Now in regard to subjects of studies, I have been thinking a great deal regarding what should be the subject of studies, what are the subjects of study? Now there are many subjects of studies, which are called ‘subjects of specialisation’, if I want to be a medical doctor, I study a number of subjects. If I want to be a lawyer I study some other subjects. If I want to be an accountant I study some other subjects. If I want to be a pilot, I study some other subjects, there are numerous subjects in the world today, numerous subjects and the subjects are multiplying, tremendously. Therefore, educationists have come to the conclusion that professional studies later on, you concentrate upon what is essential and what is essential is a very difficult subject to decide. But as I said: now it has been understood if you learn languages it is essential. If you learn mathematics basically, not all fine mathematics because there are various kinds of mathematics to be learnt, if you want to be pilot, some kind of mathematics is to be learnt, if you want to be physicists another kind of mathematics is to be learnt and so on. But some mathematics you should learn as a basic equipment. Some physics, some chemistry, some biology and some history, geography. It is suggested that these are essential subjects, which everybody should participate and study.
I am not opposing this view but I am opposing it in a certain direction, – is it really true that these are the most essential subjects of studies? There are essential subjects, is this sufficient, is it all that we should develop, is there other kind of scheme possible? Now we know for example that for a long time in Universities like Cambridge and Oxford there used to be course of classics. You study only three languages like Greek, Latin and English and study the classical literature of these three, along with the history of classics. And it used to be said that this is a wonderful education, all that you need is contained here. You may not need Physics, Chemistry, Biology, you don’t need to learn anatomy, physiology, nothing, classics. There are people who today believe that if you study only Shakespeare, your education is complete, or they go even to the extent that you study ‘King Lear’, you study “King Lear’ and your education is very greatly completed or what is essential is learnt. Now in Plato’s ‘Academy’, when he started Academy, he put down one very important statement, ‘One, who knows no mathematics, need not enter here’ that was the motto that he had put down on his Academy. He gave importance to Mathematics, so much that he felt that if you don’t know Mathematics, you can’t learn philosophy because his main subject of study in his Academy was philosophy. So he thought you cannot learn philosophy unless you know Mathematics in a very great detail. So according to his scheme of education, Mathematics and Philosophy were the most important subjects of study. Now today in our system of education this importance is not given, philosophy is knocked out completely and Mathematics is done in a very perfunctory manner, except when you take Mathematics A–Level, which I saw the papers for very, very high Mathematics even at the A–Level, it is not a high Mathematics of graduation or under–graduation but it is mathematics of very high level even at the A–Level. But that is if you want to specialise in Mathematics ultimately. I know that Mother used to give a great importance to mathematics in our Ashram School, great importance to Mathematics because herself she was a Mathematician. Manoj for example, has been taught Mathematics by Mother herself. Even at the time of distribution of flowers, if Manoj used to go with his note–book, Mother would stop all the pranams and would solve the problem of Manoj at that time; this was the privilege of Mathematics. Pavitra da himself, he was the Director of Education and he was one of the top mathematicians. So Mother gave a great importance to the study of Mathematics, Sciences and so on.
In Indian system of education, if you examine what are the subjects which were taught in Indian system? We have Taittiriya Upanishad, one of the Upanishads where some kind of a glimpse is available, as to what kind of education was given, what were the subjects which were covered. In Chandogya Upanishad also there is a list of subjects which Narada as a pupil knew when he came to his teacher. When Narada came to his teacher, the teacher asked him how much do you know, so he gives a list of subjects, – Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy and knowledge of serpents, the knowledge of skies and of nakshatras and so many sciences, fifteen, sixteen subjects he gives, a list of them. Then he says the teacher says: what do you want to know and why do you want to know further? So he says I know all these subjects but I am gripped with sorrow that is to say that these subjects have no answer, as to how to overcome sorrow. So all the subjects are beside the point and human beings are full of sorrow and if education is to prepare the children to overcome the state of sorrow then some other education is necessary. And that is why the teacher said to Narada, ‘What you know is only words’ that is the starting point of the education which Narada was given by his teacher Sanat Kumar. What you know is only words but knowledge is beyond words and then he expounds what is the true knowledge.
Now in Indian system of education first thing that was taught was pronunciation, a very important starting point because psychologically every child wants to utter words and sounds. So pronunciation was given the starting point in the educational system of India. Every child was initiated into pronunciation and recitation and for a number of years, you just pronounce and pronounce correctly because it was said that if you don’t pronounce correctly, you life will be ruined at a very important moment. There was an example given in one of the Brahamanas that a certain rakshasa, a vital superman of his time wanted to kill Indra and he was given a kind of a mantra by his teacher. And he said you kill it meant ‘Let Indra be killed’ by power of my mantra this was his basic formula. Now in Sanskrit the words can be so organised, and if you make a mistake in it and if you pronounce it wrongly, and this rakshasa came to pronounce it wrongly and it meant ‘Let me be killed by Indra’, and he was killed. This was just to emphasise necessity of correct pronunciation that if you don’t pronounce correctly, at a given time in life, it will be ruinous to you. So you should be able to pronounce the words very, very correctly that was a great place given in the Indian system of education to pronounce correctly.
Even to you find that when you go to IAS examination interview, you can’t pronounce properly, you are chucked out. You may have good knowledge but if you can’t pronounce properly you are chucked out, your pronunciation must be perfect. And then thereafter, there are a number of subjects which have to be studied in which learn the universe and something that is beyond the universe because as I said Chandogya Upanishad said: this world alone is, you turn into misery round and round. You have to learn that there are many other universes. So this education consisted of many things including the knowledge of the universe and that which is beyond the universe that was a part of the educational system of India. This educational system also included study of Dharma, Dharma of Shastra, lot of science, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Ayurveda. The whole science of anatomy, physiology and healing and a study of the meaning of life and the study of Yoga, in addition to the study of poetry, the sixty four sciences and arts. For every human for example sixty four arts was a compulsory thing, including how to decorate your bed, is also part of education. How to serve food to your guests, is also a kind of an art which was also to be taught to the children, to the young women and there were many other subjects as a result it was said that a student of India was so developed; thirty two great qualities always rained over the consciousness of Indian students, thirty two states of consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo while writing in his Brain of India, he says how is it that India could produce writer like Vyasa? If you read Vyasa there is not a single domain of life on which he does not have scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge, not only knowledge, scientific knowledge of which Bhagavad Gita is only one Yoga Shastra, yogic science is only one Bhagavad Gita. But when Bhishma gives knowledge to Yudhishtra, he gives the knowledge of political science and the full science, it is not only politics, how it is played but political science was taught. And if you study Mahabharata fully, you will have so many scientific treatises as it were in the Mahabharata. So Sri Aurobindo says, how was it possible for India to produce one Vyasa, because Sri Aurobindo’s statement is that to produce one climax, we should produce hundreds and millions of approximates. Before you reach a climax, you should have hundreds and millions of approximates, then only one of them will be reaching climax.
So this would mean that actually speaking our present selection of subjects is extremely poor and we need to examine this aspect very deeply. In our present circumstances these subjects which we are teaching are good and we find that their efficacy is proved, no question about it. But what place these subjects has to be given in the totality of other subjects which are also necessary and how to organise it and what time you will allocate to all these subjects? These are all very important, difficult subjects. Now it is for that reason I say that I am here as a student with all of us to make an enquiry into this and I want to present to you some of the ideas that are developing in me which can be of some help to all of us.