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Sunday, 22 July 2012





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The ancient and the modern – Teachers’ Day

Guru Pournima of ancient times and Teachers’ Day of today):

In Hindu tradition, a perfect fully blossomed lotus flower with its bud bowing low in obeisance before it is the delicate picture that portrays Guru Pournima – a symbolic expression by the artist who describes the Guru-sishya relationship.

The flower represents the illumined Guru while the bud bending forward is the disciple, humbly seeking guidance and grace to attain Divine Perfection. The unfolding petals in the bud suggest the gradual expansion of the Soul – the growth of its pure beauty from the muddy depths, signifying a benign spiritual promise.

Today’s Teachers’ Day celebrated on October 6 each year was “Guru Pournima” to the ancient Hindus who from ancient times felicitated their teachers annually in the woodland hermitages on the full moon day in the month of Aani – mid June – to mid July.

(This is Poson Poya).

Both these events the Guru Pournima of the Vedic age and the Teachers’ Day of the present times basically demonstrate the appreciation for the contribution that teachers have made/make to their community; but do so with a difference.

Today this appreciation is shown by celebrating Teacher’s Day at a social function where the ceremony acknowledges the efforts of teachers in an increasingly complex, multicultural and technological society.

In ancient times the felicitation was in the form of a pooja, prayer and meditation – a day dedicated to the Guru and the process of learning.

It was the mystic poet Kabir who spoke in spiritual terms of the loving and sympathetic attention of a Guru, the true teacher in poetic lines as one,

‘‘Who fills the cup of true love and drinks of it himself

And offers it then to me
He removes the veil from the eyes and
gives the true vision of Brahman;
He reveals the worlds in Him and
makes me hear the Unstruck Music;
He shows joy and sorrow to be one;
He fills all utterances with love.”
And adds, “Verily he has no fear;
Who has such a Guru to lead him to the Shelter of Safety.”

The world is full of misery and ignorance and it is through education that the ‘shelter of safety’ could be reached. Kabir speaks of a Guru who would lead him to this shelter – someone to guide him correctly and help him in his unfoldment to Reality.

The learning experience is a penetrating adventure into our inner being. There is indeed a vastness of goodness and sweetness within us and these must be brought forth in our thoughts, words and deeds. And the Guru helps us, co-operates with us to bring them out. In penetrating into Kabir’s mind our hearts and minds are filled with undefiled love. Love alone will conquer and give light as he himself says – “the true guru fills the cup of true love, drinks of it himself and then offers it to me.”


Such a one has his lamp of knowledge burning all the time, helping us to light our lamp from his and drinking in the stream of knowledge within us. It is only then that the true vision of the Almighty Brahman would come before us as “Un-struck Music” – the music of the spheres, the anahatha natham as the Hindus say.

The teacher-student relationship –

This relationship is beautifully expressed in a Peace Invocation of the ancient Hindus which reads when translated as-

‘OM. May Brahman protect us both - student and teacher; may He nourish us both; may we both acquire energy by this education; may we both become illumined as a result of education; may we not hate each other. OM Shanti Shanti Shanti’ (Peace, Peace, Peace).

This Peace Invocation contains many beautiful sentiments - sentiments which have inspired Hindu education - secular and religious for over several millennia. It expresses the idea of education as the achievement of knowledge and excellence of character in the context of a harmonious relationship between teacher and student - they are en rapport.

The giving and the receiving of knowledge leading to the making of man depends on the teacher-student relationship.

In today’s context too, this relationship becomes very relevant. The teacher gives and the student receives not only ideas and information but also inspiration where the emphasis should be on helping the students to seek, organise and manage knowledge, to guide them making education the lighting of one lamp from another.

Holistic approach

In ancient times, education to the Hindus was a life-long process where every phase of life in the society was adjusted to meet the primary demand for spiritual growth. Life was looked upon as an organic whole and all its phases were planned to advance the society and the individual. The ancient rishi educationists included the spiritual culture of prayer, meditation and service together with the study of secular subjects essentially because their approach was holistic.

Recent research shows that the study of secular subjects activates only the left brain while the right brain is left dormant. It is the spiritual culture of prayer, meditation and service that activates the right brain. This active combination of the two sides of the brain is absolutely necessary to achieve the goal of education by which every individual will contribute his maximum towards the common weal and at the same time advance spiritually.

In the school system of today, the teacher’s function is to awaken through love the inherent knowledge and all the latent powers of observation, reflection and execution in the student, motivate him to think for himself, guide him to apply the knowledge to proper use; in other words, create abilities and attitudes in the student.

The role of the teacher was/is fascinating particularly as a mediator between the student and the world of knowledge, between the student and his social environment, as a manager of classroom interaction, as a counsellor and as a community leader and catalyst all rolled into one.

