4. EDUCATION FOR PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT
1. Let me begin with a brief reference to the 1972 Report of the International Commission on Development of Education, established by UNESCO, — the report which conveys its theme so aptly through its own title, “Learning to be”. The Report had become very famous during the seventies, but it has unfortunately receded into the background. To know, to possess and to be – this is the central demand of life, and, rightly, this ought to be the central demand of education, particularly when, as in the Report, there is a clear and categorical recognition of the need for a fundamental identification of life and education. As the Report states in the very first principle of 21- point programme for a global strategy in education: “Every individual must be in a position to keep learning throughout his life. The idea of lifelong education is the keynote of the learning society.” 1
2. But, as we begin to seek for the meaning of life-long education and its central theme “to be”, we are confronted with a number of implications which in their turn centre round the idea of personality and personality development. As M. Edgar Faure, the Chairman of the Commission, states, one of the underlying assumptions of the Report is “that the aim of development is the complete fulfilment of man, in all the richness of his personality, the compexity of his forms of expression and his various commitments.” 2
3. But there are controversies regarding what constitutes personality and the real meaning of the full richness of personality. There are also controversies regarding the conflicts of the demands of personality development with those of professional efficiency. There are also pressures of society to demand men of professions rather than men of developed personalities. Contrarily, there are assertions in favour of personality development against the pragmatic necessities of their professional excellence. And then there is a deeper issue as to whether the fullness of personality can be achieved in the present state of society and civilization. Indeed, education for personality development seems to necessitate not only a revolutionary change in the aim, content and structure of educational institutions, but also a revolution in the entire object, mode and interrelations of social existence.
4. For us, what is most significant is the logic of the new educational methodology which reinforces at every turn the need to place the child and its personality at the centre of entire edifice of education. The modern educationist has come to realise that the child is not a plastic material to be moulded and pressed into a shape as desired and decided upon by the parents and educators. There is an insistence on free choice for the student to choose his own subjects of study, his pace of progress, and even (within limits) his teachers. There is a recognition of individual differences, necessitating variation in psychological treatment, presentation of materials of study, and criteria for judgement of performance. There is a demand for new syllabi and for flexible syllabi which would correspond to the psychological needs of the growth of the personality abolition of the examination system, and need, therefore, to discover a more rational and psychological system that can replace the system of tests, checks and counter-checks. All these demands and needs point to the idea of education for the all-round development of personality.
5. But what is personality? And how to prepare ourselves for the education for personality development? Personality is sometimes identified with character, but very often a distinction is made between the two. According to this distinction, character means the fixed structure of certain recognisable qualities while personality means the flux of self-expressive or sensitive and responsive being. But when we examine the distinction between the fixed structure and the flux, we find that the fixity and the flux are only relative terms, and in the movement of Nature, nothing is fixed. Personality may then be regarded as a plastic expression of certain forces and ends of Nature combined for the time being. Deeper psychological research affirms, as in the system of Yoga, that this combination of forces can be disturbed, it can be modified, it can be totally changed. Personalities can be multiplied within the same individual; the conflicting personalities in the individual can be harmonised; one can become capable of putting forth the needed personality according to the circumstances or the demands of the work or situation, even while the other personalities would remain behind, contributing to the efficacy of the personality put in the front. One can even go beyond all personality and know the real person that assumes so many personalities.
6. One can make a distinction between the real Person and the instruments of the person, viz. the body, life and mind. And between the person and the instruments there is what one might call the force of the person that expresses itself and gives a special turn, a special power of configuration, a certain stamp to the instruments. It is this special stamp or power of configuration that gives rise to the specific formation of a pattern of qualities and drives to our body, life and mind. It is that which we should call properly ‘personality’. In the language of the Samkhya psychology, we might say that body, life and mind are the expressions of Prakriti marked by the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. The normal human being is simply an instrument of Prakriti, dominated largely bytamas or rajas, expressing indeed some pattern of these qualities, but as yet unable to become aware of the inner person, Purusha. In the Samkhya, the Purusha is a mere Witness which is inactive, and it is not proper to speak of the Force of the Purusha. But in the Vedanta, especially in the original Vedanta of the Upanishads, and in some of its best developed forms, the inner person has its own force, often called the soul-force, which when awakened, pours itself into the instruments of Prakriti, and it is this meeting of the Soul-Force and Prakriti of Nature that causes the real formation of Personality. The greater the opening of Nature to receive the flow of the Soul-Force, the greater is the resultant personality, and the fullness of Personality would be achieved initially by full development of mind, life and body under the sovereign guidance, rule and will of the Soul-Force, and a complete coursing of the energies of the Soul-Force, into the stuff, vibrations, activities, modes of mind, life and body, into the movements of sattva, rajas and tamas, with the power of their complete refinement, change and transformation.
7. The Soul-Force vibrates with the power and presence of the inner person, the true individual, which is quite different from the ego, a product of Nature or Prakriti. The true individual is called, in Sanskrit, the Chaitya Purusha, the one which is described in the Upanishads as ‘no bigger than the thumb’. It is, indeed, no bigger than the thumb when there is as yet no awakening in us of its presence and its force, but it is that which grows in us in answer to the needs of our internal and external growth, and the secret of all development of personality lies in that presence and in its force. It has, therefore, been affirmed that if one wants to develop the needed personality or wants to have mastery over one’s own personal development, and even of the circumstances of our development, then the right method is to discover and seek a living contract with that inner person. In the absence of this contract, one will always remain subject to the formations of qualities in oneself, and will have no power to control, guide and perfect these formations. It is, therefore, concluded that the fullness of personality can come about only by the complete emergence of the inner person and the full expression of its force.
8. This force has, if we study closely, four basic expressions. It expresses itself through four Powers: a Power for knowledge, a Power for strength, a Power for mutuality and active and productive relation and interchange, a Power for works and labour and service. Accordingly, we have four basic personalities: the personality of knowledge, the personality of strength, the personality of harmony and the personality of skill. “The psychological fact is”, says Sri Aurobindo, “that there are these four active powers and tendencies of the Spirit and its executive Shakti within us and the predominance of one or the other in the more well-formed part of our personality gives us our main tendencies, dominant qualities and capacities, effective turn in action and life. But they are more or less present in all men, here manifest, there latent, here developed, there subdued and depressed or subordinate, and in the perfect man will be raised up to a fullness and harmony which in the spiritual freedom will burst out into the free play of the infinite quality of the spirit in the inner and the outer life and in the self-enjoying creative play of the Purusha with his and the world’s Nature-Power.” 3 The full richness of personality is the splendid, opulent and marvellous integration of the four-fold personality. The full heart of Love is tranquilised by knowledge into a calm ecstasy and vibrates with strength; the strong hands of Power labour for the world in a radiant fullness of joy and light; the luminous brain of Knowledge accepts and transforms the heart’s obscure inspirations and lends itself to the workings of the high-seated Will. All these powers are founded together on a soul of sacrifice that lives in unity with all the world and accepts all things to transmute them. This, we may say, is the condition of man’s integrality.
9. Such then is the basic idea of the integral personality and the process of its formation. In this idea we find the completion of several other ideas of personality of the remedy of dangers presented in several processes of exaggerated formations of egoism and individuality. According to one conception, personality is identified with egoistic individuality having a certain sense of ends or values. And fullness of personality in this sense would mean an enlarged development of egoistic individuality by means of an increased power of mind, an increased power of vital force, by a refined or dense and massive exaggerations of the forces of what Yoga calls ‘Ignorance’. This would manifest even a violent and turbulent, exaggerated, vital ego, satisfying itself with a supreme tyrannous or anarchic strength of self-fulfilment. Or, it would manifest a mighty exhibition of an overpowering force, self-possessed, self-held, even an ascetically self-restrained mind-capacity and life-power, strong, calm or cold or formidable in collected vehemence, subtle, dominating, a sublimation at once of the mental and vital ego. These are indeed superhuman manifestations, but even on a lower key, these manifestations are appalling, and one shudders at the idea of personality development if such is to be the result of education for personality development. There is, of course, an idea of a harmonious development of personality in which body, life and mind are developed integrally and with a kind of balance that would avoid exaggerations of the vital or mental ego. Something of this kind was attempted as an ideal in the early Greek culture, and this is often proposed all over the world as a salutary aim for education. At its highest, it attempts a harmony of the triangular disposition of the individual, a harmony of the aesthetic, ethical and rational tendencies.
The highest ideal that is formulated is that of the pursuit of the Truth, Goodness and Beauty. But modern psychological studies have revealed the tendencies of intrinsic conflict of these three ideals as understood and practised by the human mind. There have also been revealed the tendencies of the unconscious which constantly bombard the shifting harmonies of personality, and the researches made in the fields of parapsychology reveal deeper complexes and compactions whose harmony is extremely difficult to achieve. What we call harmony is most often a compromise of tendencies, an apparently working order concealing under a brittle cover a mass of uncontrolled and unregenerate or unregulated impulses, tendencies, dreams, imaginations, systems of ideas and motives. There is, in fact, a sort of controlled disequilibrium, but not a happy mastery of a rich harmony. The inner soul, the inner person of the Indian psychology, has an inherent power of purification and harmonisation. It detects the error and falsehood spontaneously; it turns effortlessly to all that is noble and mysterious and wonderful. The development of personality that is accompanied with or initiated by an awakening to this inmost soul, this psychic entity, prevents egoism and exaggerated formation of egoism; it harmonises effectively the aesthetic, the ethical and the rational.
It has even a power to transmute the passions and impulses; it can even set right the subconscious and open it to the supreme light by which it can finally be transformed. “It is”, in the words of Sri Aurobindo, “this secret psychic entity which is the original Conscience in us deeper than the constructed and conventional conscience of the moralist, for it is this which points always towards Truth and Right and Beauty, towards Love and Harmony and all that is a divine possibility in us, and persists till these things become the major need of our nature. It is the psychic personality in us that flowers as the saint, the sage, the seer; when it reaches its full strength, it turns the being towards the Knowledge of Self and the Divne, towards the supreme Truth, the supreme Good, the supreme Beauty, Love and Bliss, the divine heights and largenesses, and opens us to the touch of spiritual sympathy, universality, oneness.” 4 The coming forward of the psychic person marks a momentous stage in the development of personality. It then begins to govern overtly and entirely our outer nature of mind, life and body, and then this can be cast into soul-image of what is true, right and beautiful, and in the end, the whole nature can be turned towards the real aim of life, the supreme victory. A transformation of the mind, life and body by the presence and the power of the psychic being is effected. This process may be rapid or tardy accordingly to the resistance in our developed nature. But ultimately, by the greater and greater infusion of the psychic light, every part of the being is psychicised. As Sri Aurobindo describes it : “Every region of the being, every nook and corner of it, every movement, formation, direction, inclination of thought, will, emotion, sensation, action, reaction, motive, disposition, propensity, desire, habit of the conscious or subconscious physical, even the most concealed, camouflaged, mute recondite, is lighted up with the unerring psychic light, their confusions dissipated, their tangles disentangled, their obscurities, deceptions, self-deceptions precisely indicated and removed; all is purified set right, the whole nature harmonised, modulated in the psychic key, put in spiritual order.” 5
10. There are, still, according to Sri Aurobindo, higher levels of consciousness, ranges of the powers of the fourfold personality in the superconscious. These ranges are those of what Sri Aurobindo has termed the Higher Mind, the Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind and Supermind. An account of all this would form a subject by itself, and in an introductory paper as this we cannot dare enter into this field. 11. What we need to stress now is that the secret of personality development is an awakening to the psychic person and the development of body, life and mind in such a manner that they might aid in this awakening and might become well-trained instruments of the fourfold personality of knowledge, strength, harmony and skill.
12. It should be evident that the personality development as conceived here is a life-long education. And yet, it is a process that must begin right from the earliest stage, and must determine the drift, the content, and method of all our stages of education. And it seems inevitable that an education motivated by the development of personality demands a radical change in our approach, attitudes, methods, structure, system of evaluation, of syllabus and of contact with the students.
13. And, first, we may ask if we could find some principles which would guide us in our work of organizing some practical organisation of education for personality development. In a series of articles that Sri Aurobindo wrote in 1909-10, as a leader of Indian nationalism, in order to expound what he conceived to be the lines on which a system of National Education could be evolved, he enunciated three fundamental principles to which reference is made earlier.
