Learning to Unlearn|Oct 11, 2008 5:07 PM| by:

Personality of the Teacher

It has been realised that in the existing system of education no improvement is possible without the cooperation of teachers. As a matter of fact a teacher can do a lot to realise the purposes of education. But only that teacher can do it who has an integral personality.

In the U.S.A. a detailed research was made of certain personal and social characteristics of teachers. More than 6000 teachers teaching in 1700 schools located in 450 different places participated. Prof. David G. Ryans, Chairman of the Department of Educational Psychology in the University of Texas conducted this study with the help of a number of co-workers. This study is very comprehensive and is available in a book form.(1)

It is not possible for me to present its findings in sufficient detail but in terms of “the true teacher” the following extracts are meaningful for they highlight such characteristics as are considered desirable in teachers:

1. Frequently give as reason for teaching, liking for children and interest in their development.
2. Express admiration of such qualities as friendliness, permissiveness, definiteness and fairness.
3. Dislike such qualities as arrogance, intolerance, sarcasm and partiality.
4. Typically appear to be “accepting”, and generous in appraisals of other persons. See good points of a person rather than bad.
5. Express satisfaction with teaching; intend to continue teaching indefinitely.
6. Interested in active and literary affairs.
7. More emotionally stable than average adult.
8. More friendly than average adult.
9. More cooperative and agreeable than average adult.
10. More restrained than average adult.
11. More objective than average adult.
12. More tolerant than average adult.(2)

On the basis of the data collected in this study as well as the data of various other researches employing different approaches and criteria the following characteristics in outstanding teachers were noted:

1. Superior intellectual abilities.
2. Above average school achievement
3. Good emotional adjustment.
4. Attitude favourable to pupils.
5. Enjoyment of pupil relationships.
6. Generosity in the appraisal of the behaviour and motives of other persons.
7. Strong interest in writing and literary matters.
8. Interest in music and painting.
9. Participation in social and community affairs.
10. Strong social service interests.(3)

If we analyse these characteristics, we find that they relate to the personality of the teacher. We can understand the nature of personality from different points of view. Psychologists in the West define personality in terms of biological makeup of the individual. They emphasise the psycho-physical aspect of personality.

The following definition as given by Prof. G. W. Allport is perhaps most representative and popular in the West: “Personality is the dynamic organisation within the individual of those psycho-physical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment.”(4)

Allport regards human personality as dynamic. But what the nature of this dynamic organisation is, is not fully analysed. There is only the mention of psycho-physical systems which is again nebulous.

In the integral psychology of Sri Aurobindo the physical, vital and mental along with the psychic and the spiritual aspects of personality have been clearly defined and delineated. The unique contribution of Sri Aurobindo in the field of personality has yet to be recognised fully.

Prof. Indra Sen, one of the early disciples of Sri Aurobindo, has done considerable work in this field and has presented lucidly the concept of the integral man and integral personality. Comparing the ordinary personality with the integral personality in terms of Sri Aurobindo, Prof. Indra Sen writes:

“The ordinary surface personality, ego-centrically organised, relies on sense-impressions of external objects for its conceptions of things and persons as individuals and as totalities. The conceptions are inferences and mental constructions, not direct perceptions. A personality poised in inner unity can make a direct conscious approach to the inner unity or principle of coherence of things and persons, and in the poise of higher unities apprehend large totalities. All this is not possible to the consciousness normally limited to discrete sense-impressions and obliged to mental constructions for unities and wholes of various orders….

“In affection, the integral personality has the capacity of deep inner contacts and of wide sympathies. This accrues to it from its deep central selfhood and the superconscious. In the contemporary personality, even when we intellectually accept a collaboration and a unity, our sympathies do not support us and it becomes so difficult to work out that collaboration and unity…”(5)

In this manner it has been emphasised by Prof. Indra Sen that the integral personality is marked by wide sympathies, inner unity, deep inner contacts and deep central selfhood. In other words, the integral personality is a manifestation of the “Inner being” or the “psychic being”. Sri Aurobindo writes:

“The psychic being is a portion of the Divine; it has a natural attraction for the Truth and the Divine but that attraction is desireless, free from demands and lower cravings.” (6)

Thus the integral personality is that which has a complete integration of the physical, the vital, the mental and the psychic aspects of life. It is accepted that the true teacher will be he or she who has a well-integrated personality and a soul-consciousness. In other words, the true teacher has to realise the Divine within him and work as an instrument of the Divine for divine purposes.

In the Indian spiritual tradition the Guru occupies the supreme place. The Guru helps the disciple in attaining the knowledge of the self. But he can do so to the extent he himself has attained self-realisation.

