Can we improve Indian education by using technology and going back to tradition?

Rajeev Srinivasan

Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan, IIM Bangalore

Education everywhere is going through trying times. India’s education system has demonstrated particularly poor learning outcomes in primary (India ranked 43rd out of 45th in the last PISA test it took part in. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a standard global test for 15 year olds. In 2013, India debuted, and ranked so close to the bottom of the rankings that it withdrew from the PISA study thereafter. In contrast, China, another debutant in 2013, zoomed right to the top position. In regards to university education, there has not been a single globally lauded invention or discovery from India since 1947.) and tertiary (Dr. Gangan Prathap, a former VC, in 2017: “India has a presence in fifteen of twenty-two subject areas in which there at least 50 institutes globally that have published more than 500 papers. It has no institution which can be counted at this level of size and excellence in seven areas: Arts & Humanities; Business, Management and Accounting; Health Professions; Neuroscience; Nursing; Psychology; and Social Sciences. India’s research base is completely skewed towards the Physical Sciences and Engineering with very little for Biological Sciences and Medicine and virtually none in Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities when excellence at the highest level is considered. Its performance is also bench marked against three nations, namely Australia, the Netherlands and Taiwan which are of similar size in terms of GDP and scientific output… It is seen that although India has the highest GDP among the four countries, its performance lags considerably behind due to the very low expenditure on R&D.”) education. In this context, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s statement of April 23rd is noteworthy: “Serious discussions on how to include the ancient Indian traditions in educational system should begin. India has the capability to combine modern education with its ancient traditions to help solve problems in the world”, said the pontiff.

education-technology

(Source of image : https://edexec.co.uk/technology-vs-tradition-creating-the-perfect-learning-environment/)

It is remarkable that technological progress has made it possible to take in elements of traditional systems including gurukulas. What we have used over the last couple of centuries is a system imposed by British imperialists, driven by their needs at the time. That colonial education system was a product of the (First) Industrial Revolution. Their factories required masses of people who were literate, and able to follow instructions. That’s it: no creativity, please.

There is a contrast between this system and what is generally believed to have existed earlier: a broad, humanistic educational system with significant customization as well as practical problem-solving. The emphasis in India has traditionally been in the practical application of theoretical ideas: eg. in the creation of Vedic fire altars with precise mathematical properties.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, and especially the proliferation of computing power and Artificial Intelligence, negates the requirements of the First. We no longer need armies of drone workers toiling away. We need creative individuals.

Furthermore, the nature of work is changing. Earlier, people used to change jobs, but now they change careers, often pursuing three or four in sequence. Besides, the very idea of the lifetime job is looking shaky: we may instead have a ‘gig economy’ where free agent workers come together for a specific task, complete it, and move on. A large number of people may become permanently unemployable, too. The trick for each individual is to avoid that fate through choosing education wisely.

Fortunately, we can now envision truly customized education. A curriculum, lesson plans, tests, and self-paced learning that are appropriate for a specific individual are now possible through the application of AI techniques.

In addition, there is learning material out there, available to all via MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses) and others: Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, TED, Wikipedia, edX, YouTube and also Indian equivalents. Much of the content is free.

There is also the tyranny of English, that is to say that English is considered the sina qua non for a person to be deemed ‘educated’ in India. Even if you are a highly-trained and skilled pundit in traditional knowledge, you will be viewed with derision by English-speakers (Ananda K Coomaraswamy on 1908: “Speak to the ordinary graduate of an Indian University, or a student from Ceylon, of the ideals in the Mahabharata—he will hasten to display his knowledge of Shakespeare; talk to him of religious philosophy—you find that he is an atheist of the crude type common in Europe a generation ago, and that not only has he no religion, but is as lacking in philosophy as the average Englishman; talk of him of Indian music—he will produce a gramophone or a harmonium and inflict upon you one or both; talk to him of Indian dress or jewelry—he will tell you that they are uncivilized and barbaric; talk to him of Indian art—it is news to him that such a thing exists; ask him to translate for you a letter written in his mother-tongue—he does not know it. He is indeed a stranger in his own land.”). There was a time when it was believed that English was an advantage for Indians; now it is apparent that it is stunting the development of independent research, not to mention killing off Indian languages.

Here too, technology can be the savior. For the first time, we can see a future where real-time translation enables people to learn in their mother tongue. If automatic translation becomes routine, then it becomes easy for our mother-tongue-speaking students to understand all the material out there in MOOCs: it will be delivered to them in their mother tongues, thanks to machine learning.

What might be useful in traditional education? The curricula documented by Dharampal as prevailing in pre-colonial India included vyakarana, tarka, ganita, rasa, darsana, arthashastra, and pramana. If you step away from the current STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focus, these subjects would appear to help in the development of fully engaged and innovative  citizens.

Can we move to such a system overnight? Of course not. But the gradual introduction of such subjects into the curriculum will be useful for Indian students to have a competitive advantage in the future.

