Wednesday, 2 April 2014

B is for Beauty, A Beautiful Education

#atozchallenge

There is no better place to begin but the beginning. So I begin by recalling the inspiration behind this blog:
Let beauty be your constant ideal.
The beauty of the soul
The beauty of sentiments
The beauty of thoughts
The beauty of the action
The beauty in the work
so that nothing comes out of your hands which is not an expression of pure and harmonious beauty.
And the Divine Help shall always be with you. (The Mother, CWM, Volume 12, p. 232)
In an earlier post I had shared a long passage from one of Jiddu Krishnamurti's talks on Education, in which the world-renowned thinker spoke about the need for developing a sensitivity and appreciation of beauty. He is joined by many other prominent thinkers and philosophers of education in India who have spoken of this critical aspect of a holistic education.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote extensively on what may be termed as Aesthetic Education and applied his ideas at Santiniketan. Echoing some of Krishnamurti's thoughts, he wrote in his essay "Realization of Beauty":
When [man] has the power to see things detached from self-interest and from the
insistent claims of the lust of the senses, then alone can he have the true vision
of the beauty that is everywhere. Then only can he see that what is unpleasant to
us is not necessarily unbeautiful, but has its beauty in truth.
Linking beauty with truth Tagore claims that that it is through our sense of truth that we realize order in creation while our sense of beauty helps us recognize the underlying harmony in the universe. As we become more conscious of this harmony in creation - within ourselves and without, our life in itself becomes an expression of the greater Beauty of the Infinite. Tagore, like John Keats, asserts that the aim of our existence is to obtain the knowledge that beauty is truth, and truth beauty. 

According to Tagore, music is the most direct expression of beauty in art. He writes that poets are the seers who reflect the beauty of the infinite through the songs of their hearts. Every movement of Nature, according to Tagore is a play of the music and harmony of creation, the fall of rain, the child’s first utterance, the starry constellation. Even our bodies when asleep play the beautiful music -“the heart will throb, the blood will leap in the veins, and the millions of living atoms of my body will vibrate in tune with the note of the harp-string that thrills at the touch of the master." 

Wouldn't it make good sense to facilitate such appreciation of beauty in the young minds and hearts? In her essays on education, the Mother wrote:
The great importance of beauty must also be emphasised. A young child should aspire for beauty, not for the sake of pleasing others or winning their admiration, but for the love of beauty itself; for beauty is the ideal which all physical life must realise. (CWM, Volume 12, p. 16)

In an earlier post I spoke of Sri Aurobindo's profound essay-series titled "National Value of Art", which provides valuable perspective on what is the true purpose of art, why arts education is so essential for the overall integrated development of a learner, and how music, poetry and arts provide a true education for the soul. Let us revisit those words in order to grasp fully their significance for education:
The mind is profoundly influenced by what it sees and, if the eye is trained from the days of childhood to the contemplation and understanding of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in line and colour, the tastes, habits and character will be insensibly trained to follow a similar law of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in the life of the adult man....
.....
Between them music, art and poetry are a perfect education for the soul; they make and keep its movements purified, self-controlled, deep and harmonious. These, therefore, are agents which cannot profitably be neglected by humanity on its onward march or degraded to the mere satisfaction of sensuous pleasure which will disintegrate rather than build the character. They are, when properly used, great educating, edifying and civilising forces.
India has had a great tradition of all forms of visual and performing arts, and Indian thinkers and philosophers have written great volumes on aesthetics and aesthetic education. But somehow we have forgotten all that and in a mad rush to "modernize" and "industrialize" and "computerize", our educational thinkers, policy-makers, curriculum planners, and educators have been, for decades and decades, been focusing only on selected branches of "professional" education. Arts education has been, for the most part, pushed out of schools and colleges, and where it still exists it is in the form of one or at the most two 40-minute period(s) in a week!

This must change if we want our children and youth to be sensitive and compassionate human beings, sensitive to all the magic and wonder that surrounds them in nature and in human-made world, and compassionate toward all life and nature. A thoughtfully conceived arts education is food for the soul. In addition to facilitating the development of an aesthetic appreciation, it also encourages learners to develop a keener sense of observation of all that is around them and also within them. Arts education helps improve learners' perceptions by a through training and refinement of the sense-organs including mind, which in time could lead to greater refinement and self-control of emotions and feelings, eventually helping them grow more reflective and introspective.

Our educational thinkers, curriculum planners, and educators must dig into some of the writings of great Indian thinkers and philosophers and seek inspiration on how to help learners develop a deeper sensitivity and appreciation of beauty - in form and in spirit, in thought and in action, in feelings and in sentiment.


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This post is written for the A-Z Challenge, April 2014. The theme I am exploring is - Putting India back in Indian Education

Click here for the previous post in the series.

And if you are looking for some good reading through the day, check out some of the bloggers participating in this blogfest by clicking here.