‘We crave for higher
wages, not higher ideals’
Blend of Sikhism and Vedanta
Looks for a good job
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wanted the education system to help the rising generations preserve their soul, honour and integrity. H.K. Manmohan Singh on the late President’s vision of the system of instruction for India
INDIA had a civilisation that was humane. She is gradually moving towards a civilisation that tends to be mechanical. Her values and ideals, her traditions and customs are all in a state of flux. This will be clear from the lack of concern for the core values for which India’s education system stood for centuries.
The decision to celebrate Teacher’s Day on September 5 was that of the Government of India but it was taken on a special request of the National Federation of Teachers that wanted Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday to be celebrated in this manner.
Although the university system in India is exotic, education as such is not. Well-documented researches, including those by Englishmen, clearly point to this fact. An early observation in this regard is by Sir Alexander Johnston, considered as a "high authority upon all subjects concerned with Oriental literature".
In a letter to Charles Grant, President of the Board of Control set up in 1784 under the Pitt’s India Act, he wrote as follows: "Education has always from the earliest period of their history, been an object of public care and of public interest to the Hindoo Governments on the peninsula of India. Every well-regulated village under those governments had a public school and public schoolmaster. The system of instruction in them was that which, in consequence of its efficiency, simplicity and cheapness, was few years ago introduced from Madras into England and from England into the rest of Europe".
Sir Alexander’s letter reads like a piece of romance and carries some interesting details of the system as well. The main point that he makes is that every parent regarded education as a "solemn duty which he owed to his God and to his country...."
Teachers brought up in the classical tradition are becoming a rare species. Radhakrishnan is thought of as an epitome of all that is best in this tradition. He did not think of education in terms of the various skills it imparts but as a means for enrichment of personality. His greatest anxiety was the growing disposition of the system "to despise cultural interests".
Culture, he wrote, "is not mere learning. It is discrimination, understanding of life. Liberal education aims at producing moral gifts as well as intellectual, sweetness of temper as much as sanity of outlook. Into the art of living, the cultured man carries a certain grace, a certain refinement, a certain distinction which redeems him from the sterile futility of aimless struggle. Culture is not a pose of intellect, or a code of convention, but an attitude of life which funds nothing human alien, common or unclean. An education that brings up a young man in entire indifference to the misery and poverty surrounding him, to the general stringency of life, to the dumb pangs of tortured bodies and the lives submerged in the shadows is essentially a failure".
He was equally worried over "the trend towards the governmental domination of the education process" which makes educational institutions behave like mercenaries ever willing to "promote the political purpose of the state". The University Education Commission which he headed drew special attention to the fact that, historically, the control of education by the state had been "an important factor in facilitating the maintenance of totalitarian tyrannies" and wanted the trend to be effectively resisted in the interests of democracy.
Visualising that India was "marching forth into the unknown" and there was a "good deal of loose and muddled thinking among the educated youth", he wanted the education system to be so designed that it would equip the rising generations to preserve their soul, their honour and integrity. He argued that if India had to make her "distinctive contribution to the progress of the world", it was imperative that she did not surrender her individuality. "We must not try to make for ourselves an English or a Russian soul" was his advice to the youngsters.
Radhakrishnan attached great importance to the study of religious and moral education. He regarded India’s sacred writings as great literature which rouses us "to the value of spiritual realities" and turns our "eyes from the things which are merely temporal to the things which are eternal". Such a study, he maintained, will shame us "out of our complacency" and reveal to us "something of the immense capacity of the human soul for suffering and isolation".
He took special pride in his own civilisation and contributed all his learning to pouring "fresh life into ancient teachings by coming to terms with the new impulses created by contact with European thought." all through he held the view that being in touch with sacred knowledge delivers man from "narrow creeds and inflexible faiths which make even social relations difficult".
The true test of education — a theme to which Radhakrishnan turned again and again — lay not in the prizes the world has to offer but in enlarging human capacity to endure pain and hardship: "Buddha walked out of his palace to suffer... Christ is the man of sorrows. None who has not suffered to the utmost gets to the foundations of reality".
He expatiated on this theme in an address which he delivered to the Panjab University Convocation on December 23, 1930, when he was Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford University thus. "I want to lay special stress on the need for suffering and strength, as I suspect that a kind of new materialism has overtaken us. We seem to be coddling with comforts and are willing to use all our intellectual resources ruthlessly in the service of one end, material success. We are prepared to lay down our lives for higher wages and not higher ideals".
The teaching community has all but forgotten its time-honoured ideals. The trends in education are profoundly disturbing. Writing on the life and times of Henry VIII, Professor S.T. Bindoff observes that no one goes farther than the one who knows not whither he goes. It is time the teaching community reflected on the chaos that has descended on the education sector and acted before it was too late.
— The writer is former Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University.
Blend of Sikhism and Vedanta
NIRMALA ASHRAMS all over India are carrying on their mission to serve the people irrespective of caste and creed and remain away from any political activity. Nirmala, derived from Sanskrit meaning spotless, unsullied, pure, bright, etc, is the name of a sect of Sikhs primarily engaged in religious study and preaching.
The members of the sect are called Nirmala Sikhs or simply Nirmalas. The sect arose during the time of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Guru wanted his followers not only to train in soldierly arts but also to have interests in letters. He had engaged a number of scholars to translate Sanskrit classics into Punjabi, in order to bring them within the easy reach of people.
