This study is on the role of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) and Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) as religious personalities in the development of an educational philosophy and practice.
The major part of the study is an analysis of the development of an educational theory and praxis a practical activity shared by the three great reformers. The work reveals that all of them were consistent in their self understanding and in their articulation of the nature of man and the building of future humanity through education. The three reformers offer a challenge to both East and West in religion and education as one enters twenty-first century.
William Cenkner (1930-2003) was Katharine M. Drexel Professor of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, Washington, USA. He is also the author of Tradition of Teachers: Sankara and the Jagadgurus Today.
One of the most challenging areas of Indian studies is the religious personality within contemporary Hinduism. Several philosophical works and cultural histories have demonstrated the vitality of the high religious personality in twentieth century Indian development. This particular study, however, arises out of a conviction that India has important things to say to the West and to the world not only in a theoretical way but also in a practical way. Educational reform is one of the most practical activities of man, drawing upon the full range of his thought and personality for articulation. It is difficult to grasp the significance of an extraordinary personality, for no simple phenomenological structure is universally applicable. Scholars have in the past approached the religious personality historically or even philosophically, but few studies have indicated how practical activity follows closely upon the character and thought of the figure. For a thorough understanding of such a personality, it is necessary to see how his entrance into the practical affairs of life, even secular activity, and in this case education, is intimately connected with his basic thought and the Aructure of his own personality.
One methodological problem in the study of the religious personality is to uncover the consistency between the individual and his thought and activity. The continuity between personality, philosophy and action should be rigorously consistent when one is dealing with a highly spiritual figure. Each of the three parts of this work begins with a brief consideration of the personality of the man under consideration, historically outlined around a dominating characteristic which has emerged from his individual life. The second step of investigation is a study of a single aspect of his philosophy, namely, his philosophy of man wherein the significant quality of his personality becomes the philosophical vision for an understanding of man. The major part of the study is an analysis of the practical activity which these three figures shared, that is, the development of an educational theory and praxis. It will be seen that their philosophy of man is inherent in their articulation of an educational theory. The process reveals that the three individuals under consideration were generally consistent in their self-understanding and in their articulation of the nature of man and the building of future humanity through education.
Most studies in contemporary Hinduism point to the role of the British in India along with Christian missionaries and the work of orientalists as stimulants to the Indian renaissance in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out, the renaissance was governed primarily by the principle of interiority. Every creative period in Indian development, the Vedic period, the time of classical Sanskrit works, the age of bhakti, even medieval sectarianism, was a new experience of the spirit within human life. The principle of interiority operating within the Indian renaissance was a rediscovery of the spiritual within life which increased both the power and effectiveness of human life. The great personalities of recent Hinduism made this discovery in their own lives, in the lives of their people and the life of the nation, and hence were able to participate in the restoration of Indian life which ushered India into the modern period. Regardless of the impact of the processes of Sanskritization, secularization or Westernization, the spiritual man was both the spear-head and the source of the renaissance. He was able to bridge the gap between change and continuity, tradition and modernity. And even these processes are better understood in the lives of the extraordinary men and women of the period than in the more general terms of history and society.
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