New Dimensions in Modern Education (Extracts)

Dr H.R. Nagendra, Vice-Chancellor, S-VYASA, Bangalore

Param Pujya Swami Niranjananandaji, the galaxy of devoted monks of the Bihar School of Yoga, my dear brothers and sisters of Munger and delegates from all over the world, we bring greetings from Bangalore, the silicon city of India where we have our university, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhan Samsthan, Yoga Research Foundation. Swami Vivekananda said that India will not be made if you build skyscrapers, India will not be made if it becomes an economic superpower or a defence superpower. India will be made when we take India to its roots: spirituality, manifesting in the form of the twin ideas of India – renunciation and service. He repeatedly said that every country has a personality of its own; business for the British, freedom for the French, aesthetics for the Japanese, science and technology for the Americans, and spirituality for India. That is what we see here today, in the august presence of Param Pujya Swami Sivanandaji, Swami Satyanandaji and in that parampara, Swami Niranjananandaji and the galaxy of monks who herald the grandeur of the spiritual dimension of the human system.

Yoga and spirituality go hand in hand. What is that which we call spirituality? Swami Vivekananda said, "Each soul is potentially divine." The goal of life is to manifest that divinity within us by controlling nature: internal and external nature. According to the Upanishads, we all have tremendous power inside us, immense bliss within us; it is a state of infinite knowledge, infinite power, but we have forgotten that. From our state of anandamaya kosha we have condensed ourselves to vijnanamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, pranamaya kosha and annamaya kosha. We have grossified ourselves. We have forgotten our immense power, the immense knowledge and immense bliss that we all possess. Therefore, the Upanishads remind us: Sarve amritasya putrah – "We are all sons of immortality." That state of immortality is not merely a state of oneness; it is a state of immense bliss, anandamaya kosha. What a wonderful way to start off today's session with the beautiful dance to 'Ananda mein, Ananda mein'. Everybody danced to that tune with ananda. Anandamaya kosha is our ananda stithi. It is our birthright to be happy all the time. Being happy under all circumstances is yoga. That is the state of ananda.

We must tune ourselves to that ananda stithi all day, in all activities. As it is said: Yogasthah kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya – "Perform action, O Arjuna, being steadfast in yoga." Attuning to that ananda all the time, we must continue with all activity, not run away from activities, but be completely involved in activities that bring goodness to society, and develop the wonderful values for which we stand. It is this dimension that has to be brought forth again. How can this happen?

Para and apara vidya

For thousands of years, our great seers, rishis and maharishis have understood this whole creation and that knowledge base is available to us, in our Upanishads, in the yoga shastras. What is that knowledge base? That we are not just physical beings. We have four more layers: pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. These fine layers are not visible. You see only the physical body, the other dimensions are unseen. Today, thanks to technology, we have been able to capture the pranamaya kosha. There are techniques like gas-discharge visualizers and others by which we can track the pranamaya kosha. We can see where the pranas are getting distorted. We can see the influence of the mind on the atmosphere by using technology like random-event generators. These techniques are in use today to catch and fathom the higher dimensions. This dimension has to be brought forth into our education system. This is what Swami Vivekananda said. We don't just want bread-earning education, we want man-making education, added on to the bread-earning education. This is also what is said in the Upanishads.

There is a great student who comes to the teacher and asks, "Sir, I want to know that vidya by knowing which I would know everything in the universe. I have studied many, many subjects. I have learnt sixty-four types of education systems, but I am not happy. I want to know that by knowing which I know everything in the universe."

Kasmin bhagavo vijanate sarvamidam vijnatam bhavati.

The teacher says, "Wonderful. You are asking such a fundamental, basic question, and I am going to answer you."

Dve vidye veditavye, para chaiva apara cha.

"There are two types of education, para and apara. Apara vidya includes the knowledge that we have, including the knowledge of the shastras, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. All this constitutes apara vidya."

Rigvedo yajurvedah samavedo atharvavedah;
Shiksha kalpo vyakaranam niruktam cchando jyotishah iti.

What is that real vidya? What is that para vidya?

Yaya tadaksharam adhigamyate.

It is that actual process of transformation by which we develop our total personality, raising ourselves from our animal level to become normal, super, great, divine human beings and reach that ultimate goal itself: a total physical, mental, emotional, intellectual personality with a spiritual basis. This has to be brought forth. That is the real vidya, the para vidya that our ancient seers had based the gurukul system of education on. They did not want students to be great scholars only. That is necessary, but it is not all. There should be a process of transformation. Anubhava jnana – realization is necessary. This is what yoga tells us. You have two dimensions: one is understanding, the other is experience. Shrotriyam brahmanishtham, as it is said. This is what we have to bring to the student.

Towards a total personality

Way back in 1975, we started our journey of bringing this dimension into our primary and secondary school education. The objective was total personality development. We looked at personality development using different modules of yoga like jnana yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, hatha yoga. We looked at all dimensions and started building this module to bring about a total personality. Keeping in step with the modern system, we included voice culture, hearing development, memory development, concentration development, creativity development, ego management, and emotional development. We included the attitude of service, civic sense, the patriotic urge and spiritual zeal. These elements were integrated in the syllabus of the education system we started in 1975 and continued up to 1990 in Arunachal Pradesh, in the north-eastern part of India, and the results were extremely fascinating. Our children blossomed like flowers, and today the entire North-East, almost sixty schools, herald this as a grand education system.