14. There are several other guidelines that we find in Sri Aurobindo. While explaining the instruments of the work of the teacher, he writes in his Synthesis of Yoga, “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.” 6 15. “What is his method and his system?” asks Sri Aurobindo and answers, “He has no method and every method. His system is a natural organisation of the highest processes and movements of which the nature is capable. Applying themselves even to the pettiest details and to the actions the most insignificant in their appearance with as much care and thoroughness as to the greatest, they in the end lift all into the Light and transform all.” 7
16. “This imperfect nature of ours”, explains Sri Aurobindo, “contains the materials of our perfection, but inchoate, distorted, misplaced, thrown together in disorder to a poor imperfect order. All this material has to be patiently perfected, purified, reorganised, new-moulded and transformed, not hacked and hewn and slain or mutilated, not obliterated by simple coercion and denial.” 8
17. These principles, it will be observed, are subtle and complex, and no rigid formula of practice can be derived from them. They impose a great responsibility on the teacher and demand from him extraordinary qualities of a profound psychologist. It would also seem that the education governed by these principles stands in need of a very flexible structure or organisation, in which the paramount place is automatically assigned to the varied needs of student’s growth. In such a system, it is not merely the ‘subjects’ of study that should count. A much greater importance will have to be assigned to the inner aspiration, experience of freedom, possibility of educating oneself, self-experimentation, discovery of the inner needs and their relation with the programme of studies, and the discovery of the aim of life and the art of life. A great stress will fall upon each student’s individual work, and there has to be subtlety in forming flexible groupings of the students. Our present structure of education is imprisoned within the walls of a triple system, and if we wish to make education for personality development a practical proposition, we must examine this triple system in some depth and suggest some practicable solutions. This imprisoning system is the lecture system, syllabus system, and the examination system.
18. We may begin with a few remarks regarding the Lecture System. A lecture or a speech as a creative expression of the inner spirit is a living vibration and it has an indispensable place in any ideal system of education. Again, a lecture which is an informal talk has also an important place in education. Also, lectures have a great utility in (a) introducing a subject, (b) stimulating an interest for a subject, (c) presenting a panoramic view of a subject, (d) explaining general difficulties or hurdles which are commonly met by a large number of students in their studies, (e) creating a collective atmosphere with regard to certain pervasive ideas, and (f) initiating rapid and massive programmes of training. Finally, lectures as reports of research work have their undeniable place and value. But where the above aims or conditions are absent, lectures become dry, boring, ineffective, irrelevant to the interests of the students, and therefore useless. Also, instead of being given a legitimate and rightful place, lectures in the present system are given almost a central place. It has been regarded as the central task of teachers to lecture and to cover the syllabus through their lectures. As a result, teachers are most often uncreative in their lectures; they are in a hurry to pour out their knowledge without much regard for the interest and attention of the students. Students tend to remain mostly passive, often inattentive and become in due course restless, and even violent. The present lecture system is thus quite unpsychological and devoid of much educational value. This must be changed radically.
19. Next, we may examine the syllabus system with which our lecture system is so closely connected. A syllabus as an over-all view of an idea of a subject has necessary place in any ideal system of education. A curriculum as an instrument of certain goals to be achieved has also an important place. Also, a syllabus has a great utility in presenting to the student the various elements involved in what he is going to learn, in stimulating his interest in those elements, and in creating in him a ‘prospective’ attitude towards his studies. Also, a syllabus as an instrument of a graded system of learning has its value and usefulness (at least in some areas of studies). But a syllabus cut out rigidly and fixed uniformly for all the students alike is a heavy chain that smothers the innate tendencies of curiosity, variation, digression, play and spontaneity. It also cuts across a genuine development towards the synthesis and globality of a wide sweep of integral comprehension. A wrong notion also grows that only what is given in the syllabus is that which is to be learnt; what falls outside the syllabus is often ignored and remains ignored indefinitely. Instead of giving a legitimate place to the syllabus, it has come to be regarded as a backbone of the entire structure of the educational system.This situation must radically change. A syllabus as a general panoramic view in the vision of the teacher and as a guideline for the student has a legitimate function, and this function has to be preserved. But in the actual operation of the educational process, there have to be what may be called ‘evolutionary’ syllabi. A syllabus should grow according to the needs of the inner growth of the student, and the student should be free to develop and weave the various elements of his studies into a complex harmonious whole on the lines of his deeper quest and according to the rhythm of the inner flowering of his personality. We should aid at progress, but at free progress.
We should aid at perfection, but a perfection that is a spontaneous and happy flowering. The progress of the student has to be related to the motivation of the student. Curiosity as a motive has to be fostered and nourished. It has to be deepened and enlarged. But a time must come when mere curiosity is transformed into a serious search after the Truth. It is this transformation that marks a real progress. A time comes in the process of learning when the student is awakened to the necessity of mastery or perfection. When this motivation begins to operate, more and more thorough programmes of training can be proposed, for it is with this motivation that training becomes a rigorous but joyous exercise. Many of the difficulties of the teachers in dealing with the students arise because most programmes of study are programmes of training, and these are presented to the students whether they are psychologically ready or not. There has to be a long period of general culture during which attention is to be paid to the cultivation of deep interest and love for studies and a large and wide grasp of the world and its mysteries. Stress on specialisation and mastery and perfection has also to be there, but a serious attention to this aspect should be given, it seems, only when the motivation for it begins to arise in the consciousness of the student. All this implies a new handling of the students and their interests. It also implies the paramount importance of the observation of students and a deep psychological understanding of their motivation and their needs of growth.
A sound principle of teaching is, as we have noted elsewhere, that the child should be consulted in his own growth, and so, instead of imposing a programme of studies, the teacher has to work with the student pointing out to him the various paths of progress and asking him to choose what he would like to pursue. The teacher can certainly guide, counsel, help in choosing, but he should not impose. It is true that finding a vocation and the necessary training for the chosen vocation are indeed important motivation of study, and they have to be given an important part in our total scheme. But we have at first to note that the chief vocation of man is to be Man and to transcend the limitations of manhood. And the key to the making of a Man is to develop the faculties of original, subtle, and complex thinking capable of seizing the heart of things and men and events, and the will-power to control and harmonise the various impulses, instincts and desires by means of the perception of a noble ideal and an unfailing resolution to realise that ideal. There has also to be a full growth of the body and its powers of strength, agility, plasticity, health and grace. And all this development of the body, life and mind is to be under the guidance of a secret knowledge and was the privilege of India to have once possessed in a great measure, and she can now recover and develop it even in a greater measure. This is the knowledge of the psychic and the spiritual. Whatever else may be the vocation of the individual, to possess this knowledge of the inner spiritual being and to guide his mind, life and body in the light of this knowledge – this has to be chief programme of the vocation of every student.
