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Date(s) - 25/04/2022
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Seminar Hall


Learning the Art of Wholeness: Integral Education and Beyond

Abstract:  Almost all over the world at present, as people are becoming more and more aware of the gods that have failed them, the heroic in them is searching for alternatives, an alternative in science and technology, alternatives in political and economic patterns, and also an alternative in education. Man everywhere has never been so rude and ruthless in throwing away the old idols as he is now. It seems there is going to be a total leap, a decision in direction of the vertical. And in the direction of the vertical, lies the spiritual, the integral, the intrinsically human. Education must have a spiritual base; in other words, it must start from the basic faith that what is intended to be brought about is already involved within. In actual practice, this faith will mean freedom, love and commitment. Only those who are free can help others in the right way to grow with freedom. Chitta Ranjan Das (1980), “Searching for an Alternative,” p. 14. This can not be taught; it has to be stimulated. It can arise only out of the affective attachment of children or adolescents to a reference group who makes them feel deserving of unconditional love, and confident of their capacity to learn, act, undertake projects and measure themselves against others–who gives them, in a word “self-esteem.” The subject emerges by virtue of the love with which another subject calls it to become a subject and it develops through the desire to be loved by that other subject. This means that the educative relation is not a social relation and is not socializable. It is successfully achieved only if the child is an incomparably singular being for the person educating him / her, a being loved for him / herself and to be revealed to him / herself by that love as entitled to his / her singularity: that is to say, as a subject-individual. Andre Gorz (1999), Reclaiming Work: Beyond the Wage-Based Society Our educational systems are in a crisis now. This is evident in all levels of education–from the primary to the higher. A major part of the problem lies in our education lacking a soul-dimension and striving for realization of wholeness as pedagogical methods lack a relation of love, mutuality, care among the partners and fellow-travelers and educational objectives lacking the goal of integral development of individuals and societies. Our conventional educational systems reflect the fragmentation of modern subjectivity and society and it is mainly confined to 2 rudimentary aspects of skill-training and mental education and it does not touch all the dimensions of life and society. Education for wholeness nonetheless has been a yearning of humanity from its very dawn. The Greek root for education means to evolve and this does embody a process of evolutionary realization of wholeness. Education for wholeness is a perpetual journey; it is not a linear one but nonetheless despite complex turns and cycles and circles of learning it does embody certain learning of insights which is preserved as evolutionary knowledge and wisdom. Education for wholeness is not a holistic education in a literal, conventional, superficial, apriori, and determined sense as it realizes that wholeness is a journey of self and social transformation—it is a perennial journey from fullness to a different fullness realizing on the way an integral emptiness. Education for wholeness realizes that wholes to be realized are made of up many holes but these holes are neither dark nights of the soul nor dark spaces but spaces of energy and light. These holes and different fragments of life do embody an integral yearning for connectedness and being part of a garland of togetherness, a symphony of wholeness. Education for wholeness strives to go beyond varieties of dualisms of life and society such as individual and society, body and mind, mind and soul, technical and artistic, utilitarian and spiritual and, head and heart. Education as learning the art of wholeness also interrogates the available understanding and organization of education as a top-down activity. It challenges us to realize that education is first of all an activity of learning in which all the engaged participants are learners. Education is an activity and process of learning and co-learning in which the so-called students and teachers are first of all learners and co-learners. This is at the core of Sri Aurobindo’s vision of integral education as he says that nothing can be taught and the teacher is an aid in the process of learning. Similar attitude also permeates other initiatives in learning the art of wholeness presented in this study, for example, the Bifrost school in Denmark, where teachers are not called teachers. There have been different visions and experiments with education for wholeness in our modern world. Integral education is one such with which the study is engaged, the other two being the Steiner schools and the Grundtvig-Kold free schools in Denmark. Integral education strives for integral, not fragmentary, development of self and society. It draws inspiration and insights from the vision, experiments and works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and as a humanistic and spiritual pedagogy is in tune with the gestalt and integral educational movements of nineteenth and 3 twentieth centuries pioneered by such educational visionaries as Kristen Kold, Rudolf Steiner, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and others. Integral education is a social, cultural and educational movement in a state like Odisha, India with forty years of continued striving to build on and now around 600 schools in different parts of the state–rural, urban and tribal. In my presentation, I present these initiatives in learning the art of wholeness and I also discuss its implication for rethinking our modes of thinking and practice in the life at academy at large.

Ananta Kumar Giri
Madras Institute of Development Studies
Visiting Professor, IIAS