“Arise, O soul, and vanquish Time and Death”.
“India has or rather had the knowledge of the Spirit, but she neglected matter and suffered for it.
The West has the knowledge of matter but rejected the Spirit and suffers badly for it.
An integral education which could, with some variations, be adapted to all the nations of the world, must bring back the legitimate authority of the Spirit over a matter fully developed and utilised.”
– The Mother
Integral education will be an integral and complete education, that is to say, it will aspire to encompass all the parts of the being from the physical to the supramental and would continue throughout the life of the individual. A divine life in a divine body will be its ultimate aim. The process of this education will be an effort to be guided by the soul and not by any fixed habits, conventions or ideas.
The aim of true education is not to prepare one to succeed in life and society but to permit one to discover for oneself, the aim of life in general and the specific role that one’s soul has come down to play in terrestrial life. A true integral education goes further: it aims at increasing the perfectibility of the growing soul to its utmost.Even when understood in a narrow sense, — in the sense of a certain number of years spent in an integral education institution — it may be looked upon as the best possible grooming for any kind of high pursuit. However, in its highest and widest sense, when it reaches the stage of conscious pursuit and continues throughout life, it becomes identical with integral yoga and represents the best possible means of realising integral perfection.
“Education to be complete must have five principal aspects corresponding to the five principal activities of the human being: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. Usually, these phases of education follow chronologically the growth of the individual; this, however, does not mean that one of them should replace another, but that all must continue, completing one another until the end of his life.”
– The Mother
“All education of the body should begin at birth and continue throughout life. It is never too soon to begin not too late to continue.
Physical education has three principal aspects:
- control and discipline of the functioning of the body,
- an integral, methodical and harmonious development of all the parts and movements of the body and
- correction of any defects and deformities,
… from a young age children should be taught to respect good health, physical strength and balance. The great importance of beauty must also be emphasized. A young child should aspire for beauty, not for the sake of pleasing others or winning their admiration, but for the love of beauty itself; for beauty is the ideal which all physical life must realise. Every human being has the possibility of establishing harmony among the different parts of his body and in the various movements of the body and in action. Every human body that undergoes a rational method of culture from the very beginning of its existence can realise its own harmony and thus become fit to manifest beauty.”
– The Mother
“Of all education, vital education is perhaps the most important, the most indispensable. Yet it is rarely taken up and pursued with discernment and method. There are several reasons for this: first, the human mind is in a state of great confusion about this particular subject; secondly, the undertaking is very difficult and to be successful in it one must have endless endurance and persistence and a will that no failure can weaken.
… vital education has two principal aspects, very different in their aims and methods, but both equally important. The first concerns the development and use of the sense organs. The second the progressing awareness and control of the character, culminating in its transformation.”
– The Mother
“Of all lines of education, mental education is the most widely known and practised, yet except in a few rare cases there are gaps which make it something very incomplete and in the end quite insufficient.
Generally speaking, schooling is considered to be all the mental education that is necessary. And when a child has been made to undergo, for a number of years, a methodical training which is more like cramming than true schooling, it is considered that whatever is necessary for his mental development has been done. Nothing of the kind. Even conceding that the training is given with due measure and discrimination and does not permanently damage the brain, it cannot impart to the human mind the faculties it needs to become a good and useful instrument. The schooling that is usually given can, at the most, serve as a system of gymnastics to increase the suppleness of the brain. From this standpoint, each branch of human learning represents a special kind of mental gymnastics, and the verbal formulations given to these various branches each constitute a special and well-defined language.
A true mental education, which will prepare man for a higher life, has five principal phases. Normally these phases follow one after another, but in exceptional individuals they may alternate or even proceed simultaneously. These five phases, in brief, are:
- Development of the power of concentration, the capacity of attention.
- Development of the capacities of expansion, widening, complexity and richness.
- Organisation of one’s ideas around a central idea, a higher ideal or a supremely luminous idea that will serve as a guide in life.
- Thought-control, rejection of undesirable thoughts, to become able to think only what one wants and when one wants.
- Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.”
– The Mother
“The three lines of education — physical, vital and mental — deal with that and could be defined as the means of building up the personality, raising the individual out of the amorphous subconscious mass and making him a well-defined self-conscious entity. With psychic education we come to the problem of the true motive of existence, the purpose of life on earth, the discovery to which this life must lead and the result of that discovery: the consecration of the individual to his eternal principle.
