The true meaning and essence of education is the process of manifestation and development of virtues an individual already has. Based on these virtues, education leads to an all-round development of the individual‘s personality – eventually making his/her life meaningful. True educationists through ages are in agreement with this core objective of education. Going by evidence, even in the most ancient Indian tradition of education, namely, the Gurukula, education has been considered as the cognitive development of the learner.
Knowledge, and skill, both important components for development of the innate virtues; the elements of one’s proper conduct –values, behaviour and process of his growth along with establishing his superiority as a social being are indivisible ingredients of education. For illumination – manifestation, realisation and development of these, and association of values with human practices remained the foremost task of the Gurukula system in ancient times in India. This is evident from the workings of Ashrams – the Gurukulas of Maharishis like Vashishtha and Bharadwaja in the Ramayana period, and from the Ashram of Dronacharya in the Mahabharata age. It is also evident in the functioning of many institutions and universities of the Vedic and the post Vedic eras in India, and from the Academy established by Plato in 387 BCE in Athens, which is considered as the first institution of higher education in Europe.
What the philosophers thought
The thoughts of great philosophers, religious leaders, saints and teachers also prove this fact. Here, I would like to quote some of them. Socrates, had said, “I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.” Terence, an ancient Roman scholar was of the opinion, “Children should be led into the right paths, not by severity, but by persuasion.” Eminent Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi mentioned, “Education is the natural, progressive and proportional development of all powers of man.” Henry Ward Beecher, an American social reformer of the 19th century firmly believed, “Education is the knowledge of how to use the whole of oneself. Many men use, but one or two faculties out of the score with which they are endowed. A man is educated who knows how to make a tool of every faculty how to open it, how to keep it sharp, and how to apply it to all practical purposes.”
Albert Einstein, a great theoretical physicist of the last century put forth, “Education is the progressive realisation of our ignorance.” The Indian monk, Swami Vivekananda said, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.”
All these statements, it can be said, divulge, more or less, the import of education along with its basic spirit and purpose for all societies. They, directly-indirectly, reveal the truth that knowing, acknowledging and honing one’s virtues to be used at their best is education. Education actually serves as a pathway to achieve self-sufficiency in life; in other words, to make life meaningful.
Power of sanity
After comprehending the meaning and basic spirit of education, accepting simultaneously the fact that it is a continuous process of strengthening one’s virtues to achieve sanity in one’s personality, exhibiting the same in one’s thoughts and actions. Sanity includes soundness, rationality and health of the human mind. The state of consciousness relates to sanity also. Both, sanity and the state of consciousness develop rationality in man, make his approach constructive and pave the way for his attachment with righteous acts.
Connecting education with values and behaviour, Maria Montessori went to the extent of saying, “The first idea that the child must acquire, in order to be actively disciplined, is that of the difference between good and evil; and the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity.”
Education can fulfil its true purpose of manifestation of the powers already present in man only if it succeeds in developing sanity, which means appropriate level of rationality, judgement, consciousness and sensitivity, all in tandem. On the strength of sanity man builds his character and creates conducive atmosphere to handle any situation in life successfully. In its absence, education cannot achieve its real goal. It cannot bring self-awakening in man which is required to realise his or her full potential. As a result self-sufficiency cannot be achieved in life.
It is the lack of appropriate development of sanity that man is indifferent from the spirit of self-devotion, sacrifice and service, and he is not free from egotism. It is due to lack of sanity that man is inept in identifying his inner self. Despite possessing immeasurable capabilities, he is unable to discharge his responsibilities towards humanity.
In the Patanjalayogasutraani (4:3) it appears:
“Nimittamaprayojakam Prakritinaam Varanabhedastu Tatah Kshetrikavat”. Meaning thereby, “A farmer wishing irrigation (of his field) needs not to go far to bring water. Water is already stored near the field, but due to a blockade water is not reaching the field. As the blockade is removed by consciousness – sanity, water itself will according to its nature reach the field.”
This is the power, importance and quality of sanity. A thoughtful marriage between sanity and education can only make the latter purposeful. In the absence of sanity, education will remain sterile growing cacti of men, unable to allow one’s powers to grow productive for oneself and for the world around him.