The History of the Ashram School (Concluding Part) by Prof. Kittu Reddy

We shall now take up the period from 1968 to November 1973 when the Mother left Her body.

As already mentioned En Avant was started in December 1967. We still had the two separate sections En Avant and Vers La Perfection, functioning separately. However in December 1968, the two sections got united and we had one section called En Avant Vers La Perfection. In the first two years, the responsibility of running these sections were given to Tanmay, Amita and Kittu. Despite the two sections being united, they were still sitting in two separate blocks in the Eastern and Western parts respectively. One revealing incident happened at that time. I asked Mother through Pavitra-da whether we could start the classes in our part of the section also at 7-45 am with Mother’s music. She replied to Pavitra-da that She wanted to know why I wanted to start with Mother’s music. Do the students want it? Besides it should not become a ritual that we should start with Mother’s music wherever there is a Sri Aurobindo School. So I checked with the students and the majority wanted it. I then wrote a letter to Mother and She replied as follows:

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Here is the English translation:

Sweet Mother,

Next year we would like to start cleaning the rooms of En Avant. This work will be done each morning by some teachers and students. We shall start at 6 in the morning and the work should be over by 6.45.

Many students and teachers have asked me if we could start the classes daily with Mother’s music. We are praying for Thy permission.

Thy child

Kittu

Mother’s answer:

That is good. Blessings
Mother

In 1970 it was decided to divide EAVP into six sections and give the charge of each section to a group of teachers. That system is still continuing today.

It will not be out of place to relate one interesting development that took place in 1967. Many teachers felt that during the last few years there was a marked lack of interest among the students to become more conscious of why they are here; one of the reasons could be that the Mother had stopped taking classes since 1958; after that the students had very little direct contact with Her. The teachers were concerned as to how to remedy this state of affairs. Therefore after a great deal of discussion among the teachers and Kireet-bhai, a proposal was made that a study project named “The Spiritual History of India” should be taken up; it was decided that all the teachers and students of the Secondary classes would get involved in it. An outline was prepared and was sent to the Mother for Her approval. After reading it, this is what She commented:

No! It won’t do. It is not to be done that way. You should begin with a big BANG! You were trying to show the continuity of history, with Sri Aurobindo as the outcome, the culmination. It is false entirely. Sri Aurobindo does not belong to history; he is outside and beyond history. Till the birth of Sri Aurobindo, religions and spiritualities were always centred on past figures, and they were showing as “the goal” the negation of life upon earth. So, you had a choice between two alternatives: either —a life in this world with its round of petty pleasures and pains, joys and sufferings, threatened by hell if you were not behaving properly, or —an escape into another world, heaven, nirvana, moksha… Between these two there is nothing much to choose, they are equally bad.

Sri Aurobindo has told us that this was a fundamental mistake which accounts for the weakness and degradation of India. Buddhism, Jainism, Illusionism were sufficient to sap all energy out of the country. True, India is the only place in the world which is still aware that something else than Matter exists. The other countries have quite forgotten it: Europe, America and elsewhere…. That is why she still has a message to preserve and deliver to the world. But at present she is splashing and floundering in the muddle. Sri Aurobindo has shown that the truth does not lie in running away from earthly life but in remaining in it, to transform it, divinise it, so that the Divine can manifest HERE, in this PHYSICAL WORLD. You should say all this at the first sitting. You should be square and frank… like that! (With her hands Mother makes a big square sign on the table.) Then, when this is told, strongly, squarely, and there is no doubt about it—and then only—you can go on and amuse them with the history of religions and religious or spiritual leaders. Then—and then only—you will be able to show the seed of weakness and falsehood that they have harboured and proclaimed. Then—and then only—you will be able to discern, from time to time, from place to place, an “intuition” that something else is possible; in the Vedas, for instance (the injunction to descend deep into the cave of the Panis); in the Tantras also… a little light is burning.

31 March 1967
(Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 12, On Education, pp 210-11)

After receiving Mother’s comments there was a discussion among the teachers in Kireet-bhai’s office; there were many differences of opinion as to what should be done. I wrote a letter to the Mother. The letter is reproduced below. I am giving first the English translation:

Sweet Mother

This Sunday Kireet read to us what you had said on the project “The Spiritual History of India”. Among the teachers there are differences of opinion as to what should be done now.

There are those who believe that we should abandon the project and that we should concentrate solely on Sri Aurobindo.

The other say that we should not abandon the project but we should insist first on Sri Aurobindo as you had wanted and then gradually introduce the other parts like the Vedas, Buddhism etc by stressing on what Sri Aurobindo had said on these topics.

We pray to you in this situation to tell us what you would like us to do.

Thy child

Kittu

The Mother picked out the second suggestion and wrote:

This is good. Blessings.
Mother

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It was early in 1967 that I was approached by Sisir-da and Sanat-da to take charge of the History Board. I told them to refer the matter to Kireet-bhai who would refer it to the Mother. The Mother warmly approved of it and let me know this through Pavitra-da.

