The larger problems of humanity are connected with civilization and the burden of civilization rests on the shoulders of teachers. They are the carriers of civilization from epoch to epoch. Therefore, it is always important that teachers are reminded that they have to carry in their own being the highest meaning of civilization.
Civilization and culture are inter-related; there is no doubt that culture and civilization meet together when the human mind begins to develop. Every civilization at the minimum level should develop the mind. The mind is triangular in character. It has three aspects. It has the aspect of rationality; the aspect of ethics and morality and the aspect of aesthetics. When Plato spoke of pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness, he meant to identify these three important elements of the mind and wanted a synthesis of these three. Whether a culture is higher or lower can be measured in terms of the synthesis of these three. India is culturally very high because of the fact that it has pursued these three ideals at the highest possible level. Therefore, we the teachers, who are the carriers of Indian civilization and culture, have to embody the highest peaks of culture that India has manifested throughout its long history.
Indian culture has gone one step farther and that is the dimension of the spirit of man. There have been civilizations like the Greek civilization that had developed all the three aspects, ethical, rational, aesthetic. There was the Egyptian civilization which developed, to some extent, morality, occultism and religion, but on other aspects it was quite undeveloped. The Romans developed a high sense of ethicality, but not such a great sense of aesthetics nor such a great sense of rationality.
Today, all over the world, Greek culture has been revived because of the Renaissance. The rebirth of Greek culture has had an impact on all of us; but the most important thing which was lacking in Greek culture was the power of
the spirit to synthesize properly truth, beauty and goodness. If there is one culture in the world which has profoundest experiences of the spirit of man, it is Indian culture. That is why responsibilities of Indian teachers exceed the responsibilities of teachers anywhere in the world because they have to rise to that peak where truth, beauty and goodness can be synthesized. The synthesis is a very difficult problem; only spirit can do it.
One can be highly rational and yet not aesthetic. One can be aesthetic, but not moral; to synthesize all the three is the most difficult problem of human life. During some periods of Indian history, these three aspects became extremely united. When I speak of teacher enrichment, it is this aspect which I want to emphasize.
Education means fundamentally, cultivation of culture and particularly for us, Indian culture. Indian culture has tremendous potential of giving the world the highest flowering of consciousness.
There is a possibility of developing our country through programs of enrichment. How to teach a subject is very important and every teacher should be a master of pedagogy in his own subject. So, one of my complaints in India is that our pedagogy is extremely poor. We have hardly made an effort to consider how a given subject should be taught to students. NCERT was conceived as an institution for pedagogy, but our historical background is so poor as far as education is concerned since Macaulay came to India and uprooted our basic foundation of education.
My own development of this teacher enrichment program is based upon one fundamental question, a question on which I have done research for the last thirty years. The question is very simple; but very difficult to answer. What is it that every human being as a human-being should learn? In fact, true education is human education.
Swami Vivekananda said, his main challenge to everybody was, to ask themselves what is man and how should man develop as a man? What is a human-being and what should he learn in his life. This is the basic question on which I have spent many years and it is in the process of that research, that I have compiled several books. This research is an ongoing process and while I present some of the insights, I invite you to contribute to this research. It is a research to be shared by all. I have so far produced mainly four books in answer to this question. Every human being should know the aim of life, if at all it has any aim. Our research may show that human life has no aim.
Scientifically, it should be open to any kind of possible answer. But if it has an aim, what is that aim? One of the greatest contributions of India right from the beginning was to raise this question in education. This is the one question which was knocked out by Macaulay in our system of education. This is one of the reasons why we say the Macaulay system needs to be replaced.
I would recommend that every teacher in India should read the Taittiriya Upanishad. The first Chapter is a Manual of Education. If you read only the first Chapter, it is enough for teachers. It gives you the basic answer to this question, what is the aim of life and puts you on to the anvil of research and takes you to a very high level. Within 3-4 pages, you are on the top. That is the specialty of Upanishadic literature. All Upanishads are short statements, which can be read within half an hour. But this half hour takes you to 200 years of expansion.
The second point that I make is, since every living being in this world is a natural teacher and educator, every human being should know what is teaching and what is learning. Therefore, I have worked on a second book, which is called ‘The Good teacher and the good student’.
Thirdly, every human being has a marvellous instrument of work. The basic instrument of work is the body. What is the marvel of the body? I would like every teacher to answer this question.
So in answer to that, I have prepared this book called ‘Mystery and Excellence of the Human Body’. Modern science has discovered tremendous energy in the atom. Similarly, every cell in the human body has all mighty power in it. Sri Aurobindo wrote in ‘Savitri’ that all mighty power rests in the cell. The third question is, what is the power of the cell and how should one develop this cell?
