As we pass through an era that is witnessing weakening of sincere, committed and selfless pursuit of new knowledge, a course correction is needed. Who else can guide us better in this endeavour than Swami Vivekananda?
The current state of Indian education system is a cause of concern on various fronts. It is very clearly visible in most learned narrations on education. It is indeed intriguing, and even amazing, that the real concern is not new it is practically the same as it was articulated by Swami Vivekananda over a 100 years ago: “Education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strengthen and character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.”
That the current education system is weak on this front is universally known. It needs new insights and ideas. Every effort undertaken to reform the education sector be it education policy, programmes, implementation strategy or articulation of outcomes can derive immense benefit from the vision and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda.
Rabindranath Tagore once told French writer Romain Rolland: “If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative.” Even today, if someone wishes to understand the Indian tradition of knowledge quest, its systems of creating, generating, disseminating and utilising knowledge, there would be no better resource and support than to read Vivekananda on what all he said about education, its goals, objectives, relationship to the growth of civilisations, human advancement and welfare of the people.
It would also indicate how and why the Indian civilisation advanced far ahead of others in comprehending the basics of human existence on planet Earth; queries on/before life and after life! Their contemplation was deep enough to let them internalise spirituality, human values and what could be the best and satisfying for any human being during his sojourn on earth. No one other than Swami Vivekananda has articulated with such a deep understanding the rise and downfall of India, the subjugation of its history, culture and heritage as a result of planned efforts to destabilise its time-tested traditional yet dynamic education system. Swami was active in a period characterised by rampant poverty, hunger, demoralisation of a slave nation, and people resigned to their fate.
The British had successfully achieved an attitudinal transformation amongst the English-educated Indian elite who were overwhelmed by the superiority of the West in every aspect, right from knowledge to culture to social systems! When Swami Vivekananda appeared on the scene, people were hesitant to even talk about independence. India needed someone to give a wakeup call; let people realise who they are; what they were missing; how they have been deprived not only of their material affluence but also of the sense of pride in their culture and heritage. Most importantly, how their minds have been made to drift away from their own people, people who were reduced to live in inhuman conditions, who had lost the will to resist injustice and humiliation. If resurgence was ever conceivable, it needed a messiah who knew India and Indians!
And knowing India was no easy task in view of the country’s diversity of every conceivable variety in men and material, spiritual and religious pursuits and systems of governance and delivering justice. Swamiji travelled across the nook and corner of the country, and what he saw, convinced him about the inherent unity of the Indian nation and its people. He also realised how India could play a leading role on the global stage in efforts to create a world of social cohesion and human dignity.
A well-known instance of comprehending and then connecting India is that of Adi Sankaracharya. He realised the need to travel around, and in his short sojourn on the planet Earth, he established shrines that strengthened the unity of minds of the people and also of the regions and places. One can also recall another example how Gopal Krishna Gokhale had advised Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to ‘know India’ before beginning work in India after all the name and fame he had already earned in South Africa. He dutifully travelled every nook and corner of the country and developed an understanding that could not be matched by any of his political associates in freedom struggle.
Author, Jemma Barsby is living in United States. Jemma Barsby is part of our authors community since