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Swami Vivekananda and his philosophy of education

Swami Vivekananda was born on January 12, 1863 in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (Now Kolkata, West Bengal, India). His real name was Narendranath Datta. Swamiji died on July 4, 1902, Belur Maath, Bengal Presidency, British India. The article discusses educational philosophy of Swami Vivekananda.

According to scholars, the philosophy of education is the branch of applied philosophy that investigates the nature of education as well as its aims and problems. It includes the examination of educational theories, the presuppositions present in them, and the arguments for and against them. Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest philosophers in India, established his own form of philosophy in the late 19th century when the British were ruling over the subcontinent. The article discusses the philosophy of education of Swami Vivekananda. Hope important data about Swamiji’s thinking about education is available here.

Introduction

Swami Vivekananda was one of the few great men who emerged in colonial India (British India) in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is well known that Swami Vivekananda was a renunciation monk, a libertarian devotee of Vedanta. Eliminating pollution from society was the main ambition of Swami Vivekananda’s busy short life. So Swamiji started a new movement in the thought of education when education was the name of clerical creation for educated Bengalis who were plagued by long colonial rule. At a time when the Christian Missionaries and the British ruling group were simultaneously engaged in disinformation about India’s knowledge, science, religion, and spirituality; When they were busy ‘testing’ with the ‘Downward filtration theory’, Wood’s Despatch, Hunter Commission etc. for the expansion of education in India. Swami Vivekananda preached a radical change in the education system of Bengal and India by using spiritual education as a tool. He talked about educational reforms for the overall development of the education system. What will be the purpose and nature of education, the method of education.

Swami Vivekananda and background of his philosophy of education

Swami Vivekananda was born on January 12, 1863 in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (Now Kolkata, West Bengal, India). His real name was Narendranath Datta. Swamiji died on July 4, 1902, Belur Maath, Bengal Presidency, British India.

Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, author, religious teacher, educationist, and the chief disciple of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world; and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, and bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion. Vivekananda became a popular figure after the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where he began his famous speech with the words, “Sisters and brothers of America…,” before introducing Hinduism to Americans.

Swami Vivekananda’s father died in 1884 and he fell into huge financial difficulties. During this time he tried to earn through translation work. He translated the book Education: Intellectual, Moral and Physical by Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903), one of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, into Bengali under the name Shiksha (Pronunciation: Shikkha).

In addition, in 1886, Swami Vivekananda joined the teaching profession and did the job for a very short time. He served as the Head Teacher of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar Metropolitan Institution, Chapatla Branch. We can assume that at that time, his great mind was stirred about the philosophy of education and the method of teaching. During his student life Vivekananda became agnostic for a time like Herbert Spencer.

Vivekananda had correspondence with Spencer and in those letters he criticized some of Spencer’s views. In a word, Swami Vivekananda was for some time influenced by Herbert Spencer. But when he came in contact with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Deva, he moved away from Western philosophy and Herbert Spencer’s. Consequently, he established education on the firm foundation of Vedanta philosophy, which teaches that education is the expression of man’s inner perfection. In order to achieve this perfection, it is not enough to extract some things from the outside world, the knowledge that is already inside the mind must be removed.

For him we want internalization of thoughts, we want the nearness of Sadguru, we want celibacy and development of personality. The philosophy that teaches – education is the manifestation of the inner perfection of man. In order to achieve this perfection, it is not enough to extract some things from the outside world, the knowledge that is already inside the mind must be removed. For him I want internalization of thoughts, I want the nearness of Sadguru, I want celibacy and development of personality. The philosophy that teaches – education is the manifestation of the inner perfection of man. In order to achieve this perfection, it is not enough to extract some things from the outside world, the knowledge that is already inside the mind must be removed. For doing that it needed internalization of thoughts in him, nearness of Sadgur was required for him, he needed celibacy and development of personality.

Swami Vivekananda did not translate or write any other works on education, but expressed many opinions on the subject in his omnipresent Manishabal. This educational thought is spread throughout his writings.