… It is through this psychic presence that the truth of an individual being comes into contact with him and the circumstances of his life. In most cases the presence acts, so to say, from behind the veil, unrecognised and unknown; but in some, it is perceptible and its action recognisable and even, in a very few, the presence becomes tangible and its action fully effective. These go forward in life with an assurance and a certitude all their own; they are masters of their destiny. It is for the purpose of obtaining this mastery and becoming conscious of the psychic presence that psychic education should be practised.”
– The Mother
The integral education can truly begin only after one has become conscious of one’s psychic being.
“A perfect self-expression of the spirit is the object of our terrestrial existence. This cannot be achieved if we have not grown conscious of the supreme Reality; for it is only by the touch of the Absolute that we can arrive at our own absolute.”
– Sri Aurobindo
“… the psychic life is immortal life, endless time, limitless space, ever-progressive change, unbroken continuity in the universe of forms. The spiritual consciousness, on the other hand, means to live the infinite and the eternal, to be projected beyond all creation, beyond time and space. To become conscious of our psychic being and to live a psychic life you must abolish all egoism; but to live a spiritual life you must no longer have an ego.”
– The Mother
“From beyond the frontiers of form a new force can be evoked, a power of consciousness which is as yet unexpressed and which, by its emergence, will be able to change the course of things and give birth to a new world. For the true solution to the problem of suffering, ignorance and death is not an individual escape from earthly miseries by self-annihilation into the unmanifest, nor a problematical collective flight from universal suffering by an integral and final return of the creation to its creator, thus curing the universe by abolishing it, but a transformation, a total transfiguration of matter brought about by the logical continuation of Nature’s ascending march in her progress towards perfection, by the creation of a new species that will be to man what man is to the animal and that will manifest upon earth a new force, a new consciousness and a new power. And so will begin a new education which can be called the supramental education; it will by its all-powerful action, work not only upon the consciousness of individual beings, but upon the very substance of which they are built and upon the environment in which they live.
In contrast with the types of education we have mentioned previously, which progress from below upwards by an ascending movement of the various parts of the being, the supramental education will progress from above downwards, its influence spreading from one state of being to another until at last the physical is reached.”
– The Mother
This education will culminate in the transformation of the human body into a divine body, leading in the end to the appearance of a divine race upon earth which will not be subject to death, disease and ignorance.
It should be obvious from the above quotations that the degree and the extent of perfection aimed at in integral education is not even easily conceivable for most educationists and Yogis. Neither the lofty spirituality of the East, nor the best educational disciplines and cultures of the West had ever seriously held such a perfection in view. And this was quite understandable, for such a thing would have been utterly impossible in the absence of the direct working of the supramental power in terrestrial nature — a thing made possible only by the 1956 Supramental Manifestation. Even the best of traditional spirituality tends to be top-heavy but lifeless and even the best of modern education tends to be soulless even though vibrant with life. Incidently, India seems to have, somehow, arrived at an educational system with is virtually both soulless and lifeless. The secret of the possible success of an earnest integral educational endeavour lies in its ability to combine the best of both these (spiritual and educational) endeavours at perfection in such a way as to make available to the educator all the potent instruments of perfection at the disposal of a Guru or a teacher of integral Yoga.
“The Teacher of the integral Yoga will follow as far as he may the method of the Teacher within us. He will lead the disciple through the nature of the disciple. Teaching, example, influence, — these are the three instruments of the Guru. But the wise Teacher will not seek to impose himself or his opinions on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind; he will throw in only what is productive and sure as a seed which will grow under the divine fostering within. He will seek to awaken much more than to instruct; he will aim at the growth of the faculties and the experiences by a natural process and free expansion. He will give a method as an aid, as a utilisable device, not as an imperative formula or a fixed routine. And he will be on his guard against any turning of the means into a limitation, against the mechanising of process. His whole business is to awaken the divine light and set working the divine force of which he himself is only a means and an aid, a body or a channel.
The example is more powerful than the instruction; but it is not the example of the outward acts nor that of the personal character, which is of most importance. These have their place and their utility; but what will most stimulate aspiration in others is the central fact of the divine realisation within him governing his whole life and inner state and all his activities. This is the universal and essential element; the rest belongs to individual person and circumstance. It is this dynamic realisation that the Sadhaka must feel and reproduce in himself according to his own nature; he need not strive after an imitation from outside which may well be sterilising rather than productive of right and natural fruits.
Influence is more important than example. Influence is not the outward authority of the Teacher over his disciple, 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. This is the supreme sign of the Master. For the greatest Master is much less a Teacher than a Presence pouring the divine consciousness and its constituting light and power and purity and bliss into all who are receptive around him.
