Wednesday, 23 April 2014

T is for Teacher, the Seeker

This post may be seen as a continuation from my earlier post on P, Personality of a Teacher. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, India teaches us that essentially a human being is a potential divinity, whose true aim in life is to discover the Divine within and grow in the light of that Divinity (and this aim generally spreads over many lifetimes, with each lifetime providing a gradual progress toward the goal). Can education help us make some progress toward that aim? Should it? If you read this post, you will probably agree that it should.

Is an educator whose dharma is to help the learner grow and develop to his or her full potential aware of what is meant by human development, as per this Indian view? Or even what is a human being? Is human being only a physical, emotional, mental being, mixed up together? Or is a human being essentially a soul, spark of the Divine, manifesting itself in and through the physical, emotional and mental selves that are in turn always becoming who they are? In this view of human being, human development takes the form of a conscious aspiration and effort to constantly develop, perfect and harmonize the various becomings or manifestations of the real self, the soul, the inmost being, even when we are not in direct touch with that real being within. What does such a development process look like?

These are some of the key questions educators must keep exploring and place in front if they want to become conscious of their true role as educators. This is the call of the hour, the need of the times. After all, for the most part teachers are themselves the products of the currently prevalent education system which ignores this Indian spiritual view of human being and human development.

It is of utmost necessity that teachers must first unlearn what they presently know or think they know about the function of a teacher. And they should then re-learn the true role that a teacher must play in the child's life - that of a gentle facilitator who tries to create an ideal atmosphere where the children can discover the knowledge that lies hidden within them through proper impetus and gradual unfolding and development of various faculties.

The role of a teacher can't be over-emphasized if we want Indian education to become India-centric. In a true and living Indian education, the aim is to make sure that the various instruments of the soul - body, life and mind - are well prepared and trained so that the students feel ready to live an inner life or a life of self-discovery and self-transformation while they choose to engage in worldly occupations and all other aspects of a worldly life after completing their high school and college education. Here an important point to be made is about the influence of a teacher.

If the teacher is himself or herself a seeker, a life-long learner, an aspirant on the path of inner growth and self-discovery, he/she presents a real-world role model for the students who can see in their teacher that it is possible to continue on one’s inner life while being engaged in external work. Personal example and influence might be the best way an educator can emphasize for his or her students this aim of inner discovery, this urge to be on a quest for the discovery of the truth within.

In a true Indian education a teacher’s own inner work will be a key factor in facilitating students’ inner un-folding. Everything else – curriculum, course texts, learning materials, assignments etc. – will have its importance, but nothing will be as important as the teacher and his or her own inner progress.

This brings us to something quite fundamental to the kind of Indian education being proposed or suggested here, one that is based on the Indian view of man/woman, the individual and the aim of human life. How essential it is for a teacher, in this view of Indian education, to have some sense of (even if it is on an intellectual level) or at least an open-minded curiosity to “experience” something that is called “soul”? How essential it is to have a faith in this entity called “soul” or the divine spark within? If someone is intellectually convinced that there is no such thing as soul and that only through a clear rational thinking and reason can one dig deep into oneself, can such a person ever be an effective educator in this framework? In other words, if someone is convinced that only through an intellectual reasoning one can know oneself and that there is no other deeper layer to oneself other than what can be analysed and deconstructed by reason, will such a person ever be able to facilitate the “integral” un-foldment of the learner?

I guess I am actually asking an even more fundamental question. How important it is for someone interested in learning about or working in such a system of education to have a faith in or at least an open-minded curiosity to conceive of the possibility that there is something Divine in the Universe and within all of us? We can seek to discover something only when we can sense in some way that it exists. I guess in some way this goes back to the perennial argument between materialists and spiritualists -- materialists asking for a proof of the God before they can believe in It, and spiritualists arguing that proof is in seeking of the God itself, a seeking based on a faith that all including the matter is a manifestation of God.

Perhaps a truly Indian Education will have a room for such debates, such questionings and such multiple truths. Because as mentioned in an earlier post, it will be based on two fundamental Vedic truths: Truth is One, sages call it by many names; and Let noble thoughts come to us from every side.

Ultimately, a true and living Indian education will be built on the ideal that teachers must have faith in the child’s inner teacher to guide his or her own becoming.  And undoubtedly, this will equally apply to the teacher herself – to have a faith in her own inner teacher - whatever one may call That presence within. And that she must work constantly to unfold this inner teacher, so that she can be guided by this inner teacher which is beyond mind’s reasoning ability. A teacher can only give the child as much respect for her inner teacher, as much freedom for her becoming, as the state of her current unfoldment empowers her.

So instead of worrying about whether these high ideals of a true Indian Education can be applied in real-world classrooms and schools with all the deeply entrenched problems that ail the system, perhaps teachers should first be asking themselves – to what extent are we working on our un-foldment as whole and integrated persons?

In other words, a truly Indian Education will require teachers to live the life of life-long learners and seekers, with a full faith in the first principle of true teaching that nothing indeed can be taught.

This post is written for the A-Z Challenge, April 2014. The theme I am exploring is - Putting India back in Indian Education

Click here for the previous post in the series.

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