 

Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan, Adjunct Faculty, Strategy Area, IIM Bangalore

 

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वेदों के प्रकाश में अपने स्त्रीत्व को खोजें व सही अर्थों में स्वतंत्रता प्राप्त करें

– Mrs. Suvrata Vinod

[ Editor’s Note – शास्त्रार्थ की संवाद शैली का प्रयोग करते हुए लेखिका ने अपने विचारों को यहाँ रखा है।]

शंका – वेद है क्या?

समाधान – वेद एक नियत शब्दराशि है।

शंका  – फिर ये शब्द दूसरे शब्दों से विशेष क्यों? इतिहास के गर्त में न जाने कितनी संस्कृतियाँ, राष्ट्र, समाज, व्यक्ति आए गए।बहुत थोडों का स्मरण शेष रहता है।वह भी अंशों में।वेद भी तो किसी के द्वारा बनाये गये थे और अत एव नष्ट हो रहे है।

समाधान – क्या सब कुछ मनुष्यकृत होना जरुरी है?

शंका – अर्थात् नही।

समाधान – तो सब वाक्य मनुष्यकृत होना जरुरी है?

शंका – हाँ।

समाधान -क्या कोई मनुष्य बिना किसी का वाक्य सुने, वाक्योच्चारण करते देखा गया है?

शंका – नही।परंतु पुरा काल में ऐसा हुआ होगा।

समाधान – अदृष्टपूर्वकल्पना बिना हेतु के करना अंधश्रद्धा है।फिर देखो जीवित कोष से ही कोषांतर देख रहे हो, मान भी रहे हो। ऐसे ही गुरु के पूर्वोच्चारण से शिष्य का अनूच्चारण होता है ऐसा दीख रहा है। फिर सदा से ऐसा हो रहा है ऐसा मानने में क्या आपत्ति है। इन वेदवाक्यों को गुरुशिष्य परंपरा से अत्यंत पवित्रता व परिश्रम से हृदयाकाश में सुरक्षित रक्खा जाता है। वेद किसी लिखित-मुद्रित पुस्तक का नाम नही है।वेद गुरु के हृदय में निवास करते है। उपदेशद्वारा गुरु उसे शिष्य के हृदय में संक्रामित करते है। तब शिष्य भी गुरु होने योग्य हो जाता है। जो वेदों को हृदय में धारण करते है उन्हें हम वेदवित् कहते है। ऐसे व्यक्ति के लिए उसके अपने राग-द्वेष, likes-dislikes, अच्छा-बुरा एक तरफऔर दुसरी तरफ वेदों के विधि-निषेध दोनों ही सामने उपस्थित होते हैं। यही पर पुरुषार्थ का अवसर है जो हमे प्रत्येक व्यक्ति में भिन्न भिन्न स्तर का ज्ञात होता है। जिसके पास पूर्ण स्वातंत्र्य हो उसे सिद्ध वा स्थितप्रज्ञ कहा जाता है।

रागद्वेषवियुक्तैस्तु विषयानिन्द्रियैश्चरन्।आत्मवश्यैर्विधेयात्मा प्रसादमधिगच्छति। श्रीमद्भगवदगीता २.६४

(राग और द्वेष से वियुक्त होकर विषयों का इंद्रिय से ग्रहण करते हुए, उन इंद्रियों को अपने वश ऱखते हुए, न कि उनके दास बनकर, जो व्यक्ति शास्त्रविधि से प्रेरित होकर कार्य करता है वह प्रसन्नता को पाता है। )

यह स्वतंत्रता ही आर्य जीवन में श्रेष्ठता का मापदंड है। जिसमें यह स्वतंत्रता नहीवत् होती है उसे दूसरों के द्वारा नियंत्रित करना आवश्यक हो जाता है। एवं जो व्यक्ति राग-द्वेषों पर नियंत्रण रखते हुए विधि-निषेध का पालन कर सके वह दूसरों को अपने अधीन रखने की योग्यता पाता है। विचारशील व्यक्ति को स्वयं के राग-द्वेष तो विना उपदेश स्वयमेव ज्ञात होते है परंतु विधि-निषेध का ज्ञान तो मनुष्यमात्र को उपदेश से ही प्राप्त होता है।

शंका – उपदेश ग्रहण करने की योग्यता वा पात्रता क्या है?

