Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy - Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Presuppositions of Pedagogy

All systems of pedagogy, Eastern or Western, have certain presuppositions which are derived from a larger canvas of human experience. These presuppositions include the following:

  • Human growth takes place by means of a natural process, supported or aided by certain deliberate processes and methods;
  • Human growth implies increasing self-consciousness, development of skills and faculties, and the capacities required to meet the challenges of life and of the cultural context in which one is required to meet the demands of the individual and collective life;
  • At a deeper level, human growth is aided by the development of arts, sciences, and technologies that enable the individual and collectivity to build up bridges between the past and the future through accumulation of experience and transmission of valuable lessons of that experience to the growing generations;
  • Increasing effectivity of educational process depends on the degree to which natural processes of growth and deliberate processes of growth are blended harmoniously; and
Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy
  • Deliberate processes that are employed for aiding human growth require to be constantly subtilised so that the processes of growth attain increasing acceleration at an optimum level, which may differ from individual to individual and from collectivity to collectivity.

Pedagogy and Aim of Life

The greatest educationists, who have played important roles in fashioning educational systems have, in their quest to develop ideal processes and structures of education, have found it necessary to understand the real meaning and aim of life, the real meaning and aim of culture, and the real meaning and aim of the highest human welfare; and it is in this context that educationists have differed among themselves, and different systems of pedagogy owe their differences to the differences that have developed in this regard.

Behaviourist pedagogy

Not long ago, education was merely a mechanical forcing of the child's nature into arbitrary groves of training and knowledge in which his subjectivity was the last thing considered, and his family upbringing was a constant repression and compulsory shaping of his habits, his thoughts, his character into the mould fixed for them by conventional ideas or individual interests and the ideals of teachers and parents.
Even today, the behaviourist pedagogy prescribes principles and methods of teaching that aim at development of behaviour rather than the development of inner being and inner personality of the learner. Even today, even where behaviouristic

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Mechanical means of imparting information

pedagogy is not preponderate, importance is attached to the external and mechanical means of imparting information and of the development of skills that are required to fulfil the demands of certain specific jobs or occupations. It is sometimes admitted that apart from skills, taste also should be developed, a certain sense of culture also should be promoted, and a certain sense of value should also be stimulated. But all this is still sought to be managed within the narrow formula of mechanical and external systems of methodologies. At the root of this methodology is a certain view of the aim of life. According to this view, life is a struggle in which one is obliged to adjust with the present system of inequalities and competition, and a system in which one is required to find a place within a narrow range of situations of life where one can earn one's livelihood and sustain a small family and its responsibilities.

This view also prescribes the need to learn and practise some kind of prudent economics, so that one can save for a rainy day, and one can lead a certain length of life so as to merit a tolerable amount of pension, in the process of enjoying which, one can wait for a smooth transition to the grave. The aim of life, according to this view, is to live, to perform duties appropriate to one's own station of life, to struggle through competition, to enjoy possible comforts and to enjoy some kind of security and learn a few lessons of life which teach prudence and tolerable human existence.

New Ideas of Pedagogy

Fortunately, new ideas of pedagogy are marching forward, and behind these ideas we can discern a new vision of the aim of life and a new vision of a world order that demands building of defences of peace in

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Pioneering educational philosophers

the minds and hearts of people and new attitudes required for living together through co-operation and through the processes of mutuality and inter-dependence. Thanks to the pioneering educational philosophers like Rousseau, Montessori, Pestalozzi, Bertrand Russell, Paulo Freire, and Piaget, it is now being increasingly recognised that education must be a bringing out of the child's own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible extent and must be based on the psychology of the child-nature. There is also a glimmering of the realisation that each human being is a self-developing soul and that the business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material. It is this glimmer of the realisation that we find in the two momentous Reports of UNESCO: “Learning To Be” and “Learning: Treasure Within”. The message of these two Reports is to develop a new pedagogy that is to be centred on learning to learn, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be.

New Pedagogy and Ancient Indian Pedagogy

This new pedagogy impels a further realisation of the potentialities of the child and its soul, a realisation that was explicitly stated in the writings of the nationalist leaders who inspired and led the movement of national education in India, such as those of Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo. These writings gave a clear expression of the deeper self and the real psychic entity within. They pointed

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

out that, if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as “the leader of the march set in front”, will itself take up most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the capacity of the psychological being towards the realisation of its potentialities of which our present mechanistic view of life and mind and external routine methods of dealing with them prevent us from having any experience of forming any conception.

New pedagogy  rooted in the ancient soul of India

The resultant new educational methods which were experimented upon were a kind of recovery of the methods of ancient pedagogy and knowledge that sought to express through spiritual and social symbolism. In this light, we seem to understand better the educational system which was envisaged by the Upanishads in India and it is in that light that we can understand properly what we can call distinctly Indian pedagogy. And while recovering it and expressing it in the context of the latest philosophies of education and the modern march of knowledge, we may be able to give to India of today a new pedagogy which would be rooted in the ancient soul of India and yet ever progressive soul of India which has the capacity to express itself in new forms appropriate to the needs of the contemporary culture of India and of the world.

