Last updated: 25 Mar, 2024

A Note on Unending Education in Auroville

It is a characteristic of Auroville that people who come with a given professional profile and training often choose to take another path, more suitable to their personality and therefore more useful for themselves and society. Many of the activities existing today, in education, art, business, afforestation, farming, social work, alternative technologies, architecture and others, are the result of a discovery and learning process, at least as much implementation of previously acquired know-how as newly acquired insight and skills. In this sense, Auroville owes its present reality to its own process of unending education.

Unending education and constant progress are mentioned in the second article of the Charter, and therefore present themselves as a fundamental characteristic of life in Auroville. It should not be considered in isolation, but rather in its relation with the other articles to reveal its true scope and meaning. Nevertheless the proposal to shift the aim of society from individual satisfaction to unending education and constant progress has considerable consequences by itself. We will evoke a few of them in the domains of schools, economy, conflict resolution and governance.

Education in Auroville Schools

School names

Auroville education started with a paradox when the first school of Auroville was named Last School by the Mother. The other names given by her were not less destabilising. Written in a sequence, they present themselves as Last School, After School, Super School, No School. Creatively thought-provoking, they suggest that the education schools aim at will be found in going beyond the present school-formula. They suggest also, when put in relation with the second article of the Auroville Charter, that the whole city can become a vast campus of unending education and constant progress.

The question is, therefore, to find the programs and methods that will enable our school system to fulfil the true mission of education: the development of consciousness in human beings. The mission of Auroville education is not to produce ready-made citizens for a system that cannot anymore find solutions for the problems it has created; it is to help the emergence of men and women able to consciously build themselves on a true basis, while building a new world in which they chose to live together without exclusion and around common aims.

Forming integrally developed beings

Preparing the children to live a life of unending education and constant progress is very different from training them in order to make them ‘employable’ on the labour market. We aim at forming human beings as complete as possible in the respect of the svabhava and svadharma, the true nature and law of development of each one. Hence the reference to integral education, developing the instruments of mind, life and body, in relation to the inner being, and open to a higher and truer consciousness, which need not to be presented here.

Preparing the Students for the Unexpected

The characteristics of the world in 20 years from now are unknown, except that they will be rich in new challenges at an unprecedented scale and complexity. Still, it seems that everywhere students are conditioned to fit in the unsustainable world of yesterday. Auroville has to prepare the students to be ready for a world that doesn’t exist yet, to think out of preconceived ideas, and to face new challenges in a creative and cooperative manner, carried by the faith that a new world is possible. There is no existing certificate system to validate this. The surest way to prepare the students to a challenging but unknown future is to help them to develop their personality as integrally as possible and to prepare them to enter an unending process of learning.

A culture of synthesis

In a world of conflicting interest and ideals, of which Auroville represents a microcosm, the capacity to arrive at a reconciliating harmony will become more and more important. Simplistic and exclusive approaches have to be replaced by a movement of synthesis where what appears antagonistic reveals its needed complementarity. It requires a training of the intellect to adopt this capacity so that it can become its natural movement.

The Needed Dialogues between Cultures

In its process of progressive and conflicting unification, humanity has to solve the question of the universality of common values and the fruitful dialogues between different cultures: What are the values that allow all other values to blossom? Neither secularist nor religious views can pretend at universality since they negate each other, thus failing the test. The conditions of the Auroville experiment, where many people from different cultures come to work within a rural Indian milieu is by itself a challenge: at what conditions can these two cultures find their fruitful complementarity?

All these aspects have to be discovered and worked out experimentally, since there is no ready made model to follow. It is in itself a process of unending education.

Unending Education and Economy

The present dominant economic paradigm, where the egoistic pursuit of individual interests is the key and warrant of the collective happiness, is a fallacy that becomes more and more painful to entertain. By setting education and progress rather than the search for satisfaction as the aim of life in society, the Auroville Charter redesigns the different aspects of the economic paradigm: work, instead of being the means to earn one’s living, becomes the field of progress. Giving oneself rather than trying to get as much as possible at the lesser cost is the key to real development for the individual and collective progress.

The possibility offered to progress endlessly, to increase one’s capacities of self-discovery and self-mastery, is the main remuneration of work, its natural consequence so to speak. The freedom to embark on a voyage of self-discovery and self-perfection is the only luxury money cannot buy and it is the main wealth of Auroville. For many people on this planet, it is an inaccessible dream. Although extremely scarce, greed has no access to it, for it requires a renouncement of the utilitarian freedom to buy everything in order to enjoy everything at a lesser cost. This is why this ideal cannot be imposed, it finds its full value only when it is willingly chosen. Attachment to an alienating ‘freedom’ which yokes us to the objects of desire and their possession is what has to be sacrificed, so that we can be born to a greater freedom.

