A question that has assumed in our times a great importance in pedagogy is: in what does our true fulfilment consist? And, in .that context, what is the nature and content of that knowledge which all human beings should pursue and possess?
It is, indeed, possible to ask whether the human search can ever truly be fulfilled and whether it is not wise to limit ourselves to some immediate utilitarian or pragmatic goals. As a matter of fact, a large number of pedagogical programmes have been designed in the context of what is pragmatically useful to individuals and to society. This pragmatic approach has its own justification; but it seems that the time has come when deeper questions must be raised and answered.
Considering that there is today an unprecedented explosion of information, one is obliged to ask how one can relate oneself to this explosion in such a way that one is not crushed under the increasing flow of information. On the one hand, there is a pressure towards specialization; on the other hand, a pressure towards inter-disciplinary and holistic knowledge. Knowing more and more about less and less bestows upon the individual a specialized capacity and proficiency but it also creates disabling inefficiencies in respect to larger questions where multi-sided knowledge is indispensable.
There is more to perplex us. The specialized knowledge and efficiency that the individual possesses today tend to become obsolete at a rapid rate. There is, in consequence, an increasing pressure to continue learning all the time. This, however, leaves very little time to expand horizons of knowledge in fields other than that of narrow specialization. With the passage of time, our inefficiency in dealing with the general questions of life goes on increasing. At a certain stage, this situation, if not corrected, can really become alarming. Crises of various kinds are bound to multiply. This is what we witness today all over the world.
Still something further is there to disturb us in the very heart of our being: the increasing mechanization of life and the increasing tendency to impose mechanical solutions on human problems where they really do not work. Humanity is gradually moving in the direction of dehumanization. It seems as-though humanity is gradually sinking into a routine of life that prevents the pursuit of rationality, morality and spirituality. This routine of life is supported and imprisoned by structures or superstructures over which none has any control. This would not matter, to some extent, if human beings were ready to forget their higher dimensions of personality and bury their higher aspirations in exchange for certain pleasures and securities that can be provided by the mechanizing and dehumanizing society with its uncontrollable structures and superstructures. But human beings are complex; they have many parts to their being; they are, therefore, obliged to listen to the conflicting voices arising from their complexities and complications. They are bound to ask whether they are doomed to remain for ever in a state of inner conflicts or whether these conflicts can be resolved in some state of fulfilment. That an increasing number of human beings are consciously experiencing the pressure of inner conflicts is becoming more and more evident and we hear all around the mounting call of the crying soul of humanity.
It is against this background that deeper questions, both of life and education, have become extremely urgent and imperative. The question of human fulfilment, therefore, is becoming, increasingly relevant to post-modern enquiry. The idea that the human being is fundamentally a particle of dust destined to return to dust — this materialistic view of man — is being increasingly suspected to be a dogma under the pres sure of existential problems which we need to deal with and resolve. The idea that matter alone is real is being admittedly found to be
untenable because it cannot be verified by any experience and because with the expanding spectrum of data, where supra-physical realities have begun to demonstrate their presence or imprint, a larger non materialistic formulation has become inevitable.
All this impels us to institute fresh enquiry and research.
We shall avoid all dogmatism in our inquiry. Just as we are not bound by the dogmatism of materialism, even so we shall not bind our selves to the dogmatic refusal of the reality and significance of Matter. In our explorations, we shall record the data of various domains of existence and evaluate them by appropriate methods. If this approach does not lead us to any definite conclusions, we shall not take recourse to any short-cut methods in order to balm ourselves with ill-gotten certainties. We shall prefer to remain in the state of uncertainty and continue to cultivate the attitudes appropriate to open-ended exploration.
We shall commence our journey with this indisputable fact of our experience that we find ourselves placed in the universe and that the most natural activity for us is to explore ourselves and the universe and the complexities of our relationship to the universe. The task of the educationist is to advise us as to how best we can arrive at the knowledge of ourselves and the universe and develop the capacities of relating ourselves to the universe so as to make that relationship as harmonious as possible.