Formulation of Indian Pedagogy

The meaning of the symbolism in which the ancient knowledge of human life, of man and of the universe was expressed is practically lost to us, and if we are to profit from the recovery of that knowledge, a very great effort will be needed. Fortunately, a great effort has been made during the last two centuries, and we have today a considerable understanding of the truths

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Secrets of the growth of the human soul towards true inner freedom

of the Veda and the Upanishads, of the recovered sense of Buddhism and also of the secrets of the knowledge of the soul that was expressed in the ancient Jaina texts. And we can say with confidence that the ancient Indian records of knowledge manifest profound knowledge of the deepest secrets of existence, of the meaning and aim of life, and of the secrets of the growth of the human soul towards true inner freedom and true inner and outer mastery that can lead to fulfilment of the human race.

The secret of immortality

The composers of these records of knowledge had measured and fathomed the heights and depths of our being, they had cast their plummet into the inconscient, and the subconscient and the super-conscient; they had read the riddle of death and found the secret of immortality. The system of education which they founded had thus a vast basis of experience and a fund of verifiable knowledge.

The ancient Indian pedagogy has still not been ascertained in clear terms, and much research would be required before we can formulate it adequately. A few pages in the Upanishads give us the indication of teachers and the methods of their teaching; they also give us an idea of the stir of the quest which inspired young seekers in their inquiry and in their enthusiasm; in the Taittiriya Upanishad, in particular, we have a more direct indication of the ancient scheme of education; and in the Upanishads like the Isha and Kena, we have profound statements of the art and science of life as also of the distinction between ignorance and knowledge, ─ avidyā and vidyā. Upanishads also speak of aparā and parā vidyā ─ the

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

lower knowledge and the higher knowledge, of different states of consciousness and their inter-relationship. In the subsequent writings in Indian literature, we have further glimpses of the systems of education that flourished in ancient times and in the later periods. From all these accounts, we can gather an idea of the knowledge that was practised of the truths, principles, powers and processes that govern the human growth and development towards the liberating excellence and mastery. We can also formulate the process of interaction between the teacher and the pupil, as also an idea of the art to accelerate the progression of development.

Call of the Word

A basic foundation of Indian pedagogy is the perception that there is in the heart of every thinking and living being a growing bud of knowledge and perfection that can open swiftly or gradually, particularly when the right Word is heard. Ordinarily, the Word from without, from a living teacher is needed as an aid in the self-unfolding. The hearing of the right Word, shravana, is followed by reflection and meditation, manana and nidhidhyasana. The Indian pedagogy allowed the processes of questioning and free inquiry, but it also insisted on continuing questioning with increasing emphasis on gathering experience and on awakening to crowning discovery of truths. It was also underlined that the true knowledge is arrived at by living in one's own soul beyond written word. In the ultimate analysis, this pedagogy encouraged liberation from any binding influence of a text by emphasising that pursuit of knowledge and pursuit of excellence is a free pursuit of the sense of wonder and mystery that is infinite in

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

character. An absolute liberty of experience is the condition for the attainment of a true self-knowledge and world-knowledge.

The great teacher of life is life itself

Indian pedagogy recognised that beyond written texts, the great teacher of life is life itself, and totality of life is to be embraced if one has to gain integral knowledge and integral realisation. It also recognised that each individual has his own unique method of experiencing life and it provided to each individual a free adaptability in the manner and type of the individual acceptance of the object of knowledge that one encounters in the experience of life. The Indian pedagogy also laid down the outcome of past experience as a help to future realisation; and the accumulated experience of the past was laid before the seeker as an aid to accelerate the pace of progression. The rest depended on the personal effort of the pupil and the uplifting power of the teacher. A great stress was laid on the cultivation of the quality of the aspiration in the mind and heart of the pupils. The entire process of learning was marked by a living message to the human soul that it has to rise from the egoistic state of consciousness absorbed in the outward appearances and attractions of things to higher states in which the true knowledge can grow, a knowledge that can constantly expand the individual mould and transform it. The pupil was constantly advised to develop the intensity of quest, the power of the aspiration of the heart, the force of the will, the concentration of the mind, the perseverance and determination of the applied energy.

