We would like to present to ourselves the idea of what we can do, what we should do, and how we can do and what we 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 already have one research program that we 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 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 should have 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 this 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 materials 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 properly appreciate 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 philosophy is, 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 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.
But I have been constantly trying to find out what is the background material that we need to prepare. And when this project of research came up, this was also in my mind. In selecting the title, ‘The Aim of Life’, I was guided by one of the chapters of The Life Divine. The chapter is ‘The Aim of Life and Four Theories of Existence’. This is the title of the chapter in The Life Divine. And I tried to make a compilation of background material, so I would say that this whole book is only background material for this one chapter and, that too, not sufficient. Only for that chapter, this particular book can be used as background material.
Now, if you count so many chapters of The Life Divine and if you want to work out background material for each chapter, it’ll be a huge material. It would be very interesting. Actually Auroville, I personally believe, has to carry out that task: background material relevant to every chapter of The Life Divine. In fact, every chapter requires so much background material.
For the very first paragraph of The Life Divine, for example, one requires the entire history of human thought. In one paragraph, Sri Aurobindo has summarized it. Sri Aurobindo starts with the first awakened thought of mankind and the first formula of wisdom and the development of that thought throughout history, both East and West. And how Sri Aurobindo says that there have been periods of skepticism; there have been periods of deviation from that aspiration, but mankind comes back again and again. And how modern science has changed the scenario so much and yet, he says, we are satiated but not satisfied with all the modern knowledge of science. So if we want to explain the meaning of ‘having been satiated but not satisfied’, how shall we explain it to the students? It requires a lot of material. And then Sri Aurobindo says we have the promise ─ the first formula of wisdom promises also to be its last. Now, that this statement, which is futuristic, promises to be its last, raises many questions: how can you say it promises to be its last?
Even in that statement, in one paragraph, there is a statement where he uses the word ‘may’ and somewhere uses the word ‘is’. And from a philosophical standpoint it is a very important distinction. How much can you declare something philosophically in terms of ‘may’ and how much can you declare philosophically in terms of ‘is’? ‘Is’ is a statement of certainty; ‘may’ is a question of speculation and of doubtful validity. And in this very paragraph, at a very significant point, there is a use of the word ‘may’ and a use of the word ‘is’. And if you want to explain to students why this distinction, you are required to explain the philosophical method of the exposition of a truth and in what way the word ‘may’ used by Sri Aurobindo is justified and in what way the word ‘is’ used in that paragraph is justified.
If you can give all this material and then if the first paragraph is given, it will really come with a freshness to the student, that everything that is said there is so perfect. This is the material required even for the first paragraph of The Life Divine. And then, similarly, the first chapter if you take it up ─ the first chapter is only four pages but the material required to introduce this first chapter would be so heavy… but that work somewhere has to be done. The Life Divine to my mind is the epochal book and the future generations are bound to return to that book again and again, as we today return again and again to Plato, or refer to Aristotle. More than Plato and Aristotle, this particular book will be referred to as we move forward in the history of mankind. And this kind of a need will be always felt as to how we shall introduce The Life Divine to our students.
The same thing with regard to The Synthesis of Yoga: there is no book comparable to The Synthesis of Yoga in the history of the world. There are many treatises, but this particular book is of a very special kind and requires a lot of background material.
And the same thing can be said about every important book of Sri Aurobindo, like The Secret of the Veda. To introduce this book would require a hundred lectures, just to introduce the book — a really good introduction. And then if you go more and more into detail, it is a very difficult book, a very technical book, in fact. It’s a book of exegesis, a book of interpretation. And there are laws of interpretation. You cannot just write a book of interpretation unless you are technically equipped to interpret any text.
How do you interpret any text? It requires a tremendous amount of mastery over the subject matter and methods of interpretation. So that when you interpret a thing, from a technical point of view, you follow all the tenets of interpretation. In fact, in modern times, the philosophy of interpretation has become a very specialised subject. And lots of books have recently come out on how you interpret. And if you read Sri Aurobindo’s method of interpretation in the whole book, it is such a technically perfect book.
As one of the philosophers in India wrote, “It’s amazing how Sri Aurobindo read the Veda from 1910 to 1914 ─ only four years ─ and when he began to write The Secret of the Veda, the mastery of the work of the Veda and the way in which he interprets and gives an exposition of it at a technically perfect level is amazing! It’s miraculous and magical, in fact.