We shall also bear in mind that our capacities for knowledge depend very much upon the quality of the consciousness with which we approach the activities of knowledge. The universe which looks so beautiful and wonderful to the consciousness of the poet is perceived to be oppressive and awful to an ordinary and weary consciousness. Objects which seem to be opaque and veiled to our superficial consciousness present themselves in their revelatory character to our deeper consciousness. We thus seem to be led to the wisdom of the ancients, who held that while there are several alternative ways of gaining knowledge, the most effective key to knowledge is the development of deeper and higher levels of consciousness. The ancient wisdom goes also further to affirm that there is a knowledge, knowing which every thing can be known, and that the door to that knowledge lies through inmost self-knowledge. This opens out before us a specific line of exploration, and we begin to ask questions as to what is our self and how we can attain self-knowledge.
We note that everyone of us has some kind of self-experience and that much of the effectivity of our action depends upon certain states and qualities of self-experience. The quality of sincerity, for example, imparts to our state of being some kind of indefinable but intrinsically satisfying and effective self-experience.
Having reached this point of exploration, we are in a position to make one general proposition of fundamental value in pedagogy, which can be stated as follows: "One general aim of education should be to enable each individual to develop the states of higher and higher degrees of sincerity."
Numerous experiments have shown that wandering thoughts, a multiplicity of desires and the restlessness of impulses are the principal factors that prevent us from having genuine experiences of inner sincerity. One can verify this by simple experiments within oneself. It follows, therefore, that one has to find effective means and methods by which thoughts, desires and impulses can be controlled. In the course of the history of education, many such methods have been attempted and experimented upon. These experiments have revealed that nothing in the world is as difficult as to control oneself and ultimately to arrive at self-mastery and self-perfection. Many experiments have failed because self-control is sought to be achieved through the methods of unintelligent or forceful repression or suppression which tend to weaken or kill the fundamental life-force. It is seen that it is only when we give up repression or suppression and seek to transform life by methods of purification that this problem can be rightly resolved.
Continuing on this track of exploration, we enter into a vast domain of education that aims at self-knowledge by self-control through methods of purification.
At this stage, we begin to perceive that there are three aspects under which we try to know ourselves. The first aspect is that of our body; the second aspect is the complexity of our drives and urges for action, battle and victory — the complex that is covered under the term "vital being"; and the third aspect is what we call mind, our instrument of conception and ideation, of reflection and reasoning. But deeper psychological explorations indicate that behind what we experience as our physical being, vital being and mental being, there are, as the Upanishads point out, inner sheaths supported by a kind of self-consciousness which sustains and nourishes the inner physical being, the
inner vital being and the inner mental being. The data of self-consciousness further reveal to us that there are deeper presences of self consciousness and deeper powers as also profounder states of intrinsic delight and sweetness which impart to us the experiences not only of the true source of our sincerity, but also of our self-possession and self identity. We also discover that the deeper states of the self transcend the ambiguous and narrow movements of egoistic consciousness. We then come to correct our mistaken idea that ego is the self and we are transported into experiences of what the Upanishads term antaratman (the inner psychic self) and jiva (the true individual). The Upanishads also tell us of those experiences of the jiva where all is in oneself and oneself is in all. There are still further heights and depths of self knowledge which open up for our exploration.
Based upon the above explorations, we have come to the conclusion that the most important programme of education that should be proposed to everyone is that of self-knowledge and of self-control. At the same time, we have realized how difficult and complex this programme of education is.
In spite of the difficulty and complexity of the task, we have decided to undertake the study of all the aspects of education for self-knowledge in some detail at the present stage and in greater detail at a later stage.
As a first step, our research team has been concentrating upon the question of physical education as a part of the larger theme of self knowledge. There is, indeed, a vast literature on this subject, but the aim of our study had certain specific novelties in regard to approach and thrust. Firstly, we wanted to relate problems and programmes of physical education with deeper questions about the nature of the human body and how its potentialities can be developed through various methods of self-control and physical education, up to the levels of excellence. Secondly, our aim was exploratory and thus free from dogmatic views regarding the nature of the body and its relationship to deeper aspects of the human personality. Thirdly, we wanted to be as comprehensive as possible within our present limitations and thus to include in our studies not only the present systems of education but also ancient systems, not only Western systems but also some of the Eastern systems. In our search we collected a number of relevant books, magazines and articles; we also held several workshops, and interacted with
a number of experts. As we went into deeper aspects of physical education, we felt the need of going still deeper, and, indeed, we felt that this domain will remain with us as a subject of unending exploration.
