On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda being celebrated all over the country and the World, it is the high time to discuss, re-examine and understand fully the ideas and insights of Swamiji about the nature and purpose of education, as also the practical ways to transform those ideas into something implemented within the institutional framework of education in the country. Though the topic is very vast and exhaustive and many learned people, social reformers, political leaders and public figures have expressed their views on the given topic, but I feel it would be better to concentrate this discussion in the light of the insights of Swami Vivekananda on this very occasion.
Dr. D.S. Kothari, the renowned educationist in the preface of the report of the Education Commission headed by and named after him, wrote: “The destiny of India is being shaped in its class-rooms”. But whether the contemporary system of education prevalent in our country fulfills this need, is a big question before the educationists, thinkers & opinion-makers. There appears an apparent vacuum on even thinking about how to move ahead to ensure that education fulfills the goal of building a strong nation and a better World. The system of education is futile if it is unable to lead its people on the path of developing into a self-sufficient, peaceful, prosperous, full of self-esteem and strong nation.
A nation is not merely a piece of land, a geographical agglomeration, a political entity or only a State surroundings. It is rather a group of people sharing a common way of life, a common vision towards life and a common cultural heritage. A nation is formed by its people, the individuals, who are shaped by education. Our Vedic scriptures have pronounced माता भूमि: पुत्रोsहं पृथिव्यां: (This land is my mother, I am proud to be its son) The education system is perfect which cultivates and strengthens this feeling of mother- son relationship between the motherland and its people. Swami Vivekananda, in all his speeches, right from Colombo to Almora, has asked the youth of this country to “forget all Gods & Deities for the next 50 years. Worship your Motherland as the only living Deity, चैतन्यमयी देवी, your own Nation as the only living God जागृत देवता”.
Among the cultural chaos and tottering foundation of the social structure, Swamiji declared, “it is man-making religion we want. It is man making education through out that we want… Man worthy of its name, man could vibrate with the thrilling touch of his glorious past, realize the stupendous strength and sublime height of his age- old culture.” Swamiji upholds the knowledge about one’s nation, its traditions, its cultural heritage and its glorious past as the first & foremost step towards development of a strong nation, which in turn, gives rise to a sense of pride and belongingness and a feeling of self-esteem to the Nation and its people. According to Swamiji, education has to do this. “How could a man feels the touch of his ancient culture? It should be through love to his own country. In every heart, education should uphold the idealism of patriotism… Our youth should have intimate knowledge of the conditions prevailing in his country, its cultural heritage and the glorious past… Do you feel that millions are starving today… Do you feel that ignorance has come over the land like a dark cloud … Does it make you sleepless?” Needless to say, if it does not, there is a big question mark on your patriotism.
Swamiji puts stress on the development of feeling of nationality in the heart of every countryman, every common man. In his views, ‘Sloganism is not patriotism.’ The common youth must come forward for the cause of the Nation. This is why Swamiji claims to “change the fate of Bharat with the help of only 100 youth” According to him, the education has to do this, “…from schools should come the message of courage, strength, hope and faith…. we are what our thought has made us.” He needs 100 youth– full of character, courage, strength, hope & faith– and the character-building is also the responsibility of education, “Character is the strength of man. It is the greatest treasure that a student can acquire at school and at home… character education is a national problem.”
He addresses these youth of the country, preaches them, tells them about their duty as a true nationalist, “Nation lives in the cottages and therefore it is the duty of every educated youngman to go from village to village and make the people understand their real condition, awake them from long slumber and advise them how to improve their miserable lot. Work for them, pray for them. Put your vitality to the service of them physically, intellectually and spiritually.”
For the sake of national development, Swamiji does not altogether reject the idea of technological advancement, does not render the knowledge and science coming from outside as unwanted. But, he advocates to make a justifiable and balanced unification of science and religion, technology and tradition. He agrees to “make best use of western technology for the upliftment of the nation and mould it according to the need of the country… we need to study, independent of foreign control, different branches of knowledge, with it the European languages and western science. We need technical education also.”
According to Swamiji, the system of education prevalent in the country is the basis of development of the nation. The development of the personality of youth is necessary as a foundation stone in making a nation great. The basis of all systems, social or political, rests upon the goodness of man. No nation is great or good because Parliament enacts this or that, but because its man are great and good. To make its people worthy of being said great and good, education has to play a pivotal role. “Real education is that by which many-sided development of child takes place. We want that education by which the character is formed, strength of mind is increased, intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one’s feet. Education is to build the strength of body and mind.”
‘जीव सेवा-शिव सेवा’ (The service of mankind is the service to God) was the theme which Swami Vivekananda inherited from his mentor, Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Swami Vivekananda, in turn, tries to preach this theory to his disciples, to the common youth of this country, as in the process of nation- building, the upliftment of the common mass of people is utmost necessary. Education has to teach this sense of responsibility to the new generation. But here, the preacher inside Swamiji is not polite. He becomes harsh while he says, ” So Long as millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them. The greatest national sin is the neglect of the masses”.
How strange it is that whatever Swamiji said in the last decade of the 19th Century, the words almost similar to this meaning were uttered by Karl Marx after nearly a decade. Mahatma Gandhi said the same thing to the youth of India in his ‘Gram Swaraj’. And how strange is that the Director General of UNESCO, at a function organized at Chicago on the occasion of completion of 100 years of the Vishwa Dharma Sammelan in 1993, also said that the principles of Tolerism, Universalism and Peaceful Co-existence, which were incorporated in the UN Charter in 1945, were very much those pronounced by Swami Vivekananda in 1893 : “Religion is realization of spiritual oneness of mankind. Upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, inspite of resistance, Help and not fight, Assimilation and not destruction, Harmony and peace, and not dissention”
We, the people in the field of education, talk much about the popularly known report of the Dellars Committee, which puts stress on the education to learn, to do, to be and to live together. Are not these the words which the basic vision of Bharat utters in our Upanishadas : Gyaanatmaka Vikas (Development of Knowledge), Kaushalatmaka Vikas (Development of skills) and Abhivrittatmaka Vikas (Change in aptitude), as the essential basis for an ideal education system? And when UNESCO says that the education should Committed to progress, rooted in culture, does not it has the same meaning, what Swamiji had said throughout his life?
We have faith that education shall provide this broadening of vision and a platform for development of the Nation, through the development of its coming generations. We are hopeful that a change in the present scenario shall certainly take place by adopting an education system capable of developing our next generation full of self-esteem, self-reliance and a sense of faith and pride for their glorious past, their traditions, cultural heritage, their courageous and learned forefathers, their democratic system, and the feeling of World fraternity in order to make a better world : “सं गच्छध्वं संवदतध्वं सं वों मनांसि जानतां” (Let us move forward together, let us interact and exchange our views, let us know each other’s feelings)
(लेखक शिक्षाविद है और विभिन्न विषयों के जानकार है ।)