A Project of Education
by Swami Krishnananda
The world has, first of all, to stand 'outside there' as an 'object' of the percipient individual, in order that the latter may make any sense of life at all. But, is it true that the world is really 'outside there', as an isolated object staring at the individual?
This strange predicament which one encounters in the study of anything would testify to the value that seems to be attached to such processes and doctrines and ways of living as the purely astronomical, physical, chemical, biological, historical, political, social, economic, civic, aesthetic, and even ethical and epistemological envisagements of existence, as they stand today. The whole edifice may tumble down if the meaning of a life of this kind is rooted in the basic requirement that the world is 'outside' the individual.
Modern astronomy and physics, to mention the least and the most obvious, fortunately, appear to have, unwittingly though, stumbled upon the fact that the universe is an undivided continuum, an organism, in which the space-time complex has to be transfigured into a four-dimensional perception, and that matter is not 'outside there' to be seen or dealt with by an 'individual'. The 'individual' so-called goes with the universe.
This should augur, evidently, a new vision of life in its entirety, awakening man from his slumber of empirical phenomenalism which, dream-like, is taken for reality, very erroneously. The return process to this great Fact of the Universe is education. A logical ascent to perfection is called for. The movement, then, is from the social scene to the psychology of the individual, the cosmical set-up and the Ultimate Reality.
Education may be said to be the process of awakening to the structure of existence. It is a graduated widening and ascent in the dimension of consciousness to the degrees of reality. Life is essentially a system of adjustment of oneself to the laws of the universe. The meaning of human enterprise in the world, thus, is coordination of the individual with the facts of the cosmic arrangement of things and a harmonious cooperation in the fulfilment of its purpose. The evolutionary scheme of the universe would lay down the required curriculum of the educational career.
But, the empirical insistence that the world is outside the individual has, however, to be taken into a matter-of-fact consideration, since all progress is from a lesser reality to a higher degree of being. This would also substantiate the empirical value of the stages of the evolution of the universe conceived and experienced as a reality of pragmatic existence in a world of enterprise and progress.
The individual may be said to constitute a cross-section of the universe. The human being operates like a miniature cosmos. This would mean that the principles that are active in the universe direct and condition the existence and activity of all human life. The analysis would also reveal that there is a universal performance implicit in the existence of human beings and in their pursuits of what they consider as their objectives or aims. Towards this end, there is all the striving of human life, concerning which there has always been felt the necessity for intense educational training as a method of introducing a universal manifestation into the adventures of human individuality.
These insights may perhaps be adequate to begin a spade-work for laying the foundation of a proper educational career for humanity. When a child is born and practically knows nothing except for the fact that it is evidently self-conscious of its bodily existence and has a feeling of awareness of a vague and nebulous atmosphere of persons and things around it, there is also in it a pressure towards objective consciousness, and the inclination of the child is more in the direction of externality of perception and feeling than an awareness of its own existence as a human unit. What we may call the cosmological scheme is naturally to be followed in an understanding of the educational project, since it would appear that education is nothing short of a conscious discipline of the individual to ascend gradually, stage by stage to levels indicated by cosmic evolution. The condition of the child-consciousness mentioned may pave the way with which the educational method could be commenced for implementation. In the earlier stages of education, call it the kindergarten, the Montessori stage, or the primary education level, there is always to be a psychological programme to bring slowly into a state of gradual integration the many-sided, rather distracted, perceptions of the external world by the child. Often education begins with training in writing reading and basic arithmetic and discipline. Later on, the mind of the child is allowed to move further in a similar integrated fashion along wider areas of human society around, together with the civic sense involved in every kind of human relationship, whether in the family or in the community of people outside, because, practically, the human individual is primarily concerned with other such individuals more than with things which are not human. There are instincts of the species which pull it to its own kindred individuals or kith and kin or others who are related humanly in any manner. Human relations may be said to be the immediately felt necessities in the process of study and training, which include the norms of civic duty and behaviour in regard to the immediate environment of any society, determined, of course, by the psychology, the social set-up or, rather, the sociological tradition and scheme operative in the particular human environment – it may be in a locality of a linguistic society bringing people together with an affinity of any cultural and fraternal thinking.