And it shall also be a sign of the teacher of the integral Yoga that he does not arrogate to himself Guruhood in a humanly vain and self-exalting spirit. His work, if he has one, is a trust from above, he himself a channel, a vessel or a representative. He is a man helping his brothers, a child leading children, a Light kindling other lights, an awakened Soul awakening souls, at highest a Power or Presence of the Divine calling to him other powers of the Divine.”
– Sri Aurobindo
Compulsion is never used by a wise teacher. His three instruments are, Teaching, Example and Influence. However, in our present day system of education compulsion plays a very important part.
Compulsion has a place in the nature’s scheme of things as long as there are crude elements in human nature. In the present day educational setup, the gross physical form of compulsion is generally absent but a subtle form of it, buttressed by the competitive spirit, is the foundation on which the entire structure rests. The performance of both the teachers and the students depends crucially on this and in its absence practically no formal education may take place. In fact without at least an element of it, it may be very difficult to maintain discipline and order in most educational institutions. Even in an integral education setup, an element of it may creep in if the teacher lacks complete self-control. Since all external compulsion subtle or gross — and absence of genuine freedom is inimical to psychic emergence, it can have no place in an institution aspiring for integral perfection.
Teaching, backed by a subtle compulsion, is often the main instrument of a teacher in the education that is followed today. But the efficacy of teaching primarily depends on the consciousness with which it is done. By itself, that is to say, without an opening to a deeper or higher consciousness or influence — it can be only marginally effective. It is of little or no use for the vital education and either useless or counter productive for the psychic and spiritual education.
Thus, if the teachers are persons living in ordinary surface consciousness and without a sufficient opening to their deeper and higher parts, it will be impossible for them to impart any true integral education. However, when supported by a higher or deeper consciousness, teaching can become effective for all the aspects of integral education because in such a case the two higher instruments, Example and Influence permeate whatever teaching activity — or for that matter any activity — that may be undertaken by the teacher. In an atmosphere charged with a higher consciousness, all acts assume a deeper power and significance which in an ordinary atmosphere they could not have conceivably had. Then, Teaching ceases to be mere Teaching and tends to assume the efficacy of Example and Influence also.
Teaching becomes truly effective when backed up by Example. In the words of the Mother,
“…the first thing to do, in order to be able to educate a child, is to educate oneself, to become conscious and master of oneself so that one never sets a bad example to one’s child. For it is above all through example that education becomes effective. To speak good words and to give wise advice to a child has very little effect if one does not oneself give him an example of what one teaches. Sincerity, honesty, straightforwardness, courage, disinterestedness, unselfishness, patience, endurance, perseverance, peace, calm, self-control are all things that are taught infinitely better by example than by beautiful speeches.”
“Example is the most powerful instructor. Never demand from a child an effort of discipline that you do not make yourself. Calm, equanimity, order, method absence of useless words, ought to be constantly practised by the teacher if he wants to instil them into his pupils.”
An influence can be predominantly physical, vital, mental, psychic, spiritual or a mixture of these. When Sri Aurobindo says, “Influence is more important than example,” he means the psychic and spiritual influence. Psychic and spiritual education cannot happen without the presence of this most powerful instrument. It is only when they are permeated by it that the other two instruments — Teaching and Example — can play a powerful role in true education. By itself, Teaching could often mean advising someone to do what one is unwilling or unable to do oneself. “Example” goes a step further; here one actually manifests what others may want to emulate. But, one who wants to develop the inspiring qualities has to do so by his own unaided strength. That is why “Influence” is so important; it goes still further by providing the psychic and spiritual help necessary to facilitate the attainment of what one is striving for.
Even when a teacher is not in full possession of psychic and spiritual influence he can open to it and invoke it to make his teaching considerably more effective.
The power and efficacy of this instrument of education depends on the level of consciousness behind it. As the consciousness grows deeper and higher it tends to become all-powerful — in fact, so powerful as to transform the whole being directly without even going through the process of purification.
It should be clear from the above that a teacher of integral education has very powerful instruments at his disposal to enable him to perform his task. The next question that naturally arises is “what are the principles that govern the use of such potent instruments?”
“The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or taskmaster, 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 distinction that reserves this principle for the teaching of adolescent and adult minds and denies its application to the child, is a conservative and unintelligent doctrine. Child or man, boy or girl, there is only one sound principle of good teaching. Difference of age only serves to diminish or increase the amount of help and guidance necessary; it does not change its nature.”
“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.”
“The third principle of education is to work from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be.”
– Sri Aurobindo
The fourth principle is to be flexible, which means not to make rules or be bound by rules. In the words of the Mother,
“One must never make rules.
Every minute one must endeavour to apply the highest truth one can perceive. It is much more difficult, but it’s the only solution.
