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Guru-Shishya Parampara

Guru-Shishya Parampara

Indians of all ages and hues are making use of this lockdown period by going all out for non-formal education, I don’t see a similar trend elsewhere in the world on this scale. We are definitely tech-friendly, even our seniors are participating with gusto, and we also have an ancient system that glorifies learning to be grateful for, exemplified by our various rituals such as Saraswati poojas and vidyaarambha samskaaras, etc. Hence, the gazillion Zoom, Youtube, Facebook Live Talks, and Webinars daily, that I literally have trouble choosing which to attend in a day. Topics range from history to philosophy to language to ecology to self-help, and most importantly spiritual. Our fascination with the Self is non-pareil. These are our own Ted Talks and MOOCs, and we have Covid-19 to thank, for this knowledge revolution. 

कार्पण्यदोषोपहतस्वभावः पृच्छामि त्वां धर्मसम्मूढचेताः।

यच्छ्रेयः स्यान्निश्चितं ब्रूहि तन्मे शिष्यस्तेऽहं शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम्।।२-७।। BG 2.7

I am confused about my duty and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am your disciple and am surrendered to you. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.

Last May I presented ‘guru-shiShya paramparaa; facilitating modern encounters between teachers and learners, using classical Hindu experiential knowledge exchange’, at the WCCES conference at Cancun. What I was proposing was that there is this wonderful civilizational unbroken system of teacher-student exchange that is more than five thousand years old, which may be useful to educators of today to implement in times of war, strife, migration, and who knew, lockdown too. A system that does not separate regular education, from values education, from socio-emotional learning, from experiential or cross-cultural learning, and is not averse to using technology to further its cause.  

This sampradaaya and its practice can be emulated to meet the needs of refugees, special needs individuals, immigrants, as well as for adult education. The system is stripped off of all extraneous requirements to the bare minimum of just a qualified teacher and student, and the willingness to learn. Since the focus is on experiential learning, and not the personas of either the mentor or the mentee, the learning is focussed and practical. I was also trying to make a case for other ways of knowing, for the indigenous knowledge systems, and my own study at gurukulams the past 8 years, and how I saw them as modern harbingers of fulfilling many of the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that are touted by UNESCO and the West. We already see this in Auroville/Pondicherry or in Panchgani/Satara for example, where many of the non-formal communities teach various crafts and skills via workshops, where a whole new breed of alternative we-don’t-need-no-education groups have settled. Many millennials prefer such ‘unlearning’ experiments as popularized by Shikshantar, Udaipur, as in working on a farm producing one’s own food rather than sitting in a concrete room, learning some far-fetched theory that demands exorbitant student loans of eager students.

Yet there is a slight difference, while the non-formal education space is accepting of the workshop crowd, what I am talking of are the more spiritual zones. These are sacred spaces that no one talks about since those who are educated in the ‘modern’ methods do not spend their precious time studying in them. As we move more and more towards economic and sense pleasures, artha and kaama, rejecting the very necessity of a universal value system dharma to uphold them, and seem to have forgotten that there is a way out from this rigamarole in the here and now i.e. moksha altogether, my humble attempt was to at least apprise people of the pedagogical tools that are employed not just for acquiring self-knowledge, but also other classical Hindu arts, with great outcomes, that we may find useful to employ especially in emergency situations. This type of education which is one-on-one even when teaching to a group or community gives personal attention while also providing holistic development to the student. This is an inexpensive way to educate on a large scale, contrary to what we might assume. It shows us how to reach out and cater to those who are emotionally and physically burdened – adults, handicapped personnel, veterans, refugees, migrants, immigrants. No one needs to be outside the ken of this learning, everyone is welcome into its fold.

 

While some aspects of the practice are still observed in vruddha vyavahaara, in the behavior of our elders, where we are imbibing lessons even while watching and engaging silently without being ‘taught’ separately, this is a dying phenomenon in the times of nuclear families, working mothers, creches, and TV dinners. My mother was in tears recently when she suddenly remembered her grandfather, who loving saved pumpkin seeds after the pumpkin was cut to make gummaDikaaya pulusu, he would rub the seeds in ash to remove the sliminess/ wetness, sundry them, and feed his granddaughters by carefully peeling the skin off of each small pumpkin seed, this was in the 1950s. She remembers it today because of some doctor from WHO appeared on her WhatsApp saying pumpkin seeds are good during Covid-19 as they contain zinc. I was in tears as well, as I had seen her do this exact same process using our newly bought solar cooker way back in the 1980s in Jodhpur, when she fed them to us saying – always save these seeds, don’t throw pumpkin seeds away, they are good for your health. I had brought this knowledge all the way to the US and had roped my husband into this age-old practice, but Trader Joe’s changed my habits with its affordable nuts and seeds, and I had long forgotten about our family’s engagement with pumpkin seeds until yesterday. Just as the other day when I saw this webinar on Natural Living and DIY products by Laura Khanna, and was reminded of how my aunts would painstakingly break and soak soap nuts for us to wash our hair, grind hibiscus leaves to the condition it, and apply besan and haldi paste all over our oiled bodies to gently scrub off dirt when we were young.

