Education for Peace and Harmony (With Gandhian Perspective)
By Dr. Chinta Mani Yogi
Education for Peace and Harmony
What is Education?
These are a few fundamental questions which we all have to think seriously about; if we do not get the right answer at the right time, then we will spoil our lives and our society too. Needless to say, the world is deteriorating, as we have not yet addressed these issues within education.
Education, a holistic process, should lead us towards wisdom or gyan. Gyan can shape our lives and save our planet too. In the Vedas, vidya is taught in two ways - para vidya and apara vidya. Para Vidya is spiritual and Apara Vidya physical and we should have a balance of both aspects within education.
However, the modern education system has become superficial and materialistic; it focuses more on physical things, and the results appear to be destructive. Today, people are becoming more negative: suicide cases are increasing, violence is on the rise, egoism is damaging relationships, and environmental exploitation is a pressing matter.
What is the root of these problems which we experience in our day to day lives? I think they are the consequences of imbalanced human attitudes. The modern education system has addressed the physical issues, but has not embraced the spiritual aspects of human life.
Education for Peace
* Why are we divided as a society and as individuals?
Modern development is threatening the peaceful coexistence of humanity. Our minds are sharp but not balanced; our quality of living is high but life is still hollow and artificial; our bodies are healthy but our souls are crying; we are advancing intellectually but lagging spiritually. Many worrying questions have arisen from the modern education system.
In ancient times education was balanced, as it placed emphasis on four human achievements: Purusartha- dharma, artha, kam, and mokshya, meaning ethics, prosperity, sexual relationship and liberation. The ultimate purpose of education was to produce a rounded, holistic human being. The teachers played the role of sadhus; they were referred to as aacharya or guru. They were role models for how students ought to live their lives.
Most achievement is external, but peace is realised from inside; it cannot be bought, but can only be grown from within. Therefore, education should nurture the seeds of peace in children from a young age. How could one exist without peace? So the Vedas say, "Shantireva Shanti" ('May there be peace in peace'), and the Geeta also says, ''Ashantasya Kut Sukham?'' ('How can a restless person have true comfort or joy in life?').
The Geeta says, ''Gyanat shanti anantaram'', meaning that one can only have peace through wisdom, or peace as an outcome of wisdom. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what we are providing our students with: knowledge or wisdom? Are we only teaching them how to make a living, or are we giving them the tools with which to face life's various challenges?
Education for Harmony
* Why do we harm others?
It is evident that modern life has become like a blind race; we are all running, but we do not know where the finish line is. We feel no guilt in exploiting others in order to achieve our goals. We have forgotten that the most important goals are reached when we work in a spirit of unity and not individually. After all, we are social beings, and we need to develop an environment of mutual cooperation in order to grow together.
The Vedant philosophy speaks of adwait, meaning 'non dualism'. We all are manifestations of the same supreme consciousness, or Brahman; we all have the same spirit or quantum energy. The Vedas also say ''Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti'' - there is only one truth or ultimate reality - but that the intellectuals (pundits) address it differently.
The Upanishad says ''Saha na-vavatu saha nau bhunaktu saha veeryam karavavahai..." - ''let us live together, let us eat together, let us strengthen ourselves together, let us enlighten ourselves together, let us not be jealous of each other''. In spite of our awareness of this message of togetherness, we are trying to isolate ourselves from each other. Although we talk about the idea of 'global family', in reality we are teaching our children to be isolated and distinct from others from a very early age. How sad!
Modern education is producing machines, and we are losing sight of human values. The greatest enemy of man is man himself, and the world is becoming a more threatening place in which to live. The ancient vedic message ''Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'' ('global family') is merely a slogan and not a part of our daily lives.
Gandhi's Thoughts on Ethics in Education
Throughout his life, Gandhi practiced what he preached, as he believed that his life was his message. He would always find the time to pray, as it was in prayer that he found inspiration, healing, and the strength with which to live through the turbulent times in his life.
Gandhi's prayer ''Sab ko Sammati De Bhagavan'' teaches that we should nurture wisdom and the right attitude within ourselves. We need both sammati and mati - goodness of heart for truth of mind: mati, our logical faculty, is nothing without sammati, the goodness without which we cannot attain the truth. The Vedas also say, ''Pragyanam Bramha..... Satyam Gyanam Anantam Bramha.... Rite Gyanat Na Mukti...".
