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Integral education for teachers and students

What is education? You and others such as you, in many parts of India, are engaged upon a study of this great problem: What is education?

There is a small prayer in one of our sacred Upanishads: I recite it every day. Every day, early in the morning, I recite the words of a rishi: “Tamaso ma jyatir gamaya!” Out of darkness lead me into Light! There, to my mind, is the secret of the true ideal of education. The aspiration of the great teachers of humanity has ever been this: “Lead me out of darkness into Light!” And I believe the purpose of true education is even this—to lead us out of darkness into Light.

I remember the words of a great poet of the western world. Him, too, I call a rishi—the great German poet, Goethe. He was a seer. Him I revere as a world-poet. He was lying ill. One day, he turned to his friends who were by his bedside and said to them: “Won’t you open the window of my room?” The window was opened: the poet looked through the window and gazed at the beauty of the sun, then made a statement which I have remembered ever since I read it. Goethe said: “Light! More Light!” The teaching of the Upanishads was reaffirmed by this great seer of Germany: “Light! More Light!” I believe this motto, this ideal, these words, enshrine the very heart of the wisdom of education.

Unify culture and service, and teach the students a new reverence for the poor, for the peasant, and the labourer.

There is the ideal of education. Then there is the technique of education. Of this, I will not speak now. The one sin of many schools and institutions which carry on the task of education in India is the sin of separateness. Education of the true type should, I humbly submit, bring together what has been separated.

Firstly, the intellectual should be brought in union with the manual. Manual work, I submit, should be one important aspect of every school in our country. Then, there is a separation between the head and the heart. This separation must go. We must unify the head and the heart in the teaching that we give in our schools.

Then, thirdly, we must see that our students and our teachers are inspired by the great ideal of seva or service. Culture and service should be unified. A new reverence for the poor should grow in the minds and hearts of our pupils and of those who have the great privilege of teaching in our schools! Unify culture and service, and teach the students a new reverence for the poor, for the peasant, and the labourer. In our villages, the struggle for daily life is very keen. They don’t have time to develop the spirit of the culture. It is for the “educated” to be in touch with the poor people, with the peasant and the labourer, and pass on to them the great teaching of the Upanishads, the great teaching of India’s great ones and of the great thinkers of the western world.

So may education be related to life, and not be an academic study. Let the emphasis in our teaching be on life. This type of education which I have very briefly, very imperfectly, indicated to you, I refer to sometimes as “integral education”.


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