It was indeed an interesting and awe-inspiring workshop conducted by Gitanjali ji. Each part of the sessions was full of enchanting stories about our great country, India and how Indians have lost their contact with their own motherland. I was shocked to hear many stories of post-independent India, how colonial rule of British and Mughal rule spoiled India’s age-old beliefs, creativity, art, politics, governance, in fact every sphere of public life. The 6-day workshop was divided beautifully to unveil our great civilisation bit by bit.
Purpose of the Workshop:
- To use Indian Spirituality is a two-way process, not only reaching a higher state of consciousness, but also bringing those higher states of consciousness in every sphere of our day-to-day life.
- To be a change-maker, using the age-old Indian knowledge, science, and spirituality to transform our lives with a decolonised mind.
Day 1 – Decolonising the Indian Mind – An Imperative Need
On the first day, we had got a bird’s eye view of impact of colonization on the Indian mind and how other countries performed better with a decolonised mind. Gitanjali gave a beautiful insight on the impact of colonial rule on India and the Indian mindset. She provided many examples on how Bharat lost its real essence and unique command over Knowledge and became a blind follower of Western Education and civilisation. Some of the examples are as follows:
What happens when we get colonised
We stop thinking about real reasons for any ongoing system
- For about 52 years, the Indian budget was presented at 5 pm, to suit the British time. It was changed in 1999 to 11 am. You become so numb that you don’t even think why this custom was existent for so many decades.
- Summer vacation was useful for British to visit hill-stations like Kulu and Manali. We are a tropical country; our body is already adjusted and adaptable to that summer climate and we should have our vacation in rainy season, because we face acute problems in rain. Ther government should have thought about a rainy season vacation.
We forget our roots and our ancient knowledge
- We don’t have a single school of architecture teaching us mud architecture, where – 70% of Indians live in mud homes. We have been blindly following the West’s cement and concrete architecture, spoiling the environment. We create glass architecture buildings, using AC and spoiling the environment.
We believe that IAS are experts on every subject
- No developed country has IAS system to manage the bureaucracy. They appoint Nobel laureates or some experts as advisors to the Govt. In India, too much unwanted respect is given to IAS lobby, as given to kings. They still like to use a huge convoy of vehicles although they are just government servants. They never become enablers of public ideas.
We disrespect our mother tongue in favour of English
- These days parents and teachers feel it is an insult to speak in our mother tongue. We prefer only to speak in English as if it is a great intellectual prowess.
- The Judiciary still wants to use British era language, disadvantaging 90% Indians who do not know English, and only speak in their mother tongue. How will a tribal person understand a incomprehensible judgment and file another appeal?
We lead a passive, inactive and helplessness mindset
As we blindly follow the West, the major impact happens on our mindset, we tend to have that slavish mentality within us, born to serve mentality instead of born to lead mentality. As innovation is out of bounds, we have that typical attribute of a decolonised mind: I can do nothing. Instead, if we decolonise our minds, our attribute will be: I can change the world in a little bit way I can.
Day 2 –True Spirituality and Politics
On Day 2, this session was all about India’s spirituality and her larger mission to work for the world.
As per Mother and Sri Aurobindo,” India is where the fate of the earth will be decided.
India is the only place in the world which is still aware that something else than Matter exists.”
The session also discussed on how India, once one of the world’s richest countries, lost its vigour, its unique power of spiritual prowess, after it was first invaded by Mughals and then colonised by the British.
We have forgotten to take pride in our rich ancient heritage and culture. We just look westwards and external sources for solving all our needs and challenges instead of finding the solution within.
The action items prescribed were as follows:
- India has to not only reflect upon its inner and outer life, but also the collective life.
- We not only have to reclaim spiritual knowledge, but also apply the knowledge in every sphere of our life, be it physical, social, and universal level by reaching highest state of consciousness.
