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Education and Peace : A Gandhian Perspective

By Dr. Ravindra Kumar*

“By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man-body, mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education or even the beginning.” –M. K. Gandhi [Harijan: July 31, 1937]

Education certainly is a means to all-round progress of man. In other words, the pathway to human-development goes through the lanes of education. Moreover, true education is the sole basis of achieving one’s purpose in life. It is education, which can ascertain ultimate peace for a human being.

Needless to say, the importance of education in man’s life cannot be described in words. In addition, the essence of all the ancient scriptures, messages of scholars and thinkers of repute have always categorically expounded the significance of education in human life. By illustrating the mutual relationship between the education and peace, they have also declared education as the means and basis of peace. Furthermore, they enlighten people of the importance of education in all walks of life, in particular, its role in making life prosperous and peaceful under the prevailing circumstances. Further, the implications in the absence of true education, especially in creating an atmosphere of disharmony and conflict are examined. In this regard the following Shloka from an oldest Hindu scripture is worth quoting here:

“माता शत्रु पिता वैरी येन बालो न पाठितः न शोभते सभा मध्ये हंस मध्ये वाको यथा”

Mata Shatru Pita Vairi Yen Balo Na Pathitah, Na Shobhate Sabha Madhye Hans Madhye Vako Yatha

[Meaning thereby: The parent who does not facilitate and guide their child for studies is like the greatest enemy of the child. The presence of an uneducated person in the company of educated people is like a goose in the company of swans.]

The utility, significance and importance of education are inevitable at all levels in all walks of life. It develops into the most beautiful and valuable ornament of human life.

Now, before further discussion regarding mutual relations between education and peace, we should understand the meaning and purpose of the both-education and peace-separately. To do so with particularly emphasis on the Gandhian view is important and considered the prudent approach for this article.

Education: The English meaning for education is derived from the Latin word ‘Educare’, which further relates to ‘Educere’, the symbolic of manifestation or expression. This definition reveals the inner capability of man that guides him continuously at various levels. The whole process, which leaves an impact upon the mind, character and physical strength, plays a vital role in human development. It accords continuity to intellect, knowledge and values, which provides the base and scope of education.

If we analyse education from the Indian viewpoint, education [Shiksha] is one of the six Vedangas.1 Clarity of understanding and systematic method or the orders, which are the basics for the all-round development of one’s personality, are within its domain. Hence, the educational process is fully dedicated to continuity; it is for growth or for accumulation; it is the means to lead a human being on the pathway to prosperity in prevailing circumstances on the basis of knowledge and accomplishments.

Peace: The use of popular English word ‘peace’ can be found in words like ‘Pax’ [Vulgate], ‘Eirene’ [Greek] and ‘Shalom’ [Hebrew]. Besides desiring harmony in day-to-day human practices at individual and social levels, the urge for a situation free from conflicts and struggles is derived here. Generally, a situation free from tension, struggle, dispute or conflict, particularly in socio-economic spheres, is considered the state of peace in this context. This phenomenon signifies the absence of fight or war between or among the nations and is generally the accepted notion of peace at the international level. It is almost the same in the Indian perspective. Popular Hindi words, which are derived from Samskrit, such as ‘Vishram’, ‘Nivriti’, ‘Nistabdha’ and ‘Ananda’ are used to describe a state of peace.

Despite this similarity between the Western and Indian perspectives, peace is not a motionless state even according to ancient philosophical thought. Peace is not a situation of the status quo. The state of peace provides man the pathway to progress in a tension-free atmosphere. Within a state of peace, efforts are made for healthy co-existence to extend the welfare of the people. Therefore, the state of peace is in fact dynamic. It fills people with enthusiasm and inspires them to move forward.

Education and Peace: Evidently education is the basis for the all-round development of man; it is the means of developing his personality. Moreover, it is the process that helps make one’s life purposeful. All constructive and welfaristic conditions that may be required for the purpose are also inherent in this process. Similarly, peace, despite a state free from dispute, conflict and war, is also an active and dynamic state in which there is a call to go forward. New benefits are expected in a state of peace. It is the pathway to progress without any fear and confusion. Therefore, one can say that education and peace are linked to one-another. They supplement each other as both contribute to the development and welfare of each and every human being on this planet.

Gandhian View: According to Mahatma Gandhi, education is an unending exercise [filled with devotion-Sadhana]2 till death. For him, only education can act as a means to a successful life. Likewise, “education can help mould and shape the human body, mind and character in such a manner that they may act as the means to achieve joy and efficiency.”3

Categorically, education as expounded through Gandhi’s imagination and explanation is a means to guide and lead a human-being from his birth to death. It helps man achieve his goal. The goal however, according to many philosophies including the Vedic-Hindu, could be the attainment of the Mukti or Moksha, or Nirvana [liberation] that it is considered as the highest stage of peace.

Furthermore, the imagination and explanation of Mahatma Gandhi about education could be better comprehended by the following statement of Kishorelal Mashruwala4:

“[This] works for the all-round growth of man right from the beginning till the end. Its ultimate aim is to turn human knowledge into his ability. It is for the purpose of making his life worthy and meaningful, and it is not only for earning his livelihood.”5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote many articles on education from time-to-time. On several occasions, besides addressing students and teachers, he issued worthy statements regarding its meaning, purpose and importance in life. We can draw the following viewpoint particularly for the purpose of this short article:

1. The prime aim of education is to make a man self-dependent;

2. The purpose of education is to make the one efficient and skilful; and

3. The objective of education is to guide and lead him to the pathway to progress in the prevailing situation of space and as per the demand of time so that he could ascertain his physical and mental development to achieve a goal in life for himself on the one hand and he could equally contribute to the society, nation and the globe on the other.

After analysing the above three points, it can be said with certainty that the Gandhian concept of education is one of the most important views on the subject for us today. This concept urges for man to be self-dependent, skilful and efficient. Thereby, his goal and objective, to achieve true education will be open. Not only this, the Gandhian view of education can play the vital role in the establishment of peace not only at the national level but also at the international level.


References:

1. The six Vedangas are in fact the six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas [four in number]. They are Shiksha, Kalpa [ritual], Vyakarna [grammar], Nirukta [etymology], Chandas [meter] and Jyotisha [astronomy].

2. For, he used the words ‘Akhand Sadhana’. Particularly, the word Sadhana has a broad and deep meaning; besides being important in human life, it is a well-known concept in Indian philosophy. Saadhana: [साधना], in fact, is also the way or a means of accomplishing something through spiritual practice, which includes not only a variety of disciplines of the Vedic-Hindu tradition, also the Jain, Buddhist and Sikh traditions followed in order to achieve certain spiritual objectives, or ultimately the Moksha or Nirvana [salvation], the goal of human life.

3. Kumar, Ravindra. 1999. Essays on Gandhism and Peace, page 10. Meerut [India]: Krishna Publication.

4. Kishorlal Mashruwala [1890-1952], a freedom fighter, Gandhian scholar and thinker was the editor of Harijan weekly started by the Mahatma.

5. Kumar, Ravindra. 1999. Essays on Gandhism and Peace, page 10. Meerut [India]: Krishna Publication.

*Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a former Vice Chancellor of CCS University of Meerut, India.