Chinmaya Students’ Tribute to Swami Vivekananda

On Monday, September 11th, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi commemorates the 125th Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Address to the Parliament of Religions, Chicago in 1893 and the centenary celebrations of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay with an important speech to students and teachers nationwide.

Given that Swami Vivekananda is such a central figure in the evolution of our consciousness as the inheritors of a glorious Indic Knowledge tradition, we invited our students and faculty to pen a few lines of their personal thoughts & reflections on Swami Vivekananda from any angle.

Reproducing them here:

Harshvardhan, MA (Sanskrit & IKT) Student

Harshvardhan

Hari Om
Swami Vivekananda, India’s spiritual giant, is strength personified. Yogi and Advaita Vedantin, he took the cream of the Veda’s to the world. ‘Viveka’ and ‘ananda’, the discriminative ability of humans to discern the drashta from the drashya leading to the state of sat-cit-ananda is what is evoked when he is remembered! Let’s invoke the ‘viveka’ and ‘ananda’ in each one of us and together carry forth the torch of Oneness that he revived so brightly!

 

 

Harsh, (BA – Sanskrit, Vyakarana) Student

Harsh Agrawal

When Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago on 11 september 1863 his first line is so impressive “Sisters and brothers of America” for his emotion and sense the whole parliament gave a standing ovation for three minute. It is pride of india

So please analyse his thoughts which gives new direction to youth.

“Who is helping you, don’t forget them;
Who is loving you, don’t hate them;
Who is trusting you; don’t cheat them “

Thank you

Simonetta, (Acharya – Sanskrit Vyakarana) Student

Simonetta

Swami Vivekananda have the most important role in the diffusion of Indian culture thought the world. He become a bridge between cultures and it is thanks to him that Indian culture is so appreciated in Europe and America. It is thanks to his contribution that Yoga became popular and spread.

 

 

 

Vinay, MA (Sanskrit & IKT) Student

VinayHari Om,
Here are some of my thoughts on Swami Vivekananda:
Swami Vivekananda’s greatness lies in the fact that he was hostile to none. Neither religion nor nationalism prejudiced his vision. Yet he worked tirelessly for India, its religion, and its people. He showed by his own life that we need not hate other nations and religions to love our own. He pointed out that such high ideals were only a natural outcome of the philosophy of the Vedas –“That which exists is one; sages call it by various names.” He declared that it is India’s mission to teach such ennobling ideas to rest of the World and bring love and peace among its people.
Thank you

Nishchhal, (BBA & IKT) Student

nischhalHe was truly a motivator. His knowledge was rich and immense. Truly a ideal for all the youths. His thinking capability his logic be it in every field – spirituality, education, country. The way he inspired the youth to fill with immense power to excel in every aspect of life.

 

 

 

Sradha, (BA – Sanskrit, Vyakarana) Student

SradhaFor us youth,  Swami Vivekananda represents  strength , energy  and commitment to do the right  things.  He urged us to have faith, ‘shraddha’ in our inner self and to work towards the welfare  of our nation and humanity  as a whole.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Anagha, BA (Sanskrit, Vyakarana) Student

AnaghaSwami Vivekananda was a lamp who destroyed the darkness in us and lead us in the path of culture and divinity…
समस्त लोकस्यान्धकारस्य हन्ता |

 

 

 

 

Isha, (B.Com & IKT) Student

IshaHari Om
Swami Vivekananda Ji was an inspiring and pure spirit known for his deep spiritual insight. He was a great Indian philosopher who looked at the world with different angle and tried to enrich the religious consciousness…
सः सर्वे मनुज कुलस्य आदर्श अस्ति।

The Importance of Teaching Sanskrit & Indian Knowledge by Prof. B. Mahadevan

What to teach in today’s educational curriculum is a matter that has produced more dust and heat than real substance. This has been true especially in recent years as every attempt by the Indian government to introduce “Indian knowledge” into the curriculum has met with stiff resistance and a hue and cry of thrusting religion, taking us back to a set of outdated and sectarian ideas etc. After nearly 200 years, the “Macaulayan” system of education is indeed delivering the results, although those who wanted it have gone back nearly 70 years ago. The purpose of this writing is to present a case as to why it is important for “Indians” to know what their ancestral knowledge systems were.

What is Indian knowledge?

