philosophy

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SA VIDYA YA VIMUKTAYE

 

The philosophy and methodology of the APV School springs from the simple belief that education, at its core, is not the accumulation of information but an inner evolution, an insight into the self, a refinement and deepening of awareness, and a flowering of compassion. Education should endeavor to be a revolution in all aspects of one’s being; only then can one approach external information in a lasting and enriching way. Learning should change a student. If, over a summer break, nearly all the information learned the past school year fades to the point of being remembered vaguely as a word here, an equation there, how much was actually gained? The student, wrenched out of the freedom of summer and spontaneous play, recalls the specifics with prompting and is given more information, which they then forget all over again come the next summer, and this process repeats until schooling is over and the information is shunted permanently into some dusty, barely accessible storage room of the brain. At APV, we believe that before one can truly begin to know anything, one must begin to know one’s own self, that learning must be woven into the fabric of an inner journey towards self-knowledge; a whole-brain approach. The central question APV asks its students is ‘What are you? What is this thing you call a self?’ All other questions are merely branches sprouting from and anchored to this central trunk.

Our curriculum is built on the practice of mindfulness, the patient observation of that thing most immediate to us all: our mind, our body. We sit, watch the familiar rising and falling of breath, the generation and dissipation of thoughts, and in time observations and patterns emerge like bubbles to the surface of our attention. We begin to know ourselves directly, feelingly, and this knowledge provides a framework for more abstract inquiries. This framework is applied to any object of knowledge at APV. The students are first encouraged to approach a subject mindfully, building on the things they already know of it through their physical sensations, their local culture, and immediate nature. We try never to lead with the formula, never the abstract. Present the subject as something to be learned for itself, that is interesting in itself, and allow insights to arise from the connections that spontaneously emerge from its place in a real-world context. The first consideration is: How is this subject linked to the immediate world, your immediate self? Where and how does this subject manifest around you? The learning of abstract topics then becomes not only an exercise in mindfulness, a patient observation, but becomes inextricably linked to the original mindfulness of the self. And as the students learn experientially of the self, they carry that mindfulness into the way they approach the world, how they learn from their surroundings. The boundaries between self-knowledge and external knowledge begin to blur, and the student comes to realize that they truly know something of the external world insofar as they are aware of it in themselves. Being able to describe the three states of matter is information; feeling water evaporate from your skin, or watching your breath condense in the cold, is knowledge.

The traditional educational approach is to throw information at the student- to explain and to illuminate, yes, but with no consideration of affecting a permanent, internal change. Thus they forget; information is held, and dropped, like water sliding off a flat stone. Maybe after a long time and many repetitions, as water erodes a stone, this barrage of information may change the student in some way, and some water may hold in a hollow. Here at APV, we strive for the students to work directly on themselves, to carve the stone of the self into a bowl, capable of holding anything poured into it; education as evolution rather than blind accumulation.