Whatever you may do, don’t make rules beforehand, because once you have made a rule you follow it more or less blindly, and then you are sure, ninety-nine and a half times out of a hundred, to be mistaken.
There is only one way of acting truly, it is to try at each moment, each second, in each movement to express only the highest truth one can perceive, and at the same time know that this perception has to be progressive and that what seems to you the most true now will no longer be so tomorrow, and that a higher truth will have to be expressed more and more through you. This leaves no room any longer for sleeping in a comfortable tamas; one must be always awake — I am not speaking of physical sleep — one must be always awake, always conscious and always full of an enlightened receptivity and of goodwill. To want always the best, always the best, always the best, and never tell oneself, “Oh! it is tiring! Let me rest, let me relax! Ah, I am going to stop making an effort”; then one is sure to fall into a hole immediately and make a big stupid blunder.”
This last principle is a supreme or a basic principle not only of teaching but of all action. A living aspiration to lead a conscious existence and an endeavour to act according to the supreme principle of action — that is to try at each moment, in each movement, to express only the highest truth one can perceive — has to be the basis of an institution like the Sri Aurobindo Divine Life Education Centre. If this basis is there then all the frameworks, methods, techniques and the psychological structures that evolve during the process of the development of such an institution do so because the spirit chooses to pour itself into this specific mould. However, it is crucial to keep this specific mould — however sublime it may appear to be — utterly plastic to the touch of the spirit. And to do this, one has to be always conscious and ceaselessly endeavour to keep this mould from crystalizing. In other words, one has to live the spiritual truth.
“For the way that humanity deals with an ideal is to be satisfied with it as an aspiration which is for the most part left only as an aspiration, accepted only as a partial influence. The ideal is not allowed to mould the whole life, but only more or less to colour it; it is often used even as a cover and a plea for things that are diametrically opposed to its real spirit. Institutions are created which are supposed, but too lightly supposed to embody that spirit and the fact that the ideal is held, the fact that men live under its institutions is treated as sufficient. The holding of an ideal becomes almost an excuse for not living according to the ideal; the existence of its institutions is sufficient to abrogate the need of insisting on the spirit that made the institutions. But spirituality is in its very nature a thing subjective and not mechanical; it is nothing if it is not lived inwardly and if the outward life does not flow out of this inward living. Symbols, types, conventions, ideas are not sufficient. A spiritual symbol is only a meaningless trinket unless the thing symbolised is realised in the spirit. A spiritual convention may lose or expel its spirit and become a falsehood. A spiritual type may be a temporary mould into which spiritual living may flow, but it is also a limitation and may become a prison in which it fossilises and perishes. A spiritual idea is a power, but only when it is both inwardly and outwardly creative. Here we have to enlarge and to deepen the pragmatic principle that truth is what we create, and in this sense first, that it is what we create within us, in other words, what we become. Undoubtedly, spiritual truth exists eternally beyond, independent of us in the heavens of the Spirit; but it is of no avail for humanity here, it does not become truth of earth, truth of life until it is lived.”
– Sri Aurobindo
It should be clear from the above that a teacher of integral education must be at least an earnest spiritual aspirant if integral education is to happen at all. Therefore the real foundation of an integral education institution would be a community of spiritual aspirants who, would aspire to rise above the human ways of thinking and doing and who would have taken to heart the following words of the Mother.
“When you come to the Yoga, you must be ready to have all your mental buildings and all your vital scaffoldings shattered to pieces. You must be prepared to be suspended in the air with nothing to support you except your faith. You will have to forget your past self and its clingings altogether, to pluck it out of your Consciousness and be born a new, free from every kind of bondage. Think not of what you were, but of what you aspire to be; be altogether in what you want to realise. Turn from your dead past and look straight towards the future. Your religion, country, family lie there; it is the DIVINE”.
In a Community of such aspirants, there would be created an atmosphere where integral education would take place spontaneously and naturally, as much for the teachers as for the students.