It was later in the year that the concept of Spiritual History of India was mooted. Regarding the project, The Spiritual History of India, I wrote another letter to the Mother; this letter was concerning the part that I was entrusted with two other teachers. I was to take up Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. One of the students in the group wrote a letter to Mother which prompted me to write to Mother a question.

Here is the letter to the Mother which I wrote and Her reply.

Kittu’s letter to Mother

We have started the project “The Spiritual History of India”. Priti, Ratna and myself are doing the part related to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. There are 16 children who have joined the project and most of them are between the ages of 11 and 14. One of the students showed me a letter written by you to him, which says: “There is no harm in studying but their teachings have been surpassed; and to know the Truth it is safer to understand Sri Aurobindo’s teaching.

After reading this, the question that comes in front of me is: Is it really useful to speak to such young children about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and is there not a risk in doing this? Will they be able to understand all this in the proper perspective even after it is explained to them? Personally, I have my hesitations, but we would like to know what you have to say on this.

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Mother’s Answer

All studies or at least the greater part of studies consists in studying the past with the hope that this would make one understand better the present. But if one wants to avoid the danger that the students would get stuck to the past and refuse to see the future, one must take great care to explain to them that all that has happened in the past had the aim of preparing all that is happening now and all that is happening now is preparing the road to the future which is really the most important thing for which we have to prepare ourselves. It is by cultivating intuition that one prepares to live for the future.

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In 1972 I organised an exhibition on Sri Aurobindo. Mother gave me her fullest support and the exhibition which was held from August 12 to 20 was a tremendous success; in fact Mother told Satprem that Sri Aurobindo was present in the hall during the Exhibition. I requested Mother to grant me permission to meet her to express my gratitude. She fixed 31 August at 10 am to meet her with André. After some initial talk about the exhibition, I told Mother that after coming in contact with the manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo which we had exhibited, I had fallen in love with them and would like to help in preserving them in the new department of the Archives. Mother asked me if I knew anything about the preservation of manuscripts and as I was preparing to answer, André intervened and said that I was very much needed in the school. Mother paused for a while and then said: “Kittu, my dear child, Kireet is often outside travelling and Tanmaya has gone to France; I count on you to do something for the school”. I replied: “Mother, I am already working in the administration of the school and also taking classes, what else do you want me to do?” Mother replied that André would tell me.

After a few days, André called me and told me that after a detailed discussion with Mother the following points were decided.

1. I was to take immediate charge of the Avenir section in the Flower Room. This section consisted of children from the age of 6 to 9. She wanted me to observe the classes and see whether even at that age there were some children who could be given some freedom. In fact, after Tanmay’s return from France in November, he was requested to go and pick out children who were ready to use the freedom. More about that later.

2. I was also told that after a year or so, I should do the same thing for the next higher group of classes from the age of 10-12. Mother was very clear in her mind that we should start choosing children right from the early stages who were to be the future leaders.

I started my work in dead earnest and many teachers of that section wrote letters to Mother and sent them through me; Mother sent the replies generally written by André and these were communicated to the teachers by me. Mother was not writing much at that time. André also met many of the teachers to get a first hand report of their views which he then conveyed to Mother.

I was also assigned an unpleasant task by Mother. Mother expressed her wish that a few teachers needed to be weeded out of the school and She asked André to find out how it could be done. When André stated the problem to me, I told André quite clearly that it was beyond me to do it, but since Mother wanted it to be done, I can make a suggestion. I proposed that I could meet the section heads and ask them to give a written report on the teachers they felt should to be removed with the reasons. I also told the section heads that these reports should be shown to the teachers concerned. After that they would give them to me and then I would show them to André; this was followed by a detailed discussion with the section heads. After he was fully satisfied, he would present them to Mother. Mother rapidly went through the reports and then took her decision. She decided that some teachers would be given a warning and a few others were asked to work in some other department. What is very clear is that Mother was taking a lot of interest in the School and trying to bring it on line to fulfil the ideals set before us.

In November André left for France and Tanmay returned from France; Kireet-bhai was also back in Pondicherry. Mother started meeting them for discussing matters relating to the School. This started in the end of November. In the first week of December I joined them in the meetings. The meetings were held with the Mother every alternate evening between 7 and 7.30. These meetings lasted till March 29th after which they were stopped as Mother started meeting very few persons. Tanmay recorded most of the talks with a small tape recorder and transcribed many of them which he passed on to Kireet-bhai and myself. I still have them with me. In all there were about 60 meetings with the Mother in four months. Evidently many areas of great importance regarding the School were covered, besides some other topics connected with the Ashram and even her physical transformation. Another point that needs to be noted was that Mother clearly indicated to Tanmay that all the tapes should be given to Satprem who would then decide what to publish.

I shall not give all the details of the talks that took place, but I shall highlight some of the points that emerged which are very relevant to the Centre of Education.

