essential principles of true education that Sri Aurobindo had developed in his incomplete work, A System of National Education (1910), as well as in his writings on A Preface to National Education (1920-21).
A comprehensive programme has to be chalked out that has the five principal aspects corresponding to the five principal activities of man: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. This programme must start on the level of school education and it must continue into the university campus and further into life.
A body that is healthy and strong, plastic and agile, graceful and beautiful must be the ideal of physical education. One must develop all these not for the sake of attracting the opposite sex or for winning laurels and praises from others but for the love of beauty itself. The basis of physical life is beauty and it must be sought in each gesture and in each act.
If physical education is consciously cultivated, the sense organs could become more precise and more powerful in their functioning. It may even be possible to discover latent senses in man, which are not yet brought into everyday use. Vital education or the development and use of the sense organs and the gradual awareness and control of one’s character, is of extreme importance, for it is the vital or the emotional nodus in man which is the source of all his aesthetics, dynamism, nobility, courage, leadership and the indomitable spirit of adventure.
A full knowledge of one’s character and faculties will lead one to perfect mastery of one’s
emotional being and such a self-mastery is indispensable for avoiding constant misery, disappointments and depression which often lead one to catastrophies.
Mental education is perhaps the most sought after in all the institutions of education. The ultimate aim of mental education must be : (a) to develop the power of concentration, (b) to develop the capacities of expansion, (c) to organize one’s ideas around an ideal or aim, (d) to be able to control one’s thoughts, and (e) to develop a mental silence that will enable it to receive intuitions.
Keeping these as the ultimate benefits, a new system of education could be developed accordingly. In this new system the so-called ‘formal’ and the ‘non-formal’ aspects of education could be blended, brought together in the concept of a university without walls. In such a concept the necessity of the lecture system, the syllabus system and the examination system could be eliminated and that is the first thing that needs to be done if a new thinking has to come in education.
What could be an alternative for a lecture system? The alternative is the process of self-learning and group-learning assisted and guided by the wise counsel of teachers. We do already see the important role of the computers in self-learning. Students could switch on their computers and using the necessary software learn the things that he or she wants to learn and not has to learn. Learning is a process of discovering one’s own self-potential and in this process coercion or outer pressure has no place.
The external pressures of time, time-tables and meaningless necessities of forms and formats must be replaced by an inspiring atmosphere and the noble and moulding influence of the society, parents and teachers. At the same time, the need of group-learning should be fulfilled through the means of group-work, which should be done in the direct field of activity, such as the medical students who learn in the hospital premises itself. This way there would be a synthesis of studies and work experience—a happy and balanced combination for an integral development of personality.
The role of the teachers in this new process of learning would not be eliminated but widened and deepened. The teacher must update himself in knowledge and evolve inwardly, for he would be no more a mere instructor or a task-master but a helper and a psychologist-guide who suggests ways to perfect the students’ instruments of acquiring knowledge—both physical and spiritual.
A system of evolutionary syllabi must be adapted which would continuously change and grow in accordance with the necessities and needs of the students and the times and the cultural milieu. It should also be basically a multi-entry system. That is to say, a student must be able to take up courses in any subject of his interest and at whatever level irrespective of his basic degrees or his age. This would be basically a nonsequential progress, which would be suitable to the process of self-learning and group-learning.
The most meaningless and frustrating activity of the present educational system is the method of evaluation of a student and the pattern of examination. It does not much evaluate the student’s knowledge; it only judges the student’s capacity for cramming and his temptation to cheat. This unhealthy system of competition does not end with the obtaining of the degrees, but it continues into life giving rise to the social evils of nepotism, corruption and violence. On the one hand, we aim at countering the social evils by teaching ethics and religion, but on the other hand, we inject into the very same society the poison of competition. We want to spot the strong and the brilliant who alone have the right to guide and control the future society. But this theory of the survival of the fittest belongs to the backlog of social history, for, it is not true at the evolutionary stage of man at present. In the society, it is the so-called ‘weak’ that are more adaptive and humble and it is they who are the sustainers of cultural values while the ‘strong’ only parade them. Evolution advances not necessarily through the fittest but through those that are most adaptive and supple.
Tests could be interwoven into the process of learning but examinations and earning credits will not be the aim of the new educational system. Examinations are the bane of the present education and they must be abolished and given no place in the blue-prints of future education. Credit earning may fit perfectly in the contemporary ideals of commercialism but, it does not serve in any way a true man-making programme of education. Hence, the sooner we move out of this commerce of education, the healthier and safer would be the citizens of tomorrow’s society.
Degrees too, though of high value at present, have to be gradually scrapped, for, in many countries, they have lost their importance, they guarantee neither employability nor respectability.
One way out of this examination and degrees dilemma is to shift the career training of students from the campus to institutions where experts are involved in those careers. These institutions could include apprentice programmes and themselves become centres of learning and work. This may sound like going back to the ancient system of apprenticeship but it is needless to emphasize that any divided and fragmented education is bound to be lop-sided and ultimately harmful to the growth of the full personality of man. The environment in such apprenticeship centres is more realistic and similar to the life-situation. There the student will not feel the division between university and life and there would be a life-long education. Secondly, even the motivation of the teacher and the student would be realistic and more intense because of their involvement in a life-situation and not one that is artificially created in a university classroom.
The wall of the university must be demolished so that there could be osmosis between the university and life at large. Universities would become then centres of academic research— a laboratory of knowledge. Education, unburdened of syllabus, examinations, age-restrictions, credentials and credits, time and cost pressures, could concentrate on man-making education. Students will participate, as it were, in a collective venture not only in their own society or country, but of the whole earth. Education will not only be a continuous process but a collective process as well.
All the different educational processes discussed above— the physical, the vital and the mental, are only processes of ‘learning to learn’. But, it would be incomplete and otiose if it is not supported by the process of ‘learning to be’. This is the process of ‘psychic education’ or the bringing out of a greater consciousness that lies hidden in every human being. This consciousness, called the psychic being is like a light that shines in the centre of every human being. With the psychic education, we begin to deal with the deeper motives of life. What is the purpose of life on earth? What is my inner being? How to discover it so that it may govern and organize my life? The Indian systems have chartered the process of realizing the deeper self, the atman or the soul, and it could be practised by any seeker anywhere in the world.
Psychic education reflects itself in the new principles of education as truth, harmony and liberty. Freedom of thought and action and expression are essential, for freedom is the very stuff of our psychological nature. Our faculties can flower only in freedom. But, most often, freedom is abused and institutions of education have therefore clamped upon the students many rules of discipline. Indeed, discipline is a fundamental part of self-education of any group activity. But, a strong and persistent stress on discipline is not the necessary antidote against freedom being turned into license. It must be acknowledged that along with the ideal of freedom and liberty, we must emphasize the quest for truth and the pursuit of harmony. Where these three principles are pursued, there the atmosphere is aright for a deeper search of our inner being.
