A constant insistence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother has been on detailed perfection of the human mind, life and body. We may, therefore, turn to the three domains of mental education, vital education, and physical education as expounded and experimented upon at Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry and subsequently at the Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research at Auroville.
In regard to mental education, the processes and methods can best be determined by understanding the mind. Mind is concerned largely with the activities of understanding, and all understanding is a discovery of a centre around which the ideas or things in question are held together.
Mental education is a process of training the mind of students to arrive at such central conceptions around which the widest and most complex and subtle ideas can be assimilated and integrated.
It is again found that even these central conceptions point still to a beyond, to their own essential meaning, which can be glimpsed and conceived by the mind, but which cannot be held and possessed fully in experience by the mind. This point marks the climax of the mental development as also a clear sign of the limitations of the mind. Having reached there its office is to fall into contemplation of silence and to open to the higher realms of experience, to receive clearly and precisely the intuitions and inspirations from those higher realms, and to give creative expression to them.
To train the mind on these lines, there are five phases of the programme:
• Development of the power of concentration and attention;
• Development of the capacities of expansion, wideness, complexity and richness;
• Organisation of ideas round a central or a higher ideal or a supremely luminous idea that will serve as a guide in life;
• Thought control, rejection of undesirable thoughts so that one may, in the end, think only what one wants and when one wants;
• Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.
Multiplicity of ideas, richness of ideas, totality of points of view _ these should be made to grow by a developed power of observation and concentration and by a wideness of interest. Care should be taken to see that the central ideas are not imposed upon the growing mind – that would be the dogmatic method, which tends to atrophy the mind. The mind should grow towards central ideas which should come as a discovery of the mind made through rigorous exercise of the rational faculty.
Stress should fall not only on understanding but also on criticism and control of ideas; not only of comprehension, synthesis, creativity, judgement, imagination, memory and observation, but also on critical functions of comparison, reasoning, inference and conclusion. Both these aspects of human reason are essential to the completeness of the mental training.
One of the best methods is to create an atmosphere in which massive and powerful ideas are constantly thrown as a stimulation and
challenge impelling the students to arrive at them or strive to grasp and assimilate them.
Thinkers alone can produce thinkers; and unless teachers are constantly in the process of building up great thoughts and ideas, it is futile to expect a sound or vigorous mental education.
An atmosphere vibrant at once with ideation and silence, an atmosphere surcharged with synthetic thoughts and most integral aspirations and an atmosphere filled with the widest realisation and a harmonious unity – such an atmosphere is indispensable for perfect mental education.
A constant attempt should be made to present each topic to the student in a challenging way so as to stimulate him and create his interest in the topic. To find new and imaginative methods, to compile materials from various sources, to introduce new concepts and new interpretations in various subjects, to develop new subjects, and above all, to attend in detail to all the psychological faculties and their development in such a way that the mental education does not veil the soul – this, in brief, should be the endeavour and its spirit.