At the present stage of our research, we felt that it would be very useful to share some of our findings with others, and for that purpose, even to publish in book form a compilation of important materials. We were thus led to consider some guiding principles for selection and inclusion of materials in our compilation. After detailed discussions among ourselves on this subject, we decided that our book cannot and should not take the form of a text-book. We also decided that our book should not be pedantic, but it should centrally address itself to students and teachers as well as members of the general public who would be interested in getting initiated into some of the basic and more profound questions relating to the. human body and physical education in the context of the broader aim of self-knowledge. We, therefore, decided to touch upon a number of relevant topics but at an introductory level. We felt that our task ought to be to present to the reader those aspects and materials which might initiate him or her into a further task of personal exploration through other books and literature.
The selection of material for inclusion in the book has been made, in a certain sense, at random. Specialists and experts would have undoubtedly made a better selection. We, therefore, owe an apology to them for all the deficiencies that they find in our present effort. In our research team, we have no specialists; but all the members are deeply interested in promoting education of the physical being and we are all keen to study the role that the human body can play in the development of integral personality. Above all, we are all students of Evolution and are devoted to the study of the potentialities of the human body which are directly relevant to the mutation of the human species into the next species. This predilection of ours will be quite evident in the pages of this book.
We have noticed that stories, anecdotes, and autobiographical or biographical accounts induce among the readers great interest and, quite often, they easily become a source of inspiration. This is the reason why we have given a prominent place to personal accounts or biographical stories and similar other material. We also feel that any subject, when it is rightly studied, stimulates a sense of wonder and impulsion for new discoveries. We have, therefore, endeavoured to select
passages from the writings of scholars, experts and others which take us to the realm of wonder and mystery. Another element that we have kept in view is to provide such information that would give the reader possibilities of comparing different points of view or varieties of experiences. Moreover, although this book is not a historical account of physical education or a study of the philosophy of the human body, we have tried to present ideas and views which might stimulate the reader to make a detailed historical and philosophical study of subjects presented in this book. We have also added notes, photographs, sketches, drawings, paintings and such other material which will facilitate and enrich the reader's study.
It may be in order to give brief indications about the underlying argument and contents of this book.
We may recall that we began with the question as to what is the nature and content of that knowledge which everyone should eventually possess. We are not yet in a position to give an exhaustive answer to this question, but we have tended to conclude that everyone should strive for self-knowledge and, since self-knowledge is dependent upon self-control, everyone should strive to learn and practise the science and art of self-control. Our argument is that everyone should strive for self-knowledge because everyone is and has basically the self. Again, everyone should strive for self-knowledge because self-knowledge, when it reaches high levels of maturity, becomes a sure means of a certain kind of other-knowledge and world-knowledge. An approach to the universe through the self has, it appears from various data, an advantage in the fact that the universe comes to be experientially possessed by the enlarged and unegoistic identity of the self with the universe. This does not mean that other approaches to the universe through sense-experience, scientific, philosophical or intellectual methods are not legitimate or relevant. Those approaches, too, have their own utility and value. Fundamentally, all knowledge, whether we pursue it through one approach or the other, tends to become one. This is brought out quite clearly by the proximity and even identity of some of the conclusions of the Upanishads, arrived at through intuitive methods of self-knowledge, and of modern science arrived at by methods of experimentation, intellectual ratiocination and empirical verification. In the ultimate analysis, one can adopt any approach that one may feel naturally suited to oneself. At the same time, one thing that stands out
is that as far as self-knowledge is concerned, intuitive methods of self experience become ultimately indispensable.
