Inter Culture Humanism and Value Oriented Education
Inter Culture Humanism:
Culture is the mirror of society. Culture gives life and light to society and the society which is devoid of culture seems dead. The relationship between culture and society is as inseparable as the relationship between fingernail and finger. Culture is, in fact, the identity of society. It is clear that a society without its own culture cannot sustain itself and is like a tree without leaves.
Basically, culture connects us and cultivates us. It establishes a connection between people and other people, people and nature, and people and the earth. The world's problems can be solved if we foster a sense of belonging, inter-dependence and inter-connectedness. This will cultivate us, raise our level of consciousness, uplift us and inculcate within us a divine quality and spiritual wealth – the "Daivi Sampada" as the Geeta said around 5000 years ago.
Materialism and militarism are serious problems for our planet. Naturally, materialism will increase militarism because extreme materialism creates greed, attachment, ego etc, which eventually leads to militarism. Material objects are like salt in curry – if there is too much the taste will be spoiled. So having material things is not bad, but becoming materialistic is always harmful.
Individualism is increasing rapidly. A sense of collectivity and co-existence is becoming something which is only seen in books. It is seen that so-called intellectuals are also selfish; they also get disconnected from society and nature. Their merely personal progress takes them away form the true beauty of life. It is obvious that education which is not turned into wisdom in the end creates this kind of isolation and selfishness. Therefore our Sanatani Hindu prayer says, ''Sarve Bhawantu Sukhina, Sarve Santu Niramaya, Sarve Bhadrani Pasyantu, Ma Kaschid Dukha Bhag jana''. This means that not only humans or Hindus should be happy, rather it prays for the happiness and peace of the entirety of creation including all creatures and plants.
Each of the world’s cultures has a tremendous beauty, which can be shared with other human beings and used to save the planet. Unfortunately, people have increasingly misinterpreted their cultures with modern materialistic ideas. People now seem to be guided by ego-centric ideas. They now seem to be more ego-centered, more external and more wasteful. People seem to be getting less attracted towards and less interested in retaining and practicing culture. Of course, if culture is not modified in accordance with the changing times and with science, this can create other problems. Dogmatic practices will push society backwards.
So-called modern development has threatened the existence of humanity itself. Development’s purpose is comfort, happiness and peace, but unfortunately people have become more insecure and troubled in this modern world. It is obvious that development which focuses only on material advancement, keeping humans and humanity apart, will always be threatening.
Cultural diversity and biodiversity are closely related, and both essential. They represent the enormous beauty of the world. No one should forget unity in the name of our diverse identities, and no one should ignore diversity in the name of unity. The Vedant philosophy says, ''Don't look at the things, but look through the things''. If we look at things on the surface, we find differences between people which lead us to fight and quarrel. If we look through things, we find the same consciousness existing in all people and all creation.
The phrase 'Human Rights' is quite popular in this new era. There is a huge investment in human rights at global level. However, we have forgotten to ask what our priority should be: human rights or humanity? We cannot ignore the fact that if we could produce good humans by providing value-oriented education, we would need to spend nothing on human rights. On some occasions the advocacy of human rights has created clashes and disputes. The slogan seems quite appealing and alluring, but it has also been a cause of division in society and has poisoned harmonious relationships which have been established for many ages.
What is a human being after all? It is a daunting question which human minds have been trying to answer for centuries. The Vedant philosophy highlights the 5 aspects of human beings - Anna-maya Kosha, Prana-maya Kosha, Mano-maya Kosha, Vigyan-maya Kosha and Aanand-maya Kosha. This means human beings exist in 5 components - Body, Pran (life force), Mind, Consciousness and Blissfulness. It looks as if modern education has made us able only to connect with the external parts of the body! That’s why life has become more miserable and society is more vulnerable.
Nature and culture should go hand-in-hand; nature should support culture and culture should inspire and motivate us in the preservation of nature. In Nepal, it is obvious that nature and culture are quite integrated. Therefore, let the motto of life of everyone be - "Back to nature through culture and back to culture through nature”. In the Geeta it is said thus: Parasparam Bhavayanta Shreya Param-vapsyatha.
