Sri Aurobindo Ashram School 3

 We shall first review the developments in the school from the year 1959.

As already stated earlier, the Free Progress System was introduced on an experimental basis in 1959 at the Secondary level;  from there it evolved to a surer and larger base in 1961; a small group of students were trying out this method and the Mother named it Vers la Perfection. However the whole of the secondary section was not following the Free System. One section – in fact the  larger section was still continuing with the old method. The school at the secondary level was thus divided into two sections.

In 1963, as already mentioned in the previous issues, the whole secondary section was united and was brought under the purview of the Free Progress System.

In August 1963, some teachers wrote a letter to the Mother regarding the Free System. This letter has been published in one of the  previous issues. As a consequence of this letter the secondary section was again divided into two. One of them was following the Free progress method and was named Vers la Perfection and the other was following a modified form of the Free Progress System. This pattern continued from 1964 to 1967. It may be noted that the students of the Free Progress System did not have to sit for the quarterly Tests; for the other students it was compulsory.

As already mentioned, in July 1967, many letters were written to the Mother regarding quarterly tests and as a consequence, these tests were abolished.

 In November 1967, two teachers Amita and myself wrote a letter to Mother making some suggestions regarding the reorganisation of the secondary. This letter is reproduced below.

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(The letter suggested reorganising the curriculum of the students of a certain age-group. It advised reducing the number of scheduled classes; teachers would give individual assistance to their students in the mornings and meet them as a class only in the afternoons. The letter ended: Many teachers feel that the division between X’s classes and what is called the “Old System” is not desirable. With the reorganisation we suggest, the differences between the two will be greatly diminished. Do you think that this division should continue? Must we go on waiting for it to disappear?

The Mother’s answer:

It would be infinitely preferable that the division should disappear immediately. The effectiveness of what you suggest will become apparent only in practice. Therefore it seems to me that the best thing is to try, either for a full year if the results are slow to show themselves, or for three months if the results are clearly apparent by then. With sincerity and flexibility you should be able to solve the problem.

6 November 1967

 

On the 11th November, Mother gave an interview to three teachers, namely Tanmaya, Arati and Kittu. In this interview the details of the new proposals were discussed. The Mother also gave the name En Avant to the new section.

However in 1968, the two sections did not unite. It happened only in 1969. Thus there were two sections at the Secondary level, one named Vers la Perfection and the other named En Avant. Both these sections were following the Free Progress system with minor differences.

In 1969, the two sections got united, and it was given the name of En Avant Vers la Perfection or EAVP.

During the interview of 11th November, the Mother made some important remarks on the importance of Sanskrit. We are reproducing some extracts from the interview. This is what the Mother said:

The ideal would be, in a few years, to have a rejuvenated Sanskrit as the representative language of India, that is, a Sanskrit spoken in such a way that—Sanskrit is behind all the languages of India and it should be that. This was Sri Aurobindo’s idea, when we spoke about it. Because now English is the language of the whole country, but that is abnormal. It is very helpful for relations with the rest of the world, but just as each country has its own language, there should… And so here, as soon as one begins to want a national language, everyone starts quarrelling. Each one wants it to be his own, and that is foolish. But no one could object to Sanskrit. It is a more ancient language than the others and it contains the sounds, the root-sounds of many words. This is something I studied with Sri Aurobindo and it is obviously very interesting. Some of these roots can even be found in all the languages of the world—sounds, root-sounds which are found in all those languages. Well, this, this thing, this is what ought to be learnt and this is what the national language should be. Every child born in India should know it, just as every child born in France has to know French. He does not speak properly, he does not know it thoroughly, but he has to know French a little; and in all the countries of the world it is the same thing. He has to know the national language. And then, when he learns, he learns as many languages as he likes. At the moment, we are still embroiled in quarrels, and this is a very bad atmosphere in which to build anything. But I hope that a day will come when it will be possible. So I would like to have a simple Sanskrit taught here, as simple as possible, but not “simplified”—simple by going back to its origin… all these sounds, the sounds that are the roots of the words which were formed afterwards.

 

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Sri Aurobindo Ashram School – 2

 

We shall now go back in time to see how the Free Progress System was introduced in the school.

From the year 1959, many tentative experiments were being made in the Free Progress System. These attempts were first made on a small scale with a small number of students and teachers who were willing to try out the experiment. The source of inspiration for these experiments were in the writings and talks of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

We are quoting one of the passages from the Human Cycle that served as an important source of inspiration:

“The discovery that educationmust be a bringing out of the child’s own intellectualand moral capacities to their highest possible value and must bebased on the psychology of the child-nature was a step forwardtowards a more healthy because a more subjective system; butit still fell short because it still regarded him as an object to behandled and moulded by the teacher, to be educated. But at leastthere was a glimmering of the realisation that each human beingis a self-developing soul and that the business of both parentand teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself,to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practicalcapacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to bekneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material.It is not yet realised what this soul is or that the true secret,whether with child or man, is to help him to find his deeper self,the real psychic entity within. That, if we ever give it a chanceto come forward, and still more if we call it into the foregroundas “the leader of the march set in our front”, will itself take upmost of the business of education out of our hands and developthe capacity of the psychological being towards a realisation ofits potentialities of which our present mechanical view of life and man and external routine methods of dealing with themprevent us from having any experience or forming any conception.These new educational methods are on the straight way tothis truer dealing. The closer touch attempted with the psychicalentity behind the vital and physical mentality and an increasingreliance on its possibilities must lead to the ultimate discoverythat man is inwardly a soul and a conscious power of the Divineand that the evocation of this real man within is the right objectof education and indeed of all human life if it would find and liveaccording to the hidden Truth and deepest law of its own being.”

Here is another passage from the Mother’’s conversations which was often quoted and which became the basis for the Free Progress System.

“Essentially, the only thing you should do assiduously is to teach them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, the path they will follow; to teach them to look at themselves, understand themselves and to will what they want to be. That is infinitely more important than teaching them what happened on earth in former times, or even how the earth is built, or even… indeed, all sorts of things which are quite a necessary grounding if you want to live the ordinary life in the world, for if you don’t know them, anyone will immediately put you down intellectually: “Oh, he is an idiot, he knows nothing.  But still, at any age, if you are studious and have the will to do it, you can also take up books and work; you don’t need to go to school for that. There are enough books in the world to teach you things. There are even many more books than necessary.

But what is very important is to know what you want. And for this a minimum of freedom is necessary. You must not be under a compulsion or an obligation. You must be able to do things whole-heartedly. If you are lazy, well, you will know what it means to be lazy…. You know, in life idlers are obliged to work ten times more than others, for what they do they do badly, so they are obliged to do it again. But these are things one must learn by experience. They can’t be instilled into you.”