There are people who write books of interpretation, but they read books for 30, 40, 50 years before they attempt to make an interpretation. Here it is a historical fact that Sri Aurobindo had not read the Veda before 1910. And it is a fact that he began to write on the Veda in 1914. It’s a historical fact. Anybody can verify these facts. And how could one write that kind of a book? It’s an amazing phenomenon ─ the same thing about The Future Poetry. Of course, about The Future Poetry, we can say that Sri Aurobindo himself was a poet from an early stage of his life. But what he has written is the wealth of information that is needed to expound what Sri Aurobindo has written, you can write volumes on it, because the entire English literature and poetry, particularly, has been expounded in detail.
And The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity: how can anybody appreciate The Human Cycle without having a detailed knowledge of social organisations, the main theme of social organisations, the main theme of the history of social organisations? Namely, the theme of unity is the basic theme. Even to bring out that the whole human society, the whole theme of the development and history of society is the theme of unity; and by what means human societies have tried to achieve unity; and Sri Aurobindo’s grasp of all the levels of social development. In fact, Sri Aurobindo has said that it is a psychology of social development. At a psychological level, if you want to explain to students, how much work is needed!
So it is in that sense that I feel that a lot of research work requires to be done, by us and by those who will come after us, because it’s a huge amount of work and will require a tremendous programme.
So that was my second reason for preparing the materials for The Aim of Life.
My third reason was that a lot of the material that is given to students is usually given in a very highly technical manner, which is very uninteresting, very dry, very scholastic. And to all those who participated in the research work at that time, I had told them that our compilation should not be scholastic. Our emphasis should be on stories. Stories are easier means, or vehicles, of approach to students.
So we should try to find out stories that are relevant to the material that we want to present. We should have good introductions, where scholastic material can come; there can be good notes where scholastic expertise can be manifested. But the body of the story itself should be a very interesting story. This is a very difficult task. But that also was a point of view that was kept in view.
So these are three things that were in my mind and I’m happy to say that all who participated, participated in a tremendous spirit. And we had very, very good, very fruitful workshops, several times. In fact, in the CIRHU paper that I have written, I have given one full faculty of the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. And there I have written that the main task will be to collect and develop background material relevant to the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. That would be one full faculty.
I would like people in Auroville to reflect upon any work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and ask themselves this question, ‘How can this material be presented, can be made accessible to students of various levels, but particularly to the teachers?’ Because if teachers have understood the material very well, then they will be able to transmit to the students in due course. But we should also have materials which can be given directly to the students.
Now these two works which we have produced, The Aim of Life and The Good Teacher and the Good Pupil — at the beginning, we had no idea of the target group at all; we just allowed the things to come up sporadically and spontaneously. And now, when people read them, they all feel that these works are good for teachers: that is, if you want a target group, it is to teachers that you should present them and, that too, to teachers who have already quite a good deal of background. This material itself is quite difficult. You might need another research work based upon this to prepare materials which will be easier for students to grasp, for teachers at different levels to grasp. That also is necessary. In any case, people do appreciate that these two books are very good for teachers of a certain level.
So I would like to continue this, at least one target. We can continue with this series of research work. So let me complete this statement of this research work that we have started, that one line: I said the question was: what is essential for every human being, every student to learn about? And the answer that we are trying to arrive at ─ we cannot say definitively; it is still a question to be explored. And I would like a very collective exploration of this question.
But more and more it becomes clear to me that when Mother wrote her book, On Education, that book is actually an exposition of what every human being and every student needs to learn. I mean, there was already an answer given by the Mother, although Mother said, “We are here to answer that question”. But when I read again what Mother has written in that book On Education I found she’d already answered that question. Everybody needs to know what education is because everybody is, in one way or another, a teacher and a pupil.
Whether we like it or not, our whole human life is nothing but a process of education. Both psychologically and biologically, we are educationists. Everyone either becomes a teacher or becomes a parent and parents have to develop the children and they have to understand what education is. You cannot be a good parent unless you know what education is and how you can bring up the children properly.