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Before we move on to the next part dealing with the meetings with Mother, it is important to mention about another aspect of the project of The Spiritual History of India. Manoj Das Gupta wrote a letter to Mother regarding the project to which Mother replied with a long comment in a conversation with Satprem. We are reproducing the conversation below.

5 April 1967
(Mother writes a note.) It is an answer to a question. Do you know what I told the teachers of the school? I have been asked another question. Here is the beginning of my reply:

“The division between ‘ordinary life’ and ‘spiritual life‘ is an outdated antiquity.”

Did you read his question? Read it again to me.

“We discussed the future. It seemed to me that nearly all the teachers were eager to do something so that the children could become more conscious of why they are here. At that point I said that in my opinion, to speak to the children of spiritual things often has the opposite result, and that these words lose all their value.”

“Spiritual things” – what does he mean by spiritual things?

Obviously, if the teachers recite them like a story…

Spiritual things… They are taught history or spiritual things, they are taught science or spiritual things. That is the stupidity. In history, the Spirit is there; in science, the Spirit is there – the Truth is everywhere. And what is needed is not to teach it in a false way, but to teach it in a true way. They cannot get that into their heads.

He adds: “I have suggested that it might be better to meet and listen to Mother’s voice,1 for even if we don’t understand everything, your voice would accomplish its own inner work, which we are not in a position to evaluate. About this, I would like to know what is the best way of bringing the child into relation with you. For all the suggestions, including mine, seemed arbitrary to me and without any real value.

“Mother, wouldn’t it be better if the teachers were to concentrate solely on the subjects they are teaching, for you are taking care of the spiritual life?”

I shall give him this reply: There is no “spiritual life”! It is still the old idea, still the old idea of the sage, the sannyasin, the… who represents spiritual life, while all the others represent ordinary life – and it is not true, it is not true, it is not true at all.

If they still need an opposition between two things – for the poor mind doesn’t work if you don’t give it an opposition – if they need an opposition, let them take the opposition between Truth and Falsehood, it is a little better; I don’t say it is perfect, but it is a little better. So, in all things, Falsehood and Truth are mixed everywhere: in the so-called “spiritual life”, in sannyasins, in swamis, in those who think they represent the life divine on earth, all that – there also, there is a mixture of Falsehood and Truth.

It would be better not to make any division.

(Silence)

For the children, precisely because they are children, it would be best to instil in them the will to conquer the future, the will to always look ahead and to want to move on as swiftly as they can towards… what will be — but they should not drag with them the burden, the millstone of the whole oppressive weight of the past. It is only when we are very high in consciousness and knowledge that it is good to look behind to find the points where this future begins to show itself. When we can look at the whole picture, when we have a very global vision, it becomes interesting to know that what will be realised later on has already been announced beforehand, in the same way that Sri Aurobindo said that the divine life will manifest on earth, because it is already involved in the depths of Matter; from this standpoint it is interesting to look back or to look down below – not to know what happened, or to know what men have known: that is quite useless.

The children should be told: There are wonderful things to be manifested, prepare yourself to receive them. Then if they want something a little more concrete and easier to understand, you can tell them: Sri Aurobindo came to announce these things; when you are able to read him, you will understand. So this awakens the interest, the desire to learn.

I see very clearly the difficulty he is referring to: most people – and in all the things that are written, or in the lectures they give – use inflated speech, without any truth of personal experience, which has no effect, or rather a negative effect. That is what he is referring to.

Yes, that is why they should do as I have said.

Ah! But not so long ago, most of the teachers were saying, “Oh! But we must do this, because it is done everywhere.” (Smiling) They have already come a little distance. But there is much more to be covered.

But above all, what is most important is to eliminate these divisions. And every one of them, all of them have it in their minds: the division between leading a spiritual life and leading an ordinary life, having a spiritual consciousness and having an ordinary consciousness – there is only one consciousness.

In most people it is three-quarters asleep and distorted; in many it is still completely distorted. But what is needed, very simply, is not to leap from one consciousness into another, but to open one’s consciousness (upward gesture) and to fill it with vibrations of Truth, to bring it in harmony with what must be here – there it exists from all eternity – but here, what must be here: the “tomorrow” of the earth. If you weigh yourself down with a whole burden that you have to drag behind you, if you drag behind you everything that you must abandon, you will not be able to advance very fast.

Mind you, to know things from the earth’s past can be very interesting and very useful, but it must not be something that binds you or ties you to the past. If it is used as a spring-board, it is all right. But really, it is quite secondary.