A wide, special and flexible syllabus for the discovery of and training for this vocation has to be the major concern of New Education. But this chief programme has also to be related to each student for the specific role that he has to play in the world- activities. A psychological handling of the student reveals the fact that every child has in him the materials for his perfection but these materials are in an undeveloped state or they are ill- organised. The specific role and vocation of each is intrinsically related to the harmonisation and perfection of these materials and to the natural and right rhythm of this process of perfection. It will also be found that each man’s natural vocation is intrinsically related to a natural tendency towards the mastery of a specific Technology, if we use that term in its widest sense in which not only scientific technologies but also language and law are included in its connotation. It is this natural tendency towards technology that should be encouraged right from the early stages of education. And for this purpose, there should always be available ample facilities for the cultivation of interests in various technologies and for their mastery in due course.
But care has to be taken to see that the study of technology does not become mechanical. And to prevent this we must realize that technology is a tool of expression. This would mean that the over-all emphasis should fall upon the inner springs of self-development which would necessitate expression, and which ; in turn, would necessitate the use of tools of expression. It is also to be noted that while technology is oriented towards utility, and therefore all technological training has to be for serving certain utilities of life, the ultimate aim of technological training should not be ‘utilitarian’ in its vulgar sense. The aim of technology is and must be to be the vehicle of the expression of an ideal, an aspiration, an inspiration and a perfection. A new organisation and syllabus for Technology would result from the above considerations. 20. And now we come to the Examination System.
Tests as means of judging achievement are necessary and often indispensable. As such, they have an important place in any ideal system of education. Tests are also useful for stimulation, for providing opportunities to the students to think clearly and formulate ideas adequately, for achieving precision, exactness, for arriving at a global view of the subjects of study, for self-evaluation, and for gaining self-confidence. Tests can also be a matter of fun and play.
But tests as a threat and as a means of securing the students’ motivation for studies are a barbaric misuse of a useful instrument. Tests coming as they do only once in a year in a decisive way, the uniformity of tests in disregard of the individual differentiation, an almost exclusive reliance on written tests which encourage cramming or unreflective reproduction of the material read or studied – these are among the elements that hurt the sensitivity of psychologists and educationists whose hearts yearn to foster the minds and hearts of the students with deep understanding, tenderness and affection in relation to the psychological needs of their growth of personality. The fact that even a silly, mechanical mind can pass the tests, and that too with honours, is sufficient to pass a verdict against the present system of tests.
The fact that the most important aspects of culture that we wish our children to cultivate lie entirely beyond the scope of our tests is sufficient to show what a marginal place tests should occupy in our total system of education. The great values of truthfulness; sincerity, cheerfulness, benevolence, right judgement, sacrifice, friendship – these are some of the things which we wish our children to possess. As these do not come under the sweep of the examination system, they tend to be neglected or ignored or given a very inferior place in the educational process. But it is these rather than many other superficial things that should have a sovereign place. Means must be found by which sovereign things achieve their sovereignty. The examination system must be radically changed.
The motivation for studies has to come from a natural curiosity, a sense of inner need of a profound quest, and an inevitable necessity for the search after the Truth and Perfection. The teacher’s genius will be judged by the way in which he can give the right and timely contact to his students and provide the necessary nourishment to their curiosity and need for a quest or stimulate them by striking ideas, projects, stories, and daily conversations, and much more by example and influence. Let not tests be a substitute for these profound and deep things which constitute the very heart of education. There are what may be called ‘romantic’ periods of study and they come to different students at different stages of development, These are the periods of general expansion or a passion for a given preoccupation or falling in love with education. These are the periods entirely unsuitable for tests. There are others when students need to clarify their vague ideas and sentiments ; they need precision and system. These are the periods when oral or written tests appropriate to these needs can be given.
There are again periods of assimilation at the end of which there is need to review in a connected manner the different elements of study. Here tests for comprehension or an extensive exposition would be relevant. There are also periods when there is a will to undergo a rigorous programme of training. During such periods, even a series of difficult and strenuous tests would be perfectly justified. Tests would be particularly needed where the courses of Technology (understood in its largest sense) are concerned. Tests have thus to be a varied nature, and for each students, tests must come to such a way that they are helpful to his growth. Tests must not be the means of passing or failing, of promotion or detention, but means of a self-evaluation, stimulation, and for correction and perfection. Moreover, tests may be oral or written or practical, according to the need and circumstance. It is also to be realised that impromptu tests can be more effective both in their power of stimulation and in arriving at a right judgement of the actual capacity of performance of the student.
It will be seen that in this view of tests, there will be no need to prefix any time-table for tests; they should be given to the students as and when necessary. In any case, it has to be realised that the right way of judging a student and his progress is by an inner contact, an inner feeling for the student, an inner tact and discrimination. These qualities have to be developed by the teachers. And it is when these qualities are developed that they will vibrate in the atmosphere a power that encourages and nourishes the great virtues of the inner soul of the student. II
21. These considerations suggest some lines on which a new organization for New Education suitable for personality development could be evolved. But before we come to further precisions, it may seem necessary to state some over-all propositions regarding the spirit in which the new organization should function, and the general role of the teachers in this New Education. 22. There will be, it may be said, four features of New Education : a. A sincere pursuit of the Truth, persistent seeking of an organisation of progressive Harmony, and a spontaneous Freedom fulfilling itself through growing order and perfection. b. Informality in instruction, joy in learning, utter dedication, strictness in training, and the widest comprehension in the student-teacher relationship – these will govern the new methods of education. c. An ever-fresh youthfulness, a constant prospective thrust towards New Future, and a happy thirst for continuous progress – these will govern the atmosphere on New Education. d. A search for the highest aim of life, a stress on the integral development of personality, and a living expression of the unity of mankind – these will be the universal preoccupations of the teachers and students.