Now we come to the fourth question. Every human being is required to rise from his present level to the higher level, wherever he or she may be. Is there a magnet by which a human being can be lifted? I have come to a tentative conclusion that there are three great ideals which can serve as magnets. If you can put before children these three ideals, children will be uplifted. – the power of illumination, power of heroism and power of harmony.
These three powers are irresistible powers. No human being can remain insensitive to the power of illumination; no human-being can remain insensitive to the power of heroism; no human-being can remain insensitive to the power of harmony. Therefore, if you want to be a good teacher, I would suggest that you search for those examples in the history of the world, examples of those who have achieved illumination; of those who have been heroic in their lives; those who have worked for harmony. Pick up from the history of the world, East, West, make no distinctions. The world is one and everywhere there are examples of these three.
So, I am writing a fourth book. This book will comprise 85 monographs. I have prepared ten so far, but 75 are still open. Here is one monograph that I have written. The others have all been edited by me, but this one I have written
myself. It is Homer and the Iliad and Sri Aurobindo and the Ilion. Many of us might not have heard about Ilion; Homer, Shri Aurobindo and Ilion. Sri Aurobindo is known in India, but that he wrote a poem for Ilion is hardly known to anybody. It is difficult to write on Ilion. Ilion means Troy. In modern Turkey, for example, there is a place called Troy. If you go to any Western school or University, you are taught the War of Troy. We have heard of Helen of Troy, but what is the story of Helen of Troy and what is the heroism in that poem? Why was Homer one of the greatest poets of history? You might say that from a purely poetic point of view, Homer even today remains unsurpassed. Every teacher should know the greatest poet in the world, why he is the greatest and why he still remains unsurpassed.
I would like our teachers to tell our children that Sri Aurobindo wrote a poem on the story of Troy, which is 100 pages long and which is, according to me, even greater than what Homer had written on the same subject. It is a story of the War of Troy, the Trojan War. It was the war between the Trojans and Greeks. It is a tremendous story. Achilles is one of the greatest heroes of that story. This story concentrates upon that great Achilles and if you read Shri Aurobindo’s characterization of Achilles, he is the most inspiring character.
I have also deliberately chosen Alexander the Great. This is a story known to most people but Alexander has to be understood in many ways not only as a man of personal ambition, but as a unifier of the world. It was Alexandra who wanted to unite the whole world; that vision is very important.
I have also chosen Joan of Arc. According to me, every student should learn the story of this young girl. At the age of 18, she became the Commandant in Chief of the French Army. A woman who was a shepherdess, suddenly, said that the Voice of God told her to go to the King of France, offer her services and lead the army. She obeyed that command and succeeded. She
can be really regarded as the Mother of French Nationalism, just as Rani of Jhansi may be regarded as the Mother of Indian Nationalism. Mark Twain said that the greatest story in world history is the story of Joan of Arc.
I would like teachers and students to learn about all these great heroic luminous individuals, who have changed the history of the world and who have given the real story of culture, really shown what human-beings can be and ought to be.
The word exploration is very important. I believe education is exploration and the spirit of exploration should be constantly guiding us. We must never be dogmatic, but remain open always to new truth, better truth, higher truth, still higher. This should be the spirit of everybody. To be a good teacher, you should be exploring and all these books are written in the spirit of exploration.
I am now summarizing the whole human history, as far as the aim of life is concerned. I have been a student of Sri Aurobindo and I must tell you that Sri Aurobindo has made a study of human history like nobody has done in the world, and having studied the whole history of mankind, he has summarized it. I am only a small carrier of what he has shown. He has said that if you look at the whole history of mankind, all the aims of life can be summarized into four categories.
First is the Supra Cosmic View. Next is the Cosmic Terrestrial View. The third is the Supra Terrestrial View and the fourth is the Integral View.
If you take any philosophy, materialism, vitalism, idealism, religions, they can all be covered under these four categories. Once you know there are four aims of life, you can put any aim in one of these categories. It is the ready reckoner. If you ask anybody what is the aim of life, the moment, he starts speaking; you can put him in one of the categories.
As we move forward, we shall come to define these four aims of life. I start with Ishopanishad because in this, both for India and the world, for the first time, a comprehensive view of life was presented. The 18 verses of the Ishopanishad give you, what I can call the integral view of life, how to integrate all aspects of life – the supra cosmic, cosmic, supra terrestrial and integral. So, this is my invitation to everybody - if you want to know the integral view of life, read the Ishopanishad.
Now I come to a view of life which is entirely supra cosmic. This is the search for utter transcendence. According to Buddha, this world can be transcended totally. You can arrive at a consciousness which takes you altogether away from this world, that is, a reality which has nothing to do with this world at all. A possibility exists for man to find this reality.
