Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture. (SAIIC) Shillong workshop, 26,Oct -7 Nov, 2006 - 22. Religion and Education, Shraddha

Let me first thank Professor Rahman. You have put before us the place of knowledge and education in the development of Islamic civilization. In fact, there is a need in the world for a better understanding of all the religions of the world.

In 1976, when I went to UNESCO big conference of educationists in Nairobi, I met Dr M'Bow who was at that time the Director General of UNESCO. He was a devout Muslim and he remained Director General about 11 years thereafter up to 1987, and if you see the impetus he gave education all over the world, it is truly remarkable. In due course of time I became one of his closest friends and when Mrs. Indra Gandhi wanted to appoint somebody for Auroville foundation for the Auroville Council of Advisory Body. She asked me: whom do you want to be members of this council? So I suggested four or five names, all of them she agreed to. One of them was Dr M'Bow. So she said: Will he agree to be one of the members of the Advisory Council of the Auroville Foundation. I said: "I believe so". She said: "I want to make an announcement tomorrow, can you get his consent overnight"? I did not know at that time in which part of the world he was, he was UNESCO representative, he may be travelling all over the world. So I said: "I will make a sincere effort to contact him and get his consent". She said will he consent on the telephone? I said he is a very wise and very generous man, he understands universal values very much and I don't think there'll be difficulty, but still I will try. It took me six hours to find out where he was. He was not in Paris, which is the headquarters of UNESCO. Ultimately, I found him in the United States of America, and I spoke to him because one of his weakest points was his love for French. His own mother tongue was French, and I spoke to him in French because I also can speak in French. So I spoke to him, and I said that the Prime Minister of India wants you to be a member of the Auroville Council. So he said: "I want to know whether you want it"? So I said: "It is my suggestion that the Prime Minister wants it". So you tell her — "Yes", that was his reply. He came every year in Auroville thereafter from 1980 onwards to 1988, eight times he came to Auroville Foundation, every year and his contribution to Auroville was extremely remarkable, very constructive. I used to prepare only for his sake, my entire agenda in French, so that he could read every word, he used to read every word of the agenda and he gave a great promotion. For example, when I wanted to introduce a resolution on Auroville in UNESCO, three resolutions year after year, he adopted, under his request, the whole world body, saying Auroville is a great place of education. That was his main point. Mother had said Auroville is a place of unending education. And because of his love for education and that love came from Islam. And I know that all those who are great lovers of Islam are all true educationists and they gave a great place of education in their scheme of things. It’s a fact, and therefore, when you spoke of it, I was very pleased that it is that aspect which you should emphasise.

In fact, I believe that the new education system that should evolve in the world should teach every student a history of religions. Instead of keeping people ignorant about religions, all schools of religion, our children should have access to them, otherwise only ignorance breeds hatred and much of the evil is created on account of that. Actually, Mother once told me, I want to write a history of religions. She did not find the time ultimately to write it, but because Mother had made an intensive study of all the religions of the world. She knew Hebrew, for example, herself and Arabic also and of course French was her mother tongue and she had learnt Sanskrit also. Not many people know that Mother translated Ishopanishad from Sanskrit into French. Even now we have got a facsimile of her translation, Sanskrit and the French. This is the spirit in which we should develop education in the world.

In my own development, I must say that at the age of 16, I was attracted to Islam. Yesterday I ........ said I was attracted to Christianity. It is because I am like a Tirthankar, you know Tirthankar is one who goes from place to place and knocks the doors of everybody and tries to see what is what, and within one year, I had studied enough to gain the love of Muslims in my town. My mother was a Chairman of the Municipality and she had contact with so many people and when the Muslims came to know that I have studied Islam, they made a request to my mother that Muslim women in our town are very illiterate. So they said you ask your son to come with you to the mosque every day; whenever he comes to our town, because I used to live in Bombay at that time for my education and we want him to teach our young women in your presence because in my presence alone, there'll be a difficulty. But if my mother was present and then I was there, they said we shall allow our women not to have burkha at all at that time, it was quite a revolutionary step for a young man — I was only 16 years old at that time, young boy, you might say. I taught the life of Mohammad to the Muslim women of our town and also taught them how to read and write and all that and every evening I used to go three hours I used to spend in the Mosque. And I have very pleasant memories of that experience as to how they were so fond of learning. Everyone was regular, punctual and that also, I owe to the spirit of Islam because Islam promotes education, they want education only they do not know how to give education to the people and that is another problem which I have considered.

