Sri Aurobindo on Education in India 

 

A NEW centre of thought implies a new centre of education.
The system prevailing in our universities is one
which ignores the psychology of man, loads the mind laboriously
with numerous little packets of information carefully
tied with red tape, and, by the methods used in this loading
process, damages or atrophies the faculties and instruments by
which man assimilates, creates and grows in intellect, manhood
and energy. The new National Education, as inaugurated in
Bengal, sought immensely to enlarge the field of knowledge to
which the student was introduced, and in so far as it laid stress
on experiment and observation, employed the natural and easy
instrument of the vernacular and encouraged the play of thought
on the subject of study, corrected the habit of spoiling the instruments
of knowledge by the use of false methods. But many
of the vicious methods and ideas employed by the old system
were faithfully cherished by the new, and the domination of the
Council by men wedded to the old lines was bound to spell a
most unfavourable effect on the integrity of the system in its most
progressive features. Another vital defect of the new education
was that it increased the amount of information the student was
required to absorb without strengthening the body and brain
sufficiently to grapple with the increased mass of intellectual
toil, and it shared with the old system the defect of ignoring
the psychology of the race. The mere inclusion of the matter of
Indian thought and culture in the field of knowledge does not
make a system of education Indian, and the instruction given in
the Bengal National College was only an improved European
system, not Indian or National. Another error which has to be
avoided and to which careless minds are liable, is the reactionary
idea that in order to be national, education must reproduce the
features of the old tol system of Bengal. It is not eighteenth
The Brain of India 369
century India, the India which by its moral and intellectual
deficiencies gave itself into the keeping of foreigners, that we
have to revive, but the spirit, ideals and methods of the ancient
and mightier India in a yet more effective form and with a more
modern organisation.
What was the secret of that gigantic intellectuality, spirituality
and superhuman moral force which we see pulsating in
the Ramayana and Mahabharata, in the ancient philosophy, in
the supreme poetry, art, sculpture and architecture of India?
What was at the basis of the incomparable public works and
engineering achievements, the opulent and exquisite industries,
the great triumphs of science, scholarship, jurisprudence, logic,
metaphysics, the unique social structure? What supported the
heroism and self-abandonment of the Kshatriya, the Sikh and
the Rajput, the unconquerable national vitality and endurance?
What was it that stood behind that civilisation second to none
in the massiveness of its outlines or the perfection of its details?
Without a great and unique discipline involving a perfect education
of soul and mind, a result so immense and persistent would
have been impossible. It would be an error to look for the secret
of Aryan success in the details of the instruction given in the old
ashrams and universities so far as they have come down to us.
We must know what was the principle and basis on which the
details were founded. We shall find the secret of their success in
a profound knowledge of human psychology and its subtle application
to the methods of intellectual training and instruction.
At the basis of the old Aryan system was the all-important
discipline of Brahmacharya. The first necessity for the building
up of a great intellectual superstructure is to provide a foundation
strong enough to bear it. Those systems of education which
start from an insufficient knowledge of man, think they have
provided a satisfactory foundation when they have supplied the
student with a large or well-selected mass of information on the
various subjects which comprise the best part of human culture
at the time. The school gives the materials, it is for the student
to use them,—this is the formula. But the error here is fundamental.
Information cannot be the foundation of intelligence, it
370 On Education
can only be part of the material out of which the knower builds
knowledge, the starting-point, the nucleus of fresh discovery and
enlarged creation. An education that confines itself to imparting
knowledge, is no education. The various faculties of memory,
judgment, imagination, perception, reasoning, which build the
edifice of thought and knowledge for the knower, must not only
be equipped with their fit and sufficient tools and materials, but
trained to bring fresh materials and use more skilfully those of
which they are in possession. And the foundation of the structure
they have to build, can only be the provision of a fund of
force and energy sufficient to bear the demands of a continually
growing activity of the memory, judgment and creative power.
Where is that energy to be found?
The ancient Aryans knew that man was not separate from
the universe, but only a homogeneous part of it, as a wave is
part of the ocean. An infinite energy, Prakriti, Maya or Shakti,
pervades the world, pours itself into every name and form, and
the clod, the plant, the insect, the animal, the man are, in their
phenomenal existence, merely more or less efficient ¯adh¯ aras of
this Energy. We are each of us a dynamo into which waves
of that energy have been generated and stored, and are being
perpetually conserved, used up and replenished. The same force
which moves in the star and the planet, moves in us, and all
our thought and action are merely its play and born of the
complexity of its functionings. There are processes by which
man can increase his capacity as an ¯adh¯ara. There are other
processes by which he can clear of obstructions the channel of
communication between himself and the universal energy and
bring greater and greater stores of it pouring into his soul and
brain and body. This continual improvement of the ¯adh¯ara and
increase in quantity and complexity of action of the informing
energy, is the whole aim of evolution. When that energy is the
highest in kind and the fullest in amount of which the human
¯adh¯ara is capable, and the ¯adh¯ara itself is trained utterly to
bear the inrush and play of the energy, then is a man siddha,
the fulfilled or perfect man, his evolution is over and he has
completed in the individual that utmost development which the
The Brain of India 371
mass of humanity is labouring towards through the ages.
If this theory be correct, the energy at the basis of the operation
of intelligence must be in ourselves and it must be capable
of greater expansion and richer use to an extent practically
unlimited. And this also must be a sound principle, that the
more we can increase and enrich the energy, the greater will
be the potential range, power and activity of the functions of
our mind and the consequent vigour of our intellectuality and
the greatness of our achievement. This was the first principle
on which the ancient Aryans based their education and one of
the chief processes which they used for the increased storage of
energy, was the practice of Brahmacharya.

VOLUME 1
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO p 368-371

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