Editor’s Note: In August 1965 an Education Commission of the Government of India visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to evaluate the ideals and educational methods of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE). At that time a group of SAICE teachers submitted a few questions to the Mother (presented below in italics).
In the answers as well as further explanations provided by the Mother to follow-up questions, we discover some key fundamentals, presented precisely and succinctly and in a sutra-like manner bringing out their essence, which must be at the basis of Indian education if it has to aim at a true resurgence of Indian spirit in new forms.
We have also included a few other relevant passages from the Mother which speak a few key points regarding education that is forward-looking and essential for building a new India. For the ease of online reading, we have made a few minor formatting revisions.
India’s Mission and Her Nation-soul
A country’s mission is not something which can be decided mentally with all the egoistic and ignorant preferences of the external consciousness, for in that case the field of conflict between nations might be shifted, but the conflict would continue, probably with even greater force.
[. . .]
Just as each individual has a psychic being which is his true self and which governs his destiny more or less overtly, so too each nation has a psychic being which is its true being and moulds its destiny from behind the veil: it is the soul of the country, the national genius, the spirit of the people, the centre of national aspiration, the fountainhead of all that is beautiful, noble, great and generous in the life of the country.
True patriots feel its presence as a tangible reality. In India it has been made into an almost divine entity, and all who truly love their country call it “Mother India” (Bharat Mata) and offer her a daily prayer for the welfare of their country. It is she who symbolises and embodies the true ideal of the country, its true mission in the world.
The thinking elite in India even identifies her with one of the aspects of the universal Mother as the . . . Hymn to Durga illustrates. . .
[. . .] One would like to see in all countries the same veneration for the national soul, the same aspiration to become fit instruments for the manifestation of its highest ideal, the same ardour for progress and self-perfection enabling each people to identify itself with its national soul and thus find its true nature and role, which makes each one a living and immortal entity regardless of all the accidents of history.
An Essential and Fundamental Education for All Mankind
Sublime Mother, Our aim is no exclusive national system of education for India but an essential and fundamental education for all mankind. But, is it not true, Mother, that this education, because of India’s special fitness (by virtue of its past cultural striving and attainment), is India’s privilege and special responsibility towards herself and the world?
At any rate, this essential education is India’s national education to my mind. In fact, I regard this as the national education of each great country with characteristic differentiations peculiar to each nation.
I wonder whether this is correct and Mother would endorse it.
The Mother: Yes, this is quite correct. . .
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, 26 July 1965, CWM, 12, p. 249
Basics of Indian Education for Future
1) In view of the present and the future of national and international living, what is it that India should aim at in education?
Prepare her children for the rejection of falsehood and the manifestation of Truth.
2) By what steps could the country proceed to realise this high aim? How can a beginning in that direction be made?
Make matter ready to manifest the Spirit.
3) What is India’s true genius and what is her destiny?
To teach to the world that matter is false and impotent unless it becomes the manifestation of the Spirit.
4) How does the Mother view the progress of Science and Technology in India? What contribution can they make to the growth of the Spirit in man?
Its only use is to make the material basis stronger, completer and more effective for the manifestation of the Spirit.
5) The country feels much concerned about national unity. What is the Mother’s vision of things? How will India do her duty by herself and by the world?
The unity of all the nations is the compelling future of the world. But for the unity of all nations to be possible, each nation must first realise its own unity.
6) The language problem harasses India a good deal. What would be our correct attitude in this matter?
Unity must be a living fact and not the imposition of an arbitrary rule. When India will be one, she will have spontaneously a language understood by all.
7) Education has normally become literacy and a social status. Is it not an unhealthy trend? But how to give education its inner worth and intrinsic enjoyability?
Get out of conventions and insist on the growth of the soul.
8) What illusions and delusions is our education today beset with? How could we possibly keep clear of them?
a) The almost exclusive importance given to success, career and money.
b) Insist on the paramount importance of the contact with the Spirit and the growth and manifestation of the Truth of the being.
5 August 1965
Editor’s note: Based upon the Mother’s replies to the series of questions in the previous letter dated 5 August 1965, following four follow-up questions were asked by a teacher.
Work on Oneself
1) How to prepare children for the rejection of falsehood (a) when the falsehood is still within the blood and every cell of my body? (b) when attachment to falsehood is becoming stronger and stronger by the egoistic and possessive nature?
2) How can the unity of each nation be realised (a) when there is no unity within the individual? (b) when there is no unity between two members of a family? (c) when there is no unity in one organisation or institution?
3) How to get out of conventions and insist on the growth of the soul when even an Ashramite spreads the infection of social status to satisfy personal wants?
4) How not to give an almost exclusive importance to success, career and money when everyone is running after money for the exhibition and satisfaction of one’s ego and self-importance?
To each one a body has been given to do that work, because it is in realising these things in oneself that one helps humanity to realise them upon earth.
The teacher must absolutely possess the qualities and the consciousness he wants his students to acquire.
Why Yoga in Education?
I would like them (the Government) to recognise Yoga as education, not so much for ourselves, but it will be good for the country.
Matter will be transformed, that will be a solid base. Life will be divinised. Let India take the lead.
~ The Mother, CWM, 12: 250-252
Look to the Future
All studies, or in any case the greater part of studies consists in learning about the past, in the hope that it will give you a better understanding of the present.
But if you want to avoid the danger that the students may cling to the past and refuse to look to the future, you must take great care to explain to them that the purpose of everything that happened in the past was to prepare what is taking place now, and that everything that is taking place now is nothing but a preparation for the road towards the future, which is truly the most important thing for which we must prepare.
It is by cultivating intuition that one prepares to live for the future.
~ The Mother, 18 Sep 1967, CWM, Vol. 12, p. 168
Q: In the context of your recent messages to the school emphasising the future: As a language teacher I have been laying great stress on the Ramayana and the songs of Kabir, Mira, etc. and the stories of the Upanishads and the Mahabharata. Please tell me what to do. If I stop them as belonging to the past, how to replace them? If I continue them, shall I not be going against your current?
Not at all. It is the attitude that is important.
Even in the lower classes I lay stress upon the stories of Indian literature. We have no vision of the future and if we discard all these as things of the past, then what will remain in the literature?
The past must be a spring-board towards the future, not a chain preventing us from advancing.
As I said—all depends on the attitude towards the past.
~ The Mother, 17 April, 1967, CWM, Vol. 17, p. 296
~ Design: Beloo Mehra