- India has to rise not just for itself, but to show the way for the world by making a paradigm shift, by spreading the message of Sanatana Dharma (the eternal religion).
- We need to revisit the Gurukul system of education, which was primarily focused on discovering our own Swadharma, the true purpose of life.
- We need to follow Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga and Integral Education model, which was a perfect platform to know the evolutionary journey of human beings. Sri Aurobindo discovered that man is not final, he is just an intermediate being. Mind is at an intermediate stage.
- We have to discover and live from our psychic being, which is the true centre of divine Consciousness within us and gradually it will lead us towards the immortal being, i.e., the Supramental being, the Body of Light, which will radiate luminosity, plasticity, lightness, etc. To reach there, we have to remove the false sense of ego and desire, which are controlling our lives. We need not negate or leave our life, but make our life a base for all realisations, psychic and spiritual realisations by discovering our highest self. This is a life-affirming and life-fulfilling spirituality, instead of life-negating spirituality.
- We not only have to lead a life of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga but also lead a life of Yoga of Perfection. As per Sri Aurobindo, we have to synthesise all these aspects in our everyday life and aim towards perfection making our life truly divine.
Gitanjali described about the types of governance in the human civilisation, such as aristocracy, theocracy, oligarchy, and democracy. In ancient Bharat, we had seen many instances of self-government even at village level, this was equivalent to today’s village panchaya system, where actual governance was done at the very grassroot level with consensus. Research says that in the Gupta period, the country had a village panchayat system. Unfortunately, the current imported constitution is from British, the village self-government is not represented adequately.
As per Sri Aurobindo, the democratic form of Governance started by the West is not the right way of governance. It has excluded the progress at the village level.
As per The Mother: We are not here to practise politics but to serve the Divine.
Day 3 –Technology – Rethinking Food, Clothing, Shelter, and Energy Sufficiency
This session threw some light on how ancient rich Bharat was more prosperous and self-sufficient in all aspects of human life, be it food, clothing, homes, or energy sufficiency. In those days people used to have very advanced technology to solve any local problems.
Some instances of advancements:
Artha: We were spiritually awake and using various tools such as money, technology, food, clothing as tools of realisation. For us Goddess Lakshmi represents Artha, and Mahalakshmi represents the abundance of resources. Spirituality played a significant role to fulfill the physical needs of man of ancient India.
Ancient Age: India was technologically so advanced in every field in the 18th and 19th Century, contributing almost 27% of global trade. During independence, India’s global trade fell to negligible 2-3% after British looting for 200 years. For example, silk weaving, or muslin cloth weaving in Bengal was the softest and much in demand in the world. It was deliberately destroyed during the British rule. To destroy their industry, they inflicted torture on the weavers.
Indian ship-building, as early as the 13th century, was using the cutting-edge technology, and were able to manufacture advanced high-quality ships, as mentioned by Marco Polo.
Present Age: We do not have any world-class manufacturing companies that produce mobiles, laptops, high-quality cars, or any Apps, that are used on a global scale with global demand. Indian companies lack the confidence and skill to compete on the global stage. Due to 400 years of colonisation, the mindset of a typical Indian has become only to serve the West and follow the West blindly.
Currently, people do not want to work hard, for example, housewives have lost the skill of cooking, and outsource the job to online food-delivery platforms. Because of lack of confidence, they are unable to come up with solutions using local means.
Gitanjali explained the salient example of Himalayan Institute of Alternative Living, which was created with the noble intention of eco-responsive architecture and living in harmony with nature. They created some unique Schools of Ecology, School of Tourism, School of Agriculture and Forestry, School of Eco-Responsive Buildings which was designed without using any Western model of architecture. It showcased the local innovative method to create high-quality buildings, reverse-engineered the method of construction used in construction of palaces (the palace of Saspul) 1000’s of years ago. The University is making many innovative experiments, like growing potatoes in the hilly region, high density of apple orchard, composting toilet, waterless toilet, solar photovoltaic Greenhouse, and so on. The Co-founder of the University Sonam Wangchuk also joined the session and urged the attendees to stop blindly copying the Western practices. One such example was the West provides many methods to increase the supply, but the East approaches the problem from reducing the demand perspective. The rich nations should follow the principles of reducing their need instead of increasing the richness of matter.
