We would like to present to ourselves the idea of what we can do, what we should do, and how we can do and how should do to move forward in the field of education.
The paper that I have written here on CIRHU is a kind of a rough draft, which can ultimately be torn away and replaced by another paper. But it can be a starting point for our deliberations together.
We have already one research program that we have started many years ago, a research programme under which two books have been published, The Aim of Life and The Good Teacher and the Good Pupil. Both these books have been appreciated very widely.
The Good Teacher and the Good Pupil was sent by the then Prime Minister to the Education Ministry for evaluation, and the Secretary of the Government of India was in charge of evaluation and, after reading the whole book, he recommended that every teacher in the whole country should be given a copy of that book. But thereafter there was no follow-up. The then Prime Minister also passed away and the recommendations made by the Secretary are also lost somewhere now in the Ministry; one does not know where the recommendations are.
Recently the new Secretary to the Government of India in charge of education he has requested that every Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Education should have in his office a copy of that book. And this has been done. Every Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Education has in his office a copy of this book, The Good Teacher and the Good Pupil.
This research work started with some nebulous idea; there was no great clarity as to the target group for whom it is to be meant. Even the subject matter was also nebulous but to explain that research work, I would like to present to you three ideas which were in my mind, at least, when I proposed that research work.
The first idea was connected with a problem which was asked of The Mother at one time: “Is there something essential that every human being and every student ultimately should learn about?” This was the question. And Mother’s answer was, “We are here to find an answer to that question”. That was her answer. Is there something essential which every human being and therefore every student should learn about? This is the question. And I have been reflecting on this question since then, as a researcher. It’s a very difficult question and requires a lot of reflection, experience, exchange and maturation. I would like to present this question to all of you so that we can share our reflections on this subject.
My second idea behind the proposal to make research was: Mother had once said, while we were starting to study works of Sri Aurobindo in the Ashram School and some questions were put to the Mother, “How should we study the works of Sri Aurobindo?”
So Mother’s answer was long but I can give you the brief essence of the answer: the teacher should not become a screen between Sri Aurobindo and the pupil. The task of the teacher is to give all the background material to the students and prepare them in such a way that Sri Aurobindo comes to the pupil with all the freshness, and students’ feel a direct contact with what Sri Aurobindo has written. This was her answer, basically. So, since that time I have been trying to reflect on this question. And I have constantly asked myself, ‘Can we collect background material for the works of Sri Aurobindo?’
In regard to The Life Divine, for example, Mother had said that it requires ten years of preparation to study The Life Divine. And I fully realise it. The Life Divine is in a sense a very technical book, just as Savitri also is a very technical book. One who does not know poetry in its technicality, one who does not know the perception of Sri Aurobindo in regard to the Future Poetry may not be able to appreciate Savitri in its technical aspects. So if one has to study Savitri for example, one has to study a good deal of background material to be able to appreciate properly Savitri. One can read Savitri for many purposes: for inspiration, for refreshment, for illumination, sporadic or like a torchlight. You can put a torchlight and see what is just in a spot – a torchlight is a spotlight. So all these purposes are understood; you don’t need to be highly technically efficient in the technique of poetry. One can derive benefit from Savitri in many ways; similarly with The Life Divine also one can open any page, any particular chapter, any particular topic, and can be illuminated.
But to understand The Life Divine properly, one has to have a good technical knowledge of many things. First of all, one needs to learn what is philosophy, because it is a philosophical work, what is the method of philosophy and the purpose of philosophy, the limitations of philosophy, philosophy and spiritual experience. This is only from the point of view of the technical understanding of The Life Divine, the very structure in which the whole Life Divine is designed. It’s like an orchestra played by a thousand musicians at the same time. Then, the subject matter of The Life Divine and this subject matter is so vast and so difficult that one needs to have a lot of background, and I can fully understand when Mother says, ‘It requires ten years preparation to be able to begin The Life Divine.’ That is why Mother started when the children were being taught at the beginning and Mother herself was reading the The Life Divine; she selected to read only the last six chapters, from ‘Man and the Evolution’ to the end of the book. But all the rest was not touched upon by the Mother.