Thursday, 25 May 2017

Education, Education, Education...

I am sorry I have not written anything these last three months. Various matters have been involving my time, but today, in the wake of the Manchester disaster, the matter of education came to mind. 

Below is a message on the subject of education, given by a leading spiritual lady in India, and which I have just received. Yes, it is addressed to the Indian community, but in my view, the nature of the topic is relevant to us all in the world. It is about the two-part aspect of education: as a basis for (1) values and (2) of information. These days we seem to concentrate on the latter part, somehow believing that economic growth is the only part that matters. I somehow think that if we had learnt more about values we would not be putting Planet Earth through its pain.

I believe that the point in this essay is hugely important for the whole world.

N.B. This essay refers to a few Sanskrit terms which
should be understandable in the context of what is being written.

Divine Mother Srimad Sai Rajarajeshwari Amma talks on the ancient and modern education system of India and the drawbacks of the modern education system. Mother has also given valuable advice, guidance and suggestions to the educationists for reformation of the present educational system in our country.

Education is of two types - para and apara; i.e. for living and for life. The uniqueness of ancient Indian education system has focussed on both these aspects and has provided for all-round development in the student. In fact our ancient Indian education system set an example to the whole world as to how an ideal education should be.

In ancient days, education or vidya was considered and treated as very sacred. In fact in India, the first step of the child's education begins with a ritual called ''Akshara abhyasa". The first letter the child is made to write is the sacred letter 'Om' and then the blessing of Goddess Saraswathi, who is the goddess of knowledge, the dispeller of ignorance, is invoked.

The Gurukula system of education prevailed in the earlier days. The bond between the guru and shishya was built on the edifice of respect, discipline, devotion, obedience and surrender on the part of the student and love, selflessness, sacrifice and genuine concern on the part of the guru.

The primary focus and emphasis in this system of education had always been the moral development of the child along with procurement of knowledge. When the child enters the gurukulam, the guru takes the child completely in his fold, identifies the negative traits in him and then aims at imparting training to eliminate all these negative tendencies; similar to the way a gardener removes the weeds around a young sampling first, which otherwise is detrimental to the healthy growth of the plant and later nourishes and nurtures it. This is exactly how the gurus would mould the young disciples. The parents too keenly desired that their children should tread the path of righteousness. The common aim of the parents and the gurus would be that after the child completes his education, he is transformed into a good human being and a noble citizen of the country.

Eventually though the gurukula system faded, the basic principles of value education still continued in our country in the early part of the century. A peaceful atmosphere prevailed in the educational institutions, fees were not exorbitant, healthy competitions prevailed among the students. There was less of external distractions. Healthy and cordial relations existed between teachers and students and therefore students freely expressed their feelings to the teachers and parents. The students only desired to attain good marks and enrich their knowledge. The students were not under any pressure from the teachers and the parents and had the freedom to pursue their interests. Physical exercise, sports and games were a part of the curriculum and made compulsory. It was thus ensured that every day the student is involved in some physical activity. Good coaching and a combination of mental discipline and physical activity helped in improving student's concentration and enabled him to score well. The concept of tuitions and coaching classes were not prevalent at all. It is this harmonious atmosphere in all respects that helped the students to succeed academically without any tension, anxiety and stress either to himself or to his parents. When students graduated from such educational institutions they were not only well qualified but also had developed, self-confidence, strong will power, self-reliance and other good traits. They were placed in high profile jobs, were successful professionally and many went abroad to pursue further studies too. Thus on the whole, the all round personality of the student was completely developed, morally, physically, academically and emotionally.

Now, where does the present educational system in India stand? Divine Mother Srimad Sai Rajarajeshwari Amma is deeply saddened with the current state of our educational system. The sacred knowledge or vidya is sadly being commercialised.

Today's educational institution are aiming to become profit making centre. The sanctity of this ''temple of learning'' is lost and forgotten. They have become commercial establishments where prominence is given to Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The educational institutions today which are centres of learning have failed to recognise the greatness and reverence for the goddess of knowledge. Then what kind of products can one expect to emerge from such institutions?

These institutions are more superficial and lay emphasis on external parameters like dress code etc rather than on code of conduct. In fact some of the institutions themselves entertain malpractices.

The present day education is trying to adopt the western system as a result of which the child at a very young age is overloaded with too many subjects to study. Computer education is introduced in the schools at a very early stage which is not required at that age. This causes strain on the mental capacity of the child, the after effects of which may surface at a later stage. Not only that they are overburdened by such impositions, they are exposed to the side effects of radiation from this electronic gadgets; it also weakens their vision and has an effect on the nervous system. Amma says it does not mean they should not be taught computers, but has to be introduced at an appropriate age.

