The premise of this book is that if the goal of man is to evolve into a higher being capable of manifesting a divine consciousness, then this ideal must move beyond the realm of individual yogic practices and be seriously and purposefully taken up by societies through the propagation of a new kind of education. Based on his own practice as a teacher and teacher educator, the author describes the characteristics of an integral teacher and an integral learning environment and how these differ, in essence and in detail, from the current mode of education generally followed in the modern world. Set within the framework of Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's thoughts on integral education, the book is an experimental manual for changing the way most teachers view both the process of learning and the child who is at the centre of that process.
Today we stand at the threshold of a new era when all the standards and ideals of the past which have so far been the guiding principles of human existence seem no more to hold their ground, and man is groping for a new way of life that may rightly answer to his yet unformulated aspiration. Essentially, man seeks for permanent happiness in this transitory world; but he knows not how to achieve this aim for he is ignorant of the nature of this happiness. The utilitarian social order of today speaks to him incessantly of all the wonders that the power of Money can give him. So, undoubtedly, his sole preoccupation is "how to acquire this magical power". Therefore, from the earliest period of his life all his efforts are directed towards preparing himself and later his offspring to become forceful and tactful wielders of this extraordinary force. Thus education in our age has become totally utilitarian. But still man is not happy. Because money is not the answer to his perennial question: Where lies happiness? If economic well-being is not what he wants, what is he seeking for? What will give him that which he seeks? This is precisely the question that an "integral education" answers.
Partho, who is himself an educationist and also an educator, has hit the mark straight to the point. He has understood that the aim of an education that will prepare the child to find the answer to the question mentioned above must exceed the present norms by which academicians are in the habit of founding their institutions and move towards new standards, new domains, that are yet to be discovered, in order to help man grow upwards in his evolutionary process and attain his highest ideal: the divinisation of life. This system of new education the author calls "consciousness education". But at the same time he warns us that this education is for the future. For man is not yet ready for such a way of life. He says, "The education for the future will have to be a consciousness education in all its aspects and parts of being." In this process of the divinisation of life, the self-awareness that leads to the discovery of one's psychic being - the progressive divine element in man - and the psychicisation of all the parts of one's being - the physical, the vital, and the mental - is the first step.
This is not a role unique to teachers. For, as the author points out, "learning is a lifelong, dynamic dialogue with life and the cosmos...it is omnidimensional, omnidirectional and integral." It follows that all those with whom the child lives and interacts are responsible to give to the child the best possibilities for acquiring this self-awareness. Again I quote Partho, "The teachers, the parents and the entire school and environment must work to provide to children the noble and the beautiful"; because nobility and beauty are the essential qualities of the psychic.
To bring about this "radical evolutionary shift in the human consciousness" is not easy. And Partho is very much aware of this fact. In the postscript he says, "But all this is not likely to happen at once or even in a few generations." We must bear this in mind always. I point this out here, because at certain places in the book one could easily be led to feel that integral education could be undertaken now, and if one were sincere enough one could be successful in this endeavour without much effort. All that he advises us to do, in his genuine effort to communicate to the reader what he has earnestly understood - and rightly understood - to be the answer to the dire need of the actual pedagogic organisation, appears very easy and simple. For instance, the example he gives of the child who is capable of concentrating on her headache, who can "catch hold of the pain in the head like catching an insect, pull it out and throw it far away...and in no time cure her headache" is difficult to accept. For such an accomplishment can only be obtained through prolonged training in yoga that aims at, if not a complete, then at least a partial mastery of several parts of our being, physical as well as vital . In this case, one would say the child is either an exceptionally developed soul gifted with a highly developed occult power or may be deluding herself with things that she imagines.
The "integral education" he speaks of is certainly a "psychic education" which cannot happen as easily as one is likely to understand from reading the book. And of this Partho is very much aware also; for he admits that "An effective psychic education demands time, effort, patience, perseverance and sincerity." But what he forgets is that it is not only a question of one lifetime but of many lifetimes. I strongly feel that we must be on our guard not to speak in such simple terms of truths that we ourselves have perhaps not yet attained, such as becoming aware of the psychic in us and making it the master of all the parts of our being.
To my mind, Partho could have been briefer, avoiding a tendency to repeat what he has already spoken of earlier. Although he may be consciously doing this for the sake of emphasis, still I would say that this sort of repetition makes the length of the book somewhat forbidding. His book might appeal to a wider circle of readers if it were condensed to a more succinct format. After all, we should not forget that its message is of paramount importance and should reach as many interested teachers, educators and parents as possible.
Bithi-di is a former student of S.A.I.C.E. and teaches French and English at the Centre.