I will now come to apology. It is one of the greatest dialogues written by Plato in which he has shown that according to Socrates, the greatest thing that man should do is to examine life. He said, if you do not examine what is life, you have not lived life. It is a cosmic view of life; that is to say, when you are in the world, in the cosmos and if you want to do the best in the cosmos itself, don’t go to utter transcendence. The main thing is life is heroism.
On his death bed, Socrates was teaching philosophy. He was being asked to drink poison, so that he may die. This was the punishment given by the citizens of Athens, because he was teaching philosophy and people were uneasy about it. He accepted the poison; he said I am a citizen; I do not agree with you, but I am a part of the citizenship. They said, if you stop teaching philosophy, then you can live. But he refused. He said he would rather die than stop teaching. So he drank the poison rather than accept this condition of life. He died immediately thereafter.
This is also the cosmic view of life and adventure - adventure in this world and ambition to unite the world. If you examine the aim of the life of Alexander the Great and follow his career, you derive some conclusions. It is for everybody to find out if you follow the path of adventure and ambition, what is the ultimate result that you achieve at the highest level? Here was one man who tried his utmost within a short life span of 32 years. He tried to achieve the best and the highest, that one can achieve, with relentless adventure.
Here is another view, exactly the opposite of ambition. Be meek, be humble, be like a child. The Kingdom of Heaven is the aim of life. This is what is called supra terrestrial; heaven is not terrestrial, it is not here, but if you do right things here, you will get a passport, you might say, to heaven. Therefore, you should establish the Kingdom of Heaven in your heart. Then, when you pass away from this life, if you have loved your neighbours as yourself, if you have been very kind, if you have been forgiving, if you have been like a child, then you will have entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is the message that Christ has given.
Niti Shatka of Bhartrihari in India gave a cosmic view of life - that in life you live in this world, as it is, but you will understand the meaning of life only if you do good deeds. The pursuit of goodness will give you satisfaction and fulfillment. What is that goodness? Bhartrihari has written a hundred verses to describe goodness. If you know these hundred versus, you will be very good at teaching children what is goodness.
The message of Islam is a supra-terrestrial view. Paradise is the aim of Islam. You will go to paradise on one condition. Here, the condition is different. In the case of Christ, the condition was love and compassion. Here, it is submission to the Will of God that will give you a passage to paradise. I am not
saying it is right or wrong at present. It is for everybody to decide what is right and what is wrong.
You have a vast panorama of different aims of life before you; you decide for yourself, what is the aim of life that you should pursue. At present because this subject is not taught anywhere in the world; people are unguided. They pick up some stray words from here and there and that becomes their guide of life; but the answer is not available to them.
This is the supra cosmic view of life – that Brahma is real – Brahman Satyam, Jagat Mithyat – to believe that the cosmos is life is a falsehood. Reality is elsewhere, beyond the cosmos. This is a great philosophy which has been developed in India. This is a cosmic view of life, but of a different kind, not only to be good, not only to be heroic, but an aim of excellence, of perfection.
Be perfect like Leonardo. I have given here the example of Leonardo, as a man of excellence. At a young age, when he was unemployed, he wrote a letter to his Duke and asked him what he could do. He was a painter, sculptor, engineer, atomist, biologist… As far back as in the 14th century, he drew the picture of a future aeroplane,
Will Durant, the greatest historian of the world, wrote eleven big volumes on the history of Civilization; he named only two truly great men in world history. One of them is Leonardo; the only one comparable to him was Augustus Caesar, who established the Roman Empire, which remained alive in history for eight hundred years. If you read these two lives, you get an insight into the highest feat of human excellence and perfection.
Now, I take you back to another dimension of life. This is also a supra terrestrial view of life, but of a different level - neither the way of Christ, nor the way of Mohammed. It is the love of Radha for Krishna - the love embodied in Shri Chaitanya. If you read the life of Shri Chaitanya, you get the secrets of the
highest delight that the human soul can experience; when the human soul meets the supreme Divine as a friend, as a lover, not as a judge, not as a father, not as a teacher, not as a man of justice, but your most intimate friend, lover, in the eyes of whom you can feel like giving up everything that you have.
Modern man is intellectual and constantly asks whether intellect can prove the existence of God. This is one of the central questions of all rational minds today. Descartes asked this question − can God’s existence be proved intellectually? I would like every young person to read his intellectual proof of the existence of God. Many young people reject the notion of God, because they say it is not rational. Descartes wanted to give a message that belief in God is relevant and intellectually provable. He gave proof both of God and of the human soul. It is a tremendous achievement of the human mind. I personally believe that even today the argument that he has given has remained un-refuted. If you are truly rational, you would be obliged to accept his argument as final. I would recommend that every one study the proof of the existence of God as given by Descartes.
