Philosophy And Science of Value Education
In the Context of Modern India
(21st to 22nd JANUARY 2005)
The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE OF VALUE EDUCATION
IN THE CONTEXT OF MODERN INDIA
There are at least three fundamental assumptions of the educational process:
In its very nature, education is a normative endeavour. Being at once a product and instrument of culture, education tends to promote the highest aims of culture. Hence, education tends to be a process of training whereby individuals in the society are enabled to embody progressively those values, which we in our highest thought and aspiration come to regard as something most desirable. It is in this context that education encourages and fosters the arts and sciences as well as technologies whereby man and the Universe can be ideally interrelated. At the same time, the idea of human progress is built up, and education endeavours to discover and apply efficient means of the right rhythm of acceleration of individual and social progress as also of human progress in general.
Against these basic assumptions of education, we have to take into account contemporary situation through which the world in general and India in particular are passing:
There are four domains in respect of which educational processes need to be determined. These four domains are: (i) natural science and technology; (ii) arts and crafts; (iii) human sciences; (iv) philosophy, culture and value. As far as the processes of the education in regard to natural science and technology is concerned, there is no great or serious debate, except that there is an increasing feeling that science education should become more and more integrated with other domains in the interest of education for integral development of personality and also in the interest of the contemporary need to blend science with values. As far as the other three domains are concerned, there is as yet no definite or sound pedagogy, and philosophy and science of education in these three domains are ridden with powerful debates.
In particular, the debate is most acute as far as education for values is concerned. This debate is not only centred on the determination of the meaning of values but also on the following four issues:
The most serious question is related to the contention that values are relative and subjective, and this contention needs to be examined in depth for which there is no space here. But this subject can briefly be examined in the context of history of value-system. We find that in the course of history, there have developed several standards of conduct, and each one of them claims to be imperative or advocates that it is preferable to the others. But if we take a synoptic view of the history of value systems, we may be able to arrange various major standards of conduct in an ascending ladder of scale.
The above discussion has important consequences for value-education. These can be summarised as follows:
A very important concept that has become pre-dominant in recent educational thought is that of integral education. At the international level, this concept came to be centrally highlighted by UNESCO through its famous report “Learning to Be”, which laid down “that the aim of development is complete fulfilment of the human being, in all the richness of personality, complexity of form of expression and various commitments.”
It is increasingly realised that in the contemporary world, the humanist and the technologist are finding themselves in greater and greater need of each other and the scientist and the mystic are getting ready to embrace each other.
It is being acknowledged that human personality is complex and that each major element of the personality needs to be integrated with the totality in a harmonious manner. In other words, the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and spiritual do not stand in juxtaposition, but they have among them a constitutional relationship. The physical and the vital can, to a great extent, be controlled and guided by the mental, and to a certain stage of development the mind can act as a leader. But the leadership of the mind is rather restricted and often fails and fails disastrously in controlling or leading the vital and the physical. Reason is opposed by Unreason, and conflict between the two, as seen today, is extremely grave. Moreover, as the rational, ethical, and aesthetic powers of the mind begin to develop, they begin to collide among themselves. It is, therefore, being recognised that the psychic and the spiritual powers of the human personality need to be brought forward so as to establish the true integration of all the powers of the being.
In our present system of education, we are too occupied with mental development, and we give preponderant importance to those qualities, which are relevant to subject-oriented and examination-oriented systems. In contrast, the concept of integral education implies a simultaneous integrated process of the development of the qualities and values relevant to physical education, vital education, mental education, psychic and spiritual education.
In any sound philosophy of value-oriented education, an effort should be made to arrive at clear conceptions of morality and spirituality, since both are distinct and yet related, and since both need to be distinguished from religion. Again, this matter is very important in the context of the Indian system of education, since the Indian Constitution clearly states that “No religious instruction shall be provided in educational institutions wholly maintained out of the State Funds”, and that “No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State and receiving aid out of State Funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institutions or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institutions or in premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such a person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto.”
As far as the distinction between morality and spirituality is concerned, it may be said that much depends upon what we intend to include in our definition of the word “morality” or in the word “spirituality”. In Indian thought, a distinction between morality and spirituality has been clearly made and we have two definite terms, naitik and adhyatmik each having its own specific and distinguishing connotation.