Psychologically also, every human being ─ in fact, it is an inherent tendency to learn and to teach. How the cat, for example, teaches the kitten is a wonderful experience to watch; how a mother bird teaches the young one how to peck at things and how to grasp the grain and how to eat. It is inherent in all of us. The moment you learn, you want to transmit it. So everybody needs to learn what education is. And this is how the Mother wrote her book, On Education. The whole book is on education. That is the first answer I gave to myself.
The second answer was, education consists of what? And Mother described physical education, vital education, mental education, psychic and spiritual education ─ leading up to, promising a supramental education.
So, according to my understanding now, it means that every human being has a body, therefore has to learn about the human body. Everybody has vital energy, therefore has to understand what is vital. Everybody has a mind, therefore has to understand what is mind. Everybody has a soul and spiritual goal, ultimately. Therefore one has to understand it.
So these are what I think are essential elements that every human being and every student ultimately should be acquainted with. Up to what degree depends on your individual exploration, your needs, and so on. But something that is basic should be introduced at least to students and teachers and to everybody. So we have planned now on this basis, these two books are only preliminary books. The Aim of Life is directly connected with the psychic and spiritual education. Because Mother says ─ when she comes to discuss psychic education, she says psychic education is related to the aim of life.
So we have started with the fundamental problem of the aim of life. But much more work has to be done later on, when we come to purely psychic and spiritual education. This is, as it were, a kind of a preliminary to psychic and spiritual education.
The second book that we have prepared, The Good Teacher and the Good Pupil, is designed to explain what education is. Since everybody has to be a teacher, everybody has to be a pupil, one has to understand what is a good teacher, what is a good pupil. So these two are preliminary books. A third book is already almost ready and we have titled it The Mystery and Excellence of the Human Body. We already have got texts collected, mostly stories ─ very interesting material, useful material: what is body, what is the mystery of the body, and how the body can be led to its excellences, until we arrive at what Sri Aurobindo calls a divine body, starting with a normal kind of body, and the questions of health, first aid, nutrition, exercises of various kinds and systems of physical education, and marvels of perfection of the body, and then transformation of the human body leading up to the divine body. I mean, this is the one spectrum of the whole book and yet it’s a small book. The texts which are taken are very simple. A lot of work has been done in this field and already it is almost ready, you might say.
The fourth book that we want to work on, and where I invite all of you, is a very difficult book and it cannot be done except with the collaboration of all. And that pertains to vital education. In a sense, we might say vital education is the most difficult part of the process of education. Physical education is much easier because you can see the physical, physically. The mental education is simpler because the mind is a very specialised instrument. But the vital is present ─ it is a connecting link, as Sri Aurobindo says. It is present in the physical; it is present in the vital, of course; and it is present in the mental and also at the higher levels.
What is the vital and how the vital can be educated? What is essential about the vital that we must present in this book? What are the dimensions of the vital education? So one day, when I come here for quite some time, I would like to have a workshop especially on vital education, where we can all sit together and we can explore and contribute ─ everyone can contribute because, as I told you, our whole idea is to have stories. We can have texts that are not stories but, basically, our approach is to present everything through stories, so that the presentation is very interesting and people like to enter into it. This is the pedagogical aspect of the writing of the book. Everything that you prepare should be interesting. Now, we are only at the planning stage, as far as this aspect is concerned.
In this connection I have also, with the help of people in Auroville, prepared a kind of a syllabus, a curriculum. I am opposed to curricula, myself, but I am not opposed to making flexible programmes. A curriculum which is closed and which has got its own edges marked out, I don’t like. But there can be programmes, flexible programmes. So, a flexible programme of vital education which ultimately amounts to emphasis on the vital impulses and the methods by which vital impulses can be trained. It has physical aspects; it has mental aspects; it has spiritual aspects. All of them are to be taken into account, but the focus is vital education.
And, in this respect, a curriculum of vital education ultimately results in a very important education called character development. No character can be built unless you deal with vital education properly. This basic stuff of character development is a vital force. And no character development can be complete without spiritual education.
So it’s a kind of a syllabus or a curriculum and, for purposes of presenting to the country as a whole, I have of course made it a little artificial in the sense that there is Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV, Class V, up to Class XII, because that is how people in our country at least today demand the programme to be classified. But it is only a kind of an artificial thing which can be forgotten, as far as we are concerned. But all the topics which I have written there could be quite relevant to the work that we want to do in this book. This is not complete; it is only a first draft, as it were, and much more can be done and we can, by collaboration, develop it further. I would like to invite all people in Auroville, because this is a subject in which everybody can participate and can contribute, to find stories which are relating to the vital and vital education.