Future: World is keeping its industrial economy, driven mostly by fossil fuel demand and supply, this will lead toan unprecedented energy crisis in future. Gradually, more and more countries are becoming aware and raising towards the path of Spirituality. Our only goal is to arrange material resources in such a way that will fulfill our spiritual life. As per the Bhagavad Gita, based on our resources, we will need resources. As Sonam Wangchuk said, instead of blindly copying the West in creating more AI based Apps, we should provide some solutions which will be helpful for humanity at large, from cities to the remotest corners of the world. Instead of focusing more on preventing disease, we should keep ourselves fit and healthy using the age-old methods of Ayurveda and a more natural and balanced way of living.
Day 4 – Education, Humanities and Pure Science, Liberal Arts
In this session, Gitanjali presented a vivid picture of India’s current Education system and the ancient education system. She briefly described the ways which will remove the drawbacks of the present education system.
Current Education System:
The aim of an education system is to provide:
- Skills to earn one's livelihood
- Social awareness towards better citizenship
- Path of self-discovery
However, unfortunately, our education system mostly focuses on the first aspect: skills to earn one’s livelihood, and not on the self-discovery. Our education system focuses mostly on cramming our brains with information overload, memorizing the info and venting out the info in an exam and getting a certificate for participating in this exercise. That’s why, 95% of Engineering graduates are unemployable, and have to get on-the-job training to develop requisite skills after getting into a job.
In ancient India
British Govt under Macaulay systematically destroyed our Gurukul system of education. India’s Education in the 18th century was more advanced than West. Unfortunately, 50% jobs will be lost in the next 10 years due to advancement of technology such as AI and Cloud Computing.
She suggested five ways in which we can address the Education crisis:
Must provide Contextual Educational curriculum
For example, our education focuses on one single way of agriculture practices. There should be comprehensive learning of agriculture methods based on different places, different climates, and soil quality. Students should learn which methods are applicable for rain infested Meghalaya, hottest Jaisalemer, snowy Ladakh, plateau of MP with dry weather, and coastal belt of Odisha with humid weather.
Many places in India see ghost villages as people do not know what to grow after a certain time, and leave the village entirely. Due to a lack of contextual education, people could not find any other thing to cultivate and had to quit the place.
Education should start from near to far, as mentioned by The Mother. This should be the Education of the Future so that we can reclaim the power of Gurukul system again. For example, HIAL Ladakh, has made passive solar heated building without any artificial heating of AC and set an example for rest of the world.
Must provide Experiential learning – Learning by Doing
Someone rightly says: “Unless something passes through our body, we can’t retain it in our intellect.”
India always stood for experiential learning. It was not just to know but to be.
For example, earlier Rishis used to send their students to the riverbed and ask them to meditate on one Mahavakya: arvamkhalvidam brahma – All here is brahman - Everything is Divine.
HIAL Ladakh scaled 23 villages in storing 23 mn litres of water in the adverse climate of Ladakh. They learnt by doing by themselves how to preserve water and create waterbodies.
Implement Trans-disciplinary Approach
We must combine multiple disciplines or approaches and take the best out of each specialised learning. For example, the Industrial Revolution of Europe emphasised more on increasing the productivity of soil. While doing so, it disregarded the side-effects of chemical fertilisers on the soil, thereby becoming health hazard for billions of people. The same policy continues even today, and is driven by the governments across the world and public health becomes a casualty.
Research in modern medicines always focuses on curing the disease, as the most important criteria instead of understanding the side-effects of a medicine on mental health and emotional well-being of a person.