Philosophy of life of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy of life is primarily human-centered. He learned this human-oriented form of philosophy from the Upanishads. You must know that the goal of Upanishad is to completely introduce the innermost truth of human beings by analyzing human natures at various levels, giving full dignity to each level. Swami Vivekananda judged people according to the Upanishads.

Swami Vivekananda believed that bodies and minds of human beings’ hope and desire not to be neglected but their innermost truth is most cherished; If people forget this truth and want to magnify external truths, then they have deviated from the path of goodness; They will not be able to fully enrich his personal welfare and will also disrupt social welfare step by step. Vivekananda also believed if human beings’ divinity is excluded, man is bound to be selfish. 

Envy, hatred, and greed— these three are very natural for people to be controlled by. Swami Vivekananda believed that the time had come for people to practice divinity-realization on a larger scale. The best truths of man can and should be applied to every aspect of his life or the human civilization will fall into crises. In Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy of life, this practice is called ‘Practical Vedanta’. Besides, ‘fearlessness’ occupies a prominent place in the life philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. According to him, courage and strength help people progress at all levels. That is why he spoke of the practice of zeal, courage and fearlessness in all spheres, whether personal, family or social, educational or religious.

One of the promises of Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy is that the souls of all people are the forms of all powers, eternally free, eternally clear, whose awakening is the test of all human welfare.

Educational philosophy of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda said, “Education is the manifestation of the wholeness that exists within man from the beginning”. In order for the public to understand this super-concept of education properly, he pointed out a definition of education. So what is the definition of education by Swami Vivekananda?

Vivekananda’s definition of education: The exercise by which the flow and expression of the will comes under control and becomes effective is called education.’ Analyzing the definition yields:

Firstly, through education, the latent will power in the individual should be opened up and its flow should be effected. A person is not an automatic machine; Just because he is handicapped, he behaves like a machine. Therefore, the purpose of education is man-making.

Second, the flow and expression of willpower must be controlled. What is its purpose? Surely its purpose is to achieve the welfare of the society. Because the existence of an outcast cannot be imagined.

Third, education is practice; By which it is possible to harmonize both the introvert and extrovert nature of man. So education is the way of development for both individuals and society.

The idea is summed up in a questioning statement by Swami Vivekananda himself. The saying is, ‘The knowledge that cannot support the common man in the struggle of life, so that it does not bring the strength of character, altruism, and courage of the people, is that education?’

Swami Vivekananda wrote in a letter, ‘A nation is advanced to the extent that knowledge is spread among the masses. The main reason for the destruction of India is that – the monarchy and arrogance of the entire country’s intellectuals have been confined to a handful of people. If we have to rise again, then by taking that path, that is, by spreading knowledge among the common people.’ It is clear from this that Swami Vivekananda wanted education for all people irrespective of caste, creed, caste, community which is capable of creating something great or benevolent.

An education that will contain the ingredients necessary for building the fortitude of the mind and opening the soul. This education is the education of making people. When people are developed in this way, social consciousness is bound to grow in them.

According to Swami Vivekananda, the purpose of real education is to make people who will bring the society and the nation to the peak of progress.  

Definition of Education according to Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda expressed the view that living in Gurugriha (residence of a teacher) and receiving education through contact with the Guru (teacher) is particularly effective for human development. He said, “True education is not possible without intimacy with the teacher’s personal life.”

According to Swami Vivekananda, no one can teach anyone anything. Education is nothing but realization or awakening. Just like a tree sapling cannot be created, something cannot be taught to anyone. All that can be done is to assist in the path of realization. That is why Swami Vivekananda wanted educational institutions to be established in our country again on the ideals of the ancient Gurukul system.

There the students excelled in Para and Apara Vidya by the presence and learning quality of temperate, servile, loving sages; By acquiring knowledge and skills in various worldly matters, he would get the ability to earn money, and at the same time, full of desire for people’s welfare, strong-willed, Devopam would have acquired character. Ideal teachers should be like this. Only then, in their education and life, students will be able to become people who benefit themselves, the society, the country and the world.

Regarding the education of children, Swami Vivekananda said, “Every child is a reservoir of infinite divine energy, and we must try to awaken the dormant Brahman within him. Another thing we have to remember while teaching children is to encourage them to learn to think for themselves. This lack of fundamental thinking is the reason for India’s present state of disrepair. If boys are taught in this way, they will become men and be able to solve their own problems in the struggle of life.”

