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The New Approach to Education

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The meaning of the word education is – to lead, to bring forth, to educe.

Educe what? one might ask.

To educe that inner, hidden, latent, dormant, potential secret within every human being. Secret, because it is unknown until evoked; inner, hidden, dormant because it is not of the senses, but of the inner truth of the being and because it is that most unknown part of the being which has yet to evolve to its full stature.

All human beings are upon earth to manifest that perfection in themselves which they alone can manifest. Only you can be perfectly you. You cannot be duplicated.

The True Values of the Individual

The whole mass of human beings all over the world are mostly taking from life, from society, from the nation, from the legacy of what others have left behind as their contribution to posterity. The human mass is, by and large, takers; they have almost nothing to contribute to life. But the true value of a human being is surely that which he alone can contribute to humanity, the nation, the world.

This value of the individual to society, the nation or the world, is the evolving potential of humanity. This potential, in the individual, should be considered of utmost importance to the nation and its recognition be given top priority in the affairs of the nation. The only way to elicit this potential is by a completely revolutionary re-statement of education – not merely a re-statement of educational methods but a return to the fundamentals to be restated in terms of a new psychology as the basis for a future education.

The First Values

The fundamentals to be re-stated go back to the dawn of education when all learning arose out of a true spiritual experience, a communication with one’s own inner self, and the inner truth in things. These are the First values, the solid rock of truth upon which all else is to be founded.

In Europe education first saw the light of dawn in the Abbey, the monastery, the seminary. In ancient India it was first found in the Ashrama, the Gurukula. At both ends of the earth the basis for learning was spiritual.

Sri Aurobindo, writing on education says:

“The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught.”

This edict posed quite a problem for teachers in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education for many years. Even though it was first understood intuitively – a truth based on inner experience or intellectually – you cannot teach, you cannot tell or demonstrate that which is within or has its origin beyond the reach of the senses; the inner potential of the human psyche. How can you describe the sky to one born blind? It was quite another matter to put into practice.

After many years of seeking and searching we came back to the psychology of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga. This indicated a truer path to follow if education was to base itself on the truth of the being and was to be for the whole man and for the whole of his life and not merely an expediency in order to earn a living. Obviously that living could not be raised to a higher level until man himself was raised to a higher state of existence. To do that, the first essential is to educe that greater potential lying dormant within every human being, that wealth of riches yet to be evolved in man as his true contribution to the human race.

The Present System of Education

This cannot be done under the present system of education that obtains in most countries of the world today. The present system is content to stuff information into the student taking no cognisance of what he as an individual, might have to contribute that would be uniquely his and his alone. No, he must conform to standards laid down by an authority who knows nothing of his existence, an authority who sets standards and examinations based mainly on the students ability to remember the past and not to enquire too insistently of the future: to conform to recognised norms and not to experiment with discoveries unknown to that authority.

If we believe a change is now possible, if we believe the time has come to help usher in the new Dawn of greater possibilities, that this vast untapped, unawakened potential of the human race can now be reached, awakened into an unprecedented activity, then a new psycho-philosophy in education has to be found.

The Response of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education at Pondicherry has been experimenting along these lines, recognising the world cry and the urgent need, for the past thirty years. This experience itself rests on over fifty years of yogic discipline and sadhana of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, of which the education centre is a part. These years of practical experience have been further extended recently in the new city of Auroville being built a few miles outside Pondicherry. A new township which has already become a world centre of international living, a beginning towards a future “Universe-city”.
We have much to contribute towards the education problem, much practical experience has been gathered over the years, that may answer the need of the youth of the world.

For thousands of years we have known that if man is to truly know anything he must first know himself. This is no longer an esoteric philosophy of the ancient Greeks or a revelation of Vedic India, but a realised truth of modern man. Every thinking man today knows that the secret of man lies in man himself and not in the history of man. Not in what he has done but of what he is capable of becoming.

Our education of the past has been too concerned with accumulating knowledge rather than educing knowledge from the instrument of knowledge – the student.

The youth of the world intuitively know that the secret of life lies within themselves; but there are many false prophets to lead them into the dark alleys of life where they seek experience of inner worlds at any price, through the so-called short cuts, which prove, only too often, to be a spiritual suicide – the experimentation with drugs such as mescaline, LSD and marijuana.

This intuition youth has is only too true. It knows that the old values are no longer tenable, that a new truth awaits to be recognised, a new sincerity longs to be understood. A new world waits to be born.

This new world is the inner psychological and spiritual “unknown” of man’s fuller consciousness.
Mankind has entered upon a great adventure which is to take him beyond his present animal nature to the bright heritage of Supermanhood.

New Education for New Values

Once it is recognised that a new set of values have entered the earth atmosphere and will in time permeate the world scene, a new statement of education, breaking the chains of old authorities and dead dogmas is inevitable.

There is a call to the deeper roots in man’s consciousness, a call for man to open his inner sight, a call which also asks: why are we here, what is it we want, what powers and forces we obey, above all it asks if we know what we are and for what purpose we are here. And the ‘call’ insists that these questions be answered now.