23. In New Education, students will not go to schools and colleges in order to listen to lectures, but for a quest, for finding out the answers to their questions, for consulting the teachers, when needed. The very disposition of the classes will be radically changed, so that students have facilities to consult the teachers for a short or long time according to the needs. Instead of their being at the head of the class, the teachers will be found at convenient places so that they are readily available to those who need them for help, guidance, consultation. The teacher’s main occupation will be to observe his students, their inclinations and capacities, so as to be able to help them with deep sympathy and understanding. One of his important activities will be to write out something special for each of his students which will be useful for his general and specific growth. This involves a great deal of research work, but that is the privilege of his station in life. The teacher will not be a mere lecturer; rather he will be an animator. He will inspire much more than instruct; he will guide by example and by the influence of his inner soul and its noble aspirations. To aid the student in awakening the inner will to grow and to progress – that will be the constant endeavour of the teacher. To evolve a programme of education for each student in accordance with the felt needs of the student’s growth, to watch the students with deep sympathy, understanding and patience, ready to intervene and guide when necessary, to stimulate the students with striking words, ideas, questions, stories, projects and programmes – this will be the main work of the teachers. But to radiate an inner calm and a cheerful dynamism so as to create an atmosphere conducive to the development of the higher faculties of inner knowledge and intuition – that will be regarded as the very heart of the work of the teacher.
24. As hinted earlier, there are, it seems, two important stages or aspects in the process of learning, the aspect of what may be called ‘culture’ and that of what may be called ‘training’. The two are indeed interlocked, and in such a complex process as that of education, it is impossible to make clear-cut distinctions and compartments. An yet, it seems important to make some pragmatic distinctions, and some definite provisions for these two aspects. Both these words ‘culture’ and ‘training’ have certain associations, and they need to be clarified after a detailed discussion. For our present purpose, however, we shall attribute to the word ‘culture’ that process of learning which is a result of a spontaneous and natural growth of faculties, capacities and personality by virtue of an easy stimulation of the environment, or a happy and attractive influence, something that may in a way be described as a leisurely growth of genius. And by ‘training’, we shall mean the process of learning which involves regular, persistent, methodical, rigorous and meticulous exercises. This occurs where the natural growth has reached a high point of maturity which demands a further development of precision, clarity, efficiency, and over-all perfection. It is also needed sometimes or often where the inherent urge is either absent or not so prominent, or else where there is an obstacle or a blockade in the growth. Or, again, there may be a need to stimulate an interest or capacity which is not active, either because it is only latent or it is absent. Or, finally, it may be needed where there is a mere laxity due to inertia and indifference.
25. If we examine them carefully, we shall find that most of our educational methods aim at providing some adequate-inadequate aids which are pertinent only to the aspect of training. But since they do not apply to the stage or aspect of culture, there is an artificiality in the atmosphere, and there is an undercurrent of a psychological revolt on the part of the students.
26. In the New Education, this defect must be eliminated. For this elimination, it seems, two things are needed. Firstly, there must be on the part of the teacher a recognition that: a. Education must be a happy process, and happiness is a fruit of the inherent urge to grow, unhampered by external pressures. All educational processes must aim at achieving this happiness among the students. And all help, guidance and facilities should be provided towards this end.
b. The right method of education has therefore to be that of ‘culture’, and all processes of training should gradually or rapidly be transformed into those of culture.
c. However, where this transformation has still not taken place, the right time for the programme of ‘training’ is when the student feels inwardly the need for clarity, precision or perfection, and when he is willing to impose upon himself an outer discipline for a short or long period )(according to the needs of the situation) of vigorous and persistent (or even repetitive) exercises.
d. In the absence of this inner will, there may be a need to impose outer discipline; but this imposition should be only a temporary device, and the aim should be to eliminate it gradually and totally. In any case, the imposition from outside must not be arbitrary and should not be offensive to the sensitiveness and sensibility of the students. Secondly, for purposes of organisation, it may be convenient to have different organisations for ‘culture’ and for ‘training’, with a kind of flexibility so that students can use these organisations easily according to the psychological needs of their growth. All programmes of ‘training’ should be conducted in what may be called ‘Laboratories’. Normally, we have laboratories only for natural and applied sciences; and the normal work there is called ‘practicals’. Recently, with the advent of language laboratories, the conception has gained in connotation, and we can, for our present purposes, enlarge it still further.
Thus, we might propose that there should be laboratories for each branch of knowledge, and these laboratories might be organised in about the following way : i. Information will be available here about:
a. what the subject in question means, and why it should be studied;
b. a few alternative syllabi for the subject;
c. an analysis of the various steps involved in the learning of the subject systematically and thoroughly; d. an idea of the different ways of preparing for these various steps. i. There will also be available here :
a. selected standard and reference books related to the subject; b. interesting and stimulating booklets or story books and other relevant documentation pertaining to the various topics of the subject;
c. programmed books pertaining to the subject; these books often need to be supplemented by what may be called ‘Work Sheets’, i.e. educational material so prepared that it can be studied only by student’s intelligent reflection and application. These work sheets should be of various types to permit alternative approaches;
d. a series of graded exercises which the students can handle on their own with the least help from the teacher; (there should be a facility for self-correction);
e. various kinds of test papers, including what may be called ‘final test papers’; (these final test papers are those which the students under training may be required to answer in order to judge for themselves if they have achieved the necessary mastery).
i. The following activities will be encouraged :
a. determination to work hard, work regularly, and to develop the habits of punctuality and discipline; b. to fix up a short or long programme of work, and to stick to it rigorously (laxity in this may disqualify a student from the joining of the given programme of the laboratory work); c. to arrange, from time to time, a short programme of lectures and seminars where a number of difficult problems will be discussed and dealt with rapidly and
effectively; d. to give written reports of the work done;
e. to pass certain tests (written, oral or practical);
f. any other activities to achieve clarity, precision, efficiency, mastery.