Coming back to my presentation at the WCCES, this was the point I was trying to make, that we learn in other ways than what the modern education system allows us, and that the guru-shiShya or the vruddha vyavahaara parampara are two such ways to do so. While there were many who were keen to learn more about this system amongst the audience, the one lone dissenting voice was of an Indian dressed in a sari and bindi, Prof Poonam Batra from DU, who was opposing my lived experience as a Hindu student in a gurukulam by saying that this (what I had just presented) was all Brahmanical, that one must not forget how difficult it was for Indians to get educated, especially women and Dalits, until the Phules – Jyotirao and Savitribai came into the picture fighting for their rights. (Note: dalit is a word of recent usage, Marathi in origin, and credited to Phule, thereafter Dalit Panthers a group of militant neo-Buddhists in the 70s popularized it, a word not recognized by the Government of India, which employs the term ‘Scheduled Caste’/ SC, following the British survey and categorization of castes. SC and ST are the terms used for implementing affirmative action/ reservation in education and employment in India. There is no Hindu scriptural mention/sanction or textual reference to any group called untouchable/ harijan or dalit

I was very surprised and disappointed to find the discourse in academic circles especially by those who oppose one’s views, to be so banal and childish. Instead of engaging with me positively (even if there is an opposing view), instead of asking me more about what I had expertise in, she was negating me and my personal experiences, denying not just me but also others – non-Indians, non-Hindus, any say in the matter. Not wanting to throw the Phules under the bus in Mexico, as I was not willing to brush away their struggle and contributions to win an argument, I bit my tongue and merely said that she had her truth and I had mine, and both need not be mutually exclusive. By the way what I was talking about was an open-source method, a free-of-frills system, while she was talking about the social ills of a particular region. Shouldn’t the first response as a seeker of knowledge be that of excitement at learning something new and interesting rather than of distrust and dismissal?

Most academics unfortunately neither indulge in critical thinking nor have learned to actively listen despite touting these phrases ad infinitum. Why must we assume that various truths may not co-exist? That what I know of a certain educational situation in Pune of the 19th cent. resulting in the activism by Phules, has no bearing to the truth of the educational system in Andhra, Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka of the 19th cent., and is surprisingly devoid of all the atrocities that brahmins or upper-caste Hindus are constantly accused of. The Beautiful Tree (Dharampal, 1983), which is a painstaking collection of reports from the British Gazettes of those times i.e. reports on schools/ education by the Britishers on their respective districts, clearly shows us how literacy in India was widespread, with schools in every village in these regions amounting to almost 100,000 schools in Bihar and Bengal alone before Macaulay caused the break of this functioning indigenous knowledge transfer via the English Education Act 1835. 

The breakdown of ‘castes’ in each school shows us that the attendance by Shudras was as high as 90% in many districts, not surprising as they comprised a higher demographic as is true of today too. Prof Batra refused to accept my numbers or the facts as stated by Dharampal ji’s book even while I had displayed the URL/ link to the pdf of the whole book online on my PowerPoint. She refuted my statements saying that it was impossible for 90% Shudras to have been educated anywhere in India before the British, all this when she was not even aware that such a book existed in the first place. Prof Batra had asked me where I had got my numbers from and when I named this book, she showed no signs of having read it. Interestingly, Dharampal ji is feted by Indians of all ideological leanings, and most educators I know start with this work of his. 

The evidence provided in the book is contrary to what was perpetrated by the many colonials and evangelicals of that time as they wanted to make inroads into the education system in India, and spread Christianity, which they succeeded in doing thereafter via convents, Jesuit, and Catholic schools. These ended up replacing the traditional gurukulams, along with their language of instruction and curriculum which was more in keeping with the ethos of the land of Bharat, and it’s far more advanced holistic vision. First Arabic/Persian, and then English replaced our own mother tongues causing great harm to our self-esteem and subconscious. 