(Silence)

It would be interesting to formulate or to elaborate a new method of teaching for children, to take them very young. It is easy when they are very young. We need people – oh! we would need remarkable teachers – who have, first, an ample enough documentation of what is known so as to be able to answer every question, and at the same time, at least the knowledge, if not the experience – the experience would be better – of the true intuitive intellectual attitude, and – naturally the capacity would be still more preferable – at least the knowledge that the true way of knowing is mental silence, an attentive silence turned towards the truer Consciousness, and the capacity to receive what comes from there. The best would be to have this capacity; at least, it should be explained that it is the true thing – a sort of demonstration – and that it works not only from the point of view of what must be learned, of the whole domain of knowledge, but also of the whole domain of what should be done: the capacity to receive the exact indication of how to do it; and as you go on, it changes into a very clear perception of what must be done, and a precise indication of when it must be done. At least the children, as soon as they have the capacity to think – it starts at the age of seven, but at about fourteen or fifteen it is very clear – the children should be given little indications at the age of seven, a complete explanation at fourteen, of how to do it, and that it is the only way to be in relation with the deeper truth of things, and that all the rest is a more or less clumsy mental approximation to something that can be known directly.

The conclusion is that the teachers themselves should at least have a sincere beginning of discipline and experience, that it is not a question of accumulating books and retelling them like this. One can’t be a teacher in this way; let the outside world be like that if it likes. We are not propagandists, we simply want to show what can be done and try to prove that it must be done.

When you take the children very young, it is wonderful. There is so little to do: it is enough to be.

Never make a mistake.

Never lose your temper.

Always understand.

And to know and see clearly why there has been this movement, why there has been this impulse, what is the inner constitution of the child, what is the thing to be strengthened and brought forward – this is the only thing to do; and to leave them, to leave them free to blossom; simply to give them the opportunity to see many things, to touch many things, to do as many things as possible. It is great fun. And above all, not to try to impose on them what you think you know.

Never scold them. Always understand, and if the child is ready, explain; if he is not ready for an explanation – if you are ready yourself – replace the false vibration by a true one. But this… this is to demand from the teachers a perfection which they rarely have.

But it would be very interesting to make a programme for the teachers and the true programme of study, from the very bottom – which is so plastic and which receives impressions so deeply. If they were given a few drops of truth when they are very young, they would blossom quite naturally as the being grows. It would be beautiful work.

(Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 12, pp 401-405)

We shall now take up the talks that we had with Mother for a period of four months from December 1972 to March 29, 1973. It will not be possible to give all the details of the conversations, but I will try to give the highlights and the key points that Mother stressed upon. As already reported earlier, Mother took a lot of interest in the running of the school and was keen that it should be brought up to the expected standard. The key points may be summed up as follows:

1. She wanted to introduce the free method of education from the earliest possible age. In fact She sent Tanmay to the Primary section Avenir (age 7 to 9) to select students who were ready for the gradual use of freedom.

2. She was insistent that in order to succeed in this endeavour, the most important requirement was that at least some teachers should be in contact with their psychic being, or at least make a serious effort to do so.

3. She also identified the obstacles that were blocking the progress of the school. They were first the attitude and the expectations of most parents and second the giving of certificates after they finished their studies; she felt that it was one of the main reasons for diluting the motives of the students.

4. She was clear in Her mind that many of the text books in the field of Humanities like History, Literature etc, should be rewritten in the light of Sri Aurobindo.

5. She was at a very sensitive stage of the transformation of her body and every dispute in the school or in the Ashram affected Her. She explained a mantra that She would repeat all the time.

All these points will be illustrated in the next article with quotations from Her conversations first in French and then in the English translation.

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We shall now go into the details of the points mentioned at the end of the previous article.

1. The first point was Mother’s keenness to introduce the free system from the Primary section to those children who were ready; this was to be done in a graduated manner starting at the age of 7-9 in the section known as Avenir. Almost from the very beginning of December when the first interviews began, Mother wanted us to explore the possibility of finding out the children in the Primary section who were ready to use their freedom in the right way. As expected there was some resistance from some teachers and a lot more from parents; there were also some minor misunderstandings among the teachers. Some of them did write to Mother to explain their position; while Mother appreciated their goodwill, She was firm that this should be started and tried out on however small a scale. Consequently She sent Tanmay to identify these children and two or three were chosen with Mother’s approval. Here is an extract from the Mother’s talk:

Mother: En principe c’est les enfants qui devraient choisir….. parce que vous n’etes pas sure de ne pas vous tromper. En principe c’est les enfants qui … en tout cas, d’abord, on devrait dire aux enfants: “Voila il y a maintenant deux classes. Dans laquelle voulez-vous etre? S’ils disent: Ah! Nous ne savons pas… alors, ceux la, ca ne fait rien. Il peut y en avoir qui diront : “Oh! Nous voulons aller la.”

Tanmay: C’est ca.

Mother: Et alors, il faudrait que toi- toi, je veux dire Tanmaya – que tu voix ces enfants et que tu taches de faire sortir d’eux ce qu’il y a. Et alors après ca on decidera.

Here is the English translation.

Mother: In principle, it should be up to the children to choose… because you can’t be sure you are not mistaken.. In principle it’s up to the children who… Anyway, first of all, one should tell them:” There are now 2 classes. Which one do you want to attend?” If they say :” Ah! We don’t know….” Then for those, it doesn’t matter. There may be some who will say :” Oh! We want to go there!”

Tanmay: That’s it.