The problem was: how to create a system of education which would help them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, with the ultimate result of bringing the psychic being of the child forward as “the leader of the march.”

Gradually, these attempts began to increase in number and by the year 1962, there was one whole section of the school that was following this system. It was named Vers la Perfection. In this process some interesting experiments were tried out, some seemingly a bit impractical. However, the Mother allowed things to develop and encouraged the teachers to find out by themselves how to implement the free progress system. As all these attempts were going, quite naturally, a lot of discussion was generated among the teachers.  The Director and the Registrar – Pavitrada and Kireet Joshi – were deeply involved in all these discussions and often the matter was referred to the Mother. As a result of all these discussions and efforts some basic principles were laid down.

The basic principles on which the Free Progress system was founded were as follows: :

  •         The first assumption was that every child was essentially a soul and the business of the educator was to help the child to bring it forward as the leader of his march.
  •         Since each child was a soul and therefore unique, he had to be treated according to his nature and temperament. The natural consequence was that individual attention was given great importance and consequently group classes were not encouraged too much.
  •         Another consequence was that each child was encouraged to work at his own pace, depending on his capacity. It followed also that a child could be at different levels for different subjects.
  •         There was also an effort to replace text books by worksheets which were prepared in such a way as to make it more relevant to the child’s needs and interests.
  •         Finally, the whole purpose was to encourage the child to take up the full responsibility of his own education and choose his own destiny.

Evidently, this was not easy for it meant a total reversal of the existing system of education; in a sense, it was a big risk that was being taken.

As already mentioned, the attempt was first made on a small scale with a  limited number of students and teachers fully supported by The Mother. By the middle of the year 1962, it was felt that this system could be tried out on a bigger scale for all the secondary classes from December 1962.

Here another problem cropped up. It was understood that this system would be succesful only with those students whose psychic being was somewhat prominent for only then would they be able to use their freedom properly without being distracted by the vital and other pulls of the lower nature.  The question was: who is to choose the students,? Since most of the teachers did not feel confident in their own judgment the matter was referred to the Mother and She graciously agreed to make the selection herself.

Accordingly, the students numbering about 150 were divided into 5 batches. Mother came down to the first floor and the students, over a period of five days passed in front of her. She indicated which students could be selected and even in some cases made some remarks on certain students. All these were noted down by a teacher standing beside the Mother. I remember that in some cases, the Mother made some remarks about a child; in one case, she remarked about a young girl: “Oh, she in  an old friend.’

It will be interesting to note that almost all the students were selected by the Mother for the New Classes.

The Functioning of the System

Let us now see how the system functioned on the  ground level

Firstly, there was no fixed time table; when the students came to the school, they went and sat in the class rooms allotted to them. Three or four teachers would be sitting in the same room. After the bell rang the students would start working on their own on any subject of their choice. Whenever they needed any help from the teacher, they would consult him. During the course of the work, if either the teacher or student felt the need to fix  an appointment with the teacher for further consulation, it would be done by mutual consultation. Similarly whenever the teachers or students felt the need of a group class, that too was fixed by mutual consultation.

There was great freedom for the students and the teachers were there only to help and guide the students.

In sum, the whole responsibility of education was on the students themselves. They had to decide for themselves the subjects they would study, determine the pace at which they would work and even the quantity of work done.

Many teachers felt that the attempt was premature, but all agreed to give it a try. However within a few months, it appeared that the system was not working very well. The majority of students were misusing their time and were unable to use their freedom properly. Finally a group of teachers wrote a letter to the Mother. We reproduce in full the letter with the answer of the Mother.

August 1st, 1963

Pavitra-.da,

For quite a long time, and particularly during the last few months, many of us — teachers of the New Classes — have noticed a growing disorder and confusion in the School. We therefore decided to make a report with the hope that a timely intervention by the authorities might change the situation and improve matters. In making this report we have given our considered opinion and judgment, always keeping in mind t1 welfare both of the students and the Institution.

The disorder that we see can be placed under three headings:

1) Indiscipline,

2) Irregularity and consequently

3) Poor work done by students.

Indiscipline: This problem which probably has always existed to a certain degree has now assumed rather serious proportions and has become quite acute. It is now quite a common feature to see students enter the class ten or fifteen minutes late and stroll out again a few minutes before the bell. Many of them go to the News—Paper Room, the Post—Office and the Projector Room during class hours. Very often children are seen loitering about, sometimes in the streets and sometimes in the School compound during class hours. The other problem, which we shall only just mention —, for it is too well known — is that of the stealing of notebooks and books, both of teachers and 3tudents.

Irregularity: This is a problem of a somewhat different nature. Very few students have attended regularly all the classes. Many of them started with great enthusiasm, but after a certain time — particularly when they had to give a test — dropped out and rarely came back. Finally, when they restarted, they had forgotten much of what they had learnt and much valuable time was lost in catching up. This also makes it impossible for the teacher to do any kind of Project work; for he never knows when a student will turn up again the next time.

In the afternoons, also, many students are found in the Library; many others do not come to School at all. As a result, the number of hours that a student devotes to his studies is between 4 and 5 hours, as there is no homework to be done; much of the time in these 4 or 5 hours is spent in chatting and gossip and work without concentration.

The consequence of all this has been poor work y the students. Not only is the amount of work done insufficient but also the quality is poor.

Taking into account the overall performance of the students, 59 may be said to have done quite poor work, 45 very poor, while only 23 have done average work, 4 good and 3 very good.

Taking into consideration, subject—wise performance of work, we find, that 77 out of 116 are below normal in English; 63 out of 71 are below normal in French; 130 out of 142 are below normal in Maths; 66 out of 69 are below normal ii Physic.; 33 out of 38 in Chemistry; 99 out of 139 in Natural Science; 95 out of 127 in History; and 115 out of 127 in Geography.

We have all felt therefore that something should be done before it is too late. Th. first and moat essential step, we feel, is to have a minimum of fixed periods for each subject; this minimum number can only be decided later on. Some of us, however, that all classes should have fixed periods. The timetable will be fixed by the office and once a student decides to attend a class, he should be regular and punctual.

Another point which we should mention is that of teaching only through work—sheets. Many teachers feel that all subjects need some oral, treatment, the proportion varying with the subject. A combination of the work—sheet method with oral exposition and discussions seems to be a possible solution.

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First for the teachers:

I am satisfied with the figures indicated in the report. In spite of what one might think the proportion of very good students

is satisfactory. If out of 150 students, there are 7 individuals of genuine value, it is very good.