We consider the knowledge of the human body to be an important aspect of self-knowledge, since everyone experiences one's body, rightly or mistakenly, as a part of oneself. Even when one comes to distinguish between one's inner self and one's body, this distinction is greatly facilitated and confirmed by the processes of deeper self knowledge, during the course of which one is required to admit that without a sound knowledge, control and purification of one's body, one cannot successfully arrive at deeper levels of self-knowledge. In any case, our conclusion is that since everyone of us possesses a human body, everyone of us should strive to have the basic knowledge of the human body and of the part it has to play in facilitating the acquisition of deeper realms of self-knowledge; we should also know the ways and means by which those deeper realms of knowledge can, in their turn, affect, influence, develop and perfect the functioning of the human body. Our research has shown that this is a very vast subject and pursuit of this subject has to be a programme of life-long education, Nonetheless, there are always initial points of preparation, and it would be advisable to have at least a good acquaintance with a sufficiently large number of such points. Among these, we identified and included the following in this book:
(1) At the very outset, one should have an understanding of the principles of the structure and function of the human body. It would be also useful to underline the fact that the human body is truly a wonder, a marvel, a miracle. It appears that the Vedic Rishis had rare insights into the marvels of the body which they had derived from their explorations of Matter and Spirit. We, therefore, thought it appropriate to present some of the hymns from the Veda. These hymns are difficult to under stand since they are couched in a language full of ancient symbolism; but they seem extremely meaningful when they are read in the light of a recent unusual book by Satprem under an unusual title: Evolution II. Next, we turn to Alexis Carrel's famous book, Man The Unknown, which contains extraordinary details about the human body, and we have selected a few passages which provide the reader with a lively picture of the wonder that is the human body. When we read these pas sages we begin to feel a sense of wonder at the secret intelligence that seems to be at work in organizing, with unimaginable perfection and
utmost economy of means, a machine of amazing versatility, — a machine which is more than a machine.
(2) An important fact about the human body is that in spite of its versatility and incredible capacities, it is not self-sufficient, in the sense that it needs to be maintained by a good deal of external care, protection, nutrition and exercise. But these external aids are helpful only because the body has an innate power to act towards its own health and to generate processes of healing as soon as its health is adversely affected. Knowledge of the human body is, therefore, incomplete with out the knowledge of health, nutrition and healing. Part II and III of this book are devoted to some of the important and interesting aspects of these subjects. We have attempted to highlight only a few spots from its vast canvas.
We have asked the question as to what exactly is the connotation of the term "health", and in order to indicate some answers, we have presented a few passages describing the Ayurvedic concept of health and also some passages from a book by Larry Dossey, Space, Time and Medicine, which presents a refreshing concept of health in the light of modem knowledge.
(3) Next, we have briefly introduced the subject of Nutrition, by presenting a few extracts from a book by Rudolph Ballantine, entitled Diet and Nutrition: A Holistic Approach. This brief text explains the rationale of Ayurvedic nutrition. We have also presented an interesting account by Basil Shackleton given in his small book The Grape Cure where he describes his remarkable experiment to cure the multiple maladies of his body by eating only grapes for a few weeks. His success brings out the magic of grapes as nutrition and the power of food to cure. This is followed by several notes, including one on nutrition and the cell, which explains the concept of the cell and how its very structure and composition necessitates the intake of nutrition. It also under lines the intricate inner workings of the cell during the process of intake of nutrition and digestion. Another note, also extracted from R. Ballantine's book, explains the biochemistry of nutrition in an extremely lucid style and in five brief paragraphs.
(4) We have next touched upon the problem of healing by presenting a few insights from Indian wisdom and a few interesting passages from some modern writers. One of these passages is from Norman Cousins where he has given an account of his own illness and how he
came to heal himself by extraordinary efforts, undertaken at his own initiative, which were aided by a wise doctor and his own will to live. The next set of extracts is taken from E.H. Shattock's book Mind Your Body where the author presents an interesting account of how he healed severe arthritis which had gripped his hips by a special method of visualization and concentration. This is followed by extracts from a book called Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, the humour and wisdom of which will be more enjoyable by reading it directly without being .told what it is about. An extract from War and Peace, where Leo Tolstoy describes Natasha's illness, makes interesting reading not only by virtue of its literary elegance but also by the subtle message that it aims to convey about the natural capacity of the body to heal itself, irrespective or in spite of medicines. Finally, we have drawn attention to the phenomenon of pain in order to underline an aspect which is too often forgotten, namely, the great service it renders to the process of healing and conservation of the body by sending the essential signals which might alert the patient and stimulate him or her to take the necessary steps to diagnose and remedy the concerned disease.