समाधान – पवित्र वेदों के धारण के लिए योग्य शिष्य चाहिए। जैसे पानी भरने के लिए मजबुत साफ घडा चाहिए।

नाविरतो दुश्चरितान्नाशान्तो नासमाहितः। कठोपनिषद् २.२४

(दुश्चरित से जो बाज नही आया, जो शान्त और समाहित-चित्त नही है, वह केवल प्रज्ञान से उसे (परमात्मा को) नही पा सकता।) 

तदेतत् सत्यमृषिरंगिराः पुरोवाच नैतदचीर्णव्रतोऽधीते। मुण्डकोपनिषद् ३.२.११

(इस (औपनिषदिक आत्म) सत्य को ऋषि अंगिरा ने पहले कहा, इसे वह व्यक्ति न पढे जिसने व्रताचरण न कर लिया हो।) 

तस्मै स विद्वानुपसन्नाय सम्यक् प्रशान्तचित्ताय शमान्विताय प्रोवाच। मुण्डकोपनिषद् १.२.१३

(विद्वान् गुरु उसे उपदेश करे जो पास रहकर सेवा करता है, जिसका चित्त ठीक से शान्त है और जिसकी वासना भी शमन हो गई है।) 

यतन्तोऽप्यकृतात्मानो नैनं पश्यन्त्यचेतसः। श्रीमद्भगवदगीता १५.११

(प्रयत्न करते हुए भी, जिसने अपने कर्तव्य को पुरा नही किया है, वैसे मूढ जन उसे (परमात्मा को) नही देखते।) 

शंका – कहाँ से आयेगा ऐसा शिष्य?

समाधान -परमेश्वर ने यह दायित्व स्त्री को दिया है।

मातृमान् पितृमान् आचार्यवान् पुरुषो वेद। बृहदारण्यकोपनिषद् ४.१.२-७

उत्तम माता, उत्तम पिता और श्रेष्ठ गुरु हो जिसका वही पुरुष उसे (परमात्मा को) जानता है। 

माता पतिव्रता यस्य पिता यस्य शुचिव्रतः। वाल्मीकि रामायण

माता जिसकी पतिव्रता हो और पिता जिसका शुचिव्रत अर्थात् वेदानुयायी है, उसी का मन ललचाता नही है। 

वह क्या है जो स्त्री के पास विशेष है? क्या में इस बहुमूल्य योग्यता को पहिचानती हूँ? क्या मैं इसका सही मूल्य कर पा रही हूँ? इसे संजोए रखने के लिए कुछ त्याग करने को भी तैयार हूँ?

शंका -आप किस बारे में बात कर रहे है हमें नहीं पता।

समाधान -यूरोप अमेरिका में 50 % स्त्रियाँ विवाह करना ही नहीं चाहती।क्या आजकल इंद्रिय-संयम ब्रह्मचर्य बहुत आसान हो गया है? 16 साल से कम उम्र में ही 90% से अधिक कन्याएं अपने कौमार्य को खो देती है।क्या हम भी इनके पिछे चल नहीं रहे? हमारी वेशभूषा तो कुछ ऐसा ही कह रही है।

शंका – क्या ऐसा होने से योग्य शिष्य पैदा नहीं हो सकेंगे? आजकल तो सब बहुत चमक-धमक वाला दीखता है।चारों ओर सुंदर-सुंदर स्त्री-पुरुष।कितना मनोहारी दृश्य है।कितने रंग! कितने स्वाद! कितनी सुगंध! इतनी विविधता प्रचुरता क्या पहले कभी थी? विज्ञान ने हर क्षेत्र मे नई ऊँचाईयों को छु लिया है। हमारे कई प्रश्नों के उत्तर दिये है। मानव आज अधिक सामर्थ्यवान् है।

समाधान – बिलकुल ठीक।मेरे अपने अनुभव से गत 30-40 वर्षों में हम बहुत बदल गये है। हमारे सही-गलत के मापदंड ही परिवर्तीत हो गये। कई बाते जो पूर्व में निंदात्मक थी वे आज प्रतिष्ठित है।जैसे मदिरापान, विवाहपूर्व संबंध, भ्रष्टाचार-रिश्वतखोरी।सर्वत्र दोगला व्यवहार दीख रहा है।अंदर एक बाहर एक।हमारे मापदंड तो परिवर्तनशील है पर क्या प्रकृति के मापदंड भी बदलते है। और अगर प्रकृति के मापदंड नही बदलते तो क्या हम अब सिर्फ नाम के फलाना-फलाना रह गये। संज्ञामात्र! वस्तु बदल गयी लेबल पुराना। प्रश्न है, वेद को धारण करना, आत्मज्ञान प्राप्त करना, इसकी योग्यता पात्रता हमारे मापदंड बदलने मात्र से क्या बदल जायेंगी? क्या पोथी-पुस्तक पढ कर पंडित हो जा सकता है क्या? शुद्धचित्तता हमारी कल्पना का विषय नहीं अपितु नितांत वास्तविकता है जैसे की सुवर्ण की सुवर्णता। हमारे purity standard घटाने मात्र से क्या सुवर्ण अपने स्वरूप को पा सकता है? यदि नहीं, तो हमे याद रखना होगा की वेदों को धारण करने की योग्यता भी हमें यथार्थ में प्राप्त करनी पडेगी। ऐसे अधिकारी शिष्य को जन्म देना और उसका संगोपन करके पिता एवं अनन्तर आचार्य के अधीन करना यह स्त्री का अनन्य कर्तव्य है।

women-body

(Source of image: https://www.menstrupedia.com/articles)