Curriculum and medium(s) of education according to Swami Vivekananda

The curriculum of Swami Vivekananda’s man-made educational system is particularly comprehensive—it includes everything needed for the integrated development of body, mind, and spirit. Of course, among them are physical education, religion, science and technology, aesthetics, classics and language. The ratio between these must be determined according to the needs of the particular society.

Mother tongue will be the medium of public education, but mastery of more than one language is necessary for complete education. How is it possible to practice religion, science and technology and black ancient literature without this system? For example, the meaningful practice of Western science and technology is only possible through a Western language. This is why Swami Vivekananda recommended the practice of English language in India. Although he was of the opinion that the great philosophies contained in our ancient texts should be presented to the public in the vernacular, he also ordered the teaching of Sanskrit. Because the sound of Sanskrit words will give dignity and strength to the nation.

We can say Vivekananda prefers providing education in mother tongue and he also recommends English or other second languages for the better education, if needed.

Swami Vivekananda’s views on education

Swami Vivekananda’s views on education can be divided into several categories. namely—

Physical education

Physical and mental fitness is necessary for proper understanding of any subject. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Physical and mental fitness cannot be achieved without knowledge of physical education. So Swami Vivekananda gave importance to physical education in education. Swami Vivekananda said, “First you have to be strong, religion will come later. O my friends, be strong—this is my advice to you. You will be closer to heaven if you play football than read Gita. If your body is strong, you will understand the Gita better.”

Religion and moral education

Swami Vivekananda said in the context of gender-neutral education that education is not complete without religion. But by religion he means ‘development of inner divinity’. According to Swami Vivekananda, education means the development of the heart. In Swami Vivekananda’s view, education and religion are completely identical—both aim at the realization of man’s inherent potential. By education he understood the opening of humanity and religion would have a close relationship with it. But that religion is not a formal religion. “That they may be virtuous, humane, and pious, shall thus teach. It’s called religion—complex philosophical theory, learn it now. It will teach the universal common sense of religion.”

Man making education

According to Swami Vivekananda the purpose of real education is to make man (self-sufficient and spiritual person). Education is the name of applying what we have received in my mind to practical needs in life.

Women Education

According to Swami Vivekananda, widespread education among both men and women is the broadest means of all progress and solution of all problems.

Swami Vivekananda spoke time and again about the spread of education within women as well as men. “A bird cannot fly on one side.” “If there is no education among the common people and among the girls, nothing can happen.” “Those whose mothers are educated and principled, great people are born in their homes. …Girls should be raised first, masses should be awakened, but the welfare of the country!” “If the mothers are improved, the great achievements of their children will brighten the face of the country, and only then will culture, prowess, Revival of knowledge and devotion.” “If we get proper education, our girls can become ideal women of the world.” According to Swami Vivekananda, special problems of women can be solved through ‘self help and mutual aid’. It requires education to make women into women, education that will instill in them a sense of fearlessness and self-reliance. As a result, the curriculum for women’s education will include theology, literature, Sanskrit grammar and some English. Apart from this, he added cookery, indexing, home science etc. to the list of curriculum. In this connection it should be remembered that Swami Vivekananda’s instruction on women’s education was more than a century ago, when domestic science etc. were not included in the special curriculum of women’s education. Education that will inculcate fearlessness and self-reliance in them.

As a result, the curriculum for women’s education will include theology, literature, Sanskrit grammar and some English. Apart from this, he added cookery, indexing, home science etc. to the list of curriculum. In this connection it should be remembered that Swami Vivekananda’s instruction on women’s education was more than a century ago, when domestic science etc. were not included in the special curriculum of women’s education. Education that will inculcate fearlessness and self-reliance in them. As a result, the curriculum for women’s education will include theology, literature, Sanskrit grammar and some English. Apart from this, he added cookery, indexing, home science etc. to the list of curriculum. In this connection it should be remembered that Swami Vivekananda’s instruction on women’s education was more than a century ago, when domestic science etc. were not included in the special curriculum of women’s education.