27. We may now suggest a few ideas for the organisation of the stage or aspect of culture or of spontaneous and natural growth. Every student is normally in this stage with regard to most of his activities and returns to it after every short or long period of growth by training. He is often in this stage in regard to most of his activities simultaneously with his being in the other stage with regard to one or more of the other activities. This is the interlocking of the two stages, and therefore, many of the features envisaged for laboratory work should more or less be available for what we have called ‘cultural work’. But in cultural work, there will be a stress on freedom, a sense of leisurebness, a natural rhythm of work, daily conversation, and easy passage from one activity to another, fostering of interests and ‘romance’ of learning, warmth of friendliness and free collaboration in work, joy of discovery and invention, deep and profound reflection, spontaneous meditation, creative expression, fun and frolic of exercise, free consultation and discussion, development of consciousness, growth of spherical thought and action.
These elements should also be present in the ‘laboratory work’, but there the stress will be on rigour, measure and mastery. An adequate organisation of the ‘cultural work’ will need the following rooms :
a. A Room or Rooms of Silence to which students who would like to do uninterrupted work or to reflect or meditate in silence can go when they like;
b. Rooms of Consultation, where students can meet their teachers and consult with them on various points of their seeking;
c. Rooms of Collaboration, where students can work in collaboration with each other on projects, etc.;
d. Rooms of Exhibition, where students can organise various exhibitions of their work, — charts, plans, paintings, etc.;
e. Hobby Rooms, where students can work freely on various hobbies, such as aeromodelling, carpentry, fret-work, etc.;
f. Rooms for Dancing, Music, Paining, Dramatics, etc.;
g. Lecture Rooms where teachers can hold discussions with their students and where they can deliver lectures – short or long, according to the need;
Store Rooms where materials for exhibitions, hobbies, etc., can be stored carefully and systematically. We may call these Rooms ‘Halls of Culture’ and it may be suggested that all these Halls as well as Laboratories should be quite contiguous in location so that there is not much movement from one place to another.
28. And now, a few ideas may be suggested which will describe the actual working of New Education. It is necessary to point out that while the New Education will be proposed for general acceptance, it will not be imposed upon any one. Having ensured this basic assumption, the following points may be suggested for the actual operation of the work : a. There will be no compulsion with regard to any subject of study; b. The choice of a subject for study will be freely made with each student, and this choice should reflect a real and serious quest of the student; c. At the beginning of the session, students will be invited to indicate what lines of study or what particular topics they would like to explore; d. In order to facilitate the choice of topics, teachers may present to the students a suggestive but detailed list of suitable topics; teachers who may so wish, may also give a few talks to the students to explain the main outline of their subjects in order to stimulate their interest; students may also be advised to consult the material available in respect of laboratories to have a detailed idea of the various subjects; e. Each topic thus selected will constitute a short or a long project according to the nature of the topic; f. In exploring each project, students will take the help of the teacher or teachers whom they might choose from among those competent to deal with it; g. Teachers, on their part, will endeavour to relate the exploration of the projects to the inner needs of the students and the methods of exploration will be so organised as to permit the cultivation of intuition and higher faculties of knowledge and action; h. In guiding students, teachers will be expected to endeavour to widen and intensify the area of exploration so as to avoid narrow specialisation or mere idle superficiality;
i. Normally, students will work in the Halls of Culture but, according to the needs, students will be permitted or recommended to join laboratories for a given topic or subject;
j. Each student’s programme of studies will be flexible, supple and evolutionary;
k. In the selection of topics of study, students will not be restricted to any single faculty;
l. There will be no lecture classes fixed in advance for the whole year. Butteachers may arrange, by agreement with their students, lecture classes when necessary particularly in relation to the ‘laboratory’ work;
m. Lectures will be confined to their legitimate and justifiable purposes indicated earlier;
n. The over-all duration of various courses operating at present in the ordinary system need not be changed;
o. Tests will be given to the students, when necessary, particularly in relation to the ‘laboratory work’; tests will be confined to their legitimate and justifiable purposes as indicated earlier;
p. At the end of every two or three months, each student will submit to the ‘Coordinator’ a report of his work in regard to each topic or subject. This report will give details of the progress he made in regard to what he has read or written or the reflections and the conclusions which might have been reached. It will also give an account of various activities in which he may be engaged whether under the supervision of the teachers or not. No activity will be regarded as extra-curricular, since all activities will be a part of education and of his programme of self-development;
q. These reports will be transmitted to the Coordinator through the respective teachers (or directly where in regard to certain activities work is done without the supervision of any teacher). In doing so, they will mention the students’ regularity of sustained effort, development of capacities, understanding of their subjects and the power of answering questions orally, practically or in writing with sufficient clarity and precision; r. Teachers will also give help by suggesting if a given student needs to do laboratory work in regard to a given topic or subject; s. The quality of the work will be considered more important than the quantity of the work, although the latter should not be meagre, but commensurate with high standards.