क्या हमे सोचना चाहिये कि नारी स्वतंत्रता हमे कौन सिखा रहा है।क्या हमारे सुसंस्कृत समाज को इसकी जरूरत थी।कहते है-

न स्त्री स्वातंत्र्यमर्हति । मनुस्मृति

स्त्री को यथोचित पुरुष को पुछे बिना कार्य नही करना चाहिए। 

यह अन्याय है। परंतु स्त्री ही नहीं धर्म किसी को भी स्वतंत्र मनमाना व्यवहार करने की अनुमति नही देता।

कः स्वतंत्रः यः ईश्वरतंत्रः।कः परतंत्रः यः इन्द्रियतंत्रः ।मधुसूदन सरस्वती

कौन स्वतंत्र है? जो ईश्वर के अधीन है। कौन परतंत्र है? जो इंद्रियों के अधीन है।

या तो आप साक्षात् वेद को धारण कर आत्मानुशासन में रहें या…। पर समाज में बहुत कम लोगों की यह काबिलियत होती है। इसलिए अधिकांश लोगों को उन आत्मानुशासित वेदपुरुष के मार्गदर्शन में रहने को कहा।जो कि निरहंकार भाव से देखने पर आसान विकल्प है सुखकर भी। If benefit is the same then why carry the burden of freedom.जो तो आत्मनियंत्रण से अथवा स्वेच्छा से किसी के नियंत्रण में रहकर प्रकृति के नियमों का पालन करते हुए निर्दिष्ट दायित्वों का निर्वाह करता है वह उन दायित्वों से मुक्त होकर अधिकाधिक आनन्द अनुभव करता है।इसके विपरीत स्वेच्छाचारी अधिकाधिक बंधनों मे जकड़ता चला जाता है।

उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत्।आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः।।बन्धुरात्मात्मनस्तस्य येनात्मैवात्मना जितः।आत्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्तेतात्मैव शत्रुवत्।।जितात्मनः प्रशान्तस्य परमात्मा समाहितः। श्रीमद्भगवदगीता 6.5-6

अपना उद्धार करे न की अपने आप को गिरा दे। स्वयं ही अपना बंधु है, जिसने अपने आप को जीत लिया। अन्य व्यक्ति जिसका इंद्रिय एवं चित्त स्वयं के वश में नही है, वह तो स्वयं ही स्वयं का शत्रु है। जितात्म-प्रसन्नचित्त व्यक्ति के परमात्मा सदैव पास ही है। 

आइये! वेदों के प्रकाश मे अपने स्त्रीत्व को खोजे व सही अर्थों मे स्वतंत्रता प्राप्त करे।

– Mrs. Suvrata Vinod, Anandavan Bhakta Samudaya, Institute of Advanced Studies in Veda and Science.

Children in Epics

Children of ancient intellectual traditions that are remembered time to time in reference to spiritually, strength, determination and firmness:-

Lava and Kusha

Kuṥa and his twin brother Lava were the children of Lord Rāma and his wife Sītā, whose story is recounted in the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa written by Valmīki. According to Uttara Kāṇḍa of this great epic, pregnant Sītā was banished from the kingdom of Ayodhyā by Rāma due to the gossip of general folk of kingdom. She then took refuge in the ramof the sage Valmīki located on the banks of the Tamasā river. According to Rāmāyaṇa, Sītā gave birth to both Lava and Kuṥa at the same time in the support of Valmīki’s disciples. Kuṥa was the elder of the two and is said to have whitish complexion like their mother, while Lava had blue complexion like their father. Names to both kids were given by sage Valmīki. They were educated and trained in military skills and given many natural powers under the tutelage of Valmikī. When Rāma performed the Ashvamedha Yajn᷈a, Lava and Kuṥa attended it with their fatherly sage. At that occasion, they sang the story of Rāmāyaṇa in the presence of king Rāma and his vast audience. When Lava and Kuṥa recited about Sītā’s exile, Rāma became grief-stricken and Valmīki produced Sītā. Sit̄ā called upon the earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opened, she vanished into it. Rāma then learnt that Lava and Kuṥa were his children.  Launandan-3

Some poetic works have depicted poetically that Lava and Kuṥa caught the horse of Yajn᷈a during the phase of Aṥvamedha Yajn᷈a, and for that they also gave a good fight to Rāma. Brave sons of Rāma, Lava and Kuṥa became rulers after their father and founded the cities Lavapurī and Kasur respectively. These children are known today for their amity, fearlessness and charm.

Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu, mentioned in the great epic Mahābhārata, was the courageous son of the great Arjuna and Subhadrā, and the nephew of Lord Kṛṣṇa. His story begins just before he was born. When Abhimanyu was in his mother’s womb, Ṥri Kṛṣṇa used to take his sister Subhadrā on excursions. Kṛṣṇa used to relate many of his adventures to the pregnant Subhadrā for her delight. Once he was narrating his experience with the technique of Cakra-vyūha, a military formation which was an effective form of defense. The army would be arranged in the form of a circular grid and would then challenge the enemy to break that grid. It seems that Subhadrā did not find this topic interesting and therefore, after some time she felt asleep. However, someone else was interested in Kṛṣṇa’s narration and he was Abhimanyu in his mother womb. He was carefully following all steps of this vyūha. When Kṛṣṇa noticed that Subhadrā was not responding and she was indeep sleep, he gave up his narration and returned to the palace. Thus, Abhimanyu could only obtain the technique of entering into the circles of the cakra-vyūha. Whatever he had heard from Kṛṣṇa, he carefully preserved in his memory.Unfortunately, he could not know the technique of breaking its circles. He grew up to be a brave, handsome adolescent young man. Many years later, during the Mahābhārata war at Kurukṣetra, the Kauravas set up a cakravyūha and challenged Pāṇḍavas to break it. Only Arjuna knew the technique of doing so, but he was fighting elsewhere at that time. To meet the challenge, Abhimanyu came forward and offered his services for the task of breaking the cakra-vyūha. Despite his incomplete knowledge of the technique, he entered the grid and overcame one circle after another, until he come to the seventh one, the breaking of which he had no knowledge. Brave and ambitious Abhimanyu fought heroically in the unequal struggle but finally met his end.

abhimanyu-badh-gauri-shanker-soni

This story highlights the importance of the childhood saṁskāras and mental growth of a child. Abhimanyu is always remembered for sharp memory, intelligence, courage and bravery.

Dr. Shashi Tiwari, President, WAVES–India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

Children in Puranas

Great personalities have always their bright childhood as continuity of qualities is a fundamental truth-

 Dhruva

In some Purāṇas, we find story of a child Dhruva who was a symbol of firm determination and profound devotion towards God. Dhruva was son of King Uttānapāda  and his wife Sunīti . The king also had another son named Uttama, born to his second queen Suruchi, who was the preferred object of his affection. Once, five year old, Dhruva was sitting on his father’s lap at the King’s throne. Suruchi, the step-mother, who was jealous of the Dhruva, forcefully removed him from his father’s lap. When Dhruva protested and asked if he could not be allowed to sit on his father’s lap, Suruchi scolded him ruthlessly saying; ‘only God can allow you that privilege. Go ask him.’

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(Source of Image : Daily Bhaskar.com)

Sunīti, a lady of gentle nature but lesser favorite wife of king, tried to console her distressed son, but Dhruva was determined to hear about his fate from the Lord.  Seeing his firm determination, mother Sunīti allowed him to go to the forest. Dhruva was determined to seek for himself his rightful place. Noticing his resolution, the divine sage Nārada appeared before him and tried to abstain him from obtaining severe austerity at such an early age. But Dhruva was firm on his decision, and therefore, overwhelmed sage guided him towards his goal by teaching rituals and mantras to meditate and please the lord Viṣṇu. The one mantra, taught by Nārada which was effectively used by Dhruva, was Om Namo Bhagavate Vāsudevāya. Little Boy fixing his mind on Lord, started his meditation, and went without food and water for six months for the gratification of Viṣṇu. His tapasyā shook the heavens, and Lord appeared before him, but the child would not open his eyes being merged in the inner vision of Viṣṇu’s form described by Nārada. Lord Viṣṇu adopted a strategy to disappear that inner vision. Immediately Dhruva opened his eyes, and seeing outside what he had been seeing in his mental vision, prostrated himself before the Lord. He could not utter a single word. The Lord touched his right cheek by his divine conch and that sparked off his speech. He recited a beautiful poem of twelve powerful verses in the praise of the Lord which is called Dhruva-stuti. The Dhruva-stuti as mentioned in the ViṣṇuPurāṇa is quite different from the Dhruva-stuti of BhāgavataPurāṇa.

Having spent a long time in the Lord’s commemoration, he even forgot the objective of his tapasyā, and only asked for a life in memory of the Lord. Pleased by his tapasyā and by his stuti, Viṣṇu granted his wish and further decreed that the child would attain Dhruvapada – the state where he would become a celestial body which would not even be touched by the mahā-pralaya. Dhruva returned to his kingdom. Now he was warmly received by his family. He attained the crown at the age of six and ruled his kingdom for many decades in a fair manner. Today people highlight any fix position or firm decision, saying it as ‘dhruva.

 Prahlāda

Prahlāda, a young boy is known in the Purāṇas for his firm devotion towards Lord Viṣṇu. Demon king, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa was his father who had commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But his son, Prahlāda refused to worship his father and became an ardent devotee of Lord Nārāyaṇa. Hiraṇyakaṥyapa tried several ways to kill his son Prahlāda but Lord Viṣṇu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holikā to enter a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. For, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa knew that Holikā had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire untouched. Holikā took her seat in a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. Holikā was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Prahlāda, who kept chanting the name of Lord Narāyaṇa, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.

prahlad-as-the-devotee-of-lord-vishnu

(Source of Image : http://www.padhokhelo.com)

Prahlāda was finally saved by Lord Narasiṁha (half-man half-lion), a prominent avatāra of Viṣṇu who killed his wicked father too. After the death of Hiraṇyakaṥyapa, Prahlāda took his father’s kingdom and ruled peacefully and virtuously. He was known for his generosity, kindness, determination and faith in God. In the story, we see that God saved his devotees and punished the evil. Therefore, Prahlāda is regarded as a symbol of goodness and divine faith.

