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Monday, June 5, 2023

‘Dharm, Samskruti Aur Rajya’ by Guru Dutt – Chapter on Education: Part 1

Sri Guru Dutt (1889-1984) was one of the great writers and nationalists of the 20th century. He wrote nearly 200 books in Hindi and English on a wide variety of topics including Sanatana Dharm, Spirituality, Politics and Nationalism. One of his seminal works is the book ‘Dharm, Samskruti Aur Rajya’ published in 1964 by Hindi Sahitya Sadan. In this masterpiece, which he wrote originally in Hindi, he elaborates on the meaning and depth of Dharma, its significance and connection with Samskruti or culture and how these two play a vital role in the formation of a Rajya and Rashtra.

One of the chapters in this book is dedicated to his vision of the ideal model of education for our dharmik nation. In the current series of articles, we have attempted to present an English translation of this particular chapter, with the hope that it will introduce interested readers into the rich world of Sri Guru Dutt ji’s writings. Many thanks to Hindi Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi for permitting the English translation of this work.

Chapter 8: Education

While discussing the topic of dharmik societal framework, we have touched upon the topic of education. We had stated there that the Council of Dharma ought to be one organ of society, and it is only through the scholars who are part of this council that the wise legislators are to be elected. We had also mentioned there that education should never be under the State control. So then, how can education be imparted? We will attempt to answer that question in this chapter.

After obtaining Swarajya, there has been a proliferation of new schools and colleges in Bharat. Further, centers are being opened to cater to the need of education of adult women and men. This way, a regular surge in the number of literates is being achieved. In addition to schools and colleges for children, and centers for adults, the propagation of education is being undertaken in this country through various other media – radio, cinema and so on.

In spite of all this, there has been a steady decline in human values. At the same time, a constant rise in lying, theft, cheating, betrayal, bribery, violation of laws, egoism, audacity, immoral acts, rape and many other unethical values is being noticed. Things have reached such a state that hardly any government department exists where bribery cannot get you what you want; no transaction or business exists where you can engage with a stranger, feeling safe that you would not be betrayed. Honest and simple-minded people have lost their self-confidence. They do not know when their pockets will be picked, or when their children will be misled on to immoral paths. Such acts can happen at any time.

Cities have numerous avenues for entertainment such as cinemas. There is always a huge rush at cosmetics stores. Shiny and costly clothes are a happening thing. However, very few people purchase good quality food, milk or ghee. Fruits are consumed sparsely. People do not feel like spending money on such things. When it comes to life-style, such inability to discriminate between the essential and the non-essential, or the useful and the non-useful, is growing rapidly in Bharat.

In schools and colleges, students are leading an undisciplined, uncontrolled and non-useful life. Their character, development of mind, large-heartedness and level of knowledge – all are in steady decline. The number of subjects they learn is rising but the human capabilities needed in building a community is decreasing. Those factors crucial in constructing a society needed to be improved. Unfortunately, it seems like these attributes are in a free fall in this country. 

In Bharat, four 5-year plans have been implemented so far. The fifth plan is currently being devised. A look at the previous four plans clearly shows how the citizens of this country are marching towards an abyss. It is our opinion that the number of people who are dishonest, intolerant, hateful, cruel, thieving, devious, deceitful, untrustworthy, lusty, greedy, angry etc. are rising in this country.

The nation, of course, is advancing materially. New industries and businesses are being set up. Luxuries are becoming progressively more accessible. However, the immorality among the public is also on rise concurrently. This is only leading to a surge in discontent and sorrow in the nation. 

The leaders notice the rapid spread of immoral values amongst the people and offer advice against the same. There is also talk of reforming education; however, it always remains just a plan. Meanwhile, our society continues to its downward march on this slippery slope. 

Why are we in such a state?

This decline of education in the face of material progress is certainly an indicator that there is a defect, a decay, an asymmetry somewhere. It is our firm belief that, in the name of education, verily ill-education (ku-shiksha) is being provided in Bharat. And, the result is that people who are literate but weak-hearted, devious-minded and lacking in character and human values, are being produced by such (ill-) education.

According to Bharatiya Mimamsa Shastra, every human is a product of the development of body, mind and soul together. In the Mahabharat, Maharshi Vyas describes it thus:

indriyanindriyarthebhyo nivartya manasaa shuchih

dashadwadashabhirvapi chaturvimshat param tatah |

sanchodanabhirmatimanatmanam chodayedatha

tishtantamajaram tam tu yat taduktam manishibhih ||

(Mahabharat – Shanti Parva – 106 – 10,11)

“It is required that an intelligent person controls his sense organs with a pure mind. With the influence of the twenty-two types, the soul, which never ages, must be taken towards the paramatma by keeping it distinct from the twenty-four tattvas”

Similarly, Manu Maharaj writes:

tau dharmam pashyatastasya papam chatandritau saha

yabhyam prapnoti sampruktah pretyeha cha sukhasukham |

jivasanjnah antaratmanyah sahajah sarvadehinam

yena vedayate sarvam sukham duhkham cha janmasu ||

(Manusmriti – 13 – 12, 16)

“The soul and mind get together and undergo the consequences of dharma and adharma in this life, and in subsequent ones. Due to the sanchita (accumulated) karma, they obtain this body. 

The soul which resides inside the body is known as antaratma. This is distinct from manas. It is manas that enjoys joy and sorrow while it is the soul that knows (understands) all and experiences the same.”

The above verses indicate that the body, manas and atma join together in a human and perform sin and virtue – paap and punya – and consequently obtain sorrow and joy.