Why are human beings suffering more in the modern scientific era? Is it due to a lack of materialist progress or a lack of awareness? Gandhi says - "Need would be fulfilled but greed never". Of course, the Mother Earth has given us more than we need, but the greed of a few people has made quite a lot of people suffer from terrible poverty. They have exploited the nature, Mother Earth! These transgressions have now caused great problems worldwide such as global warming and climate change. Isha Upanishad says - "Ten Tyakten Bhunjeetha Ma Gridha Kasyachid Dhanam'. This means that we need to learn skills that will enable us to experience even physical pleasure with the sense of non-attachment.
The Vedas say - "Aatma Khalu Vishwamoolam". This means the whole universe is a manifestation of same Aatma, consciousness, supreme Self or Quantum Self. There is no Dualism. The same supreme Self is manifested in every form. If we can understand and acknowledge this wholeheartedly, how can we then be negative towards others? How can there be any conflicts? How can there be any violence on this earth? All conflicts grow only in dualism, never in non-dualism.
Each culture is based mainly on two aspects – activities such as celebrations of festivals and values. If we can promote the values of each culture, it will create more harmony because values are always universal. No one will say anything against good virtues such as love, peace, service, respect and forgiveness. Furthermore, cultures which are based on religion may create confusions and then conflicts, but cultures which are based on spirituality will create only harmony and co-existence.
How to produce a whole and complete human? That is the main question for all of humanity. We have so far produced professionals, businessmen and technicians, but let us think if we have become able to produce a whole human. Mahabharata says, "Na Manusyat Shresthataram Hi Kinchit". This means nothing is greater than a human being. Nevertheless, our modern education system as well as our modern life style has ignored the process of producing whole humans. This is in fact the greatest paradox of modern development!
All the great religions and faiths of the world have taught us humanity, but unfortunately they have all eventually got narrowed, limited, misused and misinterpreted for the vested interests of certain selfish people. These have now become the causes of controversies, separation, clashes, disputes, hatred, enmity and intolerance. Religions without firm roots and religions without any clear purpose of spirituality will create these kinds of distractions throughout the world. So we need to reshape and reform religions as per the need of the changing times. In addition, we need to find out the basic roots of all the great faiths in order to achieve coexistence, harmony, non-violence and love, creating an open space to fly high and high for spiritual realization which is beyond any dogma, practices and rituals.
What are the meeting points of east and west? These should be deeply explored and then acknowledged by all. Undoubtedly, the west has served all of humanity greatly at a material level. If we use western technology for the welfare of humankind, many diseases can be cured; many physical challenges will be solved; many physical obstacles will be removed. Similarly, the east has an incredible beauty to serve humanity. If we are able to follow eastern philosophy, several mental and emotional problems will be healed; gaps between haves and have nots will be reduced; crime and violence will calm down; many wars will turn into peace; and dissatisfaction, anxiety and hatred will end. We must bridge the gap between east and west while talking about Inter-Cultural Humanism. After all, it is the right time to understand the message "Yatra Vishwam Bhavatyek-needam"(where the world becomes like a small nest).
We should decide what we actually want to be and what society we want to develop - a consumer society or a conscious society? In fact, over-consumption is a grave problem. It is not production; rather it is an unnatural life style that is the actual problem. It is not education; it is in fact lack of awareness which causes sufferings. Therefore, the time has again come to return to the ancient life style, where one used to consume the materials without any Aasakti (Non-attachment) as the Geeta says.
Problems never rain from the sky or grow form the earth. Precisely speaking, all the problems are created only by Tamasi Vritti or the restless human mind. Unless we re-cultivate the human mind and change the attitude of every human, problems will be never solved; human beings will always be unsafe in their own world. Therefore, Yoga and meditation are quite essential regardless of religion and nationality. Only education coupled with meditation can produce a perfect human being who can be the solution and inspiration.