Mother: Then you should… you, – I mean Tanmaya-, you should see these children and try to bring out what there is deep inside them. .And after that we’ll decide.

It is obvious that Mother had a lot of confidence in Tanmay.

2. At the same time Mother was absolutely clear that for this to be successful the teachers or at least some of them must be in contact with their psychic being or at the least, it must be their chief preoccupation. This point is central to education in the Ashram school; it is the importance of discovering the psychic being particularly by the teachers; only then can they help students who have the possibility and the aspiration. On February 8th, Mother met six teachers, namely Kireetbhai, Tanmay, Paru, Arati, Jhumur and Kittu. She explained in some detail what She expected from us and also from the students. I am reproducing the conversation in French and the English translation.

Tanmaya: Quelle est la meilleure moyen de nous preparer pour faire un vrai progress dans le sens de ce que tu attends de nous.

Mother: Naturellement, c’est d’elargir et d’eclairer la conscience… mais comment faire! Votre proper conscience … l’elargir et l’eclairer. Et si vous pouvez trouver, chacun de vous, votre psychique et s’unir a lui, tous les problems seraient resolus.

L’etre psychique, c’est le representant du Divin dans l’etre humain. C’est ca, n’est-ce pas … le Divin n’est pas quelque chose de lointain et d’inaccessible. Le Divin est en vous mais vous n’en ’etes pas completement conscient. Vous avez plutot …ca agit maintenant comme une influence que comme une Presence. Il faut que ce soit une Presence consciente… que vous puissiez a tout moment .. vous demander quell est, comment le Divin voit . C’est comme ca – d’abord comment le Divin voit et puis comment le Divin veut et puis comment le Divin fait. Et ce n’est pas s’en aller dans des regions inaccessible , c’est ici meme. Seulement, pour le moment, toutes les vieilles habitudes et l’inconscience generale, mettent comme un sorte de couverture qui nous empeche de voir et de sentir. Il faut lever, il faut soulever ca.

Au fond il faut devenir des instruments conscients conscients, conscients du Divin.

D’habitude ca prend toute une vie,ou quelquefois , pour certains c’est plusieurs vies. Ici dans les conditions actuelles, vous pouvez le faire en quelques mois. Pour ceux qui sont, qui ont une aspiration ardente en quelques mois, ils peuvent le faire.

Here is the English translation:

Tanmay: What is the best way to prepare ourselves to make a real progress in the sense of what you are expecting from us?

Mother: Of course it is to widen and enlighten consciousness… but how to do that! Your own consciousness… expand it and enlighten it ; and if you could find, each one of you, your psychic being and unite with it, all the problems would be solved.

The psychic being represents the Divine in the human being…. It is…. The Divine is not something remote and out of reach..The Divine is in you but you are not completely aware of it.

You have rather… At present, it acts rather like an influence than like a Presence . It has to be a conscious Presence… that you can anytime… wonder what, how, the Divine sees. It is that way,— first how the Divine sees, and then how the Divine wants and finally how the Divine does. And it is not going to some inaccessible realms, it is right here. Only, for the moment, all the old habits and the general unconsciousness, put a kind of coating that keeps us from seeing and feeling. It must be shifted, removed.

Finally, one must become instruments, aware, aware, aware of the Divine.

Usually it takes a whole lifetime, or, for some people sometimes several lives. Here in the current conditions you could achieve it in few months. For those who have a fervent aspiration within a few months time, they can do it.

When She was asked whether we could give this as the aim for all the students, She replied:

Tanmay: Et Mère on peut donner ça comme objectif à tous les enfants?

Mother: Tous…non ! ils n’ont pas tous le meme âge…meme quand ils ont le meme âge physiquement. Il y a des enfants qui..qui sont primaires. Il faudrait…n’est-ce pas! si. vous étiez pleinement conscients de votre psychique vous sauriez les enfants qui. ont un psychique développé….il y a des enfants où le psychique… le psychique est seulement embryonnaire. L’âge du psychique n’est pas le meme, il s’en faut de beaucoup.

Normalement le psychique met plusieurs vies à se former complétement et c’est lui qui passe d’un corps dans un autre et c’est pour ça que nous ne sommes pas conscients de nos vies passées…. parce que nous ne sommes pas conscients de notre psychique… mais quelquefois il y a un moment où le psychique a participé à un évènement…il est devenu conscient et ça ça fait un souvenir. On a quelquefois…. on a .quelque fois un souvenir fragmentaire, le souvenir d’une circonstance ou d’un évènement, d’une pensée ou d’une action …comme ça … et c’est parce que le psychique était conscient.

Qu’est-ce que vous voulez…. Maintenant, je suis près de la centaine, n’ èst-ce Pas il s’en faut de cinq ans seulement j’ai commencé 1’effort pour devenir consciente à cinq ans, mon petit. Voilà.., c’est pour vous dire.., et je continue et ça continue. Seulement…naturellement, j’en suis venue faire le travail pour les cellules du corps, mais il y a longtemps que le travail est commencé.