These widespread indigenous district schools were usually supported by the local monarch and the community, showing us how eager the communities were for their wards to be educated, going to great lengths to hire, and even pay good teachers! The poor students were supported by the wealthy, the bottom line being no child (wanting to study is) left behind. So one can safely say that education in India took a back seat due to politics and religion with the advent of the British. Sahana Singh’s Educational Heritage of Ancient India: How an Ecosystem of Learning Was Laid to Waste (2017) similarly exposes the destruction of our universities by the various Islamic conquests. 

Despite such a hoary literary past, not many are aware of this grand truth and even go so far as to reject it as it is inconvenient to our current worldview. As an educator, I find it appalling that people assume that there is only one way of being and knowing. Or that history all across India was the same, that there were/are no redeeming or positive human stories prior to 1947 or post-2014. It is a nihilistic and totalitarian view of the world, much more fascist in ideology than who, what, they label as such. Dr. Vishwa Adluri ascribes this to history centrism in Christian thought. To quote, “The idea of history as space where the salvation of individuals as members of a “nation,” a “race,” or a “faith” manifests is alien to Indian thought. It has its roots in Christianity. The narrative of religious decline itself was manufactured in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe and exported to India as a justification for colonization.” Which meant given their linear sense of time and idea of salvation as the only way out of this sinful life, in the Western lens of history, India/ Hindus needed to be educated and ‘saved’ from a decadent dying religion and mores.

Real knowledge, real education stems from discussion and dissent, but in a cultured manner, not by attaching ‘woke’ labels to bring the enemy down. There are four types of arguments one may have with the other as per shaastra: samvaada, vaada, jalpa, vintanDavaada. 

When you approach a teacher/ mentor/ guide/ coach to learn something specific and you ask questions for clarification – not to oppose for the sake of your own ego but to self-correct, and grow, that is samvaada, as in how Krishna is approached by Arjuna to learn about the reality of life and Self (BG 2.7 above). This goes on until the student is ready until s/he gets up and leaves. When two equals discuss a specific matter accepting a certain benchmark as an authority, as in Adi Shankara and Mandana Mishra debating on the Truth as per Vedas, that is vaada, this goes on until one accepts the other’s arguments as correct via a civilized discussion following guidelines and norms, and there is a moderator involved. While the above two are constructive in nature and everyone benefits from it i.e. both the participants and bystanders, jalpa and vitanDavaada offer no such solace. Being a one-sided harangue where one only talks about one’s own point of view without listening or being interested in what the other is saying is jalpa, which is very negative and ego-centric as is clear, and worse is vitanDavaada where not only will I not listen to you, but I will also go to every length to prove that you are wrong, even if you are right! Just because I say so! This is how most of the discourse is skewed these days in every -ism. A true open-minded person is hard to find, someone who is able to actively listen to the opposition, and without putting the other or their arguments down, is able to put forth his/her own arguments with conviction, all the while learning something from the whole encounter, someone who is truly liberal i.e. flexible and willing enough to change one’s position in light of new information. 

Given all of the above, let us now see what this paramparaa has to offer that might be relevant and useful to modern times. I am speaking from a lived experience perspective wherein I spent a large part of the past 8 years in and out of gurukulams, or in close proximity to those who were in them, specifically the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, both in the USA and in India. 

First off this is a very inclusive system that has thrived for more than 5000 years as can be evidenced from all the classical knowledge systems that are prevalent in India today. But for such a live system which has braved Islamic and Christian invasions, conquests, and colonization, how would the world learn of yoga, ayurveda, dhyaana, vedanta, etc To learn classical music, dance, art, philosophy, anything that is vaidika, i.e. based on the scriptural vision of Vedas, one needs to approach a guru. Like when you reach out to a professor who is well versed in a subject, who can help guide you with your Ph.D.  After ensuring the eligibility of the student as every area of study has its requirements, the student would then apprentice with the master, one-on-one. Until the time the guide decided that the student was ready enough to be sent out into the world as a newly minted teacher, fit now to teach others!

