Moral Values and the Relevance of Swami Vivekananda

His Thoughts on Philosophy of Education in the 21st Century


Polemic Paper, 2018

17 Pages, Grade: 2.8

Anonymous


Free online reading

Abstract

The 21st Century technological evolution had contributed to globalisation of knowledge-based education, which has changed human lifestyle. Such change had lead to a condition where moral values are left far behind. In fact there is gross erosion of values of individual to keep pace with the society and in order to fulfil one’s desire to be at the top. The erosion of moral values of truth, co-operation, non violence, peace, love, respect for parents, elders, authority and hard work is leading to the decay of moral and social fabric of society at a speed never witnessed in the history of civilization. Our stress is too much on standards of living and not on standards of life. Though the problem of decreasing values extends to the whole range of human activities, education field is regarded as the proper place to inculcate positive values.

The Indian culture is deeply rooted in spiritual and ethical values, unless these values find their way into the life of individuals, education will lose its significance and will not fulfil its aim. Though we have made progress in knowledge but still we are not above the levels of our past generations in ethical and moral life. In some way we have declined from their standards. Today we have been successful in making professionals but not the human beings. Because the system of education made the learner to feel that there is nothing noteworthy and appreciable in traditions and moral. Therefore there it is a need to revisit the Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy to reform the present education system.

Key words: Morals, Philosophy, Vivekananda, Philosophy of Education, Ethics, Value Education

“Education means that process by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, and intellect is sharpened, as a result of which one can stand on one’s own feet”

Swami Vivekananda

Education is the process by which an individual grows, develops and becomes increasingly well adjusted in an ever changing society. Education provides experience that enables a person to form desirable habits, broaden mental horizon, deepen understanding of society and acquire skills to solve problems encountered in day to day life. Therefore the process of education must help an individual to acquire moral qualities, discipline, dedication and devotion to truth. The mind of an educated person should be fearless and cultured.

Although Education is an instrument as well as a catalyst of social transformation and expected to bring about qualitative change in man’s perception, attitudes, habits, priority and goals, it is missing somewhere. Moreover, the present system of education is only information oriented not character-based. It has become consumerist in nature and makes one selfish, self-centered, irreverent and cynical. It sharpens reasons but hardens the heart. It lays little or no emphasis on such basic values as truth, love, honesty, humility, compassion, forbearance and justice. It makes one conscious about one’s rights but not duties. The net result is that a strongly individualistic and materialistic culture has taken birth, which promotes self-aggrandizement, nurtures opportunism and chicanery, and generates tension in society.

Material Life and Moral Values

The tremendous emphasis on the scientific and mechanical ways of life is fast reducing man to the status of a machine. Nowadays moral values are being undermined; fundamental principles of civilization are ignored and conflicts of ideas, manners and habits are encompassing the atmosphere. Disregard for everything old has become fashion of the day. All these social evils can be cured only through a proper educational process. The process of education shall imbibe moral values among the individuals so that they can conduct their life with integrity. They can decide what is right or wrong; what is good or evil and what is just or unjust.

Morality has become a complicated issue in the multi-cultural society that we live in today. Hence, it is necessary to understand morality, how it affects our behaviour, our conscience and our society. Morality describes the set of principles that shall govern an individuals’ behaviour in a socially acceptable way. Without these principles in place, societies cannot survive for long. Moral values are the standards of good and evil, right or wrong which govern an individual’s behaviour and choices. Moral values are the rules and guidelines, the mores, which an individual or a group has about what is right or wrong, good or evil. Morality speaks of a system of behaviour in regard to standards of right or wrong behaviour. Moral values include some important aspects:

1. Moral standards, with regard to behaviour;
2. Moral responsibility, referring to our conscience; and
3. Moral identity.

Material Life and Modern Education

The modern day education is not bringing any revitalisation of human values. The scientific advancements have altered man’s perception of the sacred and the sacrosanct but did not do away with his inner vide such as lust, greed, anger and the like. In the present day society emphasis is laid more on formal education rather than on character building. The net result is chaos and anarchy in society. Here acquisition of wealth and material benefits is overshadowing the fundamental human values. Therefore we need a system of education that can help an individual to truly imbibe moral values in his life. It is not merely to grow rich or learned, or even to achieve fulfilment of our little selfish interests. All these may appear as desirable ends at individual level, but they are not enough to build a just social order.`1

One of the objectives of education shall be to emancipate the individual, to free him from prejudices and superstitions, and from all superficial distinctions. One has to be a human being, first and foremost. The modern age demands that individuals meet the challenges of life with the challenge of an adequate philosophy; that adequacy can be ensured only if that philosophy dares to achieve a happy synthesis between the process of education and imbibing moral values.