All life is an education pursued more or less consciously, more or less willingly. All that one experiences — even if predominantly either physica-vital, mental, psychic or spiritual — touches all the parts of the being and is a part of the process of the increasing mastery of the spirit over matter. In this sense, one may look upon the whole terrestrial existence as a grand integral educational effort and the only essential difference between this and the educational effort in an institution of integral education is that although in an ultimate sense itself a part — and a very important part — of the evolutionary effort of Nature at this crucial stage of the terrestrial evolution; the latter is a specially concentrated and conscious and hence a very much more swift and effective effort. The effectivity and integrality of an educational effort depends crucially on the consciousness supporting it. It is true that, in a deeper and integral view of education, every educational effort — even that which is aimed exclusively at the development or cultivation of a specific capacity or faculty — will be seen to touch and effect all the parts of the being, for, nothing can really be piecemeal in this world. However, the lower the consciousness supporting an educational effort, the lower will be its effectivity and the more will it tend to be limited to the education of the specific part or faculty. The power and effective integrality of an educational effort increases with consciousness. It reaches almost an absolute intensity and power, when the consciousness rises high enough to permit the descent of the Supreme Divine Love which transforms the whole being instantaneously and directly, without even going through the preliminary process of conversion.
It is not uncommon to see the rigidity and the fixed routine of an educational technique or process melting away under the pressure of a higher consciousness. And, the higher is the presiding consciousness, the more total is the effacement of all the fixed contours of the devised process or technique and, the greater is the power and integrality of the resulting educational effort. What may actually take place in a truly surcharged atmosphere, ceases to be analysable or even properly understandable by an ordinary intellectual effort. Thus, in an integral educational atmosphere, all the educational techniques and processes ought to be looked upon as only the starting points and the necessary supports to human intellect which needs to lean on them when it approaches a process as complex, uncharted and perhaps unchartable as the process of integral education.
Comparision of the Integral Education (IE) with the Best of the Popular Education (PE) of Today.
The PE concentrates — only on a part of the mental education to the virtual exclusion of all other aspects. There is no planned or systematic development of the instruments of knowledge or other faculties in the PE.
Isn’t there a far greater load in the IE? One may wonder how so much greater load — the description of all aspects of integral education is truly frightening if looked upon superficially — may be bearable by students who already seem to be getting increasingly overburdened in the present system of the PE. In this regard one should remember that:
(a) After a certain stage the functioning of the instruments of knowledge shall be much more efficient in an IE system; it should then be possible to handle a far greater load with ease.
(b) In an IE, there will be little stress on the memorising of a store of facts. Instead, the stress shall be on the capacity to acquire and use knowledge. This should considerably reduce the burden on the students.
(c) A systematic rigorous physical education included in the IE will certainly require much extra time and effort, but this can be expected to be more than compensated by the salutary positive effect it shall have on the functioning and efficiency of all other parts of the being.
(d) In an atmosphere proper to IE and with the necessary enabling and enlightening discipline and doctrine supplied at appropriate junctures, the education of all other (other than the physical) aspects of IE is quite capable of being carried out and, in fact, invariably does carried out along with the usual academic education. Being essentially psychological in nature and related to the deeper parts of the being, the education of these aspects of IE will be approached mainly through Example and Influence which permeate all the Teaching that takes place in an intense IE atmosphere. Thus, the higher aspects are utterly inseparable from any teaching activity. As the Mother said, “Spiritual things…. They are taught history or spiritual things, they are taught science or spiritual things. That is the stupidity. In history, the Spirit is there, in science, the Spirit is there — the Truth is everywhere. And what is needed is not to teach it in a false way, but to teach it in a true way.”
(e) The higher instruments of a teacher — Example and Influence — cannot fail to have a powerful positive effect on the efficiency of Teaching – thus making it easier for the student to acquire a far greater proficiency even in that part of IE which is common with the PE.
The process of the PE is well defined and understood, but the IE is so new, complex and vast that its course — specially that pertaining to higher aspects — is virtually uncharted. However, a few remarks of general nature may usefully be made:
(i) The Consciousness is the heart and soul of the whole process of IE. It alone decides whether the IE really contours as the PE. It alone will mark the difference between an institution where the IE really takes place and an institution where it is so in name only and the actual education is, in essence, little different from the PE.
(ii) The establishment of the reign of reason over one’s desires, impulses and feelings must be the aim of all education which aims at human perfection. An IE which aims at an integral perfection may also, in general. concern itself with, it in its first phase. However, an IE institution will have a relatively easy time with this task because it shall be attempted in an atmosphere supported by the deeper and higher levels of consciousness. Also, in such an atmosphere, the reason will stay plastic enough to permit its transcendence and a smooth transition to the next phase when the psychic comes in front and takes charge of the whole process of education.
(iii) The efficiency of IE, the other things remaining the same, will tend to increase over time in accordance with the general law of nature behind this tendency in all endeavours. For, if it continued to be as difficult and seemingly impossible as it is for the pioneers in this field, there can be little hope of it ever becoming widespread.
(iv) The process of IE shall have considerable individual variations, specially when the influence of the higher realms predominates. An IE system will, by its very nature, be utterly plastic and permit such variations.