Before we get into the main argument, it helps to set out clearly what we mean by Indian knowledge. By Indian knowledge we mean a set of ideas that can enable individuals to pursue their life with a singular goal of being happy, contented and self‐evolving either by themselves or in some group of social, religious or other types of organizations. There is a structured classification of the knowledge known as caturdaśa vidyā-sthānam, which covers the most part of it. This repository provides interesting set of ideas on core principles of life (śruti), specific instructions for ethical and moral living (smṛtis), suggested alternatives for do’s don’t in life (dharma śāstras), detailed case laws illustrating implementation challenges and actual experiences while observing these codes of conduct (purāṇas, itihāsas) and a host of scientific and management principles for gainful application in our day‐to‐day life (scattered all over the literature, including in the Upavedas).

What separates out the Indian knowledge from the rest is that it does not force everyone to accept that the method of achieving this goal is only one and everyone will have to strictly adhere to that single prescription. Most of the knowledge were developed, synthesised and articulated by great individuals who proposed their own models. In the process they refuted others and disagreed with others’ ideas, albeit in a structured logical fashion, without any room for emotional outbursts, name calling and dumping ideas and people disrespectfully. The ideas in Smṛtis and Dharma Śāstras proposed by great seers such as Manu, Yajñavalkya, Parāśara, Apasthamba and Bodhayana to name a few will provide enough evidence to this. Similarly the six major darśanas (Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta) also demonstrate this aspect if we dwell deeply into it. Even if you take one topic such as Vedānta, you find more than three competing schools of thought (Advaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita, and Dvaita, to name a few major thoughts for example). Such is the richness of the literature and multiplicity of ideas to choose from.

It appears that for the Ancestral Indians, knowledge can never be static, dogmatic or rigid in both structure and content. It must allow for dissent and constant churning thereby discovering new insights. In the whole process there is a culture of being very tolerant and respectful of the received wisdom. You will find no incidence of somebody being killed for not agreeing with the philosophies promulgated as the only valid means of knowledge (as you see in Semitic and Abrahamic religions). Where else can you see such a democratisation of knowledge, learning and practice of one’s own ideals in life?

Do we need to teach this knowledge today?

Modern educated Indians do not want this knowledge to be taught. They want it to be erased from their memory somehow, destroyed altogether if possible, or at best, ridiculed to the core so that it will not enter into the corridors of the educational institutions. They fancy the growing children with some new found ideas from the West, not in an accommodating fashion along with this knowledge, but in an exclusive fashion. The irony is that the greatest votaries of these are those who have not had the opportunity to properly acquire this knowledge, examine it by themselves, and conduct deep study and reflection etc. before taking the position. Instead they have been administered several doses of evils of “Indian knowledge” by some champions of this cause, who themselves have also suffered from the same limitation. It is like a person who claims to have a lifetime of expertise in the field of metallurgy making serious accusations and comments on anaesthesia or brain surgery on the basis what he has “learnt” from some self-proclaimed experts in the field. It is a typical case of the blind leading the blind! Let us not worry about these people, but get to the root of the matter and identify reasons as to why we need to know ancestral Indian knowledge.

Importance of received wisdom

Of all the reasons, the top of the list is that no society can afford to say, “I do not want to know what my ancestors thought about issues of life”. Such an attitude is naïve and childish and will make us “fish out of the water” overnight. I do not know if any society will develop such an attitude. This will be possible only under a few conditions. First of all, all our ancestors ought to have been so idiotic, mindless and bereft of any reasonable thinking. Further they must have been worldly foolish, dull headed and myopic in their thinking that it is not worthwhile to know what their ideas were, the issues that they discussed, and the theories of good and successful living that they proposed. Trying to know this could be a sheer waste of time in such a case.

If the above assumptions are not true, then we run a huge risk of reinventing the wheel all by ourselves by numerous needless experiments in our own lives. We are already going through this unwanted routine. It has been a practice for us to “junk” ancestral knowledge in the first place. When some western University reinvents the wheel after a series of experimentation and reiterates the ideas contained in the ancestral scriptures, we suddenly develop some respect for that piece of newly rehashed knowledge and at times end up paying dearly for acquiring it. All these could be avoided if we ourselves can introduce this knowledge in the curriculum. We must have the benefit of some first‐hand experience of consuming this knowledge. In any case, every society must learn to appreciate that there is intrinsic value to received wisdom and value it.

Propping up the sagging self esteem

An average Indian today, who has spent considerable number of years in the formal educational system (say up to higher education leading to UG or PG degree) is at best a bundle of conflict on matters pertaining to ancestral knowledge. Put such a person alongside such educated persons from the Western countries and kick start a discussion on their respective religious and cultural ethos and values, this Indian will be apologetic to the core. He will feel inferior and will quickly agree to the suggestion that his native wisdom and knowledge repositories are worthless. If his Macaulayan foundations are pretty strong he will even covertly and overtly argue for this. This introduces a deep sense of inferiority complex in him and his self‐esteem takes a beating every now and then. How can you build a society of confident and self‐believing young minds with this state of affairs? What can be a greater tragedy than this and how long can we live in a denial mode. The only way to come out of this is to have a good understanding of the ancestral knowledge of India.