So when you approach a guru to study the scriptures, you are immediately transported to the kula of the guru, ie the guild of the guru, you have a new family now, all the guru’s students are your guru bhais and behens, it is inclusive, diverse, dharma based and equitable. You are not required to convert your religion or completely change your belief system, it doesn’t matter who you are, all the students of every denomination are treated on par with one another. It is akin to a socialist system where everyone does their share of work and all reap equal dividends, no one is above or below, and staying with the guru 24/7 helps one learn by example – from your peers, gurus, visitors, and not just via texts. Knowledge dissemination happens in a myriad organic way when the guru and the shiShya are in close proximity. The guru does not have the luxury of off days or holidays, the guru has to embody the teachings too, the highest moral and spiritual truths and the vaidika vision via adherence to the norms as laid out in shaastra to be an aachaarya who is sought after by the student. The intellectual and moral rigor expected of the student can work only if there are gurus who are able to command respect and appropriate behavior via their own personal aachaaram. This is holistic teaching, not reams of text written to pontificate, or to claim yet another publication to ensure tenure. 

The best part about this system is that when you go to the teacher with a sincere desire to learn with adequate preparedness, no teacher can turn you away, there is no financial obligation involved nor ‘caste’ considerations when it comes to aatma jnaanam, knowledge of the Self. 

A little background on this subject of jaati-kula-varNa (not caste, as that is a British construct from a Portugese word, given life to with the first-ever caste census in India by Lord H.H.Risley in 1901, who was influenced by the Race Science theories of 18th cent. Europe, per Shri Rajiv Malhotra ji’s vast body of work on the same,), and how this social framework plays out when a person seeks self-knowledge. The guild-like systems of jaati, the region-specific socio-religious groups of kula, and the social/ psychological classes of varNa, each protected their community’s indigenous knowledge systems fiercely. A weaver will just as quickly refuse to reveal trade secrets to a braahmaNa, being as s/he is of a different jaati and varNa, while s/he might agree to teach the same to a foreign weaver from some other region, even if of a different kula. Without this chain of continuity, none of our knowledge systems would have survived. We owe it to this system of knowledge transfer that is via guru to shiShya, and also the intricate system of jaati-kula which is in place (not the jaati prathaa or social discrimination) for the variety of skilled artisans from weavers, to goldsmiths, to metallurgists, to architects, to sculptors, and others that continue to exist and thrive till today, all of whom adhere to age-old traditions and norms that were passed on to them, thereby holding up the flag of specialist vocational education. So too with a jaati braahmaNa who performs rituals or homas and yaagaas in a temple or a maTha, and safeguards his centuries old treasure, his poonji, his professional know-how, all of which is in the realm of karma kaaNDa. The realm of preparatory steps that help free oneself from intense attachments and prejudices in this world via austerities, reaching out and prayerful actions, and via upholding universal values, tapaha, daana, upaasana, dharma, all this is the content of karma kaaNDa, and a jaati braahmaNa helps us perform the necessary steps to ready ourselves for the next level. Once this values-driven moral preparation is in place via regular rituals, vows, austerities and saadhanaa, a person is ready for jnaana kaaNDa, i.e. for aatma jnaanam. 

Gurus come from all jaatis, kulas, and varNas, the bhakti movement is one such example for the disbelievers, all of them work towards this ideal of guNa braahmaNatvam, which is the quality of being a braahmaNa; which literally means to be on the path of (seeking) brahman (that which is big, ever-growing, all-encompassing, eternal, immanent, and transcendental), that brahman which is you, which is me, which is the ‘I’ that we all seek, which is in our hands right here and now, and hence, is not, and cannot be denied to anyone. Anyone of any denomination can, and is able to access this knowledge via a qualified guru, this is not out of bounds to anyone anywhere in the world. Has never been. To be on the path requires one to live a life of dharma which prepares one’s mind, and then one approaches a guru to be taught in a systematic manner the truth about oneself, using Vedas as a means of knowledge – the only pramaaNa for knowing the Self.

Thus these gurus who aspire to be braahmaNas via their aachaara vyavahaara are in the ‘pursuit’ of the Self or are reveling in it. Seeing as we do that the Self in Vedanta is everything literally; ‘all that is here is eeshwara’ (Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji, AVG 2015 ), there is no room or scope for the other, for us versus them scenario, there is NO them. Knowing and practicing this high ideal, no real guru has ever turned away a student who is ready. Readiness is not a desire to study which is the by-product of one’s ego, but the preparedness on the part of the student, the worthiness that must be earned by acquiring discernment, dispassion, desire for freedom, and a set of six qualities which are basically mind-body management; viveka, vairaagya, mumukshuttvam, and shamaadi shaTkasampatti. A shiShya is one who is fit to be taught, that is what the word etymologically means in samskrutam. (shiShyaya – shaasana yogyaha, one who is fit to be taught, i.e. the student is ready to learn with an open mind)

Money must not come in the way of learning, and in a traditional gurukulam it does not. You pay back at graduation with what you can as per your capacity, there are no hard and fast rules, what is of primary importance is the learning, teaching, and the transmission of knowledge for safekeeping. Pay what you can pay it forward. Such open-source teachings can happen anywhere even today, and it does not need brick and mortar buildings. You are also free to write smritis, kaavyas, puraaNaas, as many versions as you want, you have the freedom to question and improvise, although as an aastika one would naturally not go against the Vedas and their core principles. The teaching caters to the individual as part of the whole, without uprooting the individual from her own history, nor alienating her from the whole with excessive individuality.

