Youth & Education
In 2008 the Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Sahaja Yoga World Foundation decided to establish and international Sahaja Yoga school in Cabella Ligure. Practitioners of Sahaja Yoga attribute to the Val Borbera a special significance and importance as a place of retreat and spiritual regeneration. They also believe that its natural, unspoilt character offers an ideal environment for the education of children.
The project began with a boarding facility for international students based in Centrassi, Cabella Ligure (AL). Under an agreement with the local education authority, the children attend the local primary school, ‘Istituto Comprensivo U. Foscolo’ and return home to the boarding facility in the afternoons, evenings and weekends.
In September 2009, the World Foundation set up an English-medium, home-schooling project catering for primary year one pupils. Students attend class in the recently purchased and refurbished premises of the foundation in Cabella Ligure. Like the children attending ‘Istituto Comprensivo U. Foscolo’, they too return home to the boarding facility in Centrassi in the afternoons, evenings and weekends.
The home schooling project is a direct response to solicitations from the founder, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, and feedback from parents and the wider Sahaja Yoga community, to provide children with an education environment in which English is the main language of instruction and where the cultural focus is international rather than local.
Our vision is of an educational environment in which childhood is valued and respected, which harnesses the innate spiritual potential of children and allows them to grow up and develop in their own time, in a physically and emotionally safe environment, free from the artificial pressures and constraints of modern society. We see children as individuals with a profound sense of their own worth yet, at the same time, mindful of their responsibilities towards their family, their community and the world at large.
Inspired by the teachings of H.H. Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, our mission is to create an institution for children of Sahaja Yogi families around the world which provides for the protection of their innocence, for the development of their personality and for their academic advancement in a pure, ethical and spiritual environment. We aim to facilitate their development into responsible members of the community who share a vision of an enlightened, world-wide human family, owing allegiance to one almighty God and living together in peace and harmony.
In fulfilling our mission we are guided by the following values:
• relevant and responsive
• open and accountable
• proactive and responsible
• ethical and collaborative
• dynamic and innovative
• respectful of people
• respectful of the environment
• mindful of the community
Shri Mataji refers to inner laws of development which are governed by an innate, natural energy within every person that can be represented as the power of innocence; that primordial energy by which a child knows that it must suckle at its mother’s breast; the inbuilt wisdom identified by Piaget which directs children in the different stages of development. The premature stifling of this innocence through the precocious development of the ego and of the conditionings, Shri Mataji claims, can have long-term repercussions on the development of a person, depriving them of a natural, instinctive resource in their quest for balance and wholeness.
The development of the ego and of conditionings is a natural part of growing up and is not of itself a problem. However, depending on the environmental influences at play (family, school, society, country etc.) the speed and the manner of their development can vary considerably. The aim of Shri Mataji’s approach to education (known as the ‘Sahaja’ approach) is to create an environment which can keep the activity of ego and conditionings in check and at the same time stimulate the natural, spontaneous process of development and learning.
Central to this approach is the notion expressed by Shri Mataji that ultimately all knowledge is ignorance, because the only real truth is the Spirit, the experience of absolute Truth within each one of us. In pedagogical terms this translates into a rejection of the idea that there is a predetermined hierarchy of subjects to which children must adapt. Instead we prefer to do whatever we can to build the curriculum around the child, facilitating them in the discovery and pursuit of their talents and interests, encouraging them to be the best they can be.
The Sahaja approach, therefore, embraces a discovery model in which students learn independently, through interaction with the environment. Students are provided the freedom to explore and find out about the world. However, it is a freedom within limits. We agree with Mayer (2004) that some degree of guidance is required for learning and development to be most effective, not just because this promotes greater cognitive activity but also because it slows down the development of ego. It stimulates the learner to recognize the value of already-acquired experience in their own quest for knowledge.
In this process the experience of meditation is an integral part of the educational mix as it empowers the children to identify an inner reference point in the process of assimilation and accommodation. Similarly the physical environment is crucial, not just in terms of providing open spaces and the outdoors, but also one that stimulates the imagination, creativity and curiosity to know more.
Teachers are thus seen as facilitators who guide (as opposed to direct) children in their path towards adulthood. Rather than prescribe the route, they aim simply to describe the opportunities, possibilities and pitfalls, motivating children and trusting in their innate wisdom to direct them in the right way. As such, the calibre of teachers, not just as professionals but also as people, is fundamental. In order to accept the guidance of the teacher the learner needs to be able to recognize the value of their example. Teachers must therefore meditate themselves and have identified their own inner equilibrium. On this basis they are expected to find the context and frameworks for learning that will allow students to enjoy their childhood and find a pathway to fulfillment in adulthood.
When both pupil and teacher meditate, they are joined by the experience of a common inner point of reference which helps resolve the classical asymmetry of the teacher/pupil relationship, a circumstance that favours what Piaget called the ‘reconstruction of knowledge’, or the emergence of creative, constructive solutions to problems. It lies at the heart of our educational approach, which aims to provide guidance to children in their quest for knowledge and growth without oppressing them or stifling their natural inclinations or talents.
- A values-based, private school for children of Sahaja Yoga families, inspired by the teachings of H.H. Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi and the practice of Sahaja Yoga meditation.
- An educational aproach that is built around the needs and interests of the child, rejecing the notion of a predetermined hierarchy of knowledge to which the student must conform.
- An English-medium, international school with a curriculum that caters for a multicultural, diverse student base. Although, due to immigration restrictions, the school only accepts students from within the European Union, many of our children come from mixed-marriage families and have cultural connections that stretch all over the globe.
- A place where childhood is valued and innocence is respected, which harnesses the innate spiritual potential of children and allows them to grow up and develop in their own time, free from the artificial pressures and constraints of modern society.
- A community of educators and other support staff who work together in harmony as a team and takes care of their personal and collective professional, human and spiritual evolution based on the teachings of H.H. Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi and the practice of Sahaja Yoga meditation.
- An environment akin to that of a large family, where staff is expected to treat the children with the same care and attention they would their own. We take a holistic approach to education where what happens outside the classroom is as important as what happens within.
- A beautiful, natural setting, located in Cabella Ligure at the end of the Val Borbera, about 60 kilometres northeast of Genova. Surrounded by mountains, the valley is relatively isolated and sparsely populated, unspoilt by widespread industrial activity.
- Belonging to the Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Sahaja Yoga World Foundation, whose headquarters are also in Cabella Ligure. Established to facilitate the spreading of the teachings of its founder and the practice of Sahaja Yoga meditation, it serves as an outlet for the expression of a new spirituality in all aspects of life and culture. Over the past 20 years over 120 international Sahaja Yoga workshops and seminars have been held there, making it a worldwide point of reference for the international Sahaja Yoga community and creating unique opportunities for intercultural exchange for the school.