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Education and Self

In: Social Issues

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A REPORT ON

OBSERVATIONS MADE DURING THE COURSE EDUCATION AND SELF

By ROHIT TALWAR

Under Supervision of DR. TEJINDER WALIA & DR. SOMA PAUL

INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY HYDERABAD

CONTENTS

1. STATEMENT

2. MY LEARNING

3. FIELD VISIT

4. CONTENT OF THE TALKS

5. CRITICAL ANALYSIS

STATEMENT
The following is a collection of the different aspects towards education explored in the course Education and Self, instructed by Dr. Tejinder Walia and Dr. Soma Paul for the spring semester 2013 at IIIT Hyderabad. Apart from the normal classes we had many field visits and guest lectures, by eminent people who were champions of practicing their own alternative path to education in different parts of the country. We met Partho Sanyal – Sri Aurobindo’s school of thought, Ravindra Sharma – Adilabad Kala Ashram, Rajesh Dalal – following J Krishnamurthi’s philosophy, Swami Bodhomayananda – Vivekananda Institute of Human Excellence, Ramakrishna Math, Pawan Gupta –SIDH. All introduced their approach to education and also discussed some key issues which Education and society is facing presently. In our limited interactions we succeeded in learning the crux of all of these philosophies towards education. This was enabled by lengthy discussions in class on what our frame of mind and what kind of questions need to be asked in such lectures. Follow up of all interactions was done and this helped make the topics come alive for us. Education is not just a topic – it is something which is a very important part of lives. Its importance even further exemplified by the fact that we are still in this phase of life – of being educated or getting educated. The class lectures allowed us to introspect and see for ourselves our own education – from different perspectives like competition, enjoyment, satisfaction, goals, impact on society and many more. This made the class lectures very interesting as we all took on these topics with respect to our own education, actions in school and in college. The discussions in class gave birth to questions about education and society in a very different light – where we started to look at it first from our own interpersonal point of view and then taking this “samvedanshilta”, sensitiveness and extending it to education’s impact on society. As we started to see the discussions from our own perspective a variety of education patterns and methodologies came to light through experiences of fellow students. This connect made the classes very interactive and flow of dialogue was started. From my own personal experience – many thoughts and beliefs were challenged, and I learnt many vital things. Because the topic was something which was dearly connected with my own life, each lecture acted as a vehicle towards my own understanding of my own self, as I have been living the life of a student for all of my life till now. This report is a concise collection of the topics dealt in class, the interactions and field trips. There were so many topics and learnings that most of them were absorbed by me naturally hence this is certainly not a complete account of all that I actually experienced.

My Learning

What is education and what are its roles? Aim of education as we have seen till now is for a person to become more obedient and our ability to work in a system, obey its rules and perform within the limits defined by this system. Not thinking for the society doing one’s job and being indifferent to the problems faced by society at large! It has divided the society into different sections. It gives each and every individual a feel and false sense of freedom that he or she is free, to do anything. And at the same time puts a price and label on each and every ambition. It tells us that we are all toppers and all are the best, but not making people realize that the pinnacle is reserved for only one person. People who fall into this trap start to lose their freedom to the system which slowly takes first the economic freedom and later the mental freedom – ultimately turning the free man into a slave. A fine example of the state of affairs as described to us by Shri. Pawan Gupta Ji, where in a child is taught that he is the best and should get the best in his class and when he doesn’t get that which he thinks he deserves. And for that he gets under a pressure to perform and starts to take loans for a tuitions to get into a college where his sole aim is to get a job so as to payoff that loan. In all of this the person is always getting bogged down by the system, satisfying which the person spends away his entire life. A degree is seen as a single hand means to a livelihood, people are discouraged to take up arts or follow their own passion if it is not in line with this pattern. The system has standardized everything from tests to measure of one’s capabilities and performance in real world. The artistic sense which is needed to appreciate beauty which is inherent in each one of us, is not developed, instead we are taught to see the world in monochrome, black or white. In terms of marks and grades. The imaginative capacities of the mind is not encouraged to grow but instead children are directed against this as standards are mandatory to be upheld by the institutes imparting education. All this surely helps to drive the system, but the question here which arrived in all of minds is – Is this Right? Is this education? Surely our education system was not designed to teach us this, at the very least it was not designed to keep us bound and take away our freedom. But as we explore further down the current education system – we see many facts and realities whose effects we are beginning to see right now. The current education system uses the way of debate, to compete with the other, to always compare with peers so as to judge one’s performance. This has had a trickledown effect into our persona, we are unable to see our growth without having an outside or foreign benchmark or comparative measure. We always need to compete with the other to feel our existence. This form of thinking have made us insecure and unsatisfied within ourselves. A very general epidemic

