Learning to Unlearn|Aug 15, 2009 5:41 AM| by:

Spiritual Education

The future of mankind depends on the education it gives to itself. And the kind of education that it develops for itself will be conditioned not only by its resources in men, money and equipment, but also by its needs, its vision of what kind of life it wants for itself and its perception of its own highest possibilities. A society which cannot visualise its own great potential is a blind society and if it does not give to education adequate money and equipment and its best men, it denies to itself the highest possible progress.

Education has many aspects – physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual. The aim of all education is to bring out and prepare for channellisation in life what is latent in man. The aim of spiritual education is to help a person to realise the Divine Consciousness and become a perfect instrument of its manifestation. It also includes a reorganisation of one’s material life in the light of that Consciousness. The spiritual education is the most important and most neglected aspect of life. It is not even recognised as a part of all education.

Normally, human life is an expression of the ego, a mass of disorderly forces that leave it always unfulfilled. Spiritual education would help man to fulfil his age-long dreams of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. It can be imparted in silence by influence and example, by words written or spoken, through work, meditation and devotion.

It should cover four aspects:

  1. A knowledge of the working of the inner planes including the psychic, mental and vital consciousness and also of the physical body and the material universe.
  2. Disciplines to realise or experience our highest or perfect self, what we call Atman or Brahman, the One that is eternal.
  3. To correlate the inner experiences with the observable universal truths.
  4. To bring our mental, vital and physical personality under the influence of the Divine Consciousness, develop them and integrate them with it.

Even from the point of view of the collective life and human unity, spiritual education is very important. In 1964, the Sri Aurobindo Society held a seminar on “Human Unity”. The Mother’s answers to the four questions posed at the seminar are significant:

Q: How can humanity become one?
A: By becoming conscious of its origin.

Q: What is the way of making the consciousness of human unity grow in man?
A: Spiritual Education, that is to say an education, which gives more importance to the growth of the spirit than to any religious or moral teaching or to the material so-called knowledge.

Q: What is a change of consciousness?
A: A change of consciousness is equivalent to a new birth, a birth in a higher sphere of existence.

Q: How can a change of consciousness change the life upon earth?
A: A change of human consciousness will make possible the manifestation upon earth of a higher Force, a purer Light, a more total Truth.

Clarifying the answers the Mother stated that the first step in spiritual education was equanimity. In order to realise equanimity, Yoga enjoins several psychological disciplines. Here are some:

  1. 1. Not to allow oneself to be affected by anything external – by what people say or do, or by natural events.
  2. To detach oneself from one’s own mental, vital and physical consciousness and to observe as a witness how the nature-force is using it.
  3. To make the spiritual consciousness grow and the mental, vital and physical parts of our personality surrender to it and thus foster a divine equanimity to pervade our whole being and provide the basis for further spiritual education.

By spiritual education one can participate in a higher and vaster life and become master of one’s destiny. Some children are born with a developed spiritual consciousness. Since the parents usually fail to understand this, they do not give any co-operation to the children in their spiritual growth; rather they retard it. Spiritual education has to start with the parents so that they may consciously assist in the formation of the consciousness of the child even while he is in the womb. The Mother has given guidance from time to time as to how children can be prepared for spiritual education. Here are a few extracts:

1. “One feels that at the origin of the universe there must have been a supreme Equilibrium and, perhaps, as we said the other day, a progressive equilibrium, an equilibrium which is the exact opposite of all that we have been taught and all that we are accustomed to call “evil”. There is no absolute evil, but an evil, a more or less partial disequilibrium. “This may be taught to a child in a very simple way; it may be shown with the help of material things that an object will fall if it is not balanced, that only things in equilibrium can keep their position and duration.

2. “There is another quality which must be cultivated in a child from a very young age: that is the feeling of uneasiness, of a moral disbalance which it feels when it has done certain things, not because it has been told not to do them, not because it fears punishment, but spontaneously. For example, a child who hurts its comrade through mischief, if it is in its normal, natural state, will experience uneasiness, a grief deep in its being, because what it has done is contrary to its inner truth.

3. “…from their infancy children must be taught that there is an inner reality—within themselves, within the earth, within the universe—and that they, the earth and the universe exist only as a function of this truth, and that if it did not exist the child would not last, even the short time that it does, and that everything would dissolve even as it comes into being. And because this is the real basis of the universe, naturally it is this which will triumph; and all that opposes this cannot endure as long as this does, because it is That, the eternal thing which is at the base of the universe.”(1)

As a preliminary step, not only should one go over one’s work every day in order to improve it but also over one’s thoughts and impulses of the day and put order in their movements. Later one can control them even during work and action. The power of concentration and attention must also be cultivated.

