One of India’s most eminent philosopher-Presidents was Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He was passionate about learning and education and declared September 5 as an annual Teachers’ Day to celebrate the selflessness and wisdom that good teachers have given us. He was a Guru of Gurus. His research showed that learning comes from many senses and in many forms and is not just about memorisation and passing exams.
Foremost it is about awakening our inner spirit and thirst for development and growth through knowledge. The level of our consciousness is critical to the learning and assimilation. When teachers can spark this curiosity the effect of the learning is very deep and transformational. Good teachers are catalysts of our quest for self-realisation and sustainable freedom.
Many years ago, I was fortunate to be invited by visionary community leader Mr Dhiraj D. Shah in Birmingham. At Guru Purnima, they had asked young children to invite their favourite teachers to a community dinner and were asked to recite what they liked about their teachers. It was a moving ceremony and teachers often cried as they had rarely been appreciated in this manner and made VIPs by their students and local community.
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We live in a time when a teacher is seen as a commercial provider and measured by the results achieved by their students. Targets have replaced truth. Often parents pay a lot of money for the best teaching but forget that in the process they are making knowledge transactional. Instead, our Dharmic heritage has taught us about holistic learning and education where the mind, body and spirit are all central to the learning and awakening journey. This requires a very different attitude from parents.
Sadly, even top Universities like Harvard or Oxford do not understand and practice this timeless philosophy of true learning and personal development. Instead, they often kill the spirit and demolish wisdom for the sake of materialistic, divisive and power-enabling knowledge. This is a huge reason why we have destroyed our society and ecosystem through science and in particular perverse economics.
In my own tradition, knowledge is given the highest importance and is seen as key to developing good vision and character. Dr Radhakrishnan understood this and encouraged teachers to be caring and holistic, giving personal attention to each and every student. The modern factory that has become of education can rarely deliver that, increasing the burden on parents to respect their child and care for them, and give them unique experiences to rekindle their inner spirit. Even when teachers want to care, often the system and bureaucratic performance measures inhibit them from doing so. That is why we should salute them for care and personal attention in spite of the system.
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Modernity is not only destroying the environment but actively attacking our inner nature and wisdom. Dharma is a defence mechanism which we have to develop and nourish against the wider forces of materialism and expropriation. Please find good teachers and respect the sacrifices they make to bring wisdom to the world. They help us discover our own inner potential and differentiate between good and bad knowledge. They ought to be role models of what it means to be a responsible and kind human being. Without them we have no light to overcome the darkness that surrounds us.
Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.