Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture. (SAIIC) Shillong workshop, 26,Oct -7 Nov, 2006 - 21. Physical, Vital, Mental and Psychic Education

And that to integral health, not only physical health, but all aspects of health. Secondly, it should aim at developing the strength of the body. Third, is the development of agility of the body, plasticity of the body. The fourth is to develop the graceful movements of the body. The human body can be graceful in its movements; this aspect is not often emphasised in physical education. And finally, physical education should aim at the beauty of the body. That human body is a beautiful structure, a remarkable evolution of the world movement as a result of which this human figure has come into existence; it is something marvellous and something miraculous which has happened, and this body can be beautiful and can be kept beautiful for a long time in human life. These are the five aspects which are emphasised and all our physical education programs are designed for all the five. Its aim is not made to produce sportsmen, not merely khilaris, but individuals who attain these five aspects.

There are other aspects of physical education which are also emphasised. Sri Aurobindo once wrote an article on physical education, it is worth reading that article. Sri Aurobindo put down the values that can be taught through physical education. In physical education take for example, the drill. In a drill there is a mass movement, and in this mass movement no individual counts. The importance is the collective effect that can be produced by collective mass movement of the bodily movements. Therefore, an individual which wants to emphasise himself egotistically is greatly reduced in a mass movement of a drill. Nobody is important, collectivity is important so the value of collectivity is emphasised. The second is the physical movement or in games there is always what is called avoiding fouls. This is an accepted norm everywhere that if you have a foul, you get punished. So this idea that you should follow the game's rules is also a very important principle of education, but whenever there is any collective work, not only in games but in any aspect of work, people should accept that whenever doing any collective work, one must know the limits of one's functions, hierarchy and obedience to the rules of the game; so through physical education, even this value system can be imparted.

Third thing is in every game or sport you have success or failure. Now either sportsmanship gives you training, you should be able to be an equal minded growth in success and failure. The great principle of yoga samatvam yoga ucyate is practised in physical education. If you are successful, fine, if you are not even then you shake hands; both the defeated and the triumphant, both shake hands. Another value that can be taught through physical education is that you should be able to obey the order of the umpire. You may not accept the umpire's decision inwardly. You must think the umpire has gone wrong, but as long as the umpire has said, this is right, this is wrong; you must obey it. It’s also a very good training for young people that in every game there must be some umpire, whose final word is final, finished. We may say it is wrong, it may be wrong, but then there must be this idea that it's final, you should be able to accept it, it’s a game of collectivity. And finally, in physical education there are other aspects of a very high level; in physical education, ‒ the sense of adventure, hiking, mountaineering, various kinds of adventures that you have. The spirit of adventure is also very valuable and physical education can give you training in that direction.

Now, Sri Aurobindo’s own concept of the body is ‒ that the body is a very important instrument for the highest spiritual development. If you want to develop spiritually, spirituality is a very long journey even 100 years are not normally enough. It’s a very, very long journey and therefore, as opposed to many people who say that body is of no use, this world is of no use, this world is meaningless as opposed to this view Sri Aurobindo says that spiritual journey being a very long, you should see that your body can live long. Longevity should be cultivated and one should therefore be able to keep such good health that even at a very advanced age, you can be effective. You can exercise your bodily functions. Your intellect should be sharp. Your moral abilities should be sharp. Your wisdom should ripen. Actually, it is only at a later stage that one becomes wise and if at that time, wisdom can't be expressed then what's the point of your education. So education should also be developed with this idea.

In fact, Sri Aurobindo spoke of a very important ideal in Indian system of education, ancient system śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharmasādhanam, śarīramādyaṃ means a healthy body is sādhanam, is the very instrument of dharmasādhanam of doing anything that is ideal. Dharma means ideal, it's not religion, but any ideal is called dharma. So śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharmasādhanam to develop the body in such a way it becomes really an instrument of the performance and realisation of the ideal. Now these aspects of physical education have been emphasised.

Now to emphasise this in our experiments, we have found that physical education should be daily one hour at least, for every day without holiday; no holiday in physical education, all the seven days in the playground, your activity should be up. This is also part of discipline. If you are studying, if you are student, you should really be ready to study, and this is a fundamental condition of any enterprise that you take up, either you do not become a student, you say that I want to have leisure, I want a three days holiday, two months of vacation, and it means that you are not really interested in studying. If you want to study, then study should be rigorously done, daily. And I must tell you that this is a very successful experiment and the students of our centre of education have shown remarkable capacities of physical development. All the qualities which I spoke of have been remarkably developed. You are now from 1943 to the present day and all the students who have come out, if you see their bodies, it's a pleasure to see their bodies because every day they have physical education, I must also add that they would like to do it, because physical education can be a very great pleasure. People do not know how pleasant it is to be doing physical education, provided that your education is given in a beautiful manner.