of the 21st century where young people are feeling stressed out – that too at very early stages of their lives. These modern day phenomena gave birth in us questions regarding the role of education and how it affects us in our lives. Having established the need to understand education in all its aspects we started to explore education back from where it all started. The roots of education show that there was a nature of dialogue in the proceedings between those of a student and the teacher. The dialogue being referred here is the kind where the participants have a single goal in mind – to learn. The scope of learning was present for both parties of the student as well as the teacher. This made the participants more open and ego-free, as there was no notion of big or small – both the student and the teacher wanted to learn. Never the less there was always an element of Shraddha in the student which kept his mind open. The Upanishads also support this method of imparting of education. It also describes the nature of a student – the characteristics of Nachiketa – the student. The modern day system is in contrast with this form – we look forward to debates and sensationalize topics. We want topics to engage us in an amusing manner, and we want to compare, we want to have a winner and a loser, we want to feel superior to the other fellow. We see education as a status symbol which we can be used to make ourselves feel superior, be it ones oratory skills or debating skills or one’s rank in any of the standardized tests – like IIT JEE ranks. The society has provided for many tools to the people where they can take gratification and add meaning to their lives. Win or lose, getting 90% or clearing exams - it is us who have attached meaning to all these events. Is a debate or and exam enough to judge a person as capable for attaining education? No! The society has these instruments, but it is our choice to let these instruments be the source of motivation for our actions. Winning a debate should not be the sole reason to take part in it. We need to realize that it is us who gives the end result a greater meaning in our psyche than what it actually stands for. An Education should be such which enables us to see through this, thereby making us free, or independent. Education should help us find the source of our happiness and confidence. It should enable us the power and mind to form an opinion on things and topics. Our thinking should not be clouded by the results of other people’s thinking or thoughts. All men and women should live according to their own natural state. Education should help in preserving that natural state and help a person to grow. Growth is measured in both physical and mental terms. Some school of thought have also defined another kind of growth – spiritual growth. All of them emphasize the need for a balance in both mental and physical growth for a more holistic development of a person’s personality. Only in a healthy body can the mind function to its potential. Partho Sanyal from the Sri Aurobindo