C’est pas pour vous décourager…mais c’est pour vous dire que ça se fait pas comme ça !

Le corps…le corps est encore une matière qui est encore très lourde…et c’est la matière elle-meme qui doit changer pour que le supramental puisse se manifester.

Here is the English translation:

Tanmay: And Mother, can we give this as the aim for all the children?

Mother: All of them… No! they are not the same age… even when they are the same age physically… some children are …. primary. One should… If you were fully conscious of your psychic being you could tell which children have a developed psychic being. Some children only have an embryonic psychic being . The age of the psychic being is not the same as the physical age.

Normally, it takes several lives for the psychic being to take full shape and it is that which passes from one body to another and this is why we are not aware of our past lives…. because we are not conscious of our psychic being.. but sometimes the psychic being has been involved in an event …it has become aware and that creates a memory… one sometimes has a sketchy memory… the memory of a circumstance or an event or a thought or an action… like that and it’s because the psychic being was conscious at that time.

Now, of course I am close to the hundred or so, save five years… I started striving to become conscious when I was 5 years old, my child ..that’s just to say….and I carry on and it goes on…Only naturally I end up doing the work for the cells of the body, but the work began a very long time ago.
It is not to discourage you … but just to warn you it doesn’t get done by itself!

The body…the body is still very heavy matter… it‘s the matter itself that has to change so that the Supramental can emerge.

We are reproducing a note from the Mother on the qualities that a teacher must possess:

PERSONALITY TRAITS OF A SUCCESSFUL TEACHER

1. Complete self-control not only to the extent of not showing any anger, but remaining absolutely quiet and undisturbed under all circumstances.

2. In the matter of self-confidence, must also have a sense of the relativity of his importance. Above all, must have the knowledge that the teacher himself must always progress if he wants his students to progress, must not remain satisfied either with what he is or with what he knows.

3. Must not have any sense of essential superiority over his students nor preference or attachment whatsoever for one or another.

4. Must know that all are equal spiritually and instead of mere tolerance must have a global comprehension or understanding.

5. “The business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle)

Never forget that to be a good teacher one has to abolish in oneself all egoism.

10 December 1959
(Collected Works of the Mother, Vol 12 p. 167)

She also identified the obstacles that were blocking the progress of the school. The first one was the attitude and the expectations of most parents and the second one was the giving of certificates after the students finished their studies; she felt that it was one of the main reasons for diluting the motives of the students.

Mother then asked Kireetbhai to write a note for the parents; Kireetbhai wrote that note which Mother appreciated and then it was sent to the parents. This note explained the work that was being done here and what was expected from the parents. It was an appeal to them to cooperate with the aims of the school.

Regarding the motivation of the students; Mother was keenly aware that the orientation of many students was towards getting jobs and success in the world. She felt after a few discussions that one of the main causes for this was the issuing of certificates after they completed the Higher course She therefore decided to stop giving certificates. She asked Kireetbhai to write a note announcing once more the statement that had been made earlier by the Mother herself as to why we do not give certificates and diplomas ; and in pursuance of that objective, the certificates would be stopped in a gradual fashion. Students who were already in the Higher course would be given their certificates; but students who would be entering the Higher course would be told clearly that they would not be given certificates. These students would have to decide whether they would like to continue studying here or whether they would leave and study outside in any other college or institution.

A meeting was called of all the students of the Higher course and the students who were in the last year of the Secondary course; Kireetbhai addressed them and they were informed of this decision and were asked to make their choice and inform the authorities well in time. It was absolutely clear that Mother wanted to encourage students to study for the sake of knowledge and not primarily for jobs or any other mundane reasons.

We are reproducing below a letter of the Mother which illustrates this.

Question: Why are no diplomas and certificates given to the students of the Centre of Education?

Mother: For the last hundred years or so mankind has been suffering from a disease which seems to be spreading more and more and which has reached a climax in our times; it is what we may call “utilitarianism”. People and things, circumstances and activities seem to be viewed and appreciated exclusively from this angle. Nothing has any value unless it is useful. Certainly something that is useful is better than something that is not. But first we must agree on what we describe as useful—useful to whom, to what, for what? For, more and more, the races who consider themselves civilised describe as useful whatever can attract, procure or produce money. Everything is judged and evaluated from a monetary angle. That is what I call utilitarianism. And this disease is highly contagious, for even children are not immune to it. At an age when they should be dreaming of beauty, greatness and perfection, dreams that may be too sublime for ordinary common sense, but which are nevertheless far superior to this dull good sense, children now dream of money and worry about how to earn it. So when they think of their studies, they think above all about what can be useful to them, so that later on when they grow up they can earn a lot of money. And the thing that becomes most important for them is to prepare themselves to pass examinations with success, for with diplomas, certificates and titles they will be able to find good positions and earn a lot of money. For them study has no other purpose, no other interest.

