by Jugal Kishore Mukherjee
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were not only spiritual masters, but great educationists as well. This book presents the principles of Integral Education as enunciated by them. It also examines the role and responsibility of teachers, the basis of the “Free Progress” system, and the aims of and courses at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. It is written for all types of seekers ? spiritual aspirants, scholars, teachers and educationists.
Why another book on integral education, you may ask. What does it provide that cannot be found in the existing literature on the subject? The answer, simply put, is the wisdom of a senior, experienced teacher-scholar. For over half a century Jugal-da has played a leading role in the experiment in integral education, and was guided by the Mother in the initial stages of this attempt. To quote Vijay Poddar who has written the foreword to this book: “Jugal-da brings to his writings and presentation the aspiration and luminosity of a spiritual seeker, the heart of a devotee and the clear analytical mind of a scientist.”
Intellectuals and educationists interested in an overview of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s ideas on education will find a concise, accurate summary in this book. Sifting through their many works, Jugal-da has gleaned seven principles “that the Master-Yogi has recommended for making education luminous and efficient” and “eleven well-defined goals that an educationist should keep in view while seeking to discharge his responsibility towards his students”. For those interested in the implementation of these principles and the practical functioning of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE) Jugal-da has dwelt on the method of teaching, the free progress system, the various subjects of study and the question of certificates, providing the historical background needed to put the functioning of the SAICE in the right perspective. However, the perceptive reader will not fail to note that the primary thrust of Jugal-da’s concern is the future of the SAICE. As one of a rapidly dwindling generation of old-timers, one who has led the free progress system at the higher course level of the SAICE since its inception, his apprehension is not unfounded. As he points out in his preface, “the fact cannot be denied that with the inexorable passage of time many of these Mother-trained early teachers have either retired from active service in the `Centre’ or quit their bodies altogether. There is a big void created as a result. And this almost irreparable void is in the very nature of things going to increase with the passage of time. What to do about this matter?”
There is another, deeper and subtler cause for concern. It stems from a prevalent tendency to take some of the Mother’s instructions as absolute, even excluding all her other instructions. But her way of working was different. She gave everyone as free a hand as possible to discover and express the Truth in his own way. The following excerpts from her writings quoted in the book highlight this:
It is not through uniformity that you obtain unity…. It is mental logic that demands sameness. In practice, each one must find and apply his own method, that which he understands and feels. It is only in this way that education can be effective.
I have read with satisfaction what you say about your work and I approve of it for your own work.
But you must understand that other teachers can conceive their own work differently and be equally right.
Even when the Mother was physically present to sort things out, the problems were intractable enough. Concerning the issuing of certificates she once wrote:
Truly speaking, I have no opinion. According to the truth-vision, everything is still terribly mixed… and so long as decisions are made and action is carried out according to opinions, it will always be like that….
So, in the present state of things, it is impossible to say: this is true and this is false, this leads us away from the goal, this leads us nearer to the goal.
Today the risk of the freedom being consciously or unconsciously misused is even greater. In Jugal-da’s words, “Many among these novice teachers may not have studied with meditative attention the numerous writings of the Mother on every necessary aspect of education. Each one tries to follow his own ad hoc method. The result cannot but be confusion leading us slowly but surely away from all that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo wanted to be done through their International University Centre.”
“What to do about this matter?” This book is Jugal-da’s answer to his own question. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s ideas and writings on education are to be found in their many volumes; not only has Jugal-da collected the relevant passages, but he has also been forthright in sharing his experience, warning the aspirant students and teachers against possible errors, and organising the often apparently contradictory material in a manner conducive to a synthesis which facilitates the perception of the truth. The book is what Jugal-da calls his “labour of love”, the baton passed on to the future generation, to “fight successfully the great battle of the future”.
– Shanti Ramanathan
Shanti, a former student of the SAICE, teaches Mathematics at the Higher Course of the SAICE.