highest is the spiritual. He has even stated that music, art and poetry are a perfect education for the soul; they make and keep its movements purified, deep and harmonious. He has added:
“These, therefore, are agents which cannot profitably be neglected by humanity on its onward march or degraded to the mere satisfaction of sensuous pleasure which will disintegrate rather than build the character. They are, when properly used, great educating, edifying and civilising forces.”
A great lesson in vital education is to develop the will of the individual and to encourage the exercise of the will in which what is valued most is not the result but application and doing one’s best.
On the subject of physical education, it must be mentioned that the physical is our base, and even the highest spiritual values are to be expressed through the life that is embodied here. s'ariram ādyam khalu dharma-sādhanam, says the old Sanskrit adage, – the body is the means of fulfilment of dharma, while dharma means
every ideal which we can propose to ourselves and the law of its working out and its action.
Of all the domains of education, physical is the one most completely governed by method, order, discipline and procedure. All education of the body must be rigorous, detailed and methodical.
The education of the body has three principal aspects: control and discipline of functions of the body; a total methodical and harmonious development of all the parts and movements of the body; rectification of defects and deformities, if there are any.
Physical education must be based upon knowledge of the human body, its structure and its functions. And the formation of the habits of the body must be in consonance with that knowledge.
The child should be taught right from the early stage the right positions, postures and movements.
A similar training should be with regard to the choice of food. The child should develop the taste that is simple and healthy, substantial and
appetising. He must avoid all that merely stuffs and causes heaviness; particularly, he must be taught to eat according to his hunger and not make food a means to satisfy his greed and gluttony.
The child should also be taught the taste for cleanliness and hygienic habits. It is important to impress upon the child that he is not more interesting by being ill, rather the contrary. Children should be taught that to be ill is a sign of failing and inferiority, not of virtue and sacrifice.
A very important problem in respect of integral education arises from its insistence on proper synthesis between freedom and discipline. Since education is a creative process, and since compulsion and creativity cannot go together, freedom has to be a very important instrument of education. The ideal condition is obtained when discipline becomes the child of freedom and discipline is transformed into selfdiscipline. We have to recognise that different children react to various activities of education
differently. There are children who feel a powerful attraction towards creative activities such as arts, music, dance, composition of poetry, drama, etc. They should, of course, be given freedom to pursue these valuable activities. But there are instances where children who do not have this natural inclination towards creative activities are also compelled to be engaged in these activities. This is entirely unacceptable.
We may also need to note that there are children who do not easily respond either to the activities of creativity or activities of production, but who are deeply reflective and to whom abstraction of thought and clarity and beauty of ideation constitute a fascinating project. We must recognise that a deep exercise in ideation and organisation of ideas is a very active engagement. It is a great activity of concentration.
At the same time, an exclusive pursuit of ideation without devoting any attention whatever to creative or productive activity may lead to a lopsided development of personality. The remedy is not to make things compulsory, but to counsel children, to motivate and suggest to
them how gradually various kinds of activities can be blended together for a harmonious development. But while counselling, the teacher must realise and appreciate that there are periods where psychologically even an exclusive development of ideative activity or productive activity or creative activity has its legitimate claims. To what degree this claim has to be satisfied and in what way this claim has to be subordinated to the other claims of development will demand from the teacher a very deep insight into the inner psychological workings of the formation of the personality and his sympathetic understanding of the psychological differences among various children.
It may also be noted that there are children who are deeply interested in activities of selfsacrifice or of purifying their base emotions, or of the worship of the noblest ideals of life. Sometimes they may show no interest in studies or in arts or in crafts and often teachers complain of their dullness or their lack of concentration in studies. But a good teacher should ask himself if the child in question is not inwardly engaged in what may be called activities of ‘purification’.
There could also be children like Yuddhishthira who would not claim that they have learnt a lesson unless they have succeeded in practising it in their daily life. These are indeed noble children and the teacher should be able to appreciate their nobility and encourage it so as to lead it to its perfection.
During the course of educational process, students often come up with some very fundamental questions but they often remain unanswered. Why, for example, should one learn mathematics? What does really history teach us? What is the relationship between language and mathematics? What is the aim of life? There should be freedom to raise these questions and also enough time and readiness to answer them, even though they may not be a part of any prescribed syllabus.
Another important point that should be noted is that a great care should be taken to get the development of the child in such a way that in spite of the growth of knowledge, the student does not lose freshness and sense of wonder and mystery. This indeed is the most difficult part of the work of the teacher.
If we make a deep study of the experiments in education guided and conducted under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it may be said that there are three important features that come to the forefront and which may help us to define what may be called ‘New Education’:
• Learning by practice;
• Search for meaning and unity of knowledge;
• Unending education and perpetual youth.
New education insists on the development of the mind, life and body, it aims at development of these instruments for the discovery of the inner psychic being; it proposes to utilise mental, vital, physical perfection as instruments of the perfect manifestation of the inner and higher realities. The effort is to make the body supple, strong, agile and beautiful; the vital is to be trained to become dynamic, disciplined, obedient and effective; the mind has to be cultivated to be intelligent, observant, concentrated, free, rich and complex. But at every stage the paramount importance is to be
given to the needs of the psychic and spiritual growth. As the Mother writes: “The will for the great discovery should be always there above you, above what you do and what you are, like a huge bird of light dominating all the movements of your being.”