The ideal approach should have been to combine all aspects of Education and widen our mind to the highest state.
Have a purpose of life
We need to have a truer purpose in life.
The Mother says:
“An Aimless life is a miserable life. ” Everyone should have an aim. But do not forget that the quality of your aim will depend on the quality of your life.
Your aim should be high and wide, generous, and disinterested; this will make your life precious to yourself and to others. But whatever your ideal, it cannot be perfectly realised unless you have realised perfection in yourself.
To work for your perfection, the first step is to become conscious of yourself, of the different parts of your being and their respective activities. You must learn to distinguish these different parts one from another, so that you may become clearly aware of the origin of the movements that occur in you, the many impulses, reactions, and conflicting wills that drive you to action.
Implement Spiritual Education as a way to Self-discovery
We have currently 3 Rs methods of learning: Reading Writing, Arithmetic
Drawback: All these aspects are mostly related to our head, and not connected with other parts of the body.
Another method: 3Hs learning, a somewhat holistic approach than 3Rs:
- Wise Head
- Compassionate Heart
- Skilled Hand
Most of our current University Education information revolves around the head.
Only Vocational Education revolve around the hand or more physical or practical oriented.
Research says when we do something by our own hand physically, we can remember and learn a thing forever. That knowledge is retained.
We should implement 3As Method of Education
- Adhidaiva: Under the gods (meaning in English)
We need to develop the faculties of consciousness:
This is mostly related to the non-material aspects, mostly thoughts and feeling, head and heart together.
As the KenaUpanishad mentions, we also need to develop the material aspect of ourselves and the world, particularly the physical aspects, or the inert matter.
Spiritual education is the key towards self-discovery.
If we truly implement this approach as our fundamental education, it will truly put India in the world map.
Ikigai framework shows convergence of four elements: passion, mission, vocation and profession. This includes four components: what you love, what you're good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. If we extrapolate this Japanese concept to Indian context, Swadharma can include what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for.
Yuga dharma can be to do what the world needs urgently.
The true purpose of life is to discover Swadharma, meaning love what you do as per the Gita and make an impact on the world.
In Sanatan Dharma, Swadharma and Yuga Dharma have to be aligned with the eternal purpose of life which is to help in the evolution of consciousness.
For example, if today Yuga Dharma is Digital world, if our Swadharma is computer-coding and if we do not have eternal purpose of life as our guiding principle, then we can come up with designing a digital game app like Bluewhale, which forces kids to commit suicide. Only when we take the eternal purpose of Sanatana Dharma as the evolution of consciousness, then we will refrain from making such a dangerous app for humanity called Blue Whale. We have to live not for selfish motive but for the sake of the growth of consciousness of the world.
Yuga dharma should be for the good of the world and that will guide us from within, whether I should go for it or not. We have to train our students with spiritual, occult, and non-material life-studies.
Develop Higher Order Thinking or Intuition based thinking
We must train our children to practise higher order thinking and deeper order feeling.
Mind has two orders of thinking:
Lower order thinking: Work with existing knowledge
This will aim for one right answer, convergent thinking and summarize in an objective way.
We are in an age of reason after the industrial and scientific age:
- Rememberrecall facts and basic concepts.
- Understanding facts explain ideas concepts.
- Applying facts.
Higher Order Thinking
No one right answer, we can get multiple answers based on our creativity and design. Subjective thinking, divergent thinking.
- analyse - draw connection among ideas
- evaluate - justify a stand or decision
- Create - produce new or original work
Ancient India was advanced in this higher order thinking, if we look at the majestic temple architecture, we can get an idea.
British policymakers like Macaulay destroyed this higher order thinking system in our education system and ensured only lower order thinking, to make us clerks only; no divergent thinking was allowed. All our so-called competitive exams, IIT, UPSC are based on lower order thinking: ‘mug up and vent out’ system.