Fighting the emerging IPR battle worldwide

There are strong geo‐political economic reasons for us to start learning ancestral Indian knowledge. This arises from the emerging IPR regime that promises to reward those who claim to have access to rich and useful knowledge earlier than the rest. The economic and legal framework for this is administered through a system of awarding patents, copyrights and exclusives rights of use. In very simple terms this works as follows. “A” claims that he indeed had the knowledge (by way of his ancestral repository) that is being used gainfully in the society for a number of potential applications. He will file a patent application to the International patent regulatory authorities on this basis. If no one else is able to prove that they had access to this knowledge earlier than “A”, then “A” is given patent and he is allowed to enjoy the benefits while restricting the use for others. On the other hand, if “B” claims that they indeed knew this earlier than “A” and is able to establish this decisively, the privileges are indeed given only to “B”.

Where will this country head if we are busy erasing our past memory and knowledge on some flimsy grounds of “thrusting Hindu religious ideas etc.”? We will either fight a losing battle (since we do not know what knowledge we had), or we will helplessly subdue ourselves to the rules of the game and curse ourselves for not being informed of what our ancestors did and said. In the case of Basmati rice, turmeric and a host of scientific and industrial applications (especially in the pharmaceutical sector) we are waging these losing battles. The cruel business world is silently smiling at the “height of ignorance” that we are subjecting ourselves to. The only way to quickly redeem us from this needless logjam is to get adequately educated into ancestral Indian knowledge.

The Way Forward…

There could be any number of reasons as to why we need to get educated with ancestral/traditional Indian knowledge. We shall focus on how this needs to be done rather than why. Two things need to be done almost immediately to rectify this lacunae that haunts our society, particularly the youngsters. We need to equip ourselves with this knowledge repository. The knowledge repository is vast and it needs careful thought on the different formats and methods of imparting them. Some foundational courses that can introduce the caturdaśa vidyā-sthānam will be a very valuable beginning.

The other aspect is giving them the key called Sanskrit, to open this vast treasure house. This is because the entire repository in its original is available only in Sanskrit. Therefore, knowledge of Sanskrit will prove to be very valuable going forward. Perhaps, several foreigners and Universities in the West have opened up to this reality and have seriously begun teaching Sanskrit, whereas we are left behind in the race. However, all that we need is a beginning. We have the native advantage to catch up and overtake others so that the delay in starting this process can be more than compensated.

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineers and Doctors must have some understanding of the ancestral knowledge, so that they can relate them to some modern day issues, and will be able to get near the source and examine it for whatever requirement. Similarly a student of Political History, Management, Psychology or Commerce must also benefit from this awareness. All that we need will be a decade of serious reforms and well thought out implementation strategies for this. When we achieve this, we will be at a striking distance from being the Viśwa Guru, which our ancient nation was for several centuries.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
B. Mahadevan, a Professor at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, is currently the Vice Chancellor of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth. The ideas expressed in the article are the author’s personal views. He can be reached at: vicechancellor@chinmayauniversity.ac.in

New Curriculum Design – Article by Prof. B. Mahadevan

New Curriculum Design to Enable Individuals Discover their Unique Strengths

Think of the educational opportunities available today after school. Students can opt for professional courses such as Engineering or Medicine, or for the three broad streams available: Science, Commerce or Liberal Arts. There are a host of programs available under each category and new degree programs are being created anew every year to suit emerging trends. For instance, from a simple B Com degree, several specialised versions such as B Com (Accounting & Finance), B Com (Financial Markets), B Com (Banking & Insurance) and others are on offer now.

It is particularly important to understand this development. People have begun to take a “job seeking” approach to education and many employers too seem to actively support this approach. Several engineering colleges, for instance, offer simple run of the mill software courses as part of a mainstream engineering degree so that the students can be lifted in dozens by recruiters to do some routine programming and debugging jobs for software companies. This approach to education prepares some “low cost coolies”, which could well suit recruiting companies in the short run. However, it neither allows individuals to be the best they can be, nor does it allow companies to be competitive in the long run, as their work force is not productive or innovative and is deficient in problem solving and many higher order thinking skills. The question is: how can educational institutions address this problem?