Now for the organisation:

The classes as a whole may be reorganised so as to fulfil the needs of the majority, that is to say, of those who, in the absence of any outside pressure or imposed discipline, work badly and make no progress. But it is essential that the present system of education in the new classes should be maintained, in order to allow outstanding individuals to show themselves and develop freely. That is our true aim. It should be known—we should not hesitate to proclaim it—that the whole purpose of our school is to discover and encourage those in whom the need for progress has become conscious enough to direct their lives. It ought to be a privilege to be admitted to these Free Progress classes. At regular intervals (every month, for example) a selection should be made and those who cannot take advantage of this special education should be sent back into the normal stream. The criticisms made in the report apply to the teachers as much as to the students. For students of high capacity, one teacher well versed in his subject is enough—even a good textbook, together with encyclopaedias and dictionaries would be enough. But as one goes down the scale and the capacity of the student becomes lower, the teacher must have higher and higher capacities: discipline, self-control, consecration, psychological understanding, infectious enthusiasm, to awaken in the student the part which is asleep the will to know, the need for progress, self-control, etc. Just as we organise the school in such a way as to be able to discover and help outstanding students, in the same way, the responsibility for classes should be given to outstanding teachers. So I ask each teacher to consider his work in the school as the best and quickest way of doing his Yoga. Moreover, every difficulty and every difficult student should be an opportunity for him to find a divine solution to the problem.

5 August 1963

 

 

What is important to note is that the Mother despite the apparent failure at the beginning was insistent that the Free Progress System should continue with whatever modifications in the organisation of the school. The direction for the future was clearly laid down by the Mother.

 

 

Article on School

 

The history of the Ashram school – now known as the International Centre of Education – can be probably divided into four periods. The first period is from 1943 to 1950, the second one is from 1951 to 1958,  the third is from 1959 to 1967 and the fourth one is the period after that.

This article will deal mainly with the third period – that is to say from 1959 to 1967. However, the first two periods will be briefly touched upon.

Before the 1940s children were, as a rule, not permitted to live in the Ashram. But when, during the war, a number of families were admitted, it was found necessary to initiate a course of instruction for the children. Consequently, on 2 December 1943 the Mother opened a school for about thirty children. She herself was one of the teachers. The number of children increased gradually over the years to around 150 by the year 1950.

The first striking feature of the school in those early days was that almost all the students were children of devotees or disciples, most of whom resided in the Ashram as sadhaks.

Another feature was that the Mother was in constant touch with the teachers and students, guiding the teachers and following the students’ progress. All students and teachers would meet Her at least once a day and the teachers would submit reports about their classes regularly. Sri Aurobindo too was kept informed of all the developments in the school, although he did not interact directly with the school.

On  2 December 1946, the Mother came for the first time to the playground to see the demonstration of Physical Education. From then onwards, the Mother started coming regularly to the Playground in the evenings.

In 1950, Sri Aurobindo left his body and from 1951 the Mother started taking classes in the playground for the children (known as the Wednesday and Friday classes).

On 24 April 1951 the Mother presided over a convention where it was resolved to establish an “international university centre”, and on 6 January 1952 she inaugurated the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre. In 1959 this was changed to the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

 

In December 1958 the Mother stopped coming to the playground on a regular basis and the classes too were stopped.

The first two periods from 1943 to 1958 may be called the luminous seed-time and a period of enthusiastic effort guided by the direct presence of the Mother. That was the time when most of the basic ideas and concepts on education were expounded by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. This was done through the classes, their interaction with the students and teachers and Their writings in the Bulletin. As a matter of fact, the Mother was constantly in touch with both students and teachers and intervened whenever She felt the need to do so.

However, the outward organisation was not too different from other schools. No doubt, the teachers and the administration were distinctly aware of what the Mother wanted but this was not translated in the organisational structure. The Mother’s direct presence and involvement obviated the need of any such organisational structure. She was there to look after everything in its smallest detail.

Even though, the Mother stopped coming to the playground on a regular basis from December 1958,  contact with Her continued through letters or through interviews. Indeed, the Mother kept a constant watch over the school and playground activities from Her room.

During this period, 1959-1967, certain experiments were made which were to have a great bearing on the future development of the Centre of Education.

Firstly, some tentative experiments were made in organising the Free System of education with a small section of students and certain organisational structures were put in place; all these attempts were gradually evolving and were to prove very useful in arriving at the more developed and organised system that was built later on.

But more importantly, from 1959, the overall structure and organisation of the  Centre of Education was laid down. Here are some of the main developments that took place during this period:

1. The Higher Course was restructured. It was divided into the Art and Science sections. Earlier, there was no clear demarcation between art and science courses.

From this point on, like in other institutions, art students and science students were divided into two distinct categories with different compulsory subjects.

At the same time, two other courses were introduced, the Common Course which was compulsory for all students and the Optional course open to both Art and Science students; in the Common course, both Arts and Science students had compulsorily to study selected books of Sri Aurobindo. There were five books in this course, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle, The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Life Divine and the Synthesis of Yoga. These were studied for one year. Thus all students of the Higher course had to study these 5 books spread over the three years . In the first year, The Ideal of Human Unity was studied, in the second year, it was the Human Cycle and The Foundations of Indian Culture, and in the third year, the Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga.

But in the Optional Course, the same books were studied over a period of two or three years. This more intensive study of the books was optional and was open to both Science and Art students. Each one of these books was studied after a preparatory course; thus for the book The Ideal of Human Unity there was a course on World History; for the Human Cycle, there was a course on Sociology, for the Life Divine there was course on Philosophy, both Western and Indian, for the Synthesis of Yoga, the course was History of Religions and for the Foundations of Indian Culture, a study of Indian History was added.

2. It was also during this period that the Boards for all subjects were constituted. Thus there was an English board, a French board, a Mathematics board and so on. A group of teachers was selected to form the Boards and these teachers overlooked all the details concerning their respective subjects. Their work was mainly to define the syllabus, the course, the text books and to monitor the overall performance of the students and teachers in their subjects.

3. A whole new system of evaluation was determined. This system was based on the following: Regularity, punctuality, behaviour, homeworks, class tests and quarterly tests. This last item – quarterly tests was introduced in 1959. All students of the secondary and the Higher course were to sit for tests four times a year, reduced from 1960 to three times a year. These tests conducted  over a period of two weeks, were held at the end of March, June and October. The test for more important subjects like English, French, Mathematics etc were  of three hours each,  while for the other subjects they were of one and a half hour each. The results of the quarterly tests had a great bearing on the evaluation of the students.

Quite naturally, these tests were a period of great tension for the students, for the results were given great weight in the final evaluation of the student.