– Dr. Shashi TiwariGeneral Secretary, WAVES –India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

‘Prajā’ in the Light of Vedic View

The whole human race is ‘Prajā’ is the notion of Vedic society as told by Black* Yajurveda’s Taittirῑya Samhitā verse 1.5.1.3 –

तस्मान्मानव्य: प्रजा उच्यन्ते 

Tasmānmānavyaḥprajāucyante

This ideology continues to Upaniśadhic literature and developed as ‘Eko’ham Bahusyāmῑ’ i.e. “I [Brahman (ब्रह्मन्/ब्रह्म)] am one; may I become many”. Thus, this whole world or human race is manifested from Brahman. Here Brahman is the ultimate reality or the eternal truth/knowledge or the universal power that pervades whole creation. In Puruśasūkta of Ṛgveda, Brahman is clearly stated as supreme and from Brahman classification of society into four varṇas is listed –

ब्राह्मणो अस्य मुखमासीद बाहू राजन्य: कृत।

ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्य: पद्भ्याम शूद्रो अजायत ।।

Brāhmaṇoasyamukhamāsῑdabāhūrājanyaḥkartaḥ

Ūrūtadasyayadavaiśyaḥpadbhyāṁśūdroajāyata 

It said that brahmin was born from the mouth, kṣatriya from the shoulders, vaiśya from the thighs and śūdra from the feet of the creator.”

(Ṛgveda 10.90.12)

Today the word ‘Prajā’ is majorly used for the fourth varṇa i.e. śūdra and these śūdras are comprising of OBC/SC/ST/Dalits whereas in Vedic view śūdras were born from the feet of Brahman. Symbolically feet represent the foundation. So, śūdras are the foundation of the society. It can be elaborated as anyone who lays the foundation of the society is known as ‘śūdra’. Laying down the foundation means to build up. In other words, one who builds up the society by providing his/her services to the society is known as ‘śūdra’. In this sense, all the service providers of society such as teachers, doctors, engineers, environmentalists, musicians, painters, agriculturists, dancers, economists, writers, architects etc can be called śūdras. With these service providers a society, a nation builds up and sustains forever.

From above annotation, śūdras i.e. ‘Prajā’ are revealed as the creators of society. The etymological meaning of word ‘Prajā’ is ‘Pra’ (Prefix) means intense and ‘Jan’ (root) means creative. The word ‘Brahmā (ब्रह्मा)’ develops from Sanskrit root “Bṛh” which means “to grow” or “to expand”. Though the term ‘Brahmā’** does not appear in Vedas it is more prominently mentioned as deity of creation (one of the trinity) in the post-Vedic-texts and Puranic mythologies. Hence, sometimes Vedic god ‘Prajāpati’ is identified as ‘Brahmā’ – the creator {Brahma is the Puranic heir of Vedic Hiranyagarbha, and Brahmanic Prajapati (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Brahma-Brahman-and-Brahmin)}. Because of this very similarity even in today’s society ‘the creators of society’ i.e. ‘Prajā’ address themselves as ‘Prajāpati’. Like ‘Prajāpati’, Vedic god ‘Vishwakarmā’ too is considered as the lord of creation. In modern era, since creative talents are perceived by ‘Prajā’ people, so they relate themselves with above mentioned Vedic gods such as potters use ‘Prajāpati’ and carpenters, blacksmiths, jewellers use ‘Vishwakarmā’ in their surnames in recognition of their traits with ‘Prajāpati’ and ‘Vishwakarmā’. Thus, there is no harm in calling ‘Prajā’ people as lord of the society, as long as they possess the creative qualities.

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(Source of Image : http://www.scvo.org.uk )

We often come across certain Vedic texts highlighting non-allowance of śūdras for formal education. I feel such meanings of Vedic texts are misinterpretations, and there is a need to have deeper study and understanding. ‘The Whole world as the manifestation of Brahman’ is referred by Vedas many times in different ways, hence how could Vedic hymns encourage discrimination among people? In our opinion, there could have been two categories of centres of education during Vedic era. One was based more on theoretical-knowledge-creation-learning system where primarily intellectuals got admitted for deeper basic research. For skill development the vocational or practical training centre was the other choice for applied knowledge and development. In modern times these would be similar to basic fields like science, economics, etc. for basic knowledge and professional courses like engineering, medical, business, etc. for applied knowledge.