All the forms of educational systems that have existed till the present have served, though in different ways, the evolution of mankind till the present stage of collectivity. But, if education has to play a role in the future evolution of humanity, and play it must, the avant-garde education philosophies have to take into account this new dimension: the psychic and the spiritual dimension. Human unity may be mechanically brought about by political exigencies and by technological genius, but such a unity can never last for lack of a central cementing factor. The true binding factor is the psychological sense of brotherhood, the sense of fraternity, which can come out only by psychic and spiritual education. So, in fact, those schools which want to survive into the future and be useful to the future generations of humanity have to look seriously into this new dimension of education and find out means of imparting it to the young minds. The very first thing that the future educationists could do is to spread this ideal of a spiritual education in the prospectus of their schools and help in fixing it in the consciousness of the parents and the teachers.
As the Mother puts it: ‘The most important step would be to place before the youth the best, that is, the highest and noblest aim of life.’
A capital factor in the degradation of India has been the idea that life is an illusion. This idea should be replaced by the positive idea that life is an evolving reality, and that it is at present a field of battle through which the eternal perfection shapes us in its own image. The ultimate aim of life is to be completely transformed so as to become a fully developed and effective means for the manifestation of perfection, and to be a field of progressive harmony and unity.
‘Children should aspire to become the hero warriors to fight successfully the great battle of transformation against all falsehood; they should be the seekers and realisers of total perfection in physical life.’( On India, p. 6 )
In one of his conversations with a disciple Sri Aurobindo casually mentions the following outlines for a proper education of the child :
‘There are, I believe, three things : to bring out the real man is the first business of education. In the present system it is sorely neglected. It can be done by promoting powers of observation, memory, reasoning, etc. Through these the man within must be touched and brought out.
The second thing that acts is the personality of the teacher. Whatever Montessori may say, the teacher is there and his influence is there and it does, and must act. The teacher may not directly guide or instruct but the influence keeps the children engaged. Children are quite open to such an influence. The third thing is to place a man in the right place in the world.’( Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, A.B. Purani, p. 137 )
In a formal way he gave the same ideas in a different context in his writings on ‘A Preface to National Education’ which are as quoted below:
‘The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or task-master; he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose. He does not actually train the pupil’s mind, he only shows him how to perfect his instruments of knowledge and helps and encourages him in the process. He does not impart knowledge to him; he shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself. He does not call forth the knowledge that is within; he only shows him where it lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface. ...
The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its own growth. The idea of hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent or teacher is a barbarous and ignorant superstition. It is he himself who must be induced to expand in accordance with his own nature. There can be no greater error than for the parent to arrange beforehand that his son shall develop particular qualities, capacities, ideas, virtues, or be prepared for a prearranged career. To force the nature to abandon its own dharma is to do it permanent harm, mutilate its growth and deface its perfection...
The third principle of education is to work from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be. The basis of a man’s nature is almost always, in addition to his soul’s past, his heredity, his surroundings, his nationality, his country, the soul from which he draws sustenance, the air which he breathes, the sights, sounds, habits to which he is accustomed. They mould him not the less powerfully because insensibly, and from that then we must begin. We must not take up the nature by the roots from the earth in which it must grow or surround the mind with images and ideas of a life which is alien to that in which it must physically move. If anything has to be brought in from outside, it must be offered, not forced on the mind... .’( SABCL, Vol.17, p.l91 )
Further Sri Aurobindo advises :‘The teacher should not seek to impose himself or his opinions on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind. He should regard himself as an aid and should aim at awakening rather than teaching.
Example is more important than instruction, and influence is more important than example. Influence is not the outward authority of the teacher, but the power of his contact, of his presence, of the nearness of his soul to the soul of another, infusing into it, even though in silence, that which he himself is and possesses.’( On India, p.7 )
The teachers must be convinced of these spiritual ideals, which form the basis of a spiritual education. By spiritual education what we mean, in general, is not the moral or religious education—a smattering of which forms part of the present timetable of any school. What we mean is that all life is a growth of consciousness towards a higher and Supreme Consciousness. This supreme goal can be called by any name— Nirvana, Absolute, Supreme Origin, Purusottama, Brahman, etc. And for this constant and continuous evolution of one’s consciousness, all life and all its activities could be means of progress. Materialism with its scientific and technological developments and the present complex life of man could be embraced by spirituality and our life could gain a positive meaning and direction—that of manifesting the Divine on earth!
In fact, that is the purpose of evolution—evolution of man and earth—to reveal progressively the hidden Divinity and to bring upon earth a life-divine. It is not something impossible or remote—this dimension of a life divine is already there in man. And it could be brought about by a regular and systematic life— the life of yoga or what Sri Aurobindo calls the ‘Integral Yoga’. Each one of us can start on this adventure right now, it does not matter to what religion or caste or nationality we belong. It is enough if we can ignite the spark within us—the spark of aspiration for a higher life. And the beginning of this individual yoga is nothing but a psychic realisation. With the psychic education begins the real edict ‘Know Thy Self’!
Students, young and old could be asked to practice a few simple things daily, as advised by the Mother. First of all, one must remember that a higher presence is the guardian and creator of this universe. This ‘presence’ is not a remote one, it is there in the heart of each one and it could be contacted whenever needed. In the daily routine of actions, one must remember that presence and to call for its help. Before eating to remember, to concentrate a few seconds and pray that the food may give the substance and energy necessary for the strength and health of the body. To speak only when necessary and not to speak of people disparagingly. To take pleasure in all one does and not do things for pleasure, etc. All such small activities must be increased as they grow up. Whatever external activity they may take, depending on their aptitude, circumstance, swabhava, they must try to manifest something of the divine will.
As the student grows up and enters the so-called life—so-called because, in reality, all true education is for the whole man and the whole life—he/she will realise that psychic realisation is in reality the quest for the reason of one’s existence upon earth. It leads further in the quest ending in the discovery of one’s self. Till now, it was believed that for realising one’s self, one had to leave this world, go into seclusion, into monasteries or Ashrams. But, it need not be so. The inner self could be practised and realised even while leading a full life in society and on earth, emphasised the Mother. As one intensifies the search for one’s self, the psychic being, the spark of the supreme Divine, all life becomes animated, takes on a different meaning. One comes out of one’s barrier of egoism, and consequently the troubles, the problems of life begin to thin away. Our faculties of expression, of manifestation, of thinking, of art, etc., become doubly effective. Circumstances of life are almost re-oriented to help us in our march towards the inner discovery. Of course, this adventure needs all of one’s mental, vital and physical energies and fortitude, just as one who sets on the conquest of Everest, and therefore this adventure should begin as early in life as possible. One should not think of starting on this adventure after annihilation into the supreme Reality. A total transformation of man is the only way out. A self-exceeding of man into a new species that will be to man what man is to the animal is the true solution. Such a total transformation of man—his body, his life and his mind—will usher in a divine life upon earth, a Life Divine that is the ultimate destiny of earthly life.
