Indian Council of Philosophical Research
of Value-Oriented Education
Prof. Murli Manohar Joshi
Hon’ble Union Minister of Human Resource Development
Science & Technology and Ocean Development
Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi
January 18, 2002
Prof. Chattopadhyaya, Prof. Kireet Joshi, Prof. Rajendra Prasad, Prof. Pradhan, distinguished philosophers, educationists, teachers, experts and friends.
Let me begin with the pregnant paradox stated in the Kenopanishad, which is directly relevant to all philosophers, scientists, educationists and other seekers of knowledge:
yasyamatam tasya matam matam yasya na veda sah |
avijnatam vijnatam vijnatamavijnatam ||
“He by whom It is not thought out, has the thought of It; he by whom It is thought out, knows It not. It is unknown to the discernment of those who discern of It, by those who seek not to discern of It, it is discerned.”
May I suggest that this paradoxical statement deserves deep reflection and contemplation, since it contains the secret of the culminating point of the ontology of Being, epistemology of Object, and axiology of Value, which are the essential subjects of your extremely important seminar.
I believe that this is the first occasion when the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) has envisaged a series of seminars on the Philosophy of Value-Oriented Education, and I take this to be a sign of a welcome response to the contemporary India’s imperative need to provide the dimension of value to our educational system. For it is only when philosophers awake and lead that the foundations begin to be built, and without foundations no programme of education that aims at a major innovation can hope for a secure guidance and lasting fruition. Let me, therefore, congratulate the ICPR for its initiative, as also all the distinguished philosophers and educationists who have assembled here.
Education is intrinsically and by definition value-oriented. To speak, therefore, of value-oriented education is, in a sense, tautologous. In fact, education is a subset of a larger setting of culture, and culture consists of cultivation of faculties and powers pertaining to reason, ethics and aesthetics in the light of the pursuit of values of Truth, Beauty and Goodness (satyam, sivam, sundaram). Culture also consists of infusing the influences of this pursuit into physical and vital impulses, so as to refine them and sublimate them to the highest possible degrees, and to transmit the resultant fund of experience through various modes of expression, including those of poetry, music, dance, drama, art, architecture, and craft. The height of a culture is to be judged by the depth and height that are reached in terms of an ascending process of harmonisation and, in that process, development of quest of spiritual inspiration and revelation and their manifestation in various domains of physical life. Every developed culture, therefore, inspires methodologies of transmission of accumulated normative lessons of culture to succeeding generations, and this process of transmission is greatly secured by a process of education which, in turn, discovers and implements a more and more ripened system of acceleration of progress. Thus, the basic thrust of culture and education is inevitably value-oriented.
The question that arises as to why we are then obliged to think of value-oriented education. The answer is that there have intervened, during the last 200 years and more, certain factors that have retarded the right upward impulses of culture and education. This has happened all over the world, and everywhere there is a new awakening today to infuse value-oriented both in culture and in education.
In India, we can see that since the eighteenth century, and even before that, there came about the decline of intellectual activity and freedom, the waning of great ideals, the loss of the gust of life, and, even in the moral and spiritual life, the rise of excessive ritualism. Public life began to become more and more irreligious, egoistic, and self-seeking. This entire process became accentuated by three factors, which can be summed up in terms of influences emerging from Macaulay, Materialism and Mercantile barbarism.
As is very well-known, Macaulay had explicitly stated the purpose of the education system that was introduced under his initiative by the British in India, namely, to create a “class Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and intellect” who would be interpreters between the British and the teeming millions that they ruled. Unfortunately, the scheme of education that was introduced has even now continued to persist with peripheral modifications. If we examine that scheme objectively, and in the light of the basic foundations of Indian culture, we shall find that it knocked off four main elements with perilous consequences. First of all, it eliminated the study of poetry, music and art, which constitutes perfect education of the soul; secondly, it eliminated the study of philosophy, dharma and spiritual knowledge ¾ three elements which are the supreme components of the Indian heritage; thirdly, while it introduced some elements of world history and world geography and modern science, it presented the dominant British view of history and disturbed the Indian view of science, which always looked upon scientific inquiry as a part of the holistic quest in which Science, Philosophy and Yoga had a sound system of interrelationship; and fourthly, it omitted altogether physical education and skills of art and craft and others related to science of living, which were kept alive in India throughout the ages. What has been lost in terms of pedagogy and richness of contents of knowledge and skills has still not been remedied, and urgent steps are necessary to review the entire scheme so that we can provide to our students a genuine national system of education, which is at the same time open to the benefits of modern knowledge and modern ideals of progress towards Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
The advent of the British rule in India coincided with the high tide of modern science in the West, and along with it the extensive spread of materialism ¾ a phenomenon of mixed blessings. While science and scientific spirit are deep rooted in the genius of India, materialism does not fit very well with the Indian ethos, although material poverty was never a national ideal, and abundance of wealth was a high achievement of Indian culture, until our economy was greatly shattered by the British policy.
