Bharata, called Aryavarta, Bharatavarsha, India and Hindustan is not just a country with geographical boundaries but a living rashtra with a soul. All kinds of sacred and secular sciences and art forms, discovered by visionary sages, form the core of India’s cultural identity. They made this sacred space the land of wonders. Its panorama is to be viewed in the immensity of time and space which gave it a distinct identity endowed with perennial and pervasive values. The sole objective of education in India from time immemorial remains enlightenment. Education is information at the first stage and when information is internalised, it becomes knowledge and when knowledge is conditioned by good values for sustainability of the globe, it is called prajna.
The founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Dr. K.M. Munshi emphasised the education of young minds . But the modern Indian system of education follows the aims and objectives declared by UNESCO for transformation of life, building peace, eradicating poverty and sustainable development. It aims at individual development ignoring the values for caring and sharing with others. In spite of efforts and achievements, humanity in the 21st century is facing grave challenges. Nature is being exploited. Development is not sustainable. People are less happy than before and dissatisfaction rules almost all the spheres of life. There is less peace and harmony at individual, national or global levels.
Understanding true Bharata
For understanding Bharata, education requires a multi-dimensional approach that involves historical, cultural, linguistic, philosophical, artistic, scientific, technological and spiritual aspects. After centuries of invasions, destruction and slavery we have lost faith in our true being. It has to be revived through education, inspiration, research and promulgation. But unfortunately, swayed by the Western ways of living and thinking, there is a lack of interest in understanding the true Bharata. Our education system does not permit a student of science to learn Sanskrit and vice versa. Several scientists in the world have acknowledged the discoveries done more than a thousand years ago. Scientific researches on Sanskrit texts have the capacity to offer an alternate system for scientific understanding, solving problems and inspiring for innovative ideas.
Education is the best tool to revive and remind the lost heritge
Memories of the marvels have faded. It is inevitable to pause and ponder, to rethink and reinvent the system of education. It needs to combine idealism, realism, psychology, metaphysics, epistemology, environment consciousness and all other fields of knowledge. Indian scriptures contain the highest human wisdom in the words of German scientist Schopehauer. Vedas revealed the highest knowledge to mankind. Education of ancient times was evolved by visionary rishis to mould tender minds into mature individuals capable of living a life following the principles of dharma. Realisation was important and not the texts. It is reflected in mind, words and actions (man, vachan and karma). It led to attaining liberation – sa vidya ya vimuktaye. It aims at becoming what a human being ought to be.
Education for a balanced life
The formal education system in India is in real trouble. It focuses on accumulation of information and creating money mongers. Selfishness is overpowering collective consciousness. Commercialisation of education does not educate for caring and sharing. Life has become stressful even for the brightest.
Education of the physical and the psychological
The sole objective of the Upanishadic education is to establish harmony in the world. Jnana yoga aims at realisation of oneness of the individual self (atman) and the ultimate Self (Brahman). In Bhagavad Gita, jnana yoga is also referred to as buddhi yoga and its goal is self-realisation. Adi Shankara gave primary importance to jnana yoga or the knowledge of the absolute (Brahman), while Ramanuja regarded knowledge only as a condition of devotion. The sense of bhakti leads to sacrificing the self for others. Wisdom and enlightenment are key principles of Buddhism. Lord Buddha preached transcendence in life establishing values and ideals through faith, virtue, generosity, loving kindness, wisdom, enlightenment and sacrifice.
Many kinds of sufferings arise from focusing attention only on the self as an individual ignoring the surrounding world leads to outbursts of ego, tension and terror. Education requires both, eternal pure consciousness and the physical world, the sciences, humanities, arts, and all other subjects taught in the modern education system. For establishing a synthesis of the self, the world and the Brahman the philosophy of Brahamanas, Upanishadas, Aranyakas, Vedangas and the philosophical texts should be included in our education system.
Modern scientific discoveries and ancient Indian knowledge systems
Scientific discoveries by the scientist sages are a forgotten dimension of India. Vedic rishis had an unthinkably high level of experiencing and realizing. There was a holistic approach towards life. Science and technology was combined with spirituality. Let us not shut our senses to the beauty and immensity of our heritage- a unique synthesis of vision, values, philosophy, scientific temperament for human advancement, arts, literature and worship.
Suryasiddhanta is studied at NASA. It is discovered after recording in space for decades what has been told in the Shatapatha-Brahmana- the rays of the Sun reaching the earth create sounds such as om and vowels and consonants of Sanskrit resulting in calling Sanskrit as deva-vani. An aircraft was flown by a scientist from Maharashtra before Wright Brothers on the basis of Sanskrit texts on vimana-shastra. So far the world has manufactured 21 types while in Sanskrit texts there are more than a hundred types and they mention four types of fuel. It is scientifically proven that different ragas in shastriya sangeeta can heal different types of sicknesses. Impact of meditation on brain is acknowledged by neuro-scientists. Science behind the daily set of activities and rituals is researched by astro-physicists. Our contribution in the field of Mathematics is globally accepted. The atomic theory was established by Maharshi Kanada in 600 BCE. Acharya Sushruta in the same period was an expert of surgery. Jain Tirthankara Lord Mahavira was a great scientist.
Exploring the shared heritage in Asian countries
India shares its heritage with other Asian countries in the form of temples and monasteries, Sanskrit inscriptions and manuscripts, arts and artefacts. Sanskrit was the language of administration. The largest Shiva temple is in Indonesia and the largest Vishnu temple is in Cambodia. Millions of statues and paintings are enshrined in the collections abroad. Thousands of Sanskrit manuscripts - published, unpublished and translated into foreign languages - are scattered all over the world. In them sleeps the history of our glorious past. So far there is no subject-wise data base of the texts. After invasions and destruction libraries and universities we lost a number of texts forever. Many of them can be recovered from their translations into Chinese, Tibetan and Mongol languages. Let us awaken them from slumber.
For understanding Sanskrit texts a new dictionary is required. The first Sanskrit-German dictionary was compiled by Bohtlink and Roth in St. Petersburg. All the later lexicons depend on it including the best known Sanskrit-English dictionary by Monier Williams used all over the world. Its errors and shortcomings were never checked. A critical look at it brings to light several misleading meanings. Thousands of entries are labelled as ‘L’ and ‘MW’ which means that the lexicographer is not sure for the given meaning; it is what others accept and what Monier Williams thinks. He writes in his preface that the aim of this dictionary was to covert Indians to Christianity. It becomes our duty to bring out a new dictionary with the aim of understanding Sanskrit texts correctly and precisely.
Message of nationalism
Schools are the best places for inculcating feelings of nationalism where a tender mind can be given a great vision. Duties towards the nation, which is best described in the national song ‘Vande Mataram’- the most touching and the best nationalistic song in which Bharata is adored as the Mother whose millions of children are her real power; they are her arms holding weapons.
Echoes of a change
The young generation is looking for a change. Mother Nature hails us, let us stop exploiting it. Concentration is the key to knowledge, let us practise it. Purity of speech, thought and action disciplines one’s mind, let us learn it. Faith, devotion, service and sacrifice leads to harmony, let us establish it. Intelligence and character are to be conditioned by ought value, let us revive them. Technical advancement and prosperity is resulting in dissatisfaction and stress, let us fight it. Knowledge is hidden in our minds, let us realize it and let us follow Swami Vivekananda, saying – uttishthata jagrata prapya varannibodhata!
The author is the Dean, Centre for Indology, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi