Using the Three Modes of Nature (Guṇa-s) in Invitational Education: Five Levers for Learning


  • Martin Haigh Oxford Brookes University


Invitational Theory, Learning Invitations, Dharmic Pedagogy, Samkhya-Yoga, Guna, Modes of Nature, Spiritual Compass


Effective learning invitations, which encourage a learner to engage and overcome inhibitions that may hold them back, involve a change in consciousness. The impetus for change may be the wish to be good or, as in much Western education, the desire for material and social advancement. This paper introduces five styles of learning invitation and explores how they may be employed to lever positive outcomes, especially in the field of environmental education. The levers employed engage the three modes of nature (Gunas) of Samkhya-yoga as evoked by Satish Kumar’s ‘Spiritual Compass’. The leverage aims to raise learners away from the mode of inertia and darkness (Tamas), toward compassion, peace, and clear-sightedness (Sattva), typically, via the fire of action (Rajas). The value of Tamas as a motivation and fulcrum for change and the problems that develop when Rajas, action becomes both the way and the goal, are both discussed. So are the limitations of Sattva, goodness, which while it may be holistic, reflective and serene, needs help (Rajas) to convert its dreaming into reality. The approach emerges from a foundational Dharmic tradition whose ultimate goal is enlightenment or liberation from the trivial ephemera of everyday life.

Author Biography

Martin Haigh, Oxford Brookes University

Professor of Geography (Education) in the Department of Social Sciences.


Annan, K. (2001). Secretary General calls for break in political stalemate over environmental issues, United Nations Press Release: SC/SM/7739 ENV/DEV/561, 14/03/01.

Aurobindo (1995). A New Education for a New Consciousness: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Education. Puducherry, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

Aurobindo (1918). The Chariot of Jagannatha. Pondicherry (Puducherry), Sri Aurobindo Ashram (1972).

Bai, H., Scott, C., & Donald, B. (2009). Contemplative pedagogy and revitalization of teacher education. Alberta Journal of Teacher Education, 55(3), 319-334.

Bhattacharya, B. (2004). What is ‘good teaching ’in engineering education in India? A case study. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(3), 329-341.

Bhave, V. (1986). The Intimate and the Ultimate. Totnes, Devon, UK, Green Books.

Bhave, V. (1932). Talks on the Gita. Varanasi, Sarva Seva Sangh (1981).

Boyd, W., Healey R., Hardwick, S., Haigh, M., Klein, P., Doran, P., Trafford, J. & Bradbeer, J. (2008). ‘None of Us Sets Out To Hurt People’: The Ethical Geographer and Geography Curricula in Higher Education. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 32(1), pp 37-50.

Bush, M. (2010). Contemplative Higher Education in Contemporary America. Northampton, MA, Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

Carson, R. (1962). Silent Spring. New York, Houghton Mifflin (Mariner, 2002).

Dasgupta, S. (1922). A History of Indian Philosophy 1. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass.

Davies, J. (1881). HindÅ« Philosophy: The SÄá¹…khya KÄrikÄ of Īśwara Krishna. Abingdon Routledge (2013).

Easwaran, E. (1989). The Compassionate Universe: The Power of the Individual to Heal the Environment. Petaluma, CA, Nilgiri Press.

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of Freedom: ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin (1996).

Gandhi, M.K. (1926). M.K. Gandhi Interprets the Bhagavadgita. New Delhi: Orient (1980).

Ganguli. K. M. (1883-1896). The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipaynana Vyasa: Book 12, Part 3 Santi Parva, Section CCCII, Calcutta: Bharata Press (Reprinted: New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2004) . pp 1-9.

Gregg, J. (ed) (2012). Education for Global Citizenship. Doha, Education Above All.

Haigh. M. (2015). Environment as God, instruction and call to service: toward a manifesto for the Vaiṣṇava environmentalist. Journal of Vaishnava Studies 24(2), pp xxx-yyy.

Haigh, M. (2015/16). Fostering Global Citizenship: tree planting as a connective practice. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 3X, xxx-yyy (in press).

Haigh, M. (2013). Writing successfully for the Journal of Geography in Higher Education. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 37(1), 117-135.

Haigh, M. (2011). Invitational education: Theory, research and practice. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 35(2), pp. 299-309.

Haigh, M. (2010). Exploring sustainability in the context of Land Reclamation: an exercise for Environmental Management trainees. International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development 9(1-3), 255-268.

Haigh, M. (2009). The Sattvic curriculum: A threeâ€level, nonâ€Western, superstructure for undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 118, 61-70.

Haigh, M. (2008). Coloring in the emotional language of place. Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice 14, 25-40.

Hanh, T.N. (2013). Love Letter to the Earth. Berkeley, CA, Paralax Press.

