Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture. (SAIIC) Shillong workshop, 26,Oct -7 Nov, 2006 - 17. Spirituality and Indian Education System

Friends, we had a very interesting exposition of one of the great maladies that is afflicting mankind today, and that is the absence of spirituality in education. I think many people will agree that educational field requires a tremendous attention and many things need to be amended. You referred to Kothari Commission Report, which promised revolution in education, and yet we are where we are. There have been great prophets in world history, great many leaders who were not prophets. We had many systems of education in the world and if we have to present to the country, we need to have one more commission. Many people are worried and they think: please now, no more commissions, we have had enough of them. Education is a subject in which we require a lot of thinking.

I shall tell you one comic story. I went to the Ministry of Education as Education Advisor in 1976. For 12 years, I had the privilege of struggling, like you I was very enamoured of the ideals of great prophets, great avatars and great value systems and I was advocating what is called value-oriented education. In fact this phrase has been coined by me in the country, value-oriented education. Even to coin this phrase, I have to do a lot of work, so much of resistance. In 1978, when Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister of India, he was very keen that value-oriented education should flourish. The same thing was true with Mrs Indira Gandhi. In 1976, when I met her, in fact she had asked me to come to the Government of India and one of the first things I told her was very much on the lines on which I’ve been speaking today and she wanted me to suggest something for the country. It was at that time that Dr Kothari and myself had a long debate on this subject, personally, because we are both friends and we had a lot of discussions, Dr Kothari and myself. He himself opposed the word value-oriented education. My first resistance was with Dr Kothari and he wanted the word moral education and I insisted on value-oriented education. Now it may seem a very trifle difference, but you can see how, when educationists meet, some of the problems have very delicate problems, because when you want to propose something to the world country even the words are to be chiselled properly. You use the word spirituality, morality, ethics, values, so many words are used. Now, which word will suit the whole nation?

You read out Kothari Commission's first sentence where they spoke of spirituality in the very first sentence, then, when it comes to operation that very commission report says: “Moral and spiritual values in consonance with science should be promoted. Now here comes a rub. The very first thing you speak, you start with spiritual revolution, when you come to the operation you define in this form, ‒ moral and spiritual values in consonance with science, immediately a big debate starts. You can immediately see what a tremendous problem it is. You are settling moral and spiritual values with science. What science rejects, you reject. You keep only those moral and spiritual values which science will admit. You go to the tribunal of the science, spirituality has to sit down saying, please understand. Spirituality the moment you say this word, the word spiritual revolution is gone. Where is spiritual revolution? It is also said spirit should be sovereign, whereas here now in this very document, spirituality has to go to the tribunal of science and therefore we have to have a big debate. Why in our country this did not flourish? Because this debate started. This commission gave rise to a very big debate in our country. What is in consonance with science and up till today there is no answer in our country. What is a spiritual education which has been in consonance with science? Just now, even a small debate started with void and big-bang, but that debate started immediately and in our country, the comic story that I’m going to say, is the following, it is a tragedy also.

I had prepared a very big note to promote value education in our country, something like what you are saying, I was an advocate actually and I said we should have these values, spirituality and all that. You know from my boyhood I have been greatly influenced, in my college days, I had made a great study of Christianity and Jesus Christ loomed large in my college years. All my eight years of my college education, you may be happy to know that I made a deep study of the New Testament and the philosophy of religion was my subject, special subject and therefore the problems of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence of God and the problem of evil and pain and freedom of man; all these problems were my favourite subjects of study.

At an early stage when I was a boy in my school, I had made a study of Taittiriya Upanishad. You know Taittiriya Upanishad according to me, is a manual of education. Not many people know this, but if you have time, you kindly visit this Upanishad. You’ll be very happy to learn, what you are saying is very much written there in Taittiriya Upanishad. Taittiriya Upanishad is a manual of spiritual education and yet in consonance with matter but not subservient to matter. Then there have been many other studies like Rousseau. He actually revolutionised the thinking of education in the West and several others like Montessori and many others came. So I had prepared a very good note on value education.

In 1978, when Morarji Desai invited me to talk to him, I used to meet him every month once, he was very deeply interested in education. It may well be very happy tidings for the teachers of education, but one of the plans that he and I formulated was the following, ‒ that every student who wants to be a teacher in his life has to take a decision when he is in class 12. Not those who are out of jobs seeking for employment in teaching, they have to take a decision at the age when they are about to enter into college. And I had formulated a course of five years of teacher education, compulsory for every teacher in our country, whether they are teaching primary, elementary, anywhere, because teaching children is more difficult than teaching others. So a good teacher has to be very much capable of teaching children, very small children. You require high level of education for them and that students have to choose to have a career of teaching, like when you want to be a lawyer after class 12, you join law school. If you want to be an engineer after class 12, you become an engineer, like that if you want to be a teacher, you decide when you join college, you decide I want to be a teacher and you will have a five year course; no graduation, directly post graduation.

