Nurturing Curiosity through the Interplay of Embodied Cognition, Integral Humanism, and Ancient Indian Learning

Curiosity is an incredible force that resides deep within us, driving us to question, explore, and acquire knowledge [1]. From the very moment we enter this world, it ignites a powerful desire for discovery, propelling us forward on a journey of growth and progress [2]. In this blog, I aim to weave together the captivating realms of integral humanism, the ancient Indian education system, embodied cognition, and the development of curiosity. By intertwining these fascinating concepts, we can unlock insights into how a holistic approach to education can nourish curiosity, empowering individuals to flourish intellectually, emotionally, and socially.

At the heart of holistic education lies integral humanism, a philosophy that lays the groundwork for the development of the complete individual. It recognizes the interconnected nature of our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects [3]. Pioneered by visionaries like Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Sri Aurobindo, integral humanism finds its roots in the Vedas, capturing the essence of a well-rounded human being. It acknowledges that we are not separate entities but rather a harmonious fusion of body, heart, intellect, and soul. Moreover, it embraces the idea that we are intricately intertwined with society and the environment. Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya eloquently encapsulates this concept through his notion of vyashti, samashti, and parameshti. These ideas underscore the fact that we are not passive receptacles of information, but rather active participants in the dynamic process of knowledge creation and understanding.

Drawing inspiration from the ancient Indian education system, such as the Gurukula system, we discover invaluable lessons from our past. In this ancient system, students lived closely with their teachers, forming a tight-knit community that nurtured experiential learning, moral values, and character development [4]. The emphasis on integrating various subjects and arts cultivated interdisciplinary thinking, opening doors to curiosity as students unveiled the connections between different domains of knowledge. Furthermore, the ancient system embraced questioning and exploration, recognizing that curiosity serves as the key to unlocking profound understanding and wisdom.

Now, let us venture into the realm of embodied cognition—a concept firmly grounded in the intricate bond between mind and body—which further enriches our understanding of curiosity’s development. Embodied cognition suggests that our mental faculties emerge from the physical interactions we have with the world [5]. It highlights the profound influence of our physical experiences on our cognitive processes. By engaging our bodies through hands-on activities, sensory experiences, and movement, we tap into the power of embodied cognition, enhancing learning and curiosity [6]. When students actively participate in their learning journey, forging connections between abstract concepts and tangible experiences, they deepen their understanding and ignite a flame of curiosity that beckons them to explore further [7].

That means, to cultivate curiosity in modern education, we should try to harmoniously blend the principles of integral humanism, embodied cognition, and ancient Indian education model. Traditional (current mainstream) education systems often stifle curiosity by fixating on rote memorization and standardized testing, neglecting the holistic development of individuals. By

embracing a curiosity-driven approach, we can transform education into a dynamic and captivating process. One strategy that holds tremendous promise is project-based learning. This approach grants students the freedom to investigate real-world problems and unleash their creativity in finding innovative solutions. Collaborative activities foster critical thinking skills, teamwork, and a sense of curiosity as students actively participate in the learning process. Encouraging self-directed learning, wherein students pursue their passions and delve into their interests, nurtures curiosity and a genuine love for acquiring knowledge that extends beyond the boundaries of traditional subjects. There is no doubt that when individuals are encouraged to explore, question, and seek knowledge, they become more adept at identifying problems, developing creative solutions, and adapting to an ever-changing world [8].

Furthermore, a curiosity-driven education reaps profound personal benefits. It instils a lifelong love for learning, empowering individuals to continually seek knowledge and expand their intellectual horizons. Curiosity also enhances well-being, as individuals derive immense joy and fulfillment from the pursuit of understanding. Moreover, curiosity cultivates a sense of wonder, fostering empathy, cultural understanding, and open-mindedness [9]. In turn, this leads to harmonious social interactions and the creation of a more inclusive society.

Of course, implementing a curiosity-driven education system is not without its challenges. It necessitates reevaluating traditional assessment methods, empowering teachers to adopt innovative teaching practices, and fostering an inclusive and supportive learning environment. However, the potential benefits that lie ahead are immeasurable, equipping individuals with the tools necessary to thrive in an ever-evolving world.

Hence, by embracing the essence of integral humanism, drawing wisdom from the ancient Indian education system, and tapping into the transformative power of embodied cognition, we have the capacity to revolutionize education. In doing so, we can instill a curiosity-driven approach at its core, inherently recognizing the vital importance of nurturing curiosity and empowering individuals to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and contributors to society. By fostering the holistic development of the mind and body, we create an educational ecosystem that celebrates curiosity, fosters innovation, and cultivates individuals who are well-equipped to navigate the complexities of the world.


[1] D. E. Berlyne, “A Theory of Human Curiosity,” Br. J. Psychol. Gen. Sect., vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 180–191, 1954, doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1954.tb01243.x.

[2] G. Ofer and J. Durban, “Curiosity: Reflections on Its Nature and Functions,” Am. J. Psychother., vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 35–51, Jan. 1999, doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1999.53.1.35.

[3] V. V. Nene, Pt. Deendayal Upadhyay Ideology and Preception-Part-2: Integral Humanism, vol. 2. Suruchi Prakashan, 2014.

[4] A. S. Altekar, Education in ancient India. Gyan Publishing House, 2009.

[5] M. Wilson, “Six views of embodied cognition,” Psychon. Bull. Rev., vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 625–636, 2002.

[6] A. K. Singh and H. N. V, “Embodied education: A pathway towards more integrated learning,” Contemp. Educ. Dialogue, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 202–225, 2021.

[7] S.-M. Lee, “Curiosity and experience design: developing the desire to know and explore in ways that are sociable, embodied and playful,” Jun. 2016, Accessed: Jun. 01, 2023. [Online]. Available:

[8] M. Zuss, The Practice of Theoretical Curiosity, vol. 20. in Explorations of Educational Purpose, vol. 20. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2012. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-2117-3.

[9] K. S. Walters, Re-Thinking Reason: New Perspectives in Critical Thinking. SUNY Press, 1994.

– Akhil K Singh Research Associates, Integral Humanism Initiative(IHI), Centre for Human Science, Rishihood University