With this method of what we may call human understanding scientifically introduced, an important barrier post in education is crossed. Then the student is further introduced to the world which is made up basically not only of human beings alone, but other things also that are there, which form the wider expanse of the vast earth, among which we live. This takes one to the commencement of studies in the syllabus of geography, including an exposition of what this earth is made of, how large it is, what things there are on the other parts of the earth beyond the limits of the areas of one's own family, community, province or country, etc. Regional geography is the primary stage. The other aspects of it may include the ways of people living in different parts of the world, their cultural behaviour, their outlook of life, things that grow and are manufactured in those areas, the natural ways of economics, social existence, the speciality of various parts of the physical world, and so on. Geography concerns itself mainly with the earth, but may open the gates to giving a wider vision of the astronomical concept of the solar system and the planets revolving round the sun, of which the earth is one. The student's knowledge is raised to a higher level of a surprising dimension, and, with a proper system of teaching, this may bring deep satisfaction and joy to the student's mind by a gaining of insight into the marvels of the working of the solar system and the astronomical complex in a general way. Here, another stage of education may come to a close, leaving space for introducing a further channel of studies in the progress of educational or human consciousness. This would be an entry into the history and culture of the people, to whose national family one belongs. The chronological narration of the history and culture of the people of one's own country would be an essential, extending further the vision gained earlier in the initial study of a local atmosphere alone. The study of the history of one's country may commence from the earliest known times to the present day, as an outline, but gradually deepening the studies in the higher courses of education, extending to world history.
Then comes also the need to learn how people in the country are managed by what is known as the governmental system. Here commences the work of sowing the seed of the study of political science, firstly in the theoretical norm for every type of human administration, and, subsequently, the ways by which the norms are applied in different types of political management, including the political governance of one's own country. The training in the economic and social sides of human living grows gradually side by side together with the study of the science and the method of political administration and management. The hierarchy of civic management and political positions in this scheme will open up a new vista of human obligation and duty in the world of variety, both human and non-human, living and non-living things. These subjects should be introduced gradually by stages, right from basic outlines to profound studies in later stages.
The study of ethics and human morality, though it forms a difficult subject and may even look a controversial point of study, may be taken up as the next stage, bearing in mind that the ethical or moral sense is not attempted to be introduced into the student's mind from the point of view of any family tradition, local custom, religious faith or stereotyped training of any kind. This would make the subject a little difficult, since it would appear that ethics, practically, borders on a whole philosophy of life rather than remain an instruction on norms of human, behaviour and conduct. Leaving aside the philosophical or metaphysical foundations of ethics and morality for the time being, the student here in this stage may be given sufficient information on the necessity for mutual cooperation among human beings, as a social factor behind survival in the world, the necessity to see that, in one's own life, one does not injure, harm or exploit another in any way, whether in thought, word or deed, and does not appropriate what one has not earned, or expect more than what others also would expect justifiably on the principle of mutual coordination and cooperation – 'Live and let live'. The higher implications of ethics and morality are to be postponed for study at a still later stage.
That human beings love beauty, architecture, sculpture, painting, music, literature, and such other channels of expression for an emotional satisfaction is not in any way less important a theme than the fact of the insistent aesthetic sense and the primary urges and impulses of human nature. People like everything that is artistic, all that is systematic, laid out symmetrically, in an orderly way, methodically, and effectively. A graduated scheme here, again, is necessary as a course, for supplementing the educational career, so that the intellect and the emotion may slowly get blended into the integrated comprehension of both oneself and others, and understanding and instinct do not stand apart as opposites.
In a way, it may be said that the study of the external world and or what are called the humanities would be practically covered with the advances that have been so far made, but the world is deeper than what a superficial study of astronomy or geography may tell us. The sciences of physics and chemistry are profound explorations into the mysteries of matter, which is the substance of the physical universe. This area may form the next stage of studies, again, in a graduated manner, rising from the lowest stages to the higher ones. The biological constitution that is unavoidable and inextricable in living beings, or organic life in general, takes us to the principle of life that seems to germinate and dawn at the level of the vegetable or plant kingdom. The science of botany concerns itself with life and growth, etc., in this region of the living world. Animals reveal a higher and more intensive form of instinctive life, deeper and wider in every way, than what is covered in the plant kingdom. This latter branch of study comes under zoology including entomology and such other fields of study. When urged further, the study enters the profundities of anatomy and physiology in the human organism.