29. It will be seen that in this working, a special emphasis falls upon individual attention and upon providing necessary facilities for the maximum development of each student. There will thus be a great stress on ‘individual work’. The individual work may be pursued in several different ways:
a. by quiet reflection or meditation;
b. by referring to books or relevant portions of books suggested by the teacher; c. by working on ‘work-sheets’;
d. by consultations or interviews with the teachers;
e. by carrying out experiments;
f. by solving problems;
g. by writing compositions;
h. by drawing, designing, painting, etc.;
i. by any other work, such as decoration, cooking, carpentry, stitching, embroidery, etc. At the same time, there can be several situations in which a ‘group work’ is desirable and necessary. There are a number of projects in which there can be a division of labour and the need for the coordination of the work done by the participants; there can be educational games of team work, and there are often needs for joint exploration and experimentation, joint pursuit of a subject, useful lectures. In all these cases, collective work is very useful, and it should be encouraged. But care should be taken to see that the needs for individual excellence are not sacrificed for the sake of the demands resulting from the consideration of the economy of the collective work. Often the collective work tends to be mechanical, and this tendency should be discouraged. It is preferable that the collective works are of a short duration of one or two months at a time. Longer periods may be needed in relation to ‘laboratory’ work, but in the determination of the general working of the individual and group work, there should be no rigidity. Grouping is best done when it is encouraged to be formed spontaneously on the basis of natural affinities of character of personality. The organisation should constantly grow so as to make the working supple and plastic. It will also be seen that in this working there is no compulsion with regard to any subject of study, and the student will be free to choose any combination of subjects and to progress at his own pace. At the same time, this imposes upon the student a good deal of discrimination and an intimate understanding of the process of education itself. The aim of education, the value of different subjects of study, the need for mastery and perfection, and the psychological process by which one can develop one’s own personality are some of the most important and difficult things on which students have to reflect deeply in order to take intelligent decisions with regard to their progress. It should be the function of the teacher to provide to the students all the necessary elements of information and material relevant to these important questions and to present them in their full perspective. 30. In doing so, the following recommendations may be useful : A. Learning by Practising:
One of the great defects of learning through reading and through books and lectures is the gulf that has been created between theoretical knowledge and realisation by experience. Much of our knowledge is theoretical, and we do not know how much of it is really true in experience; much of our knowledge is abstract, and we do not enjoy it as a matter of deep and intimate possession of our very being. Much of our knowledge is ineffective, impotent, and we do not know in experience that knowledge is Power; much of our knowledge is a burden, and under the weight of the ‘explosion’ in knowledge, we do not know how to master knowledge, how to look ‘steadily and whole’. This situation is due to the fact that we have lost the real art of learning; for the secret of learning is, as was known to the ancient seers, the experience which comes by an inner and sincere practice. To know what is the Truth, one must practice the Truth in words, thoughts and actions. To be able to posses the Truth, one must practice day and night self-control and self-mastery. There are, as the ancients declared, states of consciousness in which the necessary knowledge occurs intuitively; and it is the knowledge occurring in the right consciousness that is effective and fruit-bearing. Not that knowledge as information is not important; for all operations of action, precise and detailed information is indispensable; but information received by mere listening or reading is most often a dead burden or a source of our imprisonment within narrow grooves and partial beliefs and opinions. Information must grow from consciousness, and paramount importance must be given to the growth of profound and sincere states of consciousness rather than to the feeding of information. And these states of consciousness come by an intense aspiration to know, by a great calm and silence, by stopping of the chattering noise of words and turmoil and riots in the mind. And this means a constant, persistent and steady practice of concentration and purification. This process can greatly be aided by inner and outer action, by a process of creativity, by a process of experimentation and productivity. If we examine life closely, we find that every circumstance of life has a message in it. Life is the great teacher of life. Every incident of life can be a field of experimentation of inner or outer action.
Our attempt should be to cultivate the right attitude towards life-situations and derive from them the educational experience proper to the need of our growth. We are here on the earth not merely to be deep and wide in our consciousness, but also to deal with outer situations, to control and master them, and also to create situations appropriate to the needs of our inner growth and our internal and external perfection. A good teacher will always utilise daily situations of the student’s life and turn them into occasions for the inner art of learning. In recent times, there is a great awakening to the value of learning by doing. A number of programmes and projects are being suggested to use as stimulation which would evoke active responses. A great stress is being laid on learning through craft and manual work, works of production and experimental exercises, handling of material and technological occupation. There is also a powerful and salutary movement to utilise creative activities such as art, music, dance, composition of poetry, prose, drama. All education is, it is contended, ecstasy that comes from creativity. All these ideas are undoubtedly excellent, but often each one of them is made into an exclusive gospel of right education, and in stressing this activity or that, the inner heart of learning is missed, namely, the growth of inner consciousness, inner concentration, and inner life of sincerity. Outer action may and often does help the inner; the outer perfection has undoubtedly to be a part of the total; but the foundation has to be inward, and if this is not centrally understood and practiced, there is in the end bound to be a failure. B. Search for meaning and Unity of Knowledge:
There is fundamentally no subject which is not interesting, and there is no subject which is not immediately or remotely related to any other subject. A subject is uninteresting only so long as it is not sufficiently understood, and nothing is understood unless everything is understood. And yet, when we pursue everything we are led into an endless movement and we seem to be drifting away somewhere towards a greater vagueness and incomprehension. We are baffled by multiplicity, variety, endlessness. There are details and details, and there is a constant explosion of knowledge. We are in a stage of constant disequilibrium. We seem to have no standing ground. Is there a secret knowledge knowing which everything can be known? The ancient Upanishads affirm such a Secret Something.
But it is neither this subject nor that subject, nor it is all subjects put together. And yet it is in every subject, and in all subjects. In a sense, to learn this subject or that subject is not so important, nor is it important to learn the interrelation of subjects. The important thing is to learn and understand that Secret. That Something is the Meaning of Meaning, the Meaning of this, or that, of all. The method of learning That is an entirely inner process. It cannot really be taught. One can only awaken to it and realise it. No learning is that awakening, and yet all learning can be made an occasion for that awakening. Three things may be suggested as an aid to this process of learning: (a) Whatever be the subject of topic on hand, there should be a constant endeavour at ‘understanding’, ‘comprehension’ To get at the heart, at the meaning to grasp, to hold it in the centre of consciousness, — this should be the primary indispensable operation of learning. (b) Not to limit or narrow down to a limited number of subjects, but to encourage the development of interests for larger and larger fields of knowledge and activity, constant enlargement of interests, faculties and frontiers of knowledge, — this should be a necessary general operation of learning. It is this enlargement that brings the perception of the inner meaning of all. We begin to perceive that there is in every field and all fields taken together an essentiality, universal generality or commonness, and an endless variety of particulars, details and uniqueness. All superficiality is a waste of time and energy; to do something and not to do it well betrays an insincerity which is the enemy of all progress. Therefore, while enlarging interests there should be a measure, so that the multiplicity of activities does not necessitate superficiality or inadequate attention. To do a thing as quickly as possible and as perfectly as possible gives us the right measure and balance. A great help in this process is the growth of panoramic view of the world, a synoptic vision of the whole, the spherical thought, spherical consciousness. (c) The third aid is the development of skill of perfection, efficiency, speed of performance, mastery. This should be a consequential operation of all learning.
There may be here a selection of a limited number of fields and, in certain circumstances, where there is a need to invention and some pioneering work, even narrow specialisation. But even here, the stress will be on the discovery of That, the secret Something. Given this motivation, this stress, the defects of specialisation will intrinsically be corrected. In recent times, a greater and greater need for specialisation is felt, but also a greater sense and value for enlargement and for general education. To arrive at some satisfactory solution, two things have been suggested. (1) Man, it is said, is the best subject of study for Man. And in the study of man, it has been argued, we have all the wideness and generality that we need and hope for. There has thus grown the idea of ‘core’ or ‘common’ subjects of which the study of Man or some humanistic study form an indispensable part. This study is proposed as an obligatory study in the syllabi of various humanistic and technological courses. (2) The second powerful and salutary idea is that of an inter-disciplinary approach to studies. A stress is laid upon the perception of connections, relations, the underlying unity of knowledge. These are, indeed, excellent ideas, but they are often thought of and presented as a real remedy for our complex and difficult problems of curricula and syllabi. But the psychology of education is subtle and does easily make itself subservient to rigid formulas. Such an attempt is therefore not likely to be the final solution.