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Upliftment of Pupils Aspiration

Aspiration of the pupil needs to be uplifted, and the upliftment of the aspiration is the basic function of the teacher. The Indian pedagogy recognises three instruments of the teacher: instruction, example, and influence. Instruction was not limited merely to verbal discourse; it utilised the methods of conversation and dialogue; it included the methods of providing hints and suggestions, presenting riddles and puzzles, and it provided instructions to find, discover and invent; it also involved imparting of skills to the pupils by direct dealing with materials or by accompanying in the journey towards mastery. More important than instruction was in the Indian pedagogy the living example of the teacher. This example was not merely of the external behaviour of the teacher but that of inner integrity and inner mastery in regard to knowledge and character. More important than example was the living influence of the teacher. Influence is not the outward authority of the teacher, but the power of his contact, of his presence, of the nearness of his soul to the soul of another, infusing into it, even though in silence that which he possesses. Indian pedagogy did not encourage the teacher to arrogate to himself the sense of superiority in a humanly vain and self-exalting spirit. The teacher was looked upon as a man helping his students, a child leading children, a light kindling other lights, an awakened soul awakening souls, at the highest a channel, a representative of the higher truth and realisation.

Towards Fourfold Integral Personality

The method of Indian pedagogy did not consist of any fixed and mechanical framework. The teacher's system was a natural organisation of the highest processes and movements of which the nature is capable. Every

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

The good teacher sought to awaken much more than to instruct

student, it was assumed, has in him or her certain combination of faculties and powers, a combination in the process of formation, with some tendencies predominant and central, others peripheral and even transient. The task of the teacher was to recognise in each student the four basic powers, their present status in the process of formation and in their interrelationship. These powers related to the pursuit of knowledge, pursuit of courage and heroism, pursuit of emotional upliftment and mutuality and inter-dependence in relationships; and pursuit of skills and their applications. The resultant aim was the development of integral personality that blended as perfectly as possible a harmony of four personalities of knowledge, power, harmony and skilful service. This pedagogy aimed at providing sunshine for the flowering of the inner soul of each individual, and it perceived and applied the truth that the secret of each one's profession lies in his or her personality. The skill of the teacher lay in his deep understanding of the nature of the pupil and in guiding the development of that nature so that it can flower into a fully bloomed lotus. The teacher was expected not to be offended by the ignorant reactions of the pupils. He was expected to have the entire love of the mother and the entire patience of the teacher. The good teacher, according to Indian pedagogy, used error in order to arrive at truth, suffering in order to arrive at bliss, imperfection in order to arrive at perfection. The good teacher sought to awaken much more than to instruct, and he aimed at the growth of the faculties and the experiences by a natural process and free expansion. He gave a method as an aid, not as an imperative formula or a fixed routine. He guarded against the turning of the means

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

into a limitation, against the mechanisation of the process. The good teacher, again, was not expected to impose himself or his opinion on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind; he threw in what is productive and sowed as a seed which would grow under the divine fostering within.

Eternal perfection of the spirit within

The basic guideline of the Indian pedagogy is that nothing can be taught to the mind which is not already concealed as a potential knowledge in the unfolding soul of the individual. All perfection of which the power of personality is capable is only a realising of the eternal perfection of the spirit within him. In a deeper sense, all becoming is an unfolding. To be is the secret; to be is self-attainment, and self-knowledge and an increasing consciousness are the means in the process.

Secret of the process of concentration

All education is a deliberate process by which what can ordinarily be attained over a certain period of time can be attained more and more rapidly at an optimum rate of acceleration. The secret of this acceleration in Indian pedagogy is the secret of the process of concentration. And the first step in concentration is the process by which consciousness can be drawn more and more inward, antarmukha. By inward gaze of consciousness with increasing concentration and by the progressive discovery of the inner soul, knowledge can be commanded more and more readily, more and more creatively, more and more harmoniously.

Indian pedagogy recognises immense importance of Time in the process of development; for in all things there is a cycle of their action and a period of efflorescence. The secret of mastery over time

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

movement is a harmonious blending of patience and an effort by means of which increasing power is developed for instantaneous achievement. If the students and teachers learn the art of carrying out activities as quickly as possible and yet as perfectly as possible, optimum acceleration and the right speed of progression will be achieved. All progress will be marked by a happy process of joy and continuous and increasing movement towards perfection.

Aparā Vidyā and Parā Vidyā

An important distinction has been drawn in the Indian pedagogy between two kinds of knowledge, ─ lower knowledge and higher knowledge, ─ aparā and parā vidyā.1 Science, art, philosophy, ethics, psychology, the knowledge of man and his past, action itself are means

1. शौनको ह वै महाशालोऽन्गिरसं विध्विदुपसन्नः पप्रच्छ । कस्मिन्नु भगवो विज्ञाते सवमिदं विज्ञातं भवति । तस्मै स होवाचः द्वे विद्ये वेदितव्ये इति ह स्म यद् ब्रहमविदो वदन्ति परा चैवापरा च । तत्रापरा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः साम्वेदोऽथर्ववेदः शिक्षा कल्पो व्याकरणं निरुक्तं छन्दो ज्योतिषमिति । अथ परा यया तदक्षरमध्गिम्यर्ते यत्तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचख्युःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम् नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भुतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति धीराः ।

Śaunka, a man of reputation, approached seer Ańgiras duly prepared for learning from him, and asked:  “What, Sir, is that thing by knowing which all this becomes known.”
Ańgiras replied:  “There are two sorts of vidyas which knowers of the Ultimate Reality call as the higher and the lower. The lower is the learning of the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda, Atharvaveda, education in phonetics, science of sacrifice, grammar, science of derivation, chandas and astronomy.  
The higher vidyā, on the other hand, is that by means of which is understood the Immortal which can neither be seen nor caught hold of, which is beyond the range of caste and class, which has neither eyes, nor ears nor even hands and feet. He is rather eternal, all-embracing, all-pervading, absolutely subtle and imperishable. Him the wise realise as the source of the entire creation.”

