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.
What is your process in the morning? I meditate. I wake up around two, make tea for myself, freshen up, and from then I meditate. At four other people join me, so until five I meditate. And then I meditate in a different way, in a lying down posture. Sometimes I go to sleep for half an hour. By 5:30 people start coming, they need help in their studies, and that’s it from then until school-time. There is breakfast in
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series volun-tourism Series NavigationFound Sound Nation remixes APV
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series drama etc The day at APV begins with a mindful assembly which serves as the philosophical and practical foundation for the entire school day. It sets the tone for all of the learning initiatives that the students will undergo throughout the day. Students are exposed to meditation, music, and drama in a community environment that promotes positive emotions. Students are divided into 6 groups, one for each school day. Each
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series historyAPV is slowly changing the minds of those that doubted the pedagogy from the beginning. Recently, SBMA staff has accepted that the APV pedagogy is the right direction for education in Uttarakhand and has fully supported APV in working with government schools to bring about change. The community has also started to embrace the school. With money coming in by way of teacher’s trainings and consultancies, APV has started a
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series historyAt the end of summer 2004, funding for the school dried up entirely and all of the SBMA teachers were transferred. Cyril ji then gave full responsibility of the school to Anand Ji and Mohan as long as they could find their own funding and staff. They took the challenge, finding a teaching corps of young individuals who were inexperienced in the field of teaching yet dedicated and interested in
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series historyWhen Anand ji returned to Anjanisain, he found that the SBMA school was overgrown with many of the same weeds that plague most mainstream schools: apathetic teachers, militaristic standing assemblies, rigid student/teacher relationships, uncreative curriculum and teaching methods, enforced uniforms, etc. Anand ji, Mohan, and Marc were given grades 1 through 4 to teach, while the standard teachers kept the remainder. The three went to work attempting to introduce their
I agree with the Sufi mystic, Rumi, when he says that there are two kinds of intelligence: one is acquired and the other is “already completed and preserved inside you.” The second kind of intelligence, Rumi goes on to say, “…doesn’t move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning. This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.” The task of educators, therefore, should be to create environments where this intrinsic intelligence can move out
…APV is located on the SBMA campus, tucked away in the Indian Himalayas. Mindfulness is the key to our lives and work. In the teachers’ community, we all live together harmoniously, striving for self-development….
– “Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye” video by Chad Robertson –
Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye: Knowledge is that which Liberates provides a fascinating look inside Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya (APV), an ashram and school in the Indian Himalayas dedicated to providing an holistic, child-centered education to the local village children.
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series historyFor many years Shree Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA) had been running a widely respected school on its Anjanisain campus. But by 2003, the SBMA School had experienced shortages in funding which threatened the future of the school and dramatically affected the quality of education being delivered by the teachers. Cyril Raphael, SBMA Secretary, Mohan Panwar Singh, a long time SBMA employee, and Marc Alongi, a Service Corp Fellow from the