The word “morality” connotes a pursuit of the control and mastery over impulses and desires under the guidance and supervening inspiration of a standard of conduct formulated by thought in consideration of man’s station and duties in the society or in consideration of any discovered or prescribed intrinsic law of an idea. Morality is often conceived as a preparation of spirituality. Spirituality, on the other hand, begins when one seeks whatever one conceives to be the ultimate and the absolute for its own sake unconditionally and without any reservation whatsoever. Moreover, while morality is often limited to the domain of duties, spirituality is fundamentally a search of the knowledge that liberates (sā vidyā yā vimuktaye). As it is declared, true knowledge is not intellectual knowledge but spiritual knowledge.
Both the moral and the spiritual are to be distinguished from what is called “religious” when we speak of religious instruction. Religion has the following distinguishing features:
Both moral and spiritual values can be practised irrespective of whether one believes in one religion or another or whether one believes in no religion. Both morality and spirituality can be independent of the rituals or ceremonies and of any acts specifically prescribed by any particular religion. Furthermore, both of them are independent of any authority expect that of one’s own free judgement and direct spiritual experience.
It is also useful to distinguish religion from what in India is called dharma. Dharma is not any religious creed or dogma nor a system of rituals, but a deeper law of the harmonious and interdependent growth of the deepest aspirations of the collectivity and of the individuals that constitute the collectivity. Dharma can be regarded as an ordered system of moral and spiritual values.
Spirituality proceeds directly by change of consciousness, change from the ordinary consciousness to a greater consciousness in which one finds one’s true unegoistic being and comes first into direct and living contact and then into union with the Spirit. In spirituality, this change of consciousness is the one thing that matters, nothing else. Spirituality not only aims at the total change of consciousness, but its method is that of a gradual and increasing change of consciousness. In other words, spirituality is an exploration of consciousness through a progressive change of consciousness.
In spiritual consciousness, and in the knowledge that it delivers, there is the fulfilment of the highest that morality and religion in their deepest core seek and succeed only when they cease to be limited within their specific boundaries. It replaces the moral law by a progressive law of self-perfection spontaneously expressing itself through the individual nature. In this operation, no more is the imposition of a rule or an imperative on the nature of an individual. The spiritual law respects the individual nature, modifies it and perfects it, and in this sense, it is unique for each individual and can be known and made operative only during the course of the change of consciousness. In its progressive movement, it may, if necessary, provide a short or long period of governance by a moral law, but always as a provisional device and always looking for going beyond into a plane of spontaneous expression of the Right and the Good. To spiritual consciousness, moral virtue is not valuable in itself, but only as an expression of a complex of certain qualities, which are, for the time being, for the given individual, necessary and useful in an upward journey. For the spiritual consciousness, what is commonly called vice has, too, behind it a complex of certain qualities, which have a certain utility in the economy of Nature, and can, therefore, be converted by placing them in their right place, as a complement to what lies in consciousness behind what are commonly called virtues.
Spirituality is not confined merely to the aspect of conduct; it includes all works and strives by the method of a progressive change of consciousness for the perfect harmonisation of all the aspects of works; and through this striving it realises also the unity of works with the highest Knowledge and the deepest Love.
For spiritual consciousness, that which is commonly called agnosticism, scepticism, atheism, positivism or free thinking has behind it a concern and a demand for a direct knowledge, which, when rightly understood, recognised, respected and fulfilled, becomes a powerful element of spirituality.
For spirituality always looks behind the form to the essence and to the living consciousness; and in doing so, it brings to the surface that which lies behind, and its action is therefore of a new creation. Spirituality transcends the forms and methods of morality and religion and recreates its own living and progressive forms.
In the words of Sri Aurobindo:
Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul, which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature.
It is natural that Indian education underlines the importance of what can be called Indian values.
In Indian thought, a distinction has been made between the ego and the self. According to Indian thought, egoistic personality is ridden with self-contradiction and conflicts and true self is the integrating centre in which physical, vital, mental and other personalities are harmonised. Pursuit of self-realisation is held out in Indian educational thought as one of the supreme spiritual values.
