Better Ways of Education

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd.)

The search for new and improved methods of education continues, as it has done down through the ages. With the discovery and application of yoga, it seems as though a breakthrough is about to take place. The scientific discovery of the functions of the different sides of the brain is furthering the cause of yoga and expansion of consciousness in terms of explaining the need for the implementation of these disciplines in our lives.

The brain is divided into two cerebral hemispheres. Recently doctors have discovered that each hemisphere appears to have a separate and quite different function. The right hemisphere is associated with the intuitive and spatial aspects of our being, while the left is associated with the analytical and linear capacities. Up to now, education has focused on the left hemisphere mainly, giving importance to linear, scientific and purely logical disciplines such as reading, writing and arithmetic. The artistic, intuitive and less quantitative subjects, such as art, dance, and other creative activity, have received negligible support, both financially and in school programs. Educators are showing us that this approach is lopsided and will lead to partial education and even deleterious effects in our lives.

According to Jerry Smith, an education professor at Indiana University, USA, teachers have lost touch with the mystery of their calling because of narrowly defined education ritual.*1 The present syllabuses are too rigid. They don't fulfil us as human beings or satisfy the basic needs we are all searching for in life. A special issue of the university's School of Education Bulletin states: "Teachers must somehow enlarge their responsibilities to deal with the metaphorical and metaphysical, the aesthetic and dramatic, the spiritual and inspirational. We teachers have dwelt too long on the safe ground of lectures, textbooks, tests and grades."*2

Educational researcher Vivian Sherman has warned of a "strong, silent stumbling block" to the union of the intellectual and intuitive (the left and right sides of the brain) in the present education system.*3 Sherman states that left brain schooling (purely intellectual training) is modelled on an incorrect and inaccurate concept of science. Most of the great scientific discoveries such as those of Newton and Einstein were precipitated by flashes of intuition, cosmic insight into the nature of the whole and understanding of the relationships underlying the basis of the material universe. They were then carried to their logical and practical conclusion by the analytical process.

As a means of unifying the brain, researchers have been studying the effects of meditation, yoga asanas, pranayama, biofeedback, and so on. They are attempting to sort out what goes on in the brain and what we can do to affect the various processes. Some amazing results have emerged. Banquet, for example, has shown that in kriya yoga the whole brain unifies and acts as a single unit instead of the jumbled and chaotic mess that many people experience.*4 This was accompanied by a blissful and life affirming experience. Many people report that after kriya yoga they are full of energy and are in touch with the creative energy and knowledge of the cosmos. They begin to tap the knowledge within all of us which has resulted in so many books and external forms of knowledge or information. This ability appears to emerge when the two sides of the brain unify.

In yogic terminology the unification of the two sides of the brain is called the awakening of sushumna nadi, the pranic channel which runs down the spinal cord. The left side of the brain, the logical and extroverted side, corresponds to pingala nadi which runs down the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain corresponds to ida nadi, the internal aspects of mind and formless energy. Basing their experiences on the already established science of yoga, many scientists are finding the explanations for their experimental evidence already existing in the ancient yoga shastras.

A new blueprint is being laid down for the union of meditation, science and education as a means of enlarging the scope of present educational techniques. For example, the accelerated learning technique of Georgi Lozanov of Bulgaria utilises the essentials of yoga nidra to allow information and knowledge to enter the brain and mind at deeper subconscious levels.*5 Thus the intellectual process of learning is bypassed and made anachronistic This subtle technique of learning is becoming increasingly popular world-wide. Don Schuster of Iowa State University reported that yoga nidra/suggestology type techniques used by Judy Tyler, an Atlanta third grade teacher, enabled remedial students to make up two years work in only one semester (approximately 4 months).*6

The new look in education had its preview in May 1978 when the California State University held a conference for educators, educational consultants, counsellors, school and clinical psychologists, teachers and administrators.*7 Workshops were devoted to metaphoric thought, biofeedback, T'ai chi chuan, meditation, guided imagery, dreams, psychotherapy, and psychic development in children. The term transpersonal psychology was used to cover the broad range of positive inner experience and its scientific validation.

The conference seems to point out that transcendental or mystical experience will be recognised as complementary to cognitive, psychomotor and effective learning by near future educationalists and institutions. Meditation and how to get high naturally will be taught in school not only to relax the body, mind and personality, but also to open up the right side of the brain and allow us to reach new vistas of experience and knowledge. Education will be enriched thereby. Yoga will play a role by enabling students and teachers to follow systematic, safe and practical techniques which are ladders to higher awareness.

By expanding our intuitive nature, yoga helps us to synthesise the various elements of our environment into a structural whole. The ability to view the total picture is enhanced. Thus the relationships and interrelating factors in the environment and inside ourselves are understood and woven into a pattern of thinking that helps us to further understand the world in a never ending cycle of growth.

The developed intuition helps us in learning the logical side also. School subjects can then be better understood when examined from the point of view of the visualising mind. This is demonstrated by the 'alternative' Magnet Arts Elementary School in Eugene, Oregon, USA, where reading and writing are taught via play-wrighting and acting.*8 Dance is used in math instruction and science students make musical instruments. The school's sixth grade students tied for first place in reading and fifth place in math amongst the district's 30 schools.

In enhancing the crystallisation of growing brains and developing minds; in developing practical ways to balance the dual aspects of our nature: brain and mind, inner and outer, left and right, intuitive and analytical; in providing worthy goals for young people, so as to avoid the disastrous consequences of an ill-managed identity crisis; and to provide direction in life; yoga is the means to a better education system from both the students' and the teachers' point of view.


*1. 'Teachers urged to leave safe ground', Brain-Mind Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 17, July 18, 1977.

*2. *3. Ibid.

*4. J. P. Banquet, 'Spectral analysis of the EEG in meditation', Electroenceph. & Clin. Neurophys., 1973, 35: 143-151.

*5. S. Ostrander & L. Schroeder, 'Mission control center for the mind-suggestology', Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, Abacus, 1973.

*6. 'Transpersonal psychology goes to school', Brain-Mind Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 14, June 5, 1978

* 7. Ibid.

*8. 'Art reinforces cognitive learning', Brain-Mind Bulletin vol. 2, no. 22, October 3, 1977