The University of Tomorrow
Sri Aurobindo Darshan: The University of Tomorrow is an online educational facility offering introductory and graduate level programmes on the ideals and vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to anybody in the world. “You may take up the journey by joining our Orientation Programme, continue with out spiritual practice-oriented Science of Living course, then move on to our master's level Academic programme in Sri Aurobindo's Thought, and finish with our doctorate level Advanced Research Programme on Sri Aurobindo,” writes founder Dr. Ananda Reddy in the website's opening address. And he adds, “As a final reward, you will enjoy being on the cutting edge as a pioneer of a new world with the New Consciousness.”
The virtual university is a gift for all those who are struggling to understand Sri Aurobindo's writings and a bonus for advanced researchers in aspects of Sri Aurobindo's vision. At the Indian university level, only a few philosophy and literature departments have experts in Sri Aurobindo's thought. World-wide, the situation is worse. The on-line university makes it now possible to deepen one's knowledge from a distance, guided by a group of professors from different countries. Four professors from the USA , one from the UK , two from Calcutta , one from Hyderabad , and specialists from Pondicherry have agreed to join forces to make The University of Tomorrow a success.
The idea of a university without walls is an offspring of an old idea. In the early seventies, it was mooted to create a Sri Aurobindo University in Pondicherry on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo's birth centenary in 1972. But the public in those days was not really pro-ashram. Politics came in and the programme got shelved. “My father, Prof. Madhusudan Reddy, then got inspired to start a Sri Aurobindo university in Hyderabad ,” explains Ananda. “He drafted the syllabus and wrote to The Mother proposing two names for the university. The Mother approved of ‘Sri Aurobindo Darshan: The University of Tomorrow' and that's how the name got fixed. My father managed to get the Government of Andhra Pradesh to donate the land for the University near Hyderabad , but for all kinds of reasons the project never took off and when he passed away in 1996, this legacy came to me. And I re-thought the entire project. Is Sri Aurobindo well-served by teaching his views in a physical campus or by individuals such as me travelling around the world lecturing about him? In February 2000 we had started the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR) in Pondicherry , a beautiful building for conferences and lectures. It serves its purpose well, but its outreach is necessarily limited. Increasingly I get requests for lectures from all over the world, many of which I cannot honour. Then, in 2002, the idea of the on-line university was born, a means of reaching out beyond the narrow scope of a physical university. And perhaps this is also more fitting to the universal stature of someone as Sri Aurobindo. The name ‘Sri Aurobindo Darshan: The University of Tomorrow' had already been given by The Mother. For practical purposes we call it The University of Tomorrow,' or TUT.”
But what about the word ‘University'? Doesn't this not imply an institution with many more faculties than the courses on Sri Aurobindo and The Mother offered at ‘The University of Tomorrow.'? “Yes and no,” answers Ananda. “The University of Tomorrow is, of course not an ordinary university. But our aim is to help people to discover the fundamental principles of a new society embodying and expressing the new consciousness that has been announced and realised by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. And that work necessarily touches on the whole of human life.” And he explains, “You see, Sri Aurobindo is often exclusively referred to as a yogi or a mystic or a poet. But that is a disservice to Sri Aurobindo, who is a multi-facetted genius. In the Orientation Programme we highlight nine different aspects of Sri Aurobindo's genius. He has expressed himself through many aspects, and each of them can be the basis for a study in itself: history, psychology, philosophy, Vedic and Upanishadic knowledge, literature, poetry. The Mother's works are no less important. For example, her Entretiens contain an enormous amount of applied psychology, and her yoga in the cells of her body is not even understood.” He gives an example from his own field, that of philosophy. “When you study Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine with The University of Tomorrow, you will be asked to study not only Sri Aurobindo's thought but also the great Indian and western philosophies. Sri Aurobindo has read all the western and Indian philosophers but in The Life Divine he hardly mentions anybody by name (except for Shankara and a passing reference to Buddha and Ramanuja.) For he is not dealing with persons but with the development of human thought and explains the various philosophies in the context of their contribution to human thought and indicates the levels of their inspiration. Plato, for example, wrote that there is a world from where ideas originate. Sri Aurobindo speaks in his own philosophy of different levels of consciousness, and has classified Plato's inspiration as coming from the Higher Mind, just as he wrote about Buddha's inspiration coming from the intuitive mind. Someone studying philosophy at The University of Tomorrow could be asked, for example, to research the relationship between Plato's level of ideas and Sri Aurobindo's levels of consciousness. Like this many things will come up.”
The University of Tomorrow does not yet offer recognized scientific degrees. “We are in the process of linking up with the University of Pondicherry which has a ‘Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western Thought'. But they have no professor in Sri Aurobindo's studies, so to link up with SACAR and The University of Tomorrow would be also in their interest. Once recognized, The University of Tomorrow would be able to offer degrees through the Pondicherry university. But there are some administrative problems in it. Let us see what happens. Another possibility which we are looking into is to get affiliated to another Indian university or a university in the USA . For the moment our PhD. level courses will result in the title ‘Sri Aurobindo Scholar.'”
The response so far has been promising. The University of Tomorrow started on August 15th, 2004 , four months ago. “A few students registered for the various programmes, which has been very good for us to figure out where our approach was correct and where it needed to be adjusted, for we were not experienced in on-line teaching. Now the word is spreading and almost 55 students have registered for the Orientation Programme,” says Ananda. He has also offered the programme to Aurovilians and newcomers at subsidized rates so that they can also benefit from the courses offered by this on-line university.