Here again, there is a very important chapter in The Life Divine which is entitled ‘The Problem of Life’. The title of the chapter itself is ‘The Problem of Life’. And in respect of that problem Sri Aurobindo has said there are three powers in the human being by which the vital can be uplifted: the power of illumination, the power of love, and the power of heroism.
These are the three powers by which the vital can really be uplifted from its normal moorings to instincts and impulses and wildnesses of various kinds which create the problem of life.
So I have been guided by this insight that Sri Aurobindo has given as to what should be our fundamental thrust in collecting stories from all parts of the world which will illustrate the problem of life and how that problem can be resolved, how a particular situation or how a particular aspect of human personality can be resolved by power of illumination, or the power of heroism, or the power of love.
I must say that the Mother preferred the use of the word ‘harmony’ instead of ‘love’ because once when I wrote down to the Mother that the aim of education has to be the development of wisdom, strength, love and skills, the Mother said that it was a good formulation, but she struck off the word ‘love’ and she put the word ‘harmony’. So, because the word ‘love’ is very much misunderstood in the world today and the word ‘harmony’ is the real word that should be made current. So, I have put down these three words ─ stories that illustrate the power of illumination, the power of harmony and the power of heroism ─ these three powers.
As I make exploration in this field ─ I am telling you more in detail about this because I am inviting you all to participate in this research programme. I would like to tell the students the stories of human culture. That is to say, that these stories will have – that by telling these stories, the students will also be introduced to the history of culture, history of Eastern culture, history of Western culture. It will serve a purpose of introducing the students, through these stories, into the heart of culture, because if you examine the stories, actually, one of the best uses of stories is to bring children to the heart of the culture. If you read Ramayana, Mahabharata, you enter into the stories of India which give you real insight into the culture of India.
If you want to understand Indian culture, one of the important characteristics of Indian culture is that the genius of the mentality of Indians is basically, from a certain point of view, very slow, as compared to dynamic cultures of many countries, where the development and movement is very fast. In India, the human mind seems to be ─ not that it is slow; it seems to be ─ working slowly. That is because it has a tendency to assimilate any actions or reactions which are around in the surroundings ─ an assimilation around a spiritual centre. And since the spiritual centre is very deep and very remote, this tendency of assimilation is a long process. And assimilation is an inner process but outwardly it seems to be a very slow process. It arrives at a conclusion after a very long period of assimilation, consideration, and arrives at a conclusion. And having arrived at a conclusion, it has a capacity to adhere to that conclusion or decision and would not easily change it. And this is a very important aspect of the Indian mentality.
There is a very fine sentence in the Ramayana of Tulsidas: prana jayai baru batchan na jayai: one word that you have spoken cannot be shaken, once you have pronounced it, even if it means the cost of your life. This is the character of Rama. Once you have made a statement, the word you have spoken cannot be violated afterwards. Now, that means that you take a long, long time before you make a statement, because your honour, your sense of honour ─ every culture is fundamentally having a terminal point. It ends in some kind of honour.
To be a Frenchman, you have an honour in being precise, in being aristocratic in intellectual power. You are really French if you can have ─ if somebody says, “Oh, your ideas are very poor, very nebulous” a Frenchman will feel very hurt. The Frenchman has an honour in being precise. And even in the language you can see that the word ‘précisément’ is a word which is very often used in the French language. It’s not used in India, for example. That is to say, you have stated everything precisely and yet, to make it more precise, in brief, you make a statement. So French culture is very much expressed in the language itself. This is how we must understand every culture has something very special which is even expressed in the language.
Indian culture has this very great speciality, as I told you; it takes time to make a statement but it is a dishonor if you are afterward required to change it. In the West, you make a statement now because you find it is right at present, but there is no shame at all if tomorrow new facts come in your picture and you say, “Tomorrow my opinion is different”. It’s a fact. “Tomorrow new facts will come into my vision and therefore my opinion will be different tomorrow.”