Relook Curriculum Design

If we examine the curriculum design of almost all the courses in the country, cutting across multiple disciplines, the pattern is obvious. Close to 90%–95% of the inputs provided are “job seeking” in nature. It appears as though as educators there is nothing else about individuals that we need to bother with. Provide them as much as we can in terms of new jargon, technical knowledge, simple tools and techniques, and useful vocational skills so that some employers will find some use for these and recruit students as they graduate out of the system. It may be an efficient approach to designing and offering courses, but is definitely not effective.

Unfortunately, the truth about educating an individual is not as simple as we would like it to be. Individuals each has a “biometric dashboard” consisting of some unique strengths, interests and passion. They also generally have some ideas about what it means to succeed in life and what will make them happy and so on. These issues are simply brushed under the carpet by current curriculum planners. Instead of helping the individual discover their true passion and interest, the curriculum design works like a cookie cutter, churning out similar looking products out of the teaching shop. Unless this issue is fundamentally addressed, not much will change on the ground. Hope lies mainly in the ability of colleges and universities to break new ground in terms of curriculum design and course offerings. The future belongs to such universities in the country as can recognize this problem and respond to it by and address the above concerns.

Principles of New Curriculum Design

In order to make changes in the curriculum design, a fundamental reorientation is called for. We must recognize that the goal of curriculum design is to enable individual students discover their unique strengths and passion and develop it even as they pick up some “job seeking” inputs in the degree program. In order to achieve this some basic features must be put in place.

First among the list is the flexibility for individuals to pursue subjects of their choice. Courses must be designed such that students can “mix and match” subjects and construct their own course list. Thus, every course list that appears in the final graduation transcript many be unique. For instance, somebody may take several courses in financial markets to major in, but will also choose varied subjects such as Indian literature and aesthetics, perspectives from the Ramayana or Mahabharata, an appreciation course in sahitya and some readings from selected works of Kalidasa as other courses. Thereby, this individual is showing a deep desire for Literature and Linguistics. Another may choose courses such as comparative philosophy, a course on business statistics and natural language processing aspects of Sanskrit grammar.  A curriculum design that allows for such possibilities has greater propensity to graduate individuals with self-confidence and satisfaction.

In order for the above to happen, seeding of alternative streams of ideas and thoughts must happen at the very beginning of the course. This will allow students to taste, sample and discover their dormant interest and passion. Therefore, a wide spectrum of basic inputs must be provided at the beginning before deep specialisation happens. Another aspect that will be required is the ability to break the traditional boundaries among subject areas. Who decided that Sanskrit, Ancient Indian knowledge and Sahitya cannot be taught along with Accounting, Marketing and Financial Management? Who said that a person wanting to specialise in psychology cannot take a couple of courses in basic mathematical thinking, business government and society, Neeti Sastras and aesthetics? These options truly allow an individual go through a phase of mind-expanding experimentation, which is crucial at this learning stage of life.

Curriculum design must provide enough opportunities for self-experimentation and deep immersion in some selected topics and ideas by the students both as individuals and in groups. This allows them to strengthen their belief systems and to develop team work and a spirit of give-and-take, so that they learn to communicate their ideas and beliefs both in individual and group settings. This calls for innovative evaluation mechanisms, opportunities for critical thinking, doing some deep study and research through a dissertation work, etc.

Time has come to tread paths that many may think rather unconventional (as of today). One case in point is to shed our “Macaulayan” thinking to education and open up completely to our ancient knowledge repositories, including the Sanskrit language. There is far too much of serious interest and research happening elsewhere on these issues and we seem to be “fence-sitting” and passively receiving the rehashed knowledge manufactured in an alien cultural setting. It is time we gain hugely by bringing them into the mainstream educational institutions in more than one way and actively inquire into the contemporary relevance of this. Curriculum redesign is critical to this process too.

Such approaches to curriculum design are bound to open up the minds of individuals, help them discover their own interests and passion so that they blossom them into a fully confident individuals as they complete graduation, while they also pick up some useful “job-seeking” inputs. UGC, the regulatory arm of higher education in the country has been making several reforms which seem to enable educational institutions offer programs that are well designed. The most important among the reforms is the choice-based credit system (CBCS). Implementation of CBCS in letter and spirit will enable educational institutions address many of the above aspects of curriculum design. It is time educational leaders take cognizance of this and develop new and innovative curricula.  Individuals, educational institutions and society cannot but benefit in the long run.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
B. Mahadevan, a Professor at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, is currently the Vice Chancellor of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth. The ideas expressed in the article are the author’s personal views. He can be reached at: vicechancellor@chinmayauniversity.ac.in

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