Twenty years has passed since Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar (1921-1990) proposed the integrated system of education we call Ananda Marga Gurukula (AMGK). Typically Shrii P.R. Sarkar chose to use the ancient and culturally layered term Gurukula to describe a new blend of educational practice. Shrii P.R. Sarkar’s entire focus had been on integrating the ancient wisdom of Tantra, India’s spiritual energy, with an entirely modern and Western approach to knowledge and its generation. At the heart of this work lies a new vision of the human being – one who feels connected to her surroundings, the entire universe, and is energized with a vision of human cultural renewal. In this sense the word kula, meaning home or residence, points to our cosmic home and guru, meaning teacher or one who dispels darkness, points to the role of the expansive consciousness that fosters this connection to “home” in all students who enter Gurukula to become more fully connected to this vision of a new humanity.
For me, AMGK is like a message in a bottle. Shrii P.R. Sarkar has left us a great task and when we look at his sketch for Gurukula we read so much of what he saw in potentiality for our future. The curriculum he set out is a great example of this. He clearly sees the role of education as a cultural practice and much of Gurukula’s work in India is about cultural recovery following colonial domination. So, although he wished English to be the lingua franca of study, he placed a great emphasis on the study of Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and other local tongues. Similarly, he pushed for a focus on Rahrology, Indian history and sub continental archaeology. Such work is aimed at reclaiming the lost identity of India and its peoples. This is clearly a political and emancipatory project of central importance. It is also a road map for the development of Gurukula projects elsewhere in the world where local traditions, knowledge, memory and identity have been lost due to colonization.
Yet, Shrii P.R. Sarkar was also thinking globally. AMGK, as a global movement, moves well beyond the Indic context of cultural renewal and weaves a powerful mixture of empirical and intuitional work to suggest that learning in the future will be a mixture of inner and outer practice. Learning will be a mix of practical work relating to agriculture, medicine, science, engineering, IT, etc. along with imaginative and cultural explorations in history, literature, music, art and astrology. It will also embrace the moral sciences of philosophy, politics, metaphysics, law and economics, while engaging the intuitive sciences in research into alternative medicines such as Ayurveda and Homeopathy as well as emergent understandings relating to microvita and subtle energy work.
Shrii P.R. Sarkar was thinking even beyond all this when he framed AMGK. Ultimately Shrii P.R. Sarkar’s educational vision is Cosmic in nature. He saw the potentiality of humanity as limitless and sought to awaken the thirst for limitlessness as a result. The moral imperative is summed up in his theory of Prout and fully expressed in the philosophy of Neohumanism. The goal of education is liberation of intellect. This is a grounded and pragmatic goal because intellect here refers to the entirety of human experience not simply the cognitive capacity of the brain. To reach our potential human beings need to be educated for an entirely new future. This future will enable all to fulfill their potential at the physical, intellectual and spiritual levels of their being.
This vision needs to be reflected in our socio-cultural practices so all oppressed and marginalized groups are targeted by AMGK for special attention in the educative project. This is why Shrii P.R. Sarkar stressed the importance of gender equity and the empowerment of those who are socio-economically disadvantaged and culturally diminished. A future in which human potentiality is clearly an asset is a future that needs to address gross inequality at the local, global and Cosmic levels.
This local, global and Cosmic trajectory is embedded in the framework of AMGK. It gives meaning to work at all levels and provides referents for all of us working today and in the future to contextualize what we are doing and where we are going. This is the wonderful flexibility of the idea. Thus though Gurukula work is clearly institutional, it is also clearly cultural. AMGK poses the possibility of other ways of approaching education that are more culturally (i.e. locally) appropriate, civilisationally aware and Cosmically aligned. It requires of us all a value shift so that the institutional face of AMGK does not simply replicate the psychology, operational rationality and cultural blindness of the past. This future of limited outcomes lies all around us today. We see it in national curriculum and in all other modes of human ordering. To steer AMGK towards a more expansive future we need to work on our own consciousness, to seek to ground this powerful idea in the choices we make for a richer and deeper future that transcends boundaries that keep us locked in limited positions and unlock the possibilities always inherent to the present moment.
