Our vision of the ideal world can best be described as “Vasudheiva Kutumbakam”, the world as one family, a world inhabited by human beings with inherent goodness, living together in harmony with their fellow human beings and other living and non-living things that inhabit our planet.
This is far removed from the state of the world today – no illusions about that.
Centuries of conditioning and the pursuit of materialism in the name of progress have reduced man to a greedy, self-serving, calculative, manipulative being.
The world itself is full of conflict, and our response – religions, political systems, educational systems – are all means of escape from the suffering arising out of this conflict.
We have surrendered the capability to think and act for ourselves, and are ever willing to submit to authority in any form – social, political, religious, spiritual.
It’s obvious that a radical, fundamental change in culture is required if we are to break out from this state – from an authoritarian, externally directed culture to one where individuals will naturally do the right thing without any coercion or fear.
Every individual needs to rise to a level of awareness and discernment that leads to the right action and thus transform society. If we don’t do this, and continue to tinker with marginal changes within the existing culture, it would only amount to “beautifying the jail” and not a break-out from the confines of the jail itself.
How to Create a New Culture
It has to be done by every human being from within; all we can do is to try and create an enabling environment for this “flowering in goodness”, to as many people as we can.
The creation of this inner awareness and balance between the inner and external worlds need to be approached differently for children and adults.
For adults, we need to appeal to their innate humanity, a higher level of consciousness than they operate today.
For children, who are born with natural curiosity and a spirit of inquiry, we need to nurture these through the right education. We must ensure they carry their innocence and curiosity with them to adulthood and develop their sensitivity to a level where they will do the right thing when they grow up.
We believe that human beings are inherently good and moral. While they might have strayed from the righteous path due to various reasons, inner awakening can help them reclaim their innate goodness.
Call it Ram Rajya, Utopia, Shangri La, whatever. Say it’s unachievable, or impossible in a life time. Perhaps, but we can always work towards it, and make our personal contributions, however small they may be.
Like the squirrel In Lord Rama’s army who carried small pebbles to build the bridge to Lanka.
Or the young man who threw starfish back into the sea…
Our goal is the creation of this environment through right education.
What is “Right” Education?
As with other institutions shaped by the existing cultural milieu, education, too, suffers from misguided focus – on bookish knowledge, learning by rote, competitive examinations as the primary tool to measure educational accomplishments and the accumulation of degrees and plum jobs and financial prosperity as the yardsticks to assess success in life.
To be sure, there has always been discontent with the “transmission” model of education (through which the all-knowing teachers transmit knowledge to the ignorant students).
This has found expression in various forms of alternate education, addressing the social, psychological, political and spiritual limitations of the model.
Thinkers such as Rousseau, Emerson, Thoreau, Steiner, Montessori, and Tolstoy, among others, have raised their voices against what they perceived were the limitations of the conventional education model and introduced alternative models.
The proponents of holistic education believe that education should address not only the acquisition of knowledge and preparing students to become capable, caring and contributing citizens, but also should lead to the inner awakening of every child, so that he/she is rightly related to both the external world as well as his/her inner core.
They seek to integrate all conventional and alternate approaches in preparing students to develop into complete human beings. To them, right education will lead to right action, resulting in the creation of the right culture.
While there are many experiments underway to bring about changes in the educational systems, they have remained experiments. They are tolerated, but society at large does not feel the need to make a radical transformation from the conventional model.
If this goes on, we’ll continue to churn out super specialists who are single-mindedly focused on degrees, jobs and financial prosperity, to the exclusion of world peace, sensitivity to harmony in nature and a connection with their inner self.
Our objective is to MAINSTREAM holistic education such that an integrated world curriculum aimed at developing knowledge and sensitivity is adopted by schools across the world.
For this to happen, there needs to be more heightened awareness about the shortcomings of the existing education systems and a public consensus on the way forward.
At The Life School, we aim to trigger these discussions on a more elaborate and sustained scale than what is happening currently and create a groundswell of public opinion for change.
To be continued……