Guiding Light of The Month

OH, let Light be poured on all the earth and Peace inhabit every heart. . . Almost all know only the material life heavy, inert, conservative, obscure; their vital forces are so tied to this physical form of existence that, even when left to themselves and outside the body, they are still solely occupied with these material contingencies that are yet so harassing and painful. . . - The Mother

The Mother on Education

(contd. from the September and October 2013 issues)

“In their early years, children do have intimations of a higher consciousness which may puzzle or even startle their parents and elders.”
As Wordsworth reminiscentially sang:

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream...
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy...

Yet the Boy beholds the Light however fitfully, and even the Youth is by the “vision splendid” attended on his way. “Every human being carries hidden within him the possibility of a greater consciousness” wrote the Mother; “a good many children are under its influence”. The crux of the educational problem is therefore to safeguard this light of consciousness, and make it illumine all thoughts, all actions, all feelings and give a new direction and a new tone to our entire life. Hence the paramount need for psychic education:

“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.”

Whether this awakening comes as the result of a mystic break-through, or of a spurt of intense religious feeling, or yet as the culmination of a course of philosophical inquiry, “the important thing is to live the experience”.

On the one hand, unlike the body, the vital and the mind, of which we are almost constantly aware, the psychic being or soul seems generally to elude us. On the other hand, sooner or later we are driven to realise that this elusive thing is verily the deeper reality about ourselves, and it profits us little to have gained the many mansions of apara vidya or phenomenal knowledge if we have not also won the key to the psychic presence or the soul within. But, then, how does one set upon this adventure of consciousness, this pursuit of the psychic being? The Mother talks to us directly, and the winged words go home:

“The starting-point is to seek in yourself that which is independent of the body and the circumstances of life, which is not born of the mental formation that you have been given, the language you speak, the habits and customs of the environment in which you live, the country where you are born or the age to which you belong. You must find, in the depths of your being, that which carries in it a sense of universality, limitless expansion, unbroken continuity. Then you decentralise, extend and widen yourself; you begin to live in all things and in all beings; the barriers separating individuals from each other break down. You think in their thoughts, vibrate in their sensations, feel in their feelings, live in the life of all. What seemed inert suddenly becomes full of life, stones quicken, plants feel and will and suffer, animals speak in a language more or less inarticulate, but clear and expressive; everything is animated by a marvellous consciousness without time or limit. And this is only one aspect of the psychic realisation; there are others, many others. All help you to go beyond the barriers of your egoism, the walls of your external personality, the impotence of your reactions and the incapacity of your will.”

In another essay also, ‘Transformation’, the Mother seems to refer to the awakening of the psychic consciousness. Though the preparation may have been long and slow there is “a revolution in the basic poise... like turning a ball inside out... the ordinary consciousness... ignorant of what things are in reality... sees only their shell. But the true consciousness is at the centre, at the heart of reality and has the direct vision of the origin of all movements.... Something opens within you and all at once you find yourself in a new world.” But, she cautions, “what is needed is to express it gradually in the details of practical life”.

Wonders are many, there have been great discoveries, but nothing is more wonderful, or is a greater discovery, than the soul. It is not the super-subtle or marvelously resilient mind that can run the quarry of the psychic being to its lair, it is not vital determination or physical agility that can encompass the desired catch; “the supreme value of the discovery lies in its spontaneity, its ingeniousness and that escapes all ordinary mental laws.” But one ceaselessly hankers after, and one waits with infinite patience; one avoids all fever and fret, all anxiety and apprehension; one tries to find joy in all things, one tries to cultivate equality in the face of life's phantasmagoria; one shuns the criteria of the market weights and measures, one walks on the steep and narrow path without sense of time or assurance of success; and one longs and waits - waits on the Invisible - hearkening to steps unheard, turning to the unstruck melodies till at last “an inner door will suddenly open and you will emerge into a dazzling splendour that will bring you the certitude of immortality.... Then you will stand erect, freed from all chains... you will be able to walk on straight and firm, conscious of your destiny, master of your life.”

And yet the psychic opening or the seeking and the finding of the soul is but a stage in integral education. The Mother calls these further stages steps in “spiritual education”. If the psychic opening makes possible a purified and puissant life here and now “in the universe of forms”, a spiritual liberation means “a return to the unmanifest”, a canter beyond the phenomenal world. For the latter realisation - that is, the union or the losing of the soul in the Transcendent - there are the tested paths of Knowledge (Jnana) and of Love or Devotion (Bhakti), though “the swiftest method is total self-giving”. If we must speak in traditional terms, Atma-vicara or inquiry into the nature of the Self can dispel cloud after cloud of Unknowing, and reveal in the end the higher Knowledge (Para Vidya) of identity of self and Atman. The Love Divine, too, can obliterate all distance and difference and local adhesions, and bring about the union of the river with the ocean. But total self-surrender, atma-samarpana, brings cantering to the baby-cat the mother's protective grasp and the resultant realisation of the bliss of oneness.

But although many have desired this supreme liberation into the Transcendent, a total escape from all the heavy weight of this unintelligible and oppressive world of phenomena, still the Mother feels strongly that this mere annulment of the self, this flight of the alone into the Alone, must not be the end of the whole spiritual adventure. The Mother is certainly not for this implied abandonment of the earth and its denizens to their present plight of “death, suffering, ignorance and death”! On the contrary, encouraged by their own aspirations, ardours and realisations, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo thought of the possibility of a supramental change and transformation. Thus, the Mother, in the climactic passage in her sixth essay:

“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.”

It is true that at a time when psychic and spiritual education are a mystery to most educationists, a mere will-o'-the-wisp and a thing not to be pinned down in the curriculum, or to hold on to and semesterise and evaluate in terms of alphabetised grades, it is perhaps premature to talk of supramental education, which the mere mind cannot grasp at all. But the dream of today may yet become tomorrow's actuality. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother felt convinced that the supramental descent was no mere phantom of hope but an event decreed and inevitable. And it would be specifically a “descent” of consciousness, and hence supramental education too will.....

“......progress from above downwards, its influence spreading from one state of being to another until at last the physical is reached.......the supramental education will result no longer in a progressive formation of human nature and an increasing development of its latent faculties, but in a transformation of the nature itself, a transfiguration of the being in its entirety, a new ascent of the species above and beyond man towards superman, leading in the end to the appearance of a divine race upon earth.”

‘On Education’ is but a series of six 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 and bud of promise, and must end at last in the full blossoming of the Divine potentiality.

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

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