The human being tops the list of living beings, in whom intellect and reason are active in a predominant way and the endowment of understanding raises men above matter, biological life and instinctive perception. The study of psychology is a research into the structural workings of the human mind and reason, the will, the emotion, the feeling and the internal actions and reactions of the psyche. In the scheme of the educational process, the touching of the field of psychology, rising above the level of biology, would land one at the portal of higher education in a predominant and significant meaning. Here, the studies should cover both the Western and Eastern sciences of psychology. In the West, Behaviourism, Hormic and Gestalt psychology are prominent at the main schools. In the East, this area is covered in different places – the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the like.
The empirical action and reaction processes of the psychological apparatus are studied in psycho-analysis which brings out the practical problems of one's personal and social existence. In the West, Freud, Adler and Jung, mainly, and in the East, the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and Patanjali have gone into the depths of the operation of the human psyche. A thorough knowledge of the psycho-analytic process involved in individual and social growth is essential to understand one's own personality and individual aims in society. This knowledge is indispensable for a clear understanding of the background and functions of any human being in different circumstances of life and its environment relations.
With this we bid goodbye to all empirical education, and now the student is lifted to the universe of philosophy. How does one know that there is a world, what is it that one is expected to do in this world, and what can one hope for while living in this world? These questions and the like commence studies in the field of the theory of knowledge, called epistemology. The philosophical adventure starts with a recognition of the limits of the capacities of the human being to know anything at all. Western philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel and their followers have done extensive researches in this field and proclaimed their conclusions. In the East, the schools of Jainism, Buddhism, the Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta have taken this aspect of study rigorously, in an intensive manner.
The question involved in the knowledge of the world of experience leads one to the theme of pure philosophy, viz., cosmology and metaphysics, the latter being sometimes called ontology. The problem of the knowledge of the world arises on account of the assumption that the world is outside the perceiving subject. The cosmological schemes in the schools of thought give us a wider picture of the whole situation in the number of the stages of descent and ascent. The point is that the universe has no distinction of inside and outside, in which everyone and everything is included, so that the question of perceiving the world does not arise in such an integrated state of being. In the East, the Samkhya and the Vedanta provide a complete delineation of the scheme of the evolutionary process. There is one, ubiquitous, primordial, undifferentiated, universal continuity – we may call it the matrix, or material substance, or energy. We may call it Prakriti in the language of the Samkhya. The condensation of the cosmic purpose in a totality of Awareness is called Mahat – the Cosmic Intelligence, or Reason. A further centralisation of this Universal Creative Will in a state of limitless Self-consciousness is known as Ahamkara. A further concretisation of this primordial energy is the diversification in the subtle, super-electro-magnetic forces which become the principles of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell, known in the Sanskrit language as the Tanmatras. By permutation and combination of these invisible original principles in certain proportions, the five gross elements, viz., Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, are formed. Here cosmic creation is complete, down to the lowest level of matter, i.e., the Earth principle.
We have to add here a very important note that the Universal Intelligence is immanently present in all the stages mentioned, right from Prakriti, or primary matter. The physical and psychical isolation of individuals is said to be a sectional, piecemeal division of this Cosmic Being, which descends down to the physical matter of crass sense-perception. The issue concerning the perception of the external world raised at the level of epistemology arises because of the split of individuality out of the Cosmic Substance, and the individuals erroneously assume an unwarranted independence of subjectivity, as if they are the knowers and the world is the known, while the fact seems to be the other way round, i.e., the Total Nature is the seer or the knower, and the individuals are only split sparks, as it were, shunted out from the cosmic wholeness. It is, thus, the individuals that are to be regarded as the objects of the Universal Subject, rather than the quaint supposition on the part of isolated individuals that they are the subjects and the universe is their object of perception and contact. In the above details may be found almost the entire range of the rungs in the ladder of descent and ascent in all forms of life. It need not be mentioned that the aim of all education, therefore, seems to be a graduated wholesome ascent from the lowest levels of existence to the highest perfection of the Universal Absolute.