Foundation for Integral Education & Research (SAFIER) suggested that a person should always aim for perfection. Perfection can only be attained when the mind and the body are both attuned to one task. Here apart from mental concentration the emphasis is also on the healthy body. Only a healthy body can be a vehicle for the healthy mind to perform to its potential. Else the mind will have trouble in concentrating which will inhibit the person from achieving perfection. Quoting from The Brain of India – “The first necessity for building up of a great intellectual superstructure is to provide a foundation strong enough to bear it. Those systems of education which start from an insufficient knowledge of man, think they have provided a satisfactory foundation when they have supplied the student with a large or well-selected mass of information on the various subjects which comprise the best part of human culture at the time. The school gives the materials, it is for the student to use them – this is the formula. But the error here is fundamental. Information cannot be the foundation of intelligence, it can only be a part of the material out of which the knower builds knowledge, the starting point, the nucleus of fresh discovery and enlarge creation. An education that confines itself to imparting knowledge, is not education. The various faculties of memory, judgment, imagination and perception, reasoning, which build the edifice of the thought and knowledge for the knower, must not only be equipped with their fir and sufficient tools and materials, but trained to bring fresh materials and use more skillfully those of which they are in possession. And the foundation of the structure they have to build, can only be the provision of a fund of force and energy sufficient to bear the demands of a continually growing activity of the memory, judgment and creative power.” Sri Aurobindo believed that there was further scope to human evolution, and thus came out with an alternative path towards education – Integral education. Integral education is an alternative which is practiced in different forms by many alternatives, deriving from the Upanishads. It basically aims at – Realising that the present scenario does not enable us to develop our artistic or aesthetic sense as proficiently as we train or develop our analytical abilities. Education’s aim is to develop the human in a balanced and rounded manner, such that no part or facility of the human body is under developed. It also aims at liberation of the mind from external influences. We want to live in harmony with all around us, to realize this harmony there should be a deep understanding of life and one should be free of ignorance. Ignorance of what happens inside of him or outside, about changes at any level of ones living. Hence Integral education deals in making the person aware of this ignorance, thereby bringing harmony to one’s life. This shift from ignorance to awareness is similarly touched upon by J. Krishnamurthy – where he wants us to be aware of the surroundings and one’s own self. The conditionings that are prevalent in the surroundings and how they might seep into one.

When one is aware of the notions and conditionings and how they affect the mind of the person, one is free as his thoughts are the resultant of thinking he sanctions, by accepting or disapproving certain notions. One may have notions as long as they don’t enslave him, or his thoughts. A person can have notions as long she herself accepts that notion. Once a person does that, her freedom is not taken away by anyone, instead she herself decides it upon herself. In such a state the natural state of a person is not be hampered by notions and a person lives his life with childlike confidence. There are two kinds of confidence – childlike and experiential. Experiential is the one we get through practice. Be it practicing an instrument or driving or singing, a person can develop this and increase it through practice. But there is another type of confidence inherent in us. But as we grow old we get fearful – caused by the notions we let into our psyche. This fear inhibit us from living naturally as we become slaves to our notions and conditionings, hence the childlike confidence is lost. We start to fear life, a stark contrast with the state we are born with. Children are not afraid to try different things. But as we grow old we lose this flair towards life, this flair towards; life - Living and experiencing which is the celebration of life by Rabindranath Tagore. Like every alternative his path also wants people to be free, and confident. Which can come once a person realizes that his notions are the only factor inhibiting him from celebrating life, or living life with childlike confidence. Like Krishnamurthy he too believes that a person can learn everything from nature. This is one of the reasons why the center for learnings and Shantiniketan are surrounded by nature. Upanishads also support the role of nature in education. Man is a social animal and any step taken to further an individual’s growth should find its use to the society. Hence education of one should be such that which makes the person sensitive to the needs of the society. Education should make a person concerned towards the collective welfare of the society as a whole. Our present system of education does very well on separating the concerns of the individual from the society. This has led to widespread abuse and exploitation of the planet and the growing environmental and health problems worldwide are a proof towards that. Nature helps the person realize that she is also a part of the planet – the person is made sensitive to the concerns of the other. A competition free environment where the emphasis is laid on learning rather than performance in tests, helps in breeding a collaboration centered mind set. All great feats are not achieved by a single person, the complexity of the world is so large that it is necessary to work together. Nature teaches us the circle of life and how each and every part of the biosphere fits into this circular loop. We ought to find our right place and given our intelligence, need to take care of the rest. Instead we have been exploiting the rest of the nature – causing imbalances.