As I was working in the administrative office at that time, I was entrusted with the organisation of the Quarterly Tests. My duties consisted of the following tasks.

1. Fixing the dates, the timings, the rooms and the invigilators for the tests.

2. Collecting the question papers at least ten days in  advance from all the teachers and getting them typed in strict confidentiality and finally distributing them to the concerned invigilators just before the commencement of the test.

3. Handing over the answer papers of the students to the respective teachers after completion of the test .

4. Getting the results of the tests from the teachers in the form of marks allotted and computing the final quarterly report for each student. The report for each student was based on the following principle: 40% marks were allotted to the Quarterly Tests, 30% marks were allotted to Class Tests, 20% marks were allotted to Home Works, and the remaining 10% marks were given to Regularity, Punctuality and Behaviour.

Evidently, it was quite a complicated exercise and entailed a fair amount of work and coordination among teachers and the administration.

This was a period of great tension for most students and slowly and in a sense, quite inevitably, certain tendencies started manifesting themselves right from the beginning in 1960 and began to take serious proportions in the later years.

These included copying from notebooks which the students smuggled into the test room, trying to find out the questions before the tests, and sometimes even tearing whole pages from the text books which they managed to smuggle into the test room.

 

In 1967, while invigilating a class, a student was found copying. I just tapped the boy on his shoulder but did not chide him or speak to anybody else; instead, I wrote a letter to the Mother. Here is an extract from the letter:

 (Concerning cheating in tests)

What should I do? Must we do what is done outside— put three teachers in a room to invigilate? The teachers do not like doing things in this way here in the Ashram.

Or should we abolish tests? I find this proposal doubtful, since the same thing happens with homework and essays.

In any case the problem exists, and in order to find the real solution we should understand why the children behave like this. Please tell me the cause of this misbehaviour and the solution to this problem.

Mother sent me a reply immediately reproduced here in full.

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It is very simple. It is because most of the children study because they are compelled to do so by their families, by custom and prevalent ideas, and not because they want to learn and know. As long as their motive for studying is not rectified, as long as they do not work because they want to know, they will find all kinds of tricks to make their work easier and to obtain results with a minimum of effort.

 

June 1967

 

She also added that a prayer should be repeated each day by all the students. Here is the prayer.

To be repeated each day by all the students:

It is not for our family, it is not to secure a good position, it is not to earn money, it is not to obtain a diploma, that we study.

We study to learn, to know, to understand the world, and for the sake of the joy that it gives us.

June 1967

 

Later, She wrote to me another letter regarding the Quarterly tests. We reproduce it in full.

. .

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The whole question is to know whether the students go to school to increase their knowledge and to learn what is necessary how to live well or whether they go to school to pretend and to have good marks of which they can boast.

In front of the Eternal Consciousness, a drop of sincerity has more value than an ocean of pretension and hypocrisy.

We reproduce below more letters on Tests written by the Mother in answer to teachers. Most of these letters were written during the period June- October 1967 with the exception of the first one.

Sometime I would like to know ,Mother, Your intentions with regard to regrouping these classes in the new year, whether with an examination or without.

I consider an examination as quite necessary. In any case there will be one in French.

My love and blessings.

29 October 1946

It is not by conventional examinations that students can be selected for a class. It is only by developing in oneself the true psychological sense.

Select children who want to learn, not those who want to push themselves forward.

29 October 1965

 

The only solution is to annul this test and all that are to come. Keep all the papers with you in a closed bundle—as something that has not been—and continue quietly your classes. At the end of the year you will give notes to the students, not based on written test-papers, but on their behaviour, their concentration, their regularity, their promptness to understand and their openness of intelligence. For yourself you will take it as a discipline to rely more on inner contact, keen observation, and impartial outlook.

For the students it will be the necessity of understanding truly what they learn and not to repeat as a parrot what they have not fully understood. And thus a true progress will have been made in the teaching.

With blessings.

21 July 1967

*

I find tests an obsolete and ineffective way of knowing if the students are intelligent, willing and attentive. A silly, mechanical mind can very well answer a test if the memory is good and these are certainly not the qualities required for a man of the future.

It is by tolerance for the old habits that I consented that those who want tests can have them. But I hope that in future this concession will not be necessary. To know if a student is good needs, if the tests are abolished, a little more inner contact and psychological knowledge for the teacher. But our teachers are expected to do Yoga, so this ought not to be difficult for them.

22 July 1967

 

Naturally the teacher has to test the student to know if he or she has learnt something and has made a progress. But this test must be individual and adapted to each student, not the same mechanical test for all of them. It must be a spontaneous and unexpected test leaving no room for pretence and insincerity. Naturally also, this is much more difficult for the teacher but so much more living and interesting also. I enjoyed your remarks about your students. They prove that you have an individual relation with them—and that is essential for good teaching. Those who are insincere do not truly want to learn but to get good marks or compliments from the teacher—they are not interesting.

25 July 1967

 

The immediate impact of these events and remarks made by the Mother was a radical change in the attitude and organisation of the school.

Briefly, consequences were:

All quarterly tests were abolished once and for all.

The secondary classes were restructured as the consequence of some interaction with the Mother by some teachers

The Higher Course organisation was radically restructured.

 

 

Article on School

 

The history of the Ashram school – now known as the International Centre of Education – can be probably divided into four periods. The first period is from 1943 to 1950, the second one is from 1951 to 1958,  the third is from 1959 to 1967 and the fourth one is the period after that.

This article will deal mainly with the third period – that is to say from 1959 to 1967. However, the first two periods will be briefly touched upon.

Before the 1940s children were, as a rule, not permitted to live in the Ashram. But when, during the war, a number of families were admitted, it was found necessary to initiate a course of instruction for the children. Consequently, on 2 December 1943 the Mother opened a school for about thirty children. She herself was one of the teachers. The number of children increased gradually over the years to around 150 by the year 1950.

The first striking feature of the school in those early days was that almost all the students were children of devotees or disciples, most of whom resided in the Ashram as sadhaks.

Another feature was that the Mother was in constant touch with the teachers and students, guiding the teachers and following the students’ progress. All students and teachers would meet Her at least once a day and the teachers would submit reports about their classes regularly. Sri Aurobindo too was kept informed of all the developments in the school, although he did not interact directly with the school.

On  2 December 1946, the Mother came for the first time to the playground to see the demonstration of Physical Education. From then onwards, the Mother started coming regularly to the Playground in the evenings.

In 1950, Sri Aurobindo left his body and from 1951 the Mother started taking classes in the playground for the children (known as the Wednesday and Friday classes).

On 24 April 1951 the Mother presided over a convention where it was resolved to establish an “international university centre”, and on 6 January 1952 she inaugurated the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre. In 1959 this was changed to the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

 

 

In December 1958 the Mother stopped coming to the playground on a regular basis and the classes too were stopped.