Then perhaps will begin the Supramental Education where there would be no further need of any systems or ideologies of education:
‘In brief, one can say that the ‘supramental education’ will result not merely in a progressively developing formation of the human nature, an increasing growth of its latent faculties, but a transformation of the nature itself, a transfiguration of the being in its entirety, a new ascent of the species above and beyond man towards superman, leading in the end to the appearance of a divine race upon earth.’ ( The Mother, On Education, p.131 )
‘All then shall change, a magic order come,
Overtopping this mechanical universe,
A mightier race shall inhabit the mortal’s world.’
( Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, p.793 )
A DIALOGUE ON INTEGRAL EDUCATION
(An edited transcript of an interaction between the learners of an online course on
Integral Education offered by Sri Aurobindo Darshan: The University of Tomorrow
to students from Ohio, USA)
NS: My thinking on education and the ideas of “integral” lead me back to very fundamental thinking. Education is missing something, that I know and have felt very deeply for a very long time. What is missing? Is this an issue with a societal answer, not an individual answer? Is it easier and less muddy if education is compartmentalized? Is it fear of the unknown that makes education rote memory versus understanding and knowing?
BM: Yes Nan, you do bring up some fundamental questions. But these are fundamental to our learning of Integral Education. At least that is how I understand them. This very unexplainable sense that “we are missing something” is often the beginning of our aspiration to discover/recover the Divine within us, within all and everywhere. And it is of course safer and indeed very human to wait for a societal answer instead of looking for an individual answer, to wait for the system/society to change instead of working towards individual transformation. And you are right again, we want to keep things simple, we want to keep things under control, so we design systems (education as one of them) to help us do that. Media, govt., all other organized systems happily participate in this “disciplining” process.Universally also we see the beginnings of this sense that “we are missing something” and that’s where we begin the search for whatever is missing. And in this search the hope lies, the future rests. No easy quick fixes there.
AR: The education system that is being described and decried by all of us is also the same system from which we have all come. So, what has been the saving grace that has brought us to this thinking that something was missing in the past system of education and we are also beginning to realize ‘that’ something that is missing. Is it because the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have described the missing element or is there also some other factor that has helped us to realize the missing element? Surely, all have not read Sri Aurobindo or the Mother’s writings and yet there is some general awakening to the missing element in our present system of education. What could that be? Can all of us give it a thought?
NS: Do we need to foster the attitude or belief that education is and can be or must be life long and not something that ends with the diploma? We need to take ownership for the Divine within all of us and respect and nurture the Divine in all living beings and things? Judgement is not ours? If these are the questions which are so easy to ask and suggest, how do we implement this in the education system? This is where I believe you are right, when you said: beginning begins when we realize that what is needed is a constant aspiration, a persistent and sincere will, and intense self-observation of one’s inner movements and purification of one’s motives for action. And every field of action, including the education is filled with dual forces that work in nature – positive and negative, light and shadow. Educators, like other human beings, are capable of making the right and good decisions when they move beyond limited self-interest. And like other human beings, they too are capable of becoming a captive to their own greed and selfish interests. I think this is a great point and again something else to reflect on!
I know about the 1960’s, in the US, education began to rebel against grades that hurt the student’s self-esteem and the Self Esteem Movement was born. I was a product of some of this thinking as a young student. At one point the traditional grading system was replaced with Unsatisfactory and Satisfactory, there was also the 1,2,3 and 4 system with 4’s being good and 1’s not so good. Civics was a course that was eventually phased out to some degree as well as art, music and gym. In this day and age, school is focused on getting good grades at any cost. It is very disheartening. At least with the Self Esteem Movement the essence of ‘be the best you can be’ was still in the classroom. Now it is very competitive and grades are the bottom line – a reward for trying hard and memorizing the correct information. Education is not integrated as a life style of lifelong learning.
AR: Indeed what Nan says is true: “Education is not integrated as a life style of life long learning.” But then what are the changes required for such a thing to happen? Can you think over the possible changes that need to be brought about for this ideal to become a truth of life: all life is a self- education.
SC: You will find in both public and parochial schools, at every level, the students are isolated from the living process of human development in themselves and society. Neither institution has grown because they are distracted by the ignorant confusion of their function for the individual and to society. In my opinion both are institutions for subjugation, not education. If we consider the possibility that education is being used as tool for subjugating the human potential for compliance to an external operation of power, then the Indian concept of being human as a principle for education is a revolutionary concept!
BM: This was very helpful. From my experience also as a student in and observer of Indian schools and colleges, I feel this conception of human being is generally ignored. The pressure is to get good grades so as to get into good colleges, get good degrees which can then get you good jobs. Education is generally seen as a means to upward social and economic mobility. The basis and guiding principle of dominant model of education in India in that sense is not different from what you describe here. Yes there is a huge private school system there which generally follows the public education model as far as curriculum is concerned and adds a few extra things – some of which may be good. For example, the school I attended till high school and the schools where I also taught were part of an educational trust that was first started as a resistance to the British system of convent schools and as a result did try – at least in theory – to blend the modern system with some Indian values by incorporating an awareness of Vedic thought. But in practice those values were imparted as a somewhat meaningless add-on (in snippets – in one half-hour period once a week) and not seamlessly integrated into the guiding philosophy of the school. In the schools I attended/taught-in there was also this practice of performing selected Vedic rituals on a periodic basis which were supposed to help students imbibe some of the values being taught in that once a week class. But to be honest, nobody really thought that was making any difference. Students and teachers did all that as a monotonous ritual without understanding its deep significance or meaning. In most private schools in India even this much is not there.
Besides the Pondicherry school and other Integral Education inspired schools in India, I have heard (and read about) some other schools in various parts of India that are in fact doing creative things and some of them are based on holistic ideas of education (e.g. Rishi Valley School is inspired by J.Krishnamurti’s ideas on education, then there is Vishwa Bharati, Chinmaya schools among others). Of course, in all these schools philosophy and practice may not always match but then ideals are meant to provide inspiration and constantly lived and practiced despite all the stumbling and imperfection on the way.