Now these five years, everybody who joins school for study will be paid a stipend. He will not have to have problem of hostel and money and bread and all that, every student will be given a stipend. This is to attract the best students in the country, a kind of a bonanza for anybody who chooses the profession of teaching. Just as when you join army, you've got training of one year at army, army training, one or two years, and they are paid at that time. When they are doing training in army. Similarly, this is also an army. Teachers constitute great soldiers, they have to be soldiers, they have to be cared for properly.

Now, during these five years, you should give a comprehensive education to every candidate, ‒ physical education, mental education, spiritual education and science of living. Between Prime Minister and myself we had both agreed that it's a good plan. So he said you now you discuss with your Education Minister and get this plan supported. What a great opportunity, isn't it? I gave this to my Education Minister. I won't give the name because it will not be very fair to anybody, but there was that very learned man, very nice man, very noble man. Well I am just telling you a comic story because it's very interesting. There was an education minister, a very nice man. He made a study of my plan. He invited me to his house. So on the first day I went to see him, he discussed it. He started, I have read your paper, very nice paper. Suddenly Guljarilal Nanda came to visit him at that time. He was a former Home Minister, Guljarilal Nanda. So Nandaji told him: I’m sorry to come uninvited, but I will just come because I have some urgent work to do. So my minister told me: you are our own family member, you can meet any time. Let us meet some other time. We shall meet again. So this meeting was over. I had to go back.

It took one month more before he could find time to meet me again. Anyway he said: Mr Joshi, I liked your paper very much, now you find out the way by which you can do it, but it should not cost a single pie. Your plan is very good but find out the way by which it should be at no cost. We don't have much money, you know, this is the problem of our country. Plan is very good, I agree, but it should have no cost, because the Finance Ministry will not accept it. You can certainly make it as it is; you are a very learned man, experienced man. Plans are to be made very wisely, economic and yet very wise. This is the first message. Everything is so good but it should not cost. Whereas my plan was a very costly plan, so it was all gone, first sentence, it was gone. And he said: I fully agree that education should be value-oriented. I agree with you, but don't you think, why do you learn? The basic objective of learning is earning. Don’t you think so? I was floored completely. All my value education collapsed at one stroke. So I said: well, of course, earning is a part but the most important thing is values. Of course, of course, I agree with you, but don't you think that all values are to be taught at home? Of course, in school you can have language classes, you have one class on Kabir, one lesson on Dadu and some more lessons, value education will be provided to everybody through language classes. It will cost nothing new, so make a plan of this kind. I said goodbye and I never met him again. I am only giving this illustration because, whereas you are troubled with the questions that you raised, extremely important questions, but on the other side in our country, this is the opposite point of view. Learning for earning ‒ the whole aim of education is gone. Learning at home as far as the values are concerned, school has nothing to do with it. And in fact language can give you some kind of value education. You don't need to do anything at all. The present system will continue, as it has been continuing for years and years and years, you forget about all reforms.

I am quoting this problem because, while I agree with you, that is a very important aim. All the aims that you have put forward are very important. There is not sufficient vibration in our country by which the people at the helm of affairs are moved. This is my big cry. I am crying with you actually. This is not being reflected at very higher levels of our country. They feel that education is for classes as they are going on now and open more schools if at all you can, appoint more teachers if you can afford.

One of my Education Ministers at one time said: you know, Mr. Joshi, we should have mass education, mass education. I said yes, and adult education is very important, adult education. Now he said: we should plan out adult education in the following way: every school teacher who proposes to go out to teach adults, you give them extra 50 rupees per month. It will greatly motivate them; give them extra 50 rupees per month. It will motivate them so greatly; they will go out, spend time and teach the villagers adult education. Big success you will attain, now work out a plan. What do you do with this kind of thinking? This is I am giving the opposite spectrum, where the problem lies in our country. There is a need of a tremendous thinking that is why I said no education commission should be established, after another commission should be established, after that another commission would be established. Our country needs to be shaken. Educationists have to come forward to deliberate on the subject, so I’m very happy today some educations have come to listen to you and listen to me because they are the people who are going to matter, and they are going to give the message to parents, to education officers and to others that there is a tremendous cry in our country that our Education System requires a radical change, but this is the one comment I wanted to make on what you said to support you at the same time, to derive from you one great message which I would like to give to the country, ‒ we need to have a very big revolution in education.