THE TEACHER'S OUTLOOK IN INDIA.
According to common belief certain professions are useful, some are paying and certain others are dignified. It is held that professions which involve technical knowledge of use for the industrial regeneration of the country, that of law paying, that of medicine of great utility and good and those under the Government dignified. But the avocation of the teacher is, not supposed to be worth speaking of. Anybody is considered to be good enough to drill boys through reading and writing. The significance of the teacher's function of training the intellect, directing the emotions and shaping the character is not, recognized. In our anxiety to get on in life we lose sight of the fact that education is much more than filling the mind with knowledge. For what after all is the end in life as it presents itself before the national mind, but the acquisition of a certain amount of knowledge which will enable the people to live well or ill? It was not thought so in the ancient days. Learning, and enlightenment were esteemed above everything else. Brihaspati was the preceptor of the gods. The gods consulted him and acted as he dictated. When the Asuras schemed against the celestials and even Indra's wisdom was perplexed, it was the teacher's insight that led the gods to victory. In the councils of Indra none was deemed wiser than he. The kings bowed before the superior wisdom of the Rishis. The sages, poor but in the wealth of wisdom dictated the policies of states, guided and controlled the destinies of the people. In Ancient India, it was recognized beyond the shadow of doubt, that the function of the teacher was greater than even that of the ruler. India did not know of a monarch too proud to do homage to the wise man. It was not the purely religious teacher alone that received this veneration. The secular teacher was no less respected. Greater respect was paid to none other than to Drona and Bhishma.
But with the decadence of national power in this country, there has resulted a famishing of the national mind. The people having lost sight of a national objective have ignored the importance of the function which its teachers have to discharge in directing and shaping the national life. They are not aware of the full measure of the power of the teacher in the working out of their salvation. It is true that a country attains its salvation through economic, development, social amelioration and political regeneration; but who is most capable of directing the energies of the country except the teacher into whose charge the shaping of the minds of the youth is entrusted? It is therefore a sacred trust, this shaping of the minds of the youth who constitute the future nation. He is a poor teacher indeed who does not feel this impulse. He does not see far ahead. He lacks the vision to see the glorious culmination of his work. He is wanting in hope, in a faith in Providence who intends and ordains all things for good. The practical difficulties and the petty details that belong to the exercise of the function will not cloud his eyes, if there is present in him the consciousness of the promise and the divine nature of his avocation.
The teacher's outlook then is the regeneration of the country. If he lives in a faith in his mission and draws his inspiration from it, then he needs no other incentive to call forth all the strength he is capable of.
A people live their life usefully, only when they have manifested and realized among themselves, the highest power for good which human nature is capable of developing. They do not do it unless their religious belief and moral conduct reflect however feebly the wisdom and benevolence of God. They do not do it, unless they realize and work out in their relations of one to another, a measure of the power and freedom of the soul. The problems that confront the teacher are therefore religious, social and those that concern the common life of the people as a whole.
The religio-national problem in India is at least as old as Buddha. The superficial observer sees only diversity and strife among the innumerable faiths of India. It is true that there must be a certain amount of diversity, for India is a continent and her people number millions. But in this diversity however there is the promise of a unity. From the hills and valleys of India, from the myriad throats, one voice is raised to the skies "Unify us, O Lord, that we might be a power, and that Thy glory might be fulfilled." The central note of the evolution of religious thought in India has been a striving after unity. From the days of Vignana Bhikshu the great philosopher who established that the six systems of Indian philosophy had a common platform, down to the days of Sree Ramakrishna, the prophet of modern India the spirit has been the same. The Blessed Buddha, the first great prophet and religious reformer of the world breathed this unifying spirit into Indian thought. He declared was against the life-less formation of old and proclaimed that spirituality was not the special heritage of a hierarchy but belonged to all men alike. He it was that first saw that salvation of India should come through the masses. He preached therefore a religion of kindness and humanity. Buddhism was essentially a religion for the down-trodden and the helpless. Buddha was the first to conceive and introduce into religion, the idea of conversion and in those days, conversion largely meant the uplifting of the lower classes. This religion of love spread far and wide and illumined the dark corners of India. It filled the proud Aryans with love for the dark aborigines and they looked upon them as brothers. Buddhism was thus the first contribution of Indian thought to an idea of nationality. The general awakening that followed in the wake of the propagation of Gautama's Dharma resulted in a corresponding quickening of all the activities of national life under the Emperor Asoka and his successors. Buddhism sent into the Indian world the first impulse to weld the different races into one. The teachings of every other religious teacher who came after Lord Buddha have also tended to unify the religious consciousness of the people. Sree Sankara's great philosophy which taught the identity of the whole existence with Iswara, gives real life to the idea of national unity, for from that stand-point the whole nations is an incarnation of God. The keynote of the Adwaita philosophy is that the Pariah and the Brahman are essentially one. Mahadeva is said to have proved it to Sree Sankara at the seat of Hindu Sanctity – Benares by revealing himself through a despised Chandala. The same spirit is seen in the cosmopolitanism of Sree Ramanuja, Sree Madhwa, Sree Chaitanya and others of blessed memory viz Nanak, Tukaram and Ram Mohan Roy.