This diversity of schooling choices in India does allow – at least in theory – for more educational choices both for parents for their children’s education, and also for educators and educational thinkers to put into practice many of these great ideas on education that are grounded in this wide and inspirational concept of human being. But my feeling is that the pressure to conform to a set of standards aims of education - to prepare students for good career choices, to make them productive members of society, and to make them good citizens – prevent most of these private schools to really try and become something more. They are constrained by the national curriculum standards and demands as well, but first and foremost by the general societal expectation of what education is supposed to do, which in turn determines these national curriculum standards and guidelines. As long as education is seen by the majority in society as only as a means to a good job and a comfortable life (not that these goals are bad as such), and not as the means to bring forth (to educe) the best in human being and to discover our real and full human potential, all such attempts at starting schools on these higher ideals of education must remain a small part of the entire education scene in a society. Then perhaps this also makes sense, any high ideals first capture the mental, emotional, spiritual imagination of only a small number. As Sri Aurobindo said somewhere (I am paraphrasing) – it doesn’t matter what number of people are involved in these high and wide integral movements of the future, what matters is the intensity of their aspiration. So with each individual learner’s inward turn to these integral ideas based on such high conception of human being, the collective aspiration of humanity is becoming stronger. And with every little attempt at individual transformation, we are getting closer to making a divine life on earth.
At the same time, I feel that even though the majority of schools in India are based on similar understandings of education like schools elsewhere, the external environment of living spirituality does help in giving most young minds at least an elementary awareness that human life is more than the mere materialist understanding. So perhaps what they don’t get from schools, the larger societal context may help provide. But this does create a sense of chasm between schooling and living, which conveys the message that education is not about good living, but only a means to make a good living.
Schools as secular organizations are supposed to not have anything to do with matters of the spirit. Education has become concerned with matters of material life only and matters of spirit have been relegated to organized religion.
AR: How do you think India has tackled with this problem? Or has it not solved it at all?
BM: I think independent (post-1947) India tackled it (or shall I say not tackled it at all) by simply following the Western (particularly British) model of education that was imposed on it. This means that the schools have remained the domain where education ends up being a means to learn and develop certain skill sets and gather knowledge of certain content areas that will help children secure their economic and social futures. So subject matter is presented and learnt in snippets using variety of methods including lecturing, discussion, comprehension, analysis, test-taking, essay-writing, oral examination, and other standard practices.
While the Indian variety of secularism is somewhat different from the stricter western understanding of secularism, the schools have for the most part remained a very secular domain, as far as the educational experience of the student is concerned. The “religious” affiliation of some of the educational institutions supported by the State may have some bearing on the kind of “religious” education being given in these institutions, but the question whether this “religious” education has anything to do with “spiritual” education is open for debate. My feeling is that the type of religious education that is imparted in these schools doesn’t really help children in their spiritual growth, rather it may impede in this growth by actually imparting a rigid, somewhat dogmatic understanding of religion.
Then there are alternative private-run efforts (quite small in comparison to the dominant private and public systems) which are trying to integrate spirituality in their educational offerings. But of course, it is an open question what is meant by these organizations’ definitions of spirituality. And also, many of these organizations may not be accredited/recognized by the state as such. There is still a question whether Indian state is ready to really accept the widest possible definition of spirituality – which is integral in its approach and outlook. At the same time, as I mentioned in another post (on living spirituality), as per my current knowledge even in most govt.– run (secular) schools, the morning still starts with some sort of prayer which all students collectively sing, and these prayer songs are usually more general which transcend all religious traditions. (e.g. Humko man ki shakti dena, Itni shakti hamein dena data, Ai maalik tere bunde hum)
SC: I sat up and took notice of these words by Sri Aurobindo on national education: “It is the spirit, the living and vital issue that we have to do with, and there the question is not between modernism and antiquity, but between an imported civilization and the greater possibilities of the Indian mind and nature, not between present and the past, but between the present and the future.”
To conceive of a national identity formed by the continuity of experiences from the fifth century is unknown to me, a citizen of the United States. I was born here in the USA. My great grandparents immigrated to America with a pioneer’s spirit. With this spirit came the creation of great innovations and a focus on individual freedom so intense that anyone or anything that stood before them on their blazing path was either destroyed, or absorbed. Many came to America importing the history of their European civilizations, yet on many levels they were willing to leave behind any part of that history which might weigh them down in their pursuit for individual happiness. America’s identity as a nation is always changing. There is such a rich variation of histories in America and it is no wonder our national identity is rooted in the individual ego. What is the Dharma of America? Is it the law of change? Is it the pioneer’s spirit? America’s national soul is embryonic in comparison to the soul experiences of India. We speak of the “American Dream” here, is it a dream because America has yet to become conscious or aware of its many selves? Given the history of America as a nation, a nation founded on, and built with a strong resistance to hierarchy, leads me to wonder how much of America’s national identity is governed by the memory of oppressive experiences carried over from an immigrating peoples native land. I am not an immigrant; my heritage has been here in America since the Civil War. Yet, there is a part of my ego which identifies with the experiences of immigrating to a new land although I have never experienced this. Why? As a nation, I think America is very much like a child. I think America as a nation is just beginning its transition from an “unconscious creator”or “dreamer” to a conscious worker of its national soul. What is needed for our national soul is our Mother. America is like maternity ward, a nursery full of newborns separated from their mama’s, left to be cared for in an artificial environment.
AR: The above discussion regarding the nation soul of America is very significant. It is deep in its quest and honest in its approach. It is very difficult to find out the nation-soul of America for it may be that it is too much in its infancy to get a personality of its own, as you said, it is in its transition from an unconscious creator to conscious worker. At the same time, there are already signs of the future adulthood in the American soul, just as man’s childhood carries the signs of manhood. If one can go by these signs, it seems that the American soul seems to bring in man’s evolution the aspect of individual freedom which leads to adventurism, innovation and creativity and boldness in approaching new ideas, may they be religious or intellectual or moral.
BM: Reflecting on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Education, this passage spoke to me: “...the acquiring of various kinds of information is only one and not the chief of the means and necessities of education: its central aim is the building of the powers of the human mind and spirit, it is the formation…, the evoking of knowledge and will and of the power to use knowledge, character, culture, ...that at least if no more. And this distinction makes enormous difference.”
( pp. 9-10 )
This passage touched my educator soul: “For within the universal mind and soul of humanity is the mind and soul of the individual with its infinite variation, its commonness and its uniqueness, and between them there stands an intermediate power, the mind of the nation, the soul of a people. And of all these three education must take account if it is to be, not a machine-made fabric, but a true building or a living evocation of the powers of the mind and spirit of the human being”
( p12 ).
