‘Anubhuti – Teach by being it…’ is a six months certificate course in Integral Education offered by Bejon Desai Foundation (BDF), Nashik, in collaboration with Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry. This course has been launched by Bejon Desai Foundation as a tribute to Sri Aurobindo on the occasion of his 150th Birth Anniversary and to commemorate his immense contributions in the field of India’s freedom struggle, his philosophy of the Integral Yoga and more importantly for a newer approach of looking towards education in the form of Integral Education. 32 participants from 14 different schools in Nashik have been participating in this course.
The sessions of the three days of Anubhuti for the third month were facilitated by Shri Shivakumar, Director, SAFIER and Ms. Priti Mandi, an IE Practitioner, SAFIER, the educational initiative of Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry.
Day 1: 22nd of April 2022
The day started by lighting the aspiration lamp by all the participants and thereafter the facilitators Shivakumar and Priti were introduced. An introductory game was played to develop familiarity and rediscover a quality amongst themselves which was an attribute to their name.
Session 1: Introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the journey from Integral Yoga towards Integral Education.
The first session began with Shivakumar asking the participants to explain the meaning of spirituality according to them. Consolidating all the answers, he further explained that spirituality is that which completes life, makes it perfect. He further explained that the focus has to be ‘Jodna hai, todna nahi’. This can include anything and everything from man management, material management and anything which can control life’s energies.
He also elaborated the need to work towards the perfection of our body, emotions and thoughts by getting in touch with our deeper self. The discovery of this deeper Self, our Psychic Being will help complete our life. The approach leading to this discovery which can complete life is Purna Yoga i.e., Integral Yoga.
Session 2: The inspired teacher: Path of IE – Science of Living
Through a guided meditation and discussion, Priti led the participants to an insight that the qualities of their favourite teachers was what enabled them to have an enriching experience in their school days and thus they were full of fond memories. The subject itself became alive because of the presence and the guidance of the teacher. The discussion ended with the participants expressing gratitude to their teachers, and looking within and finding one quality within themselves which they would like to develop to become inspiring teachers.
Priti further elucidated that in order to become inspired, one needs to get connected with the Inner Genius within each one. For accessing the Inner Friend or Genius, one has to first become conscious of oneself and then master oneself. It is important to know the different parts of one’s being and understand their different movements. The BDF facilitators then performed a skit to help assimilate the understanding of the parts of one’s personality.
Session 3: Experiencing parts of our personality
Based on the previous session, Shivakumar explained the different parts of the being in detail through experiential activities and then gave a questionnaire to the participants to locate the ‘I’. He then took a few responses for the various questions and then further explained in detail how to identify the different parts.
Session 4: Stepping back and self-observation
Priti took the participants through a quick body scan and then explained to the participants how to record their observations in their diary/journal. She also asked them to make a record of the ‘Aha’ moment, where they felt very happy and the most ‘challenging’ moment of that day.
Day 2: 23rd of April 2022
The day started with participants filling up the mood map which was followed by collective aspiration.
Session 1: The Science of Living: Aim of Life
Connecting with the previous day’s concluding session, Shivakumar explained to the participants the need to calm the three monkeys (parts of being: physical-vital-mental) and become calm from within, but at the same time, to stay dynamic on the outside, in one’s work. Even if there are unfavourable circumstances, one needs to turn a bit inwards towards our psychic being which is also referred to as the ‘Antarik Mitra’ (AM-renamed in Marathi by the participants). Things get resolved when we connect with our psychic being.
Then Priti asked the participants to reflect on what is their aim in life. She asked them to write down their aim in their journal. With reference to ‘The Science of Living’ it was further explained how one’s aim for life needs to be high and wide, generous and disinterested. Knowing and choosing one’s aim helps one chart the path to a more conscious and qualitative life.
Session 2: The Science of Living: Psychic Discipline
Continuing with the previous session, Shivakumar elaborated that one will be able to identify one’s aim of life only when one knows oneself and is able to know the movements of the different parts of oneself and is able to control oneself. All great people like A. R. Rehman have a common speciality that they have a special connection with their psychic being. He explained that this ‘GENIUS’ is within every one of us. It is the most powerful, most humble and has unconditional and unlimited love. But there is a closed door between ourselves and this genius. To open this door between our outer personality and Inner Friend is the objective of Integral Education.
Session 3: Education of the Soul
An awareness game was played to make the participants aware of their different emotions of the vital and this was taken up as a discussion by Shivakumar. The need to refine our emotions and not suppress them was taken up as a discussion.
Priti further talked about how it is important to train the vital to reach closer to our Inner Friend. Poetry, art and music are some of the ways to train and refine the vital, as these three are the education for the soul as quoted by Sri Aurobindo. Poetry raises the emotions, art stills the emotions whereas, music deepens the emotions.
An activity was taken up to read a poignant poem written by Rabindranath Tagore on his mother. The participants listened to the poem and got connected with their own mother after listening to this poem. Later they expressed beautifully what they felt in the form of painting and poems. The activity enabled the participants to connect to their deeper Self through their emotions.