The duty of the teacher, therefore is to develop and foster this sense of religious unity. The religious education of the present should bot perpetuate ritualism which will only tend to accentuate the already existing differences, but foster the consciousness of the divine immanence in man. The people must realize their one-ness. This consciousness of the unity of all men in the supreme, is the contribution of Hinduism to world's religious thought and it shall finally solve the religious problem of the world.
Other religious systems have also supplied as with certain ideals. Islam presents us with an ideal of aggressiveness. But our national ideal of aggressiveness should not be one whose path is devastated by fire and sword, but one whose track will be paved with the love of God and love of man. The great religion of Lord Jesus Christ presents before us the ideal of suffering. There could have been no resurrection but for the crucifixion. Suffering has to be endured in the achievement of all ends. India has to draw upon these lessons as well in the working out of her destiny.
The teacher in presenting these truths before his people must in no way dogmatize. Reason must be appealed to, but authority should not be allowed to stifle one's own judgment. The teaching of the Vedanta is that the self should be developed and the self cannot be developed if freedom of thought and action are denied to the individual in religion. The working out of the idea of personal freedom in religion will also solve the social problem in India. The one thing which is at the bottom of caste of the denying of education to women and of the anomalous way of our contracting the marriage relationship is a negation of this freedom of the individual.
The institution of caste with its unmeaning and unreasonable restrictions does not afford any scope for the exercise of personal judgment and individual freedom. Life under such conditions produces a set in whom thought and action do not bear any relation to each other; such men may have brilliant ideas and good convictions, but can never translate them into action. This characteristic crystallizes into a racial habit of ineptitude for action.
The denial of the right of personal judgment freedom to woman has a pervicians effect upon society as a whole. Our incapacity to our as we think is to be traced to the stifling of personality in our institutions and the primary relations of life. The absence of a desire to assert ourselves in life is the direct out come of the educational methods that have been in vogue in our country from time immemorial.
A reference to some of the smritis e.g. the Apastamba Dharma Sutras will reveal the extreme rigorous nature of educational discipline. Hard and fast rules of discipline are good; but utter self-abnegation is not always conducive to the development of virtue. In the ancient ideal there was a complete surrender of the will and judgment of the discipline in favor of the will and judgment of the Guru. Throughout the whole course of education the discipline had to submit to outside direction in which his own will and judgment had no share.
In the sphere of Hindu philosophy mere authority of an individual this however great was not acknowledged. The Hindu as a thinker could propound the most heretical views; but as a member of the particular community be had most slavishly to observe the customary ritual. Freedom was acknowledged in thought, but freedom in action was never dreamt of.
As even today, teachers and parents have not ceased to believe in the efficacy of blind reverence and still insist, on unreasoning obedience on the part of the young a few words on obedience required of the youth will not be out of place.
In obedience after all a great virtue? A virtue, in the human race is the quality which is held beneficial to it at a particular stage of its evolution. Obedience involves the surrender of both judgment and will. Is this submission to outside direction of sufficient value to the human race to be called a virtue? Assuredly it is, sometimes, when corporate action is required as in the case of soldiers and sailors. When this virtue is inculcated to the young, it is always an element of danger that is thought of; and stories of young animals are designed to show that the disobedient little beast is always exposed to danger and the obedient saved.