It’s a journey and a process, not a destination. Education can not be compartmentalized, it must encompass all of the people. Education, in other words, can not always be one size fits all. It makes me think of my Masters Degree program, I am not in a one size fits all, I am creating what will challenge the mind and feed my soul.
SC: I find it curious that children are rarely considered in discussions about the formulation and implementation of ideas. We speak of philosophy, history, arts, etc. as creations of man. Yet, before the man or woman can participate in building the structures of external life, he or she was a child. What role does human development in childhood play in a society’s development? Could it be society’s ignorance of their own individual development and the presence and development of their children as the concealed potentials and possibilities of mankind’s destiny in the evolution has created a collective motherless child, left to build artificial islands in a polluted stream? A child developing in an artificial environment, without the unity and harmony of Nature, will collapse and give way to the burdens laid on him in a system of civilization divided from its divine origin.
His growth is stunted, his vision blinded by the instinct of mere survival in an artificial world. He will become a man, but what kind of man will he be? What kind of structures will he build with the tools he has been given? In Dimensions of Spiritual Education, Sri Aurobindo comments on the need of a spiritual change. “ A structure of the external life has been raised up by man’s ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organized collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction…For no greater seeing mind, no intuitive soul of knowledge has yet come to his surface of consciousness which could make this basic fullness of life a condition for the free growth of something that exceeded it.” ( p.1 ) The child is a sensitive being, psychic in nature. Endowed with unlimited potential and possibilities, the child has either been ignored or preyed upon by the most hostile ignorance of our time.
AR: Has it been done deliberately: “Endowed with unlimited potential and possibilities, the child has either been ignored or preyed upon by the most hostile ignorance of our time.”? If so what had the society to gain from this move of deliberate neglect? It goes contrary to the development of the society, don’t you think so? The greater seeing mind, the intuitive soul of knowledge is present and upfront in the nature of a child. It is fully true, but is the child aware of it? Or is the adult educationist aware of this in his students? If so, who will guide the child’s “free growth under the governance of their soul.”? That is the problem in front of us? Do we find an answer to these questions in the Integral Education? Explore!!
SC: A child perfecting his or her willing instruments is dependant upon the environment. Provisions must be made for their free growth under the governance of their soul. It is within the free growth of the child, and our observations of that growth, that the destiny of mankind in the evolution can be consciously revealed. How far is the “free growth of the child” really free? How much can it be free? What is the role of discipline and self-control in this “free growth’? We need to explore this concept of freedom and discipline…
BM: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Education: “three things which have to be taken into account in a true and living education, the man, the individual in his commonness and in his uniqueness, the nation or people and universal humanity” (p 13); “But make the education good, thorough and interesting and the love of knowledge will of itself awake in the mind and so mingle with and modify more selfish objects.” ( p 56 )
SC: Both of these passages affirm my belief of the importance of a well rounded approach to education. This I relate back to the current state of the United States K-12 education. Physical education, art and music along with recess are being taken out of the curriculum, so students can have more seats and face time with the giver of knowledge (teacher). Thus the receiver of knowledge (student) can “mechanically” learn or memorize facts. Physical education, art and music as well as recess are arenas for students to apply and integrate knowledge via experience and being in the moment. Currently, in my opinion US education is only addressing the mind and at a very superficial level. They are dropping the ball on body and spiritual education is taboo!
BM: How do I begin to pick selected passages from the material I have been reading? Everything rings so true and deep, so meaningful and soul-touching that I end up underlining almost all the book!
I will start with the three principles of true education that Sri Aurobindo outlines –
1. “The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught.”
2. “The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its own growth.”
3. “The third principle of education is to work from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be”.
One of most essential benefits an educator can gain from a reflection on the first principle is a gift of humility. As an educator in the higher education system in the US, I see intellectual arrogance as one of the distinct characteristics of professoriate in academy. Experts! That’s what professors like to call themselves. Experts in what? Experts who study and learn of the outer knowledge about things. If teachers truly become mentors and guides for their students, surely they can’t be “experts” – they have to be humble learners alongside their students’ learning journeys. Experts speak from a position of their expertise; mentors offer suggestions for students to explore and come to their own decision. Experts know the right formula, mentors are willing to say that they don’t have the answer but they are willing to explore with the student. If nothing can be taught, it only means that all can be learned. So teachers and students learn together as they work together – they just may have different roles but they are both seekers in their own unique ways.
In regard to the second principle, Sri Aurobindo writes: “To force the nature to abandon its own dharma is to do it permanent harm, mutilate its growth and deface its perfection…The chief aim of education should be to help the growing soul to draw out that in itself which is best and make it perfect for a noble use”.
Most lower-middle-class/middle-class parents in India, at the time I was growing up and perhaps even now, have to sacrifice a lot so their children can have good education and so they want their children to prepare themselves well for a meaningful productive life and a decent standard of life. But at the same time when taken to an extreme, such perspective can lead to what Sri Aurobindo is cautioning us about – it can mutilate a soul’s growth and prevent it to draw out that in itself which it needs to grow towards perfection. I guess we can all think of people we know who could have been good singers, painters, musicians, actors, writers etc. if only they had been encouraged to do so or given the right environment in which to discover their hidden dharma and grow into that. Perhaps in the larger divine scheme of things these truths carry their own meaning and purpose. So do my economics degrees!
The third principle – “from near to far, from that which is to that which shall be.” First of all, it is a beautiful poetry sketched in these few words perfectly placed and carrying a profound truth of life and nature hidden in a simple phrase structure. How do we go from near to far? That is the only way we go anywhere. With one little step, with the first step. We may keep our eyes on the distant goal, but we always start from what is nearest to us. A tree is hidden in the soul of a seed, but it begins its life from the first little sapling that reveals itself from within the seed. Then why do we forget this simplest and profoundest truth when it comes to planning education for young minds or adult minds? We want to “teach” the most complex theories, the most abstract ideas because we feel that by including them in our teaching materials we can look more intelligent and “experts”! But we ignore to pay attention to what is most near to the student – his or her immediate environment, “the soil from which he draws sustenance, the air which he breathes, the sights, sounds, habits to which he is accustomed” (p. 21). How can we incorporate this creatively into a curriculum? This challenge makes sense not only for elementary or secondary education but also for higher education. One quick example that comes to mind is service learning movement - that is one way in which students are encouraged to explore their most immediate environments to learn about the deeper issues and complex topics about society.
Sri Aurobindo writes about the left and right-hand faculties and function of the intellect. What is most admirable is that these discoveries were made by Sri Aurobindo through his yogic experience in 1910 – much before Dr. Roger Sperry in 1960s made his discovery of the different functions of two hemispheres (for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize).