It is mistakenly supposed that science and materialism are logically interrelated with each other, even though the triumph of physical sciences has tended to emphasise materialistic approach to knowledge and reality. In any case, the Macaulayan scheme of education does not provide the kind of scientific rigour, which is manifested in the Indian history of scientific knowledge; nor does it promote that avenue of inquiry by which the limitations of materialism can be understood and overcome.
Materialism has promoted what can be called mercantile barbarism, and that too, even in the setting of a science-based civilisation. It is barbarism because its gospel is to support and aggrandise the needs of physical life, and it seeks triumph of consumerism, which can be sustained only by supporting an unjust economic and social order, environmental disasters and by inducing people to remain confined to a perpetual bondage to increasing physical wants. We have today for the entire human race a possibility to be uplifted to a higher and nobler way of life and to an order of unity and harmony, but mercantilism compels competition and strife, and we see today the horror of terrorism spreading on a global scale. We speak of globalisation today, but the dominant quest today is the quest of global markets and not the quest of global brotherhood.
The issues that confront us relate not only to promote education widely and universally, but also what kind of education, so that India can recover her true spirit and it is empowered to stand out in the world as a leader of the future, in spirituality and science, in philosophy and art and in all fields of professions and occupations so as to be opulent and prosperous capable of fostering universal culture of peace, harmony and world-unity. For this aim to be fulfilled we need to liberate our educational system from the Macaulayan mould, we need to deal with materialism both scientifically and philosophically, as also morally and spiritually, and we need to combat forces of barbarism, ignorance and division so as to inspire among the youth a burning quest for wisdom and courage, for excellence in works and skills, and for universality and all that contributes to individual and collective perfection.
One of the best means of achieving these goals is the task that we have begun earnestly during the last few years ¾ the task of Value-Oriented education.
The task is difficult and enormous, but there are several favourable circumstances which can aid us and encourage us to undertake this task and accomplish it.
We must first take into account the fact that during the freedom struggle, five greatest leaders of modern India, who were also educationists, challenged the British system of education and developed powerful philosophies of education so as to provide to the students not only the lessons of the Indian heritage but also to prepare them for the future greatness of India. The first leonine call came from Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati who went back to the Vedic foundations and put forth a system of education that would reform India and make it progressive. He inspired the Gurukula system of education and underlined the great role of the teacher in uplifting the talent and character of the pupil. The second great effort was that of Swami Vivekananda who spoke of man-making education and, accepting Vedantic knowledge as the base, and acknowledging the truth of every religion and a synthesis of yoga, he opened the gates of the future before the youths, filling them with a new spirit of inspiration, heroism and dynamic action. Another line of educational experiment was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi, who emphasised the training of the Hand, Heart and Head, overarched by the values of Truth, Non-Violence, Self-Control, Non-Covetousness and Renunciation, as also equal respect towards all religions and life of simplicity that aims at reconstruction and reform of rural, social, and political organisations based on equality, empowerment of the weak and the oppressed, decentralisation and brotherhood. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet of modern India, established at Shantiniketan an experimental Institution for a new aim and mode of education where the beauty and sublimity of Nature can serve as a living partner of teaching and learning and where the values of poetry, music and art can vibrate in the rhythms of life of the development of personality and mingling of cultures of Asia and of the world that would promote internationalism and world-citizenship, and universal fraternity that transcends all divisions of race and religion in the Religion of Man. And there arose also the Nationalist call of ‘Bande Mataram’ that gave birth to the movement of the National System of Education with the aim of recreating the ancient Indian Spirit that was at once spiritual, intellectual, scientific, artistic and productive, and empowered now with new vigour to assimilate all that is new and progressive and to create new forms of expression and synthesis of powers of personality and knowledge and harmony of the East and the West. Sri Aurobindo formulated the philosophy of this system in 1909 and developed it further in subsequent decades so as to embody the light and power of the Synthesis of Yoga and a programme of integral transformation of human life on the earth that would lead the evolution of Nature into the birth of a new humanity and superhumanity.