I would also like to mention that Sri Aurobindo has written five great dramas and one of the dramas is called Viziers of Bassora. You should read that drama, because it's purely Islamic. It is centred upon Haroun Al Rasheed when he was emperor of Baghdad in the 8th century and it's a story of Nuredden and Aljalice. Nuredden was the son of a Vizier, whose father was a very good Vizier and because he was a good Vizier his rival wanted him to be spanked off from Baghdad, so he was sent away as an ambassador to Rome. So the son was left alone with a lot of money, because his father was a very rich man and ultimately the boy squandered away the money and there was a big difficulty for him. He was a good boy, very noble boy, but very generous and his friends were all greedy and they took everything from him. The important point is that, in this drama, Sri Aurobindo has filled up the wisdom of Islam in this drama and one of the most important messages of his drama is, it is given in the name of the Vizier when he leaves for Rome he says to his son: My son remember even if you feel that there is injustice which is meted out to you, remember there is always justice behind it; why? Because God is justice and God will not allow injustice to prevail. Therefore, you should be always sure that there is justice behind everything in the world, the world is ruled by God, therefore there will be justice. Ultimately, of course, in the drama itself after he has squandered away the money, he happens to go to Baghdad from Bassora. Then he meets Haroun Alrasheed, who had the habit of disguising himself and he meets Alzayni and Nuredden both. Haroun Alrasheed is so enamoured of this young man that after hearing his story, he does not reveal that he himself is the emperor. He said your injustice is done by the by the Sultan of Basoora, so I will send a message to him because Haroun Alrasheed is my friend and I will tell him and I will get a message sent to him so that there are no difficulty, you go and resume your work in Bassora.

When he goes back, he is arrested by the other Vizier. So when Nuredden shows him the note given by another Haroun Alrasheed, signed by Haroun Alrasheed. He said this is a false forgery, so you should be hanged for forgery, so the Sultan agrees and says: "Yes, he should be hanged". So he was brought to the main court to be hanged. In the meantime, Alrasheed feels very much pained, she is still in Baghdad and she says to Haroun Alrasheed without knowing who he was; please do something because he will be maltreated, so he says: "Alright". He takes an army and himself rushes up to Basoora and reaches in time, when he was about to be hanged, and he declares, who this young man is, who himself is, and he tells Sultan — From today I depose you,....... So, even when you see injustice, see that there is some justice, which is always involved. It's a beautiful story, and I always tell my students that if you want to read the heart of Islamic message, God is everywhere, and God is justice. If you want to see some illustration of it, we should study this drama.

Coming to this question, which has been raised here, which is very important. It is not true that science necessarily alienates man. Nor is it true that religions alienate, fact is that both science and religion are growing evolutionary. It is true that at one time, science was an inquiry into facts and religion has been inquiring into values. Therefore, it is not the science versus religion but at a given stage of the development of religion and science, when science only dealt with facts, there are many scientists who believe we are concerned with facts. I don't think that they are truly scientists. True scientists should say we are concerned with truths and truth is as much a value as any other value. Religions also should say that values are not the only things in which we are involved, we are also concerned with facts, we are also concerned with the truths. If both science and religion — and I don't think there is any difficulty as far as the real pursuit is concerned, values and facts have got to be wedded. This is important; whether science does it or whether religion does it, we should not enter into this. Important point is that our students should have an integrated view in which facts and values should be combined so that knowledge of reality should also be the knowledge of values at the highest level of consciousness. In fact, I always distinguish between science on one hand, religion on the other hand, and yoga on the other hand. Yoga is not sufficiently understood in the world, not even in India.

Yoga is a scientific endeavour. It is not a religious endeavour, as Vivekananda wrote on Raja yoga, he said: you do not require any faith while pursuing yoga. You do not require any belief. You take up a preposition in yoga as a hypothesis. Yoga says that you can arrive at a cessation of the mental vibrations. This is one of the statements of the Patanjali's Yoga (Chitta vritti nirodha).Yoga means cessation of the vibrations of the mind because yoga says so do not believe it. Why? Because yoga gives you method to experiment upon it, so the value of yoga, just as in science, when science makes a discovery, it also lays down the method by which discovery of the truth is found out, and the importance of scientific method is, you can repeat the same methods, arrive with the result, and you can verify the result. It is by method of verification. It is by falsifiability not only verification, but also by falsifiability of a proposition that it can be firm about the assertion of the truths.