The method of education in the ancient system of education was based on the following –

- concentration of the mind
observance of brahmachari (celibacy)
study in the Gurukula system
building up of character, strength and fearlessness.

Concentration of mind is the method by which knowledge could be brought out. To achieve success in whatever one does whether it be education, work or play, this is the only method. Man commits blunders due to the lack of concentration of thought. It is the difference in the power of concentration that brings about the difference between man and man, man and animal. Concentrating all powers of the mind and bringing them into one focus becomes the essence of education, the key to the treasure house of knowledge.

Observance of Brahmachari is all important. Brahmachari is chastity in thought, word and deed bringing about shraddha – faith to accomplish whatever is undertaken. The saying, “Faith in oneself and faith in God,” works wonders!

Stages of Instructions
up to 7 years of age – at home
from 8 – 14 Gurukulam the Ashrama School
formal secondary education
- above 14 at Higher Institutes of Learning

Swami Vivekananda gives the Hindu interpretation to the teaching process basing it on the Atman, the Soul and explains the mental growth of a student manifesting from within its own nature. This is similar to the view of the Western mystic educational philosopher, Froebel where both compare the child to a plant. Just as the little seed of a banyan tree contains the potentiality of developing into a huge tree, in the Atman of the student lies the gigantic intellect. One provides the seedling with water and manure, weeding and pruning when necessary and giving it protection and it assimilates and grows by itself.


Similarly in the education of a student the teacher’s responsibility is to remove all obstacles in the way of learning and provide all that is necessary to uncover the existing knowledge within and awaken his latent tendencies. Once the obstacles are removed, the natural scope to grow, is created.

The growth of the intellectual faculties of a student could also be compared to the physical growth of his limbs - both requiring careful nursing. Each stage, ‘has its peculiar characteristics and the precise business of the teacher is to adjust the surroundings and the activities of the student so that the latter may be gently led through all these stages and allowed to unfold by a gradual and natural process, its various faculties like so many flower blossoms.

Western educators such as Rousseau, Pestologgi and Froebel to mention just three, significantly contributed to the betterment of education and since then pedagogy has developed into a science and experiments are being continuously made to correct methods of teaching making it ‘‘child centred.’’

With the careful handling of the student’s very delicate and highly sensitive brain, the teacher helps in the natural unfoldment of his latent faculties. A potent factor in the healthy development of the faculties is self-activity for awakening practical aptitudes - that this self-activity can be awakened only by loving and sympathetic attention to their actual need, taste and capacity; that syllabus, routine, method of imparting lessons, school discipline all must confirm primarily to the important psychological requirements of the students.

Learning to be, to know, to do, to live together The ancient Hindus achieved the goal of holistic education through the process of learning to be, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, all rolled into the education system forming its four pillars.

All societies should build on these pillars and aim to move towards an Utopia in which all latent talents in every person is tapped, so that the Perfection already in man gets manifested - the crowning fulfilment of the goal of education.

This would help in our educational and cultural revival and in the national uplifment of our country in an atmosphere of peace and harmony as we transit deeper into the twenty first millennium.

UNESCO has declared October 6 of every year to be Teachers’ Day – a day of celebrations where children touch the feet of the teachers and offer flowers, fruits or betel leaves.

However, the aaraadhana on Guru Pournima takes the form of Pudukka Pooja in all Chinmaya Missions – the worship of the pair of sandals symbolizing the Guru’s paadam the feet, singing in chorus “namaami chinmayam devam sadgurum brahma vidvaram.”

Swami Chinmayananda is our Guru who had come at a critical moment in our history to awaken the slumbering Hindu community and spread the true essence of spiritual education. He picked us up from our confusions, gradually making our lives more pure giving us knowledge.

At these observances the ritual is made more real as each one of us mentally do the puja with the resident Achrya guiding us, offering flowers and repeating the Name. All the voices blend together creating a beautiful vibration and gradually fading away quietening the minds. With the moment of stillness seeping in, an inner voice seemed to say,

“Taste the hush of a conscious Inner Quest. Under such a balm quiet, the

lacerated mind recovers and refills itself with a strange light and new power.”

As the abhishekams were performed and the flowers were offered, the congregation sang the Guru Stotram –

akhanda-mandalaakaaram vyaaptam yena caraacaram
tarpadam darsitam yena tasmai sri gurave namah.
tvameva maata ca pitaa tvameva
tvameva bandhusca sakha tvameva
tvameva vidyaa dravinam tvameva
tvameva sarvam meme deva deva.

And with the offering of flowers was performed and the pooja was concluded becoming a session of poetry, deep mysticism, profound philosophy and meditation.


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