At the NHE Summit , Didi Anandarama gave a powerpoint presentation on the Foundations of NHE including Philosophical Elements, Goals and Objectives, Basic Principles, Human Development, Methodology, Social Context of Learning, Secret Mysterious Ingredient, Teachers, Curriculum and Assessment. The content was extracted from the NHE Diploma Programme as outlined in a new small book called Foundations of NHE, which is available for sale. Parts of the presentation will be outlined in the next few issues of Gurukula Network, starting with the Philosophical Elements and Goals and Objectives in this issue.
The philosophical foundations of Neohumanist Education find their beginnings in Ananda Marga philosophy as premised in “Our Philosophical Treatise” (Tattva Koumudii 2) by Shrii P. R. Sarkar. These six philosophical elements translate into the six basic philosophical principles of NHE as outlined below. (Highlighted boxes are quotes from Shrii P. R. Sarkar.)
1. Oneness of Existence (ontology) Connected to NHE Principle of Universal Love and Neohumanism
A’nanda Ma’rga believes in monotheism. … in A’nanda Ma’rga philosophy, a subtle line of demarcation between sukha (happiness) and ananda (bliss) has been drawn. Sukha denotes a congenial mental state whereas A’nanda is a metempirical state of bliss which overflows the mind – a state which should be called neither congenial nor uncongenial. The state of bliss is always above the scope of mind because it is limitless.
Ontology is the study of the nature of being. Ananda Marga adheres to monotheism or one Supreme Consciousness. This Supreme Consciousness is bliss as experienced in the feeling of oneness with the universe. The inherent nature of all being is divine, and more and more joy or bliss is experienced as one moves closer to the goal of realising this oneness. This concept is applied in NHE as the practice and principles of Neohumanism and Universal Love.
“…So that there may not be any intellectual extravaganza or any physical subjugation, human beings require proper training both physically and mentally. And this is what is called “education” — properly training the physical existence and also the psychic world. “…” One is to get proper education; one is to be imparted with proper education, not general education, in the idea of Neohumanism. This will help human beings in training the mind. And at the same time spiritual practice should go on for proper psychic remoulding. This is what we require most. There is no alternative.”
The philosophy of Neohumanism underlies every aspect of Neohumanist Education. Its’ practice develops into life principles and the basis of one’s actions in life. Here are some of the aspects of Neohumanism:
Universal Love, Ecology and Devotional Sentiment “This Neohumanism will elevate humanism to universalism, the practice of love for all created beings of this universe.”
Neohumanism simply stated extends the love of the human heart to embrace the entire creation, including all living beings as well as the inanimate world. In contrast to the western view that the individual is alone in the universe and in competition with others for resources and status, Neohumanism promotes a vision of humanity as intimately linked with the fabric of the universe. This fundamental concept of interconnectedness is at the heart of the pedagogy. Neohumanist Education helps students develop an intimate living relationship with the web of life around them. It promotes an awareness of ecology in its broadest sense: i.e. the realisation of the inter-relatedness and interconnectedness of all things, and encourages respect and care for all living beings and the inanimate world. Neohumanism presupposes an ongoing loving relationship with the Infinite Consciousness in one’s personal life and in collective life through recognising each entity of the cosmos as a manifestation of Infinite Consciousness.
Universalism “No ‘ism’ except universalism can be tolerated in the educational system”
A universal outlook is nurtured which transcends caste, creed, colour, race and gender. This includes an appreciation of historic contributions to human society from all people and promoting the ethic of society as ‘one universal family’. Neohumanism recognises only the broadest sentiment of universalism, which embraces all the entities of the cosmos, including plants, animals and the inanimate world.
The Principle of Social Equality and Sense of Justice Recognising social equality leads to the practice of goodwill and service towards others as life principles, as well as the acceptance of the inter-relatedness of all life and the responsible role that human beings play in the universal structure. Persons following the Principle of Social Equality fight for justice.
Liberation of Intellect, Rationality and Awakened Conscience “Knowledge must be disseminated throughout all sections of society. You must create opportunities for all people to judge everything in the light of truth. Liberate the intellect of each and every person. Human intellect is now bogged down in a marshy quagmire. Let people enjoy the sweet taste of intellectual freedom.”
Neohumanism calls for liberating the intellect from dogmatic and limiting views. Through awakened conscience, one learns to think in terms of the welfare of all. Awakened conscience is the mental process of studying, applying rational mentality and utilising the principle of social equality. One discriminates which aspects of rational knowledge are worth pursuing by measuring them against one’s conscience. Conscience is a faculty, which considers whether or not an idea is for the benevolent welfare of all.
