The Hindu Philosophy of Education By: Reema Alpana
“Hinduism stands like a huge banian tree spreading its far reaching branches over hundreds of sects, creed and denomination and covering with innumerable leaves, all forms of worship, the dualistic, the qualified non-dualistic and monistic worship of the one Supreme God, the worship, of the Incarnation of God and also hero worship, saint worship, ancestor worship and the worship of the departed spirit. It is based on the grand idea of universal receptivity. It receives everything” (By Swami Tattwananda). Hinduism is believed to be one of the oldest religions in the world. During to Indenture Labourer System, Indian residents were forced as well as lured to come and serve the missionaries and traders and work on the cane fields in Fiji. Despite the fact that theses Indian labourers were oceans away form “home” they managed to retain most of what was their “true cultural identity”. Fiji-Indian or most commonly known as “Indo-Fijians”, have preserved many aspect of the Hindu culture they had brought with them centuries ago. This essay will elaborate on some of the principals under which the Hindu culture is guided and operates as well as share the Hindu views and Philosophy of Shiksha (Education). Furthermore, upon identifying the main educational ideas of Hinduism, it will then scale out the significance of these ideas and concepts in the current educational context.
THE PRINCIPLES OF HINDUISUM
Hindu culture is scriptures under its strict principles call the Vedic Dharma. This strictly guided principles help structure the Hindu society and acts as its backbone. It is every Hindus’ role to attain the four main aims of life which includes; moksha (libration), karma (pleasure), artha (wealth) and dharama (virtue). It is a strong belief that these aims of life can only be obtained through education since vidya (knowledge) is the only means by which an individual is able to control his/her samajh (understanding) and make decisions that help the society run smoothly. Moreover, the Hindu culture believes that human life runs in four stages called “ashrams”.
The first ashram is the Brahmacharya (student stage). This starts from womb till the age of 25 years. The second stage which is called the Grihastha (household age) is when an individuals settles in life and has a family of their own. While the third stage is the Vanaprastha (hermit stage) where by an individual duty as a household comes to an end and the final stage is the Sannyasa (wandering ascetics) where the individual devotes himself to god. These ashrams were specifically designed for males but females did have a role in each of these stages. Thus, in ancient Hindu culture women did not play a vital role in Education. Nari (woman) had to perform the roles of a daughter, a wife and a mother. The immigration from India to Fiji had brought numerous changes to these traditional rules and regulations. The blending of the numerous Indian castes as well as the exposure to different races (westerners and the natives of Fiji), the Hindu Vedic dharma underwent numerous modifications. The blend of the various cultures arose the right for education for women as well many uncountable changes that helps the Indo-Fijian community settle in its new “home”.
HINDU PHYLOSOPHY OF SHIKSHA (education) & VIDYA (knowledge)
Hindus focus on shiksha (education) as value based worthwhile learning (Chinta Mani Yogi). They believe that through education, one can attain the skills essential for living/survival but vidya is attained for life. Through shiksha, one can become successful but having vidya, is having the ability to attain wisdom. Thus not all educated individuals are necessarily budhiman (wise).
Current usage of the term vidya includes the following;
- To attain knowledge, as in vidya prapt karna (to learn about something in as specific field/area).
- To provide knowledge, as in vidya pradaan karna (to teach).
- To concentrate in studies, as in vidya par dhiyaan diya karo (be devoted towards studies).
- The formal Education system, as in vidya pradaan karna bahoot zaruri hai (it is very important to attain knowledge).
The person who provides vidya or gyaan to the novices or buddhihin is normally referred to as “acharye” which means a knowledgeable person. An archarye is a person who can be a teacher, a village elder, a guide or an instructor. This term is normally referred to people who are gyaani in a particular field. For Example, a person specialised in mathematics will be called “Bhaskaracharya” meaning mathematician. Derived from the term acharye is guru (teacher/educator).
The ability to master skills and carry them out practically is referred to as prashiksha. Like that of the Pacific Island cultures, Hinduism also depends on the informal ways of teaching to pass on skills and knowledge from generations to generations. Here the guru’s or elders of the community train the youth in skills such as crafting, farming, cooking etc. The shikshaks (students) learn through dekhana aur jananna (watch and learn).
Some common usage of the tearm prashiksha is as follows;
- To be a trainee, as in chiskta mai prashiksu (a trainee in medicine).
