6 LESSON 6 ‘A PREFACE ON NATIONAL EDUCATION’ AND ‘THE HUMAN MIND’
Sri Aurobindo was born on 15 August, 1872 at Kon Nagar village of the Hoogli District of West Bengal. His father Krishna Dhan Ghosh was a well-known civil surgeon who studied medical science in England and returned to India as a totally Western-oriented gentleman. His mother Mrs. Swarnlata Devi was a religious Hindu lady Dr Ghosh was convinced of the value of Western system of education. Therefore, he sent his sons to an Irish Missionary School at Darjeeling. He went to England in 1879 and took his sons along with him. They were kept under the supervision of Mr. And Mrs. Drevet in London for their early education. In 1885, the Drevets left England for Australia and Sri Aurobindo was admitted to St. Paul School of London.
Objectives of Education
Defining the objectives of education Sri Aurobindo said. “It must be an education that for the individual will make its one central object the growth of the soul and its powers and possibilities, for the nation will keep first in view the preservation. Strengthening and enrichment of the nation-soul and its dharma and raise both into powers of the life and ascending mind and soul of humanity.
Sri Aurobindo was not only one of the greatest philosopher and yogi of his time but also one of the greatest political leader, social reformer and educationist of his era. He was a great patriot whose first concern was always the good of motherland. Therefore, he presented a national system of education which may be adopted for the educational reconstruction in India and at the same time develop the Indians as world citizens and the fore- runners of the advent of the only gives and important place to individual and nation but also to humanity. The national scheme of education will be not only from the point of view of the needs of the country but also from the standpoint of the needs of humanity. It is so since the highest principle governing the life of individual and nation is the humanity itself. Sri Aurobindo everywhere considers fulfilinent of Swadharma as the law of life. Each individual in a nation has to fulfill his Swadharma. The purpose of education in a nation is to prepare the individual to serve their roles according to their status in society. Individual differences are the basis of modern system of education. The child is, “A soul with a nature and capacities of his own, who must be helped to find them, to find himself, to grow into their maturity, into a fullness of physical and vital energy and utmost breadth, depth and height of his emotional, his intellectual and his spiritual being.” Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is summarized thus, “The meaning of the word education is to reduce the inner, hidden, latent, dormant, potential secret within every human being, secret because it is not of the senses but of the inner truth of being and because it is that most unknown part of the being which has yet to evolve to its full stature”.
The True Education
Defining true education, Sri Aurobindo wrote, “There are three things which have to be taken into account in true and living education, the man, the individual in his commonness and in his uniqueness, the nation or people and universal humanity. The true education should take into account not only the individual but also the nation and the humanity. It has to prepare the mind and soul of the individual and also of the nation to serve humanity. It has to unfold the individual potentialities, uniqueness and commonness. At the same time it has to develop a right relation of the individual with the life, mind and soul of the community and humanity. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, the true national education is that, “which helps to bring out to full advantage, makes ready for the full purpose and scope of human life all that is in the individual man and which at the same time, helps his to enter into right relation with the life, mind and soul humanity of which he himself is a unit and his people or nation a living, a separate and yet inseparable member”.
Besides Swadharma, Swabhava determines the role of a nation. Swadeshi was the main principle in Sri Aurobindo’s political philosophy. Each nation, according to him, has to grow and develop in tune with its peculiar Swabhav and Swadharma. Thus, the nation has to develop its mental, ethical and aesthetic being to make it a fit instrument for the growth of the soul. This is the highest purushartha. India, according to Sri Aurobindo, is a nation, which has to fulfil a spiritual role in the community of nation. Its ideal for the humanity also is spiritual.
In his philosophy everywhere Sri Aurobindo has supported reason like any staunch rationalist. A rational education, according to Sri Aurobindo, includes the following three things:
1. To teach men how to observe and know rightly the facts on which they have to form a judgment.
2. To train them to think fruitfully and soundly.
3. To fit them to use their knowledge and their thought effectively for their own and the common good.
Meeting of East and West
Brought up in the West Sri Aurobindo had the first hand knowledge of the Western system of education he was conversant with the advantages of European system of education. Sri Aurobindo was a votary of the synthesis of whatever is good in East and West. Therefore, while presenting a scheme for Indian education, he advocated synthesis of ancient Indian educational ideals along with the Western methods and techniques. As he said, “The first problem in a national system of education is to give an education as comprehensive as the European and more thorough, without the evils of strain and cramming. This can only be done by studying the instruments of knowledge finding a system of teaching which shall be natural, easy and effective. It is only by strengthening and sharpening these instruments of their utmost capacity that they can be made effective for the increased work which modern conditions require. The muscles of the mind must be thoroughly trained by simple and easy means, then, and not till then, great feasts of intellectual strength can be required of them.”