Amma has given a beautiful example in this context. If a washing machine is run with clothes more than its loading capacity, it is bound to get damaged. Can we blame the manufacturer for its failure? Similarly, if the child's performance is not up to the parent’s expectation, can we blame the child alone?

Collection of hefty donations has become the order of the day. Earlier too donations very given by certain affluent people, with the noble intention to help in the development of the infrastructure of the institution and thus provide better classrooms to make it congenial for the students to learn. But today, donations have become binding and compulsory irrespective of financial status and affordability of the parents.

Amma says, a wealthy man easily obtains admission for his child in a good school by offering huge donation. The middle and poor section of the society too may desire to seek admission for their children in the same school. It is but natural for any mother to desire the best for her child. Indeed it is not wrong to have such desires. Unable to pay such huge donations, such families will have to compromise to send their child to the government schools which has a different standard of education. Alternatively, some parents make great effort and stretch beyond their financial capacities and obtain admissions in the so-called best institutions. Finally securing of this seat does not bring any sense of joy to the parents because of the huge financial drain and burden on the parents. 

Indirectly this stress is passed on to [the] child, as the parents demand that the child should perform well academically. Having invested huge amounts in the child's education, parents look for satisfaction in their child's performance. To cope up with the prevailing standard of living, both the parents take up jobs and as such neither have the time nor the patience to look into their studies. They hence send the children to coaching classes to escape from their duties. The child after long hours at school has to attend tuitions which deprives it even of the little time with the parents.

Apart from this, parents compare their child's performance with other children and pressurise them to score more. By such comparisons, the parents themselves sow the seeds of jealousy and rivalry in the innocent minds. In their anxiety to ensure that the children perform well, the parents at times threaten them. This creates fear in their minds. In the event of the child not meeting the expectation of the parents, the parents admonish the child many times in the presence of other family members and friends. The child may feel humiliated and hurt. It affects the self-confidence of the child too. Unable to face this, the child may attempt to end its life or may resort to drugs or may become aggressive or rebellious or may even go into depression.

In addition to all this, the educational institutions too, compete with each other to be recognised as the best with the highest achievers and rank holders with motive to have more admissions. All these builds tremendous pressure in the tender minds of the children. As a result, the child loses all enthusiasm to study and slowly unfavourable tendencies like distraction, attraction for undesirable things, and loss of concentration take root in the child.

We pride with the assumption that our children are educated in the most modernised way. But Amma sympathises with us and questions in what way do you think you are modernised? In reality it deterioration in all aspects.

We claim that our present education system is most modern and best, but even in the earlier part of the century, with the simple education system, did not India produce the finest personalities in various fields, be it in medicine, science, engineering etc? India also produced many great scientists.

The aim of good educational system is to see that the students graduate not only with academic excellence but also possess good character, noble virtues, strong willpower, emotional stability and are an asset to the parents, society and country at large.

Is the present day education able to deliver this? The youth today are weak minded and emotionally unstable and has left a void in them. The education institution today instead of imparting vidya are leading to avidya. Moral classes are no longer a part of the curriculum. Games, sports and physical exercises do not form a part of the daily timetable any longer.

Educational institutions, considered to be the sacred house of learning are also not free from crime. Many untoward incidents have occurred here. Even after paying hefty fees and securing admissions in the so-called good schools, the parents fear the safety of the child. When the innocent children become the victim of crime, the blame game starts. Each one accuses the other, the parents, the teachers, the school management and the police department. By merely blaming each other will the issue be resolved? Who is to be blamed for these crimes? Even the juvenile crime is rampant today. The element of trust is lost in the society today.

Another menace in modern educational institutions is ragging. Ragging has ruined countless innocent lives and careers. It is a crime which destroys the physical and emotional confidence and has led to an increase in suicide activities. At times it can became very brutal, inhuman and anti-social. Even some of the highly reputed colleges and institutions have a terrible history of ragging. There may be many regulations on curbing this menace of ragging. At the institutional level, the authorities have to take strict measures to avoid this and create a meaningful learning atmosphere free from fear.

Parents have a crucial role to play in moulding the child and in building its future. Hence, attention and sacrifice on their part is absolutely essential at this phase of the child's life. At this age the child should be handled with tenderness and gentleness. Parents should refrain from harsh words and harsh behaviour with the child as it could result in the child becoming stubborn or obstinate. Loving and kind words can have a positive effect on the child's mind in the formative years.

