Author: Beloo Mehra (2011), published in New Race: A Journal of Integral Studies. Volume XII (2), pp. 3-17.
In this paper, key similarities and differences between Sri Aurobindo’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s approaches to Education are theoretically examined to address a few fundamental questions: a) what is human and what is human destiny; b) what is the aim of life and aim of true Education; c) what is the “social” relevance of Gandhian and Aurobindonian thoughts on education?; and d) can Gandhian educational philosophy be considered Integral?
This essay is an attempt to understand Gandhi’s vision for education in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s approach to Integral Education. Given that the four guiding questions are closely inter-connected I offer this write-up as an initial attempt at weaving together some responses, with full awareness that many gaps are bound to remain. I am already familiar with some critical gaps, particularly regarding the ideal of human unity as envisioned by these two thinkers, the pedagogical and curricular differences and similarities, and larger differences between the visions and works of these two thinkers—their educational thought being an integral piece of that vision and work. My focus in the present work is on their views of the aim of man and education.
Aims of Life and Aims of Education
Based on a deep and conscious awareness of the significance of sociocultural variations in the concept of man, his life and destiny, of the nation and of humanity and the life of human race, which get reflected in the respective philosophies of education, Sri Aurobindo developed his scheme of integral education rooted in the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self creation, to her eternal spirit (Raina, 2000). India, according to Sri Aurobindo, has seen always in man, the individual, a soul, a portion of the Divinity enwrapped in mind and body, a conscious manifestation in Nature of the universal self and spirit.
Integral Education is based on this conception of man. This truth of man’s existence also carries within it the truth that it is important to distinguish and cultivate in man “a mental, an intellectual, an ethical, dynamic and practical, an aesthetic and hedonistic, a vital and physical being, but all these have been seen as powers of a soul that manifests through them and grows with their growth, and yet they are not all the soul, because at the summit of its ascent it arises to something greater than them all, into a spiritual being, and it is in this that [India] has found the supreme manifestation of the soul of man and his ultimate divine manhood, his paramartha and highest purushartha” (Sri Aurobindo, 1956/2004, p. 15).