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Spiritual Education to discover the meaning of ‘I’

Dr. V. N. Jha



Indian Culture is one the most ancient cultures of the world. It has a time-tested tradition of thousands of years of reflection. Over thousands of years it has generated thousands of books of wisdom. Right from the very beginning we find sages asking very deep questions regarding the source of our plural world. They enjoyed complete freedom of thought and expression and so we find numerous responses to those questions. But whatever may be the response, one thing is amazing and it is the discovery of unity in diversity.

 In this small article I would like to highlight the concept of education of that time which would teach the students to see unity in diversity. This concept is universal in nature and can be implemented anywhere in the world. This is the need of the hour since all other forms of education have failed to generate the required eyes to see the one in all. In the absence of such a philosophy of education, human beings will continue to remain divided and self-centered which is the root cause of all prevailing unrest, agitation, and sufferings all over the world.

Concept of Reality

Indians have been reflecting since times immemorial on the nature of the referent of ‘I’ and the sages have attempted to see oneself in all that one ordinarily considers to be different. This idea had origin in the most ancient text of the Hindus called the Rigveda. The later reflections in all the philosophical and non-philosophical texts continued to reconfirm those very ideas throughout the ages. Thus the Upanishads, the Geeta, the Brahmasutras, the great epics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and all the traditions of cognizance kept on emphasizing on this sense of unity. In this tradition of reflection what is amazing is the concept of Reality. There were idealist and realist philosophers, no doubt. But so far as the concept of Reality is concerned unequivocally all wanted to promote the vision of ‘One-ness’ everywhere. This vision taught to include and not to exclude. That is what education must aim at. All distinctions are man-made, the Reality remains all-inclusive.

All that exists is Real. Some philosophers like Vallabhacharya have gone to point out that Plurality is the manifestation of Singularity. All that exists is the Brahman, the ultimate Truth, be it animate or inanimate; living or non-living. If this is the Truth, where is the scope for discrimination of any kind in the world?

Our living world

Ancient Indian literature kept on painting our planet, the earth as a nest. We are members of one family. We are brothers and sisters. This is the real familial bond which should keep us united where we can share our joy and sorrow. Education, therefore, must promote this and Indian ancient wisdom has the capacity to materialize this ideal. Unfortunately, modern education does not focus on this.

Human Mind

Indian sages discovered that the human mind itself has created this unwanted situation of unrest and misery. But it is possible to condition the human mind in such a way that it can come out of its narrow state and promote universality. In fact, Indians have created a complete system of training of the human mind to bring about the desired transformation in man. The system of Yoga has, in fact, this aim in mind although the world has missed this message of Yoga and takes it to be merely a system of physical exercise.

What is urgently needed is the training of the human mind to make it universal. Education must focus on this. The system of Yoga has a great capacity to contribute to education towards creating a universal mind. This system has analyzed human behavior threadbare, and has given the road map to transform the human mind from its conditioned state to a de-conditioned state.

  Indian Concept of Education

The ancient thinkers and philosophers have pointed out ‘that is education which liberates the human mind from narrowness.’ I have not seen a better definition of education than this. If this aim of education is kept in mind and the education planners all over the globe can plan education accordingly right from the early age, the products of such an exercise will be worthy of being called ‘human beings’. This, if materialized, will indeed convert the globe into ‘a nest’ where there is no scope for discrimination of any kind and purpose of coming to this planet is fully achieved.

There is a beautiful statement in the Panchatantra, the earliest book of fables in Sanskrit:

‘He is my family member and he is not my family member, such consideration is entertained only by those whose mind is narrow, but for those who possess a broad mind the entire world is their family.’

It was this feeling that brought applauses for Swami Vivekanada, the great spiritual and social reformer,  who began his address in  the World Religion Conference in Chicago by saying “My brothers and sisters of America ! “


The world has progressed, no doubt. We have developed the best system of education too to contribute to this progress. The world is now called a village due to the advancement of science and technology. We have added comforts to our life. But all this has happened only on the physical level. Unfortunately, the contemporary education systems have failed in promoting the sense of humanity. I hope, you will agree with me. If that feeling is lost the very purpose of our being on this planet is lost.

The only hope left now is spiritual education in which the focus is not to understand ‘Reality’ in isolation but to understand ‘It’  in totality. Once we understand ‘Reality’ in totality, the scope for celebrating difference gets minimized since spiritual education provides training for liberating our mind from narrowness and promotes it to the state of all-inclusive broadness.

The Indian classical tradition of spirituality and philosophical reflection can contribute a lot towards achieving this goal.