Introduction: It is needless to mention about the role and importance of education in the life of man. Education is the only means for the all-round development of humans. The pathway to human development and prosperity in an inevitable state of peace and harmony follows the lanes of education with the condition that its direction should be right and founded on values. Reformers, thinkers and philosophers of repute, who were also the great teachers in their respective times, guided humanity in the right path. Most of them on the basis of their thoughts and experiences gave exemplary suggestions to make education a prime focus and significance of them cannot be diminished even today. This chain of thought emphasizes desire of Mahatma Gandhi –a great guru, for the complete physical and mental development of man through value education imparted by well trained teachers for his self-reliance, which could pave the way for his true development even in current perspective by ascertaining peace and harmony in society. In this regard a substantial and worthy analysis, which could as a concrete guideline seem adaptable, is required; however, prior to this, familiarity with the meaning and purpose of education is necessary. Moreover, knowing the role and contribution of education in man’s life from Gandhian viewpoint is indispensable.
Education: The English word education is derived from the Latin word Educare, which further relates to Educere, and is the symbolic of manifestation or expression. This definition reveals the inner capability of man that guides him continuously at various levels. The whole process, which leaves an impact upon the mind, character and physical strength, plays a vital role in human development. It accords continuity to intellect, knowledge and values, which provides the base and scope to education.
If we analyze education from the Indian viewpoint, education [Shiksha] is one of the six Vedangas. [the six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas –Shiksha , Kalpa –ritual, Vyakarna –grammar , Nirukta –etymology , Chandas –meter and Jyotisha –astronomy]. Clarity of understanding and systematic method or the orders, which are the basics for the all-round development of one’s personality, are within its domain. Hence, the educational process is fully dedicated to continuity; it is for growth or for accumulation; it is the means to lead a human being on the pathway to prosperity in prevailing circumstances on the basis of knowledge and accomplishments.
Categorically, education is the sole basis of achieving one’s purpose in life. The importance of education in man’s life as has been said already cannot be described in words. The essence of all the ancient scriptures, messages of scholars and thinkers of repute have always emphatically expounded the significance of education in human life. Enlightening people of the importance of education in all walks of life, and in particular, its role in making life prosperous under the prevailing circumstances they have examined the implications in the absence of true education. In this regard the following Shloka from an oldest Hindu scripture is worth quoting here:
“Mata Shatru Pita Vairi Yen Balo Na Pathitah, Na Shobhate Sabha Madhye Hans Madhye Vako Yatha” Meaning thereby: The parent who does not facilitate and guide their child for studies is like the greatest enemy of the child. The presence of an uneducated person in the company of educated people is like a goose in the company of swans. Hence, the utility, significance and importance of education are inevitable at all levels in all walks of life. It develops into the most beautiful and valuable ornament of human life.
Peace and Harmony: The use of popular English word peace can be found in words like Pax [Vulgate], Eirene [Greek] and Shalom [Hebrew]. Besides wishing harmony [a word derived from harmonia of Greek to denote a state of accord, concord, friendliness and unity] in day-to-day human practices at individual and social levels, the urge for a situation free from conflicts and struggles is desired here. Generally, a situation free from tension, struggle, dispute or conflict, particularly in socio-economic spheres, is considered the state of peace in this context. This phenomenon signifies the absence of fight or war between or among the nations and is generally the accepted notion of peace at the international level. It is almost the same in the Indian perspective. Popular Hindi words, which are derived from Samskrit, such as Vishram, Nivriti, Nistabdha and Ananda are used to describe a state of peace.
Despite this similarity between the Western and Indian perspectives, peace is not a motionless state even according to ancient philosophical thought. Peace is not a situation of the status quo. The state of peace provides man the pathway to progress in a tension-free atmosphere. Within a state of peace, efforts are made for healthy co-existence to extend the welfare of the people. Therefore, the state of peace is in fact dynamic. It fills people with enthusiasm and inspires them to move forward. Similarly, harmony signifying human unity, concord and agreement urges man for stepping forward to do concrete for the welfare of one and all. Hence, it is quite similar to peace; it is also dynamic and undoubtedly for the establishment of peace.
Inter-Relations: Evidently, education is the basis for the all-round development of man; it is the means of developing his personality. Moreover, it is the process that helps make one’s life purposeful. All constructive and welfaristic conditions that may be required for the purpose are also inherent in this process. Similarly, peace and harmony, both, despite being the states free from dispute, conflict and war, are also active and dynamic states in which there is a call to go forward. New benefits are expected in the states of peace and harmony. They are the pathways to progress without any fear and confusion. Therefore, it can be said that education, peace and harmony are linked with each-other; they contribute to the development and welfare of each and every human being on this planet.