The University Grants Commission asked us to start this system in higher education. We started our modules of yoga in eight different university campuses. People were free to come and join. The response was great. Students came, teachers came, parents came, everybody came. They were fascinated with the yoga we offered. Seeing this, the government decided to build that into the department of yoga in different universities. The first was Bihar Yoga Bharati, which became the first deemed university in the country, after UGC gave its permission. Ours, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhan Samsthan, was the second one to come up. Ours is in Bangalore in the South, and Bihar Yoga Bharati is here, in Munger.

We have grown over the last eleven years of our existence and today we bring a complete dimension of this education to our students. We offer bachelor degrees, masters, doctorates, and MDs. Everything is available. Swami Vivekananda once again gave the right direction: to build a total personality in students.

How do we bring about this transformation among the students of higher education? Once again, we built the syllabus according to the directions of Swamiji. He said, "Combine the best of the East with the best of the West. Don't ape the West. The growth in the West is tremendously appreciable and wonderful. We have to add on to it. We have the old eastern wisdom. Both systems have to be combined to bring a new effervescence in education, and that is what we started doing. Modern scientific and technological research on one side, and on the other side our shastras. Every student who comes has to study the shastras, Sanskrit, and go into the deeper dimensions of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and yoga shastras. On the one side, they study these in great depth and on the other side they start doing research. They conduct research using modern technology and protocol developments. Research publications are a must. Every Ph.D. student has to bring out at least three to four research papers. Masters degree students bring out a single research paper. It has been made compulsory. This is how the two things are blended. In every subject we have both dimensions. We have the modern education system in which we teach them all that has to be done and along with that we have the yoga dimension. When we teach anatomy and physiology, we also teach about the pancha koshas. When we teach Patanjali's Yoga Sutras we also talk about modern psychology and modern parapsychology. When we talk about quantum physics, we also teach the dimensions of consciousness from the Upanishads. This is how we have developed the whole syllabus, bringing the effervescence of the two, the best of the East with the best of the West.

Specialized guna inventory

How do we actually measure the changes that occur? How do we measure the transformational process? We wanted to have a very clear measure of how the students are growing. Normally, universities only measure through their tests and examinations. Examinations are the highest measure. Undoubtedly they are necessary, but more important is the transformational process that is measured by the specialized guna inventory. It measures how much tamas, rajas and sattwa was there in the beginning, and how it has changed at the end. How much sattwa has developed, how much rajas has been reduced and how much tamas has been shattered. It also measures how students are becoming better students day by day and contributing more and more to society. We also measure what is happening in the brain, what is happening in the pranic realm, and how they are becoming more balanced. This is how the measurements help us to understand and bring about the transformation in a quantifiable, measurable way. This is the speciality at our university.

Every day, the students are asked to do five acts of good service, helping others, serving others. In our campus of over one hundred acres, we have got a 250-bed facility called Arogyadham. People come from all over the world to deal with their modern anxieties through the total dimension of yoga, through an integrated approach of yoga therapy. Our students help these patients, but we don't call them patients, we call them 'yoga therapy participants'. We have been doing wonderful research and the students are of great value; they start helping them and helping the campus to develop. We have learnt many of these dimensions of service from our Pujya Niranjananandaji and Satyanandaji who have created such a remarkable transformation here in Munger through the Bihar School of Yoga. We started adopting the system that they developed. All students have to do karma yoga in our university.

Karma yoga is doing selfless acts of service without becoming tensed or stressed. That is the key, the essence: Yogasthah kuru karmani. Remaining in the deeper layers of the mind, in that inner silence and blissful awareness, do all activities. It is this training that we give to the students in our institute. I was so fascinated when I first came in contact with the Bihar School of Yoga and saw how Swami Satyananda was bringing this action to the forefront and how he was able to bring about transformation in the people who came here and build them into wonderful propagators of yoga. We are trying to bring this same effect into the education system and into the higher education system in our university.

Most importantly, we need to train our students to fly with two wings. Our modern education system has made students very sharp, intelligent, brilliant, dynamic and full of energy. Therefore, some of our students who come from abroad are so full of energy and vitality. When you ask them to do a particular task, they will run and do it, their mind is so fast. But ask them to sit quietly for five minutes – no chewing gum in the mouth, no walkman in the ears, no tablet in the hand – they will find it the most difficult thing to do. Why? These students have not been trained. Therefore, the first and foremost discipline is to bring in the second dimension of chitta vritti nirodhah, calming the mind, silencing the mind.

On the one hand we have to make our mind go faster, be quicker, sharper and more brilliant, and on the other hand we need to be able to keep the mind calm, quiet and silent. In order to achieve this, we start every class with a few minutes of silence and meditation. Then they study and at the end they again calm down and practise meditation. Every morning and evening we have a number of programs of asanas, pranayama, mudras, bandhas and kriyas to calm down the mind, to silence the mind. This is the need of the hour today. This total dimension of education has to be brought forth. It will solve many problems that we are facing in education.

Congratulations to all of you for this fantastic and great Convention. And once again, congratulations to Pujya Niranjananandaji and his entire team, the galaxy of monks who have made this possible. Thank you all very much.

Address, 24 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger