One of the greatest secrets revealed by the Indian spiritual knowledge is that only when a human being finds and lives from the inner self, can he or she most embrace the universal being and become one with it.
Only when one becomes truly independent, self-possessed and self-ruler (swarāt, master of one’s impulses, instincts, thoughts and desires), can one grow into becoming a ruler, master and shaper of the world in which one lives (samrāt). Only when one truly lives in the soul, one is also living in complete oneness with all. Because then the distinction between self and other is no more.
On a practical level, this truth implies that one must consciously and in full awareness try to know oneself in all its totality and inter-related layers. One must also make continuous attempts to live truly, as much as possible, in accordance with the inner truth that guides and determines one’s path of life.
When our self-expression—the outer work we do, how we connect with others, how we grow through our life experiences, the kinds of experiences that motivate us, everything—begins to flow from our inner centre of being and is in accordance with our unique law of being, we are on the path of discovering our swadharma (the true purpose of our existence in this life).
This is not an easy task, but it is the first necessity. It can be facilitated through proper education and exposure. Education must facilitate gradual progress in learners’ journey to discover their inner law and truth of being, their dharma. This journey of self-discovery must be made in the context of another journey, that of discovering their nation and its heritage.
Only when Indian children and youth are consciously aware of their Indian cultural spirit and form, can they truly work towards manifesting it through their own works and actions.
This is the essence of the ‘Insightful Conversation’ we had this month with our guest, Dr. Chhalamayi Reddy. She is an award-winning educationist with more than 3 decades of experience as principal of Sri Aurobindo International School (SAIS), a leading school in Hyderabad. She shares with us the various programmes and approaches they have instituted in her which help bring back the Indian-ness and makes it an integral part of the students’ learning experience.
Dr. Reddy mentions that since our independence not much conscious effort has gone into ‘Indian-ising’ our education. But New Education Policy 2020 brings much hope and makes its aspirations explicit in this regard. However, she shares with us how since the very beginning of her career as an educator and educational administrator, she has been passionate about bringing the spirit of India for her students’ learning journeys at SAIS.
“…an education proper to the Indian soul and need and temperament and culture that we are in quest of, not indeed something faithful merely to the past, but to the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self-creation, to her eternal spirit. It is this that we have to get clear in our minds and for that we must penetrate down to fundamentals and make those firm before we can greatly execute.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 1, p. 419)
She shares with us some details about the morning assembly programme in her school which on a daily basis introduces children to various key aspects of Indian culture. This includes not only the things normally associated with morning assembly in schools such as chanting of shlokas and mantras, but also some sharing of the significant contributions made by our ancestors in various fields of activity from science, literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine to arts, dance, theatre, music and everything else.
There is also an annual poetry festival or kavi-sammelan event which helps students develop an appreciation for poetry in Hindi, Sanskrit and Telugu. They have also started a once-a-week more structured study programme which gives the students of grades tenth to twelfth some essential grounding in the principles of Sanatana Dharma and the way these have informed the fundamental cultural spirit of India.
The school also has several other annual theme-based events designed around some aspect of Indian cultural heritage on which students prepare presentations, exhibitions and other cultural programmes. Because at the SAIS students up to seventh grade do not have any examinations and the curriculum is designed around the holistic developmental needs of the child, teachers have much more flexibility and freedom in offering learning activities and experiences that help students learn about their cultural heritage – both regional and national.
Dr. Reddy also tells us that a great emphasis is given on highlighting the deeper life-values which are at the core of Indian cultural spirit. This, she said, is more important than introducing the children to only the outer manifestations or forms of the spirit. In fact, the school has come to be known in the area for its emphasis on inculcating a deeper sense of cultural rootedness in its students.
We conclude the conversation with a question – how would Dr. Chhalamayi Reddy describe to a student what is meant by Indian-ness in today’s globalized age?
Watch the full conversation:
About our guest:
Dr. Chhalamayi Reddy is the Principal of Sri Aurobindo International School, Hyderabad. She is an ex-student of Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education, Puducherry and completed her doctoral studies based on Sri Aurobindo’s work titled The Future Poetry. Her vision led her to start another residential project in the name of New Creation: a Free Progress School started in Champak Hills, Janagaon, Telangana. This school tries to bring varied learning experiences for learners to facilitate self discovery.
At both the Sri Aurobindo International School and also New Creation Free Progress school, Dr. Reddy has implemented specific approaches and programmes to bring Indian-ness and cultural spirit of India for the students’ learning experiences. We look forward to learning more about that.
Dr. Chhalamayi Reddy has won several awards for her accomplishments in the field of education. She considers all her work to be a humble offering at the lotus feet of the Mother and the Master.