There are, indeed, certain other values which are uniquely Indian, in the sense that even though these values may be commonly shared by India and other countries, they are pursued in India either with a certain special zeal and dedication or pursued with a certain speciality or completeness. For example, the value that we attach to the ideal of tolerance is something special in India. In fact, the word tolerance itself is not adequate to convey the intended meaning. In the ordinary idea of tolerance, there is still a feeling that our own preferred idea is somewhat superior to the other contending ideas. On the other hand, what is peculiarly Indian is the sentiment and the recognition that various principal contending ideas are all legitimate ideas in varying degrees and that superiority lies not in holding one idea as some preferred idea but in trying to find such a synthesis that each idea finds its own highest fulfilment in it. What is uniquely Indian is that the value and ideal of synthesis has been pursued throughout the long history of Indian culture as the most desirable goal – and that too repeatedly and with very special insistence.
Along with the basic idea of synthesis, there is also the accompanying idea of unity, mutuality and oneness in diversity.
Similarly, what is meant by secularism in the Indian context is uniquely Indian. According to the Western idea, secularism means a tendency or a system of beliefs, which rejects all forms of religious faith or worship. It means something that pertains to the present world or to things, which are not spiritual or sacred. In the Indian context, however, secularism means comprehensiveness in which all religions receive equal protection, treatment and respect, and in which there is place for every one whether he belongs to one religion or another or to no religion. Again, Indian secularism encourages us to approach everything, whether material or spiritual, with a sense of sacredness. In Indian secularism, there is freedom for the propagation of each religion without hindrance or bar and there is also the freedom to promote and propagate synthesis of religions. At the same time, Indian secularism insists on the promotion of moral and spiritual values, which are common to all religions and to no religion as also on the pro-motion of a synthesis of science and spirituality. Secularism so defined and understood is, thus, a very special value that is uniquely Indian.
There are several other Indian values, which require a special mention and which should find their right place in our educational system. The sense of joy that is behind various festivals in India, which are shared by the people of the country is something, which can be understood only when one enters into the heart and soul of Indian culture. The Indian idea of the rhythm of life and the law of harmony, expressed by the word Dharma is also uniquely Indian. Again, the value that we attach to pursuit of knowledge, to the pursuit of purity, to the pursuit of wisdom is something unique, in the sense that these things are valued most and they are cherished most, and on the call of which we are inspired to renounce everything. We feel that all this and many other values, which are uniquely Indian should be encouraged and fostered.
We may now come to what may be called the science of value-oriented education.
This is an extremely difficult domain, since a great deal of experimentation needs to be conducted before value education can truly be promoted to that level of definiteness which should normally be expected at the level of scientific rigour. There is, indeed, a view that both in the context of the long tradition of pursuit of values in our country as also in view of the latest experiments which have been conducted during the last two hundred years in different parts of the world as also in India, we have accumulated a large measure of insight and knowledge in the light of which we can formulate what can strictly can be called science of value-oriented education. In India, there is a further view that values which are philosophically conceived can actually be known scientifically through the methods of yoga. These views are extremely important and deserve to be seriously studied. It is my personal view that yoga is a valid means of attainment of knowledge of values and experience or realisation of values. In this light, the concept of what is called the science of living and therefore of the concept of science of value-oriented education can be sustained. However, at the present stage of pluralism in India and in the world at large, educational system needs to debate the contentions regarding yogic knowledge and its validation so as to arrive at some more generalised acceptance. In the meantime, therefore, the contention regarding yogic knowledge should be taken as an issue in the field of value-education,
and encourage more and more sincerely and thoroughly philosophical pursuit of values and adopt philosophical methods for value-oriented education. It may also be added that as a matter of policy, the view that yogic knowledge provides sound basis of science of value-education should be fostered in the same way in which all proposals of scientific research are encouraged and supported. It may also be added that a great deal of experimentation is required in the field of methodology of application of yogic pursuit of values. For this purpose also, those who are qualified to conduct scientific research in yogic knowledge and application of yogic knowledge to the methodology of value-oriented education should also be supported. Finally, corresponding to pluralism in society, education should develop pluralistic methods of teaching and learning. Experimentation in developing pluralistic methods should receive high priority. Only through these pluralistic methods, value-oriented education can flourish, since only then philosophical methods and scientific methods can both be experimented upon adequately and more and more fruitfully.