To make an individual as a good human being, the development of moral values within him is the prior task. This can be achieved only through the proper pattern of education. Since morality is the important aspect of personality education must stress on moral aspect of life. Man should follow an attitude of respect for all other human beings one should imbibe love for all and hatred for none.

Values and the Contemporary Realities

The problem of declining values is multi dimensional arising out of combination of major social forces such as globalization, materialism, consumerism, commercialization of education, threats to humanity due to violence and terrorism. These have led to insecurities, individualistic life styles, acceleration of desires, misuse of science and technology, pessimism, sense of alienation and other negative consequences.2

Educational institutions are the microcosms of the world. The disorder of the world surfaces to educational institutions in many ways. The state of growing up of children and youth in India has changed and is further changing fast. We do not need scientific surveys to tell us what our own eyes and ears are revealing. The number of dysfunctional families has grown. Children are indulging in crime and violence. Mass media has senselessly gripped our children, and assaults them with information, views and prejudice in a manner that young minds can hardly discern or judge. While the questioning attitude and critical thinking needs to be encouraged in children, we find that many young people and students treat teachers with disrespect and question out of arrogance and see it as a way of questioning authority. Drug abuse, irresponsible sexual behaviour, vandalism, commercialisation, stealing, cheating, confusion between heroes and celebrities as role models are witnessed more often than ever before. In a general sense, it has become a common belief that our youth have lost qualities of civility, respect and responsibility. There is in fact a public call for education and action because of the degeneration of our cultural ethos.3

As per the population projection, India will have one of the youngest populations in the world by 2020. This vast human resource will shape the nature of the nation as well as the world. The kind of individual we produce in turn determines the kind of society we live in. If we produce individuals who are self-centred, aggressive, competitive and greedy, we cannot have a society that is non-violent, peaceful, cooperative and harmonious. It is not possible to bring fundamental transformation in society unless the individual is transformed. Education is the main agency for individual transformation and social change. The kind of education we provide to them will have bearing on the value foundation of the society.

Problems in Educational System

The current model of education contributes to the lopsided development of students. This model of education puts exclusive focus on cognitive to the total neglect of the affective domain and presents alienation between head and heart. Young minds are nurtured in a spirit of excessive competition and are trained right from the beginning to relate to aggressive competition and facts detached from contexts. The individualistic idea of excellence is promoted at the cost of emotional and relational skills. Young learners hardly understand why they are in school, why they are studying different subjects and how their schooling will be helpful to them. Their understanding is limited to learning about the subjects. They hardly know how they should live their lives, commit themselves to the welfare of the country and concerned about the social and moral issues. They are not clear as to what sort of persons they hope to become when they complete their education. This is mainly because of the existing problems in the system of education which are mentioned below.4

A) Although Education is an instrument as well as a catalyst of social transformation and expected to bring about qualitative change in individual’s perception, attitudes, habits, priority and goals, it is missing somewhere.
B) The present system of education is information-oriented not character-based. It has become consumerist in nature and makes one’s personality so poor so that the individuals become selfish, self-centered, irreverent and cynical in their lives.
C) Today’s education lays little or no emphasis on such basic values as truth, love, honesty, humility, compassion, forbearance and justice. It makes one conscious about one’s rights but not duties.
D) To keep pace with the fast changing society and in order to fulfil one’s desire to be at the top, our system of school education is somewhere compromising with the gross erosion of values.
E) Improper implementation of physical activity or somehow increasing status of physical inactivity in schools causing poor health and fitness in students.
F) The tendency of exam fever, suicidal attempts, emotional imbalance, and juvenile addictions are increasingly evident among students. This in fact signifies intensive personality problems.

The net result of these problems is that a strongly individualistic and materialistic culture has taken birth, which promotes self-aggrandizement, nurtures opportunism and chicanery, and generates lust, greed, anger and the like, causing tension in society. Thus the present system of education is turning children into machines which is defeating the very purpose of education.

Though the improvement of the quality of education has been the key concern for many years, quality has been defined in more pragmatic terms in recent times. It has become synonymous with employability and preparation for the world of work. Less and less consideration is given to the subject of education i.e. individual development as a human being. That is why considerable progress is made in terms of literacy yet our society is shaken by conflicts, corruption and violence. Quality of education should not be considered in fragmented terms but in a more holistic and expanded manner; not in terms of number of years of schooling but the quality aspect of the development of the individual; the formation of the whole persons and full flowering of the human being and character building.