Nepal, which is nested in the lap of the majestic Himalayas, is culturally very rich. We are glad to say that we have somehow maintained the philosophy of unity in diversity in our daily lives, which may be quite difficult to find elsewhere in the world. The Upanishad says, ''ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti''. It means that truth is one, but the wise people address it differently. Since time immemorial, people have been practicing numerous cultures and traditions in Nepal together with perfect harmony. They have exhibited this through fostering true fellowship and oneness in their society. In Nepali culture we believe in the worship of nature and we consider nature to be ''Our Mother''. Centuries ago our Rishis (saints) foresaw the potential destruction of nature. That’s why they wished for peace everywhere for their posterity. The Vedas say, ''There should be peace in plants or even in space…’’ (vanaspataya shanti , aushadhaya shanti ,antarikchhya shanti…). Now we are extremely worried as there is no real peace in plants or even in space. Our culture inspires us not to ignore any creature, as everything has a vital role to play in creating an ecological balance. For example, in Nepali culture even a dreadful creature like a snake is worshipped because we know the snake is also a part of the same system, which we belong to. Similarly, during the Tihar festival, one of the greatest festivals of Nepal, crows, dogs, cows, oxen and hills are worshipped. The reason for worshipping the hills, for example, is that if there were no mountains, there would be no herbs, no animals, no fresh wind or, indeed, any beauty in nature. So we have to preserve the mountains and hills. Nowadays, it is said that even the highest peak of the world, Sagarmatha, or Mount Everest, is being polluted. Is this not the matter of great concern?
The Eastern Sanatani culture is based on spiritual philosophy. The message which our culture gives to the world is that material advancement without spirituality is nothing but a curse for society. The world is gradually coming to understand this. In the past western philosophers gave importance to 'development'. Later they started talking about 'sustainable development' and still later propounded the idea of 'sustainable human development'. Now they are talking about 'spiritual development'. It is spirituality that maintains peace within an individual and within a society.
Culture helps to maintain harmony by solving social problems because it allows people to develop a sense of unity within diversity. When this philosophy is really practiced, there can be no problems in society. The problem the world faces is that of individualism which is engulfing humankind. Eastern Sanatani culture always emphasizes the bringing together of minds, hearts and souls. Nowadays the world is plagued by violence, crimes, drug problems, suicide and family breakdowns. Individual selfishness is growing like the flames of wildfire. We have forgotten who we are, what we are and where we are trying to go. We have gone mad in blindly chasing material things, since we have come to believe that material happiness is everything. So, eastern Sanatani culture can contribute a lot to the modern world, which has just entered the ''New Millennium''. Thus, the following points should be acknowledged while practicing culture:
1) One should recognize the same consciousness (aatma) in every creature.
2) A strong family system should be maintained.
3) There should be friendly and cordial relationship between countries and communities.
4) No one should forget the human values in the name of so-called development.
5) We have to be close to nature and care for the welfare of all the creatures.
6) Each cultural practice of the world should be honored and preserved.
7) Dharma should be above all the cultural practices.
What is Value-Oriented Education (VOE)?
Education opens up our mind, but Value-Oriented Education (VOE) gives us purity of heart too; education provides us with skills, but VOE provides us sincerity too; education extends our relationship with the world, but VOE links us with our own family members too. Education makes our living better, but VOE makes our life better too; education teaches us to compete with others, but VOE encourages us to be complete too; education makes us a good professional, but VOE makes us a whole human too; education takes us to the top, but VOE takes the whole society to the top. Education gives us capacity of better learning, but VOE gives us the tool for a deeper understanding too; education gives us Anna but VOE provides us Aananda too; education may bring limitations but VOE is for liberation. After all right education means- "Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye”. It means that knowledge is what helps us to attain liberation.
Why is VOE needed?
