In the last decade most people have become aware of the vacuum which exists in the modern educational system. The emphasis on the three R's and on technological and scientific subjects takes a prestigious preference over the arts and humanities, not to speak about edification of the individual in the 'living' of life as a whole. Even though scholars and educationalists well know that to educate means 'to bring out', the system persists in 'stuffing into' the student's mind innumerable facts and figures, either to make top grades for school, district or state, or to make accountants, lawyers and laboratory assistants to fit into the economic social order. Competence in the art of living everyday life has been forgotten.
At last man's awareness has arrived at the multifaceted brain. With recent breakthroughs in scientific study it has been found that the brain operates on many levels at the same time. Most studies have been done on right brain hemisphere and left brain hemisphere functions. The left hemisphere was originally labelled as analytical, sequential and logical in thought. It was the side favoured for language abilities because the verbal function was thought only to be linear in time- one word after another. This suited the academic system as it could be measured easily for grades; in turn those grades would be measured in terms of job capability which in turn structured the economic and political systems of each nation. So, in fact, the greater part of the world for millennia has been governed by the left hemisphere brain.
The right hemisphere, however, is wholistic in nature. It looks at everything, not as a part but as a whole. Creative or spatial thinking comes from this area, as well as imagery and the much maligned intuition. Although it was thought to have no language ability, the right brain has recently been found to control the emotional quality of speech. Often children who are retarded in writing, speech and other left hemisphere skills have normal or superior development in various artistic capabilities. Many patients with left brain damage also have superior non-verbal perception. Through the left hemisphere thoughts are expressed in words, whereas the right hemisphere is associated With the unconscious mind. Many of the eminent scientists and scholars of our times have had their most revolutionary and creative ideas during times when the non-intellectual, spatial or intuitive mind (right brain) was functioning.
From the gathering evidence, we can see the necessity for educating or bringing out the abilities of the right brain. This is not to say that the left brain should be ignored, but there should be an integration of learning and development of both hemispheres, so they can work in harmony and at top efficiency. This is partially the goal of yoga, when taken at a gross or physical level. For spiritual development, however, the whole brain has to be working, then there will be enlightenment.
Today educators are becoming aware of their incapacity to deal with the metaphorical and metaphysical, the spiritual and inspirational. Teachers have been limited to conventional methods for too long. New methods of teaching are being developed to utilise the whole brain function, so that creative ideas coming through the right hemisphere can be acted on through the left.
Some educators have suggested modifications in the present school curricula to integrate the intellectual and artistic abilities, e.g. making pictures to accompany social science or science; in geometry, making freehand geometrical shapes to experience the feel of a straight line, circle etc. This will have an effect on the deeper consciousness, as the archetypes of the unconscious mind are represented in yoga philosophy by geometrical shapes.
In intensive training experiments reported by E. Paul Torrance and co-workers at the University of Georgia (Brain/Mind Bulletin, Sept. 3, 1977) it was stated that:
The problem with most of us is that often what we learn is not remembered because it is not properly processed. The brain hemispheres need to become synchronised in order to function in a more efficient manner. Neither side should dominate over the other.
When you use both hemispheres, you are using your whole brain and total capacity of mind and body.
In the ashram our aim is exactly that - to integrate both hemispheres of the brain and limbic system; a whole brain or wholistic mind approach. The development of the individual does, not take place in a classroom but in the ashram environment as a whole. There are many sannyasins here who are children, and their education is everything they do in the ashram. Whether they are working in our press, learning about machines and composing; or in the office, despatching our magazine, the whole brain is being used. Even in mundane chores like cleaning a veranda, they use their creative abilities so a system and creative play are evolved. They learn to roll 'round' rotis as opposed to 'square' or 'triangular' ones, and the value of storytelling is not underestimated in imparting knowledge.
Ashram life can be one of the most useful lessons for all children; to learn that all work can be play, while play is also learning about themselves. This develops the attitude of karma yoga, true selfless service, so that the child grows up with the ability to work anywhere, unclear any conditions and to give fully of him or herself for the benefit of society. He or she develops a fully expanded and liberated mind, not an expert in one narrow discipline, but an expert in living.
In order to encourage such integral development, a one month Children's Course will be held this year during the month of May. All children between the ages of seven and fourteen are eligible and there are no barriers as regards sex, race or creed. We hope that many parents will put their children in the forefront of this revolutionary 'whole mind' training, and take this opportunity to send their children for this integrated educational experience of a lifetime.