The process is dialogic, scientific (upto an point), and shruti based: The manner in which knowledge is imparted is a back and forth dialogic exchange between a guru and a shiShya, the shiShya models the guru closely, yet there is room and scope for questions. There are Q/A sessions of satsangs which cater time for this. The methodology followed is scientific, i.e. having a premise – that all is one, and conducting various experiments that ultimately either prove the premise – here the experiments are with oneself and deal with shifting of the cognition from the body mind sense complex to the cause and essence of all i.e. brahman

Here is where we need shraddha, to trust the words of the Upanishads, pending our own understanding of these words as the truth of oneself. The means of knowledge to know our Self is not what we usually employ in empirical life; such as direct perception, inference, two-step inference, comparison, or even cognition of absence via our sense organs and organs of perception. To know the Self we use the Upanishads, they speak to us via a guru who is well versed in the pedagogy of the shaastra and is also aware of the Oneness, the guru shows us how to arrive at the grand Truth which was always there waiting to be uncovered. Just as when your spouse tells you that your glasses are on your head when you forget where you put them! 

This pursuit of reaching one’s highest potential was never shut to anyone – why else would the vision of the Hindu revelations/ scriptures which can effortlessly be summarized into three simple words; sarvam khalvidam brahma Chandogya Upanishad (III.14.1.), be elaborated into intricate and complex stories of the Puranas, Itihasaas, Kaavyas, and spread them via Harikathas,Yakshaganam, Kathakars, and Bhands, across the length and breadth of our country carrying forth such high philosophy in bite-sized entertaining capsules. This was Socio-Emotional Learning/SEL, Values Education, Non-Formal Learning, Story-telling, and Life Coaching at its best. Teaching without preaching, showing by example, not telling. There has never been a Sunday School for Hindus, as there has not been any need for it, especially in India. We can thus appreciate how highly knowledge is regarded in Hinduism by observing how we treat our gurus, the carriers of this wisdom, of the ‘paraa’ knowledge, of aatma jnaanam, the knowledge of the infinite which is oneself alone. A guru is someone who removes our spiritual ignorance, and shows us that we are sat chit aananda, that we are the ever present truth, self-effulgent consciousness, eternal, and unfolding the complete joy that is our nature. Such a guru is highly revered, exalted on par with God. We even have a specific day to celebrate this greatness – Guru Poornima (On the full moon day of Ashadha, July 5th 2020)

There are many commonalities but also differences with the mainstream systems of teaching, first of all, the gurukulam setting is more humane and personal, encouraging abstract thinking, allowing for cognitive-behavioral, and experiential learning therapy (CBT, ELT), while simultaneously assisting in acquiring skill sets in language, grammar, philosophy, and culture. Each student learns to be a teacher via pedagogical training, which is easily replicable. All this is done without the fear of examinations, finances, or any other outward pressures. Studies here are for one’s inner self-growth, personal spiritual development, and not for a certificate or a degree. Money, career, job does not play much of a role, these are temporarily removed from the equation There are no deadlines to be met. What is tough though is dealing with oneself, and with others, while trying to rid ourselves of our subjective perceptions, to reduce our preferences and prejudices, our raaga-dveShas. The focus is on the whole student, not just one aspect of him/ her. 

Critical thinking is encouraged via meditative contemplative practices to look into oneself, to look deep into the nature of the problems arising therein, to remove these via distancing oneself from them, thus CBT, ELT, are modern versions of what is practiced in gurukulams since yore. Compassion is reinforced not a competition, in an ancient society that followed the socio-psychological classification of varNaashrama dharma there was no place for competition anyway as one always had one’s family profession to turn to once studies were completed. Also since the topic of study in these gurukulams is the Self, there is no time literally for the other, the other having no reality after all except for name-form only. As for the regular empirical world, students go back to what they were doing before, with a clear sense of who they are, and why they were suffering from this strange angst, an emptiness that is possible to be filled only by the knowledge of the poorNa, that which is always whole. Once the basic studies are done, the graduation day speech in sheekshaavalli, Taittiriya Upanishad, talks of the duties of the student – to always speak the truth, to be on the path of dharma, to remember to make an offering of dakshiNa to one’s guru, to serve the teacher and society, and not to neglect one’s Shastra even after graduation. Thus values education is given major importance in such institutions even while sending students away into the world. 

My personal take away from studying at these gurukulams is that the teaching is interdisciplinary – there is logic, grammar, linguistics, ritual, astronomy, philosophy, research, self-actualization, self-management and more all rolled into one, it is multicultural – at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti, the long term courses always draw 50% women, 50% non-Indians, and rest of Indians from all regions, it is egalitarian with equal opportunity for such holistic education students of all backgrounds are taught the grandest of Indic vision i.e. Advaita Vedanta without fear or favor. For me, the added blessing and grace was that I could continue to study online, get classes via Telegram, interact with my gurus via Skype or Adobe Connect, listen to online recordings, use technology to the fullest while studying such traditional texts in a traditional manner even when I returned from India to the US. My peers were from all walks of life, all races and nations, people of all ages participate in this study. And this type of knowledge is easily scalable and replicable using EdTech systems such as LMS, CMS (Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems) and to develop a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) out of them. We not only did yoga, dhyaana, pooja, japa, vrata, but also studied Vedanta and Sanskrit, and served at the temple, bookstore, library, kitchen, and grounds. So the seva/ service part would be tough to replicate! 

The methodology in Vedic teaching is also of prime importance as it employs 11 Veda adhigama vidhis (how to pronounce, phonetics), 20 shaastra adhigama vidhis (curriculum development, presentation, and teaching formats) 14 vyavahaara vidhis (how to learn a subject matter), and 6 pramaaNas (various means of acquiring knowledge) as is explained in detail by Dr. Kavitha Sooda in her SAFIC presentation on Application of Bharatiya Methods of Learning – Insights from Ancient India. Thus an Upanishad is taught not only with proper pronunciation of timing, pitch, and sound recitation of the mantras, but also the content is conveyed by storytelling, or via other literary forms such as poetry to keep it interesting, using examples to convey the right meaning, using deliberate superimposition and subsequent negation to reinforce an idea, using commentaries to study a subject matter thoroughly, reflecting and assimilating on the aspects taught, learning by self-aware questioning or by teaching another, addressing one’s doubts with the freedom to solve them within one’s own capacity, by adapting active listening, via systematic self-study, with the ability to look for the central theme of the subject matter in hand, using discussion as a methodology to arrive at the truth, all the while reinforcing the study with practice, emulation, observation, play, and so on. Thus what goes on in a gurukulam is not a mere mindless repetition of some blind beliefs but a complex framework of an active listening and critical thinking pedagogy, which is all the rage currently as encouraged by UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals.

This combination of study and service without the pressure of doing well academically, or having the constant tension of student loans in order to acquire such knowledge has special significance. Such a model will work great for educating migrants/ immigrants, refugees, students with special needs, and those wanting special educational assistance, as also for adult education. Anyone who is not part of the system, and needs extra care and comfort along with the tools and skill-sets to make a mark in the world, as well as the content of the learning itself based on Advaita, can go far in healing a person psychologically, and to help that person to grow spiritually which ultimately will lead to moksha – release from the bondage of becoming, of constant want, fear, and insecurity, right here right now. 

As is clear from the Bhagavad Geeta (2.7) itself where Arjuna asks to be taught about the Self from Shree Krishna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, we see that time and place are important for learning but more important than these factors are a well-qualified teacher and a willing student, plus their capacity to exchange knowledge in any given situation when necessary. This should be an important take away for modern education. In conclusion, the gurukul system is very effective as it recognizes that learning is not possible without equal contribution from the teacher, from the student, from one’s peers, as well as time – only by allowing oneself to marinade in the knowledge, and in the experience of acquiring it – can one hope to truly learn anything properly. आचार्यात् पादमादत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया । सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः पादं पादं कालक्रमेण च ॥ (Vidura Neeti). In modern times we have either burdened the teacher completely or the students, peers are given importance but only to further one’s own grades via group projects but not to learn from, as forgiving oneself some time to allow the subject matter to seep in, that is where we all lack patience and trust. We are in a mad rush to make name, fame, money, not really as much in a hurry to actually know anything truly. Knowing something takes time. We must allow ourselves that luxury. This is where the gurukulam excels, it lets you just be. 

 


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