Education for the weaker section of society

Swami Vivekananda has repeatedly mentioned the need for education among the underprivileged people of the society. He said, “I have seen directly that the more spread of knowledge and wisdom among the people, the more developed that nation is.” The main reason for the disaster that has happened in India is that – the kingship and arrogance of the entire country’s intellectual intelligence have been confined to a handful of people. If we have to rise again, then by taking that path, that is, by spreading knowledge among the common people. “The root of all error is this, that the real race—those who live in cottages—have forgotten their individuality and humanity.…Their lost individuality must be restored; They have to be educated.”

Swami Vivekananda particularly felt the need to teach general knowledge to the masses. He went to them at convenient times of the public and asked them to teach astrology, geography etc. in simple language in the guise of stories by word of mouth.

Swami Vivekananda’s advice

‘Educate the masses in vernacular.’ Swami Vivekananda also said that small modern equipment and tools should be used to teach these things. Globes, maps, various images, magic lanterns, some chemicals – these must be collected. “… set up unpaid schools in villages for the poor, yet it would do no good, for the poverty in India is so great that poor boys will not go to school, but go to the fields to help their fathers in his farming, or to try to earn a living in some other way; So just as Muhammad went to the mountain to prevent the mountain from going to Muhammad, so if the poor boy cannot come to the school, education should be brought to them.”

Swami Vivekananda in Jaipur, India
Swami Vivekananda in Jaipur, India

According to Swami Vivekananda, there are a few qualities that are particularly helpful for successful teaching, which both teacher and student need to be alert to — respect or self-confidence, concentration, growth of willpower and celibacy.

First, respect or confidence. “Just as greatness develops in the heart when respect for oneself arises, so also when respect for others arises in him, self-confidence arises in him, he stands up with his head uplifted and mighty. For that, ‘nothing will be done by it’, ‘and it is absolutely unsubstantial’ – such words are not to be uttered; Respectfully ask others to believe in their own strength, this fact that people can do anything if they want to, should be inculcated in the student’s mind. This is the great mantra to make education successful.”

Second, concentration. ‘The more concentrated the mind, the less time and the less effort knowledge is mastered; Waste of energy and time is reduced.’ “In my opinion the essence of education is mind-association, not fact-gathering.”

Third, willpower. “Life evolves only through the repeated exercise of willpower. The influence of willpower is immense.” ‘Willpower can be strengthened by repeated practice. Whenever the mind wants to go astray, it has to be pulled back by force. It has to be done without ignoring minor incidents. The more often this is done, the greater the confidence, the stronger the willpower.… This is the only way to build character—repeated practice. Even if you fail a thousand times, don’t give up, don’t lose enthusiasm; Then success will come. The effort to awaken one’s inner strength is the pursuit of humanity.’

Fourth, brahmacharya (celibacy). In the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist monastic traditions, brahmacharya implies, among other things, the mandatory renunciation of sex and marriage. It is considered necessary for a monk’s spiritual practice. But the brahmacharya mentioned by Vivekananda means maintaining purity in thought, word and deed at all times. Swami Vivekananda said, “Every boy should be taught to practice complete brahmacharya (celibacy); Only then the respect and faith in them will be awakened. Practicing celibacy is essential for acquiring knowledge.

Conclusion

Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy and all the thoughts on education are analyzed and it can be seen that the middle gem is ‘human beings’. And he realized the lack of education as the root of all human misery. Due to the lack of education, people do not understand the way to improve themselves. They forget their personality and humanity. As a result, low standard of living, indifference towards unity and high ideals etc. easily come to them. Education among the masses is the root of all progress. The education Vivekananda told is that instills faith in the immense potential, infinite power that exists within the human being. According to Swami Vivekananda, education should be taken to be a self sufficient person.

Bibliography

  • Vivekananda, Swami, Education Context, Inauguration Office, Calcutta, 1991.
  • Visvas Dayananda, Swami, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Math, Dhaka, 2013.
  • Lokeswarananda, Swami, Editor, Chintanayak Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata, 1995.
  • Words and Writings of Swami Vivekananda (Compilation), Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Dhaka, 2003.
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