In India, it’s a shame. “Why did you not take into account that tomorrow new facts will come into your picture? Therefore be very slow; assimilate all that could be; try to understand, you take into account everything that has come into your ken, assimilate properly, then you come to a conclusion, then you make a statement, so you don’t have to retreat afterwards.”
This is a speciality of Indian culture. If you look at Indian minds, you will find that they are hardly promising. They will hardly make any promises. Human beings in India will not make promises easily. They’ll take a long time before a promise is made, but you can be sure that once a promise is made, the genius of India does not allow you to change it after so easily. There can be changes, but not so easily. That is why also in India there is a lot of conservatism, conservation. To change, to make India radical, it takes a lot of time. But once it takes up the problem of radical change ─ it takes time to make it, but once it does it, it does it marvelously. And suddenly, there is a mutation, as it were: a new face comes up. That’s why Sri Aurobindo said the renaissance of Indian culture will be such that the spirit will remain the same, but the entire mind, body, life will be quite new. That will be the Indian renaissance; that is what is going to happen.
So I have found that for this particular book that we are planning about vital education we will also collect stories that are particularly indicative of various cultures, so that a student enters into the very heart, through stories. If you study Rama’s character, you really enter into the Indian culture. If you read Mahabharata, for example, one illustration: Arjuna decides, on a particular day, before sunset I will kill my enemy, Jayadratha, who killed my son illegitimately. That was the promise he made in the morning. He says, “Before sunset, I must kill Jayadratha and if I cannot kill him, I’ll kill myself.” That’s the promise he makes. And it was almost evening, actually. And Jayadratha was not killed. It’s a very important story in Mahabharata. And it was evening already. The sun seemed to have set. And the birds came out in the evening. And Jayadratha, knowing very well that now Arjuna will kill himself and that there is no danger at all ─ he was hiding himself the whole day, so that he does not face Arjuna; Arjuna does not know where Jayadratha is hidden. He now, in his exuberance, came out of his hiding. And suddenly the sun was again seen in the sky. The story is that Sri Krishna, who was the charioteer of Arjuna and who knew the promise of Arjuna, and who knew that if this vow is not fulfilled that Arjuna will be finished and the whole Mahabharata will be over. The entire purpose of Mahabharata will be defeated. So it is said that Sri Krishna made that play, that magic – it is said in many ways. It was also said that it was a day of eclipse which took place at that time and only a short time of that eclipse. And because of the eclipse the sun seemed to have set and Jayadratha came out. And that was how Arjuna was enabled to fulfil his promise, because as soon as Jayadratha came out, Sri Krishna told Arjuna, “Here’s your enemy in front of you. You kill him.”
This is also to show you how the Indian culture ─ it takes a long time before promises or vows are made but, once a vow is made, there is a tremendous force in fulfilling it. In fact, one of the important aspects of Indian culture is a series of vows. Indian culture is nothing but a series of vows. If you go to villages, out of 365 days, nearly 300 days are days of vows, of one kind or another. Today is the 11th day of the month and therefore only fruits are to be eaten; nothing else can be eaten. On such and such a day, you cannot eat before evening; only after the evening can you eat. For ten days in a month you can only drink water and nothing else. Various kinds of vows: you can only wear such colours of cloth, a white colour, or green colour, or red colour, and so on. This is because the whole system is based upon promises that you make to yourself and your desire to keep to your promises, so Indian culture cannot be understood without entering into stories of this kind.
I would like therefore stories of harmony, stories of illumination, stories of heroism, not necessarily separately, because stories of heroism can also be stories of harmony and illumination at the same time and vice versa, either in their simplicity or in their singularity or in a combination of all three elements. I would like stories to be told from all cultures of the world, or all major cultures of the world, or at least Eastern and Western, so that ultimately the two cultures can come together, understand each other more properly. There is a great need among human beings today to understand different cultures. I was told when I went to Holland once that in Holland nobody gives you an answer ‘Yes’ very easily. Even the method of saying ‘yes’ will be almost ‘No’.
Unless you know the culture of Holland, you may misunderstand why somebody takes so much time to answer the question in the affirmative. Why the first answer is no. It can be misunderstood. I don’t know if this is the culture of Holland. I may be wrong. I’m only telling you an example of why, if it is so, it should be understood.