The personality of the teacher cannot be separated from the teaching and the taught. While discussing teaching as a profession Dr. Karl Heinz Flechsig has presented the popular image of a teacher and how he is thought of by a layman. He writes:

“When the word (teacher) is mentioned they (people) think of a man or woman who stands or sits in a relatively modestly equipped room in front of a blackboard, surrounded by thirty to forty children and who indulges in verbal communication with those children by using widely diverse kinds of language. It is far less likely that they think of the various activities … such as reading for the preparation of lesson material, correcting work, preparing manuscripts etc. It is even less likely that when they think of the word `teacher’ they would be thinking of those other people who also made their contribution so that the teaching could take place… We can be quite certain that nobody thinks of the architect who planned the buildings which made up the school…”(7)

Thus it is apparent that the teacher is ignored or associated with such things as are irrelevant in the context of problems faced by the society in which the teacher lives. This happens because the personality of the teacher is not integral in the sense of Sri Aurobindo.

The teacher has to have such a personality as is attractive and appealing to higher values of life. In the integral system of education such a teacher will be considered as a true teacher who follows the principles of true teaching, viz., 1) that nothing can be taught 2) the mind has to be consulted in its growth, and 3) to work from the near to the far.

In this context Sri Aurobindo defines the teacher: “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.”(8)

In order to follow the three principles of true teaching as laid down by Sri Aurobindo the true teacher must be capable of being a helper and a guide. He should be ego-less so that he does not impose himself or his ideas on the pupil. He must be aware that in him as well as in the pupil a divine reality is waiting to be manifested. The task of the true teacher is to discover this divine reality within his personality and thus help the growing child to find this divine principle in himself so that he attains a perfection which is noble and divine.

If the teacher has a poor personality he will fail to perceive those higher principles of life which govern human behaviour and guide growing souls. Only the integral personality which is fully conscious of the psychic being can make a person a true teacher. In other words, integral personality is an integral part of a true teacher.

What the Mother has written about the science of living is fully relevant here in the context of the personality of the teacher. If a teacher has his aim of life based on worldly desires and attainments, he cannot be a true teacher. His personality will suffer from the lack of psychic touch. Hence it is extremely desirable in order to develop an integral personality that the individual makes full effort to have a purposeful goal directed towards the Divine.

The Mother suggests that in order to have perfection one should become conscious of himself and the different parts of his being and their respective activities.(9) In order to develop an integral personality the teacher must make full effort for purification and unification through a fourfold discipline, the starting-point of which is the psychic discipline. In the words of the Mother. “We give the name `psychic’ to the psychological centre of our being, the seat within of the highest truth of our existence, that which can know and manifest this truth. It is therefore of capital importance for us to become conscious of its presence within us, to concentrate on this presence and make it a living fact for us and identify ourselves with it.”(10)

The psychic discipline is followed by mental discipline, vital discipline and physical discipline. The true teacher has to develop the mental aspect of his personality in such a manner as it becomes a helping instrument rather than a hindrance. The mind must be kept quiet, calm, peaceful and silent. Only then true mental discipline is possible.

As regards the vital discipline pertaining to our emotions and passions, the true teacher must aim at harmonious personality adjustment so that he is not disturbed by depression and frustrations. One has to learn to be a witness and develop the witness consciousness so that there is no involvement of the ego in the mundane affairs of life.

In order to develop integral personality, the true teacher must observe physical discipline so that his physical body becomes strong and supple and “a fit instrument for the truth force”.

If perfection and unification through the four disciplines mentioned above are attained, the four major aspects of integral personality will be spontaneously expressed. These four major aspects are: Love, Knowledge, Power and Beauty. Actually these four are, according to the Mother, the four attributes of the Truth and they permeate the total personality of the teacher. The psychic discipline leads to expression of true and pure love, the mental discipline leads to the attainment of infallible knowledge, the vital discipline leads to manifestation of an invincible power and the physical discipline gives expression to a perfect beauty and a perfect harmony.(11)

Thus the personality of a teacher is essentially an integral personality characterised by true and pure love, infallible knowledge, invincible power and perfect beauty. If these qualities are present in the personality of the teacher, they are bound to have an impact on the personality of the pupil and create such conditions for learning as are characterised by freedom and self-discipline.

Sita  Ram Jayaswal


1. David G. Ryans, Characteristics of Teachers, Delhi: Sterling Publishers (P) Ltd., 1969.
2. Ibid., pp. 365-66.
3. Ibid., p. 366.
4. G.W. Allport, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1949, p. 48.
5. Dr. Indra Sen. The Integral Man (Special Lectures), Mysore: Prasaranga Manasa Gangotri, 1970, pp. 36-7.
6. A Practical Guide to Integral Yoga, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971, p. 108
7. Dr. Karl Heinz Flechsig, “Teaching as a profession”, Education (A biannual collection of recent German contribution to the field of educational research), Vol. IX, 1974, p. 7.
8. Dr. Indra Sen (Comp.), Integral Education, Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1952, p. 5.
9. Ibid., p. 71.
10. Ibid., p. 73.
11. Ibid., p. 77.