The twentieth century witnessed unprecedented events in human history. It witnessed unimagined progress but at the same time unparalleled destruction. It is now clear that humanity is transiting through a new kind of society, a transition even more significant than the earlier ones. Many areas of prime concern face mankind-threat to our natural environment, population, poverty but most disturbing of all is erosion of character, caused in great measure by confusion in value systems. The rapidly shrinking world, thanks to modern communication ushered by science and technology, has further abetted the process of this global confusion. So, whither mankind? Isn’t education of the right kind, man-making education, the panacea for mankind on the brink of chaos?
Close at home, India with its background of a great heritage has been experiencing a crisis of character of many dimensions, substantially as a result of faulty educational methodologies adopted especially in the last century. Creative educational thinkers have propounded more holistic and human philosophies of education. In India alone we have had great thinkers and outstanding souls like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi and others who developed their own theories of education based on Indian heritage and tried to put them into practice. However, we cannot say with any assurance that we have been able to arrive at a methodology or educational pattern that may be considered to be adequate enough to practically cope with emerging problems concerning value erosion.
Education has always occupied the pride of place in the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission tradition and is considered the most prestigious and key developmental activity of the Math and Mission. The Delhi centre of the Ramakrishna Mission has been a major centre of such tradition in the Capital of India and has deeply influenced over three generations of youth by bringing to them the real significance of the India heritage, culture and most importantly values as a measure of personal evolution.
So, when we were planning the various events for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi; that were held in February/March 2002, these thoughts were foremost in our minds. The Platinum Jubilee of any institution is a major milestone and an occasion for serious introspection and more importantly a time to look ahead and plan and future course of the Institution. So it was decided to dedicate one day, exclusively to look at education, particularly value education, by inviting eminent persons in various fields like Education, Philosophy, Religion, Science and other areas of importance, to participate in a seminar on: Value Education. Another important motivation was the fact that the Delhi centre of Ramakrishna Mission has been very actively participating in recent years in the endeavors of educational forums and the Government towards evolving methodologies on value education, particularly training teachers in the process of imparting value education.
The material presented in this book is a compilation of the valuable inputs received at the seminar held on 4th March 2002. We thought that the significant thoughts, ideas, and action plans put across by the eminent personalities at the seminar should be brought out in the form of a book as a permanent record. This should serve as useful material for educationisits, students and all those who are concerned about the future of India.
While I would not like to detract the readers from making their own evaluation of the various presentations brought out in this compilation, it may not be entirely out of place to briefly introduce a few fundamental concepts on values to serve as a brief background. What is the meaning of value? Value is a behavioral concept related to an individual or a group that implies what is desirable or valuable. Values determine human behavior and therefore influence the quality of life. Therefore, one’s choice of a course of action is dependent on value alternatives. Though in a strict sense the word ‘Value’ does not merely mean virtues or morality, Values, morals and ethics are intrinsically and mutually connected and often in the common parlance one is loosely substituted for the other. When related to social norms or standards they become expressions of higher aspirations and creative power of the universal life. So we have to comprehend both, absolute values (a value which is considered an end in itself) and instrumental values (means to attain higher goals). Collectively, Values can be looked at as-
i) Material values: wealth, money, property etc.
ii) Moral and social values such as good conduct, manners, habits etc.
iii) Cultural values such as appreciation of art, music, beauty etc.
iv) Spiritual values such as faith in spirituality, religion, rituals, God, scriptures, philosophies, ideas etc.
Broadly in the Indian context, values have been looked at as goals of life. Ancient India gives these as the four purusharthas i.e. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Indian thought has also looked broadly at impersonal values like Truth, love and beauty. So it would appear that the Indian ethos lays down values which offer a frame work for mankind to evolve to the highest level. The highest value (Parama Purushartha) being attainment of Koksha, that is an absolute value. The Indian mind considers achievement of that absolute value an identity with Absolute Reality. This is very fundamental to the Indian mind. In Western philosophy, the study of value is dealt under an independent discipline called ‘axiology’. The western values consider Beauty, Truth and Goodness as the ultimate values. Therefore it would be appropriate to say that the Indian mind goes much beyond materialistic conceptions. Perhaps it would also be appropriate to say that the approaches of western philosophy and Indian philosophy towards study of values have to be studied separately. Finally how do all these conceptions determine practical ideas about imparting value education? How do our educationists look at these concepts? What are the measures for practical implementation? This task is difficult. Teaching these fundamentals to our children especially concepts like divinity is not only a very important but also a very responsible talk. We however have the reassurance that the great mind of Swami Vivekananda has looked at all these questions and he has given to us profound ideas on ‘Man Making Education’.
Let us see very briefly at how our distinguished speakers have looked at these concepts. With their contributions we should be able to arrive, not only at a clearer understanding of VALUES, but also at a practical structure and methodology of imparting Value education at various levels and sections of society, especially to students and their teachers.
In his inaugural speech Dr. Karan Singh expresses his concern about poverty in India, and relates this problem to social values. He goes on to talk about ecological values and their bearing on global conservation. He discusses the concept of divine creation and divinity and refers to India spiritual and scriptural heritage.
Swami Prabhananda in his comprehensive and incisive KEY NOTE address, surveys knowledge as a whole, both secular and sacred, by touching upon Values as they arise in the Western intellectual tradition and values as they emerge in the Indian scriptural and epical heritage. Particularly noteworthy is his analysis of the modern scientific tradition and particularly the philosophical and meta-physical significance of these ideas. He also brings in the psychological component of human existence and human nature at large. Swami Prabhananda finally gives a precise lead on what an be the process of correct education.
Prof. J. S. Rajput, brings in his vast experience as a teachers, educationist and most importantly an educational administrator involved in formulating educational policies and discusses the historical context of Indian educational scene since the British times and the progressive evolution of policies in India.
Swami Suhitananda’s paper dwells into deeper dimensions of the vedantic understanding of man’s in-depth psychology, Yoga as propounded in the Yogasutra. Particularly important is his discussion on Education as a concept and Swami Vivekananda’s profound contributions in this regard.
Swami Yuktatmananda has broadly looked at the role of Ramakrishna Mission Institutions in rendering value education and discusses some of the important teachings of Swami Vivekananda related to faith in our divine nature, Character, Positive Thinking, Strengtheining the will, Selfless service and Assimilation of ideas.
Swami Gautamananda’s presentation looks directly at the values preached by Sri Ramakrishna like truthfulness, purity, selfless service, prayer and meditation. With very simple illustrations he goes directly into the core of the matter and illustrates the process of education that instills values.
I would particularly commend the readers to the very interesting interactions that took place at the question and answer session with a distinguished panel. This session also featured an introduction by Swami Prajnatmananda of the outlines of value education work being undertaken at the Delhi centre of the Ramakrishna Mission. The answers to the questions by the panel comprising Swami Chinmayandanda (who chaired the session), Swami Muktinathananda and Swami Yuktatmananda should interest readers.
Lastly but most importantly, I would like to mention the significant contribution of Swami Girijeshananda who virtually, like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, co ordinated the entire deliberations at the seminar in his inimitable style. He also had his own distinct contribution to make on the subject matter that gave a dimension of continuity and academic distinction to the entire seminar.
On the whole this compilation is being presented with a hope that it should serve not only those who wish to pursue value education as a mission but also the great cause of building a healthy and positive India.
Before I conclude, I would like to place on record the valuable services rendered by Sri E.V.N Chari who carried out transcription, compilation and assistance in editing the text. I also place on record the assistance and service rendered by Sri Sunil Kumar, the co ordinator of value education programme of the R.K. Mission, Delhi and Sri N.S. Chakravarthy.
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