In England, for example, I know that there is one sentence which is clinching an argument, which you can argue and come to the ultimate point where conviction is to be generated, you should say, ”If it pays, it pays.” You can argue as you want, but the final conviction will come when you can say, ‘It pays. It pays.’ So, look, it pays. Argument is complete.
So we can collect stories of these three things from Eastern and Western culture. But we can also give themes ─ basic themes ─ of cultures, if possible; not that you should be absolutely rigid about it.
I would very much like, first of all, good stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, as far as Indian culture is concerned. I would very much like the stories from Iliad, Odyssey, Greek mythology ─ some very good stories; if you can put them side by side, I would like to bring out the first volume only on this.
And many other stories, for example, the Vedic cycle. The Vedic cycle of Indian culture was devoted to the search for immortality. And the story of Savitri, for example, refers to that particular cycle, where the entire thrust of the whole story is search for immortality; it’s the search of the conquest over death. In fact, I would very much like that the series would start with the story of Savitri, as told in Mahabharata. It’s a story of the Vedic cycle, a brief story, and I would like to end the whole series of the stories on vital education, at the end, with Savitri, as expounded by Sri Aurobindo. This is how I conceived it: what’s at the beginning is also at the last. We begin our story telling with the story of Savitri, as told in Mahabharata and end with the story of Savitri, as told by Sri Aurobindo. This is the first and the last, as it were.
This is my first draft thinking I’m just putting before you. There can be four or five volumes of stories. We can have the story of Draupadi, for example, the story of Damayanti and Nala; these are special stories of Indian culture. Many of you may not know these stories at all, but they are very, very interesting stories; they tell you what life is. If you read the story of Nala and Damayanti, the entire gamut of human life is described through this story. The stories of normal experience, stories of occult experience, stories of supernormal experience, stories of the action of man, action of Gods, the vicissitudes of human life, from rise to fall, and fall to rise, the entire vision of Indian life is portrayed in one story, Nala and Damayanti. Therefore, I give a great importance to this story, Nala and Damayanti. In one story, the Indian vision of human life is described. I’m told that Sri Aurobindo, if someone wanted to learn Sanskrit, used to recommend Mahabharata’s account of Nala and Damayanti. If one wants to learn Sanskrit very easily, he used to recommend the story of Nala and Damayanti as told in the Mahabharata in Sanskrit. It’s very well told and very easily told. And if you have a little bit of Sanskrit you can go into this story much more easily.
Similarly, Iliad ─ most of you know better than I do ─ has many interesting stories.
The Odyssey also has many interesting stories, stories of heroism; even stories of harmony, although most often there are stories of war, their main thrust is toward harmony.
So I would very much like stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata and the stories from Iliad and Odyssey, particularly. The first volume should contain stories of this kind so that the children who read or teachers who read get into the heart of the Western and Indian culture quite well.
And there are many stories. For example, in the middle, I want to put only four stories from Shakespeare. I consider four stories as told by Shakespeare extremely important for vital education. So that if you read these four stories, the vital being is purified; there is a catharsis of the vital being in the story of Hamlet, the story of Othello, the story of Macbeth, and the story of King Lear. Hamlet is the story of an intellectual man who has not been able to arrive at a conclusion and remains in a state of doubt, and how tragedy overtakes him and gives a catharsis, actually, as to how not to allow doubt to prevail upon you. If you are intellectual, it is good; intellectual people always remain doubtful for a long time. Scepticism is a normal characteristic of the intellectual personality. But if you remain only in that field, then the vital being overtakes you ultimately and the intellect is not able to illumine you, and therefore ultimately it results in a tragedy. And when you read the whole drama, you find a Hamlet in each one of us, in some way or the other, at a certain stage of our life. And then we become illuminated: “Well, I should not live like Hamlet.”
Macbeth is a purely ambitious personality which is overtaken by a tragedy.
Othello is a story of a true lover overtaken by doubt, jealousy; ultimately he kills his own wife whom he loved most dearly. And ultimately, when he finds the truth, he kills himself.
When you read the story, the lesson goes home: let us not be jealous. Jealousy is overcome through this very story itself; when you read the story; it’s a tremendous cultural catharsis that occurs in our consciousness. This can happen ─ when you are jealous, when you begin to doubt, the doubt can be completely unfounded. We become much wiser, much better.