The first two periods from 1943 to 1958 may be called the luminous seed-time and a period of enthusiastic effort guided by the direct presence of the Mother. That was the time when most of the basic ideas and concepts on education were expounded by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. This was done through the classes, their interaction with the students and teachers and Their writings in the Bulletin. As a matter of fact, the Mother was constantly in touch with both students and teachers and intervened whenever She felt the need to do so.

However, the outward organisation was not too different from other schools. No doubt, the teachers and the administration were distinctly aware of what the Mother wanted but this was not translated in the organisational structure. The Mother’s direct presence and involvement obviated the need of any such organisational structure. She was there to look after everything in its smallest detail.

Even though, the Mother stopped coming to the playground on a regular basis from December 1958,  contact with Her continued through letters or through interviews. Indeed, the Mother kept a constant watch over the school and playground activities from Her room.

During this period, 1959-1967, certain experiments were made which were to have a great bearing on the future development of the Centre of Education.

Firstly, some tentative experiments were made in organising the Free System of education with a small section of students and certain organisational structures were put in place; all these attempts were gradually evolving and were to prove very useful in arriving at the more developed and organised system that was built later on.

But more importantly, from 1959, the overall structure and organisation of the  Centre of Education was laid down. Here are some of the main developments that took place during this period:

1. The Higher Course was restructured. It was divided into the Art and Science sections. Earlier, there was no clear demarcation between art and science courses.

From this point on, like in other institutions, art students and science students were divided into two distinct categories with different compulsory subjects.

At the same time, two other courses were introduced, the Common Course which was compulsory for all students and the Optional course open to both Art and Science students; in the Common course, both Arts and Science students had compulsorily to study selected books of Sri Aurobindo. There were five books in this course, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle, The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Life Divine and the Synthesis of Yoga. These were studied for one year. Thus all students of the Higher course had to study these 5 books spread over the three years . In the first year, The Ideal of Human Unity was studied, in the second year, it was the Human Cycle and The Foundations of Indian Culture, and in the third year, the Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga.

But in the Optional Course, the same books were studied over a period of two or three years. This more intensive study of the books was optional and was open to both Science and Art students. Each one of these books was studied after a preparatory course; thus for the book The Ideal of Human Unity there was a course on World History; for the Human Cycle, there was a course on Sociology, for the Life Divine there was course on Philosophy, both Western and Indian, for the Synthesis of Yoga, the course was History of Religions and for the Foundations of Indian Culture, a study of Indian History was added.

2. It was also during this period that the Boards for all subjects were constituted. Thus there was an English board, a French board, a Mathematics board and so on. A group of teachers was selected to form the Boards and these teachers overlooked all the details concerning their respective subjects. Their work was mainly to define the syllabus, the course, the text books and to monitor the overall performance of the students and teachers in their subjects.

3. A whole new system of evaluation was determined. This system was based on the following: Regularity, punctuality, behaviour, homeworks, class tests and quarterly tests. This last item – quarterly tests was introduced in 1959. All students of the secondary and the Higher course were to sit for tests four times a year, reduced from 1960 to three times a year. These tests conducted  over a period of two weeks, were held at the end of March, June and October. The test for more important subjects like English, French, Mathematics etc were  of three hours each,  while for the other subjects they were of one and a half hour each. The results of the quarterly tests had a great bearing on the evaluation of the students.

Quite naturally, these tests were a period of great tension for the students, for the results were given great weight in the final evaluation of the student.

As I was working in the administrative office at that time, I was entrusted with the organisation of the Quarterly Tests. My duties consisted of the following tasks.

1. Fixing the dates, the timings, the rooms and the invigilators for the tests.

2. Collecting the question papers at least ten days in  advance from all the teachers and getting them typed in strict confidentiality and finally distributing them to the concerned invigilators just before the commencement of the test.

3. Handing over the answer papers of the students to the respective teachers after completion of the test .

4. Getting the results of the tests from the teachers in the form of marks allotted and computing the final quarterly report for each student. The report for each student was based on the following principle: 40% marks were allotted to the Quarterly Tests, 30% marks were allotted to Class Tests, 20% marks were allotted to Home Works, and the remaining 10% marks were given to Regularity, Punctuality and Behaviour.

Evidently, it was quite a complicated exercise and entailed a fair amount of work and coordination among teachers and the administration.

This was a period of great tension for most students and slowly and in a sense, quite inevitably, certain tendencies started manifesting themselves right from the beginning in 1960 and began to take serious proportions in the later years.

These included copying from notebooks which the students smuggled into the test room, trying to find out the questions before the tests, and sometimes even tearing whole pages from the text books which they managed to smuggle into the test room.

 

In 1967, while invigilating a class, a student was found copying. I just tapped the boy on his shoulder but did not chide him or speak to anybody else; instead, I wrote a letter to the Mother. Here is an extract from the letter:

 

(Concerning cheating in tests)

What should I do? Must we do what is done outside— put three teachers in a room to invigilate? The teachers do not like doing things in this way here in the Ashram.

Or should we abolish tests? I find this proposal doubtful, since the same thing happens with homework and essays.

In any case the problem exists, and in order to find the real solution we should understand why the children behave like this. Please tell me the cause of this misbehaviour and the solution to this problem.

Mother sent me a reply immediately reproduced here in full.

ImageImage

It is very simple. It is because most of the children study because they are compelled to do so by their families, by custom and prevalent ideas, and not because they want to learn and know. As long as their motive for studying is not rectified, as long as they do not work because they want to know, they will find all kinds of tricks to make their work easier and to obtain results with a minimum of effort.

 

June 1967

 

She also added that a prayer should be repeated each day by all the students. Here is the prayer.

To be repeated each day by all the students:

It is not for our family, it is not to secure a good position, it is not to earn money, it is not to obtain a diploma, that we study.

We study to learn, to know, to understand the world, and for the sake of the joy that it gives us.

June 1967

 

Later, She wrote to me another letter regarding the Quarterly tests. We reproduce it in full.

. .

 

 

 

The whole question is to know whether the students go to school to increase their knowledge and to learn what is necessary how to live well or whether they go to school to pretend and to have good marks of which they can boast.

In front of the Eternal Consciousness, a drop of sincerity has more value than an ocean of pretension and hypocrisy.

We reproduce below more letters on Tests written by the Mother in answer to teachers. Most of these letters were written during the period June- October 1967 with the exception of the first one.

Sometime I would like to know ,Mother, Your intentions with regard to regrouping these classes in the new year, whether with an examination or without.

I consider an examination as quite necessary. In any case there will be one in French.

My love and blessings.

29 October 1946

It is not by conventional examinations that students can be selected for a class. It is only by developing in oneself the true psychological sense.

Select children who want to learn, not those who want to push themselves forward.

29 October 1965

 

The only solution is to annul this test and all that are to come. Keep all the papers with you in a closed bundle—as something that has not been—and continue quietly your classes. At the end of the year you will give notes to the students, not based on written test-papers, but on their behaviour, their concentration, their regularity, their promptness to understand and their openness of intelligence. For yourself you will take it as a discipline to rely more on inner contact, keen observation, and impartial outlook.

For the students it will be the necessity of understanding truly what they learn and not to repeat as a parrot what they have not fully understood. And thus a true progress will have been made in the teaching.

With blessings.

21 July 1967

*

I find tests an obsolete and ineffective way of knowing if the students are intelligent, willing and attentive. A silly, mechanical mind can very well answer a test if the memory is good and these are certainly not the qualities required for a man of the future.

It is by tolerance for the old habits that I consented that those who want tests can have them. But I hope that in future this concession will not be necessary. To know if a student is good needs, if the tests are abolished, a little more inner contact and psychological knowledge for the teacher. But our teachers are expected to do Yoga, so this ought not to be difficult for them.

22 July 1967

 

Naturally the teacher has to test the student to know if he or she has learnt something and has made a progress. But this test must be individual and adapted to each student, not the same mechanical test for all of them. It must be a spontaneous and unexpected test leaving no room for pretence and insincerity. Naturally also, this is much more difficult for the teacher but so much more living and interesting also. I enjoyed your remarks about your students. They prove that you have an individual relation with them—and that is essential for good teaching. Those who are insincere do not truly want to learn but to get good marks or compliments from the teacher—they are not interesting.

25 July 1967

 

The immediate impact of these events and remarks made by the Mother was a radical change in the attitude and organisation of the school.

Briefly, consequences were:

All quarterly tests were abolished once and for all.

The secondary classes were restructured as the consequence of some interaction with the Mother by some teachers

The Higher Course organisation was radically restructured.

 

 

Sri Aurobindo Ashram School – 2
We shall now go back in time to see how the Free Progress System was introduced in the school.
From the year 1959, many tentative experiments were being made in the Free Progress System. These attempts were first made on a small scale with a small number of students and teachers who were willing to try out the experiment. The source of inspiration for these experiments were in the writings and talks of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
We are quoting one of the passages from the Human Cycle that served as an important source of inspiration:
“The discovery that education must be a bringing out of the child’s own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible value and must be based on the psychology of the child-nature was a step forward towards a more healthy because a more subjective system; but it still fell short because it still regarded him as an object to be handled and moulded by the teacher, to be educated. But at least there was a glimmering of the realisation that each human being is a self-developing soul and that 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. It is not yet realised what this soul is or that the true secret, whether with child or man, is to help him to find his deeper self, the real psychic entity within. That, if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as “the leader of the march set in our front”, will itself take up most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the capacity of the psychological being towards a realisation of its potentialities of which our present mechanical view of life and man and external routine methods of dealing with them prevent us from having any experience or forming any conception. These new educational methods are on the straight way to this truer dealing. The closer touch attempted with the psychical entity behind the vital and physical mentality and an increasing reliance on its possibilities must lead to the ultimate discovery that man is inwardly a soul and a conscious power of the Divine and that the
evocation of this real man within is the right object of education and indeed of all human life if it would find and live according to the hidden Truth and deepest law of its own being.”
Here is another passage from the Mother’’s conversations which was often quoted and which became the basis for the Free Progress System.
“Essentially, the only thing you should do assiduously is to teach them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, the path they will follow; to teach them to look at themselves, understand themselves and to will what they want to be. That is infinitely more important than teaching them what happened on earth in former times, or even how the earth is built, or even… indeed, all sorts of things which are quite a necessary grounding if you want to live the ordinary life in the world, for if you don’t know them, anyone will immediately put you down intellectually: “Oh, he is an idiot, he knows nothing. But still, at any age, if you are studious and have the will to do it, you can also take up books and work; you don’t need to go to school for that. There are enough books in the world to teach you things. There are even many more books than necessary.
But what is very important is to know what you want. And for this a minimum of freedom is necessary. You must not be under a compulsion or an obligation. You must be able to do things whole-heartedly. If you are lazy, well, you will know what it means to be lazy…. You know, in life idlers are obliged to work ten times more than others, for what they do they do badly, so they are obliged to do it again. But these are things one must learn by experience. They can’t be instilled into you.”
The problem was: how to create a system of education which would help them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, with the ultimate result of bringing the psychic being of the child forward as “the leader of the march.”
Gradually, these attempts began to increase in number and by the year 1962, there was one whole section of the school that was following this system. It was named Vers la Perfection. In this process some interesting experiments were tried out, some seemingly a bit impractical. However, the Mother allowed things to develop and encouraged the teachers to find out by themselves how to implement the free progress system. As all these attempts were going, quite naturally, a lot of discussion was generated among the teachers. The Director and the
Registrar – Pavitrada and Kireet Joshi – were deeply involved in all these discussions and often the matter was referred to the Mother. As a result of all these discussions and efforts some basic principles were laid down.
The basic principles on which the Free Progress system was founded were as follows: :
 The first assumption was that every child was essentially a soul and the business of the educator was to help the child to bring it forward as the leader of his march.
 Since each child was a soul and therefore unique, he had to be treated according to his nature and temperament. The natural consequence was that individual attention was given great importance and consequently group classes were not encouraged too much.
 Another consequence was that each child was encouraged to work at his own pace, depending on his capacity. It followed also that a child could be at different levels for different subjects.
 There was also an effort to replace text books by worksheets which were prepared in such a way as to make it more relevant to the child’s needs and interests.
 Finally, the whole purpose was to encourage the child to take up the full responsibility of his own education and choose his own destiny.
Evidently, this was not easy for it meant a total reversal of the existing system of education; in a sense, it was a big risk that was being taken.
As already mentioned, the attempt was first made on a small scale with a limited number of students and teachers fully supported by The Mother. By the middle of the year 1962, it was felt that this system could be tried out on a bigger scale for all the secondary classes from December 1962.
Here another problem cropped up. It was understood that this system would be succesful only with those students whose psychic being was somewhat prominent for only then would they be able to use their freedom properly without being distracted by the vital and other pulls of the lower nature. The question was: who is to choose the students,? Since most of the teachers did not feel confident in their own judgment the matter was referred to the Mother and She graciously agreed to make the selection herself.
Accordingly, the students numbering about 150 were divided into 5 batches. Mother came down to the first floor and the students, over a period of five days passed in front of her. She
indicated which students could be selected and even in some cases made some remarks on certain students. All these were noted down by a teacher standing beside the Mother. I remember that in some cases, the Mother made some remarks about a child; in one case, she remarked about a young girl: “Oh, she in an old friend.’
It will be interesting to note that almost all the students were selected by the Mother for the New Classes.
The Functioning of the System
Let us now see how the system functioned on the ground level
Firstly, there was no fixed time table; when the students came to the school, they went and sat in the class rooms allotted to them. Three or four teachers would be sitting in the same room. After the bell rang the students would start working on their own on any subject of their choice. Whenever they needed any help from the teacher, they would consult him. During the course of the work, if either the teacher or student felt the need to fix an appointment with the teacher for further consulation, it would be done by mutual consultation. Similarly whenever the teachers or students felt the need of a group class, that too was fixed by mutual consultation.
There was great freedom for the students and the teachers were there only to help and guide the students.
In sum, the whole responsibility of education was on the students themselves. They had to decide for themselves the subjects they would study, determine the pace at which they would work and even the quantity of work done.
Many teachers felt that the attempt was premature, but all agreed to give it a try. However within a few months, it appeared that the system was not working very well. The majority of students were misusing their time and were unable to use their freedom properly. Finally a group of teachers wrote a letter to the Mother. We reproduce in full the letter with the answer of the Mother.
August 1st, 1963
Pavitra-.da,
For quite a long time, and particularly during the last few months, many of us — teachers of the New Classes — have noticed a growing disorder and confusion in the School. We therefore decided to make a report with the hope that a timely intervention by the authorities might change the situation and improve matters. In making this report we have given our considered opinion and judgment, always keeping in mind t1 welfare both of the students and the Institution.
The disorder that we see can be placed under three headings:
1) Indiscipline,
2) Irregularity and consequently
3) Poor work done by students.
Indiscipline: This problem which probably has always existed to a certain degree has now assumed rather serious proportions and has become quite acute. It is now quite a common feature to see students enter the class ten or fifteen minutes late and stroll out again a few minutes before the bell. Many of them go to the News—Paper Room, the Post—Office and the Projector Room during class hours. Very often children are seen loitering about, sometimes in the streets and sometimes in the School compound during class hours. The other problem, which we shall only just mention —, for it is too well known — is that of the stealing of notebooks and books, both of teachers and 3tudents.
Irregularity: This is a problem of a somewhat different nature. Very few students have attended regularly all the classes. Many of them started with great enthusiasm, but after a certain time — particularly when they had to give a test — dropped out and rarely came back. Finally, when they restarted, they had forgotten much of what they had learnt and much valuable time was lost in catching up. This also makes it impossible for the teacher to do any kind of Project work; for he never knows when a student will turn up again the next time.
In the afternoons, also, many students are found in the Library; many others do not come to School at all. As a result, the number of hours that a student devotes to his studies is between 4 and 5 hours, as there is no homework to be done; much of the time in these 4 or 5 hours is spent in chatting and gossip and work without concentration.
The consequence of all this has been poor work y the students. Not only is the amount of work done insufficient but also the quality is poor.
Taking into account the overall performance of the students, 59 may be said to have done quite poor work, 45 very poor, while only 23 have done average work, 4 good and 3 very good.
Taking into consideration, subject—wise performance of work, we find, that 77 out of 116 are below normal in English; 63 out of 71 are below normal in French; 130 out of 142 are below normal in Maths; 66 out of 69 are below normal ii Physic.; 33 out of 38 in Chemistry; 99 out of 139 in Natural Science; 95 out of 127 in History; and 115 out of 127 in Geography.
We have all felt therefore that something should be done before it is too late. Th. first and moat essential step, we feel, is to have a minimum of fixed periods for each subject; this minimum number can only be decided later on. Some of us, however, that all classes should have fixed periods. The timetable will be fixed by the office and once a student decides to attend a class, he should be regular and punctual.
Another point which we should mention is that of teaching only through work—sheets. Many teachers feel that all subjects need some oral, treatment, the proportion varying with the subject. A combination of the work—sheet method with oral exposition and discussions seems to be a possible solution.