Guru Gobind Singh sent five of his Sikhs, namely Karam Singh, Vir Singh, Ganda Singh, Saina Singh, and Ram Singh, dressed as upper-class students, to Varanasi, the centre of Hindu learning. These Sikhs worked diligently for several years and returned to Anandpur as accomplished scholars of classical Indian theology and philosophy. In view of their piety and their sophisticated manner, they and their students came to be known as Nirmalas, and were later recognised as a separate sect.
After the evacuation of Anandpur in 1705, the Nirmala preachers went to different places outside Punjab, particularly to Haridvar, Allahabad and Varanasi, where they established centres of learning that exist even today — Kankhal, near Haridwar; Pakki Sangat at Allahabad; and Chetan Math and Chhoti Sangat at Varanasi. When, during the second half of the eighteenth century, the Sikhs established their sway over the Punjab, some of the Nirmala saints came back here and founded centres at different places.
It was customary for Nirmala scholars to attend, along with their disciples, religious fairs at prominent Hindu pilgrimage centres such as Haridwar, Allahabad and Gaya, where they, like other sadhus, took out shahis or processions and had philosophical debates with scholars of other religious denominations as a part of their preaching activity. During the Haridwar Kumbh in 1855, at a general meeting of the Nirmalas held in their principal dera at Kankhal, the first step was taken towards setting up a central body by electing Mahitab Singh of Rishikesh, reputed scholar of the sect, as their Sri Mahant or principal priest. This tradition is continuing and the present head in Sri Mahant Nam Dev Singh.
The Nirmalas believe in the 10 Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib. They wear either white or saffron attire. They generally practise celibacy and are devoted to scriptural and philosophical study but by tradition they are inclined towards classical Hindu philosophy, especially the Vedanta. Their contribution towards the preaching of Sikh doctrine and production of philosophical literature in Sanskrit, Braj, Hindi and Punjabi is considerable. Some of the important works that contributed to Sikh learning and regeneration of Sikh principles in particular are by them.
The Nirmala Ashram at Rishikesh was established in 1903 by Mahant Buddha Singh. Its main branches are at Haridvar, Karnal and Mumbai. This place has served the purpose of spreading the message of Guru Nanak. Giani Sant Singh Maskin was one of the illustrious students of this centre. Lachman Dass Chela Ram, world known Sikh scholar stayed here, to translate the Guru Granth Sahib in Hindi.
During my recent visit to Rishikesh, I came to know about their humanitarian deeds. The Gyan Daan Academy has been set up to provide free education to poor children of all castes. Its beautiful sprawling campus on the Dehra Dun road has become a boon for the entire area. Four classes are already in session with facilities like free uniforms, textbooks and stationary, mid-day meal and free transport from village to the school.
The Ashram is already running a public school with boarding facilities on the Haridwar Road. Mahant Ram Singh, head of the Ashram, and Sant Baba Jodh Singh believe that altruism is the essence of Guru Nanak’s teachings. They have set up a big hospital with modern facilities in Rishikesh. A 100-bedded state-of-the-art eye hospital is coming up as well.
Renowned educationist S. Waryam Singh, the chairman of the schools run by the Ashram, said the main source of the income was donations by Sindhis, who are devotees of Guru Nanak.
— The writer is a Member of Parliament
Looks for a good job
WHEN it comes to seeking the dream job, personality and good looks for some take an edge over intelligence and self-confidence, for which they are even ready to go under the scalpel.
The ‘look good’ factor is not confined to women only. Nearly 30-40 per cent of them are men, say cosmetic surgery experts.
"There is an increase in the number of people going for laser treatments, for skin, hair and body care. An area where men go in for surgical procedures is hair transplant," says beauty expert Shahnaz Hussain.
"Good looks help people to a certain extent in getting a good job and more youngsters are going for cosmetic procedures than ever before," says a leading cosmetologist in Kolkata. According to him, the trend is more seen in professionals like models, executives, airline workers, and in persons seeking secretarial jobs.
Some of the most popular procedures are liposuction, breast enlargement, tummy-tucking and nose job. The costs for such surgical procedures come somewhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 1 lakh, depending on which particular limb the operation is carried out, says Shahnaz, noting that "the segment we are talking about is very small, as cost is a major prohibitive factor."
"I think looks really matter when applying for a job," says a final-year student of Delhi University who is going for a nose job. "This will make me look sharp," says the student, who aspires to be a public relations professional.
"To look good is a natural urge, and cosmetic surgery only helps in fulfilling this urge. We find many college students going for various surgeries," says Dr Vasundhara Oberoi, cosmetic surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.
"It is not just fresh graduates who are going for the procedures. Those who have just picked up a job and want to move up in their professional fields and feel their looks are hampering their progress are also going for various procedures," she says.
However, it’s the all-round personality development that influences the end result in the entire process of job-seeking and attending interviews, believes Shahnaz.
"Improving the appearance boosts self-confidence and this is a necessary factor in the competitive career world of today. But, I think it is the all-round personality development that influences while trying to seek jobs," she says.
Moreover, the cost fees for such surgeries are quite high for those falling in the middle-income group bracket even though they are less as compared to the western standards.
But those youngsters who go for it, try to take their parents into confidence.
"Most youngsters insist and convince their parents about it, although some guardians, especially of those who are in the modelling or the glamour world are directly involved in the decision-making," says a cosmetologist. — PTI