Contributions of Shri Aurobindo Ghosh towards Education

– Aditya Narayan Rao

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara

Guru sakshat, param Brahma, tasmai shri guravay namah

The Indian culture is rich in heritage and tradition. It has a lifelong history of great men who were born, had walked, and breathed their last breath in this country. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh is one of them. Sri Aurobindo was one of the most eminent and learned gurus of his times; he was a spiritualist. He is one of India’s most respected and renowned jewels.

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), the great educationist of India, has set forth his philosophy in the life Divine. He bases his philosophy on the original Vedanta of the Upanishads. Sri Aurobindo believes that earlier Vedanta represent and integral or balanced view of life. It implies healthy integration of God and the man or world, renunciation and enjoyment, freedom of the soul and action of nature, being and becoming, the one and many, Vidya and Avidya, knowledge and works, and birth and release.

Sri Aurobindo believes that man is the maker of his own destiny and education is a big tool to achieve the target. He believed that the best thing in man in his spirituality. He was an intellectual who intensely analysed human and social evolution. According to Sri Aurobindo, the education must emphasis on the whole aspects of human life such as physical, psychic, mental, beauty, power, knowledge and love etc. Integral Education is basically the cultivation of these aspects in human being. The present paper focuses the philosophical contributions of Shri Aurobindo Ghosh towards Education. It relates the importance of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of education with different components of education: principles of teaching, aims of education, curriculum, transaction, school, relationship of teacher and pupil, discipline etc.

Shri Aurobindo always thought about the education matter in India. He received quite good knowledge from Cambridge, and he also works as a professor in the Bengal National College from 1897 to 1906. So, he came to know the need in the education field and its depth. And he had hopes in the young who can bring great changes in this area. He trusted that youth can give their good contribution to rebuilding the nation. He gave his brief definition for it:


Any nation that uses simple previous experiences and makes use of the present has a better nation. If any nation does not use the past knowledge has no friend for the national development. By forgetting the present, we can win the present battle of life. So it is necessary to save for India that it has kept knowledge, noble thought and good character in its immemorial past. We must acquire for her best knowledge and should have better teaching methodology to develop humanity. All these should have integrated with the good self-reliance spirit to make up a human and not a lifeless machine. He likes the British education system a bit in India that he used to call it a mercenary and soulless system which is sufficient for making incapable the Indian brain. All Indian students have so much potentiality which is not cared due to lack of an appropriate system of education. He wanted to courageously make a good path in India.

By birth maximum, rich Indians can have better knowledge and mankind is waiting with the previous knowledge and extending their present and the potentiality of the future which can be accomplished by the National Education system. It can be accomplished by the lifeless routine and its narrow and sightless spirit and mechanical methods. It can only be developed by the light and hop of its resurgence.

‘‘Man cannot rest permanently until he reaches some highest good.’’

‘‘To fulfil god in life is man’s manhood’’ – Shri Aurobindo

The guiding principle of Sri Aurobindo’s Educational Philosophy was the awakening of the individual as a spiritual being. It should be related to life truth and self-mastery by the child.

Sri Aurobindo made a five-fold classification of human nature i.e., the physical, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual, corresponding to five aspects of education – physical education, vital education, mental education, psychic education and spiritual or super mental education.

Physical education includes control over physical functions, harmonious development of physical movements, over powering physical limitations and the awareness of body consciousness. Sri Aurobindo lays stress upon games and sports because he felt that these were essential for renewing energy.

Vital education was the most important point in integral education. Sri Aurobindo called the vital being of man – the life nature made up of desires, sensations, feelings, passions, reaction of the desire – soul in man and of all that play a possessive and other related instinct, anger, fear, speed etc. that belong to this field of nature.

Mental education included cognition, ideas and intelligence. The unique contribution of Sri Aurobindo regarding mental education was that ideas should be continually organized around a central thought.

Psychic education was the special contribution of Sri Aurobindo to education systems. The key to an integral personality was the discovery of man’s psychic nature. The educational theory of Sri. Aurobindo aimed at the development of the latent powers of the child, training of six senses, training of logical faculties, physical education, principle of freedom, moral and religious education and above all, training for the spiritualization of the individual.


According to Sri Aurobindo, the education must emphasis the following aspects in addition to the physical, psychic and mental aspects as denoted by the matter and spirit respectively. The cultivation these aspects (a) beauty, (b) power, (c) knowledge and (d) love is what he called as integral education. Beauty is the realization through physical culture. Power is to be related to the control of sensations. Knowledge helps in developing the mental makeup of an alert mind. Love is the formation of desirable feelings and emotions, which should be directed towards others and the Commission with the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo says “If education is to bring out to full advantage all that is in the individual child, we should first guarantee a safe custody of all that is in individual. Nothing is to be lost or damaged, twisted or crushed. Everyone has in him something divine, something his own, a chance of perfection and strength in however small a sphere which God offers him to take or refuse. That Divinity in man is not to be insulted, that chance of perfection is not to be lost that spark of strength is not to be extinguished. The task of a teacher is to help the child to feel that touch of divinity to find that ‘something’ to develop it, and use it. Education should help that growing soul to draw out the best that is within and make it perfect for a noble cause.”