Hari Krishna, P. (2013). Value-Based Leadership Principles: Importance in the Modern Technical Education. Purushartha: A Journal of Management Ethics and Spirituality, 6(1), 93-103 .

Hari Krishna, P. (2012). A study on importance of Value Based Higher Education. Purushartha: A Journal of Management Ethics and Spirituality, 4(2), 121-126.

Harris, C. E. Jr, Pritchard, M., & Rabins, M. (2005). Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases, (3e). New York, Thomson Wadsworth.

Hart, T. (2004). Opening the contemplative mind in the classroom. Journal of Transformative Education, 2(1), pp 28-46.

Harzer, E. (2005). Samkhya. In L. Jones (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 12 (2e) (pp 8089-8093). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

Herreid, C. F. (Ed.) (2007). Start with a Story: The Case Study Method of Teaching College Science. USA, National Science Teachers Association.

Jacobsen, K. A. (1999). Prakrti in Samkhya-Yoga: material principle, religious experience, ethical implications. New York, Peter Lang.

Jarvis, P. (1992). Paradoxes of Learning: on becoming an individual in society. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass.

Kazlev, M.A. (1999). The Three Gunas. Available on line at: KHEPER transformation - evolution – metamorphosis: (Accessed Jan 2015).

Kumar, K. (2009). What is Worth Teaching? (2e). Hyderabad, Orient Blackswan.

Kumar, S. (2007). Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life. Totnes, UK, Green Books.

Kumar, S. (2009) Earth Pilgrim. Totnes, UK, Green Books.

Larson, G. J. (1979). Classical Samkhya: An interpretation of its history and meaning (2e). Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass (2005).

Mehta, S. (2001). Bhoodan-Gramdan Movement - 50 Years: A Review. Mumbai. Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal - Gandhi Book Centre.

Orr, D. (2012). Thinking outside the academic box: an introduction to mindfulness meditation for education. Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives 1(1), 79-91.

Orr, D. W. (1994). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington, DC, Island.

Ouden, H. E. den, Daw, N. D., Fernandez, G., Elshout, J. A., Rijpkema, M., Hoogman, M., Franke, B. & Cools, R. (2013). Dissociable effects of dopamine and serotonin on reversal learning. Neuron, 80(4), 1090-1100.

Palmer, M. & Finlay, V. (2013) Faith in Conservation: new approaches to religions and the environment (2e). Bath, UK, Alliance of Religions and Conservation..

Parel, A.J. (1997). Editors introduction. In: Parel, A. (ed) Gandhi: Hind Swaraj and Other Writings. (pp xiii- xlv) Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Pawson, E., Fournier, E., Haigh, M., Muniz, O., Trafford, J., & Vajoczki, S. (2006). Problem-based learning in geography: Towards a critical assessment of its purposes, benefits and risks. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 30(1), 103-116.

Paxton, P. (2003). Inviting E-Learning: How Hard Can It Be? Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, 9, 2-40.

Prabhavananda Swami and Isherwood, C. (1953). How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Los Angeles, Vedanta Society of Southern California.

PrabhupÄda, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (tr) (1972). Bhagavad-gÄ«tÄ as it is. Los Angeles, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Purkey, W.W. (1992). An introduction to Invitational Theory. Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, 1, 5-17.

Ramanananda Saraswathi, Swami, (1980) Tripura Rahasya or the Mystery beyond the Trinity (4e). Tiruvannamalai, Sri Ramanashramam.

Rupanuga dasa (2008) From cold-blooded agriculture to enlightened agriculture, in: Sahadeva dasa (Ed). End of Modern Civilisation and Alternative Futures. (pp. 397-414). Hyderabad, Bhagavata World Order Press.

Sen, M. (1964). Gandhian Way and the Bhoodan Movement. Varanasi, Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan.

Shamasastry , R. (tr) (1915). Kautilya Arthashastra. Bangalore: Government Press.

Shaw, D. E., & Siegel, B. L. (2010). Re-adjusting the kaleidoscope: the basic tenets of Invitational Theory and Practice. Journal of Invitational Theory & Practice, 16, 106-112.

Spronken-Smith, R. (2005). Implementing a problem-based learning approach for teaching research methods in geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29(2), 203-221.

Vandermotten, C. and Kesteloot, C. (2012). Editorial: Belgeo and the four crises of Geography. Belgeo 12, 2-9.

Welikala, T. (2011). Rethinking International Higher Education Curriculum: Mapping the research landscape. Birmingham, UK, Universitas, 21.

Williams, M. & Penman, M. (2011). Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world. London, Piatkus.

Yin, R.H. (2012) Applications of Case Study Research (3e). Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.






Peer Reviewed Articles