(5) Part IV is devoted to the justification of physical education and how it is necessary to maintain health as also to develop strength, agility, grace and beauty in the body. That the human body is not only a remarkable organism but also possesses latent capacities which can be brought out by means of elementary and higher forms of physical education is the main thrust of this part of the book. It is argued that through physical education it can be demonstrated that the body is able to develop high qualities of excellence. A special emphasis has been laid on the Olympic Games of our times, since they have given a great impetus to physical education all over the world.
As the subject of physical education is very important, we have presented in the first place, two texts, dealing with physical education in ancient India and ancient Greece. Next is a text on the modem Olympic Games, where, in the notes, we have also provided a list of Olympics held in recent times and of the events in each discipline. We have also added a note on the Asian Games.
In order to probe into the present situation of physical education and sports in India, we have had an interview with Narottam Puri, who is famous in the world of sport as an eminent commentator on games and sports in India. We have reproduced this interview, which explains
exactly where India stands in the world of sports and what India needs to do to improve its system of physical education and sports.
It is always refreshing to learn how qualities of excellence can be cultivated by reading accounts of individuals who have made great efforts in their lives. Keeping this in view, we have presented three stories in the field of running and sprinting, those of P.T. Usha, Emil Zatopek and Jesse Owens. In the field of body-building, we have selected a text from Arnold: The Education of a Body-Builder, where the famous' body-builder, Arnold Schwarzenneger tells his own story of how from a relatively weak body he built up an exceedingly strong one. We have also added a few notes to explain some of the technical words which are used in literature connected with body-building, including certain details about body-building and muscles. In the field of combatives, boxing is a familiar subject, although it is, to some extent, controversial. We have presented extracts from an autobiographical account by Muhammad Ali (alias Cassius Clay). Among games, cricket is one of the most favourite, and A.G. Gardiner's text on the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar seemed to us from many points of view a fine tribute to one of the most eminent figures in this field.
Dance is much more than physical education, and yet, physical education is indispensable to dance. Plasticity of the body coupled with grace and beauty are special qualities of dance. In order to illustrate the great qualities that a dancer needs to develop, we have presented extracts from the life of Anna Pavlova, written by Agnes de Mille in her book, Dance to the Piper. In the notes appended to these extracts, we have given information about the life and career of Pavlova and certain reflections on the programme of training that the classical ballet dancer is required to undergo. Another illustration that we have taken is from the life of Ram Gopal entitled Rhythms in the Heavens.
We also had an opportunity to discuss some of the important aspects of Indian dance with the famous dancer and dance-teacher, Sonal Mansingh. We have reproduced the conversation that we had with her.
Finally, we have presented extracts from a Japanese story written by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi on the subject of eurhythmics.
There are, indeed, a large number of games and sports and various forms of dance, Indian and Western. It is impossible to give an account of all the varieties; hence, we have been obliged to limit ourselves to only the few examples which are mentioned above. It may be argued
that our selection should have been representative of a greater number of aspects of physical education and that we should have provided much richer material to illustrate the theme of the excellence of the human body. We admit the force of this argument, and we invite the readers to send us suggestions for suitable material which we can include in the second edition of this book.
(6) In Part V, which has been entitled "Profounder Aspects of Physical Education", we are presenting three passages from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. As is well known, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have given to the world a new vision of the synthesis of Spirit and Matter as also a programme of supramental action on the earth aiming at the total transformation of the body and the mutation of the human species, which will have revolutionary consequences for the upliftment and welfare of humanity. In their vision and work, physical education assumes unprecedented importance, and their writings on this subject provide rare insights and inspiring illumination. The theme of the mystery and excellence of the human body receives its central focus in these writings.
(7) In Part VI, we present extracts from John Gunther's book Roosevelt in Retrospect: A Profile in History, in order to illustrate how Roosevelt faced with rare courage the catastrophe that struck him in August 1921: a severe attack of poliomyelitis. Among the numerous stories of courage of the handicapped, that of Roosevelt is perhaps exceptionally inspiring, particularly when we realize that, undaunted by his crippling paralysis, he became President of the United States of America in 1933. Not only that, even while continuing his grim battle against the debilitating effects of his illness, he was re-elected President in 1936, 1940 and 1944. Roosevelt is one of the most outstanding examples of mastery over a severe handicap, a victory that led him to admirable achievements.