There are three things which are added to physical education, music and physical education. When you have sports and games for every rhythmic game, you have special music. So you do your rhythmics, your movements are rhythms of your physical movement along with a musical piece. This makes your physical movement extremely pleasant, a variety of musical pieces and you're able to move your body rhythmically to the tunes of the rhythms of the music. The second point is the varieties of sports and games. If you have the same game every day, it is boring but if you have varieties of games then there is a great interest every day. And third, special events every month, or every fortnight, demonstrations and events, these three things make your physical education program extremely interesting. So this is one aspect of integral education.

The second aspect is vital education. Now vital education is a field which is very ill-explored. Up till now in the world people do not understand what vital education is. Mother has defined vital education as the following: ‘education of the senses, education of sensitivity, education of imagination, education of aesthetics, education of heroism, education of adventure, ‒ these are the aspects which are specially to be distinguished because very often these aspects are completely neglected. For example, I ask a child that if you go from your home to school, observe very clearly and describe very clearly all the things that you are seen, accurately like a scientist. You are obliged to use your eyes, your senses have to be developed, the power of observation. You examine a leaf; distinguish one leaf from another kind of leaf; in what their distinctions lie? in the colour, in the texture, in the shape in various kinds of marks that you have on the leaves, like the thumb marks on our palms. Similarly, on leaves also, there are many marks and you can distinguish one leaf of one kind from the other by merely observing very accurately. It’s only one of the exercises I’m telling you but like that all the senses can be developed.

We have developed even in physical education, certain exercises of sense development, to be blindfolded and yet to feel merely by feeling the presence. It’s a very interesting experience. You blindfold somebody and then somebody suddenly enters the room. You don't see him, but you feel it's a kind of a sensation, sensitivity that you develop. We have developed about 100 exercises of this kind by which the senses can be developed. Their capacities can be developed.

Then, of course, imagination. Sri Aurobindo has said: music, art and poetry, these are the three great instruments of refinement of consciousness, which are also contributory to spiritual education without doctrines. Poetry, music and art if you can teach children very well, there will not only be a great capacity of imagination, but they will also be having spiritual sensitivity.

Then comes mental education. Now, what is mental education? This is one of the most difficult subjects because of the fact that mental education is known to everybody and therefore is most difficult. Everybody thinks that mental education is done by teaching so many subjects. And then, since the time of Macaulay, we have decided that study of languages, mathematics, science, history and geography, if you do this, your mental education is complete. Now Sri Aurobindo said that mental education should be faculty-wise, instead of subject-wise. We have subject wise history, geography, science and so on, but education should be so devised that faculties of the mind are developed. Now, what are the faculties of the mind? Therefore Mother has written a beautiful article on the subject of mental education.

First faculty of mind is subtlety, gross and subtle; this is the one distinction that every mental being should be able to find out. There is a gross understanding of the subject and a subtle understanding of the subject. So you should have many exercises which will tell the children what is subtle. If an argument is presented, you should be able to find out the subtlety of the argument. Second capacity is complexity of the argument, is another aspect. You may be subtle but when complexity is presented then you may fail; to be able to hold a number of ideas together in a complex manner, so the mind becomes capable of complex thinking and therefore capacity to think from 10 different points of view.

You know in Jainism we have got a great big principle of anekantavada and that's a very good system, you can see the same truth from many points of view. From this point of view it is true from that point it is untrue, the same thing is true from another point of view, same thing is untrue from another point of view, anekantavada. It’s a very good exercise for complexity of the mind, mind then does not become partial, it becomes very impartial. It can appreciate the truth from wherever it comes. This great battle of religions, which is going on in the country and the world, can be greatly reduced if you have learnt anekantavada. It is a great contribution of Jainism to any religious movement. If you want all peace in the world, you can say: look, Christianity is right, Islam is right, Hinduism is right, Vaishnavism is right, Shaivism is right, Judaism is right from a certain point of view. You should be able to see the truth from all different points of view and take out the truth from everybody. This capacity of complexity of the mind is another capacity that you should develop. Then capacity is a consequence of it, of developing a thesis, antithesis and synthesis. This is another capacity of the mind, to argue for a thesis, to be able to argue for the antithesis and to be able to synthesise both of them is another capacity of the mind that you should be able to do.

Finally, you should have two more capacities. One is to be silent whenever you want to be silent mentally. This is one of the capacities we should be trained in. Normally, we are so much invaded by thoughts all the time that to be able to detach ourselves from the process of thinking, we do not know the art of it. How we can become silent when we want to be silent, when we want to think we can think when we want to be silent, we can be silent, is also mental capacity, which should be developed. And finally, mentally speaking, we should be able to arrive at central ideas regarding the world, regarding ourselves, regarding the work, whatever, wherever you go, you should be able to grasp the central idea, maybe the highest ideas, central ideas, highest ideas, overarching ideas. There is one very beautiful word Sri Aurobindo has given ‒ king ideas. There are king ideas in the world and you should be able therefore, to see what are the king ideas and to master the king ideas. These are the important elements of mental education and whether you study this subject or that subject or many subjects, the ultimate result should be that you should develop these capacities.