The Indian approach is even higher. You may intellectually prove the existence of God. The question is, have you seen God? We can think about God perhaps, but that is not enough Vivekananda was not satisfied with this. He was a great intellectual of his time. At the age of 18, he had mastered logic, but he was not satisfied. He wanted somebody to say − I have seen God; I can talk to him, I can live in him. I would like every student to study this question, have you seen God? If you read Descartes for intellectual satisfaction and if you read Vivekananda for your spiritual satisfaction, you will have a very good start to your search for God. Nobody will be able to say that you are doing something wrong or irrational.
Einstein had a cosmic view of life. The difference between me and Einstein lies in what he could see and what I cannot see. The world that he saw is not only three dimensional space; he believed the world is four dimensional. However, when you try to see the four dimensions, you cannot. You can see the height; the breadth, the length, but you cannot see time, the fourth dimension. Therefore, the cosmic aim of life is to try to see the world as truly and properly as Einstein saw it.
There is another example of the cosmic aim of life. Nehru is not regarded as a philosopher in our country. Not many people know that he wrote a beautiful article called ‘Life’s Philosophy’, which I would like every Indian to read for the sake of an exposition of what modern man feels. Nehru wrote, “There is too much to do in this life,” Paradise may exist, or not exist; God may exist, or not exist; it does not matter. The world itself is so full that life is too short to do all that is to be done. This is his testament ultimately – that he is interested in this world, in this life; not in some other world or a future life. Whether there is such a thing as a soul or whether there is life after death or not, I do not know. Important as these questions are, they do not trouble me in the least. This resonates with most modern men; the environment in which we have grown up, takes the soul or rather the Atma, future life, the Karma theory of cause and effect and reincarnation for granted.
I have been affected by this. So, in a sense I am fairly disposed about these assumptions; there might be a soul which survives the physical death of the body. A theory of cause and effect governing life’s actions seems reasonable, though it leads to difficulties when one thinks of the ultimate cause. Presuming there is a soul, there appears to be some logic also in the theory of reincarnation; but I do not believe in any of these or other theories and assumptions, as a matter of religious faith. They are just intellectual speculation in an unknown region about which you know next to nothing. They
do not affect my life. Whether they were proved right or wrong subsequently, would make little difference to me. Life is too complicated and as far as we can understand it in our present state of knowledge, too illogical for it to be confined within the four corners of a big doctrine. Real problems for me remain problems of individual and social life; of harmonious living; proper balancing of an individual’s inner and outer life; adjustment of the relations between individuals and between groups; continuously becoming something better and higher; of social reverence; of the serious adventure of man in the solution of these problems; The way of observation, precise knowledge and reasoning according to scientific methods must be followed. This is the message that Nehru gives.
Similar to Nehru, but much more stringent, is the view of Bertrand Russell. He also pursues the cosmic aim of life. He got the Nobel Prize for his book called ‘Conquest of Happiness’. That is one of his great achievements. He was a great philosopher, but he got the Nobel Prize for Literature because he wrote this great book. He also wrote a great short article called “Freeman’s Worship”. A complete atheist, he believed only in this life and that too only material life. The cosmic aims of life can be of three types - materialistic, vital and idealistic. Nehru’s cosmic aim of life can be called an idealistic cosmic aim of life. In the case of Bertrand Russell, it is the materialistic cosmic aim of life. Material alone is the cosmos, nothing else. Yet he came to the conclusion that man should be free man and if you live life as a free man, a time will come when you will become a worshipper. Even if you think the world has no meaning, when you reach the highest goal of your life, the highest point of your life, you will become a worshipper.
The last book, which I have compiled here, is called ‘Ascent to the Truth’. It is one of the shortest, yet in my view, one of the greatest expositions of the aim of life. It is written by the Mother in the form of a drama. I would
like you to read this drama. She has shown how different individuals have approached life. It shows the philanthropist, who lives the life of serving others and giving donations to charities; when he is told that a day will come when the world will be absolutely good and charity will not be required at all, he says, if everybody becomes very happy in this world; I will have no business in life; so he stops searching for the truth altogether. Then there are artists, who are aspirants. According to the Mother, you should not be any one of these; you should be a real seeker, searching for the highest truth for its own sake. Then the highest secret will be revealed. What is that highest secret, you will read in her drama.
Next, is the message that the Mother gave after studying everything in the world. I am a disciple of the Mother and I was very happy when I read her conclusion – that there is a Divine wealth that wants to manifest itself in physical life. Our aim is to discover that Divine wealth and work for its manifestation in physical life. It is an integral view of life; the union of the Divine on one hand and the supra cosmic, supra terrestrial, and the cosmic and physical matter, is the highest aim of life.