Yoga as Education

It was The Mother’s wish that yoga should be recognised as education by the Indian govt. By yoga she didn’t mean yogasanas as it is popularly  understood but the philosophy and practice of yoga as a way of life. I always anguished that there has been no initiative by the govt. of India to even consider not to speak of implementing her advice that is full of wisdom for the good of India. A generation brought up steeped in the importance and necessity of yoga itself would start the process of re-birth of the national soul and a  new life of immense value to India and the world.

Observing the way some initiatives to re-introduce certain ancient Indian practices that had the potential to prepare the present generations to open to profound truths  and the misunderstandings and negative reactions they resulted in, it is clear that there are a lot of people who cannot distinguish between the spiritual and religious aspects of those things.  Therefore when allegations of promoting Hindu religion using state power were made they were unable to face  their antogonists with conviction. If only they knew that all they have to do is to turn to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s works to develop the sense for eternal truths and the strength to work for their victory of spirituality the problem would have been tackled well.

Being a teacher in a school for mainly Indian students I introduced the ideas of yoga and dhyana in my own classes informally,  in a non-structured and non-compulsary way and found the students quite receptive to them. A few minutes of silent dhyana was done before class commencement for the students to make a resolve to learn well and better and to try to become aware of their problems and aspire to overcome them. However when it was attempted for the whole  school through another teacher (who is incidentally university qualified in yoga studies) it failed to be as effective.  It was a hotch potch of pranayama, auto suggestion and step by step guidance all done in a span of ten minutes. Instead of empowering the students the teacher made them more dependent on him. This is surely no cure to Indian students’ inability to think powerfully and take responsibility for themselves which is partly due to strong parental control that determines the schools and courses they go for, the jobs they choose, the selection of spouse,  the study by rote method they are used to etc. And the new daily morning compulsory ritual at school conditioned them to be more of the same, like sheep, which is what they must be encouraged to strive not to be. Such a routine cannot make true men out of them which requires them to develop self knowledge and  aspiration in order that they are able to take control of their lives and make more integral progress. My class’ students soon felt it wasn’t as as effective as the class room dhyana they had before. I also observed that when the school assembly was told to simply concentrate in silence there was a better atmosphere and a presence of a peaceful grace could be felt.

Presently knowing that Bhagavad Gita can be a great source book for learning about the yoga, I offered to give lectures on it to students of certain batches which were about to be sent on leave before their course ended this week. This I did inspite of running another full time course as I felt the opportunity was ideal to try out teaching yoga.

The Gita, believed to have been first delivered by Sri Krishna five thousand years ago, has eighteen chapters divided into three parts titled Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gnana yoga.  Having read Sri Aurobindo’s comments and essays on the Gita and recollecting the pages he devoted to explain with what spirit we must turn to Gita and what were in it that were of use to our life and future evolution, I omitted or down played those verses that were of ritualistic or temporary kind and the students were told briefly why the dropped verses were dropped. The whole of Gita was completed by hourly daily lectures within a week’s time. The students gave positive feedback about the classses and even a few other teachers asked me to hold classes for them.

But again there are predictable problems in such work at larger scale. What if a teacher takes up teaching the Gita ends up creating  superstitions or strengthening religous ideas and practices? Karmic Re-birth and  caste based dharmas mentioned repeatedly in the book has to be explained in the light of  Sri Aurobindo’s revelatory writings on the original truth behind them as othewise all that would sound like a justification of the caste system and the present public mentality would consider it reason enough to reject the Gita too outright or give it less reverence than it deserves as it happens to many Indian scriptures that can help understand this great nation and to help her find direction. One of the solution to the problem could be to make study and understanding of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s works a pre-requisite before anyone takes up teaching yoga. And at national level also teachers may have to be trained in the light of Sri Auroindo’s thoughts on this issue but there is a big if  – if the govt. has the will. (Please see a quote from Sri Aurobindo on the Gita appended below.) But individual schools with the necessary will can take the steps to start teaching yoga. They have to if they want to hasten the advent of the great future awaiting.