VOE is highly needed in our modern society because our lives have become more miserable. The quantity of education has considerably increased, but the quality has decreased. Why? The number of educated people has reached at a high level, but murder, hatred, and selfishness have spread out like wildfire everywhere. Why? Many institutions are opened, but only few civilized people are produced. Why? Degrees are available for all, but the dignity has gone down. Why? Trained people are produced from many institutions, but sincere people are very few. Why? Many books are written; much research is done; many professional achievements are attained, but humanity is threatened. Why? Therefore, we need VOE. Therefore, the Vedas also say, “Vidyaya-amritam-ashnute”. It means wisdom provides immortality.
What are Universal Values?
Education is not only for news but also for views; it is not only for information but also for inspiration; it is not only educating but also enlightening. It is quite an integrated process. An educated person should have all kind of qualities. Education should make every individual capable physically, mentally, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Therefore, some universal ideals of “love, peace, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, co-existence and non-violence” should be accepted by all the educators worldwide. Theses values are truly indispensable, devoid of which, our society cannot sustain itself and people will forget humanity. And, we can easily imagine the future ahead and foresee what our future will be like. No matter what our religious beliefs are, what our practices are, but there are ultimate goals which one has to achieve in life. Everyone always aspires for love, peace and happiness, and that includes a spiritually balanced life. Even a person who may not be spiritual should also believe and practice the ideals of love, peace, tolerance and service.
International Practices of VOE:
The realization of VOE has become quite strong in last few decades on a global level. The negative forces like selfishness, hatred, terrorism, individualism, violence, intolerance, etc. have now become day-to-day problems in the world. The phenomena such as family breakdown, increasing of negative attitude and spread of health hazards like drugs and HIV/AIDS seem to be escalating worldwide, which have now terrified humanity. These are, of course, very threatening challenges to the peaceful existence of humankind. It seems that our future is dismayed and horrified now not because of anything else other than our own deeds, achievements and productions. However, some good activities and practices for the promotion of VOE are going on all around the world.
VOE Teaching and Learning Methods:
General education can be transferred, but VOE should be transformed. VOE is more teacher-based than text books; it is more awakening, not only informing. It is life-oriented, not exam-oriented. Therefore, we need to create a special environment in institutions to transform VOE in students. First of all, we need trained, committed and spiritually motivated teachers for VOE. The pedagogical methods for implementing VOE may be stories, poems, prayers, songs, mantras and bhajans. Similarly, special camps can be organized. Likewise, special Satsangas can be helpful. It is apparent that all the festivals hold several values such as environmental, social, scientific and spiritual. It is therefore imperative to integrate festivals into teaching /learning process so as to make children realize the importance and values of the festivals. The whole process should be very peaceful, harmonious and motivational. One should get answers by asking himself or herself. The whole environment should be free from stress, fear and confusion. Extreme materialistic attachment has made our life very narrow; therefore one should be able to open up the mind and heart freely and infinitely. Actually VOE does not require any set text books; rather than that, the whole institution should be based on VOE. It should be applied through various methods in order that everyone can understand it and follow it automatically and positively.
There is a saying - better late than never. So we must start now. Educators worldwide are now quite worried; therefore they have started various packages and discussions at their level. So we must awake and work now. In fact the bright future of any nation depends on the children as there is a saying,”If you plan for one year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years, plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate the children". Our ancient ancestors gave us the highest message of VOE - "Satyam Gyanam Anantam Brahman”. Therefore, after the completion of education at Gurukul, the Gurus finally used to sermonize their students in the graduation ceremony - Satyam Vad, Dharmam Char, Swadhyayan-ma Pramad, Matridevo Bhav, Pitridevo Bhav, Aacharyadevo Bhav etc. Consequently, the time has again come to revive and restore our ancient knowledge based on VOE in this modern age without being biased, extremist, prejudiced and orthodox. It is only VOE which will change the attitudes of our children making them complete human beings. And, in return they will change the entire human society.
Dr. Chintamani Yogi
Founding Principal - Hindu Vidya Peeth-Nepal (HVP)
Founding Chairperson - Shanti Sewa Ashram (SSA)
Patron - Youth Society for Peace ( YSP)
Founder - Society for Value Education (SVE
P. O. Box: 6807, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel. 00977-1-5527924 / 5006125