Education –Shiksha - in its real meaning and essence is the process of manifestation and development of virtues one already possesses within. Further, this process on the basis of virtues leads one to a holistic development of one’s personality –eventually making one’s life meaningful. True educationists through the ages, from ancient times to modern age and from the East to the West, have agreed, more or less, with this core objective of education. If we start from the most ancient Indian tradition of education, namely, the Gurukula; study and analyse the method of Shiksha in the Vedic and the post-Vedic periods, along with the prevailing education system in old times in other parts of the world, we find on the basis of available evidence that education has always been considered as the cognitive development of the learner. The great Acharyas, Gurus –educationists have been in their respective times expressing their views and techniques accordingly making efforts for the purpose.
Aspects related to knowledge and skill, both the most important components of realization and development of the innate virtues; the assigning elements of one’s proper conduct –values, behaviour, and process of his growth along with establishing his superiority as a social being are indivisible ingredients of education. For illumination –manifestation, realization and development of these, and association of values with human practices remained the foremost task of the Gurukula system in ancient times in India. It is evident from the workings of Ashrams – Gurukulas of Maharishis like Vashishtha and Bharadwaja in the Ramayana period and from the Ashram of Dronacharya in the Mahabharata age. It is also evident from functioning of many institutions and universities of the Vedic and the post Vedic eras in India, and from the Academy established by Plato in 387 BCE in Athens, which is considered the first institution of higher education in Europe. It could also be realized, more or less, from the functioning of some other academies and institutions founded in the medieval period in many parts of the globe.
In this regard, the statements of great and representative philosophers –religious leaders, saints and teachers are well available to prove the fact; I always prefer to quote them incessantly in my write-ups and deliveries especially on topics related to education. In hierarchy some of them I mention here again. For example, Socrates said, “I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.”
Terence, an ancient Roman scholar was of the opinion, “Children should be led into the right paths, not by severity, but by persuasion.”
Alexander Pope said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”
Eminent Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi mentioned, “Education is the natural, progressive and proportional development of all powers of man.”
Henry Ward Beecher, an American social reformer of the Nineteenth Century firmly believed, “Education is the knowledge of how to use the whole of oneself. Many men use, but one or two faculties out of the score with which they are endowed. A man is educated who knows how to make a tool of every faculty how to open it, how to keep it sharp, and how to apply it to all practical purposes.”
Einstein, a great theoretical physicist of the last Century put forth, “Education is the progressive realization of our ignorance.”
Swami Vivekananda said, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.”
All these statements, it can be repeated, divulge, more or less, the import of education along with its basic spirit and purpose for all societies. They, directly-indirectly, reveal the truth that knowing, acknowledging and honing one’s virtues to be used at their best is education. This process leads one to step forward to his all-round growth on the basis of his own virtues. Education actually serves as a pathway to achieve self-sufficiency in life; in other words, to make life meaningful.
After comprehending the meaning and basic spirit of education, accepting simultaneously the fact that it is a continuous process of strengthening one’s virtues to achieve sanity in one’s personality exhibiting the same in one’s thoughts and actions. Sanity includes soundness, rationality and healthiness of the human mind. The state of consciousness relates to sanity also. Both, sanity and the state of consciousness develop rationality in man, make his approach constructive and pave the way for his attachment with righteous acts.
Especially, on the strength of sanity man builds his character and creates a conducive atmosphere to come out of any kind of ridiculous situation in life successfully. It is, in fact, the source of propitious ideas –the basis of true knowledge. In the absence of this, education cannot achieve its real goal. Neither can it be in consonance with its meaning, purpose, basic spirit and viewpoint, thus, producing societies sans sanity.
Hence, in the absence of the spirit of sanity education cannot bring self-awakening in man and without self-awakening one cannot acknowledge and manoeuvre one’s potential. It is because without sanity man cannot identify himself –he abstains from self-consciousness, which is, according to the Upanishads, the leading force of the realization of soul –the eternal element. Resultantly, true self-sufficiency cannot be achieved in life. It cannot meet the expectation of Swami Vivekananda, which he had in his worthy statements, “Every soul is unmanifested –imperceptible Brahman; everyone possesses infinite latent power, and that power waits for its awakening and development at various human levels.”
Education can pass its acid test –fulfil its true purpose of manifestation of the powers already present in man if it succeeds in developing sanity – appropriate level of rationality, judgement, consciousness and sensitivity all in tandem.
It is the want of good and advanced thoughts –debility of the aspect of morality and ethics in education; in other words it is the lack of appropriate development of sanity that man is indifferent from the spirit of self-devotion, sacrifice and service, and he is not free from egotism. Therefore, education is incapable of achieving its purpose. Man is inept to realize and develop his qualities –identify his inner self. Despite possessing immeasurable capabilities in him, he is unable to discharge his responsibilities towards humanity.
In the Paatanjalayogasutraani (4:3) it appears:
“Nimittamaprayojakam Prakritinaam Varanabhedastu Tatah Kshetrikavat”
Meaning thereby, “A farmer wishing irrigation (of his field) needs not go far to bring water. Water is already stored near the field, but due to a blockade water is not reaching the field. As the blockade is removed by consciousness –sanity, water itself will according to its nature reach the field.”
This is the power, importance and quality of sanity. A thoughtful marriage between sanity and education can only make the latter purposeful –capable of achieving its goal. In the lack of sanity, education will remain sterile growing cacti of men, unable to allow one’s powers grow productive for oneself and for the world around him.