Day 3: 24th of April 2022
The day started with Shivakumar telling the participants of the significance of the 24th of April. It is the day of the final arrival of the Mother at Puducherry in the year 1920.
Session 1: The process of learning
The session started with a discussion about whether there is any difference between the way a child learns and we learn. Shivakumar asked the participants to think of one thing (not just from academics) which they learnt and became good at and whom did they learn it from. He took a few sharings from the participants and brought to their notice that there are certain things which are learnt without anybody teaching them.
Then a discussion ensued where the ro
le of a teacher was taken up. He emphasised that the teacher has to facilitate the learning process instead of just merely giving information. The teacher cannot give anything from the outside. Every child has a unique set of possibilities within. Each person’s plan of life is different. The teacher’s role is to facilitate this possibility to emerge. The three Principles of True Teaching as described by Sri Aurobindo were taken up in the same light:
- Nothing can be taught.
- The mind (inner nature) has to be consulted in its own growth.
- From the near to the far.
Priti then cited a case study of how the teachers at a Free Progress School in Delhi did a project with the children about trees using the three principles of True Teaching. It was further added that in order to implement the three principles of true teaching, we need to start with the Science of Living. A facilitator has to start with oneself and then only does one become capable of understanding the inner nature of the child and help the child to find what is there within himself, perfect it and use it.
Session 2: Let’s do a project!
Connecting with the discussion of how to do a project from the previous session, Priti discussed about how to work on a project. She gave a general theme to all the participants on working consciously on their food habits. The participants were divided into five groups and then were asked to work on this project for a minimum of 21 days and to record their observations in a tabular form and also record their detailed observations as to what happens to ‘one’s physical, vital, mental’, in their diary or journal. Compilations of quotes by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on ‘Conscious Eating & Food’ were shared so that the participants can pick up habits based on the quotes.
Session 3: Awakening the body's consciousness
Shivakumar played some awareness games with the participants leading them to become more conscious of their body movements. This activity helped the participants become conscious of their physical movements by turning their attention to it and they also spent the following lunch hour by consciously observing their food intake and taste in silence. This body awareness practice along with journaling would help them in their project work too.
Session 4: How to nurture in children attention, concentration
Priti explained how important it is to develop the power of observation. She took an activity with the participants where they were asked to observe a leaf given to them carefully and looking at the contours of the leaf, they were asked to draw the leaf on a paper using a pen. The participants enjoyed this activity and were able to draw the outline and other details of the leaf with precision. In the process, they understood how the hand imitates and the practice of imitation by the hand of the thing seen is of use in registering accurately what has been seen. Imitation by the hand ensures accuracy of observation.
Priti concluded the three-day workshop with a song – ‘Tan ho sundar, man ho sundar, Prabhu mera sab kuch ho sundar’ (Beauty is the ideal). Towards the end of the session, many of the participants shared their views of how the sessions had helped them to have a beautiful opening into the world of Integral Education and expressed their gratitude to the facilitators. The day ended with the participants lighting a flame of aspiration within themselves towards becoming an integral education facilitator and connecting better with the students.
The three days from 22nd of April to 24th of April were quite intense and was a wonderful opportunity for all the Directors of BDF, BDF facilitators and all the participants of ‘Anubhuti – Teach by being it…’ Course to interact and get deeper insights about Integral Education from Shivakumar and Priti. It was a truly enriching experience for one and all.
Interaction with the management representatives of the schools
Evening of 23rd of April 2022:
An interaction was arranged, with Shivakumar, Director, SAFIER (an educational initiative of Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry) and the management representatives of the schools whose teachers are participants of the course, and other people who wanted to know about Integral Education. Shivakumar presented his views about Integral Education and explained how this approach to education can bring out the best in every child. A few of the management representatives shared their views and also asked Shivakumar about the possible difficulties in adopting the approach of Integral Education in educational spaces. Their queries were duly taken up by Shivakumar. A suggestion which came up during this interaction was to have a forum where many more educators can participate and learn more about Integral education.
Evening of 24th of April 2022:
A function was arranged in the evening of 24th of April, in which the two batches of Principals, Supervisors and the teachers of different schools of Dang Seva Mandal, Nashik, who had completed the workshop on ‘Basic Introduction to Integral Education’ (A 3-day workshop and 6 one-day monthly follow-up workshops) were felicitated with a certificate. Mrs. Hemlata tai Bidkar, President, Dang Seva Mandal, Nashik, expressed her views about the association of Dang Seva Mandal and Bejon Desai Foundation. She said that the Bejon Desai Foundation has worked closely on the skill development of students and on empowering their teachers through Integral Education. She expressed her wish to continue this association further also. Manoj Tibrewala, Chairman, Bejon Desai Foundation, Nashik, also expressed his views about this association and also talked about the possibility of introducing farming to the students studying in Dang Seva Mandal schools. Many of the teachers expressed their views on how they have been benefited by getting to know and implementing the concepts of Integral Education in their classrooms and also how their students are benefited because of the skill development programs taken up by Bejon Desai Foundation. In the end, Shivakumar, Director, SAFIER, congratulated all the teachers and wished them for their future journey in taking Integral Education to their classrooms.