By: Dipak Kurmi
Ancient India gained global recognition and respect thanks to the intellectual brilliance of its scholars, philosophers, and inquisitive minds. Their unwavering dedication to unraveling the mysteries of the universe and nature attracted seekers of knowledge from distant lands to renowned institutions like Taxila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, and Vallabhi. The further they delved into their explorations, the more captivated they became, fueling their relentless pursuit of wisdom.
Throughout history, the quest for knowledge in ancient India faced challenges due to various historical events. However, its resilience ensured its survival even in trying times. In essence, the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and truth, often referred to as knowledge (Jnan), wisdom (Pragya), and truth (Satya) in Indian thought, was regarded as the ultimate human aspiration. Consequently, education in ancient India aimed not only at imparting essential knowledge and skills for a good life but also at facilitating the complete realization and liberation of the self.
In the midst of the materialistic frenzy sparked by liberalization, privatization, and globalization, the profound value of ancient Indian knowledge has often been overshadowed. India, too, feels the impact of this shift and recognizes that many of humanity’s challenges stem from the relentless exploitation of natural resources. There’s a growing awareness that a change in our approach is imperative. In 2020, India made a decision to embrace its rich heritage of timeless wisdom as a guiding principle for its education policy. It acknowledges that education must be deeply rooted in a culture devoted to acquiring new knowledge and should awaken people to the alarming environmental destruction happening around us. Those in power often discuss global issues like pollution, climate change, access to clean water, population growth, and human rights, but too often, it ends with the talk. Indians are familiar with an ancient concept called ‘Aparigraha,’ championed by Mahatma Gandhi, which emphasizes that the world has enough resources to meet everyone’s needs but not their greed. It’s a challenging idea, but it’s necessary because there’s no alternative. The teacher, education, can lead the way. We need to open new chapters in every field, focusing on multidisciplinary aspects of human knowledge.
Teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the future. It’s their duty to guide each student, starting as someone unaware and inexperienced, into a well-rounded individual. This process not only influences future generations but also fosters citizens devoted to their nation and its people, all while being aware of their global responsibilities as international citizens.
Dr. S Radhakrishnan, a legendary teacher, was one of the brightest minds of the 20th century. He possessed unparalleled knowledge in both Eastern and Western philosophy and had profound insights into the concept of humanity. India commemorates his birthday on September 5th each year, honoring his greatness and the numerous contributions he made. However, it’s essential that we not only remember his philosophy and guiding principles for teachers but also put them into practical use rather than letting them gather dust on library shelves.
Dr. Radhakrishnan emphasizes that universities should focus on nurturing freedom of thought and the liberty of the mind, rather than protecting privilege or demanding conformity. True excellence lies in intellectual and spiritual greatness, not in upholding privilege. It also means encouraging individuality, allowing each person to develop their own beliefs. In today’s world, schools cannot be fertile grounds for new ideas unless teachers are well-prepared and determined to support each student’s expression, whether in music, sports, math, art, creativity, or any other form. Teacher education institutions (TEIs) play a crucial role in this by teaching how to foster quality, ideas, innovations, and imagination in schools and universities. They help educators learn, internalize, and apply these principles.
We take pride in ancient India for its culture’s universality and its recognition of the fundamental unity of humanity amidst apparent diversity. Academic institutions should ask themselves if they operate with the confidence, conviction, determination, and passion necessary to earn credibility. Have we, as academics, settled for being less original, aspiring to lower ambitions, and conforming to outdated norms?
The most fitting tribute to Dr. Radhakrishnan and the rich Indian teaching tradition is to honour and regard teachers as the architects of not just a student’s future but also of society, communities, and the nation as a whole. To accomplish this, provide them with top-notch teacher training institutions and lifelong learning opportunities, allowing them to constantly adapt and evolve. (The writer can be reached at email@example.com)