First for the teachers:
I am satisfied with the figures indicated in the report. In spite of what one might think the proportion of very good students
is satisfactory. If out of 150 students, there are 7 individuals of genuine value, it is very good.
Now for the organisation:
The classes as a whole may be reorganised so as to fulfil the needs of the majority, that is to say, of those who, in the
absence of any outside pressure or imposed discipline, work badly and make no progress. But it is essential that the
present system of education in the new classes should be maintained, in order to allow outstanding individuals to show
themselves and develop freely. That is our true aim. It should be known—we should not hesitate to proclaim it—that the
whole purpose of our school is to discover and encourage those in whom the need for progress has become conscious
enough to direct their lives. It ought to be a privilege to be admitted to these Free Progress classes. At regular intervals
(every month, for example) a selection should be made and those who cannot take advantage of this special education
should be sent back into the normal stream. The criticisms made in the report apply to the teachers as much as to the
students. For students of high capacity, one teacher well versed in his subject is enough—even a good textbook, together
with encyclopaedias and dictionaries would be enough. But as one goes down the scale and the capacity of the student
becomes lower, the teacher must have higher and higher capacities: discipline, self-control, consecration, psychological
understanding, infectious enthusiasm, to awaken in the student the part which is asleep the will to know, the need for
progress, self-control, etc. Just as we organise the school in such a way as to be able to discover and help outstanding
students, in the same way, the responsibility for classes should be given to outstanding teachers. So I ask each teacher to
consider his work in the school as the best and quickest way of doing his Yoga. Moreover, every difficulty and every
difficult student should be an opportunity for him to find a divine solution to the problem.
5 August 1963
What is important to note is that the Mother despite the apparent failure at the beginning was insistent that the Free Progress System should continue with whatever modifications in the organisation of the school. The direction for the future was clearly laid down by the Mother.