All these initiatives and experiments have been bold and great and inspiring, and all of them are still in various stages of growth and development; great lessons have to be learnt from these experiments, and we have here a great fund of educational research that can guide us in the tasks of value-oriented education and of the entire transformation of our educational system.
We have also a favourable climate being created by some of the progressive experiments in the West, such as those promoted by Pestalozzi, Montessori, Bertrand Russell and others; the trend is towards child-centred education, and the basic idea is that the individual is not merely a social unit, but a soul, a being, who has to fulfil his own individual truth and law as well as his natural or his assigned part in the truth and law of the collective existence. Happily, this Western idea agrees at its root with the profoundest and highest spiritual conceptions of Asia and it can easily play a great role in harmonising our national effort at reconstruction of education with similar efforts in the West.
In this task, UNESCO’s initiatives are also helpful. The two great reports: Learning to Be brought out in 1971 and Learning: Treasure Within brought out in 1996 have underlined education for values of international understanding, peace and integral development of personality. Emphasis on Complete Education for the Complete Human Being and on four pillars of learning, viz., Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Live With Others, and Learning to Be, points to the need for a radical paradigm shift impelling all-round reforms in aims, contents and methods of education, as also of the system of examination, evaluation and certification.
In the wide sweep of values which are incontrovertibly admitted universally are those contained in the Declaration of Human Rights as also those in the Declaration of Human Responsibilities. Nearer home, we have also a remarkable and unique declaration in our own Constitution under Article 51 A of Fundamental Duties, which I believe, if implemented in full ¾ as we have resolved to do ¾ we shall have secure guidance as to what values we have to promote in our educational system, so that all citizens can be empowered to fulfil their duties.
Contemporary explosion of information and increasing spread of sophisticated information technology have brought forth deeper issues of education and educational methodology, in the context of which value-oriented education assumes wider dimensions. Not only open system of education can now become very effective, but it will also open new channels of communication of the message of value-oriented education, since they can be at once adapted to the needs of the individual and of groups and masses. At a higher dimension, one question that will have to be answered is of the ways and means to ensure that knowledge does not get lost in information, and wisdom does not get lost in knowledge. I believe that more and more we shall have to address ourselves to the question that the Upanishad had raised, viz., what is that knowing which everything can be known? (yasmin vijnate sarvam vijnatam bhavati). For advancement of knowledge demands methods by which knowledge can be summed up and possessed in a state of self-possession. In this context, it may also be suggested that value-oriented education should ultimately issue from and result in the knowledge of what can be described as all-embracing Self and universal Reality.
This brings us to the deepest questions that are relevant to this Seminar: questions as to what is Reality and what is the relationship between Reality and Value. And closely related are the questions of pursuit of science and pursuit of reality, and its relationship with the quest of philosophy. And underlying these questions is the question of scientific cognition and philosophical cognition, and in general, the question of the nature and potentialities of Consciousness. These are difficult questions, and I am sure that ICPR will need to organise a series of seminars to deal with these questions; or else along with these seminars, these questions will need to be taken up by eminent philosophers like my friend, Professor D. P. Chattopadhyaya, who has undertaken a very laudable project of Consciousness, Science, Society, Value and Yoga. For the present purpose, I shall make only a few brief remarks. Science, like philosophy, aims at grasping, in its own way and through its own methods, the nature of the Ultimate Reality. During the last hundred years, science has crossed rapidly several horizons, and we are now in the presence of a situation where not only Newton, but even Einstein stands over-passed in many ways. When we study the findings of recent physicists like Louis de Broglie, Schrödinger, David Bohm and others, we feel in the presence of a Great Shift and new paradigm. Michael Talbot speaks of reality of the sub atomic particle as “omnijective”, an inseparable combination of the subject and the object of knowledge. The astonishing implications of Bell’s Theorem is that “at a deep and fundamental level, the separate parts of the universe are connected in an intimate and immediate way.” We recall that a hundred years ago, the great Indian scientist, Jagdish Chandra Bose, had demonstrated the unity of matter, life and mind, and had demolished the mechanistic view of the universe. And now, the discovery made by Bell has further reiterated that the Cartesian-Newtonian approach is no more tenable.