Parents send their children to music and dance classes. Music and dance is an art which is pursued for one's own joy and also gives happiness to others through their performance. Unfortunately this sacred art is misused by the media using various platforms and instilling unhealthy competition among participants. Undue recognition, heaps of praises, big money prizes which are part of the talent shows creates the desire for name and fame at an early age and also distracts them from constructive education.

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, the great celestial song, has taught Bharathiyas [i.e. people of India] to subdue the ego and realise the fact that God is the doer. It is not 'I' but 'HE' is the essence of His teachings. To practice this concept requires training from a very young age. Ironically today, children grow up breeding their ego and focussing on 'I', 'me' and 'mine'. Their very foundation is on a wrong footing. Children today are greatly attracted to the latest gadgets and are also exposed to high standard of living. 

With a tinge of humour Divine Mother says that the best gift for a new born will be a mobile phone. Today's youth have great fascination for the latest tech-savvy goods and have an irresistible desire to possess them, but it is beyond their means. This attraction does not deter them to even take law into their hands and go to any extent to fulfil their desires. The influence of mobile phones on today's children and youth is so high that it becomes their constant companion whether they are driving or are elsewhere. The youth are so engrossed in their phones that many times it has resulted in accidents or deaths.

Youth today are so weak minded that they lack mental strength to even face small challenges that they encounter in day to day life, be it poor academic performance, a reprimand from parents, peer pressure or any humiliation from teachers. They think that suicide is the only way to escape from these situations. The younger generation today lack the sense of discrimination and are impulsive in their actions. Suicide and crimes have become rampant in today's younger generation. From where does this instinct to indulge in crime originate? To a large extent television has a tremendous impact on their minds. At times the parents themselves allow their children to watch T.V. or play the video games so that the children are preoccupied and do not disturb them at home. At times a single scene watched on T.V. or single incident which they witness has such a deep impact on the child that it may change the very course of life. The mind is like a hidden camera which captures all it sees and absorbs like a bloating paper. This will surface at some other time resulting in crime and atrocities among the youth. Today's children lack proper guidance from teachers and parents.

Neither the parents nor the teachers have the time, patience and ability to identify the negative tendencies in the child and make an effort to eliminate them. In the olden days, the parents and grandparents inculcated the concept of "love for God and fear of sin" from a very young age. This helped them to tread the path of righteousness. It is said that if you cannot bend a sapling and you bend a tree? If you cannot mould a child, can you mould an adult, says Amma.

The parents should ensure that the child grows up in a congenial and harmonious atmosphere with joy and cheer. The child should be given healthy and nutritious food. The physical and the mental health of the child should be nurtured as a healthy body and a healthy mind brings success in every venture.

The importance of good health can be best realised in one of the compositions of Saint Meera Bai where she has emphasised on good health and prays to Lord Krishna to grant her good health so that at the last breath, the pain and suffering of the body and mind does not hinder and deviate her focus on God during the last moments. When saints who are beyond the confines of body and mind, themselves pray for good health, then for a common man leaving in a materialistic world, health is of paramount importance.

Divine Mother as the Mother of all Mothers and in genuine concern has suggested certain remedial measures which when implemented can certainly bring good positive results in the days to come. It is to be borne in mind that today's children are tomorrow's citizens. Amma advises that the day at any school or college should start with a prayer to Goddess Saraswathi invoking Her blessings. 

Management of every institution should make it mandatory to introduce a human value session once in a fortnight for children of all classes, right from standard 1 to standard 10. Compulsory participation for all including teachers, school bus drivers, attendants, subordinate staff and even school security staff should be ensured. In the forum, awareness should be given on the greatness of Indian culture, our value systems and moral stories from Indian mythology. Children and teachers should be encouraged to speak on topics like devotion, life of saints and some good personal experiences. Question and answers session should also be a part of this event which will set the children's mind thinking on the right lines. Such programmes help to build [a] healthy mind in the children, free from negative tendencies and inspires them to be good, do good and see good. These programmes help to inculcate basic values in a child and also to practise the dictum "Help ever, Hurt never". Such programmes help in restoring the glory of this great land. In addition to all these, efforts should be made to reduce the burden of too many subjects on the child and allow the child to have a healthy and cheerful childhood. Amma also strongly recommends that the use of Mobile Phones definitely needs to be restricted in school and college premises.

The Divine Mother Sai Rajarajeshwari Amma has communicated to the world what ideal education is and emphasises the role of educational institutions and parents in producing good citizens to the country.

A careful study and understanding of this message can be an eye opener and help one to set right the defects and deficiencies prevalent in today's educational system and also in upbringing of the child.

Acceptance and implementation of this divine advice is purely left to the choice and decision of the reader.

Divine Mother conveys Her love and blessings to all.

Thank you for reading this.