True education, according to Sri Aurobindo, is not only spiritual but also rational, vital and physical. In other words, it is an integral education. This integral education has been explained by Sri Aurobindo’s closest collaborator the Mother, in these words, “ Edcuation to be complete must have five principal aspects relating to the five principal activities of the human being: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. Sri Aurobindo’s scheme of education is integral in two senses. Firstly, it is integral in the sense of including all the aspects of the individual being, physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual. Secondly, it is integral in the sense of being an education not only for the evolution of the humanity. The ultimate aim of education is the evolution of total humanity, which includes the evolution of the nation, which in its turn depends upon the evolution of the individual.
The education is Supramental education that leads to our evolution towards the Supramental. This Supramental evolution, however, will necessarily pass through and only after the evolution of the physical, the vital, the mental and the psychic.
The vital education is indispensable, thus vital education includes sense training and the development of character. This character again will be developed according to individual differences. It requires redirection and transformation of the instincts and emotions, drives and propensities. The physical, vital and mental education are the means to develop the personality, the psychic education alone leads to the future evolution of man. Sri Aurobindo’s system of education does not aim only at the adjustment and normal development of the human personality but its total growth and transformation. It is only after one gets through the physical, vital, mental and psychic education and realizes a certain transformation that one can enter into Supramental education. The idea of Supramental education like that of the psychic education is Aurobindo’s significant contribution to the field of education.
Aims of Education
The aims of education of Sri Aurobindo are as follows:
1. Perfection : Sri Aurobindo was a perfectionist. He was never satisfied with pursue a more perfect method of realization of perfection of human race. It is hence that he presents his integral yoga as a solution not only of the individual needs but also of the social and political problems facing nation.
2. Harmony : Harmony is the key to understand Sri Aurobindo’s thought everywhere. Those who complain about the difficulty in understanding his writings lack this inherent urge to harmony. On the other hand, those who seek harmony easily understand Sri Aurobindo’s works. Sri Aurobindo searches after the principle of harmony in the individual, community and humanity and aims at its realization. He seeks to achieve harmony of the individual by the growth and evolution of his different aspects such as physical, vital, mental and psychic, etc. For this he proposes a scheme of physical, vital, mental, moral, religious and spiritual education. He also seeds harmony of different individuals in a community. Compatibility and not uniformity is the law of collective harmony.
3. Evolution : The edifice of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is based upon his theory of evolution. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo aims at the evolution of the individual, nation and humanity through education. Evolution involves not only growth but also transformation, not only adjustment but also a more intimate harmony.
4. Humanisation : Education, according to Sri Aurobindo, aims at man-making. Sri Aurobindo’s system of national education ultimately aims at evolution of humanity.
5. Harmony of the individual and collectivity. While most of the thinkers in social-political field have either laid emphasis upon the individual or the collectivity, Sri Aurobindo aims at realization of harmony between individuals and also between nations.
6. Building the innate powers : The central aim of education according to Sri Auropindo is, “The building of the powers of the human mind and spirit-the evoking of knowledge and will and of the power to use knowledge, character, culture that at least if not more”. The child is born with certain innate powers of the body, the vital, the mind and the spirit. The aim of the school and the teacher is to develop these powers to their perfection.
7. Cultivation of values : The present crisis of man is due to the chaos of values. The values to be cultivated should be physical, mental on value. The supreme value in Sri Aurobindo’s thought is harmony.
The Educational Model
Sri Aurobindo outlined a national system of education. A model to realize his scheme was developed by international university at Pondicherry. The fundamental principle underlying the model was freedom since freedom is the only essential spiritual principle working anywhere. The idea was to give full freedom to the individual growth of the students.