The story of Roosevelt is followed by a poem by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault which recounts the legend of a boy, born blind, who learns to surmount his handicap to the point, of riding fearlessly in a horse race.
(8) In Part VII, we have presented the theme of adventure in order to focus upon the extraordinary capacities of the human body which we see illustrated by achievements like those of Tenzing Norgay, Edmund Hillary, Reinold Messner and Steven Callahan. When life and death
stand nearest to each other the human body seems to manifest some of its most hidden resources. This manifestation provides an insight into the possibilities of the greater perfectibility of the body and inspires us to look at the body as a carrier of a message of divine omnipotence.
(9) The message of divine omnipotence may appear to be nothing more than a momentary exaggeration under the impact of miraculous. achievements that great adventurers in various fields have registered in history. But when we begin to study some of the sciences and arts which have developed in the course of human culture which try to relate the body with the Spirit, we begin to feel that there may be a realistic basis in the view that the human body as constituted now is a pack et of energy behind which divine omnipotence really stands in a veiled condition and that, once the veil is removed by methods appropriate to physical education and spiritual education, that divine omnipotence can manifest in amazing manners and can even be established in varying degrees on a durable basis. We have made a study of this aspect of the human body and presented a few extracts in Part VIII under the general title "The Body Reaching Out Beyond Itself. Taking advantage of an account of Hatha Yoga, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, we have introduced the concept of Integral Yoga which includes not only the aims of physical perfection proposed by Hatha Yoga but also a synthesis of this perfection with other perfections which can be attained by pursuit of other systems of Yoga. This synthesis, — and this is our argument — provides a scientific basis for the possibilities of durable perfection of the body and even of the possibilities of development of a new kind of body, which can appropriately be termed "The Divine Body".
The extracts relating to Hatha Yoga are followed by some others from The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, which give insights into the extraordinary powers that manifest in the body when physical and spiritual exercises are combined.
We also find that in some martial arts, there are meaningful blendings of the physical and spiritual methods. Glimpses of these methods and astonishing achievements that result from them are brought out in the extracts from books called Martial Arts by Howard Reid and Michael Croucher and The Martial Arts by Michel Random. Because of the limits of space we have restricted our choice to Kalaripayit and Aikido.
Finally, we have presented extracts from a remarkable book:
The Psychic Side of Sports written by Michael Murphy and Rhea A. White. The reader will find in these extracts fresh insights into the relationship between the body and the Spirit and how spiritual powers, when applied to the physical, can create new dimensions to the entire domain of physical education and sports.
(10) Part IX contains Sri Aurobindo's essay entitled "The Perfection of the Body" in which Sri Aurobindo perceives in the body the power to become an agent and a partner in the task of a total transformation of the mind, life and body so as to evolve the fullness of a divine life on earth. He envisages that a stage can be reached where a secure completeness and stability of the health and strength of the physical body could be maintained by the indwelling Spirit and that all the natural capacities of the physical frame, all powers of the physical conscious ness would reach their utmost extension and be there at command, sure of their flawless action. He concludes: "As an instrument the body would acquire a fullness of capacity, a totality of fitness for all uses which the inhabitant would demand of it far beyond anything now possible. Even it could become a revealing vessel of a supreme beauty and bliss, casting the beauty of the light of the spirit, suffusing and radiating from it as a lamp reflects and diffuses the luminosity of its indwelling flame, carrying in itself the beatitude of the spirit, its joy of the seeing mind, its joy of life and spiritual happiness, the joy of Matter released into a spiritual consciousness and thrilled with a constant ecstasy. This would be the total perfection of the spiritualised body".
The message of the perfection of the body can be looked upon as an open invitation to all those who aspire for the highest adventure. It is only by consenting to climb the peaks of this adventure that we can hope to verify for ourselves what exactly is the ultimate meaning of the mystery and excellence of the human body.