When a river itself changes its course, it is effortless and natural. If it is made to change its course, it feels the pain of change, fights with the obstacle, and submits to the human will very reluctantly.
Adult educators of India seem to be very conscious of the need for enabling the adult masses to face confidently 'the pain of change'. The change which the adults are helped to undergo is to be accepted by them in the light of new knowledge that challenges their previous assumptions.
The change seems to be the core of the Five Year National Adult Education Program of India (NAEP) which commenced throughout the country in April this year. It is a program for the poor and illiterate adults of 15 to 35 years, numbering about 100 million, including, among others, women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The learning process envisaged in the NAEP lays stress on 'functional upgradation and raising the level of their awareness', along with literacy skills. In this way a path for their development is being paved by bringing about a change in their actions, attitudes and life situations.
What does the term 'change' mean in the context of the NAEP? No direct answer to this question is found either in the policy statement or the outline of this program. A perusal of the related documents, however, may help one to infer its implications thus:
Why should an adult feel the 'pain of change'? When the demand for change is not from 'within' or, in other words, when the thought of outer change is not formulated in the light of the workings of the inner being, the agents of change look like harbingers of pain. No doubt, the adult educators realise that the 'urge for a change has to come from within the adult himself and say that 'if a proper atmosphere exists around him, the adult begins to feel such an urge and responds to it creatively'.
It seems that their understanding of 'within' is confined to the external atmosphere that exists around the individual. When, through yogic meditation techniques, one goes deeper to explore the depths of his being and moves his consciousness upwards even beyond the highest level of his mind, then only one sees the realities of life in the light of which are decided the need for changes and is revealed the real nature of the outer problems like illiteracy and poverty.
It is unlikely that the pain of change will disappear until a sincere effort is made to make known the real nature within, the understanding of which is not possible without transcending the intellectual level of the mind.
In the NAEP, illiteracy and socio-economic disparity seem to have been regarded as the core problems of an adult's life. The adults have been assured that they can rise to their own liberation from these problems through "literacy, dialogue and action". This ignores a very subtle and important point of action, i.e. reprogramming the minds of the adults so that the problems cease to afflict, even though present, and to create a distance between the sufferers and non-sufferers. Once this has been done, the problem behind all the problems is solved. The eradication of the problems can follow this line of action.
Yoga holds that the root cause of human problems is the kleshas (ignorance, likes and dislikes, fear, etc.) which can be eradicated through meditation techniques. These techniques make the reprogramming of the mind easier.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that meaningfulness in life was more important than literacy. While the benefits accruing from the skill of the written word cannot be underestimated, an emphasis on literacy, to the extent of declaring illiteracy "a serious impediment to growth", needs to be reviewed. The yogic meditation, which takes an individual to the highest realm of consciousness, proves that a fully enlightened man, energetic and enthusiastic, can be born on this earth and his actions can supersede the literacy based activities of the literate but unenlightened community of the world. At a certain level of knowledge, words lose their lustre and only remain as indescribable supreme experience. Let the knowledge of an adult be visualised in this broad context. This would be in conformity with the thinking that the lives of the adults should become more meaningful to themselves and the community, after their exposure to the NAEP.
Sufficient emphasis has been laid on the 'dignity of the individual and his worth' in the documents of the NAEP. To 'bolster the learners' self-esteem', the adult educators have planned to impart reading, writing and computation skills to them. The relationship between an adult's self-esteem and these skills can hardly be established. If one goes deeper into the state of meditation, he will find in his inner being the treasure of his latent potentialities and a miniaturised version of the universe. It is this realisation which will elevate him to the status of divine entity and prove his real worth, hitherto underestimated by the adult educators.
The adult educators are not aware of the importance of the creative energy of the individuals (both the learners and functionaries of the NAEP). They hold that to liberate this energy the methods of learning should ensure free participation of the learners in the educational process. Again, it is difficult to understand how the participation of the learners can liberate their creative energy. Coming to know of one's creative energies and utilising them fully is a matter of individual effort. Many yogic techniques, especially those related with one's psychic centres and kundalini are ways to reveal and open the creative, untapped faculties of the individual. Even the preliminary practices help to unleash creative potential.
Much importance has been attached to the experiences of the learners which, say the adult educators, should serve as a base of learning situations. This is what they call the 'experiential learning'.