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

by which we arrive at the knowledge of the becomings of the world, of the multiplicity and of the appearances. That knowledge is lower knowledge.2 But as we go deeper and deeper, a completer view and experience develop, and each of the lines of growth brings us face to face with knowledge of the ultimate Reality. That knowledge is Parā vidyā. We begin to grow in the sense of comprehensiveness and in the sense of universal harmony and progressive equilibrium of the manifestation of the underlying perfection. The more we begin to understand and experience the underlying unity, the more we perceive the key of multiplicity in unity, the more we surpass the limitations of the lower knowledge and the more we enter into the portals of the higher knowledge.
The more we are occupied with multiplicity and different domains of knowledge, the more we remain entrenched in aparā vidyā; the more we overcome our bondage to appearances and multiplicity, the more we transcend into the knowledge of the imperishable and ineffable, the more we become liberated into the realm of parā vidyā. Knowledge attained by senses and even the knowledge that remains confined to intellectual processes, even the highest stores of information keep us confined to lower knowledge. The more we cross the borders of sense-knowledge and intellectual knowledge, the more we grow inward, the more we discover the inner self and inner unity through inner vision and inner intuitive concreteness of experiences that lead us into the secrets of higher knowledge.

2. The Upanishad declares that even the records of the highest knowledge, the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda are components of the lower knowledge aparā vidyā, since they are not themselves the direct experience of the Self and of the eternal that is beyond all becomings.

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

The knowledge which seeks to know the truth of existence from within

Aparā vidyā is a kind of knowledge which seeks to understand the apparent phenomena of existence externally, by an approach from outside, through the senses and the intellect. That gives us the lower knowledge, the knowledge of the apparent world. Parā vidyā is the knowledge which seeks to know the truth of existence from within, in its source of reality, by processes of intuition, inspiration, revelation and inmost and profoundest realisation. Both are two sides of one's seeking. Avidyā is the knowledge of multiplicity, and vidyā is the knowledge of unity and oneness. When knowledge of multiplicity is pursued by excluding the knowledge of unity and oneness, we remain in the field of darkness; if we pursue unity and oneness and exclude the knowledge of multiplicity, then also there is some kind of incompleteness, inadequacy, and as one Upanishad declares, one is led into even greater darkness.3 Both vidyā and avidyā, the knowledge of multiplicity and the knowledge of unity are to be synthesised.

Indian pedagogy does not exclude the pursuit of the knowledge of multiplicity or the pursuit of knowledge through senses and intellect; but it also insists on the pursuit of knowledge of unity and oneness, and it insists on the pursuit of that knowledge through the development of the faculties of intuition and concrete realisation. The knowledge of unity and multiplicity, and the knowledge as grounded in unity is the ideal that Indian pedagogy puts forward in its total scheme of knowledge.

3. Ishopanishad, verse 9

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Jñāna: Illumination through intuition of the Self

There is another important word that is often used in Indian pedagogy, and that word is jñāna. This word is used in the sense of a supreme self-knowledge.
To understand this properly, we have to make a distinction between knowledge and object of knowledge. Knowledge is the light by which the object of knowledge is lit, is perceived, is realised. When the object of knowledge is our true being or our true self, there is a special phenomenon of growth into our true being; it is not information about our true being, it is our inner enlargement by which the limitations of our egoistic consciousness are annulled, and there is the realisation of wideness, universality, and even transcendence; there is self-possession, there is self-knowledge. Knowledge about the self is aparā vidyā; knowledge that unveils the self, the knowledge that makes self revealed is parā vidyā. And Indian pedagogy has this distinct feature that the aim of its entire programme of education is to nourish the growth of the light by which we grow into our true being.

