“The supreme truths are neither the rigid conclusions of logical reasoning nor the affirmations of creedal statement, but fruits of the soul’s inner experience.”- Sri Aurobindo
Philosopher Aurobindo (1872-1950) can be viewed as a 20th century renaissance person. Born in Kolkata, India, Aurobindo was educated at Cambridge University. He was an intellectual who intensely analyzed human and social evolution. The present paper highlights the philosophical contributions of Shri Aurobindo Ghosh to Education. It relates the importance of Aurobindo’s philosophy of education with different components of education: aims of education, curriculum, transaction, school, relationship of teacher and pupil; discipline; and finally the implication of Aurobindo’s philosophy of education on globalization.
Aurobindo Ghosh was an Idealistic to the core. His Idealistic philosophy of life was based upon Vedantic philosophy of Upanishad. He maintains that the kind of education, we need in our country, is 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.”
Sri Aurobindo’s (1956) concept of ‘education’ is not only acquiring information, but “the acquiring of various kinds of information’’, he points out, “is only one and not the chief of the means and necessities of education: its central aim is the building of the powers of the human mind and spirit”.
Aurobindo’s Aims of Education
Shri Aurobindo emphasized that education should be in accordance with the needs of our real modern life. In other words, education should create dynamic citizen so that they are able to meet the needs of modern complex life. According to him, physical development and holiness are the chief aims of education. As such, he not only emphasized mere physical development, but physical purity also without which no spiritual development is possible. In this sense physical development and purification are the two bases on which the spiritual development is built. The second important aim of education is to train all the senses hearing, speaking, listening, touching, smelling and tasting. According to him these senses can be fully trained when nerve, chitta and manas are pure. Hence, through education purity of senses is to be achieved before any development is possible. The third aim of education is to achieve mental development of the child. This mental development means the enhancement of all mental faculties’ namely-memory, thinking, reasoning, imagination, and discrimination etc. education should develop them fully and harmoniously. Another important aim of education is the development of morality. Shri Aurobindo has emphasized that without moral and emotional development only, mental development becomes harmful to human process. Heart of a child should be so developed as to show extreme love, sympathy and consideration for all living beings. This is real moral development. Thus, the teacher should be a role model to his children that mere imitation can enable them to reach higher and higher stages of development. Development of conscience is another important aim of education that needs to develop by the help of teacher. Conscience has four level chitta, manas, intelligence, and knowledge. Aurobindo emphasized that the main aim of education is to promote spiritual development. According to him every human being has some fragment of divine existence within himself and education can scan it from each individual with its full extent.
Aurobindo prescribed free environment for the child to develop all his latent faculties to the maximum and suggested all those subjects and activities should possess elements of creativity and educational expression. He wished to infuse a new life and spirit into each subject and activity through which the development of super human being could becomes possible. He laid down the following principle for curriculum-
- Curriculum should be in such a way which child find as interesting.
- It should include those entire subjects which promote mental and spiritual development.
- It should motivate children towards the attainment of knowledge of the whole world.
- It should contain creativity of life and constructive capacities
Aurobindo describes curriculum for different stages of education–
- Mother tongue, English, French, literature, national history, art, painting, general science, social studies and arithmetic should be taught at primary stage.
- Mother tongue, English, French, literature, arithmetic, art, chemistry, physics, botany, physiology, health education, social studies at secondary stage.
- Indian and western philosophy, history of civilization, English literature, French, sociology, psychology, history, chemistry, physics, botany at university level.
- Art, painting, photography, sculptural, drawing, type, cottage-industries, mechanical and electrical engineering, nursing etc at vocational level
Aurobindo enunciates certain sound principles of good teaching, which have to be kept in mind when actually engaged in the process of learning. According to Sri Aurobindo, the first principle of true teaching is “that nothing can be taught.” He explains that the knowledge is already dormant within the child and for this reason. The teacher is not an instructor or task-master; “he is a helper and a guide.” The role of the teacher “is to suggest and not to impose”. He does not actually train the pupil’s mind, he only shows him how to perfect the instruments of knowledge and helps him and encourages him in the process. He does not impart knowledge to him; he shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself. He does not call forth the knowledge that is within; he only shows him where it lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface.
Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of education aims at modifying the school curricula, maximizing the learning modalities, helping the child to achieve his potentiality at his own pace and level and devote his time to discover himself. This kind of schooling is seen as an anti-thesis of an imposed uniformity of prescribed courses and teaching which the traditional schools purport to do and can be linked to what was taught in schools under the colonial rule. The type of schooling visualised by Sri Aurobindo is seen as aiming to bridge the gap between the child’s life at school and that at home.
In contrast to the educational ideas of Sri Aurobindo , the present day education system in India is purely an instruction-of-information enterprise, supported by a subject-time-bound curriculum, which neither relates to the needs or abilities of the learner nor takes into consideration the way children learn successfully. Instead of being child-oriented it is subject-oriented. The schools focus on competition with others, mastery of subject matter for getting better marks or grades than on learning in cooperation with and from one another for personal growth and for welfare of others.
This is not exclusive to Indian phenomenon, rather all over the world education is largely reductionist, materialist, ego enforcing, and devoid of the joys of the spirit. It is in this context that there is a need to examine initiatives which are rooted in Indian tradition, seek alternatives in curriculum teaching and learning for measuring success, involve children in the process of learning and focus on learning from the another and not from an authoritative pedagogue.
Children should be provided with a free environment so that they are able to gain more and more knowledge by their own efforts. According to him any retrained and imposed environment stunt the growth and natural development. Aurobindo propagated the concept of self discipline which was the cure of impressionistic discipline.
Aurobindo’s Philosophy in Global Context
The 20th century saw the birth of a new social phenomenon termed as ‘globalization’. The idea is that the world is evolving into an interconnected social system producing a corresponding higher level of collective consciousness on a planetary scale. Therefore, humankind now has a communal responsibility to facilitate evolutionary movement toward global social integration, the construction of a new social reality and to cultivate planetary collective consciousness. Due to the severity of present day international problems, the grand idea of globalization now holds minimal concern for the majority of educators.
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh strived to philosophically reconcile Western scientific rationalism with Eastern transcendent metaphysics into a holistic narrative of reality. His academic interest was interdisciplinary in scope: political science, education, sociology, psychology and philosophy. He was deeply influenced by Western thought, most significantly, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory and French intellectual Henri Bergson’s philosophy of cognitive evolution. The ideas of impending human evolution and global futurism became the foundation of his spiritual philosophy, sociological theories, political ideology and educational thought.
His approach to yoga is an integration of the physical social behavior with the metaphysical level as a holistic system of inner-self meditation and outer-social action: (1) knowing (seeking objective rational knowledge), (2) behavior (cultivating subjective positive social and humanistic mental models), and contemplation (nourishing reflective capitulation to the evolutionary energy of the absolute). His method of Integral Yoga is not a specific physical or psychological procedure of physical postures but it is to consciously surrender to evolutionary energy. This energy causes increasing levels of personal evolution, spiritual awareness, which is necessary for future social evolution.
In 1947, after the emancipation of India, Sri Aurobindo devoted himself entirely, along with his soul mate and social comrade, Mirra Alfassa (“the Mother”), to liberate the whole of humanity socially and spiritually by advancing Integral Yoga and planetary social activism toward human unity and global evolution.
Sri Aurobindo’s vision of evolution as a long slow process of dialectical energy of evolution being the intercourse between spiritual descent into the world and evolutionary ascent of consciousness. Aurobindo’s idea is that evolution is the incarnation of the Divine on earth through descent into the earth nature and thus into the collective embodiment of humankind. Within this framework, Sri Aurobindo asserts that planetary evolution has resulted in distinctive spheres of existence. In this sense, Philosopher Aurobindo (1872-1950) can be viewed as a 20th century renaissance person.
Research scholar, M.Ed.
Integral University, Lucknow