Our bet is that a society founded on the search of a constant progress, where the labour costs are disconnected from its increasing productivity, is the winner in the long run, whatever the modesty of its beginnings. It announces probably the only viable model that can genuinely be extended to all human beings of the planet.

Auroville’s economy includes intangible elements that never appear in our financial accounts, but which are effectively created, distributed, and recreated in their nourishing elements. Circulation of money is not needed for this aspect of our activities. What is much needed is the circulation of faith and trust in a common future, the real alternative currency of our transactions, which makes things possible when it is present and impossible when it is not.

The question of what is true development, and development of what, becomes a core issue: An inflation of objects to be produced and consumed at a high cost of energy and pollution, or the unfolding of a multifaceted consciousness in human beings?

Here it should be possible to make bridges between Auroville and all the emergence of a knowledge economy and society, particularly with the corporate world. Knowledge is not given by an overwhelming information; the capacity to make sense of it and to organise it all is essential for the attainment of a truly knowledge based society. We can predict that economy will become more and more dependent on knowledge and, therefore, on education and progress.

Justice and Conflict Resolution

In almost every conflict we find two sides, each one claiming to be right and the other to be wrong, asking the official bodies to give them an august recognition and sanction.

But one winning over the other is no justice, and no truth can claim exclusive rights against other truths, however disfigured they presents themselves. Here also, we aim at an all-reconciliating harmony which cannot be imposed with authority but can only be sought and accepted by the concerned parties. It is essentially an educational process aiming at a progress to be made, a request that lays equally on every one, and which perhaps defines what an Auroville citizenship would mean.

Consequently, suppression and punishment have to be replaced by healing processes of progress and reconciliating approaches. The aim is not to decide who is right or wrong but to have everyone make a progress towards a better mutual understanding, the only basis for true solutions.

It is unnatural to the mind not to be exclusive in its assertions, and therefore it is a difficult step to take. But if we could train ourselves to it, Auroville would harbour a living practice of synthesis, and not only an ideal of it.

Collective Governance

The model of governance by which a group manages to win the majority and then imposes its view to the rest comes into direct contradiction with Auroville ideals of synthesis and reconciliating harmony (not to speak of the corrupting element of electoral competition).

The possibility to replace exclusive assertions by a synthetic movement of knowledge is the core of Sri Aurobindo’s thought and a repeated injunction of The Mother. It can be said that it is Auroville svadharma, the law of its development and progressive self-discovery.

Legitimacy is an essential component of governance, and there would be no durable legitimacy for a system of governance that would not make of a reconcilating movement of synthesis the foundation of its knowledge and action.

Here also, there is no model to turn to; the method has to be worked out experimentally, where the whole collective project is turned into a field of a challenging unending education and constant progress.

Auroville, a learning environment open to the world

It appears from the above that Auroville has emerged as a vast campus where a multifaceted research is attempted in many domains, whose unity supports a rich movement of diversity. Auroville's aims and ideals, along with its multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-disciplinary multi-environment, have established a solid base for a continued pursuit of excellence in its diverse range of avenues for innovative and learning, research and experimentation. The large number of direct beneficiaries (over 13,000 last year) reflects the level of receptivity in India and the rest of the world for what Auroville has to offer.

But the most important element of Auroville is that it is a place oriented towards and offered to the creation of the future. In a world more and more marked by the absence of perspectives for anything new (except in the domain of technology), rushing at high speed towards an unstainable future and disturbed by many movements of regression, a city founded on the principle of unending education and constant progress offered to a higher and truer consciousness makes a difference, palpable in the atmosphere. This experience could be spread by increasing our capacities to welcome a variety of workshops and learning activities in different domains of excellence. A place committed to the invention of the future has something to offer to those who are also in search of the future.

By presenting the possibility of a society where money is not anymore the sign of real wealth, the state the sign of legitimate power and certificate the truthful sign of knowledge and ability, the Mother left us orphaned of the reassuring pillars of past and present values. It often raises the nostalgia of more familiar schemes of thought and action. But the adventure has been given fully, for us to choose and to attempt, not as a dogma to be applied, but as an experimental adventure in the unknown of tomorrow.

The Auroville schools, as all other activities of Auroville, are set in the heart of this experiment and they draw from it the meaning and value of their work.

Jean-Yves Lung, SAIIER

November 2010