Knowledge and Information

There is, no doubt, the light of the senses and the light of the intellect; and through this light, too, the corresponding objects of knowledge, the corresponding multiplicity, become more and more known; but this knowledge increases our information and our intellectual riches regarding becomings, but not of the being. This is the character of the scientific or psychological or philosophical or ethical or aesthetic or worldly and practical knowledge. This informative knowledge helps us also to grow but in the realm of becoming and not of the being. If the highest learning is learning to be, then the appropriate method is the development, not of the light of senses or the light of

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Discrimination between the real and the unreal

the intellect, but of the light of profounder and higher faculties of intuition, revelation and inspiration as also of automatic discrimination between the real and the unreal, and between the real and the appearance. Indian pedagogy also recognises that sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge can be used as aids to arrive at self-knowledge. In that case, scientific knowledge can be used to get through the veil of processes and phenomena and see the one Reality behind which explains them all. Psychological knowledge can be used as an aid to know ourselves and to distinguish the lower from the higher, so that we can renounce the lower and we can enter and grow into the higher. Philosophical knowledge can be used as an aid when we turn it as a light upon the essential principles of existence so as to discover and live in that which is eternal. We can use ethical knowledge as an aid when through that knowledge we can distinguish the wrong from the right, and distinguish the evil from the good, and we put away the wrong and the evil and rise above into the pure innocence of the divine Nature. We can use the aesthetic knowledge as an aid so that we can discover by it the beauty of the universal and the transcendental, the beauty of the ineffable and of the formless that manifests through the mystery and wonder of the form. We can use the knowledge of the world as an aid when we see through it the way of the glory of the higher being and consciousness, and learn how that being deals with movements and affairs of the world, and we can use that knowledge for the service of the highest in man. Even then, they are merely aids. According to Indian pedagogy, the real knowledge is that which is intuitive and supramental, of which the mind gets various kinds of reflections.

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Jñāna from Within

According to the Indian pedagogy, we come to the true self-knowledge; we get first intimation of it from the men of knowledge who have seen, not those who merely by the intellect know its essential truths. The actuality of that knowledge comes from within ourselves; that knowledge grows within ourselves, and grows on as one goes on increasing in the state of equality, samatvam, in self-control, in commitment and vision of the highest reality and the highest aim of life. It is when one grows in the realm of values that the light of self-knowledge grows. In fact, it is this pedagogical truth that renders the truly Indian system of education inherently value-oriented. For it is through value-oriented consciousness that the inner light grows, and that light manifests in our dynamic nature as a state of equality that enables us to rise above the turmoil of our nature and makes us seated high above where the world can be seen as to a spectator and the world can be dealt with a mastery that is not deflected by partialities and preferences. In the Indian pedagogy, to know oneself is to be liberated from the limitations of the turmoil of our nature; that is why we have the dictum ─ sā vidyā yā vimuktaye ─ that is the true knowledge which leads us to liberation, liberation from the bondage to nature and to its limitations. Self-knowledge is the seat of wisdom, and Indian psychology regards it as self-existent, intuitive, self-experiencing, and self-revealing. We arrive at it more and more readily when we conquer and control our mind and senses, so that we become more and more free from subjection to their delusions. In the process, the mind and senses become pure reflecting vehicles. In the final analysis, education becomes a process of yoga when we are enabled to fix our inner conscious

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

being on the truth of that supreme reality in which all exists, so that it may display in us its luminous self-existence or that which transcends the limitations of description in terms of existence.

 Jñāna, vidyā, Parā vidyā

The words, Jñāna, vidyā and Parā vidyā are normally used interchangeably; but they seem to have, in certain contexts, special connotation and point of emphasis. Thus, the word Jñāna is often used when our primary concern of emphasis is related to the state of illumination obtained through the faculty of intuition. The word vidyā is often used when our primary concern of emphasis is related to unity and oneness of the object of knowledge. The phrase Parā vidyā is often used when our primary concern of emphasis is related to the context of various kinds and systems or branches of knowledge. From the pedagogical point of view, what is important to note is that Indian pedagogy has developed the methods and facilities to develop the faculty of intuition, in contrast to the methods and facilities to develop sense-experience and intellectual ratiocination, the methods and facilities to nurture the sense and experience of unity and oneness, ─ in contrast to the methods and facilities to nurture the sense and experience of multiplicity, and the methods and facilities for the growth of the sense and experience of transcendence of limitation inherent in varieties of systems of knowledge so as to arrive at the imperishable and ineffable, ─ in contrast to the sense and experience of all that can be sublated. Pedagogically, again, Indian experiments in education have striven to bridge and harmonise lines of growth of sense-experience, rationality and intuitive powers of the soul and spirit, of the experience of the multiplicity

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

and of the various domains of knowledge and transcendences as also comprehensive methods of synthesis.

Indian Pedagogy and Indian Quest of Knowledge

Indian pedagogy and Indian quest of knowledge, experience and realisation stimulated and influenced each other throughout the ages. Indian quest passed through three main stages before the period of exhaustion of the life-force overcame the process of development of the integrality of Indian culture. The first stage of the Indian quest was that of the efflorescence of the intuitive knowledge; next, the age of intuitive knowledge gave place to the age of rational knowledge, during which metaphysical philosophy reached great heights of subtlety and excellence, during the third stage, metaphysical philosophy gave way to experimental science. This process which seems to be a descent is really a circle of progress. For in each case, the lower faculty is compelled to take up as much as it can assimilate of what the higher had already given and to attempt to reestablish it by its own methods. By the attempt it is itself enlarged in its scope and arrives eventually at a more supple and a more ample self-accommodation to the higher faculties. Without this succession and attempt at separate assimilation, we should be obliged to remain under the exclusive domination of a part of our nature, while the rest remained either depressed and unduly subjected or suppressed in its field and therefore poor in its development. With this succession and separate attempt, the balance is righted; a more complete harmony of our parts of knowledge is prepared.