King Lear is a man of attachments, petty attachments, vital attachments, who expects so much from his daughters that ultimately he gets disillusioned and becomes mad. It’s a tragedy arising out of the pettiness of the attachments to which you reduce yourself to and then how you are ruined. It’s a great lesson for humanity: how not to be attached in this way, and to rise above it.
So I would like these four stories somewhere in the series. I already collected a number of stories which I shall present to you in the next workshop on this book that we shall arrange. I’ll request Alain to arrange when I come next, we can have all those of you who are interested and who can bring treasures from your own knowledge to this banquet. We shall be very happy to receive good stories from you think can go into this collection.
I’ll bring whatever collections I have made so far and exchange our views on them and see how they can be arranged.
So this is the project that is already on and I want to develop it. And you can see that these stories, once you combine them, how useful it will be to the teachers of Auroville and to the children of Auroville. You will have good material, a new kind of material and a new kind of education.
And then I want to start the next book which, provisionally, I have entitled Ideas. It’s about mental education. And the title of the book will be Ideas. Just as vital education is basically through stories, so mental education will be mainly through ideas. It’s very difficult to find stories to illustrate ideas because, most often, the stories are written around our vital impulses and our vital emotions. You don’t easily find stories which can illustrate ideas. But if you can find stories that can illustrate ideas, I’d be very happy. In any case, I would like to have short statements which are clear and which, when presented to the children, their own mind becomes clear — so a statement of clear ideas, so the children understand what is clarity. In fact, Descartes said that clarity is a sign of truth. An idea which is clear and precise, it’s a definition of truth, according to him. So I would like to have examples of clear ideas, stated clearly. Then I want ideas which are subtle. Children should know what subtlety is. And children should have the experience of what may be called complex ideas. We should be able to give an anthology of ideas which are complex in character and, finally, ideas which are global in character. I want a compilation of clear ideas, subtle ideas, complex ideas, and global ideas. So think about it. It may come to us after two years, this particular programme, in the meantime kindly collect in your own mind, in your own notebooks, ideas which can illustrate these four themes: clarity, complexity, subtlety and globality.
And then I want to come to the fourth book: psychic and spiritual education. And I have not yet reflected upon it, so I’ll not yet be able to tell you how I think of planning about it. But here also I invite you all to think about it and see how best we can collect materials which are pertaining to psychic and spiritual education.
I would like to register you all in this programme, whether you like it or not, because I am really very, very keen to harvest ─ because I know that you are well-read, have thought a lot and are interested in education. You’ve had the benefit of very high education in your own life, so you can make a very good contribution. So I would like to register you all. Afterward you can retire if you don’t like but in my registration I would request Alain at least to put down the names of everybody who is present now and open the register: from Auroville, anyone who wants to register himself or herself or anyone whom you want to suggest; if a person does not come forward, I would like to go to him or to her and request him or her to participate in this programme.
To my mind, this is a programme of CIRHU, the Centre of International Research in Human Unity, because these books are ultimately targeted toward unity of mankind. Through this kind of educational material, the basic theme is unity of mankind.
And I want international research, that is to say, people of both East and West to be engaged, to be brought together in this research work. And once we start this work, I will say to myself, “CIRHU has started”, under the trees, benign shadow under which we are sitting today. In fact, I would say this is the inauguration of CIRHU, because we’ve already started here. I would like to register your names, as researchers, and I want your help.
This is one important programme of CIRHU. And, before we disperse, I would like to introduce to you the second programme that I would like you to participate in, you and others who are not here, but who can.
In this paper I have written, I have spoken of one central faculty and seven subsidiary faculties. The conception I put forward is that the Centre of International Research in Human Unity will be a kind of an open institution, or no institution at all; it will be No School, basically.
This centre is actually to be conceived as No School, in which the method will be not the method of schooling but the method of research. Even the students who will learn will learn through the method of research. And whatever is learned, even through lectures, through books, many other things which are normally connected with schooling, will be subsidiary. At a certain stage, I had written a statement about higher education. And I had made ten points.