Revolutionary Social Change
Regarding implementing any changes in life there are different strategies one may adopt. The revolutionary works for positive change in the shortest possible time. A neohumanist, after analysing that an aspect of social change is for the collective welfare, pursues it with dynamism.
Fighting Against Pseudo Culture
Neohumanist educators value the multitude of cultural expressions that make up the whole of humanity, fostering indigenous language, arts, and other cultural expressions in their schools. One of the currents that neohumanist schools find themselves swimming against is what is termed “pseudo-culture”, the homogenous music, films, and television shows that are designed not to uplift the human spirit but to gain short term profits for their makers. These products are finding their way into every corner of the world, and eroding local cultural expressions and sentiments. This raging current of cultural products is countered in neohumanist schools by working to develop local art and craft forms, by media literacy and by the development of a critical social and political awareness. NHE fosters the creative transmission of cherished local values to future generations through plays, murals, literature, and other forms of expression.
2. Absolute and Relative Knowledge (epistemology) Connected to NHE Principle of
Knowledge of Self and the World Applied
According to A’nanda Ma’rga, epistemology has two branches – para’ and apara’. Para’ jina’na means knowing the Supreme reality beyond the scope of time, space and person. Apara’ jina’na means the knowledge within the scope of time, space and person – which is ever changing.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and the nature and grounds of knowledge, especially with reference to its limits and validity. Ananda Marga considers two types of knowledge as being equally valid. One is Self-knowledge or introversial knowledge and the other is worldly or extroversial knowledge. Introversial learning is gaining knowledge about one’s Self through the practice of meditation and intuition. Extroversial learning is gaining knowledge about life and the world through a scientific approach and contact with the world. This combined knowledge is applied in NHE for understanding of one’s Self and how to live benevolently in the world. This epistemology is applied in NHE as the practice and principles of Applied Learning – Knowledge of Self and the World Applied for universal welfare.
“So the people of the orient could not but be spiritual in their thoughts and actions. Whereas there is, in the western system of education, a clear and unilateral emphasis on mundane knowledge. So to build up an ideal human society in the future, the balanced emphasis on the two is indispensable. We should remember that morality, spirituality and humanity, and a happy blending of occidental extroversial science and oriental introversial philosophy is the very foundation of our system of education”“They are ‘educated’ who have learned much, remembered much and made use of their knowledge in everyday life. Their virtues I will call education.”
Learning involves co-ordinated action on the physical, ethical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, intuitive and spiritual levels and is pursued both introversially and extroversially. Introversial learning is gaining knowledge about one’s Self and includes the practice of meditation. Extroversial learning is gaining knowledge about life and the world as an interconnected whole. Thus learning in NHE is aimed at personal empowerment where the individual also works wholeheartedly to help the community adopt neohumanist values.
Learning finds relevance when it emerges from and contributes to life. Knowledge of introversial practices, moral values, neohumanist principles, the arts or the sciences is applied in one’s day-to-day life for the greater welfare of oneself and the world. NHE upholds the teaching of ethically based science, technology and economics for the just utilisation of the world’s resources, and the pursuit of the arts for service and blessedness.
The spirit of service is inculcated in the students from their earliest years by fostering a sense of compassion. Students are encouraged to direct their efforts outwards to the community in self-selected service projects. Service to people, plants, animals and the earth itself helps to develop feelings of selflessness and a sense that one is involved in the web of life as a contributor. Older students practice active citizenship, taking initiative for social change and justice.
3. Cardinal Human Values (axiology) connected to NHE Principle of Cardinal Human Values and Universalism
A’nanda Ma’rga ethics is rudimental and universalistic. There are five kinds of yama and five kinds of niyama whose very purpose is to regulate the external and internal behaviour of human beings according to the highest principles. In Western philosophy observance of ethical principles is considered the primary goal of life, but A’nanda Ma’rga philosophy considers that ethical observance is the primary step towards the higher life. Niiti or principle is not the goal of human life, rather it is a starting point of life’s journey.
Axiology is the study of values and what criteria we use to make value and ethical judgements. Morality is not considered the goal of human life, but the starting point. The ten principles of Yama and Niyama* are cardinal universal principles for relating to society as well as for personal integration. The axiology section of philosophy is applied in NHE as Cardinal Human Values and Universalism.
“In our educational system, emphasis should be given to moral education and the inculcation of idealism – not only philosophy and traditions. The practice of morality should be the most important subject in the syllabus at all levels. The sense of universalism should also be awakened in the child. Etiquette and refined behaviour are not enough. Real education leads to a pervasive sense of love and compassion for all creation.”
