Message for National Education Week (1918) -Sri Aurobindo

Message for National
Education Week (1918)
NATIONAL Education is, next to Self-Government and
along with it, the deepest and most immediate need of
the country, and it is a matter of rejoicing for one to
whom an earlier effort in that direction gave the first opportunity
for identifying himself with the larger life and hope of the
Nation, to see the idea, for a time submerged, moving so soon
towards self-fulfilment.
Home Rule and National Education are two inseparable
ideals, and none who follows the one, can fail the other, unless
he is entirely wanting either in sincerity or in vision. We want
not only a free India, but a great India, India taking worthily
her place among the Nations and giving to the life of humanity
what she alone can give. The greatest knowledge and the greatest
riches man can possess are hers by inheritance; she has that for
which all mankind is waiting. But she can only give it if her hands
are free, her soul free, full and exalted, and her life dignified in
all its parts. Home Rule, bringing with it the power of selfdetermination,
can give the free hands, space for the soul to
grow, strength for the life to raise itself again from darkness and
narrow scope into light and nobility. But the full soul rich with
the inheritance of the past, the widening gains of the present, and
the large potentiality of her future, can come only by a system
of National Education. It cannot come by any extension or imitation
of the system of the existing universities with its radically
false principles, its vicious and mechanical methods, its deadalive
routine tradition and its narrow and sightless spirit. Only
a new spirit and a new body born from the heart of the Nation
and full of the light and hope of its resurgence can create it.
We have a right to expect that the Nation will rise to the
level of its opportunity and stand behind the movement as it
has stood behind the movement for Home Rule. It should not

be difficult to secure its intellectual sanction or its voice for
National Education, but much more than that is wanted. The
support it gives must be free from all taint of lip-service, passivity
and lethargic inaction, evil habits born of long political servitude
and inertia, and of that which largely led to it, subjection of the
life and soul to a blend of unseeing and mechanical custom.
Moral sympathy is not enough; active support from every individual
is needed. Workers for the cause, money and means for
its sustenance, students for its schools and colleges, are what
the movement needs that it may prosper. The first will surely
not be wanting; the second should come, for the control of
the movement has in its personnel both influence and energy,
and the habit of giving as well as self-giving for a great public
cause is growing more widespread in the country. If the third
condition is not from the beginning sufficiently satisfied, it will
be because, habituated individually always to the customary
groove, we prefer the safe and prescribed path, even when it
leads nowhere, to the great and effective way, and cannot see
our own interest because it presents itself in a new and untried
form. But this is a littleness of spirit which the Nation must
shake off that it may have the courage of its destiny.
If material and prudential considerations stand in the way,
then let it be seen that, even in the vocational sphere, the old
system opens only the doors of a few offices and professions
overcrowded with applicants, whence the majority must go
back disappointed and with empty hands, or be satisfied with a
dwarfed life and a sordid pittance; while the new education will
open careers which will be at once ways of honourable sufficiency,
dignity and affluence to the individual, and paths of service
to the country. For the men who come out equipped in every
way from its institutions will be those who will give that impetus
to the economic life and effort of the country without which it
cannot survive in the press of the world, much less attain its high
legitimate position. Individual interest and National interest are
the same and call in the same direction. Whether as citizen, as
worker or as parent and guardian, the duty of every Indian in
this matter is clear: it lies in the great and new road the pioneers
Message for National Education Week 413
have been hewing, and not in the old stumbling cart-ruts.
This is an hour in which, for India as for all the world,
its future destiny and the turn of its steps for a century are
being powerfully decided, and for no ordinary century, but one
which is itself a great turning-point, an immense turn-over in
the inner and outer history of mankind. As we act now, so shall
the reward of our karma be meted out to us, and each call of
this kind at such an hour is at once an opportunity, a choice,
and a test offered to the spirit of our people. Let it be said that
it rose in each to the full height of its being and deserved the
visible intervention of the Master of Destiny in its favour.



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