And I had sent these ten points to the Mother. And, when approving this programme for higher education, she had said, “Now it is to be implemented thoroughly and sincerely”. So she had approved of the whole programme that was given here, which is not a programme really of any deep curriculum but a method of work. And I’ll read out to you and I would very much like to present to you these ten points, because when we are trying to develop higher education in Auroville and when our idea is basically to develop no school, these ten points may help us. Not that we should be confined to these ten points, we can always be flexible, open; but this was the idea. It said:
Since the free progress approach governs all studies in the higher course
1. There is no compulsion with regard to any subject of study.
2. The choice of a subject for study is made by the student in accordance with his real and serious quest.
3. His course or subject thus selected constitutes a short or a long project according to the nature of the topic and the decision of the student.
4. In exploring each subject of study, the student takes the help of the teacher or teachers whom he chooses.
5. In guiding the students, the teachers are expected to widen and intensify the area of exploration to avoid narrow specialisation or wide superficiality.
6. Each student’s programme of studies should be flexible and evolutionary.
7. In the selection of topics of study, the student is not confined to a single faculty such as Arts, Science, Engineering Technology, even though he may belong predominantly to any of these faculties.
8. The period of study for the predominantly Arts or Science student is three years and that of the predominantly Engineering Technology students is five years.
9. The exact quantum of work to be covered by each student for his selected course cannot be predetermined, but in order to have successfully completed his course, he should have shown regularity of sustained effort, development of capacities, understanding of his subjects, and the power of answering relevant questions orally and in writing with sufficient clarity and precision. The quality of the work is considered more important than the quantity of the work, although the latter, also, should not be meager but commensurate with high standards.
10. There is no system of conventional examinations or tests and the system of continuous assessment and evolution of the student is continued.
As already stated, in the Centre of Education, there were no degrees or diplomas.
Then I’d stated something which I don’t want to read because it is not necessary. So this is what I had proposed at that time. Now, all this may not be immediately applicable here, but it may be helpful, because while approving it, Mother had said, “You must now practice it thoroughly and sincerely”.
So I would like you to study so many topics I have given here. You can add your own topics which you think are not here. You can even make a comment saying, “This is quite unnecessary”. Paulette has already given me a list of topics which are not here but which ought to be here. This is very helpful. Some others have also mentioned something to me. I have received some requests from some people ─ young people ─ that they would like to be part of higher education. They would like to participate in this. They have their own ideas. All are welcome.
We can continue tomorrow again and I’ll be happy to explore with you ─ today I have spoken largely; perhaps tomorrow you would like to speak much more than I can and I would like to develop as to how we should go about ─ I would like your advice. I believe that in Auroville we need to develop higher education. We need to develop research of the highest order. We have here talents, capacities which can be harnessed to this kind of research work. There are students who are in need of higher education. They need to be attended to. So tomorrow we shall discuss this question in detail. I will request Deepti first of all to introduce the subject because she has been teaching some students who are, according to me, perhaps going to enter into higher education soon. I’ll request other teachers also, who are not here perhaps but who can come, who may be in contact with young people of Auroville and who, in their opinion, should also be part of higher education. Maybe in some respects they are fit for higher education and in some respects they are not. And we have open schools ─ I mean, it is no school, so it is not necessary that they should be fully in higher education. We can have a flexible system in which students can float between this level and that level. But all this we can discuss tomorrow, so that at the end of tomorrow we can have some clear idea, some programme of activity which we’ll start with higher education.
This is what I wanted to tell you today but, if you have any questions now, if they’re short questions and if you’re not in a hurry I can answer or I can share with you whatever I can share; or else we can meet tomorrow.
Question: When you talk about higher education I hear implied ─ I may be wrong ─ that this higher education is something that we old-in-body people would offer to the younger-in-body people, but I actually feel that higher education is something that we could offer each other, irrespective of body age, actually. Because I know for myself that there are many things where I would require the instruction or the help or the guidance of someone who had taken the subject further, but I wouldn’t be able to go if we aimed CIRHU or higher education only at the young-in-body.
Answer: No, you are right.
Comment: Yeah? And I have a feeling that may be true generally, that we’ll find that we have gaps in our maturity, in the education of our minds and that there really should be an effort to make this open to people of all body ages.
Answer: Yes, I agree entirely, absolutely — most enthusiastically. It is a centre of research, basically in which students of younger age will take advantage of. But basically it is for students of all ages.
All right? Thank you so much.