Guiding Light of The Month

Like a flame that burns in silence, like a perfume that rises straight upward without wavering, my love goes to Thee; and like the child who does not reason and has no care, I trust myself to Thee that Thy Will may be done, that Thy Light may manifest, Thy Peace radiate, Thy Love cover the world. - The Mother

The Mother on Education (contd. from the September 2013 issue)

‘On Education’(by The Mother) is but a series of 6 brief essays, but it is also a vast arc of comprehension: from Matter to Spirit, from the physical, vital and mental to the psychic, spiritual and supramental, from animal to man and from man to God! Education is a movement, an unfolding, a becoming: what is already involved as a result of the holocaust of the Spirit in inconscient Matter awakens and puts out its sticky leaves of bud of promise, and must end at last in the full blossoming of the Divine potentiality.
-          K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar in ‘On The Mother’

The education of the vital or the life-impulses is as difficult as it is important. The vital is a veritable despot of contraries, forever demanding, and forever unfulfilled. Our knowledge of the nature and functioning of the vital is vitiated by two notions: the hedonistic and the fatalistic. All is indeed the Delight of Existence - raso vai sah - but with man it ordinarily takes the form of the pursuit of pleasure, which may sometimes satiate but can never satisfy. As regards the notion that human character is like an unalterable birthmark - Character is Destiny! - it is too crude and definitive a description of reality. In a dynamic changing universe, man too can change, the race as well as the individuals:

“The transformation of character has in fact been realised by means of a clear-sighted discipline and a perseverance so obstinate that nothing, not even the most persistent failures, can discourage it.”

Human nature, it is known, is a knot of opposing pulls, “like the light and shadow of the same thing”. The divine and the asuric are constantly at variance with each other reducing life to a battlefield or an insurrection. This is how “all life is an education pursued more or less consciously, more or less willingly”. The problem is to encourage in the vital being “the movements that express the light”.

If the education of the vital is begun as soon as the child can use his senses, “many bad habits will be avoided and many harmful influences eliminated”. To facilitate and promote movements in the vital expressing light two things have to be done: the proper growth and efficient use of the sense organs, and the self-mastery of one's own nature or character, and the determination to change and transform it nearer one's heart's aspiration. As for the first, the education of the vital is really something akin to the development of psychological health comprising “the cultivation of discrimination and the aesthetic sense”, for it is essential that the child “should be shown, led to appreciate, taught to love beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things, whether in Nature or in human creation”. As for self-knowledge and character-transformation, the child should be encouraged by a gradual process to observe himself, to mark and measure the opposing pulls, to attempt judicious discrimination, to initiate change, and to persevere in spite of set-backs or failures:

“One must gain a full knowledge of one's character and then acquire control over one's movements in order to achieve perfect mastery and the transformation of all the elements that have to be transformed.”

Now most of what passes for education is really mental education, yet it is both incomplete and quite insufficient. The aim seems to be to load the memory and make it carry a whole rag-bag of odds and ends of facts, dates, names, formulas and other information. At best it is “a system of gymnastics to increase the suppleness of the brain”. If anything like a revolutionary change is to be effected, mental education will have to be conceived in five phases promoting respectively
“1. the power of attention and concentration;
2. the power of expansion, wideness, complexity and richness;
3. the power of organisation of ideas around a central idea or ideal;
4. the power of thought-control, involving rejection of the false and selection and fostering of the true; and
5. the power of inner calm and mental silence, facilitating “receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being”.

This is a consummate analysis of the whole science of mental education. In the life of the growing child, a thousand things distract its attention, and hence to forge intelligent attention and lively reception is the beginning of mental education. The child's curiosity, which often finds expression in continual questioning, should not be frowned upon but used as a means of advancing self-education. Since the enemy of all true education is soulless standardisation, the pupil should be encouraged to view diverse approaches to a subject and to appreciate “the extreme relativity of mental learning”, this in its turn awakening in him “an aspiration for a truer source of knowledge”. From the capacity to concentrate, it is a natural development to learn to accomplish the expansion of knowledge and its organisation around a central idea; and “the higher and larger the central idea and the more universal it is, rising above time and space, the more numerous and the more complex will be the ideas, notions and thoughts which it will be able to organise and harmonise”. After such exercises in expansion and central organisation, the next mental discipline would be self-control and resolved self-limitation - and so on to the casting away of all thoughts and perceptions, and the invocation of mental silence, the meditative calm in which the higher lights may be seen reflected, resulting in an accession of peace:

“...all mental vibration can be stilled and an almost total silence secured. In this silence one can gradually open to the higher regions of the mind and learn to record the. inspirations that come from there. ...
...When it is agitated, thought becomes confused and impotent; in an attentive tranquility, the light can manifest itself and open up new horizons to man's capacity.”

When the best has been achieved through physical, vital and mental education, there will be a cardinal insufficiency still: for, firstly, they cannot by themselves be integrated, and, secondly, even their sum will only be a frustrating incompleteness. It is psychic education alone that can team the other three purposively together, and also link them to the creative centre. Unfortunately, current educational systems have no idea of psychic education - thus tragi-comically playing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
…to be continued

(K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar in ‘On The Mother’, Chapter 37, “Mother on Education”, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)

"Each human being is a self-developing soul and the business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material." - Sri Aurobindo

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