Need to Revisit Vivekananda’s Philosophy of Education

The 21st Century technological evolution had contributed to globalisation of knowledge-based education, which has changed human lifestyle. Such change had lead to a condition where moral values are left far behind. In fact there is gross erosion of values of individual to keep pace with the society and in order to fulfil one’s desire to be at the top. The erosion of moral values of truth, co-operation, non violence, peace, love, respect for parents, elders, authority and hard work is leading to the decay of moral and social fabric of society at a speed never witnessed in the history of civilization. Our stress is too much on standards of living and not on standards of life. Though the problem of decreasing values extends to the whole range of human activities, education field is regarded as the proper place to inculcate positive values.

The Indian culture is deeply rooted in spiritual and ethical values, unless these values find their way into the life of individuals, education will lose its significance and will not fulfil its aim. Though we have made progress in knowledge but still we are not above the levels of our past generations in ethical and moral life. In some way we have declined from their standards. Today we have been successful in making professionals but not the human beings. Because the system of education made the learner to feel that there is nothing noteworthy and appreciable in traditions and moral. Therefore there it is a need to revisit the Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy to reform the present education system.

Swami Vivekananda on Education

Numerous are the quotes from Swami Vivekananda when the subject under discussion is education—he called it the manifestation of inherent perfection; he called it the process of character-building; he wanted an all-round education which would develop the body, mind and spirit equally and simultaneously. In one context Vivekananda himself raised this question about education and provided a noteworthy definition:

What is education? Is it book-learning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education (emphasis added) . 5

It is obvious that here Vivekananda is making a clear distinction between literacy and education. And in this, he had the live example of his guru, Sri Ramakrishna, who was almost ‘untaught’ but could be considered more educated than the renowned scholars of not only his but almost all times. Therefore, when Vivekananda says, “you consider a man as educated if only he can pass some examinations and deliver good lectures”6, it is a clear warning about what education should and should not be, a warning which seems to have gone unheeded even after more than a century of its being articulated.

In an ironic vein he also said, “If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages in the world, and encyclopaedias are the Rishis.”7

Mere information or knowledge which is not pragmatic is not education, he said. Only that knowledge which matures into wisdom—which inculcates the skills for living and the proper attitude to make the best of these skills—should be the objective of education. Garnering his ideas as he said he had done from his extensive travels across India, Vivekananda concluded that at the root of all misery here lay the lack of education. In a letter to Sarala Ghosal, he compared ‘our’ situation with that of the educated west and said:

Through education comes faith in one’s own Self, and through faith in one’s own Self the inherent Brahman is waking up in them, while the Brahman in us is gradually becoming dormant.8

In these and such numerous instances, Vivekananda spelt out what education should do, what it is actually doing, what should be avoided and what should be encouraged as best-practices in the field of education. These quotes structure his ideas on what is positive and negative education.

Negative vs Positive Education

Lamenting about the contemporary system, Vivekananda continued: “. . . the education that our boys are receiving is very negative. The schoolboy learns nothing but has everything of his own broken down—want of Shraddha is the result.”9

But he did not consider this the fault of education, only of its implementation because he believed that “. . . a nation is advanced in proportion as education and intelligence spread among the masses.”10

This was Vivekananda’s genuine and continuing concern with the right kind of education; it made him often spell out what he considered as negatives in the process; for instance, he gave importance to the development of an individual’s ‘personality’; he did not believe in mass hypnosis which often passes as education, making the recipient mindless or ‘brain-dead’ rather than a feeling-thinking human being. He once described the educated as “dyspeptics . . . living a jelly-fish existence”—strong words which underscore his despair for a future with skewed education destroying every creative human impulse.

In another context, listing the negatives of education, he asked:

. . . is that education as a result of which the will, being continuously chocked by force through generations, is well-neigh killed out; is that education under whose sway even the old ideas, let alone new ones, are disappearing one by one; is that education which is slowly making man a machine?11

After this significant question, he concluded,

It is more blessed, in my opinion, even to go wrong, impelled by one’s free will and intelligence than to be good as an automaton.12

The human being is, therefore, human not because of his/her physiological or genetic make-up but because of the influence of a humanizing education. In today’s popular mass culture, where everyone wants to do as his/her neighbour does, education only makes for ‘automatons’, as he spelt out in no uncertain terms. And today this is a matter of deep concern—children are made to mindlessly engage themselves in learning by rote lessons which may get them full marks but which leave them totally maladjusted to the motions of living. Then what does one do? Vivekananda cloaks his suggestion in a telling rhetorical question:

The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion—is it worth the name?13

In addition to this list of basic requirements which education should supply, Vivekananda also noted a lacuna in the spiritual realm when he said, “The modern system of education gives us no facility for the development of the knowledge of Brahman.”14 This is especially relevant to our so-called ‘secular’ leanings which seem to have made people apologetic about their own religion and antagonistic to other religions. Spirituality is the world-wide-web of human interactions which needs to be enhanced to save the imperilled planet in this century. And here the role of the teacher and the taught is the basis for development.

