True Attitude of the Teacher – Part 2

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Continued from PART 1


Freedom from wrong movements through the freedom to err or stumble

What the child then decides must not be questioned, he should be allowed to proceed. He knows the consequences and will remember them. Thus only will the child acquire the sense of responsibility which is aimed at. The justification of this attitude is given by Sri Aurobindo in these terms:

All experience shows that man must be given a certain freedom to stumble in action as well as to err in knowledge so long as he does not get from within himself his freedom from wrong movement and error; otherwise he cannot grow.

– Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 25, p. 230

Thus the child will be shown by experience that there is in him, above the movements of the ordinary nature – likes and dislikes, impulses and fancies, ideas, etc. – a region of deep peace and silence. If he listens carefully he will discover that in this silence, there is also the feeling of a Presence, a conscious Presence.

And after some time, when he turns back to his problems, he will be found one day to say: “Oh! I know now what to do!” The quality of such decisions is very different from the ordinary movements.

The child will recognize gradually that this inner guidance is the only valid and most satisfying one. It alone gives a peace and joy that surpass pleasures and enjoyments. But it is difficult to discover and listen to, because emotions and thoughts are too active and noisy. An inner silence has to be established first.

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If the teacher succeeds in establishing with his pupil a soul to soul contact, a kind of helpful link is created. The Mother has shown how a proper relation between teacher and pupil can be established and maintained.

When a child has done something wrong, see that he confesses it to you spontaneously and frankly; and when he has confessed, with kindness and affection make him understand what was wrong in his movement so that he will not repeat it, but never scold him; a fault confessed must always be forgiven.

You should not allow any fear to come between you and your child; fear is a pernicious means of education: it invariably gives birth to deceit and lying.

Only a discerning affection that is firm yet gentle and an adequate practical knowledge will create the bonds of trust that are indispensable for you to be able to educate your child effectively. And do not forget that you have to control yourself constantly in order to be equal to your task and truly fulfil the duty which you owe your child by the mere fact of having brought him into the world.

– The Mother, CWM Vol. 12, p. 11

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Threat and punishment should be completely avoided. An untimely outburst from the teacher is all that is needed to wipe out all the confidence that the child has in him. The way will be blocked for a long time and often irreparably.

Love and sympathy, desire to help, devotion to an ideal, the satisfaction of being at peace with oneself, are in the end more potent constructive forces than fear of punishment, whether by the headmaster, the police or a god. “Coercion”, says Sri Aurobindo, “only chains up the devil and alters at best his form of action into more mitigated and civilised movements; it does not and cannot eliminate him.” (CWSA, Vol. 25, p. 230)

But this should not lead one to believe that we advocate a freedom which allows the child to indulge indiscriminately his desires and caprices. The freedom we vindicate for the child is the freedom to establish the conditions of his own progress – hence the name Free Progress Classes, as we like to call the classes of our method.

From our archives:
Free Progress: The Mother, an Educationist of the Future

Being, so to say, his own master, the child is obliged to refer constantly to the inner guidance, if he wants to avoid pitfalls, because experience will have taught him the price he has to pay in the shape of loss of inner harmony and peace, clouding of the mind and dissipation of his time and energy.

This necessity of perpetual choice is the creative element in this education. Its aim is to inculcate in the student a spirit of self-reliance and responsibility. Nothing can be a better gift to a growing child. And we allow him the freedom to err or stumble, because we know that by his errors and stumblings he will be able to walk straight.

Regarding the inner guidance, Sri Aurobindo writes:

If one keeps the true will and true attitude, then the intuitions or intimations from within will begin to grow, become clear, precise, unmistakable and the strength to follow them will grow also.

– Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Vol. 30, p. 43

Progress guided by the soul

On the other hand, we do not expect the child to be at once the master of the inner movements. It requires many years of patient work, even a whole lifetime. But he can observe them in a calm and detached manner, study and identify them. This is an indispensable first step, preliminary to mastery. The gaining of mastery is an important subject, which we cannot even touch here.

Well, it is certainly good that the old coercive methods of education have gone or are going, but on the condition that something higher replaces them.

Otherwise the results will be disastrous. And if we judge from the direction taken by some of the most advanced nations in matter of education, they are rapidly reaching a state in which the child will give a free rein to his impulses and caprices, without any higher guidance, inner or outer, to help him towards self-knowledge and self-mastery. This is indeed a dismal prospect, of which we can see a few forebodings in the growing lawlessness among the students and in the ever-increasing number of juvenile delinquents.

Such a mistake could not have been committed if there had been a full grasp of the meaning and function assigned to education by Sri Aurobindo. The western educationists, and after them the entire world, have seized only half the truth. And this deficiency may be the source of the ominous trend in education evinced the world over.

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No human collective life is possible without discipline. But it ought to be a discipline taking into account as much the diversity of human nature as the unity of the soul, the deeper consciousness in man. Only a discipline of this kind is freely acceptable as it does not interfere with the subtle action of the soul.

Once such a discipline is freely accepted — and under these conditions — it should be carefully observed, without consideration for passing caprices. Unity does not entail uniformity; the latter is nothing but a deformation and a caricature of the former. It is the confusion between unity and uniformity which is so harmful in political ideologies.

It may be argued that the guidance of the soul we recognize is nothing more than the ‘voice of conscience’, the moral sense of right and wrong that every human being has more or less developed within himself. And the action, usefulness and limitations of the conscience have been well studied by moralists and psychologists.

It is perfectly true that the soul – the psychic entity which enshrines the divine spark in man – is the origin of the conscience.

In some cases the conscience may be so developed that it will fit the description we have given. But in most cases the action of the soul is covered up and smothered by desires, ambitions and passions, hardened by the bare facts of life and mixed up hopelessly with family, national, social and religious conventions and prejudices, so as to have lost almost all of its purity and reliability.

What we present is precisely a method aiming at disengaging it from these distorting influences by an action undertaken at an early age, when the ‘small voice’ is not yet completely muffled, restoring it to its pristine purity and making it available as an impartial and trustworthy witness and guide.

In his search for a reliable way of discriminating among the various inner movements, and still more in his quest for his soul, the child can receive a genuine help only from someone who has undergone the same patient efforts at inner discrimination, who has gone through the same persistent search. Now in India this is effectively a part of the training in Yoga. It is in this sense that the Mother, speaking to teachers, has said:

One must be a great yogi to be a good teacher. One must have a perfect attitude to be able to exact a perfect attitude from the students.

~ The Mother, CWM Vol. 8, p. 354

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And a little further:

Those who succeed as teachers here—I don’t mean an outer, artificial and superficial success, but being truly good teachers—this means that they are capable of making an inner progress of impersonalisation, of eliminating their egoism, controlling their movements, capable of a clear-sightedness, an understanding of others and a never-failing patience.

~ The Mother, CWM Vol. 8, p. 354

To be a teacher in a Free Progress Class is certainly a heavy onus, but it offers also an ample reward by watching and helping the blossoming of young souls, fully engaged in their effort of self-discovery and self-mastery.

Thus the main task of the secondary education (inclusive of higher secondary) is to make the child soul-conscious, in the sense we have explained, and bring him to the correlative freedom and sense of responsibility. The adolescent will have by now understood how his soul guides his destiny. In the meanwhile, he will have learnt – at least to some extent how to work and how to learn.

– P.B. Saint Hilaire (Pavitra)

Have you read PART 1?


~ Design: Raamkumar and Biswajita Mohapatra

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