The caste system in ancient India

The ancient Chaturvarnya must not be judged by its later
disintegrated degeneration and gross meaningless parody, the
caste system. But neither was it precisely the system of the classes
which we find in other civilisations, priesthood, nobility, merchant
class and serfs or labourers. It may have had outwardly
the same starting-point, but it was given a very different revealing
significance. The ancient Indian idea was that man falls
by his nature into four types. There are, first and highest, the
man of learning and thought and knowledge; next, the man of
power and action, ruler, warrior, leader, administrator; third in
the scale, the economic man, producer and wealth-getter, the
merchant, artisan, cultivator: these were the twice-born, who
received the initiation, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya. Last came
the more undeveloped human type, not yet fit for these steps of
the scale, unintellectual, without force, incapable of creation or
intelligent production, the man fit only for unskilled labour and
menial service, the Shudra. The economic order of society was
cast in the form and gradation of these four types. The Brahmin
class was called upon to give the community its priests, thinkers,
men of letters, legists, scholars, religious leaders and guides. The
Kshatriya class gave it its kings, warriors, governors and administrators.
The Vaishya order supplied it with its producers,
agriculturists, craftsmen, artisans, merchants and traders. The
Shudra class ministered to its need of menials and servants. As
far as this went, there was nothing peculiar in the system except
its extraordinary durability and, perhaps, the supreme position
given to religion, thought and learning, not only at the top of
the scale,—for that can be paralleled from one or two other
civilisations,—but as the dominant power. The Indian idea in
its purity fixed the status of a man in this order not by his
birth, but by his capacities and his inner nature, and, if this rule
had been strictly observed, that would have been a very clear
mark of distinctness, a superiority of a unique kind. But even
the best society is always something of a machine and gravitates
towards the material sign and standard, and to found truly the
social order upon this finer psychological basis would have been
in those times a difficult and vain endeavour. In practice we find
that birth became the basis of the Varna. It is elsewhere that we
must look for the strong distinguishing mark which has made
of this social structure a thing apart and sole in its type.
At no time indeed was the adherence to the economic rule
quite absolute. The early ages show a considerable flexibility
which was not quite lost in the process of complex crystallisation
into a fixed form. And even in the greater rigidity of the
latter-day caste system there has been in practice a confusion
of economic functions. The vitality of a vigorous community
cannot obey at every point the indications of a pattern and
tradition cut by the mechanising mind. Moreover there was
always a difference between the ideal theory of the system and
its rougher unideal practice. For the material side of an idea
or system has always its weaknesses even in its best times, and
the final defect of all systems of this kind is that they stiffen
into a fixed hierarchy which cannot maintain permanently its
purity or the utility it was meant to serve. It becomes a soulless
form and prolongs itself in a state of corruption, degeneracy
or oppressive formalism when the uses that justified it are no
longer in existence. Even when its ways can no longer be made
consistent with the developing needs of the growth of humanity,
the formal system persists and corrupts the truth of life and
blocks progress. Indian society did not escape this general law;
it was overtaken by these deficiencies, lost the true sense of the
thing which it set out to embody and degenerated into a chaos of
castes, developing evils which we are now much embarrassed to
eliminate. But it was a well-devised and necessary scheme in its
time; it gave the community the firm and nobly built stability it
needed for the security of its cultural development,—a stability
hardly paralleled in any other culture. And, as interpreted by the
Indian genius, it became a greater thing than a mere outward
economic, political and social mechanism intended to serve the
needs and convenience of the collective life.
For the real greatness of the Indian system of the four varnas
did not lie in its well-ordered division of economic function;
its true originality and permanent value was in the ethical and
spiritual content which the thinkers and builders of the society
poured into these forms. This inner content started with the
idea that the intellectual, ethical and spiritual growth of the
individual is the central need of the race. Society itself is only the
necessary framework for this growth; it is a system of relations
which provides it with its needed medium, field and conditions
and with a nexus of helpful influences. A secure place had to
be found in the community for the individual man from which
he could at once serve these relations, helping to maintain the
society and pay it his debt of duty and assistance, and proceed
to his own self-development with the best possible aid from the
communal life. Birth was accepted in practice as the first gross
and natural indicator; for heredity to the Indian mind has always
ranked as a factor of the highest importance: it was even taken
in later thought as a sign of the nature and as an index to the
surroundings which the individual had prepared for himself by
his past soul-development in former existences. But birth is not
and cannot be the sole test of Varna. The intellectual capacity
of the man, the turn of his temperament, his ethical nature,
his spiritual stature, these are the important factors. There was
erected therefore a rule of family living, a system of individual
observance and self-training, a force of upbringing and education
which would bring out and formulate these essential things.
The individualman was carefully trained in the capacities, habits
and attainments, and habituated to the sense of honour and duty
necessary for the discharge of his allotted function in life.He was
scrupulously equipped with the science of the thing he had to
do, the best way to succeed in it as an interest, artha, and to
attain to the highest rule, canon and recognised perfection of its
activities, economic, political, sacerdotal, literary, scholastic or
whatever else theymight be. Even the most despised pursuits had
their education, their law and canon, their ambition of success,
their sense of honour in the discharge and scruple of well-doing,
their dignity of a fixed standard of perfection, and it was because
they had these things that even the lowest and least attractive
could be in a certain degree a means of self-finding and ordered
self-satisfaction. In addition to this special function and training
there were the general accomplishments, sciences, arts, graces of
life, those which satisfy the intellectual, aesthetic and hedonistic
powers of human nature. These in ancient India were many
and various, were taught with minuteness, thoroughness and
subtlety and were available to all men of culture.

VOLUME 20
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO P 171-173

IT IS NOT KISSA KURSI KA BUT KISSA KOTHI KA
 
It should have become self-evident by now. Many of the older individuals rebelling against their party, especially the Saffron Party, are doing so because there is panic in their families. They have been occupying fantastic bungalows in Lutyens Delhi for several decades, in power or out of power; some as long as fifty years or more. Quite a few of them would be aware that in the political mood that has overtaken India with the younger generation likely to vote in very large numbers ‘old is no longer gold’. Anybody over 80 hankering for the prime minister’s post would be laughed out of politics in most democracies of the world. India was the exception in the past. It is no longer the case. With their tantrums and quiet efforts to bring down the party so that it does not get too big a majority the name of the game is to keep Narender Modi out – everyone knows the tricks they are up to and the reason for the same. Just as the Gandhi family in their innermost thoughts would be reconciled to a BJP-led coalition, they simply cannot countenance Modi as the PM. They know that any other dispensation in New Delhi does not threaten them or their phenomenal loot siphoned out of India as per most articles appearing in the public domain since the election fever caught on. Modi will leave no stone unturned to retrieve the ill-gotten wealth. In the case of the old fogies their reckoning is similar. With any other dispensation they get to keep their Lutyens bungalows through one position or another bestowed on them. Chairpersons of committees and so many other ways that have been perfected to keep those who should have been out ages ago in clover – both in their bungalows and the priveleges that they have been enjoying. Narender Modi threatens this let-and-let-live as well as loot-and-let-loot philosophy that has prevailed to date, mostly under the Congress dispensation, to keep troublesome opponents tied on a leash through various kinds of accommodations.
vinod saighal
Convenor MRGG