Then Mother spoke about psychic education. Psychic education is a part of spiritual education. As I told you, the method of psychic education is a method of exploration. You are not told, look, there is a soul in you and now believe in it. Every child should be given a possibility of exploring. In fact Mother said: that an individual should be able to explore whether there is in him a consciousness which is central consciousness, explore. This concept of central construction, central ideas, similarly in consciousness also there is something like a central consciousness. Ask every child and give this time, explore, whenever they want, it's not something like a class of spiritual education. It is in the atmosphere. Children are told from time to time; find out your central consciousness. Now to develop this exploration of central consciousness there are two or three important concepts, which can be helpful. To find out the central consciousness you should ask the question: what should be the aim of life? You put this question to everybody and you ask him, you find out what should be the aim of your life. The moment you put this question, the question itself is such that your central consciousness will begin to play because the aim of life is an overarching idea.

Ultimately, what do you want in life? Everybody has something, he wants to do something. The moment you put a question to him and give time to him to observe it, to explore it; you should not say look this is the aim of life again, explore. We have prepared a special book called the Aim of Life; the very method of the book is exploration. We have, for example, so many religions; each religion gives an aim of life. It’s very interesting; every religion speaks of an aim of life. Let every child explore these different aims of life, freely, there is no prescription that 'look this is the aim of life'. You discover for yourself, inevitably when this question is asked, every individual will be obliged to look within himself, this will help to discover his own central consciousness. What do I want?

Similarly, you ask every individual three questions, which are also very important questions. What is heroism? Just ask them to explore the idea of heroism. What is heroism, what is wisdom and what is true love, true harmony? Ask these three questions, explore these three questions; automatically the central consciousness will come up on the surface. These are the methods by which without teaching spirituality, you will give the chance to an individual to look within himself, to discover for himself that there is a spiritual dimension in man. That dimension becomes operative when these questions come up, even in ordinary life when these questions come up, the individual becomes awakened. If you ask a question, let us say what is heroism? You will be obliged to examine the biographies of great heroes, automatically, heroes of war, heroes of adventure, saints are also heroes, heroic souls who have been able to control their desires, impulses and become masters like jinas in Jainism also has a great role to play in examples, how many people have been able to control all the impulses of man, which normally obstruct man the study of all this, study of Christ for example, what heroism Christ manifests. Sri Aurobindo has said the crucifixion of Christ has humanised humanity. Humanity has become humanised even now if you look around the world crucifixion; he went to gallows knowing very well, many people do not know the life of Christ truly. The basic point was that he had said: I am the king. Christ said: ‘I am the king’ and the state government, which was ruled by the Roman emperor at that time, regarded that this claim of being a king is a treason because the emperor of Rome is the king. If any individual says: I am the king, it’s a treason that was the guilt of Christ and he was tried for this reason therefore, when this was this news went to the governor of Jerusalem, he was a Roman delegate, a resident governor delegate of Roman empire and when he was told that this man is now teaching the people of the country, a treacherous thing, a treason against the state.

Actually speaking, the Pharisees were very greatly opposed to Christ, because Christ was teaching something which they felt was a complete violation of their religion. Christ was such a great hero that one day he went to a temple of Jews, only Jews temples were there at that time and so many merchants were doing merchandise around the temple; they had become shopkeepers around the temple. He could not bear the sight that this sacred place is being made unholy by these shopkeepers, so he pulled out the shopkeepers from the shops and said this is not the place of merchandise. No authority of anybody, no authority of the state, nobody at all. So these shopkeepers came and said on what authority do you have to throw me out? This is our shop. How can you throw us out? The answer that he gave is to be told to every child of the world. He said: if this temple is brought down, raised to the ground, I can build it in three days time, that is my authority. If anybody can pull down this temple, I can build it in three days. This is the heroic answer he said: this is my authority. If anybody has this capacity, let him say and I will deal with the authority. I have this authority because of this power, which I have. All the great stories of heroism of all kinds, is a great impetus to the study of psychic consciousness, because, truly speaking, if you see what is psychic consciousness? Psychic consciousness is a divine spark in man, divine soul in man.

Now this divine soul in man has qualities which are different from the qualities of the body, life and mind. This is the distinguishing feature. Body life and mind to speak in the language of the Gita are all trigunatmak ‒ sattwa, rajas and tamas. These three gunas determine all the activities of the body, life and mind. The psychic consciousness is above sattwa, rajas and tamas; it is purely divine in character. Therefore if you study the heroism, actually heroism comes into play, there is no sattwa, rajas and tamas; it will be mixed up with it, but the fundamental force in it is purely spiritual. So if you study heroism, it's a wonderful subject to give the children the exploration of psychic consciousness.