The ultimate ideal of the school is man-making. It prepares the students to work first as a human being and then as a member of a nation and finally as an individual. Sri Aurobindo believes in three ultimate principles, individuality, commonality and essentiality. Theses, in other words, are the students, the society and the humanity, Integral evolution according to him, must include evolution of all these three elements. The school should treat all children as equal and provide sufficient scope for the development of their individual variations without insisting upon similarities. Integral school four types of rooms are required to carry on various activities:
1. Rooms of silence
2. Rooms of collaboration
3. Rooms of consultation
4. Lecture rooms
Thus the school will develop different types of activities such as silence, collaboration, consultation and lectures. It will provide play, activity, discovery innovation and finally development of the powers of the body, mind and spirit of the students. In brief, the integral school will provide opportunities for integral development.
Sri Aurobindo has assigned a very important place to the teacher. His philosophy of education, therefore, is paid centric the teacher remains the philosopher and the guide. In fact, the real teacher is within the students. He has to create an atmosphere so that the students may grow freely. The teacher acts as an aid, a means and a channel. In brief, the teacher should be an integral yogi. He should be able to eliminate his ego, master his mind, develop an insight into human nature and to progress in impersonalisation. He should be absolutely disciplined and having an integrated personality. The most important thing in a teacher is not the knowledge but the attitude. An intellectual excellence is not sufficient without a development of other aspects of personality. The teacher should have the capacity to project himself to the students so that he may have an understanding of the needs of the students.
The essential principle of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of education is freedom. Unity is never demanded at the cost of diversity. On the other hand, diversity creates a rich unity. Therefore, no rigid scheme of curriculum has been prescribed. The earliest permissible age for starting regular study according to Sri Aurobindo is seven or eight years. The proper medium for early education of the child is the mother tongue. The following criteria for planning curriculum are found in Sri Aurobindo’s writings:
1. Human nature : The curriculum should aim at developing whatever is already given in seed form in the child. Education can only lead to the perfection of the instruments, which are already present in the students. Nothing can be taught or imposed from outside.
2. Individual differences: The curriculum should be planned according to individual difference. The mind has to be consulted in its own growth. The aim of the teacher is to help the growing soul in drawing out his best and to make it perfect for a noble use.
3. From near to the far: Another principle governing the planning of curriculum is to proceed from near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be.
4. Modern and up-to-date: Sri Aurobindo was a modern thinker with a love for modernity and up-to-date knowledge. Therefore, he prescribed that the education must be up-to-date in form and substance and modern in life and spirit.
5. Universal knowledge: The curriculum should include whatever is universally true. That is the basis of all scientific knowledge and philosophy.
6. Successive teaching: Sri Aurobindo disagrees with some educationists who wish to introduce every subject simultaneously to the child. He prescribes that the subjects should be taught successively.
7. Co-curricular activities : The school should provide not only academic but also co-curricular activities.
8. Five-fold curriculum : Integral education is psychic and the spiritual education. Therefore, the curriculum must be fivefold according to these five types of education
9. Multisidedness : Integral education is multisided. It aims at all-round growth. Therefore its curriculum involves music, poetry, art, painting and sculpture, besides the academic subjects. These are necessary for the aesthetic development of the child.
10. Provision for the genius : The curriculum must provide for the genius. According to Sri Aurobindo, “What we call genius is part of the development of the human range of being and its achievements especially things of the mind and their will can carry us half way to the divine.
11. Moral and religious education : Curriculum for moral education should aim at refining the emotions and forming the proper habits and associations. Thus the aim of the curriculum according to Sri Aurobindo is the actualization of the potentialities of the students. The curriculum should not be fixed but flexible and evolutionary. A variety of choice and opportunities must be prescribed for maintaining the freedom of growth. The integral curriculum should find a due palace for every subject and every discipline.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Objectives of education : growth of soul; its powers and possibilities; strengthening and enrichment of the nation-soul and its dharma.
· Considers fulfilment of Swadharma as the law of life.
· True education : the man, the individual, the nations development.
· Swadeshi – main principal
· Rational education
· Convergence of east and west.
· Integral education
· Supramental education.
Aims of education : Perfection; Harmony; Evolution; Humanization; Harmony of individual and collectively; building the innate powers; cultivation of values.
· Educational models
· The school
· The teacher
· The curriculum : Human nature, individual differences, from near to the far, modern and up-to-date; universal nature; successive teaching; co-curricular activities; five fold curriculum; multisidedness; provision for the genius; moral and religious education.