The development of Indian culture and the transmission

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Spiritual genius of Indian culture

of that culture from generation to generation played a major part in Indian pedagogy. Indian culture had reached over millennia great heights, not only in the fields of spiritual and philosophic domains, but also in the fields of science, technology, aesthetics and sociology, polity and other fields of life, pragmatism and administration and conquest. Spirituality is indeed the master-key of the Indian mind, and spiritual genius of Indian culture had moulded Indian pedagogy right from the beginning. India's first period of the known history was luminous with the discovery of the Spirit. Her second period completed the discovery of the dharma. Her third elaborated into detail the first simpler formulation of the shastra; but none was exclusive, the three elements were always present. An ingrained and dominant spirituality, inexhaustible vital creativeness and gust of life, and a powerful, penetrating and scrupulous intelligence combined with the rational, ethical, and aesthetic mind, ─ these three created the harmony of a great part of the unbroken history of Indian culture. If India's spiritual disciplines, philosophies and her long list of great spiritual personalities, thinkers, founders, saints are her greatest glory, they are by no means her sole glories. It is now proved that India had gone farther than any other country before the modern era in the field of science, and even Europe owes the beginning of her physical science to India as much as to Greece, although not directly but through the medium of the Arabs. Specially in mathematics, astronomy and chemistry, the chief elements of ancient science, India discovered and formulated much and well anticipated by force of reasoning and experiments some of the scientific ideas and discoveries which Europe arrived

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

For three thousand years, India created abundantly and incessantly

at much later, but was able to base more firmly by her new and completer method. India was well equipped in surgery and her system of medicine survives to this day and has still its value. The mere mass of intellectual periods extending from the period of Ashoka well into the Mohammedan epoch is something truly prodigious. There is no historical parallel of such an intellectual labour and activity before the invention of printing and the facilities of modern science. All this colossal literature was not confined to philosophy and theology, religion and yoga but extended into the fields of logic and rhetoric and grammar and linguistics, poetry and drama, astronomy, mathe-matics, various sciences and medicine. This intellectual literature embraced all life, politics and society, various arts from painting to dancing, and even such practical minutiae as the breeding and training of horses and elephants, each of which had its shastra and its art, its apparatus of technical terms, its copious literature. For three thousand years at least, India created abundantly and incessantly. This creativity was many-sided and led to the development of republic, kingdoms and empires, philosophies and cosmogonies and sciences and creeds and arts and poems and all kinds of monuments, palaces, temples and public works, communities and societies and religious orders, laws and codes and rituals, physical sciences, psychic sciences, systems of yoga, systems of politics and administration, arts spiritual, arts worldly, trades, industries and fine arts. This vast canvas of Indian culture continued to be transmitted from one age to another, and this process of transmission contributed greatly to the development of Indian pedagogy. We must confess that a good deal of

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

research is required to ascertain more precisely and accurately the methods which were employed by Indian pedagogy to keep the Indian frontiers of knowledge constantly expanding and constantly transmitted. And this research is important because, as in no other country, India still requires to transmit the cultural heritage of an unbroken history of many-sided development that goes back to more than three or four thousand years. When this research matures, we shall be able to enlarge, alter and even revolutionise our present methods of teaching and learning and renew our pedagogy for greater tasks that lie ahead of us.

Macaulayan System of Education

From the thirteenth century or fourteenth century onwards, however, the Indian quest became weary and it reached a point of disastrous decline when the British arrived on the scene and disturbed totally our indigenous system of education and imposed on
us an unfamiliar pedagogy. Macaulayan system of education grew, and it has become so hardened that in spite of great efforts at the recovery of Indian pedagogy, we find it extremely difficult to develop and establish in our country the real soul of the Indian pedagogy and its new and progressive forms.

This is the stage where we find ourselves today, groping in bewilderment and thwarted in our efforts by the rigidity of the system and the load it has accumulated of obstruction and mechanisation.

In fact, the problem is very serious, and a good deal of research is required before we can find the right direction and the right remedies to the maladies of our present system of education. As a part of this research,

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

we have to recognise that the greatness of the Indian system of education, during the periods when it proved to be more fruitful in producing great and multisided systems of knowledge, in developing profound and inspiring systems of conduct and character building, in creating economic, social, political and stable systems of civilisation, stability and prosperity, and in providing unfailing heroism and power of triumph in various directions, as also in creating inspiring multisided forms of art, literature and other aesthetic and pulsating activities, we shall find that there were the following elements which were dynamically operative.