Some time ago a friend of mine and I were having this interesting conversation about how modern/American middle-class lifestyle mostly relies on our using left hemisphere and that right side of the brain doesn’t really get to exercise itself much. He was giving an example of how he finds himself coming up with more creative ideas to solve problems when he is faced with the pressures of life that exist with a middle-class experience in India. His two young daughters and wife have moved back to India and he is currently in the process of moving too – just waiting for a right career opportunity. So in their two-continent spanning life, he has come to an understanding that the highly organized and structured life of middle-class America doesn’t give much opportunity to use faculties like imagination, comprehension, etc. You go to a grocery store, and things are right there laid out in front of you. You don’t need to haggle over prices and be creative at making the most sensible choice. Houseguests don’t come without prior notice so you never have to imaginatively make sleeping room for a visiting family of six in a two room apartment. The emphasis on organization, structure doesn’t allow us to act spontaneously and use our imagination and intuition that much.
On the other hand, in Indian middle class life there is still quite a bit of spontaneity in familial and social environments. Guests do come without any prior notice, the door bell rings at all odd hours of the day, urban problems like electricity failures, limited water supply at certain times of the day, high fuel prices have helped people actually become creative at solving day to day problems. It sort of reminds me of a funny statement Ananda Bhaiya you made when we were driving in Pondicherry with your two Russian guests. And you talked about driving in India as part of yoga. It is so true! One can really use the experience of driving in Indian urban areas to develop and practice virtues such as patience, anger-management, detachment, and surrender! But jokes apart, I have often thought that living a middle-class life in India also acts as a therapy in some respects because the way of life there still allows people to be quite spontaneous and intuitive and apply creative solutions to get their needs met. Lack of super-organized structures in fact leaves little room for sulking over the un-met needs and instead pushes reasonably able people to find ways to get things done.
Perhaps this may seem a bit of an over-generalization, and perhaps things are changing in India too. And both of these may be true. At the same time, the truth of the difference between a middle-class American experience and a corresponding middle-class Indian experience still exists, and that may have something to do with people’s use of different intellectual abilities and faculties in navigating through these ways of life. None of this means that one is better than the other, or that either don’t need to become more humane (e.g. Indian way of life could use more organization and structure, and certainly 24-hour water supply, and American experience could be more accepting of free-flowing unstructured way of being in its mainstream fold). The point I am trying to make is that different ways of life allow individuals, especially children to develop and practice different intellectual faculties and skills. For a comprehensive growth, both right and left-brain faculties need to be developed and trained.
What a gem this is – “A divine life in a material world implies necessarily a union of the two ends of existence, the spiritual summit and the material base. The soul with the basis of its life established in Matter ascends to the heights of the Spirit but does not cast away its base, it joins the heights and depths together” (p. 69).
If we want to take up this task, it becomes important to remember the third principle of education outlined by
Sri Aurobindo – go from near to far, from that which is to that which shall be. Start with the first step. Those of us taking this course on Integral Education, while being situated in an American institution of higher education represent a tiny-tiny step in the direction of bringing matters of Matter and matters of Spirit closer when it comes to our expanding awareness of the inner seeking for which we pursue “higher” education.
AR: Thanks again for inspiring more reflections. Are you sure that people are not dying of fear and emotional hunger? And again, what is happening with people who are not dying of hunger or war? Are they occupied with the activities of knowledge? I doubt it. US and Europe is an ample example of such inner poverty and hunger and violence.
BM: Of course, I don’t disagree with any of this. I feel once people begin to experience the pain of this inner poverty, hunger and violence it makes it very difficult to be a part of the system that has made US and Europe what they are now. There are of course little pockets of resistance everywhere that try to live their lives outside of the “norm”. But the sad part is that these pockets are pushed to the margins of society, as “counter-culture”, as new age hippies, and what have you.
A problem I see is that even our modern minds have been conditioned to see one way of life as better than other. So we feel sorry for a materially poor lifestyle but don’t feel as much sorry for the materially rich but spiritually poor lifestyle. I have heard some US folks talk in such “pitiful” terms about all the “poverty” they saw on their short visits to India or other third-world countries. A student in my class last year told me about her friend’s experience in India who wondered how could people live like that. I also think that one of the results of the modern idea of progress (computers and trips to moon and all that) has been that it has made the material poverty (that is very much in the middle of all the material riches accrued because of this progress) completely invisible to those who have benefited from the computers, assembly lines, multiple shifts in factories, and trips to the moon etc. So much of middle-class America, for example, doesn’t want to admit or doesn’t even know that people in their own cities and states might be living in the “third-world’ style materially poor conditions. So when they go to places like India where rich and poor are not that geographically separated, they are quite disturbed by what they see. But of course, the poor in places like US and Europe also would be quite willing to move to the middle-class neighborhoods with two car garage houses and 24 hour shopping centers. This is the model of progress that is being sold (imposed!) all over the world, thanks to globalization. And it is unfortunate that the alternatives to this model of globalization (reflected in all the anti-WTO and anti-globalization activism) don’t move out of the framework of material progress, and keep presenting the socialistic principles as alternatives without working towards a fundamental shift in human consciousness.
In any case, one of Sri Aurobindo’s comments also reminds me not to glorify material poverty in any way (remember his comment in which he speaks of rolling in dust not being an ideal situation for any nation) and if extreme material poverty leads to rolling in dust, I don’t think any spiritual riches can be sustained for much longer in that society. As per my understanding, Sri Aurobindo’s integral approach to social and human upliftment finds a rightful place for material progress but it is progress that is driven by a spiritually-guided way of life and living.
SC: Thanks for the encouragement! But I feel I still need to let these emerging thoughts seep in much more deeply. Mental knowing is only the beginning.... What if the feeling of not-knowing can be a humble state of simply being without wanting to know at all? What if this not-knowing is also an important knowing in itself? I have known quite a lot but I wanted to experience the state where the mind is without thought and knowledge, for knowledge had become a bar for further inner progress. I am at an impasse with all the knowledge: I want to go to the state of sheer experience and just BE.
BM: Thank you for sharing this deeply personal experience. And for saying this so nicely. Of course, I am sure you are speaking of this personal impasse from a level of 10 whereas I may be doing so from level 1 or 0. And I am also sure that the knowing that you are speaking of is way, way beyond than the mental knowing. I feel that the wisdom with which you speak doesn’t come from intellectual knowledge alone but from a deep inner assimilation of that knowledge. So when you say this, I feel that the challenge of “just being” without thought or knowledge is indeed very real.