Nothing Can Be Taught: The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or task master he is a helper and guide. The teacher’s work is to suggest and not to impose on the mind of the student but helps him to perfect his mind, the instrument of knowledge and encourages him every way in this process. Thus, is does not import knowledge, but shows the way he knowledge can be acquired. Knowledge is within the pupil and the pupil has to must help himself to bring it out, but he needs help. Somebody must tell him where it is and how it can be ‘habituated to rise to the surface.’ The teacher alone can do this work.

Mind Has to be Consulted In Its Growth: The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its growth. The idea of hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent or teacher is a barbarous and ignorant superstition.”

To Work from the Known to the Unknown: The third principle of teaching is to work from the near to the far, from the known to the unknown. Man’s nature is mould by his souls past his heredity and his environment. The past is the foundation, the present is the material and future is the aim – and each must find its due and natural place in any national system of education.


As per Shri Aurobindo, teachers should be respected and they have a very responsible job. The different tasks of the learners should be sincerely seen so that he could guide. He told that a teacher should show the learners the appropriate path, and show the ways to achieve that and find out the self-guidance. And also told not to impose any knowledge instead he shows them how to get different skills.


Sri Aurobindo enunciates certain sound principles of good teaching, which have to be kept in mind when actually engaged in the process of learning. According to Sri Aurobindo, the first principle of true teaching is “that nothing can be taught.” He explains that the knowledge is already dormant within the child and for this reason. The teacher is not an instructor or taskmaster; “he is a helper and a guide.” The role of the teacher “is to suggest and not to impose”. He does not actually train the pupil’s mind, he only shows him how to perfect the instruments of knowledge and helps him and encourages him in the process. He does not impart knowledge to him; he shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself. He does not call forth the knowledge that is within; he only shows him where it lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface.


The next principle is to work from the near to the far, from the known to the unknown. The nature of a child is nurtured by his souls past his heredity and his environment. The past experiences are the foundation, the present is the material and future is the aim and each must find it and natural place in any national system of education.


Shri Aurobindo gave very much importance on making capable of all the vital organs that are the sense-organs. The training of sense organs constitutes important aspects of education. These senses constitute of skin, ears, nose and eyes, and palate etc external sense organs and also the internal sense organ named Citta/manas. There exists the root of different feelings, desires, sentiments, impulses, and emotions – the determining factors of his own character. The importance of vital education of the students are two-folds – (1) it helps to develop, as the Mother said, the sense-organs; (2) through it, one can gradually gain mastery over his character which will lead towards his transformation. According to the Mother, the proper nourishment of the senses will help to generate generosity and nobility factors within children.


Shri Aurobindo prescribed free environment for the child to develop all his latent faculties to the maximum and suggested all those subjects and activities should possess elements of creativity and educational expression. He wished to infuse a new life and spirit into each subject and activity through which the development of super human being could become possible. He laid down the following principle for curriculum.

“Curriculum should be in such a way which child find as interesting. It should include those entire subjects which promote mental and spiritual development. It should motivate children towards the attainment of knowledge of the whole world. It should contain creativity of life and constructive capacities.”

Aurobindo describes curriculum for different stages of education–

At Primary Stage – Sanskrit, Mother tongue, English, French, Literature, National History, Art, Painting, General Science, Social Studies and Arithmetic.

At Secondary Stage -Sanskrit, Mother tongue, English, French, Literature, Arithmetic, Art, Chemistry, Physics, Botany, Physiology, Health Education, Social Studies.

At University Level – Indian and Western Philosophy, History of Civilization, English Literature, French, Sociology, Psychology, History, Chemistry, Physics, Botany.

At Vocational Level – Art, Painting, Photography, Sculptural, Drawing, Type, Cottage Industries, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Nursing etc.

Finally, Shri Aurobindo saw education as a tool for the real working of the spirit of the mind, a body of the nation and individual.

According to the Educational Philosophy of him, everyone has spiritual consciousness by some extent in the form of some special ability which should be recognized and allowed to progress by the teacher. He involved all to uplift man from the present state to a brighter future. He thought of such education that is for an individual that will make it’s one central object the growth of the soul, its powers and possibilities.

During the time of sadhana at Pondicherry, he actively involved in strengthening his vision for mankind. Lastly, he extended his philosophy into the sphere of education at the Ashram with the setting up of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. This has been acting as a veritable laboratory for applying the principles of his philosophy in education.

(Author is Maths teacher at Vivekananda vidyalaya Gummidipoondi, Chennai)


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2 thoughts on “Contributions of Shri Aurobindo Ghosh towards Education

  1. Very nice article.
    It’s true that nothing can be taught. The knowledge will already with children and the teacher should kindle and motivate the student to come up.

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