To learn for the sake of knowledge, to study in order to know the secrets of Nature and life, to educate oneself in order to grow in consciousness, to discipline oneself in order to become master of oneself, to overcome one’s weaknesses, incapacities and ignorance, to prepare oneself to advance in life towards a goal that is nobler and vaster, more generous and more true… they hardly give it a thought and consider it all very utopian. The only thing that matters is to be practical, to prepare themselves and learn how to earn money.

Children who are infected with this disease are out of place at the Centre of Education of the Ashram. And it is to make this quite clear to them that we do not prepare them for any official examination or competition and do not give them any diplomas or titles which they can use in the outside world. We want here only those who aspire for a higher and better life, who thirst for knowledge and perfection, who look forward eagerly to a future that will be more totally true. There is plenty of room in the world for all the others.

17 July 1960

(Collected Works of the Mother, Vol. 12 p. 352)

She also stressed that some of the text books in the field of Humanities (not of Science and Maths) should be written here by our own teachers or by the followers of Sri Aurobindo in that light. This conversation took place of 20th February 1973. She even suggested to me that I should write a book on Indian History in the light of Sri Aurobindo. She also emphasised that Her work depends to a certain extent on the success of this project. .When she asked me to write the book, I was very diffident about it, but since She asked me to do it, I decided to go ahead with it. I do not know why Mother chose me to write that book; probably it was because a few years earlier in early 1968, I had prepared a syllabus for the two highest classes of the secondary. It was shown to Mother who appreciated it. Here is the purpose of the syllabus:

Syllabus for EAVP

The purpose of this syllabus is to give to the students the necessary background information which will help them understand the books of Sri Aurobindo—The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Foundations of Indian Culture—when they go to the Higher Course. Ten topics have been selected for study in the Classes 5 & 6. All these topics have been extensively covered by Sri Aurobindo in these books. Each topic will be covered in a period of two months. I shall not go into the details of the syllabus, but it is sufficient to note that Mother was happy that these studies should be centred around Sri Aurobindo’s vision.

One day She spoke about the mantra She uses regularly. Here is the conversation:

Oui oui mais notre langage … j’allais te dire c’est une bonne idée « et je me suis attrappee par l’oreille au moment ou je me disais c’est pas une idee. Tu comprends c’est notre langage qui a la .. c’est comme une cloche qui est sur lui, une cloche mentale dont il ne veut pas se debarasser, vraiment c’est un moment difficile . Je crois qu’il faudrait etre tres tranquille , tres tranquille, tres tranquille. Je vais dire mon ancien mantra. Celui la tiens l’etre exterieure tres tranquille.

Aum Namo Bhagavate ces trois mots.

Pour moi, ils voulaient dire :

Om: J’implore le Seigneur Supreme.

Namo : obeisance a lui.

Bhagavate : rends moi divin.

C’est une traduction de ca, je veux dire. Tu as entendu.

Ca pour moi, ca a le pouvoir de calmer tout.

Below is the English translation:

Yes, yes but our language.. I was going to tell you it is a good idea and I caught myself by the ear right when I was saying to myself it is not an idea. You understand, it’s our language that has..It ‘s like a bell that is on him, a mental bell that he doesn’t want to get rid of, actually it is a difficult time. I believe one should have to be very very quiet,very quiet, very quiet.

I am going to chant my old mantra. This one keeps the outer being very quiet.

Aum Namo Bhagavate those three words.

To me they meant:

Om: I implore the Supreme Lord

Namo: obedience to Him

Bhagavate: make me divine.

It is a translation of that, I mean. You’ve heard.

That for me, has the power to pacify everything

I am adding a side note that took place during our talks. This is to dispel the impression that is currently widespread in some circles that Mother was against taking help from the Government of India.

Kireet went to Delhi twice during the period January-March 1973 for finalising grants given by the Government of India. On both occasions when he returned and met Mother, She was very happy to get the grants. Kireet also recounted how some of the senior officers were open to the educational philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. On one such occasion, She told Kireet that if Indira Gandhi asked for help, you should respond positively

In this series of articles, I have presented my interaction with the Mother both as a teacher and as one working in the administration of the school. Naturally it does not give a total view of the Mother’s educational philosophy. Still it does reveal certain very important components of the Mother’s vision. For Mother was just giving a body to the educational concepts of Sri Aurobindo. In a way of speaking, one might say that Mother tried to concretize and implement the educational philosophy of Sri Aurobindo on a small scale. We are quoting below an extract of the educational principles as laid down by Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo on the three principles of Education

In teaching the first principle is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or taskmaster, he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose. He does not actually train the pupil’s mind; he only shows him how to perfect his instruments of knowledge and helps and encourages him in the process. He does not impose knowledge to him; he only shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself. He does not call forth the knowledge that is within; he only shows him where it lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface.