The teacher and the taught

Vivekananda often reiterated that in teaching, self help is the best help. According to him,

. . . men must teach themselves . . . . none can teach you. . . . you have to teach yourself; your growth must come from inside . . . . There is no other teacher to you than your own soul.”15

But not everyone would be able to hone his/her own mind and soul to become teachers. For them he had another format of the teacher-taught equation. Anticipating in his usual forward-looking style, the concept behind a currently popular term—‘facilitator’ as a synonym for teacher—he said:

Do you think you can teach even a child? You cannot. The child teaches himself. Your duty is to afford opportunities and to remove obstacles.16

The teacher is warned here: not to feel a sense of superiority but rather be humble— vidya dadati vinayam —a dictum which seems to have been overshadowed by a market-driven, exhibitionist culture. Instead Vivekananda puts forward his views on what a teacher should and should not do by saying: “he [the teacher] . . . [should] not teach with any ulterior motive, for money, or fame or anything else, but simply for love, pure love for you.”17

Not for nothing has a teacher been deeply revered in our culture from time immemorial. But the custodians of education today need to do some serious introspection to assess how they measure up in this calibration of Vivekananda.

Of course, Vivekananda’s prescription is not for teachers alone. An ideal teacher would need a worthy pupil. As he suggests, “The conditions necessary in the taught are purity, a real thirst for knowledge and perseverance.”18

These three crucial requirements, if met, would certainly ensure excellence in education, irrespective of the curricular flaws, so to say. Since education is an exchange / interaction between the teacher and the taught, for a holistic perception, Vivekananda describes the people, the process and the content involved,

The soul from which this impulse [to quicken the spirit] comes is called the Guru; and the soul to which this impulse is conveyed is called the disciple, the student.19

After defining the roles, he talks about the process:

In order to convey this impulse, in the first place, the soul from which it comes must possess the power of transmitting it . . . to another, and in the second place, the object to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it.20

But even if the teacher and the taught are excellent, the content is also important:

The seed must be a living seed and the field must be . . . ploughed.21

This sums up the process of education and the role of its stakeholders which, if put into place today, would do marvels for the system.

Blueprint for the future

Education for everyone was a lifelong concern of Vivekananda; here he was willing to tone down some of the above quoted ideals and come down to the barebones of what he considered the necessities of the future when the ‘masses’ would receive education as their birthright. In this futuristic model he drew up the following plan of education,

. . . by which they can learn to combine among themselves and be united for the accomplishment of any object for the common good of the people, or by which they can have the concerted intellect to conceive the idea of popular right . . . or even such education by which they can be fired with the aspiration to gain the right of representation in the control of state revenues and expenditure.22

Forming a part of an essay on Modern India, these are valuable pointers by a mind which could have foreseen the needs of a democratic India of the future with rapid changes in the demographic graph. The kind of education which these words project would at once solve many of the pressing problems of the country today without having to take recourse to aggressively demanded legislative reforms and / or punitive measures. If people learn to be united for a worthy cause, if everyone considers selflessly the common good, if everyone uses his/her intellect to ensure that rights are distributed among all, not only to the privileged few, if revenues and expenditure do not find their way into a few pockets, leaving the majority below poverty line society will certainly become a better place. And the only requirement for this is proper education for the masses.

The conclusion is obvious—people in power are not really educated; they have impressive degrees but the process of humanizing, “man-making” or developing what Vivekananda referred to as ‘personality’ has completely passed them by.

The corrective is not far to find. Vivekananda’s words spell it out. His ideal—which can be ours too—is stated in lucid terms:

The ideal of all education, all training, should be this man-making. But, instead of that, we are always trying to polish up the outside. What use in polishing up the outside when there is no inside? The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow.23

It is time we stove to actualize this end and aim—individually if necessary, without depending on plans and programs to be chalked out and put into place.