Chief Elements of Indian Pedagogy

Firstly, and centrally, there was what may be called a comprehensive science of living. This science was a result of a long and detailed experimentation with the truths of life, mind and spirit as also with the truths of the relationship between Matter and Spirit. This science of living was that of self-knowledge and self-control. This science provided the basic ground for the art of life which aimed at development of value-oriented integral personality.

The science was also based on the knowledge of the physical world as also of the worlds of life and mind. This knowledge embraced the knowledge of what was called the fourth world, the world of Right and the Truth, the world of ritam and satyam. This knowledge was also based on the discovery of what was called “the golden immortal, who is seated within the cave of the inner heart”. Finally, this knowledge had profound basis in the study of righteousness and of the secrets of self-mastery and of the conditions in which peace of the

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

inner being can be perpetually held in the body, life and mind. The Tattiriya Upanishad gives us, in brief, the quintessence of this science and art of living in brief but instructive terms.

Secondly, there was a great emphasis on the study of the secrets of Speech, which provided powerful grounding in the study of languages.

Spiritual, philosophical and scientific knowledge

Thirdly, there was a harmonious blending in the courses of studies in the spiritual knowledge, philosophical knowledge, and scientific knowledge. In the harmony of the blending, the scientific spirit did not conflict with the philosophic spirit and the philosophic spirit was recognised as a prelude to the training by which intuitive spiritual knowledge can be gained and mastered.

Fourthly, physical education was widespread, and the development of health and the strength of the body were constantly nourished and developed under the illuminating dictum that body is verily the instrument of the achievement and realisation of the highest ideals. (shariram ādyam khalu dharma sādhanam).

Fifthly, a number of specialised studies were developed and imparted. Starting with grammar, prosody and astronomy, the field covered science and art of healing and longevity (ayurveda), science and art of aesthetic creativity such as drama, music and dance (gandharva shastra), science and art of warfare (dhanurveda), and science and art of prosperity, constructive and well-established infra-structure of civilisational stability (arthaveda, vastu shastra, etc.).

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

There was an emphasis on a comprehensive understanding of various domains of knowledge, their inter-relationship, and the methods by which unified knowledge can be gained.

Sixthly, there was an emphasis on specialisation against the background of general  holism and  unity  of  knowledge as also against the background of sixty-four arts.4

4.  Sixty-four Arts mentioned by Vatsyayana in his Kamasutra

  1. Singing
  2. Playing on musical instruments
  3. Dancing
  4. Union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental music
  5. Writing and drawing
  6. Tattooing
  7. Arraying and adorning an idol with rice and flowers
  8. Spreading and arranging beds or couches of flowers, or flowers upon the ground
  9. Colouring the teeth, garments, hair, nails and bodies, i.e. staining, dyeing, colouring and painting the same
  10. Fixing stained glass into a floor
  11. The art of making beds, and spreading out carpets and cushions for reclining
  12. Playing on musical glasses filled with water
  13. Storing and accumulating water in aqueducts, cisterns and reservoirs;
  14. Picture making, trimming and decorating
  15. Stringing of rosaries, necklaces, garlands and wreaths
  16. Binding of turbans and chaplets and making crests and top-knots of flowers
  17. Scenic representations, stage playing
  18. Art of making ear ornaments
  19. Art of preparing perfumes and odours
  20. Proper disposition of jewels and decorations, and adornment in dress;
  21. Magic or sorcery
  22. Quickness of hand or manual skill
  23. Culinary art, i.e. cooking and cookery
  24. Making lemonades, sherbets, acidulated drinks, and spirituous extracts with proper flavour and colour
  25. Tailor's work and sewing
  26. Making parrots, flowers, tufts, tassels, bunches, bosses, knobs, etc., out of yarn or thread
Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Seventhly, a constant emphasis was laid on the study of human psychology, human history, and classical literature with a deliberate effort to provide education of the inner soul through poetry, art, and music, ─ all set in the atmosphere of the harmony between the human and physical nature that uplifted the aspiration of the individual to attain states of universality, oneness and transcendence.

  1. Solution of riddles, enigmas, covert speeches, verbal puzzles and enigmatical questions
  2. A game, which consisted in repeating verses, and as one person finished, another person had to commence at once, repeating another verse, beginning with the same letter with which the last speaker's verse ended, whoever failed to repeat was considered to have lost, and to be subject to pay a forfeit or stake of some kind
  3. The art of mimicry or imitation
  4. Reading, including chanting and intoning
  5. Study of sentences difficult to pronounce. It is played as a game chiefly by women and children and consists of a difficult sentence being given, and when repeated quickly, the words are often transposed or badly pronounced
  6. Practice with sword, single stick, quarter staff and bow and arrow
  7. Drawing inferences, reasoning or inferring
  8. Carpentry, or the work of a carpenter
  9. Architecture, or the art of building
  10. Knowledge about gold and silver coins, and jewels and gems
  11. Chemistry and mineralogy
  12. Colour jewels, gems and beads
  13. Knowledge of mines and quarries
  14. Gardening; knowledge of treating the diseases of trees and plants, of nourishing them, and determining their ages
  15. Art of cock fighting, quail fighting and ram fighting
  16. Art of teaching parrots and starlings to speak
  17. Art of applying perfumed ointments to the body, and of dressing the hair with unguents and perfumes and braiding it
  18. The art of understanding writing in cipher, and the writing of words in a peculiar way
  19. The art of speaking by changing the forms of words. It is of various kinds. Some speak by changing the beginning and end of words, others by adding unnecessary letters between every syllable of a word, and so on
Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Maladies due to Macaulayan System

