Thoughts on Education

Purpose of education is to make harmonious existence possible. A good position, a good income all these are means to achieve this one end. Position and income gives you the power to do what you want. To want the right things is the key to harmonious existence.

Harmony results from the ability to find a path for oneself and the ability to function well. Finding a path is asserting oneself with proper authority. Functioning well is the graceful submission to authority, whether the authority belongs to you or to others,  to work to fulfill the identified wants. In an authoritarian society, which stresses exploitation, the first part is generally underplayed. Here harmony is supposed to come from absolute submission to the boss who sits on the throne. It works all right as long as the boss is a hale and hearty fellow. But this model is not adequate for free societies. In a free society it is necessary to ensure that the sources of authority are widely distributed and more reliable. The ideal of such societies ought to be a state where each member is a legitimate source of authority tasting the nectar of absolute freedom.

Dharma is the path. We are always being forced to make the basic choice, do I work according to my svadharma, an internalized path, or follow paradharma, the path imposed on me by others. For a little child there is no hesitation in making the decision. He spontaneously follows the voices coming from within him. And as he is intent on listening to this inner voice he rebels against any attempt to impose the will of others on him. A child is an uncorrupted but undeveloped self. We educate the child to make him fit for social living. Now, while educating him, should we encourage him to seek his svadharma to follow it as a free agent, to be an entrepreneur or should we break his thirst for freedom to make him submissive to follow paradharma? In a country that respects freedom the choice should be obvious.

A dream is a glimpse of dharma. It is a truly internalized ideal appearing as an aspiration. It tells us where we should dedicate our actions to find happiness. We are not talking about the dreams that visit us during sleep. The reference here is to the aspirations that arise in us when we are awake. We can pursue svadharma only when we are able to dream well. When freedom is the theme, education should be the training to dream well while remaining awake to the realities of the world.

Freedom, to be total, should be the freedom from everything in the domain bounded by space and time.

It should cover both immortality as well as infinite resourcefulness. This freedom, this ideal, is the ultimate destination conceived by the ancient sages when they sang, “avidyaya mrutyum tirtva vidyaya amrutam ashnute”. According to them, the mastery of the “Science of Life” through the practice of paravidya and the marshalling of infinite resourcefulness through the practice of aparavidya should go together for achieving harmonious existence.

The dreams when translated to reality cause movements. The resulting dynamism is the sign of life. So life is made up of dreams.

To experience freedom while living it is essential to dream in the right manner. Enlightened persons are those who have experienced freedom. With their visions of freedom they can drive the society towards excellence. The dreams of enlightened persons, who value freedom, provide the driving force in a free society.

The “Science of Life” deals with that  which constitutes life in any given situation. It deals with the dreams the transcendental the spirit of excellence. Essentially the theme of spirituality is also the same.

Spirituality deals with the “Science of Life”. It deals with the true perception of oneself and the universe around, the generation of the dreams taking full account of our perceptions and the dynamics of harmonious relationships to attain real happiness.

In the Modern World, Management Science approximates to the “Science of Life”. As Management Science develops, it tends to converge to spiritual principles more and more. The basic theme, of dynamic balance, and controlled flights to fulfill aspirations that lead to real satisfaction, is the same in spirituality as well as in management science. One can clearly see three branches in modern management science. The first branch concentrates on entrepreneurship. The second branch percolates the concept of enterprise to all levels of organization for effective resource management. The third branch concentrates on the quality of systems and products and tuning the operations for harmony with the environment. All these pursued together leads to excellence. These are the very themes of spirituality irrespective of the religion that is used for transmitting it.

Physical sciences and technology open up the frontiers and challenge the orderliness of an established world. In an evolving world, this rush to disorderliness is to be counterbalanced by the development of “Management Science”, if the agitation is to be transformed to meaningful development.

This theme of dealing with unrest, to convert it as a step forward, should percolate to the field of education as well. In our ancient culture great importance was given to the study and practice of the “Science of Life”. At the time of initiating a Brahmin boy to the world of knowledge he is given the Gayatri mantra. Gayatri gives a very concise and precise model of a brilliant world along with the attitudes to be maintained for living creatively in that world. During the rest of his life the Brahmin boy keeps discovering the many meanings and nuances of this mantra.

What we should note here is that the theme, “Management of Life”, was given a much higher niche compared to the know-how and know-why studies of worldly things, whenever the aim of education was to generate freedom and all round happiness. To be a Brahmin is the birthright of everybody in a free society.

The drift to “Global Village” in modern times has created new challenges. We had been experiencing the traumas associated with the opening up of frontiers for quite some time. It started accelerating with the development of transcontinental navigation a few centuries back. Then the opening up of frontiers created opportunities to many, but it also led to the loss of freedom for many. The memories of slave trading and colonization have not yet faded. Fundamentally, the nature of man has not changed. So we should expect similar things to happen again, maybe in a different plane, when the globalization wave keeps diffusing and puncturing the political, economic and cultural boundaries.