* But what we can do with profit is to seek in the Gita for the actual living truths it contains, apart from their metaphysical form, to extract from it what can help us or the world at large and to put it in the most natural and vital form and expression we can find that will be suitable to the mentality and helpful to the spiritual needs of our present-day humanity. No doubt in this attempt we may mix a good deal of error born of our own individuality and of the ideas in which we live, as did greater men before us, but if we steep ourselves in the spirit of this great Scripture and, above all, if we have tried to live in that spirit, we may be sure of finding in it as much real truth as we are capable of receiving as well as the spiritual influence and actual help that, personally, we were intended to derive from it. And that is after all what Scriptures were written to give; the rest is academical disputation or theological dogma. Only those Scriptures, religions, philosophies which can be thus constantly renewed, relived, their stuff of permanent truth constantly reshaped and developed in the inner thought and spiritual experience of a developing humanity, continue to be of living importance to mankind. The rest remain as monuments of the past, but have no actual force or vital impulse for the future.

Page 5 Essays on the Gita – Sri Aurobindo


6 thoughts on “Yoga as Education

  1. Ruslan July 29, 2010 at 8:50 am Reply

    The intellectual study of yoga has actually very little or no impact on the students’ lives. On the other hand, most people who do practise yoga may not use the yoga terminology at all. What one may call “dharma” others may call “vocation”. You may find, for example, that speed reading involves certain processes that can be found in raja yoga practices.

    If you read what Sri Aurobindo said about popularization of the Integral Yoga, you may change your mind about teaching yoga “at national level”. It is futile to think that govt. will ever be interested in it. The wider acceptance of the practice of yoga (not necessarily the Integral Yoga) will probably be explained as driven by the increased competition in today’s world, not as a result of the action of some invisible powers or yogis sitting in remote Himalayan caves.

    • jothicharles July 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm Reply

      But I find good receptivity to the ideas and consciousness of yoga when I speak about it to students. The students I talked to were not endowed with more than average interest and ablity in langauage or spiritual matters as they had chosen to study technology. Of course not all in the class but a few are able to understand and many are open non skeptically even if they don’t understand.

      On govt’s making yoga as education, I think there was a possibility and it maybe there still. The following were the Mother’s words on it:
      “I would like them (the Government) to recognise Yoga as education,
      not so much for ourselves, but it will be good for the
      Matter will be transformed, that will be a solid base. Life
      will be divinised. Let India take the lead.”
      Volume 12, page 252

  2. Ruslan July 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm Reply

    The Government have already recognised Yoga as education. You can get a university degree (including a Ph.D!) in yoga at nearly every college! 🙂

    What about “MSc. Degree Course in Applied Yogic Science” ( ) , or Bachelor in Yoga Education – B.Y.Ed. ( )?

    Why doesn’t offer Pd.D in Integral Yoga? 🙂 We can issue (and sell!) certificates of Enlightenment! 🙂 Like Nithyananda did 🙂

    • jothicharles July 31, 2010 at 3:59 pm Reply

      Amusing to read your suggestions to join the frauds and make merry and money in the name of education and yoga. lol. However as there is no short supply of frauds but of honest and straigh forward people, how about joining their side?

      You know the kind of yoga courses offered in universities is of little use and besides it is only a small percentage of students who go to universities. I think Mother liked recognition of yoga as education by the govt. of India so that it becomes part of education as a whole so that the country could awake to the task of divinising of life and lead the world truly. If you read her other advices on Indian education, you will see that that is what the idea is.

      Basic Issues of Indian Education

      1. In view of the present and the future of national and international living, what is it that India should aim at in education?

      Prepare her children for the rejection of falsehood and the manifestation of Truth.

      2. By what steps could the country proceed to realise this high aim? How can a beginning in that direction be made?

      Make matter ready to manifest the Spirit.

      3. What is India’s true genius and what is her destiny?

      To teach to the world that matter is false and impotent unless it becomes the manifestation of the Spirit.

      4. How does the Mother view the progress of Science and Technology in India? What contribution can they make to the growth of the Spirit in man?