This indicates the real basis of our respect for obedience. In the case of soldiers and sailors, obedience is necessary, because military and nautical action are essentially collective and instantaneous and too intricate for that easy understanding which would allow of swift common action on individual initiative. Under such circumstances, obedience is, indeed, a virtue, and disobedience the unpardonable sin.
And in the case of animals, we have a case where the young are to act on stunhi which are perceptible to the mother, but not to the young. The mother cannot explain. There is not the power of speech, even if there were time. A sudden silent danger requires a sudden silent escape. Under the pressure of such conditions is evolved in the animals a degree of absolutely instinctive and automatic obedience as is shown in the beautiful story of the little partridges flattening themselves into effacement on a warning signal from their mother.
In the absence of intelligence to give or receive explanation such a state of matters is conducive to good and necessary. But is this quality which is so essential in the rearing of young animals equally necessary in human education? Teachers and parents will of course urge that their task of training and education the young would become simply impossible unless obedience is exacted from the young. But they seem to ignore that there is inherent in human nature a willingness to defer to a superior intelligence as there is a desire in it to command. Human children have a consideration for those who are superior to them in age and wisdom; obedience may be insisted on in extreme cases of willful refractoriness; but an insistence upon on no account be made altogether arbitrary and whimsical. Obedience must not be set up as Fetish. The deification of obedience and the unreasoning worship accorded to authority in all our ancient methods of education are responsible for the racial habit of incapacity to do what we think.
So in education, the teacher has to direct his special attention to the training and developing of a sense of personal freedom and a capacity to exercise individual judgment; for on a cultivation of these virtues will depend in a great measure the solution of our religious and social problems.
The end of religion is the attainment of salvation for the soul; but its test of goodness on the earth is that it enables a man to live a life of the highest utility to himself and to the society of which he is a member. Religion is not a set of rules which have no bearing on actual life. If the views of the life hereafter which a nation entertains do not enable it to live this life now and on this earth properly then the religion which inculcates such views fails to satisfy the condition that every religion ought to satisfy. Hence the connection between religion and human affairs is intimate. Spirituality is the great motive force of all effort and conduct. There can be no real social progress unless Heaven lights up our path thereto. Hence religion has to permeate and infuse life into all our social relations.
Our social amelioration is on the other hand not for its own sake. If we are not a nation and if we have not a destiny to work out then our efforts at improving our institutions are meaningless and in vain. Hence it is also incumbent on the teacher to strive after a development of the national consciousness. It is a faith in the unity and common interest of the Indian races. What is national consciousness? This teacher has to develop it, by cultivating a sympathy in the minds of the young for suffering endured by people in a distant part of the country and joy at the achievements of a certain province. Now it may be devastation by earthquake or a dire disease in a particular province for which the body's sympathies are quickened and at another time the achievement of a province for which the boy's admiration and rejoicing are called forth. This is essential for provinciation must disappear before the Indian races can be welded into a single nation. Is it after all difficult? Do we not worship the same gods and are not our sacred heroes the same? Does not the whole of India weep at the woes of Rama and Sita? Our religions heritage is the same, the inner current of our social life is the same and our aspirations are cast in the same mould. Why then should it be difficult to rouse a national consciousness?
The elements that constitute it are love of the country and faith in the power of the nation to workout its destiny.
Love of country, implies love for the ignorant masses of the country primarily. Can there be a greater privilege than to love one's fellowmen. It enlarges the heart and fills the soul with glory which can only come from God. To think of their welfare and contribute one's little share towards their betterment is complete education for one's soul. When one realizes the sacred nature of one's duty, how can there be a lack of strength. Heaven strengthens those that strive after the good and the true. How then can a nation be too weak to better its own conditions? There must be developed a faith in ourselves as men and faith in the capability of the nation to achieve its ends and fulfill its mission. When the nation's religious consciousness is roused, its social institutions perfected to serve national ends, then shall a glorious future dawn on India. Such is the outlook of the teacher as he beholds it from the white mountain of hope.