Conclusion

When Vivekananda articulated his ideas on education, India was not free to fashion its own educational curriculum; but today this barrier has long been removed. It is a matter of regret that six and a half decades of having the freedom to choose has not yet been able to find the ‘right’ kind of education which will help us make a mark in the world. Much is claimed on behalf of the Indian intellectual Diaspora abroad which is contributing immensely to almost all aspects of human endeavour. But does that mean that Indian education has reached the pinnacle of excellence which Vivekananda was hoping for? Does the child who passes through our system of education acquire self reliance, strength of will which does what is right and the ability to control this will, shraddha or respect for the heritage which can be contemporized and reused, a sense of unity or team spirit which is necessary for any accomplishment, awareness about and proactive involvement in governance and economic decisions? The list provided by Vivekananda is endless but each item is a pointer which we ignore only at our own risk.

The time has to come to rethink the aims and objectives with which education is made available and assess whether any or all of these are being met. A child who completes ten years of formal education often has no ability to put the information / knowledge to any use at all - often not remembering any of it beyond the day of the last examination. The recipients of higher education are no better equipped. They are blinkered and often have behavioural and attitudinal problems.

Education has not been able to make people think, to be individual, or to stand on their own feet - “Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs”24 - as Vivekananda was repeatedly urging. Smug statistical data projects the quantity and not the quality of education. Social and global problems can directly or indirectly be traced to a malfunctioning system of education - not only in our country but in most other places too.

But this dismal picture has a brighter side and this becomes visible when we wake up - and continue relentlessly till the goal of all-round education is reached. The roadmap to this goal is available in plenty in the thoughts of Vivekananda, waiting to be appropriated, implemented and benefitted from.

Reference

Avinashilingam, T. S., (ed.) EDUCATION Compiled From The Speeches and Writings of Swami Vivekananda (Coimbatore: Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, 1957).

Chandra, S., “Swami Vivekananda’s Vision of Education”, In : Roy, S. & Sivaramkrishnan, M. (Eds), Reflections on Swami Vivekananda : Hundred Years After Chicago (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1994).

Education for Values in Schools – A Framework, Document prepared by the Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations of Education, NCERT: 2012.

Ghosal , S., “The Educational Thoughts of Swami Vivekananda: A Review”, University News, 50 (09), Feb. 27 – March 04, 2012, New Delhi.

Jitatmananda, S., Swami Vivekananda : Prophet and Pathfinder (4th edt.), (Rajkot: Shri Ramkrishna Ashrama, 1998).

Manasi Bera, Assertion o Traditional Yoga in Human Health and Value Education, Unpublished Thesis (Pune: University of Pune, Department of Education & Extension, 2007)

Swami Prabhananda, “Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902)”, Prospects, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, June 2003, pp. 231 – 245, UNESCO, Paris.

Swami Vivekananda, My India: The India Eternal, (Kolkata Ramkrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 2008).

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 2, (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 3, (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 4, (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 6, (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

Walia, Kiran (Ed.), My Idea of Education – Swami Vivekananda (Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 2008)

[...]


1 Avinashilingam, T. S., (ed.) EDUCATION Compiled From The Speeches and Writings of Swami Vivekananda (Coimbatore: Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, 1957).

2 Education for Values in Schools – A Framework, Document prepared by the Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations of Education, NCERT: 2012.

3 Ibid.

4 Manasi Bera, Assertion o Traditional Yoga in Human Health and Value Education, Unpublished Thesis (Pune: University of Pune, Department of Education & Extension, 2007)

5 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 4, p. 490 (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

6 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 6, p. 147 (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

7 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 3, p. 302 (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

8 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 4, Opcit., p. 483.

9 Ibid, pp. 483-84.

10 Ibid, p. 482.

11 Ibid, p. 490.

12 Ibid.

13 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 6, Opcit.

14 Ibid, p. 158.

15 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 2, p. 385 (Kolkata: Advaitia Ashram, 2006).

16 Ibid.

17 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 4, Opcit., p.27.

18 Ibid. p. 24.

19 Ibid. p. 22.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 4, Opcit., p. 440.

23 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 2, Opcit., p. 15.

24 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol : 2, Opcit., p. 148.

17 of 17 pages

Details

Title
Moral Values and the Relevance of Swami Vivekananda
Subtitle
His Thoughts on Philosophy of Education in the 21st Century
Grade
2.8
Year
2018
Pages
17
Catalog Number
V468838
ISBN (eBook)
9783668945265
ISBN (Book)
9783668945272
Language
English
Keywords
moral, values, relevance, swami, vivekananda, thoughts, philosophy, education, century
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2018, Moral Values and the Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/468838

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