According to popular quote–

जन्मना जायते शूद्र: संस्कारात द्विज उच्यते।

वेद पठनात भवेत् विप्र: ब्रह्म जानाति इति ब्राह्मण।।

JanmanāJāyateśūdraḥsanskārātdvijuchyate

Veda pathanātbhavetvipraḥ brahma janātiitibrahmaṇaḥ।।

“By birth one is a Śūdra (lower caste), by education or by reformation, one becomes a Dvija (higher caste), by study of the Vedas one becomes a Vipra, and one who knowns Brahma is a Brahmaṇa.”

It can be understood that everyone born with capability to be a skillful person. The creativeness of each individual sometimes developed by his own or sometimes by inheritance of the family tradition or sometimes one has to go to special school of training such as we have engineering or medical colleges with specialized streams. Like at present everyone cannot go to every school similarly in Vedic times there was a definite line of schools for various streams of knowledge. We should always look into the context Vedic hymns are referring to rather than arguing on the basis of biased explanations.

It is a perception that Brahamins were the ruling class and śūdras are the lower (fourth) class. Actually there is no ascending or descending order in taxonomy of four varṇas. In our opinion, it is completely a choice-based-system where a person either wants to pursue his practically inherited/acquired skills (as śūdra) or to carry out deeper research (as in case of a brahmin). It can be explained as one who is doing a field job or practice of his skill is a śūdra and one who is inclined to enhance his intellect is a brahmin. This is, what is defined in the statement by Lord Śṛῑ Kṛśṇā–

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टम गुणकर्मविभागशः

Cāturvarṇyaṁmayāsṛṣṭaṁguṇakarmavibhāgaśaḥ

I (Lord Śṛῑ Kṛśṇā) am the creator of the fourfold human society according to aptitude and profession (karma)”.

(Śṛῑmadbhagavadgῑtā 4.13)

and later Sanskrit texts –

न जात्या ब्रह्मणश्चात्र क्षत्रियो वैश्य एव न।

न शूद्रो न च वै मलेच्छो भेदिता गुणकर्मभि:।।

Na jātyābrahmaṇaścātrakṣatriyovaiśyaevana

Na śūdronacavaimlecchobheditāguṇakarmabhiḥ।।

“In this world nobody is brahmin, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra or mleccha by birth. Qualities and their deeds are responsible for these differences”.

(Śukranῑti 1.38)

The words ‘cāturvarṇyaṁ’ and ‘sṛṣṭaṁ’ are singular numbers, which testify that the four varṇas together constitute one singular society (https://sites.google.com/site/hindunew/dharma).  It can be said that Vedic sages didn’t narrate any kind of discrimination. Social unity and welfare were the only aim.

Above discussion is a hypothesis, for today’s society. If this system can be adapted then equitable society and social structure can be achieved. Inequality and social differences among the people can then be addressed.

Notes-

* The Yajurveda is broadly classified into two – the Kṛśṇā (loosely translated as black Yajurveda and the Śukla (loosely translated as white Yajurveda. The term “Kṛśṇā” implies ‘the un-arranged, unclear collection’ of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the “shukla” which implies the ‘well arranged, clear’  Yajurveda. 

** One should not be confused in the words Brahman and Brahmā. The Brahma(n) is a neuter gender word that ends in ‘ न्’. It is the Upanishadic (Vedantic) spiritual concept of oneness whereas the masculine gender word Brahmā is the four-headed Puranic character who is the creator among the Puranic Trinity concept. It can be said that Brahman is a divine concept of Hinduism and Brahmā  is one of Hindu Deity.

Dr. Aparna Dhir, Assistant Professor and Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, School of Indic Studies, INADS, Dartmouth, USA

 

 

Children in Vedas

Dr. Shashi TiwariGeneral Secretary, WAVES –India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

Great seers, thinkers, warriors, visionaries graced India from the very beginning. It can be assumed that they were bright from their childhood. It is true that narration of bright children is not done separately in abundance, but undoubtedly ancient Vedic literature is not without their mention.

