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Where spirituality meets education

An old woman, of French origin is seated in a Garden, wearing a beatific smile.



Surrounding her are many people - educators, spiritual seekers, mothers asking her questions… The questions are all about children: ‘How do I create silence in my class?’ ‘How do I react when I see my child constantly asking for material things?’ ‘What should I do when I see a child lying?’ And so on. In the background there are children dressed in white playing. The old woman is ‘The Mother’, the Spiritual collaborator of Shri Aurobindo. And the setting is the Shri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.



So, why are questions about children being directed to a spiritual teacher? An understanding of the background of these two great people - Shri Aurobindo and The Mother, would be helpful.



Shri Aurobindo was an Indian Nationalist, philosopher and a poet who joined the Freedom movement and was imprisoned by the British Government.



In his Tales of prison life he writes, “The only result of the wrath of the British Government was that I found God. Else readers may think that suffering is the only fact of prison life”. On discovering his spiritual impulse, he later moved to Pondicherry and worked on his spiritual aspirations.



Mira Alfassa, born in France, known to her followers as ‘The Mother’ came to Shri Aurobindo’s spiritual retreat in 1914. And became his spiritual collaborator. She brought with her varied and rich experiences including her associations with the likes of Monet and Rabindranath Tagore.



She had a deep interest in children and founded the school in the Ashram where she worked closely with teachers and children and defined her educational philosophy. Her book titled On Education reveals her profound understanding of children and education in the light of spirituality.



There are two distinguishing features that stand out from other educators in Mother’s approach to education.



One is her conviction that education begins at birth, or even before birth. Two, her extraordinary focus on physical education.



She believed that education of the child began from the time of conception. She believed that the nature of the child to be born is greatly influenced by the mother’s aspirations, will and the physical environment.



She recalls a mother whom she knew, who during her entire pregnancy meditated upon a certain painting and how her baby is an exact copy of the form in the painting.



Her focus on physical education, one can say is almost unparalleled. A teacher writes in her diary about how upset the Mother gets when children in the ashram school were not allowed physical education, even if it was for a single day.



When asked about the difference between sports and physical education, Mother commented that sports are the games, competitions, etc. based on contests.



She said, “Physical education is the combination of exercises for the sake of growth and upkeep of the body. Physical education is meant to bring into the body, consciousness and control, discipline and mastery of all things necessary for a higher life.” The goal of physical education is not to breed champions, but to breed sportsmanship, camaraderie, bravery and heroism. For this reason multiple sports and physical activity such as archery, lifting, vaulting, running, etc. were practised at the ashram school.



Mother wrote many plays and stories for children, had the deepest respect for Indian languages, particularly Sanskrit.



In her work for the spiritual development of mankind, she found children, a great place to start, and invested her energy and hope in working with them like many of her counterparts across the world.



(Santhya is an educator and founder of Yellow Train)

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 9:13:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/where-spirituality-meets-education/article6951267.ece

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