A good teacher will no doubt regard man and his future, his circumstances and the events that shape his destiny as extremely important, and will undoubtedly underline the necessity and importance of the study of Man, but he will not impose it. A good teacher will no doubt encourage the study of multiplicity of subjects and interdisciplinary approach, and he will take care to see that it does turn into an artificiality and superficiality. He will see that globality of thought and sphericity of thought are encouraged; but he will permit them to grow naturally and spontaneously. He will not impose them in the form of a logical web. He will remember constantly that he is not a teacher of a subject or subjects, but a helper in the search after the Meaning of Meaning of Meaning, the secret of the Unity of all knowledge. C. Perpetual Education and Perpetual Youth:
A constant aspiration for progress and perfection, a thirst for progress and a zeal, utsaha, for self-perfection, should govern the rhythm and law of self-development. To progress constantly is to remain young perpetually, and constant progress comes by perpetual education. To limit the hours of education during the day and during the year, to organise education on the idea of finishing it one day, to bifurcate education into curricular and extra-curricular courses, to regard studies as work and games, as mere play and pastime, to give exclusive value to reading, writing, reasoning and eloquence, and to regard all else as secondary or as mere decoration – these tendencies are inimical to the conception of all life as education. We have fear of time and space. We want our children to get at the certificates as soon as possible. We want them to elbow their places in a limited corner of the world fraught with merciless competition. We want them to be ‘settled’ soon, somewhere in a ‘comfortable’ place. There are indeed many sociological reasons for these fears and anxieties. But the root cause is that we do not ourselves live for a new future; we wish to ‘sit down’, to gravitate to some kind of sleep. In recent times, however, new ideas of life-long education and of integral education have begun to dominate forward-thinking educationists and sociologists. They advocate a freer and larger use of time; they discourage the idea of ‘finishing’ education. They maintain that there should be no compulsion to finish a course within a specified period, there should be no compulsion to pass the tests, there should be no ‘promotions’ and ‘detentions’. These are excellent ideas, and they should all find a place in New Education.
A good teacher will not prescribe a course, he will allow it to evolve; he will not give tests, he will stimulate an ever-growing progress. But he will also take care to see that there is an awakening to the ocean of Time and to the secret and calm Eternity that causes constant progression.. To live in eternity and to live for constant progression is, it is said, to be left for mystics and for some extraordinary individuals But the time has come when that mysticism and extraordinariness are demanded even of us. The significant fact is that the idea of Evolution is spreading everywhere, and in this idea is the force for perpetual education We are gradually becoming aware that evolution itself can evolve, that Man himself is an evolutionary laboratory. To study our own evolution, to aid this evolution is to liberate ourselves from stagnancy. A good teacher will, therefore, purpose a project an Evolution to all his students; all else, all other studies and activities will form part of this major and all embracing study. In this study are contained the implications of perpetual education. It is in this context that we have to permit our students to progress at their own pace and on the lines of their self-development. But what about jobs? What about occupations? How and when will the students be fit, we shall be asked, for their work, their job? But our experience shows that the students, if they are free to choose their pursuits very much like to be carpenters, masons, decorators, cooks, technicians, linguists, surgeons, managers, pilots, chauffeurs. And with this free pursuit, they will work out their natural inclinations and be fit in good time for the professions of their choice. But how much fear is born of the fact that we want our children not to be carpenters, musicians, dancers – we want them to be doctors, managers, lawyers, engineers! We have ourselves false values and hence the entire system is saddled with false demands, and the result is a vicious circle. The secret of our profession lies in our personality; but personality is not a fixed entity; it is a vibration of qualities and attributes durable for a certain season of experience; it must change with the growth of experience and with this change of personality the profession, the work and its scope must change also. A poet need not remain a poet all his life, throughout every phase of varied experiences; a surgeon needs very often to paint and philosophise; a philosopher needs often to be a warrior and a statesman.
A mystic may need to be a charioteer in a battlefield. It has been pointed out that the entire domain of the secrets of the growth of personality has remained ignored, and the consequence is that most of us possess smothered personalities, and most often we are engaged in a work that has no correspondence with our real genius, with our inner delight of existence. Most of us live in deep conflict, alienated from ourselves.. It is this inner conflict which causes ageing, and even in our youth we feel so old and worn out. But as we have noted elsewhere, we shall strive to perceive still deeper, to fathom into secret of the true person, behind all personality, and seek there the real power of solving our conflicts and integrating different personalities.
This is a deep and precious wisdom, the self-knowledge which reveals that the secret of perpetual youth is not a mere progression, but a deeper art of progression, namely, the constant harmonisation of our outer work and circumstances with the inner needs of the manifestation of the powers of the real Person seated deep within us. It is this secret of eternal youth that will be the inner soul of New Education. This education will insist on the development of the mind, life and body; it will so develop them as to make the instruments of the discovery of the inner psychic being and ultimately as instruments of the perfect manifestation of the inner and higher realities. The effort will be to make the body supple, strong, agile, and beautiful; the vital will be trained to be dynamic, disciplined, obedient and effective; and mind will be cultivated to be intelligent, observant, concentrated, rich and complex. But at every stage, the paramount importance will be given to the needs of the psychic and spiritual growth. As the Mother writes: “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.”9 —————————
1. Learning To Be, UNESCO, p. 181.
2. ibid, p. VI
3. Sri Aurobindo: The Synthesis of Yoga, Vol. 21 (Centenary Edition), pp. 714-5. 4. Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Vol. 18 (Centenary Edition), p. 226. 5. Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Vol. 19 (Centenary Edition), pp. 907-8. 6. Sri Aurobindo: The Synthesis of Yoga, Vol. 20 (Centenary Edition), p. 60. 7. ibid p. 55.
8. ibid., p. 233.
9. The Mother: On Education, Collected Works, Vol. 12, (Centenary Edition), p. 35.