These days, in almost all the countries, and especially so in Bharat, education has become deficient due to its negligence of the manas and the atma. This is the reason behind the sorrow so prevalent in the world today. Almost everywhere, the connection of education is at the level of body only. The advancement of manas and atma is no longer in the realm of education.

Of course, we can’t ignore the training of the body which has got to be healthy and capable. However, a holistic evolution of humans is incomplete without development of their manas and atma. Therefore, there has to be a proper place, in education, for the enlightenment of manas and atma.

This is especially important in Bharat. This country has been under external political influences for over a thousand years, causing various mental and spiritual distortions in the society. Without healing these scars, development of just physical needs will only drive people towards destruction.

Education in today’s Bharat is built on the premise that a human is made just of the physical elements that provide him the body. Manas is (mis)construed as merely the brain, leading to the conclusion that it is just another organ of the human anatomy which gets destroyed when the body is gone. The existence of the atma, on the other hand, is almost not recognized at all!

Any education imparted along these lines can only lead to two consequences. The first one is in training the person to look for accumulating as many sources as possible for comforts to physical body. In trying to do so, any and every mean becomes a valid one. Secondly, if these means go against Dharma, or are against law and violate human values, then the tactic pivots towards acquisition of power to curtail the influence of those who may oppose such efforts. This is done to escape from the claws of justice so those who oppose them on the ground of humanity may be condemned and silenced.

The net effect is that wealthy and powerful are always attempting to become capable of subverting justice and silencing the noble. They believe that their money and power will allow them to enjoy comforts and experience joy.  And these instruments of comfort will ensure that no one can harm them in any way. And, of course, they again believe that nothing remains to be experienced when this life is over.

Education that focuses only on the nurturing of the body is deficient and leads to sorrow. Therefore, so long as the basis of education is body only, nothing will change even if one were to climb the Qutb and shout “Reforms! Reforms!” continuously. Even if one were to achieve great success in material progress, the accumulation of sins will only grow; and sorrow, conflict and disputes will keep rising.

It is our firm belief that false education is at the root of decline of Dharma and rise in sorrow amongst Bharatiyas. The source of all this sorrow is the materialism that lays at the foundation of our current education system. Our education system will become capable of uplifting society only when that foundation is changed. 

How can we reform this?

This is an important question. The very purpose of the chapter is to address this question.

Some say universities now enjoy the freedom to decide their curriculum. They assert that the vast and highly-qualified teaching staff of these universities are fully capable of reforming the system and claim they in fact are already doing that.

It is our opinion that neither are these people independent, nor do they possess the ability to bring in the requisite reforms. They are victims of the very disease which they are expected to cure! Today’s professors, vice-chancellors and faculty in the universities are themselves the product of a materialistic education system. Therefore, in our opinion, the current crop of administrators are simply incapable of effecting the necessary fundamental changes. 

It is also not true that universities now enjoy the necessary academic freedom. The Shanti Niketan incident is a glaring example of lack of such freedom and their dependency on the State; it was forced to remove its motto of ‘Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram’ to be eligible to receive government grants.

Therefore, a complete overhaul of the teaching style, process of grants and curriculum is required to reform the education system.

We will concede that today’s teachers and professors do a good job of teaching the present curriculum. However, they are not capable of filling the gaps that exist, because they also are a product of the very same deficient education. It, therefore, becomes imperative that experts from outside the universities are imported and placed inside the system to provide the spiritual education.

Just as a chemistry professor cannot teach mathematics or philosophy or just as an economics professor cannot teach botany, the current crop of professors and administrators also cannot set the curriculum for spiritual studies or nor can they teach this subject. It is, therefore, crucial to appoint scholars who are experts in Bharatiya philosophy (adhyatma shastra) and, additionally, have great faith in the same.

The big problem today is the rapid pace with which moral values are falling in our country. As we make progress on material development and in creation of objects of pleasure, we also see a steady decline in human values. Government wants to tackle this problem by introducing stricter laws, while the citizens are constantly looking at loopholes in law so these can be avoided or violated.

We believe the decline in moral values of a society cannot be arrested through laws. Historically, law has never been able to reform society anywhere. There are only two ways to reform moral values in a society. One – change the ecosystem of society such that immorality goes unrewarded. Two – create an aversion to it in the hearts of people. And, both these can be achieved only through education.

When someone talks about eliminating immorality through law, the idea is to use police or military to remove those instruments which aid in the surge of immorality. Immorality does not, however, end through such measures. It only causes immorality to go into hiding so badly that its discovery itself becomes difficult.

Two examples will highlight this reality perfectly. There have been attempts to ban production of liquor and thereby end alcoholism in our country. But, this endeavor has not been successful. Similarly, there are efforts underway to put an end to prostitution by removing prostitutes. This too has proven to be unsuccessful. Law and police machinery were employed in attempt to eliminate these social ills. The result is that these ills are manifesting in other ways, and on a much bigger scale.

Globally, there have been attempts to eliminate war by trying to impose restrictions on the manufacture of weapons. Wars cannot be stopped through such measures.

There have always been – and always will be – consumers of alcohol. Similarly, prostitution will survive and wars will occur. If the means of these ills are eliminated, people will find new ways. What is required to remove these and other such immoral attributes of society is a change in the thinking of the people, and such a change is possible only through education. The framework of education, which currently is completely focused on material aspects of life, needs to be changed and reconstructed so that it affects body, manas and atma, all in a holistic way and education liberated from the claws of materialism.

(To be continued…)

-Translated from Hindi to English by Hariprasad N

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