C for compassion… L for love…

There must be something terribly wrong with the way people are educated if all the degrees and academic brilliance can’t ensure that people are honest, fair and good human beings. There is no end to dishonesty in all professions in India. Many people who are professionally adept are found indulging in professional dishonesty and prove to be failed human beings. Is it enough to be a professional wizard when the person is bereft of a soul, a heart and probity? Our schools and colleges think they do a good job if they hone the intellect and make students academically good. But we find our society reeking of corruption and other ills that surface when people are not human enough. Should schools and colleges have no role in making children learn to love and tolerate and be compassionate, helpful and sound of character?

The obsession with literacy appears meaningless when the huge number of corrupt and morally deficient people who are well educated is squared off with one illiterate Ramakrishna Paramhans who has a disciple like Swami Vivekananda, a real pundit if ever there was one. And what about Kabir? He was illiterate like Ramakrishna but his wisdom and love not just for God but also for man live on. I am sure even those who are atheists or staunch believers in secular education would approve of an education that produces human beings like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Kabir, although that education was grounded in spirituality. Spiritualism seems to have lost its appeal as a nourisher of human qualities and therefore as an educator. Of course, whether to believe or not in God is entirely a personal choice and it is completely wrong to impose spirituality on anybody. But if spiritualism practised correctly can uplift not just the intellect but the human quotient of people, as has been seen in numerous examples, it surely makes a case for itself as something that should be a part of the curriculum along with secular subjects.

We are in desperate need of more compassion that comforts and cures the huge number of suffering people on this planet. Lack of compassion can easily skew one’s priorities and even make them inhuman. We think nothing of spending huge sums on lunar and Mars missions when millions are in need of that money so that they can live a human life and die a peaceful death. The lunar mission appears very intelligent but it is a cruel and inhuman intelligence whose preoccupation with the moon is at the expense of the suffering of the earth and its people. Poet Basheer Badr unmasks the insensitivity and apathy that lurk behind lunar missions when he says,
Kisne jalain bastiyan, bazaar kyun lute/main chand par gaya tha mujhe kuchh pata nahin
(Who burnt down these houses, who looted these bazaars? I know not because I was on the moon.)

We make much of the rise of Kalpana Chawla from a Haryana school to outer space, but has any of our schools produced a Mother Teresa? One might argue that a school cannot produce saints but the problem is that we have not even tried yet. The crisis of the earth today is not a crisis of the intellect, but of the heart. And our education does not address the heart at all. The world needs more trips to the suffering hearts of human beings than trips to outer space or to the insides of atoms. The world is in dire need of the healing and nursing touch of more Mother Teresas. Our schools have taken up the challenge of producing more Kalpana Chawlas. That is fine by itself. But it is far more necessary for them to take up the challenge of producing more Mother Teresas.

Catch ’em young applies not just to sports and studies but also to matters of the heart and soul. A person is most receptive when he is young. We would have more love, peace and happiness all around and not mere material prosperity and scientific and technological progress if love and compassion were part of the curriculum of the young. The world is bleeding because our education focuses only on sharpening the intellect and making efficient professionals and fails to foster the human qualities that would make people reach out to humanity with whatever they can share – their skills, talents, money, smiles and hugs.

Kabir used just two lines to tell us what education should do and where it fails: Pothi padhi padhi jug mua pandit bhaya na koi/dhai aakhar prem ka padhe so pundit hoye (All the erudition gathered from tomes makes no one a pundit. He is a pundit who can love). In another doha he says, Daya bhav hriday nahi gyan thake behad/Te nar narak hi jayenge suni suni sakhi shabad (You have not kindness in your heart but you tire not of mouthing your knowledge/surely such people will go to hell even as they take God’s name).

Amit Shekhar is a senior journalist and columnist
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