Role of Teacher: About the role of a teacher in imparting education and through it in all-round-development of personality is well evident. We are all well aware of the truth, how the great teachers –Acharyas and Gurus in Indian terms, creating an atmosphere of harmony among people and in the state of peace contributed to the larger welfare of society and the nation. The examples of Gautama Buddha, Vardhamana Mahavira, Socrates, Kung Futsi [Confucius], Chanakya, Plato, Shankaracharaya, Paramahansa Ramakrishna and so many others who were the Gurus, Acharyas and teacher par excellence are before us. I think there is no need to mention anything more in this regard except quoting the following statement of Mahatma Gandhi:
“A teacher is not only the nuclei of the education system, but is also the backbone of the system and the success or failure of this system depends to a large extent on the community of teachers. A teacher, if works with sincerity, honesty and a sense of duty, raises students to their all-round development on the one hand and contribute unprecedentedly to harmony and peace in society and the nation on the other.”
Further, as Mahatma Gandhi has rightly pointed out, education is an unending exercise [filled with devotion-Sadhana]* till death. Only education can act as a means to a successful life. Likewise, “education can help, mould and shape the human body, mind and character in such a manner that they may act as the means to achieve joy and efficiency.” [Ravindra Kumar, 1999, Essays on Gandhism and Peace, Meerut, India, page 10]
Categorically, education as expounded through Gandhi’s imagination and explanation is a means to guide and lead a human-being from his birth to death. It helps man achieve his goal. The goal however, according to many philosophies including the Vedic-Hindu, could be the attainment of the Mukti or Moksha, or Nirvana [liberation] that it is considered as the highest stage of peace. Furthermore, the imagination and explanation of Mahatma Gandhi about education could be better comprehended by the following statement of Kishorelal Mashruwala –a Gandhian scholar and thinker, “[This] works for the all-round growth of man right from the beginning till the end. Its ultimate aim is to turn human knowledge into his ability. It is for the purpose of making his life worthy and meaningful, and it is not only for earning his livelihood.” [Ravindra Kumar, 1999, Essays on Gandhism and Peace, Meerut, India, page 10]
Mahatma Gandhi wrote many articles on education from time-to-time. On several occasions, besides addressing students and teachers, he issued worthy statements regarding its meaning, purpose and importance in life. We can draw the following viewpoint particularly for the purpose of this presentation:
1. The prime aim of education is to make a man self-dependent;
2. The purpose of education is to make the one efficient and skilful; and
3. The objective of education is to guide and lead him to the pathway to progress in the prevailing situation of space and as per the demand of time so that he could ascertain his physical and mental development to achieve a goal in life for himself on the one hand and he could equally contribute to the society, nation and the globe on the other.
For this, considering the role of a teacher to be the most important Mahatma Gandhi laid great stress on the following four points, which are undoubtedly guidelines to make education true and worthy for students, and simultaneously as a means of bringing harmony and peace in society, nation and the world:
1. A teacher after his own well preparation must prepare a student right from his childhood to his whole development from moral to metaphysical to pave the way to all-round growth;
2. The basic [Buniyadi] education, which is indeed an important part of the fourfold education system of the Gandhian view, necessary for all-round development of personality, be based on demand of time and space. Side-by-side, the available resources in the country be in the centre of any of the plans made for. Moreover, in a country like India villages be the nuclei, the welfare and prosperity of rural people be on priority;
3. The scope of education must be all-inclusive –women and girls, be, without any discrimination the indispensable part of education system. Their self-sufficiency for discharging duties in proper manner and certainty of their inevitable contribution in bringing harmony and peace is possible only through their being a part and parcel of education system; and
4. The system of education besides working for the well-being at local-regional and national levels must with the sole spirit of cooperation and harmony go forward to the global level. These are the days of globalizations. No nation of the world can think today of its being aloof from any of the events, big or small, that takes place in any part of the world. Interdependence has increased to a degree that no one of us can think of being unaffected of any of the events...Therefore, harmony and peace through education is possible if the community of teachers accepting the reality of Vasudhaiv Kutumabam [global family] step forward and work for transformation of this into a reality.
Hence, the Gandhian concept of education, view pertaining to the role of teachers for peace and harmony in particular, is important and worth consideration. For self-dependency of man that is the vital for harmony and peace at all levels and in all walks of life, Gandhi’s suggestions are significant with their due modification in prevailing situations of space and demand of time.
*For, he used the words ‘Akhand Sadhana’. Particularly, the word Sadhana has a broad and deep meaning; besides being important in human life, it is a well-known concept in Indian philosophy. Saadhana, in fact, is also the way or a means of accomplishing something through spiritual practice, which includes not only a variety of disciplines of the Vedic-Hindu tradition, also the Jain, Buddhist and Sikh traditions followed in order to achieve certain spiritual objectives, or ultimately the Moksha or Nirvana [salvation], the goal of human life.
[This piece is the text of Dr. Ravindra Kumar’s keynote address at a three days international seminar organized by IASE University of Sardarshahar, Rajasthan, India at Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samitee, New Delhi on February 11-13, 2012]