Everyone acknowledges that the increases in opportunities brought in by globalization will be accompanied by an increase in competition as well. The wave of globalization, however, cannot be stopped. The explosive developments in communication field and the technological developments that starve for more and more extensive fields for application will keep pushing it against all attempts to resist it. We should face this reality and concentrate on the ways and means not only for coping with it but also to make it evolutionary. We should learn to transform ourselves to live happily and purposefully in the new environment.

In the modern age almost every entity, almost every system, remains in a multicultural environment. It is as true in a developed country as it is in a developing country. In a multicultural environment, an individual is more alone. An entity is more alone. A system is more alone. The easy bonhomie that develops within the boundaries of a closed community will no more be there in an open world. The tolerance and sympathy one expects from a big family will not be there in a big world. Now every communication is a challenge as well as an opportunity.

To survive in such an environment we need a strong sense of protocol to communicate meaningfully and a high degree of local competence. When we have these two things, the fearsome constraints that earlier appeared to us as threats will change into glorious opportunities for growth.

When the Brahmin boy left the cozy home of his childhood, he was given the Gayatri mantra. The need of a youth entering the global village is not much different from that of the Brahmin boy.

When formal education forms the bulk of the education one receives, whatever we want to impart to the younger generation before they commence their life, to be effective, will have to be done through the channel of formal education. Here is a catch that is holding us back. The pattern of formal education designed by our colonial masters was obviously something that cultivated the docility expected of an obedient servant Naturally the masters want people who are pliable to accept paradharma without resistance and rebellion. For a master the freedom of the slave is not a valid theme.

Everybody knew about it and there was no hang up about it. So it was expected that the “Science of Life” is something that is to be picked up through informal education. And many people did this because of their rebellious spirit.

Today the pattern of education has not changed much in character, but the colonial master has vanished. Now the expulsion of the “Science of Life” from the curriculum has been given respectability in the guise of secular considerations. In the compulsion to remain equidistant from Gita, Bible and Quran, we tend to disown anything that reminds us of any of these from the stream of formal education. And as the colonial master is not present as an enemy, to provide focus for our rebellious spirit, the desire to pick up the “Science of Life” through informal channels has dried up to a great extent. This is showing in our life today. Even while making progress on many fronts, the value systems and the quality of our life in this country are steadily deteriorating. We boast of an ancient culture that taught us the importance of living in the present shedding all regrets and anxieties. But here our regrets are growing. Our anxieties are rising to a frenzied pitch All because we stopped recognizing the “Science of Life” spirituality as an important ingredient in active life.

A few stray success stories here and there should not make us sit back in complacence. We should wake up to the fact that a substantial part of the young men who comes out of our colleges are confused and unhappy, and depend on chance developments and favours from others to get a perch in life. How can we bring back the “Science of Life” into the stream of formal education so that every young man graduates to become a happy, productive entrepreneur? We cannot go back and introduce religious studies in schools and colleges without disturbing the secular fabric of our country. Even otherwise to what extent such an exercise will be productive is very doubtful. The real need is not for religiosity, but for spirituality. Unless the formats employed by religions are modified to suit the pace and nature of the modern age, religious studies are just going to be another boring subject that has no relevance in life.

As mentioned earlier, in the modern world the “Science of Life” manifests as Management Science.

In today’s scheme of formal education, this subject is taught only as a postgraduate specialization that too with specific reference to Business Administration. If we want to effectively introduce the “Science of Life” as a serious topic it should be introduced right from the high school level when the children have picked up the necessary language skills. Here the stress should be on personality development and entrepreneurship and not merely on productivity. And the subject should be formatted to touch upon all sources of spirituality and value systems, and stretched to be contiguous with the modern Management Science. The basic theme here should be the development of the thirst for freedom and the rebellious spirit in youth as intense sources of energy.

The wine of spirituality only gets better with vintage. In the phase of continuing education that follows formal education it should be recognized that informal religious studies play a vital role in spiritual advancement. Formal education should keep the channels for such informal education open by inculcating a deep respect for all religious literature. Unlike the physical sciences, the “Science of Life” does not undergo any change.

It is Santana. It remains equally applicable in all situations and in all time periods. So in this case the more ancient and fundamental the source, the more likely it is that what we find is nearer to truth because it has withstood the test of time.

In this context let me give a quote of Swami Vivekananda on education. “We want that education, by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.” We have to heed to this call for inner strength if we have to convert the threats of globalization into opportunities. Let us not be complacent with our apparent successes.

Much of our economic progress in recent times is owing to the fact that we are able to offer our manpower cheap to the more developed countries. As a nation we are living on paradharma. We are earning a living glorifying our weaknesses. When the equations of the cost of operations change, this wave will pass. By that time we should be ready with our inner strengths to start the next wave ourselves.

So let us dream of changing our education system respecting our preferences, our sensibilities, our cultural heritage, our aspirations and the spirit of divinity within each of us that generate our aspirations And work to make that dream true. Let us bow to the spirit of the universe and the breath of life that touches everything.

Let us see the divinity in all manifested things, in the knowledge that flowers as awareness, and in the flashes of insights that light up our mind. Let us, as free spirits, seek protection for us, and the words spoken by us, from the infinite, absolute divinity and nothing less than that. Let us be the agents of peace and harmony.

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