When I think about my “knowing” journey, I have always been in the “academic” mode – either a student or a teacher – reading, writing, learning, taking in the information, analyzing, interpreting, etc. etc. – all primarily mental activities. And perhaps this has been so because of the overemphasis on mind or reason as an instrument of knowing in our general view of knowing. The way our education systems work there isn’t much or any emphasis on knowing by just being. That’s why integral approach to education is so important because it starts from the position of a person being more than just an “information-processing machine.” I am reminded of a comment you made in an earlier email about the role of leisure in a spiritualized society – perhaps that leisure is also same as having an opportunity to just be and to not-know.
AR: For the present leave the questions that are not answered or cannot be answered because we cannot accept them with the present mind. We need to have “vision” in order to understand these questions and not just understanding. We need over-standing and not under-standing!! Moreover after a point, questions stop: faith takes over and the mind’s frustrations end. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that when the bumble bee hovers over a flower it keeps buzzing but the moment it sips the nectar of the flower, all its buzzing stops! That is it: when experience comes knowledge is silenced!! Mind is silenced!! Only the heart sings praises of the Beloved one! That is the function of knowledge : to open the doors to the Inner chamber; and the heart alone enters into the sanctum sanctorum!!
BM: Profound truths. I pray to Ma that may the buzz stop in my lifetime. I love the Ramakrishna quote...oh, why don’t they teach these truths in our schools and colleges! I am deeply touched by this! What an honor has it been for me to study with you! This new manifestation of the authentic guru-shishya relationship (without the saffron robes and half-an-hour TV shows!) that you have created at TUT (The University of Tomorrow) is so beautiful and amazing. Perhaps there should be a booklet on -”Towards a Spiritual Society: Education for Tomorrow” based on the impact TUT is making.
INTERNATIONAL STUDY CAMP ON SAVITRI
(Organised by SACAR at Van Niwas, Nainital, in October 2006)
It was the month of April when a mail dropped in, in my Inbox saying, we are invited for an International study camp to be conducted by Dr. Ananda Reddy. It was the first camp of its kind to be held in India in the mountains of Nainital. Forty participants from different European and Asian nations participated in this camp. They were from Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Holland and India.They were of all ages. It was amazing to see people coming together for
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It was as if humanity itself was coming to Sri Aurobindo!
We had six months to prepare for the event. As the time came closer our enthusiasm increased. With every mail
Dr. Reddy prepared us to take on the inward voyage. He would tell us what to bring and what not to bring. The camp was to start on 1st October for 10 days. We thus started our journey to be present in Nainital in time. We knew it had to be an upward journey.
While we started our journey upward on the mountains from the Kathgodam station we experienced different shades of emotions. It was as if Sri Aurobindo said-
“With wind and the weather beating round me
Up to the hills and moorland I go.
Who will come with me? Who will climb with me?
Wade through the brook and tramp through the snow.”
We moved upward to the colder region as if answering to the Divine call. The journey on the four wheels was the inward and upward journey. When we reached our destination, Van Niwas, we were systematically allotted our respective rooms. This was the only day given to us for relaxing. Rest was a journey again.
Dr. Reddy had invited us to tread the path carved out by the Mother and elucidated in Savitri. The march started on the first night. We were as if prepared in the night to take on the journey next morning.
Well, the inward journey started next day. We had lectures by Dr. Reddy in the morning and at night. His talks on Savitri were so enlightening as he gave us a totally new concept and understanding of the Author’s note on Savitri. He highlighted the significance of Satyavan, Savitri, Ashwapati and Dyumatsena as Sat, Chit, Tapas, Ananda which was indeed very thrilling and convincing. While his lectures were on, we felt as if the Mother Herself presided over. We could feel the bliss and the presence of the Mother. We are indeed indebted to him for he made our inward journey much easier. In the end everybody felt, even if the the minds did not understand fully, the message was still conveyed to the soul, and the souls did receive it. The lectures of Dr. Bijlani on Integral Yoga were very interesting. They were able to solve a few problems of some people. We had a group discussion throwing light on practical problems of few campers.
The camp was organized so systematically that it helped us to travel the path integrally. We had yogasanas and pranayama and nature treks for the body, led by Sankaran. Wholesome food and mutual stimulating discussions were delightful to the the vital. Dr. Bijlani’s lectures churned our minds and Dr. Reddy would take us to the psychic and spiritual chambers.
What we learnt in the morning was to be experienced in the evening. We studied the mantra– Savitri in the morning and as if to evoke that experience of Savitri reading there was mantra chanting and meditation presided over by Mrs.Reddy – our beloved Deepshikha . The chanting gave us a feeling of completion and relaxed our beings.
Before the lecture sessions, Dr.Reddy had done his homework to give us class work. He divided all the campers into six groups and gave each a topic to be discussed and spoken on the day decided for the same. These discussions gave us chance to mingle with other participants. We all came together and had a lot of interaction. A bond was created between all of us, and the bond which held us together was the Mother’s force. It was an overwhelming experience. With the discussions the whole campus changed into a college campus with the students discussing their respective subjects. As the students were of all ages, the journey became what Francis Bacon said-
“ Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education, in the elder, a part of experience.”
The last night we waited for an event which turned out to be the most unexpected part of the whole camp. It was a cultural evening. Everyone took part. Friends from different nations gave a fine exposition of their culture. There were different performances – dances, songs, poetry recitation and playing instruments.
The last day while we were to return, we got another surprise. A trip was organized to Mukteshwar and Madhuban said to be the foothold of Sri Aurobindo in the Himalayas.
In one corner of the world, at this camp, we sampled what Sri Aurobindo envisions- ‘The World Union’. It was a memorable journey with lot of education and fun. We still carry that wonderful experience in our hearts. Thanks to Dr. Reddy for arranging such a brilliant camp. Now what we feel about the camp and the friends can be best described in Francis Bacon’s words-
“When a traveler returneth home, let him not leave the countries, where he hath traveled, altogether behind him; but maintain a correspondence by letters.”
We wish to attend many more international camps in future.
SEMINAR ON ‘INTEGRAL HEALTH: A HOLISTIC APPROACH’
(Organized by the Institute of Human Study and Dept. of Psychology, Osmania
University on 9th and 10th December, 2006)
There was first the Sri Aurobindo Jayanthi Talk delivered by Dr. Soumitra Basu. He emphasized on Sri Aurobindo’s vision of integral health, focussing on the occult forces that influence human well-being.