We need to revisit of these elements that gave distinctness to Indian pedagogy, and we need to give to our country a scheme of education that would be appropriate to the soul of Indian pedagogy and which at the same time would be relevant to the progressive demands of today and tomorrow. While doing so, we shall need to diagnose more properly maladies that have been created by the Macaulayan system of education in India. Macaulay has succeeded in

  1. Knowledge of language and of the vernacular dialects
  2. Art of making flower carriages
  3. Art of framing mystical diagrams, of addressing spells and charms, and binding armlets
  4. Mental exercises, such as completing stanzas or verses on receiving a part of them; or supplying one, two or three lines when the remaining lines are given indiscriminately from different verses, so as to make the whole an entire verse with regard to its meaning; or arranging the words of a consonants, or leaving them out altogether; or putting into verse or prose sentences represented by signs or symbols. There are many other such exercises
  5. Composing poems
  6. Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies
  7. Knowledge of ways of changing and disguising the appearance of persons
  8. Knowledge of the art of changing the appearance of things, such as making cotton to appear as silk, coarse and common things to appear as fine and good
  9. Various ways of gambling
  10. Art of obtaining possession of the property of others by means of mantras or incantations
  11. Skill in youthful sports
  12. Knowledge of the rules of society, and of how to pay respect and compliments to others
  13. Knowledge of the art of war, of arms, of armies, etc.
  14. Knowledge of gymnastics
  15. Art of knowing the character of a man from his features
  16. Knowledge of scanning or constructing verses
  17. Arithmetical recreations
  18. Making artificial flowers
  19. Making figures and images in clay
Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Poetry, Music and Art, constitute the perfect education of the human soul

demolishing the Indian art and science of living, it has succeeded in creating in our mind the inability to recovery of that special kind of scientific spirit that was sustained by high intellectual and philosophical culture and by the aspiration and power of climbing the peaks of higher levels of spiritual consciousness; and by knocking off Sanskrit from the mainstream of education, we have been robbed of the power to recover our true cultural heritage and of our power of assimilation, creativity and synthesis. Macaulayan system has enfeebled us physically, vitally, mentally and spiritually. It has omitted from our educational programme those arts and sciences which can make our body strong and healthy, which can make our vital being heroic and courageous, and our mental being subtle, complex and comprehensive. Philosophy, which was for long a part of the cultural education in our country, accessible even to the rustic, has been flung aside to such remoteness that even highly trained scientific and other professionals remain strangers to this noble pursuit which fostered love of wisdom. It has also omitted from our scheme of education those venues through which great quests of knowledge and effectivity can be stimulated. Our educational heights and horizons have been narrowed down to the study of English and to the study of other subjects, namely, mathematics, science, history and miscellaneous pursuits of other natural and human sciences. Astronomy, which was the great achievement of Indian scientific spirit, has been so eclipsed that our students and teachers remain blissfully ignorant of the vastness and wonder of the universe. Neglect of astronomy has also resulted in our inadequacy to appreciate the root-importance of the

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Need to Develop a New Programme of Educational Research

study of mathematics and physical sciences. History is being taught within a narrow compass, and we fail to give to our students a true account of the human adventure and human thrill to explore and conquer vast stretches of psychological space and time. Poetry, Music and Art, which constitute the perfect education of the human soul, has no place in our educational curriculum, except at the peripheral boundaries. We have come to believe that to be educated is to be educated basically in five subjects prescribed in the Macaulayan scheme of education and that all that falls outside that limited scheme can be neglected altogether or can be prescribed to be cultivated during leisure hours, which are hardly available under the present circumstances of our daily life. We need to give to our self a new scheme of education.

This is where we stand today, and we need to explore, in greater detail, truths of Indian pedagogy and we need to initiate a new programme of educational research. New models need to be rapidly developed, and for that process, various workshops need to be organised continuously and effectively.

Nothing that is presented here is more than tentative and nothing presented here is more than indicative of the need to explore and to undertake new programmes of relevant research. Our aim should be to create for our country a new system of national education, rooted in the fundamentals of Indian pedagogy, which, when properly explored, will be found capable of providing to us today new and progressive forms that would respond to the highest needs of humanity's goals of integral fulfillment.

Philosophy of Indian Pedagogy

Back to Content