Field Trip
On Tuesday 26th March 2013, students of the course Education and Self went on a field trip to the Ramakrishna Math and Krishnamurthy’s center for learning, Hyderabad. Ramakrishna Math: It was both an ashram and a college. It housed a museum depicting scenes of the Gita. It was a very beautiful campus and nice flower beds lined the roads. It was pretty quiet and seemed a different place from the hustling main road adjacent. It is a place run and managed by pretty passionate people, there were people dressed in saffron clothes, overall the place exuberated a very calming and pious feel. Next we entered the meditation area or temple where the signs of all religions were gloriously put on the side walls, all placed at equal height. This supported how each religion was given equal respect, the walls were also decorated by photos of saints. A big figure of Swami Ramakrishna ji was placed at the center of the place. Some came to pay respects to Swami ji, while others just sat down in a meditative posture. But sitting there had a calming effect on me. The place also had an air of discipline in it. I went to one of the book shops there and saw huge amount of books written in Hindi and English and also some other languages. There were different interpretations of Gita available, integral education, personality development and selfhelp books. Posters of famous quotes and sayings were on display, the most amazing part of the book store was the small pocket sized books which covered almost every aspect of human condition. Next we met Swami Bodhomayananda who was dressed like a saint, people were coming and giving a sashtang pranaam to him. It was clearly evident that we were going to be briefed by a very pious man. He as it turned out was a very important person in the Math, and was very modern in his thoughts. He was well spoken and used to take many motivational lectures for people coming from different walks of life. He became a Swami of the Ramakrishna Foundation after a thorough training of more than 5 years, during which he learned and practiced the teachings and practiced Yoga. The Math was divided into two parts, center for human excellence and the other was a college. The center or human excellence had courses for the general public. The topics of these courses ranged from public speaking to personality development. These courses had their classes conducted at the Math on a daily basis and had similar text books available at their library. While waiting for Swami ji, we were watching the video on the history of the center and how it was initiated. As it happened we also came to know that the Math was celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

Krishnamurthy Center for Learning:

It was a very humble place, there were books by Krishnamurthy and video cds in all the showcases. Everyone sat down on the ground as were greeted with fresh coconut water. It was a place where likeminded people would come and do book readings or watch videos on the teachings of Krishnamurthy. The place holds regular such meetings in this regard. We started discussing about what we learned and our observations of the previous place we visited. A brief introduction about the guest was given, Rajesh Dalal is an IIT Kanpur graduate who joined the Krishnamurthy Foundation after completion of his B. Tech degree. He is the youngest trustee of the Foundation, and has been involved in teaching ever since he completed his engineering. It was really overwhelming to digest such facts about this personality we were going to meet. But he turned out to be a very down to earth and an amazingly fabulous human. His talks and the topics we touched upon were so engrossing that we were agnostic to our surroundings, it was hot but no one was feeling any discomfort, that was the level of engagement we had with sir. On leaving we were encouraged to sign up for being part of the book reading sessions they keep on having.

Content of the Talks

Swami Bodhomayananda

He first introduced us to Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda’s whole life was defined by selfless service to society. His talks on Hinduism and religions at the World Congress of Religions which gave the world a taste of Hinduism and brought a sense of pride to India on its own heritage and religion. The center for human excellence is a way to give tribute Swami Vivekananda. He devoted his life to service of humans, wherever he would see the plight and sufferings of humans he would drench himself in sadness and pain. He was an example of how a person can put his own happiness behind and work towards easing of the other’s pain. In this he saw satisfaction and drew joy in performing such deeds. He believed in giving power to the youth of the nation, and that if youth is channelized the nation can grow and prosper beyond imagination. The talk followed into what the present system of education is – and what it provides to the society. The present education system aims at providing for one’s self roti – kapda – makaan. There is no importance on people developing the temper for their respective areas of study – be it temper for science or temper for humanities. This is where he saw the gap which makes people unhappy and dis-satisfied even after doing so much studies. Next we were given an account of the sensitiveness of the students of the math, where they helped a young girl and are now helping to raise her. He demanded that people be sensitized towards the pain of others. He further gave examples of extra ordinary people who wanted to help the society, like the doctor who after just doing his MBBS went into the villages to provide for better health care. As proper health care is not able to reach the villages. He inspired us and showed us ways how we can devote our lives to service of mankind. The center for excellence and its courses are very popular, especially those on confidence and motivation are highly sought after. Such courses help empower the society and helps awaken the lion within, with a sensitive touch of service to society being inherent in all that they do. In respect of education’s impact on society – the education can help a person be more responsible to the society.