Session I: Dr. P. Raghurami Reddy presented an informative talk on ‘Comprehensive Health Care for Stress Free Living’. Quoting W.H.O. “Health does not mean the absence of disease but the presence of a complete Physical, Psychological and Social well-being,” he mentioned that integrated health can be achieved if we can balance the physical fitness and psychological health. He stated that stress causes physical and psychological disorders. Stress is autogenic and inflicts our relationships and actions. In this context he also highlighted the role of psycho -endocrinology and its impact on psychosomatic disorders and toxic emotions. He asserted that the aim of one’s life should be to attain happiness. This is possible only when one’s life is examined thoroughly rather than going through it mechanically. He spoke at length on issues such as nutrition, yoga and habits such as smoking, drugs and alcohol and their impact on our well-being. Dr. Reddy felt the need to identify our ‘Being’ and then identify the mechanism that would be helpful in ‘Becoming’. He also cautioned about one’s own self acting against oneself.
The second speaker of the session was Dr. Saroj Arya. She spoke on a very interesting topic - ‘Clinical Psychology and Integral Health’. She mentioned about the trilogy and the predominance of Bio-Psycho-Social model over Bio-Medical model today. She clearly brought out the relationship between personality pattern and related disorders. Dr. Arya discussed the role of Psycho-Neuro immunology in the physical and psychological well-being of an individual. She provided an insight into how illness is attributed to different causes all around the globe. She expressed a concern for the psychological issues faced by people with HIV / AIDS, and also a concern for suicidal tendencies in adolescents. She also outlined the services offered by the clinical Psychologists to promote the well-being of the people.
Session II: The second session has been chaired by Prof. C. Beena, Dept. of Psychology, Osmania University. It started with Dr. K. Niranjan Reddy’s (Clinical Psychologist) presentation on “Interdependence of Body and Mind.” He presented a historical perspective on the topic. With the help of interesting case studies, he explained how body and mind influence each other. As a part of this, he emphasized the influence of mind upon the individual’s life. Also how stress may be reduced using healthy psychological strategies.
This session was followed by Dr. Meena Hariharan’s (Psychologist, University of Hyderabad) presentation on “Coping with Stress”. She quoted some important research work done on stress and its subjective experience - a very inspiring case study of a girl who could combat cancer and related stress through strength of her will. She then shifted to optional stress level and its significance in the functioning of an individual. She discussed nine different types of coping and methods of effective coping. She concluded with quick tips to cope with stress.
Session III: Prof. Vijay Babu delivered an interesting and informative lecture on how to lead a healthy life according to Ayurveda which is India’s precious wealth. Beginning with the meaning of Ayurveda, he gave the definitions of Ayurveda and qualities of a healthy person as per Ayurveda.Emphasizing the importance of “Manas” in Ayurveda, he explained the different personality types given by Shusrutha. Dr. Babu gave the audience excellent tips to lead a healthy life by giving the dinacharya (daily routine) according to Ayurveda.
Dr. Rajender Reddy’s lecture highlighted the ways in which life can be perceived; life as a phenomenon of health and life as a phenomenon of disease- how medicines convert disease to health and morbific agents convert health to disease. He explained the theoretical bases, origins and the precepts on which Homeopathy stands. He highlighted these precepts by stating that Homeopathy believes that minimum and dynamic medicine can cure diseases and that chronic diseases are cured by chronic measures.
Session IV: Mind & Beyond by Dr. K. S. Ratnakar:This session was chaired by Dr. V. Kondal Rao, an educationist. Dr. K. S. Ratnakar cited the examples of Adi Shankara and Ramana Maharshi to show how both the quest and also the capacity to find an answer lies within oneself. He emphasized the latent capacity in us to use the unlimited capabilities of the mind.He presented a comparative analysis of western thought process and that of India’s. He discussed the concept of the hierarchy of needs of Maslow from its progressive complexity perspective. He cited experiments done to show that a mind existed not only among humans but even in other lower species, in plants too. Mind can be changed with a determination to live healthily. He said positive physical and mental health is possible through “love”.
The last but at the same time, an extremely lively session on “Surgery: Its Role in the Holistic Health Care System” was presented by Dr. Surya Prakasa Rao Cherla, of Gandhi Medical College. He spoke on the role of healthcare in today’s world, with a backdrop of the doctor’s role in past, present and an ideal future. He said the medical community should be a part of “Health Care Army” and not “Health Care Industry”. He discussed how surgery can be a part of integral holistic health care. He compared surgery to war on disease like the Dharma Yuddha at Kurukshetra, and how Bhagawad Gita has an answer to every feeling that a surgeon undergoes. He concluded saying that action without desire is Karma Yoga and a doctor, a karma yogi.
The valedictory session highlighted the integral vision of health in the light Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Dr. Ananda Reddy, while synthesizing the different views expressed in the two-day seminar, focussed on the role of other Occult and Psychological factors that are to be taken into account while considering any treatments. These factors are at present beyond the normal treatment available in the hospitals, but there is already enough awakening to this added element and doctors are slowly reckoning these factors.
Important Changes in Institute of Human Study:
1.Remembering Dr.Dhananjaya Reddy:
Dr.Ananda Reddy informed that Dr.Dhananjaya Reddy served as Chairman of the Institute from the date of demise of Prof.Madhusuan Reddy on 9-12-1996 till 12-3-.2006 the day of his demise. He also informed how he worked sincerely coordinating effectively with all those concerned. He moved a resolution to place on record his sincere and honest work for the Mother through I.H.S. The resolution was unanimously passed.
2.Election of office bearers:
Dr.Ananda Reddy, Chairman declared that the term of the present Board of Management constituted on 2nd December 2001 ends today and the new Board of Management is to be constituted. He thanked all the members present for their cooperation during the last five years. He requested Dr.Rao Chelikani to conduct the elections to elect five members who will elect Chairman and other office bearers from amongst themselves.
Accordingly Dr.Rao Chelikani conducted elections calling for nominations.
The name of Dr.V.Ananda Reddy was nominated by Sanjeev and seconded by Kiran Kumar. The name of Shri Niroop was nominated by Deepshikha and seconded by Kim. The name of Dr.Chhalamayi was nominated by V.Rai and seconded by Laxmana Chary. The name of Shri V.V.Raghava Rao was nominated by Laxmana Chary and seconded by Kiran. The name of V.Ravi was nominated by Sanjeev and seconded by Ananda Reddy. There were no other nominations. Therefore Dr.Rao Chelikani declared that the following members were elected unanimously as members of the Board of Management for five years from 17th December 2006.
4.Shri V.V.Raghava Rao
All the members present congratulated the elected members. The elected members while thanking the General Council for electing them as office bearers requested them to extend their support as in the past.
The meeting ended with thanks to the Chair and to Dr.Rao Chelikani for conducting the elections.