Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. February 24, 1908
A National University
The idea of a National University is one of the ideas which have formulated themselves in the national consciousness and become part of the immediate destiny of a people. It is a seed which is sown and must come to its fruition, because the future demands it and the heart of the nation is in accord with the demand. The process of its increase may be rapid or it may be slow, and when the first beginnings are made, there may be many errors and false starts, but like a stream gathering volume as it flows, the movement will grow in force and certainty, the vision of those responsible for its execution will grow clearer, and their hands will be helped in unexpected ways until the purpose of God is worked out and the idea shapes itself into an accomplished reality. But it is necessary that those who are the custodians of the precious trust, should guard it with a jealous care and protect its purity and first high aim from being sullied or lowered.
There have been many attempts before the present movement to rescue education in India from subservience to foreign and petty ends, and to establish Colleges and Schools maintained and controlled by Indians which would give an education superior to the Government-controlled education. The City College, the Ferguson College and others started with this aim but they are now monuments of a frustrated idea. In every case they have fallen to the state of ordinary institutions, replicas of the Government model, without a separate mission or nobler reason for existence. And they have so fallen because their promoters could not understand or forgot that the first condition of success was independence – an independence jealously preserved and absolute. In other words there can be no national education without national control.
A certain measure of success has been secured by two institutions of a later birth, the Benares Hindu College and the Dayanand1 Anglo-Vedic College. These are successful institutions, but isolated. They have not developed into centres of a network of schools affiliated to them and forming one corporate body. They have not in themselves the makings of Universities. So far as they give religious teaching they are a wholesome departure from the barren official form of education, but that is only one part of education on national lines. National education cannot be defined briefly in one or two sentences, but we may describe it tentatively as the education which starting with the past and making full use of the present builds up a great nation. Whoever wishes to cut off the nation from its past is no friend of our national growth. Whoever fails to take advantage of the present is losing us the battle of life. We must therefore save for India all that she has stored up of knowledge, character and noble thought in her immemorial past. We must acquire for her the best knowledge that Europe can give her and assimilate it to her own peculiar type of national temperament. We must introduce the best methods of teaching humanity has developed, whether modern or ancient. And all these we must harmonise into a system which will be impregnated with the spirit of self-reliance so as to build up men and not machines – national men, able men, men fit to carve out a career for themselves by their own brain-power and resource, fit to meet the shocks of life and breast the waves of adventure. So shall the Indian people cease to sleep and become once more a people of heroes, patriots, originators, so shall it become a nation and no longer a disorganised mass of men.
National education must therefore be on national lines and under national control. This necessity is the very essence of its being. No one who has not grasped it can hope to build up a National University. Mrs. Besant has recently begun a campaign in favour of national education and in a recent speech has outlined her idea of a National University. We have every respect for this great orator and organiser, but we are bound to point out that an university organised by Mrs. Besant will not be a National University. In the first place the future University must be one built up by the brain and organising power of India's own sons. It shall never be said that the first National University in India was the creation of a foreigner and that the children of the Mother were content to follow and imitate but could not lead and originate. Such a charge would be fatal to the very object of the University. Secondly, Mrs. Besant has forgotten that the basis of a National University has already been laid. The National Council of Education in Bengal has already commenced the great work on lines which have only to be filled in, and their work has received the blessing of God and increases. But Mrs. Besant has omitted to make any mention of their work and speaks as if she intended to have the Benares College as the basis of the National University. But the Benares College has shown itself unfit for so huge a task. It has been obliged to rely on foreign funds and to court Government patronage. Even the Dayanand2 Anglo-Vedic College is a more robust growth, for it has been built up by the munificent self-sacrifice of the Arya Samaj. No institution which cannot rely on the people of India for its support and build itself up without official support or patronage, can be considered to have established its capacity of developing into a National University. Finally, Mrs. Besant shows by her scheme that she is not in possession of the true secret of the movement. She wants a Charter from England. We are aware that she talks of organising the University with the help of Indian talent and keeping it as a preserve for Indian control, but when she asks for a Charter it is evident that she has not realised what national control implies. No Government will give a Charter which excludes them from all control. There may be no provision for control in the Charter itself, but the power that gives the Charter can at any moment insist on seeing that the University merits the Charter. Once this constructive possibility of control is allowed to overshadow the infant institution, goodbye to its utility, its greatness, its future. It will follow the way of other schools and colleges and become a fruitless idea, a monument of wasted energy and frustrated hopes.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Dayananda
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Dayananda