The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in his growth. The idea of hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent or teacher is a barbarous and ignorant superstition. It is he himself who must be induced to expand in accordance with his own nature. There can be no greater error than for the parent to arrange beforehand that his son shall develop particular qualities, capacities, ideas, virtues, or be prepared for a prearranged career. To force the nature to abandon its own dharma is to do it permanent harm, mutilate its growth and deface its perfection. It is a selfish tyranny over a human soul and a wound to the nation, which loses the benefit of the best that a man could have given it and is forced to accept instead something imperfect and artificial, second-rate, perfunctory and common. Everyone has in him something divine, something his own, a chance of perfection and strength in however small a sphere, which God offers him to take or refuse. The task is to find it, develop and use it.

The third principle of education is to work from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be. The basis of a man’s nature is almost always, in addition to his soul’s past, his heredity, his surroundings, his nationality, his country, the soil from which he draws sustenance, the air which he breathes, the sights, sounds, habits to which he is accustomed. They mould him not the less powerfully because insensibly, and from that then we must begin. We must not take up the nature by the roots from the earth in which it must grow or surround the mind with images and ideas of a life, which is alien to that in which it must physically move. If anything has to be brought in from outside, it must be offered, not forced on the mind. A free and natural growth is the condition of genuine development.

The question that arises is whether we—the followers of Sri Aurobindo, the government of India and humanity—are ready both physically and psychologically to implement this; for this demands a radical shift in the aims, goals and policy of education. But whether we are ready or not, it is always desirable to keep the ideal in front of our consciousness so that sooner or later the attempt to change will begin in real earnest.

It will be a great step forward if the governments started at least considering these ideas and then initiate the changes in a gradual manner.

To conclude, the points that Mother stressed for our education were:

1. Introduce the free system as early as possible to prepare the children for a free growth and flowering

2. Take the parents into confidence and make them understand the goals and methods of the new educational system. Their cooperation is indispensable.

3. Replace the utilitarian motivation by a higher motivation of seeking for knowledge and fulfilling one’ swadharma. This does not mean that education must not be useful; on the contrary it is most useful when one is true to oneself.

4. Rewrite the text books in the light of the true and deeper Indianness and in the light of Sri Aurobindo. This is applicable for India. For other nations, the text books must reflect their deepest inner being.

5. The evaluation system prevailing now, based on exams does not give a complete picture of the student; it must be much more broad- based and take the whole personality into account.

6. Teachers must try to develop the personality traits already mentioned in this article. Ultimately they must try to come in contact with their psychic being. A teacher must be a living example.

*

About the Author: Kittu Reddy was born on 2 July 1936 in the district of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. His father Narayan Reddy was one of the members of the Swaraj Party founded by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and his uncle Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was the sixth President of India. At the age of five he was brought to Sri Aurobindo Ashram by his parents. After graduating from Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1957, he joined the very Centre as a teacher in 1958. After teaching the students at the school level for a decade he began to take classes at the Higher Course (college level) of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from 1968. His areas of specialization are History, Political Science, Social Science and The Foundations of Indian Culture. He was also involved in the administration of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from 1958 to 1976. In 1987 he came in contact with the Indian Army and has been giving talks and conducting workshops on Motivation, Leadership and the Mission of India for the armed forces at various training centres in India. At the request of General B.C. Joshi (the then Chief of Indian Army), he shifted to New Delhi in 1994 for two years to help the former in his work. He was appointed Advisor to the organization named Army Welfare Education Society which looks after the Army Schools. He was also entrusted with the task of penning capsules for the training institutions of the Indian Army right from the stage of induction to the rank of senior officers with the purpose of introducing spirituality as a factor of motivation. At present he is a Founder-Member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Army Welfare Education Society. He has also worked with General Shankar Roy Chowdhury after the demise of General B.C. Joshi. In 1995 he visited the United States of America and England. In England he addressed the Royal College of Defence Studies. In November 2006 he was invited by the Indian Army to its Headquarters at New Delhi for a discussion on stress management and tackling problems of suicide and fratricide. In 2006 he visited Sweden and gave a few talks at the Indo-Swedish Association and the National Defence College in Stockholm. He has also delivered several lectures at Jadavpur University and Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture on Social Science and World Unity, Education in India and various allied topics. He has also organized workshops for NIIT on stress management. Presently he is working with the Indian Army on Morals and Ethics. He has contributed a number of articles to prestigious French journals on the problems of World Unity and psychological development on spiritual lines. He has authored the following books: Bravest of the Brave, Kargil: The Manifestation of a Deeper Problem, Secularism, Religion and Spirituality, History of India—A New Approach and A Vision of United India—Problems and Solutions.

*

2 Comments

  1. May 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Skylight.

  2. surendra singh chouhan said,

    May 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Dear Kittu Da ,

    You have done a splendid job by recreating with care the history of the Ashram school with tremendous clarity very well supported by the relevant letters and messages of the Divine Mother . It is exciting catalogue of eventful moments in the evolution of the Ashram school as you saw its story / history unfolding during the early decades until 1973 under the aegis of the Blessings of the Divine Mother — this is a must read chronicle of supreme value both in content as well as genuine authenticity. Well done !

    Surendra S Chouhan – saice ’69

    Melbourne – Australia


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