As I noted above, this idea is a message in a bottle. And that bottle is sailing on the ocean of time and possibility into the future. The idea is a powerful one: “To serve humanity with Neohumanist spirit and to acquire knowledge for that purpose”. The act of service brings to our work in AMGK an awareness of relationship. We can serve when we feel connected to the one being served. Western universal education has been largely at the service of the State. AMGK wishes to place it at the service of humanity and the Cosmos that sustains us. Educational challenges to the Statecentric system we currently support have been around for a long time. What is new in AMGK is the link between self and other that underpins the entire process. Thus liberation of self, our conditioned habits of heart, is a prerequisite for service and simultaneously true service facilitates our liberatory inner practice.
AMGK can be a vehicle for profound cultural change. It can facilitate an entirely new cultural process in its unique configuration of the local, global and Cosmic scales and in the cultural patternings that emerge as localities reclaim their memory and identity and the spirit of place long denied by colonialism. It challenges us to set aside the pseudofutures inherent to the cultural conditioning that underpins our sense of limitation.
Much of this vision can be lost if we only look at the scaffolding Shrii P.R. Sarkar left us. As a profound teacher he challenges us to see the message in the bottle (i.e. structure) he supplied. We need to question why he wishes a global educational movement to sponsor the study of local languages and histories? The answer, it seems to me, is to remind us of human scale learning and the postcolonial challenge to reclaim identity. We need to ask why is it that AMGK is committed to the study of alternative medicine, parapsychology, astrology, palmistry etc.? The answer is that not all knowledge is to be accessed through standard empirical routes that privilege a cultural lens that favours a few at the expense of the many. Similarly, we need to ask why is it that he links the deep past with the deep future. The answer lies in the fact that education as a social process is all about continuity and change and the balance between the two. Such questions arise when we contemplate the possibilities before us twenty years on from AMGK’s founding.
We have made a small beginning in the midst of the creative flux and confusion of emergence. We have the form in the institutional map Shrii P.R. Sarkar left to us, and we have the message in the creative spread of faculty subjects and the pointers Shrii P.R. Sarkar gave for these, but we must continue with the work of consciousness expansion so that we can read Shrii P.R. Sarkar’s message clearly. This is still largely a personal task for each of us as we strive to realise a degree of Neohumanist spirit in the present; yet, as Shrii P.R. Sarkar consistently maintained, our personal work is a service to the collective. So the work of AMGK is linked to our local tasks, and it is here that we will see the bright future Shrii P.R. Sarkar predicts take flight.
Dr Marcus Bussey is Research Fellow in Regional Futures at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia, where he teaches Futures Studies, World History and also researches climate change. His PhD was on the possibilities of Neohumanist education for renewing culture and can be viewed at: http://www.usc.edu.au/Students/Handbook/Postgrad/AR510/AR510.htm. He has edited Neohumanist Educational Futures with Sohail Inayatullah and Ivana Milojevic and has written widely on Neohumanist futures and education. Many of his writings can be found on his web site, www.futuresevocative.com
The system of education prevailing today was formulated or evolved long ago, mainly with a view to suit the needs of the capitalist class. For the last three to four thousand years, the same type of education is being imparted. The main purpose behind this sort of educational system is to create persons with slavish mentality: this sort of education is fundamentally defective.
A new educational system must evolve to produce sadvipras*: we have to thoroughly revamp the entire educational system. But it must be remembered that unless and until a new system is developed, we cannot demolish the old one, in spite of our aversion to it. Until you catch hold of a new branch, you cannot let go of the previous one. But it is certain that this type of education which serves the capitalists’ interests is not at all suitable. This sort of education creates obstacles in the evolution of humanity.
Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar
* “a person who is a moralist and a spiritualist and who fights against immorality”