If we map it to Indian knowledge-system, we can relate the following:
- Chitta – subconscious memory - the lower order thinking – Remember and understand
- Manas – Apply and analyse
- Buddhi – Sense mind – Creates new things.
We need to learn to retain the essence and create a new form using the existing knowledge.
We had an interaction with her son Aryan who is a young art and movie director and producer. His short films have achieved international awards. His mission is to express the great Indian culture through audio visual medium and through movies and short stories. It was quite an inspiring session for us to listen to such a awakened soul, carrying so much fire and passion within.
Day 5 – Re-establishing the purpose of Art and Culture, Humanities and Liberal Art
Gitanjali gave an insight on Indian Humanities and Liberal Arts, philosophy that provides a framework to decide what is right and what is wrong. There is abysmal lack of understanding these subjects, like philosophy and humanities among the Indians. We do not know that literature isa way of searching for the Eternal. Governance should be for the well-being of all.
India’s mission is to point back humanity to the true source of human liberty, human equality, human brotherhood. - Sri Aurobindo
Einstein says, “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
Mark Twain says, India is the cradle of human race, birthplace of human speech.
Culture: We need to know the root-cause of our rituals or the significance of our religion. We need to equip ourselves with the ultimate truth or inner symbolism behind every outer act of ritual. For example, the significance of Hindu tradition of using108 beads as auspicious. We need to take pride in our own culture to be a great country.Our Rig Vedas had discovered the speed of Light thousands of years ago.
Language: We need to respect our language, our mother tongue, Sanskrit. Sanskrit should be the common language of India and national language. A revised Sanskrit or people’s Sanskrit should be studied and brought as a national common language.
All regional languages also need to be respected. Tamil and Sanskrit are almost from the similar era.
Philosophy: We have not lived an impactful life. Philosophy should be considered as a living subject. We need to introspect our life, our purpose of existence, our impacts on the world in general.
Literature: She urged all of us to read the Indian Gurus’ books instead of those of Western Authors. We should read the books on Essays on the Gita, Secret of Veda, The Human Cycle, The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo.The Life Divine is a magnum opus, just like a creator writing about His creation.
We should also read the Indian authors in their regional language: Kalidasa, Bhartruhari, Tukaram, which will also have an elevating and transformative experience.
Psychology & Yoga: As per Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga philosophy, to define “Who Am I?” we can consider the following:
We are sitting on a base of Universal inconscient and universal subconscient.
Followed by our outer being made up of outer mind, outer body, outer vital.
And Inner Being – Inner mind, Inner Vital and Inner physical
Supported by the physical self, mental self, and vital self.
Guided by the Psychic entity = which should be the leader of our path – This is the fire of aspiration.
Inwardly on an evolutionary journey from Mind to Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind, and finally Supermind. When we start living in the Psychic being and allow it to become the leader of our lives. Sri Aurobindo has refined and elaborated the whole process of evolution.
Chanting of AUM
A - Outer being (waking state)
U - - Subliminal self (dream state)
M – Above higher mind (deep sleep state)
Finally To the Supermind (Turiya state)
If we know how to chant consciously infusing the highest state of mind it will take us to Satchidananda, the Supreme.
“Yoga is nothing but practical psychology.”
“Mind-blowing and it opened my eyes.”
“We need more such sessions especially interactive workshops.”
“A revelatory experience. I understood that solutions to even big problems can be found if right people and right knowledge are referred.”
“I have been proud of my Indian heritage.”
“1. Context is very important 2. The solution is around the corner. Local resources should be used to figure out long term solutions so that they are sustainable and good for society.”
“More time and more sessions are needed to cover these topics well. However, the sessions were good in providing us a glimpse of the topics.”
“This programme has introduced Sri Aurobindo's philosophy to me. Looking forward to learn more.”
“Yes, we need to reform our education system more experiential teaching rather than theoretical.”
“We have ancient wisdom that needs to be revived. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo's teachings need to be put into practice.”