Sri Aurobindo had attached much importance to national education. As a Professor in the Baroda College, he had full experience of the education given by the British system in the schools and colleges and in the universities, and he had been disgusted with it. That system, he had felt tended to dull and impoverish and tie up the naturally quick and brilliant and supple Indian intelligence, and to teach bad intellectual habit and spirit by narrow information and mechanical instruction its originality and brevity. It is to be noted that the movement of national education had begun well and many national schools were established in Bengal and many able men had become teachers. The development was, however, insufficient and the chemical position of the schools was precarious. Sri Aurobindo had decided to take up the movement personally and see whether it could be given a greater expansion in a stronger foundation, but his departure from Bengal cut short that plan. In the process of repression and the chance departure caused by it, most of the schools failed to survive. But the idea has lived on, and the perpetual continuity of the National Council of Education, which is alive organisation even today, can become a catalytic agent of major and revolutionary changes in the present system of education. In that process, Sri Aurobindo’s own writings on national system of education and the experiments carried out subsequently at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry as also those which are being conducted at Auroville and many other institutions which have been inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of education, can provide that powerful support and guidance.
As is well known, Sri Aurobindo wrote a series of articles on education in the Karmayogin during 1909-10 under the titles “A System of National Education” and “The National Value of Art”. He also wrote a preface on “National Education” which appeared in the Arya in 1920 in two parts. His book “The Synthesis of Yoga” in which we find extraordinary insights in regard to education appears serially in the Arya from August 1914 to January 1921 in four parts.
Sri Aurobindo had stated the basic issue in the national system of education not between modernism and antiquity but between an important civilisation and the greater possibility of the Indian mind and nature, not between the present and the past, but between the present and the future. According to him, the national system of education should mark a break forward away from the present artificial falsity to India’s own greater innate potentialities which are demanded by the soul of India. He argued that the aim and principle of a true national education is not to ignore modern truth and knowledge, but to take our foundation on India’s own being, own mind and own spirit. He further argued that the idea of national education challenges the efficiency of the assumption that the modern European civilisation as a thing that we have to acquire and fit ourselves for and so only can be lived and prosper and that what our education must do for us. He pointed out that India would do better, taking over whatever new knowledge or just idea the West has to offer to assimilate to its own knowledge and culture, its native temperament and spirit, mind and social genius and create there from the civilisation of the future.
Sri Aurobindo considered that India has seen always in the human being his soul, a part of the divinity enwrapped in the mind and the body, a conscious manifestation in Nature of the universal self and spirit. He concluded that the one central object of the national system of education should be the growth of the soul and its powers and possibilities has also the observation, strengthening and enrichment of the national soul and normative needs of its ascending movement. He also put forth in its aim the raising of both the individual soul and the national soul into the powers of life and ascending mind and soul of the humanity.
Sri Aurobindo has given to us a great heritage of profoundest philosophy of education which, if implemented, can prepare in men and women of India to become powerful instruments of Indian culture, its universality and its natural harmony and unity with the progressive forces of human civilisation which can culminate in the realisation of the ideal of human unity that recognises at once the freedom of each nation and the underlying oneness of the human species.
It is extremely gratifying that we are meeting here today under the patronage of the National Council of Education, which was founded by great leaders of the nationalist movement, including Bipin Chandra Pal, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and Surendranath Banerjee. It is also befitting on this occasion that we here today to join together in initiating a research project on “Sri Aurobindo and Nationalism”, and that a memorial
fund has been constituted for the purpose in the name of Shri Prithvi Singh Nahar, who was an ardent and illumined disciple of Sri Aurobindo, and he had offered his entire life to the study and practice of the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He was a poet and an art critic as also a profound philosopher who had entire mastery over Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga. In fact, one of the immortal services that he has rendered to this philosophy is his 100-page Index of “The Life Divine”, the philosophical magnum opus of Sri Aurobindo.
I would like to mention also in this connection that during my college days, it was that Index which helped me immeasurably to understand interconnection of complex and difficult ideas of this great philosophical work of Sri Aurobindo, and I am greatly indebted to him. I am also happy that this memorial fund has been created by the members of the family of Shri Prithvi Singh Nahar, all of whom have been my senior colleagues and whom I have respected and loved ever since I met them in 1956. On this occasion, I should also like to remember Shri Abhay Singh Nahar, one of the distinguished sons of Shri Prithvi Singh Nahar who has recently passed away but with whom I had intimate level of friendship. His entire life was devoted to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry, and after his education under the direct guidance of the Mother, he had ably organised several services of the Ashram ranging from carpentry to automobile workshop and transport. He was, indeed, heroic, courageous and scrupulously loyal to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the ideals that they had put forward for the integral yoga. I feel particularly happy that today, the 30th April is his birthday, and that this fund should occur on his birthday is to me a matter of special significance.
I am sure that the research project “Sri Aurobindo and Nationalism”, which is being launched today will prosper and will result in the production of numerous works that will being to light Sri Aurobindo’s pioneering work in the discovery of the soul of India and in the birth of Indian nationalism of which the freedom of India has been one of the victorious results. There is so much to learn from Sri Aurobindo, and there in him a perennial inspiration to practice the greatest lessons of the Indian heritage and Indian spirituality all contributing the evergreen fruits to the world of its dynamic spirituality, robust intellectuality and victorious vitality.
I feel greatly grateful to the National Council of Education for having invited me on this occasion and giving me a valuable opportunity to be a part of this programme and the launching of the research project on Sri Aurobindo and Nationalism.