The present experiences of the learners are distorted versions of the happenings occurring around them. These experiences are based on their intellectual reactions to these happenings. When through yogic meditation, the consciousness of the individual is moved up beyond the intellectual level of the mind to the regions of the higher mind, the seat of super consciousness, then the reactions to the surrounding environment are entirely different. These reactions are the product of a cool and undisturbed mind and enable the individuals to experience the outer happenings in a positive way. It is only such reactions, in the form of experiences, which can be utilised as bases of the learning situations of the adult.
The learning situations envisaged in the NAEP are far above the level of reception of theoretical ideas. It involves a lot of practical work. This means that the learners are expected to be involved fully in the external activities. According to the philosophy of yoga, the inner being of an individual endows him with the ability to carry out the external activities with interest and efficiency. If the adults are helped to fathom the depths of their inner being, the learning situations of the NAEP will be greatly improved.
Values are sought to be inculcated in the learners through making them 'see the values implicit' in various approaches, techniques and methods of learning. The values are like plants rooted deeply in one's subconscious. Through meditation techniques, negative values are uprooted from the inner personality and are replaced by the positive ones. Transformation of the values in the present approach and techniques of learning is like watering a plant without roots.
It is hoped that the NAEP would create in the adults an un-diminishing desire of educating themselves throughout their lives by acquiring useful knowledge and skills. It is in conformity with the concept of continuing education which means that life has to be continually revised by education.
The human life is more than a bundle of skills and knowledge. It is gross on the level of external environment and subtle on the level of unseen depths of inner being. The education of the gross aspect of life begins with the acquisition of skills and ends with the decay of the mortal body. The education of the subtle life culminates with vibrations of immortal thought waves which affect the entire universe.
Motivation of the learners seems to be one of the most important issues in the planning of adult education programs. The planners are very keen to see that the programs are organisationally flexible and their methods/contents relevant with the felt needs and problems of the learners.
This seems to be the surface solution of the problem of motivation. Unless the adults are enabled to judge the contents of the adult education programs in the light of the revelations of the inner being, they will not be motivated to participate in them. Determining the felt needs and problems of the learners on the intellectual level and integrating them with the NAEP is not going to motivate the adults. It is the 'core problems' revealed in the state of meditation and their solutions on which should be based the contents of the adult education programs. Undoubtedly, such programs would ensure against lack of motivation and sustained interest on the part of the learners.
This is a new but very useful concept in the field of adult education. This implies that the learners should regard themselves as an integral part of the educational program. They are contributors to them. They are even co-partners of the adult educators. They are expected to help the educators identify their problems, needs and aspirations, and share with them their vocational skills.
The problem of the participatory participation is very much akin to that of motivation. If motivation is brought about, the participation of the learners is automatically assured. Many yogic techniques greatly improve the external activities of the individuals by making them tension free and active.
The NAEP concept of awareness is confined to the external environment of the learners and the possible avenues of new knowledge. This awareness creates frustration as it creates new desires. If an adult is able to enter the psychic realm of his existence, with the help of yoga, he will be able to lead a life free of tension and stress, full of vitality and energy, with his mind harmonised with his external surroundings. This yogic awareness will save him from frustrations despite his unfulfilled desires.
The policy statement of the NAEP states that the adults should be made aware of the fact that they can transform their destinies and the 'adult education programs can lead to advancement of their functional capability for realisation of this objective'.
The need for bolstering the learners' self-esteem is well established. To confine the transformation of an adult's destiny to the advancement of his functional capability is like rejecting the notion of his self-esteem in the true sense of the term, and reducing his status to an entity which needs only material comforts. The real transformation of an individual's destiny takes place when he is able to soar high above the various levels of his mind and reach the apex of reality where his real 'I' can be seen. Then his words and actions direct the whole universe. This transformation is certainly within the reach of an individual through various meditation techniques.
Some of the major issues of the NAEP have been discussed here in the light of the philosophy of yoga.
Yoga is not a religion. It is not merely a set of techniques discussed on the verbal plane of communication. Yoga is a way of life. It is a scientific attitude which can be adopted by any individual of any caste, creed or sex. Its results can be tested, proved and reproduced. Yoga is a discipline catering to the real needs of the individual. It has descended from the Himalayan caves of yogis to embrace the masses with a view to bless them with happiness and poise, to awaken their hidden potentialities and to relieve them of their mental and physical disorders.
The aims of yoga are akin to those of the adult educators with an added emphasis on going deep into the root causes of the problems. Let us hope that the change which the NAEP wants to bring about will be a change without pain. Yoga is ready to help the adult educators accelerate the process of change. Let the adult educators come forward and enter into a treaty of co-operation with the yoga experts to give birth to real change, natural and spontaneous, and to revise their thinking in order to achieve their goal.