      Its only use is to make the material basis stronger, completer and more effective for the manifestation of the Spirit.

      5. The country feels much concerned about national unity. What is the Mother’s vision of things? How will India do her duty by herself and by the world?

      The unity of all the nations is the compelling future of the world. But for the unity of all nations to be possible, each nation must first realise its own unity.

      6. The language problem harasses India a good deal. What would be our correct attitude in this matter?

      Unity must be a living fact and not the imposition of an arbitrary rule. When India will be one, she will have spontaneously a language understood by all.

      7. Education has normally become literacy and a social status. Is it not an unhealthy trend? But how to give education its inner worth and intrinsic enjoyability?

      Get out of conventions and insist on the growth of the soul.

      8. What illusions and delusions is our education today beset with? How could we possibly keep clear of them?

      a) The almost exclusive importance given to success, career and money.

      b) Insist on the paramount importance of the contact with the Spirit and manifestation of the Truth of the being.

      5 August 1965

      This series of questions was submitted to the Mother by a group of teachers of Centre of Education in August, 1965, when an Education Committee of Govt. of India came to Pondicherry to evaluate the ideals and educational methods of the Centre.

      [From the book ‘The Mother, Education Part Two, Advice to Students and Teachers’, pg 131 to 133 – published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, 2003]

      P.S Sorry that this site sometimes holds comments for approval even though I have not enabled that option. I don’t believe in moderaton or censoring.

  3. Ruslan July 31, 2010 at 5:57 pm Reply

    Do you mean that I should join the side of because they are as good as any of those B.Y.Ed. colleges? 🙂 After all, the Mother said that all educational institutions in Auroville must offer exams and issue diplomas and certificates, didn’t she? Oh, wait, where did she say that? 🙂 Or was it Nithyananda swamiji who said so? 🙂 We could rename Auroville into “Nithyanandaville”. 🙂

    Anyway, I have just thought of a great question that could include in their “Sri Aurobindo Studies” degree exam:
    “The Mother said that Sri Aurobindo came to live in her body to join a previously deceased disciple who learnt this trick from a lama. The Question: If the Mother actually left her physical body (which the examinee has to prove beyond all doubt), where did her consciousness go?”
    For practicals, the examinee would be required to enter the body of a cat and scribble a few sentences in Sanskrit. 🙂

    As for the frauds, I think I told you that I used to work at a lab that examined all kinds of “paranormals” and “yogis”, so out of 100 people who claimed they could do this and that there was hardly 1 or 2 who could prove it in the lab. For the Auroville pranayama “experts”, we could conduct a simple certification test: put a plastic bag on their head, tie the examinees fast to an armchair, and ask them to stop breathing for an hour or two. 🙂 For asanas “experts” (at least for those who claim they have mastered Mayurasana) there is another exam: swallowing 100 grams of hydrogen cyanide.

    Selling certificates of Enlightenment (or of Attainment to the Supramental Consciousness) at the Visitors Centre would be a great idea not just because it would make people laugh (except for a few dummies who would not read the small print disclaimer at the back of the papers) because it would make people understand that formal degrees are of no real value. It is a principle of Aikido: join your opponent, then bring your opponent’s action to the point of absurdity.

  4. Ruslan August 2, 2010 at 6:52 am Reply

    I personally think that Raja yoga techniques and the “bare” Karma Yoga are not suitable for 95% of schoolchildren, and the Hatha Yoga (incl. pranayamas) is not suitable for at least 70% of schoolchildren (girls in particular will find it too boring, and will not practise daily).

    There are lots of other yogas and techniques that can be considered as preparatory. For example, Natya Yoga, elements of which we find in the classical Indian dance. Learning classical music is the first step in Nada Yoga.

    The good news:

    The Government of India has made some radical changes in the education system and academic syllabi recently. Along with abolishing the Class Ten public exams, they have included Classical dance and music as CORE study option from Class One. Currently the CBSE schools throughout India are looking for a minimum of 3000 teachers of Classical Dance and Music (Vocal and Instrumental). These teachers will be part of the regular school curriculum with daily classes five days a week.

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