Study of quantum mechanics has also shown that not only superluminal connections exist but also they can be used in a controllable way to communicate messages. This study has profound implications for the philosophy of materialism, and therefore, for the materialistic system of values that counsels us to work or enjoy under the impulsions of a material energy which deceives us with a brief delusion of life or with the nobler delusion of an ethical aim and a mental consummation. It appears that the modern science is preparing itself to overcome its preoccupation with Matter so as to look upon the phenomenon of Consciousness with fresh eyes.
Philosophy, which is today highly dominated by Science is also likely to undergo a major change and enlarge itself in its scope so as to admit the phenomena of Consciousness, which are now being studied more and more at the level of microcosm as also at the level of macrocosm. In this light, it will not be difficult for philosophy to detect the logical error of Materialism involved in its attempt to derive from the premise that Matter is real, the conclusion that Matter alone is real. The circularity of the argument becomes obvious and is rendered invalid. As Sri Aurobindo points out:
“This vulgar or rustic error of our corporeal organs does not gain in validity by being promoted into the domain of philosophical reasoning. Obviously, their pretension is unfounded. Even in the world of Matter there are existences of which the physical senses are incapable of taking cognisance. Yet the denial of the suprasensible as necessarily an illusion or a hallucination depends on this constant sensuous association of the real with the materially perceptible, which is itself a hallucination. Assuming throughout what it seeks to establish, it has the vice of the argument in a circle and can have no validity for an impartial reasoning.”1
At the stage at which we stand today, the recent advances in the field of knowledge provide us sounder foundations for the philosophy of value and philosophy of value-oriented education. Already great scientists and philosophers of science have begun to acknowledge the need to bridge the gulf between science and value, just as there is a need to bridge the gulf between art and value. It is recognised that the development of science should be supplemented by enormous development of the value of human kindness. Bertrand Russell has pointed out that there are two ancient evils that science, unwisely used, may intensify: they are tyranny and war. His counsel to mankind is to avoid “Cruelty, envy, greed, competitiveness, search for irrational subjective certainty, and what Freudians call Death-Wish.” He further points out the remedy in the following words:
“The root of the matter is very simple and old fashioned thing…the thing I mean – please forgive me for mentioning it¾is love, Christian love or compassion.”
Recently, Piet Hut in one of his papers (1995) stated:
“Science that does not have any ethical implication can be useful, but cannot claim in any way to describe all of reality, since clearly some form of ethics is part of our world of experience.”
What emerges from the foregoing is that the programme of value-oriented education should emphasise the relationship between Science and Value. In our presentation of values, we do not need to be prescriptive; we should encourage methods of explorations. As we explore deeper and deeper, we shall find that there are values which are relative and subjective; but we shall also find that there is in us a dimension of Value and that this is an undeniable objective fact. There is also the fact that the more one advances in the theory and practice of Value, the more is one obliged to overcome selfishness, egoism and subjectivity, and the more is one led to the discovery of the Categorical Imperative, the criterion of which is translatable in some kind of objectivity and universality, as Kant showed, although not entirely satisfactorily, and as shown by the Bhagavad-Gita in its concept of lokasangraha. What we call good actions can be relative, and our judgement about them can be subjective; but there can be no denial that, objectively speaking, the highest goodwill for the highest good of all is the highest conceivable Value. To my mind, the first and the last message of value-oriented education should be to develop among all the highest Goodwill, siva sankalpam.
Let me conclude with a prayer of the Yajurveda, which describes the highest psychological powers and prays for the infusion in them of the Goodwill:
yajjagrato duramudaiti daivam tadu suptasya tathaivaiti |
durangamam jyogisam jyotirekam tarume manah sivasankalpamastu ||
“The mind, irrespective of whether one is awake or asleep, travels to far distant corners; this far distant-moving mind is the light of lights. May that mind of mine be filled with Goodwill.”
© ICPR, New Delhi, 2002
1 Sri Aurobindo : The Life Divine, Centenary Edition, Vol. 18, pp. 17-18.