- To learn through copying, as in nakal ke madhyam se prashiksha karna.
- To need for training, as in adesa mem nipuna banne ke lie prasikshana avasyaka hai (training is important in order to become skilful).
Prashikshak are parichayed (exposed/introduced) to the skills which the community feels is essential for their everyday living.
Normally in every formal education system, assessment is carried out in order to evaluate students’ performance. In the traditional context the form of assessment was not through examination but more practical based. Pariksha was carried out by enabling the shikshaks to perform the tasks themselves while the guru would monitor them. If an individual fails to perform the task taught to them, he would be grouped with the women, children and aged members of the community. Thus, pariksha was the not only used in evaluating but aslo ranking shikshaks’ performance.
Some common forms of pariksha are as follows;
- To assess skills, as in kaushal ki pariksha.
- To rank shikshaks performance, as in Nirdharita pariksha (test for braveness).
- Preparation for pariksha, as in muliyakan ke liye achi tharah se tyari karna bahoot zarurri hai (it is essential to be well prepared for assessment)
The ability to analyse situations in the minimum possible time as well as the ability to understand and rationalise things are some of the ideal qualities of a bhudhiman (wise) person. As Christianity claims that a wise man is one who sees things from Gods point of view, similarly Hinduism has the same perception. A wise man is one who follow gods path. Some qualities of a bhudhiman person are as such;
- Has understanding and knowledge and uses them to analyse situations
- Good listener and observant
- Controls lips
- Has religious views and understanding
- Guided by the Vedic principles especially karma
A common belief of Hinduism is that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, i.e. one has to pay according to his/her deeds (karma). (Chinta Mani Yogi) Moreover, it is also a belief that normally children tend to pay for their parents wrong doings. Thus, bhudhiman people utilize their knowledge and understanding as such that they tend to avoid such problems.
THE RELEVANCE OF THE HINDU EDUCATIONAL TERMONOLIEGES IN WORTHWHILE LEARNING
In the formal education system, teaching and learning takes place under a set curriculum and the educators are qualified specialists of their fields. In comparison, the traditional teaching methods involved teaching and learning in an informal context. Here, the need for being a shikshak was only emphasised for the males of the community and females rights to education was out of the question.
Moreover, prashikshana (training) was only conducted for skills and vidya that played a vital role in shaping the communal and tribal life as well as those that were necessary for survival. Unlike the modern education system, it was context specific. However, the need for assessment has been seen as a common practice in both the modern and traditional educational context. Parisksha (assessment) was carried out to evaluate students’ performance as well as rank them. Unlike the current educational system, pariksha was skill centred i.e. practical based. Moreover, it has been an Indian belief that wisdom arises when being closely connected with god. Likewise modern education also teachers that wisdom does not arise by having education but having the right conscience to perfectly fit in the society which is the key to attain wisdom.
However, the modern education system had brought numerous changes in the teaching and learning style of the Indo-Fijian community. Highlighting the urgency of women’s rights to education had enabled Indo-Fijian women to achieve what had never been possible in the traditional context. Additionally, despite the blending of numerous cultures together and modifying of the teaching techniques, the educational terminologies tend to express similar interest no matter which language it has been expressed in. This is a clear indication that education (worthwhile learning) had been an imperative element in shaping communities and societies and still serves the same purpose.
The importance of education has been seen in all cultures through out the Pacific and world but the cause of this to appear veiled is simply because of issues such as communication gap as well as de-contextualization of culture in schools. The inhibition of intercultural information exchange in schools makes teaching and learning difficult for our Pacific students who are being taught in a foreign language (English). I believe that if our curriculums are modified in a more culturally democratic way, multicultural island nations such as Fiji will benefit a lot. As educators, it is our responsibility to understand our students’ cultural background and design our lessons as such that it benefits as suits one and all.
By Swami Tattwananda. Ancient Indian Culture At A Glance .
Chinta Mani Yogi. Hinduism and Education. Presentation for a two workshop on Hinduism and Buddhism organized by DoFE at CDoE, Kendriya Campus Kritipur TU, (p. 23).
Google Translator. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23rd, 2011, from http://translate.google.com/translate_t?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=en&tl=hi&text=knowledge#en|hi|Trainging%0A