Students of philosophy are generally required to have a requisite background of the implications of the mathematics of Space, Time and Gravitation, and sufficient acquaintance with literature, logic and semantics.
Factors which are not directly connected with educational, psychology or philosophy and the process of a rational training of the human individual, such as the intricate activities of the internal world of man, are not, however, unimportant, at least from the point of view of knowing oneself, or anyone for the matter of that. In our analysis of the process of descent in the cosmological set-up, we ended with the cosmic event at the point of a large physical universe concluding in separation at the grossest level of matter or the Earth-principle. Up to this level is the state of cosmic existence and there are no individuals here. But scriptures like the Upanishads, the Epics and the Puranas, and cosmological narrations such as those we have in the Holy Bible, speak of a fall of man, and philosophers like Leibniz speak of what they call a 'constitutional appetition' of individuality. All this is, perhaps, intended to convey that what we call the world of experience is a network of reactions set up by by individuals in respect of the universe from which they have been severed (which is the fall spoken of) and which they consider as an external object to their own mental awareness. According to the Puranas, the isolated sparks are the divine radiance of what we call the gods or angels of heaven and the higher realms of being. The Aitareya Upanishad makes a pertinent point when it says that these angels cried aloud, being cast in the ocean of hunger and thirst and wanted food for themselves, which they craved from the Creator. The idea seems to be that the isolation of individuality from the Cosmic Core implied simultaneously a reversal in the process of perception by consciousness in the angels so-called, causing these subjects to consider the universe as the object of their knowledge and contact. The reversal of perception here, placing the object in the position of the subject and the True Subject in the position of the object, is the beginning of what is known as Samsara, or the fall of the individual into the sea of mental and physical turmoil. The angel enters into the grosser individuality, as goes the narration in the Aitareya Upanishad. The continuous radiance of consciousness sparked off from the Universal Whole concretises its will into a potentiality of an assertive, total independence from the Whole, and then there is an obliteration of the consciousness of the Whole, a darkening cloud hangs over it, as one has in the state of deep sleep. The reversal of the activity of consciousness continues and, like a ray of light getting split and distorted through a chaotically structured painted prism, it gets deflected as dream-consciousness and waking consciousness, which are characteristics of the mortal individual, not to be found in the realm of the angel. The three states of consciousness, viz., sleep, dream and waking are, thus, a travesty into which the original truth of one's being enters to seek its own imagined kingdom and to rule over it; for, has not the poet said, "It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven"? The three states of consciousness suffer through five degrees of conscious descent in individuality, called the sheaths of individuality, and known as the Anandamaya, Vijnanamaya, Manomaya, Pranamaya and Annamaya layers of experience, i.e., the causal, intellectual, mental, vital and physical involucre of the individual. The ego is nothing but the inveterate power of self assertion by consciousness in this condition. The involved individuality placed in this predicament of inexplicable agony searches for that which it has lost. Hunger and thirst, heat and cold, are by-products of the instinct to maintain individuality in this state, independently of any vital relationship with the Cosmic Reality.
An interesting feature of this individual circumstance is the split of the original androgen into the male and female bipolar existence for the process of descent and self-multiplication, and their struggle to unite with each other in a spatial and temporal communion, all which is the saga of sex-life, which is nothing but the inner longing of consciousness, in its bipolar condition, to gain integration of experience by entering into its own counterpart in the particular bipolar set-up, in the space-time context of an externally perceived universe. Here we have a fund of information concerning the difficulties of human beings, the troubles of every man, woman and child in this world, and a diagnosis of their present degradation. Though academic learning and teaching in educational institutions through courses of education, as we have suggested, or otherwise, may not be concerned with this deeper mystery of the psycho-analytic world, here is an essential knowledge for every human being endeavouring to know his own or her own true substance and aspirations in the world. Especially, seekers of truth, who are ardently striving to return to their original Home in the Absolute, will find that, in the long run, this analytic understanding of themselves is necessary and inevitable for transforming themselves into perfect persons in their journey to the great goal of all existence.