NHE is inherently value based adhering to universalism, love for all creation, social equality and all round benevolence. Universal cardinal human values are basic to NHE. Morality forms the basis of an emotionally balanced, self-confident, self-disciplined, integrated and discriminating individual who is well adjusted and able to form joyful relationships and take responsibility in society.
niversal cardinal human values, oriented towards creating mental harmony, include principles of relating to society (Yama – non-harming, benevolent truthfulness, non-stealing, universal love, moderation. ) and principles for personal integration (Niyama – purity, contentment, service, study, taking cosmic shelter ). Application of these values transcends a do’s and don’ts mentality, leading to a sense of love and compassion for all creation, and thus finding their culmination in the principles of Neohumanism and Universalism.
Social learning is central to the student’s daily learning process. Students are guided to make relationships with other students and the world in a benevolent manner. Guidance of students by the adults emphasises conflict resolution, empathy and kindness. The understanding and application of the science of bio-psychology supports emotional health and moral development.
4. Cycle of Creation (metaphysics) connected to NHE Principle of
Individual Evolution and Movement
Metaphysics as explained in the West is not supported by modern physics. …A’nanda Ma’rga… has clearly stated that matter originates from Macrocosmic mind and the macrocosm evolves from matter. The phase of the Cosmic cycle where the unit mind emerges from matter and advances in subsequent stages of development is called Prati-Saincara.
In Metaphysics one describes the process of creation and the relation between mind and matter. NHE philosophy adopts the premise that matter evolves from Cosmic Consciousness and mind evolves from matter as described in the cycle of creation (brahmacakra). The unit mind emerges first as one celled living beings, then plants, animals and finally humans who then return to their origins of blissful consciousness. This evolutionary model of creation leads to a greater understanding of and reverence for each part of the creation. The human has thus evolved through the cosmic cycle, moving towards perfection or blissful oneness. This metaphysics section of philosophy, cycle of creation, is applied in NHE as an understanding and respect for each child’s individual evolution and movement and natural motivation to expand their mind.
“So what is the need of education? Proper education enables one to stand against the influence of the physical environment and awaken the psychic urge to attain a higher life, that is, the ideological goal. This gives a person much inspiration. We should do our best to impart proper education not only to the entire humanity, but also to all created beings. We can impart training to all trees, plants and birds, and put them on the path of welfare.”
Neohumanist Education considers that the human being is a divine being; there is a divine consciousness, which motivates the personal growth and evolution of the individual and the species over lifetimes. The nature of the mind is to expand so that psychic bondages and limitations are broken. The mind emerges at the start of the Pratisaincara stage (the evolutionary flow from consciousness to matter) of the brahmacakra cycle of creation and evolves through clash and cohesion, developing through plant, animal and finally human stages. A child is born with a mind that s/he has brought with her/him from millions of past lives. They come into this world with a natural motivation and momentum to assimilate the entire universe. Life, living and learning are one and the same. They move according to their unique propensities and intelligences that attract them to explore certain things and in certain ways. They also are motivated by the inspiration of their own unit consciousness towards expansion. The job of the teacher is to remove obstacles from this natural process of unfolding and to give them the guidance and tools to negotiate their unfolding and journey in a manner that will lead to a realisation of their full potential as physical, mental and spiritual beings and a life that is an expression of neohumanist values and help them find their mission in life.
5. Expanded Idea of Mind (psychology) Connected to NHE Principle of
Holistic Development of the Child
Usually a philosophical treatise has four main sections ontology, metaphysics, ethics, epistemology. But in A’nanda Ma’rga philosophy two more sections have been added, in addition to the four mentioned above. They are psychology and spiritual practice……the unit mind has evolved out of matter through clash and cohesion. Mind is the composite of citta, aham and mahat – its different functional chambers. It has four mental states -ja’grat (wakeful), svapna (dream), sus’upti (sleep) and turiya (transcendental). From a practical point of view, the mind is divided into conscious, subconscious and unconscious portions. Mind has five layers (kos’as) of existence – ka’mamaya, manomaya, atima’nas, vijina’namaya and hiran’maya. The expression of mind, whether crude or subtle, depends upon the different kos’as.
Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions. In Ananda Marga philosophy, mind is the composite of different functional chambers –objective, subjective and self-awareness. (citta, aham and mahat). The mind is a transmuted form of pure consciousness and can only operate under the witness of one’s consciousness or soul. One can experience four mental states – wakefulness, dream, sleep and transcendence. The objective part of the mind has five layers or kos’as – conscious, subconscious and three super-conscious layers. The expression of mind, whether crude or subtle, takes place through these different layers of mind. The association of mind with external objects is established through inferences via the five sensory organs and five motor organs. In Ananda Marga the mind is facilitated to expand and attain psycho-spiritual parallelism with one’s consciousness. This is the goal of the development of the mind, the state of self-realisation or oneness with one’s soul, which is a reflection of Cosmic Consciousness. This understanding of the mind is applied in NHE in addressing the holistic development of the child.
“The real meaning of education is trilateral development — simultaneous development in the physical, mental and spiritual realms of human existence. This development should enhance the integration of the human personality. By this, dormant human potential will be awakened and be properly utilised. …”
The development of the whole person implies a balance of the physical, mental and spiritual potentialities of the person. Here “mental” includes the emotional, social, ethical, intellectual aesthetic and intuitional realms, thereby spanning one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. The full spectrum of the human being is integrated leading to greater wisdom, freedom, joy, sensitivity, compassion, benevolence and purpose. The child learns to understand and experience that the senses are the link to the world yet they need to be controlled by one’s benevolent intellect which in turn gets the inspiration from one’s consciousness at a moment of ideation or pause. One’s development is the process of constant step-by-step efforts to link one’s will and actions to the inspiration of one’s consciousness. This endeavour develops each layer of the mind from crude to subtle. NHE not only addresses the potentialities of each of the kos’as, or layers of mind at the same time it strives to create an environment where the child can experience being absorbed in the bliss of pure consciousness in regular quiet intervals.
6. Spiritual Practice Connected to NHE Principle of
Although new ideas in the domain of philosophy have been added, philosophy has failed to establish its link with the dusty earth. And a philosophy which has no relation with the dusty earth nor with the children of the soil, has no practical value. Philosophy is meant for the benefit of the human race. …In order to establish a coordination between philosophy and practical life, A’nanda Ma’rga has evolved a spiritual practice…
ith spiritual practices Shrii P. R. Sarkar has linked philosophy to practical life by ascertaining the importance of an actual means for deep realisation, transformation and evolution. The philosophical section, spiritual practice, is applied in NHE as the principle of Yoga Practices.
“We must develop the physico-psychic aspect of students through proper physical culture which will include yoga a’sanas, proper diet; we must reorient the entire curriculum of all schools from kindergarten to postgraduate level according to the neohumanist philosophy, and must incorporate the practice of as’t’a’unga yoga into the curriculum in all grades. This will be the practical approach. And the guiding philosophy, the controlling philosophy should be: “this universe is ours” and “we ” means, humans, animals and plants.”
The universe as an integrated whole emerged from pure consciousness in which everything is interrelated. The realisation of this oneness fosters a deep sense of connection to one’s spiritual self, to others and to all of life. The spiritual subjective worldview instils a commitment to care for all creation, and as such is fundamental to the understanding and practice of Neohumanism. So a spiritual practice, however simple, is at the base in any NHE school. The validity of spiritual experience is affirmed through myth, story, play and the opportunity for reflection within the context of the overall life and rhythm of the class. Spirituality is not a doctrine, but a living sense of one’s connectedness within a greater whole and as such permeates the entire learning process and infuses life with joy, beauty and love. The practice of as’t’a’unga yoga further trains the mind with all its layers to be balanced and peaceful and able to focus and absorb itself in learning of objective and subjective knowledge.
Some Goals and Objectives of NHE
The philosophical principles of NHE translate into goals and objectives for the children.
Sa’ vidya’ ya’ vimuktaye – “Education is that which liberates.” Ultimately the goal of education is the liberation from physical, psychic and spiritual bondages.
In the EDUCATION anagram given by Shrii PR Sarkar the overall objectives for the students are:
E nlargement of mind – development of the kosas or holistic development (physical, sensorial, intellectual, aesthetic, intuitive, spiritual)
D ESMEP (discipline, etiquette, smartness, morality, English, pronunciation) – social development, communication, teamwork, poise, self confidence
U niversal outlook – neohumanism and universalism
C haracter – cardinal human values, ethics
A ctive habits – applied learning and service spirit; academic, practical and personal skills
T rustworthiness – reliable stewards of the globe; ecological and social consciousness and responsibility
I deation of the Great –astaunga yoga and spiritual practice
O mniscient grace – thirst for all knowledge; joyful learning with good will and benevolent intellect
N ice temperament – personal and emotional development and balance
NHE Philosophy further translates into age and locally appropriate curriculum, methods of teaching, learning and social environments, teacher qualifications and assessment methods. These topics will be outlined in future issues of Gurukula Network.