Obviously the old form and structure of education cannot answer this ‘call’ as it demands a deeper insight as to what is man and what forces govern him. New methods have to be learnt which do not merely accumulate information but educe true knowledge from the inner potential waiting to manifest.

This actually amounts to a reversal of attitude where the true value of a man is not what he can ‘learn’ by acquisition or by memory but what he can educe from his own inner perfection, what he alone can give, whatever that may be, but what is, nevertheless, uniquely his and his alone to give, to life, to the society, to the world.

This then is the true aim of education, to educe the true individual potential within each student, to help him to manifest that within him which is uniquely his, that he may find that as a perfection to be offered to life as his individual contribution to a collective perfection which is the evolving spirit of man.

The new approach to education necessitates a re-assessment of the psychology supporting it. This is to be found in the various works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on education, the basis of which is also to be found in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga.

The fundamental difference in this new psychology of Sri Aurobindo is that it is conceived out of experience, an inner psychological experience of the whole being rather than being based on case histories and behaviour patterns as is so with the ‘modern’ concepts of psychology.

Sri Aurobindo’s psychology arises out of the experience and understanding of the five minds – i. e., the Physical mind, the Vital mind, the Mental mind, the Psychic mind and the Spiritual mind.

For the purpose of a re-statement of education we need, at first, only concern ourselves with the first three: Physical, Vital and Mental. These three minds, in the average human being, are usually always in a very mixed state if not actually in a state of chaos.

The new function of education should be to put these minds in their right place by a method of purification and right attitude. It can be readily understood that the full potential should be found in each student.

The great problem encountered by all the so-called new methods of education has been the difficulty in reconciling discipline with freedom.

We have found that little infants, even at the age of one year, look for two fundamentals – love and security. These two fundamentals can only be acquired through the ‘teacher’ or ‘guide’ and the created environment evolving through the proper growth of the Four minds, with a special understanding given to the first Three minds.

Physical Mind

The physical mind must form the basis for discipline and security. Discipline should be introduced as early as possible – even with the mother in the prenatal preparation. Babies at one year can learn to put things – physical things – in their right place; in fact, once they have acquired a ‘drill’ of putting things in place they begin to feel a sense of security, deriving partly from the satisfaction and pride of being able to do this themselves. Naturally such ‘drill’ takes much time and patience by the teacher but it soon forms a basis for a wider concept of discipline through the various forms of physical education, sports, games, gymnastics and athletics. Physical education should be always compulsory and should, where possible, continue throughout school life, if not throughout all of life.

Vital Mind

If the physical mind is disciplined early, it is then possible to give a clear indication for the education of the vital mind. The ideal would be to introduce the vital mind only to the problem of communication – languages – not as a problem but as a play. Between five and ten most children can learn four languages given the right climate of learning and environment. These languages can be learnt through an environment of art and beauty. Painting, modelling, music, dance and drama can be the ideal medium to learn languages together with a sense of ‘good taste’. It should be clear to most people interested in a restatement of education that what we have stated so far, would constitute a basis of development which would clearly demarcate the functions of the physical mind and vital mind as to bring about a greater possible emergence of their true potential.

A disciplined physical mind followed by a fulfilled vital mind gives the child that sense of security needed to form the basis of freedom that is to be the climate of growth necessary to the mental mind.

Mental Mind

At ten years of age the mental mind opens. At this age the child wants to discover things for himself and yearns for the freedom to pursue such discoveries, irrespective of time, place or method. This freedom can only be given effectively if the child has been introduced to the joy, skill and power of a disciplined physical control where the physical mind finds its true function and range of potential, and the vital mind has found the true outlets of expression through communication and all forms of creative art possible at that age.
At ten, the glandular structure begins to change. It is the age of adolescence, the age when the child first becomes aware of the inner conflicting with the outer. It should be understood that the glands of the body, i. e., the pituitary, the pineal, the thyroid, the thymus, the pancreas, the liver, the sex glands, etc., are all bi-functional if not in some cases multi-functional. They have a physiological function and a psychological function.

If the physical mind has not been introduced to the necessary discipline and the vital mind fulfilled through creative expression, then the mental mind cannot pursue its function of self-discovery, and the freedom, so necessary at this stage, becomes meaningless.

To put this in positive terms:
The Physical Mind has to be introduced to the joy of discipline.
The Vital Mind has to be fulfilled.
The Mental Mind has to be given freedom.

Those three progressive terms of growth being accomplished, the Psychic Mind can come forward and take its place as the true Counsellor of the being and the full potential of the individual personality becomes possible.

Norman C. Dowsett

(A prolific writer and poet, Norman C.Dowsett was born on 9th Oct, 1908 in England. In 1942 He met Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry and three years later became a permanent member of the Ashram. He participated in the experiment of the Free Progress Education carried on in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education where he taught for 25 years.)