Gandhi did not discriminate on the basis of caste, colour or creed. He highlighted the issues of Dalits, or 'untouchables', by giving them a new name - Harijan - meaning that they too are the children of Hari (God). He strove to educate Harijans because it was illiteracy which suppressed them. He made an ethical appeal to the government and all stakeholders to offer education to Harijans in order to bring them into mainstream society.
Gandhi had great respect for the teachings of the Geeta. He followed the teachings through both the highs and lows of his life – he said that the Geeta was his mother (geeta mata). The Geeta is a source of great wisdom of Eastern philosophy. But how can we embrace this wisdom in our modern education system? How can we instill positive ethics within our youngsters? How can we enlighten our so called intellectuals, who have been blinded by their imbalanced modern education? We can achieve this by bringing the message of the Geeta into practice in our daily lives. Therefore, a school's ethos ought to have the teachings of the Geeta at its core.
Gandhi was assured in his proclamation "my message is my life" because there was always consistency between his words and actions in his highly moral life. Neeti Vachan also says - ''Gyanam Bhar Kriya Vina'' - knowledge is useless if it is not used in our own lives. We should use our knowledge to develop selfless, open-minded people, devoted to ''truth, love, peace, selfless service and non-violence.''
There are two main ways of changing the society: Political Revolution (PR) and Social Reformation (SR). Gandhi chose the path of SR: PR can sometimes be destructive, but SR is always constructive; PR can be fast but is not always sustainable; PR can be attractive but is not always holistic; PR is mainly based on power, but SR is based on people. PR can change the system, but SR can change the attitude. Therefore, we need an education system which encourages our youngsters to have a holistic view of development.
Satyagraha was the motto of Gandhi's life. Once he was told, "Gandhi-ji, you are great, as you are fighting against the Britons". He replied very peacefully, ''I am not fighting against anyone, but I am fighting only for the truth".
Gandhi gave a new model of leadership: servant leadership. A true leader should lead his or herself before leading others. He or she should be a true example for his or her followers and friends, and should have compassion for all humanity.
Once, some people came to meet Gandhi with newspapers. They said to him, ''Look Gandhi-ji, how many Hindus have been killed?'' The next day, another group of people came and shouted, ''Look, how many Muslims have been killed?'' Gandhi said to them, ''Stop talking nonsense. Do not ask how many Hindus or Muslims have been killed, but rather ask "how many people have been killed?"
Gandhi followed the eastern living style. He had lived a tyagmaya jeevan, meaning a simple life of renunciation. Although he was educated in England and brought up in a high class Brahmin family, and initially had aspirations of fortune, he changed his way of life in favour of simplicity and became known as Mahatma - a 'great soul'. He used to say, ''Need can be fulfilled, but greed never''. Simplicity is the foundation of spirituality. However, the modern education system is making people more prone to temptation and selfishness. When Gandhi was told, ''Oh Gandhi-ji, you are great, as you are fighting for India's freedom'', Gandhi would reply, ''Actually, I am fighting for my own freedom.'' In fact, education's ultimate purpose is freedom, and only freedom (mukti) – "Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye".
Just as the light of sun is equal for all, developing every individual should be the main aim of education. All individuals should get the chance to awaken themselves through education. We have a famous saying ''Tamaso ma jyotir-gamaya", meaning "May we lead our lives towards true light and away from darkness". Egoism, hatred, jealousy, and negativity are the darkness which spoil our lives. The Charkha (the hand-making of fabric) was one of the strongest tools that Gandhi had to change individual lives, as all could become autonomous through labour. However, today we must question what we want: bigger or better? If a Charkha also can make a positive sustainable change in the society, then why do we call for huge economic industrial revolution?
People who are illiterate struggle in their daily lives and worry for their survival, but people who are educated and successful are also deeply troubled, as their hearts are crying for a peaceful, harmonious life. Our modern society is lacks balance. The Geeta says, ''Samata.... Samatwam Yoga Uchyate'', and Guru Gorakhnath says, ''Sahajai Rahiba''. It is only possible to achieve this through the effective application of Values Based Education or Ethics in Education, or by reviving our ancient Gurukul education system.
Progress is needed for contemporary human society, but what use is progress if it is not grounded in peacefulness? Education is unavoidable, what kind of education do we seek to promote? How will we enjoy life if education disconnects us from our roots, families and values?
Gandhi's philosophy regarding social issues, global challenges, life, and education can provide peaceful solutions to many pressing issues which are damaging human society. We undoubtedly need development, but this must be an environmentally-friendly development. We need education for all but this should be life-friendly education. We need science and technology, but with conscience and spirituality.
Dr. Chinta Mani Yogi
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