Rajesh Dalal The session started with sir telling us to close our notes and give complete undivided attention to him and the dialogue. He told us to listen and absorb whatever we find is worth to us. He emphasized about the importance of listening at first. He wanted us to be totally aware of the discussion which we will be having thereafter. On the conversation - words and their meanings, as when two people converse they need to have that common ground on the words both attach similar meanings to. Two people cannot converse if they don’t speak the same language and attach similar meanings to words. For this we assume that the other person knows/feels about a particular word as strongly as we do. There can be gaps in this understanding, which can lead to misunderstanding. He began with his own story of how he chose this path, as opposed to the engineering life he was being given on a platter at IIT Kanpur. He felt the need to know about himself right from his third year and started reading into psychology to get the answers he was looking for, but could not get any satisfaction in those experiments. Next he turned to philosophy that is where he came across J. Krishnamurthy’s teachings and there started his journey into the self. He faced strict opposition at home when he put forth his proposition of joining J Krishnamurthy and work at a school as a teacher. There too he did not assume any real title as he did not want to be branded or bound to any titles. Next we hit upon the topic of freedom and how it is seldom taken away but given by us unknowingly to the society’s tools. He confronted the people going for jobs and asked them whether the companies they will work for bought their freedom for the right price. He wanted us to look closely at each of our action and judge whether the motivation for doing something came from one’s own original thought or through public notions or conditionings that we have. We did an experiment to observe our own breath for some time after which we gave an account about how we feel, the resultant of this was that we all realized that inside of us is a self who is constantly changing and responds to the surroundings, this is how we can learn more about ourselves observing one’s self. Observing like a third person not blocking the flow of thoughts but just observing them come and go and the change it brings upon our inner self. This kind of awareness is needed if we want to follow more into exploring our self. Just how children are confident to do any activity we should also attain that childlike confidence which we lost, and live life fearlessly. A story of the Satan and his disciple – Once a person was out on the search of truth (truth being the opposite of what Satan stands for), this worries Satan’s disciple. But Satan is without worries as he gives the man the Trojan Horse like gift of order. Once he receives that the person is all into the trap of organizing things. The discovery of self is a similar venture, one should not organize things, as long as the organization of things disables the person to connect things. As one will feel that all things are connected, likewise organizing the self is also a method to lose all the progress one makes into the self. This is because the self is changing and one cannot bind her own self into shackles she herself creates.

Critical Analysis

The math had many courses it felt more like an institute which was taken over by capitalism. I cannot see how people can gain confidence or motivation through lectures. I believe the motivation to perform any action should come from within, unless the self sees its own gratification in any particular action it will not get the motivation to do it. And especially if the job or task is to be done to a certain level of proficiency or perfection we need the self to be highly motivated. Such classes cannot arouse this kind of motivation in people. It might act as a booster shot but that is not a permanent solution, as it even happens currently as when Swami ji told us about people regularly taking up such courses, this I think should be seen as a sign of failure of these courses. For more permanent solutions the math has to change its ideology and start from deeper levels from within. Swami ji also told about his rigorous lifestyle and daily activities where he strictly follows a strict schedule and completes five hours of yoga and meditation in a fixed cycle of things. I am not saying that this is bad but what I saw was that there was less of reasoning behind the motive for each activity being done. I saw this happen in the temple where the figure of Swami Ramakrishna was being given Arti and food. I feel the motives behind each activity should be clearly justified in such an atmosphere where everone’s aim is to achieve human excellence, how can they do it while being untrue to themselves. So their aim gives them the strength to share the motives and philosophy behind each and every action. The math surely teaches people to be useful to society and I really admire the philosophy of attaining happiness in the service of others. But I would still like to open my options and see whether this is the means to attain true happiness. Secondly I believe most professions out there follow the jaja-mani system where we do some actions for the other and likewise there are others who do something at which we are at the receiving end. So I don’t know which job or avenue (other than totally volunteering myself for service) will enable me to directly help people out of their pain or misery and still take no money for it. Hence this is still something which needs to be explored into.

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