Now in yoga also, a method is laid down and if you follow a certain method and you see by a process of pratyahara, dharana, you can arrive at a condition of the mind where the vibrations of the mental consciousness are arrested. And when that happens, what we call subjectivity is arrested and the object is seen as an object without any interference of subjectivity. One of the most important things in science is that knowledge should be objectively verifiable and should be seen objectively as an object without interference or least interference of the subjectivity.

Now the statement of the yoga is that there is an object of knowledge when the mind's vibration, subjectivity is arrested, then, in the light which is present, which is absolutely now, no flickering, in that light that the object is seen and therefore the knowledge of the fact, knowledge of reality is revealed without any kind of doubt in the consciousness. Now this is one of the important methods of yoga, and that's why Vivekananda said you don't need to believe you can verify.

In fact, last year I was invited to speak on Ibn Rushd. The big seminar was on the philosophy of Ibn Rushd, and I spoke at that time saying, among many philosophers that Islam has produced I find Ibn Rushd as a very great philosopher. He was in Spain, somebody spoke about Spain — Averroës. He was a very great philosopher, Islamic philosopher and he pointed out that although there is a place of reason; there is also a place for revelation. We say there are certain things which we cannot reach even if you try your very best, you cannot reach with reason. If reason could reach everywhere, — fine. You can say reason is the only instrument of knowledge and truth, why not? But reason cannot reach, what can you do about it? Whereas there are ways of knowledge which have access to those objects which are not approved by reason — and he said there is a faculty in man which is called revelation. If you train yourself and develop a state of revelation, then in that state of revelation, that truth of that aspect is revealed. According to him Islam gives to reason all the place that it deserves and says you must always make use of reason to the utmost, but in the realm where you cannot reach by a reason, you should look into revelation.

In fact, this is also the theory of most of the Christian theologians,— reason and revelation. There are certain statements which are known only through revelation, but the difficulty in religions. I would like to suggest that this is a time when religions have to examine a further port. Revelation certainly is a means of the truth. You can know through revelation certain things, the question is whether you can know the whole of the truth, all the truths, certainly because truth, although it is said: truth is one, indivisible. The question is whether our sense of revelation can reach the entire truth indivisibly. This is the question, and this is to be answered impartially in the very service of both religion and science, and this is where everybody is arrested. It is true that there are certain things, for example, the nature of God. Reason cannot understand it, it is a fact; revelation can certainly tell you what is the nature of God. But whatever is said, is it a complete revelation? Everything can be known by revelation or in one single revelation or even a series of revelations. According to yoga each revelation is a spotlight. If you have a spotlight and throw the light on a particular spot, ground is indivisible, but what you see by the spotlight is that spot and because of that spot you say: Oh! This is the truth, I have discovered. Now, if you're in a great hurry you can say I have discovered the truth and everybody should come and accept it, it is a revelation. According to me this is what has happened in the history of religions. Every prophet, according to me, is right, every prophet. Therefore, every religion has said something that is true. What has gone wrong is that it has declared, therefore, that now people should believe in it as the exclusive truth and nothing else.

There is in the Bhagavad-Gita a very important question. It’s a question of a revolution. Arjuna, I consider it to be revolutionary, Krishna, also revolutionary in the field of religion. In the 13th chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, Shri Krishna says that: O Arjuna, what you should, and what you should not do, you should follow Shastra. What is revealed knowledge? Shastra is nothing but the wisdom of religion, culture, ethics and everything — Shastra. So Shri Krishna says in the 13th chapter that whatever you want to know, if you want to clear a doubt, you go to Shastra and follow the Shastra that is the end of 13th chapter so you can say that Gita felt that Shastra is a pramana. Arjuna said: supposing I don't feel satisfied with the Shastra. Shastra says something, and I am not satisfied with Shastra and yet I'm a good seeker and I have all the kind of a reverence for everything, for Shastra and everything, but I feel inwardly, — no, this is not right, what am I to do? So he says: if I deviate from Shastra, although I have all the faith, all the reverence? Is it all right? Is it in order? Shri Krishna says: "yes". That is why I say it is a revolutionary statement. If you have shraddha, reverence. He says shraddha is of three kinds — tamasic shraddha, rajasic shraddha, sattvic shraddha. If you have tamasic shraddha then you should say up to Shastra — no; if you have rajasic shraddha don't say no to Shastra, but if you are sure that your shraddha is sattvic; what is sattvic shraddha? Sattvic shraddha has two elements — a pure search for truth;........