A realised Guru can help immensely. The Mother distinguishes between two aspects of spiritual education – the psychic and the spiritual. The psychic education will comprise: going deep within yourself to the psychic centre and finding something which is eternal in you. After finding it, decentralise, live in the life and thoughts of all. Spiritually this is the experience of the “immanent Divine”. The psychic education helps you to individualise your personality around the psychic centre.

The Mother’s brief, practical advice is as follows:

“The first and perhaps the most important point is that the mind is incapable of judging spiritual things. All those who have written on Yogic discipline have said so; but very few are those who have put it into practice and yet, in order to proceed on the path, it is absolutely indispensable to abstain from all mental opinion and reaction.

“Give up all personal seeking for comfort, satisfaction, enjoyment or happiness. Be only a burning fire for progress, take whatever comes to you as a help for progress and make at once the progress required.

“Try to take pleasure in all you do, but never do anything for the sake of pleasure.

“Never get excited, nervous or agitated. Remain perfectly quiet in the face of all circumstances. And yet be always awake to find out the progress you have still to make and lose no time in making it.

“Never take physical happenings at their face value. They are always a clumsy attempt to express something else, the true thing which escapes your superficial understanding.

“Never complain of the behaviour of anyone, unless you have the power to change in his nature what makes him act thus; and if you have the power, change him instead of complaining.

“Whatever you do, never forget the goal which you have set before you. There is nothing small or big in this enterprise of a great discovery; all things are equally important and can either hasten or delay its success. Thus before you eat, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the food you will take brings to your body the substance necessary to serve as a solid basis for your effort towards the great discovery and gives it the energy of persistence and perseverance in the effort.”

“Before you go to bed, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the sleep may restore your fatigued nerves, bring to your brain calmness and quietness, that on waking up you may, with renewed vigour, begin again your journey on the path of the great discovery.

“Before you act, concentrate in the will that your action may help, at least not hinder in any way, your march forward towards the great discovery.

“When you speak, before the words come out of your mouth, concentrate awhile, just long enough to check your words and allow those alone that are absolutely necessary and are not in any way harmful to your progress on the path of the great discovery.

“In brief, never forget the purpose and the goal of your life. The will for the great discovery should be always there soaring over you, above what you do and what you are, like a huge bird of light dominating all the movements of your being.

“Before the untiring persistence of your effort, an inner door will open suddenly and you will come out into a dazzling splendour that will bring to you the certitude of immortality, the concrete experience that you have lived always and always shall live, that the external forms alone perish and that these forms are, in relation to what you are in reality, like clothes that are thrown away when worn out. Then you will stand erect freed from all chains and instead of advancing with difficulty under the load of circumstances imposed upon you by nature, borne and suffered by you, if you do not want to be crushed under them, you can walk on straight and firm, conscious of your destiny, master of your life.”

“And yet this release from all slavery to the flesh, this liberation from all personal attachment is not the supreme fulfilment. There are other steps to climb before you reach the summit. And even these steps can and should be followed by others which will open the gates of the future. It is these later steps that will be the subject-matter of what I call spiritual education.”(2)

The spiritual education will comprise learning to live beyond time and space in the infinite and eternal consciousness, such as the experience of the “Transcendent Divine”. The shortest route is a total self-surrender which leads to identification. At the beginning it may be to an imaginary highest consciousness in you. But gradually you become conscious of the presence of Ananda, of Love, of Peace, of Knowledge, even of Power, such as of Sachchidananda. An integral effort, covering Bhakti, Meditation and Work, may bring an integral result.

Once you realise this state of consciousness, you can evoke from there a Force, a Consciousness which can descend into the world and change it. You can realise what no army, political Power or other organisation can ever realise. Even a new species will evolve. Your physical being can become a body of light – the Divine Body, manifesting on earth this new force and new consciousness. A new environment will evolve. All the difficulties of human nature will have been conquered and a divine nature manifest itself. The human creature, half-animal half-man, will become the finite Divine, manifesting the infinite.

The influence of environment for spiritual progress, especially in the early stages, should be understood, and helpful surroundings provided. All these will easily follow, if we realise the need of spiritual education and decide to have it. The need is imperative, because it is only through spiritual education that we can realise beauty, harmony, unity and perfection in freedom and diversity in ourselves, individually, in the community, in the nation and in humanity as a whole. There is no other possibility.

– Navajata


1.Question & Answers, CWM, Vol 4, Pg 24-25
2.Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Education, 1973, Pg 125-127