Nachiketā

There is an inspirational story in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad about a little boy named Nachiketā. He was the son of Vājaśravā Uddālaka Ṛṣi who once organized a great sacrifice ‘yajn᷈a’ called ‘Sarvamedha’ to please the deities for accumulating good deeds. He announced that after the sacrifice, he would be donating the bulk of his wealth including cattle to learned Brāhmaṇas as dakṣiṇā. The sacrifice was duly performed, but when time came for the donation, Vājaśravā kept some healthy cattle for himself and his son; and in place of them tried to donate those that were old, infirm and yielded no milk. Nachiketā was observing this. He got disturbed to see the unholy act of his father. He realized that these gifts would have the opposite effect on his future goal. Being adolescent son, he was not able to stop him. So he asked his father with the intention to remind him the law of complete and pure charity. He said, “O Father! To whom you would gift me in charity?” This made Ṛṣi very angry, but he decided not to say anything. When Naciketā repeated the question thrice, Uddālaka lost his temper and said, “I give you to Yama, the Lord of Death.” Yama is the king of death and resides in yamapurī. Hearing this, Nachiketā went to Yama’s kingdom. He decided to obey his father’s command.  He firmly said to himself, ‘I should fulfill my father’s wish, even if it means leaving my home’. When Ṛṣi realized his mistake and tried to stop Naciketā, he did not stop. He reached Yama’s kingdom and was told by Yama’s guards that he had gone out for three days. Naciketā decided to wait at his doorstep till he returned. He waited for three days without food, water and shelter. When Yama returned and saw little Naciketā at his doorstep, he felt sorry for keeping a Brāhmaṇa boy waiting without any welcome or rest. Not welcoming a guest means just like committing a sin in Indian tradition.Yama was very pleased with the clear thinking and honesty of the young boy. He served Nachiketā with all honour and food, but even then he was not completely satisfied, so he said, “Dear child, I have offended you by keeping you waiting for three days. To wash my sin, I request you to ask for three boons.

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Naciketā declared, “My first wish is, when I return home, may my father welcome me lovingly. My second wish is to get that knowledge by which I can be worthy of living in the heaven. My third and last wish is to achieve Atmajn᷈ānam- knowledge of the ātman from you.” Yama granted the first two boons immediately and tried to convince Naciketā to give up his third desire for higher knowledge. Instead of that, he offered him long life, gold, pearls, coins, horses, elephants and even the happiness of Swarga – heaven.  “No, I do not wish for anything else,” replied Naciketā firmly. He described all worldly objects as perishable until Lord of Death is the ruler. Finally, Yama granted him the third boon too, and the courageous boy was enlightened with the knowledge of the ātman. Naciketā came to know about the soul, life and death in his early age. Finally, he went back to his father’s house and imparted the knowledge, he obtained from Yama, to many disciples.

Naciketā as a brightest child of Vedic era inspires us to be kind to all creatures, to respect parents, to be strong-willed, to cross all obstacles with firm determination, to avoid worldly temptations, and to strive for eternal happiness.

 Satyakāma

Satyakāma Jābāla is mentioned in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad. Satyakāma in his childhood used to live in a small hut with his mother Jābālā. He had a strong wish to study, so, he desired to go out in search of a teacher ‘guru’ who would guide him in the path of self-realization, to achieve the goal of mystic life. He enquired about his Gotra from his mother. In fact he wanted to know the name of his father as in those days generally teachers accepted students only after knowing their family’s introduction.

So upon learning about her son’s wish to study, Jābālā told him, “O my Son! I don’t know your family name. I used to work earlier in many houses of different persons. I don’t know when I got pregnant. When asked by the Guru, tell him what I have told you”. Later Satyakāma left with her mother’s blessings. He reached to the āśrama of sage Gautama and requested him to make him his pupil. On seeing the boy, Ṛṣi Gautama asked him,Before I make you my pupil, I need to know about your family.” Satyakāma had no idea about his family except his mother. He said, “I asked it to my mother. She said: ‘Child, when you were born, I used to be very busy serving guests. I had no idea about your father. My name is Jābālā and your’s is Satyakāma. So call yourself Satyakāma Jābāla.” On hearing it, the Ṛṣi said with smile, “I admire you for saying the truth. I am sure you must be born of a noble gotra. I shall accept you as my student. Go and get me some samidhā. I shall initiate you in brahmacharya”. He then initiated him in meditation to calm down his mind and to experience his inner self which was like the vast ocean.The sage was pleased with his love for truth.

One day Gautama told him that before he could teach him, Satyakāma should take the herd of 400 weak cows of the āśrama and return only when it had multiplied to 1000. After that Gautama would impart him higher knowledge. Without uttering a single word, Satyakāma left with the cows. He took them to the forest. Satyakāma built an āśrama for himself in the forest and looked after the cows with loving care. All the time he carefully practiced the duties of a brahmacharī. He was no longer lonely and became friends with nature; every living creature became part of his family.

satyakam

After many years, the herd grew to 1000. Every cow was strong and healthy. It was time for Satyakāma to return to Gautama’s āśrama. All the gods and deities were happy with Satyakāma’s obedience and dedication to his guru. Along the way, he was blessed with knowledge by fire, a bull, a swan and a Sun bird. Now enlightened, Satyakāma reached the āśrama. Gautama saw the glow of enlightenment on his face. He was also very happy that Satyakāma had looked after the cows very well. He then accepted Satyakāma as his pupil and blessed him with Brahmavidyā. Guru said, “Brahmaivedamsarvam’ (Brahman is in everything). Brahman is realized by knowing yourself, at everywhere, in everything, and in every being. You are eternal and radiant because he is in you. This is Brahma-vidyā”. Satyakāma is regarded as an ideal of truth, dedication, obedience and true service to the guru in Vedic traditions.

Thus, Vedic ideals should be implanted in the early age to get strong foundation of character and intelligence for all human beings.