By Tang Ruei Chen
The most beautiful thing about NHE is that we can apply the holistic concepts of yoga philosophy on the development of the child. As we know, these ideas have a long and illustrious history, and yet defining an ‘education for liberation’ is still in its infancy. Ananda Marga Gurukul is doing a tremendously important work in bringing these concepts into the society. We believe that with time the wider community will embrace tantric inspired philosophy and culture in the schools and normal life as well!
The most outstanding idea of NHE’s philosophy is how it looks upon the child’s development. In traditional child psychology there are basically two main streams of thinking. On one side is Piaget inspired education that believes that people have certain learning phases or ‘windows of opportunity’ for assimilating or developing skills. When these opportunities are neglected, the person may not have the chance to learn these particular skills again. As Piaget was a biologist by profession, his view is very much based on the development of brain functions, which gradually mature after birth.
On the other side is the philosophy of people like Vygotsky who stress social and cultural experience as the way to condition and train the minds. Based on this they design many learning situations and problem solving challenges for the student.
To simplify the debate, one talks about internal (inborn) factors, while the other talks about external forces that determine growth.
Shrii P. R. Sarkar’s philosophy does support both elements, but adds a third and dominant factor. He sees development of the mind as inspired by:
- Personal – internal disposition (inborn samskaras)
- External influences from the society or family (imposed samskaras)
- Attraction of the Great, which allows us to transcend the limitations of our inborn condition and our social conditioning.
Combining Vygotsky and Piagettian elements, NHE stresses a third and predominant element, that of the attraction of Infinite Consciousness as the universal power that directs life. Shrii P. R. Sarkar writes, ‘spiritual life controls all other arenas of human life.’ Knowledge for liberation therefore means to help the child align to the cosmic forces which is the main source for growth and total development. In short, as NHE teachers we have to help Consciousness in children grow. This is our main mission.
Spirituality has been described as ‘a grand mission and an every day task’. And though contents are important, the method is important too. One educator wrote that the ‘medium is the message’. How we present knowledge is often of more impact in shaping a child’s future than what we taught!
Practically, as teachers we have ten main points to focus on in our day to day work of supporting this Consciousness:
- A clear focus through consciousness based child psychology
- Knowledge should be connected to meaning. (our curriculum is ideal based, for example the ELF curriculum, Yama and Niyama curriculum or The Beautiful World curriculum)
- Spiritual morality is the predominant culture of our schools (Yama and Niyama)
- We apply Bio-psychology wherever we can. (yoga practices, diet, YogaTouch for children with developmental problems))
- Quiet Time Exercises
- Use dialogue for the development of thinking
- Understand the differences in personalities in our students and work with these
- Apply universal vision through a multi cultural curriculum
- Use the Arts to teach academics
- The teacher functions as the change agent through personal spiritual discipline.
The education we have is often a reflection of our society. Unless we make an island of our school, the educational concepts we apply practically are going to be compromised. At this phase of the growth of NHE that should be acceptable. My school is not an ideal school, but it has a clear focus on its goals. Some teachers are good in applying bringing out knowledge through meaning. Others have good art skills and are creative. A third may have good class discipline and practice regularly Quiet time with the children.
I heard Shrii Sarkar said that (I paraphrase)‘After me there will be people who say some of the same things as me, but there will be nobody who will say all the same things as me.’ We are all limited in our expression so sometimes we may feel we can not be leaders, but we have a clear focus of what our goals are. And that focus makes us NHE.
∗ These ten principles are elaborated in a book called “The Education of Peace: The New Humanist Way”, by Tang Taminga. An e-mail copy of this book is available to NHE schools by writing to: email@example.com.