Decolonising Indian mind calls for education reset               

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Right from the class eleventh till post graduation and even the doctorate degree, the curriculum covers the western psychologists and their theories totally negating the Indian psychology that has been very conveniently termed as unscientific and something concerning God or metaphysical.

Katha Upanishad

Katha Upanishad

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By Bhawna Malik

New Delhi, January 29: Ram Lalla now enjoys his rightful place at Ayodhya’s Ram Janambhoomi Temple, as Indians world over rejoiced and celebrated the Pran Pratishtha of the idol.  No doubt, Indian spiritual tourism will witness a boost, but the values, valour and the ideals that lord Ram stood for and the moral stories every Indian grew up listening to also need a revival and revisiting. Indian philosophical thought is not divorced from reality and Indian psyche can never be separated from the culture, family and shared values.

National education policy (NEP) 2020 was revised after 1986, a gap of 34 years, and for the first time Philosophy was introduced as an academic subject for the Eleventh and the Twelfth classes. University Grants Commission (UGC) rule book says that honours can only be given to those students who have studied the particular subject in their eleventh and twelfth classes.

Before 2020, philosophy was offered in colleges to students who wanted honours course but did not have the desired marks, even if they have no prior knowledge of the subject. Few months into the course and the students wanted to change their stream.   

This inferior and step motherly treatment continues with Psychology subject as well. Right from the class eleventh till post graduation and even the doctorate degree, the curriculum covers the western psychologists and their theories totally negating the Indian psychology that has been very conveniently termed as unscientific and something concerning God or metaphysical. The Indian Psychology forms just one chapter each in the three years of Graduation.

Today its mandatory for schools and colleges to appoint counsellors who act as confidantes for the students and also guide them on their professional and personal issues. Defining Psychology as a study of human behaviour in a scientific manner does not imply that Indian thought is unscientific and illogical.  

Arjuna in The Bhagwat Gita represents human dilemmas and confusions that were sorted by Krishna as his counsellor and from a confused Arjuna, history witnessed a valiant warrior who removed his mental shackles and bondages. There is an Arjuna in each one of us that needs a confidence with a clarity of the situation, potential and purpose.

Prof Prashant Shukla, Associate Professor, Lucknow University and a certified philosophical Counsellor.Dr Prashant Shukla, Associate Professor at the University of Lucknow and a Certified philosophical counsellor from American Philosophical Practitioners Association (AAPA) sharing his thoughts says: “Scientific study can only be done of inanimate objects. Humans are living and hence subjective due to their emotions, feelings and ideas. Western counselling adheres to therapy and medicine model whereas Indian Philosophical approach works on the ideal of the removal of confusion.”

Philosophical counselling is person-centric and not patient-centric. He elaborates his view by giving an example of a person who lives in a victim mode considering others as wrongdoers. “There is my perspective, others perspective and A Perspective. As a Philosophical counsellor, I would question what is injustice according to the person or the subject who needs to be counselled. Thus starts an introspective journey and the person concerned himself arrives at a logical conclusion through mental clarity. There is a change in thinking and while thinking,” he said.

Indian soil has birthed four major religions of the world – Hinduism or the Sanatana Dharma, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and Indian knowledge system or its Spiritual thought – consisting of six Darshanas – Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimansa, and Vedanta.  Bhagwat Gita, Upanishads and puranas offer a well-developed philosophical, spiritual, psycho-social thought that has influenced even western minds like Steve Jobbs, former Apple CEO, Beatles musical group, actress Julia Roberts, Mark Zuckerberg to name a few.

Chandra Bhan Misra, Director and Principal Prudent School, Delhi.Chandra Bhan Misra, Director and Principal, Prudent School, Ashok Vihar Branch, Delhi says: “The western psychology immediately terms a slow learner as a learning disability or they term everything as a disorder whereas our philosophy considers every human as divine and equal though they have individual difference.” Explaining individual differences citing the example of four brothers Lord Rama, Lakshaman, Bharat and Shatrughan, Misra says, “All four brothers had same education but Rama was the most wise, Lakshaman was aggressive in nature, who was always counselled by Rama during his fourteen years of exile, but modern psychologists will term Lakshaman as having anger issues and behaviour disorder. Bharat is still known in history but no one knows about Shatrughan. Likewise, all have different personalities and stature in life. Having a diverse personality is not a disease.”

“Controlling the mind through Knowledge (Gyan), Yoga, Meditation and remembrance of God are the tools for the healthy and good life in Indian Philosophy,” he further adds.

Indian psychology and Philosophy operate on spiritual foundations enabling the person to be counselled, become independent and it works on inside out approach whereas western psychology caters to outside inside model. The power lies with the therapist whereas in Indian psychology, power and potential lies within everyone.

 Though the essential qualifications for a counsellor are Post Graduation or above in Psychology but the curriculum is totally western with no place for the Indian knowledge system that has been unfairly termed as religion. No counsellor having philosophy as an academic background ever considered for the interview leave alone his/her appointment.

Dr Prashant Shukla notes: “Religion word can never be a substitute for Dharma.  Dharma can be a moral duty or an inherent quality as Arjuna was a Kshatriya and his Dharma was to fight. Dharma has multiple contextual meanings thus having varied connotations.” In a way, it can be said that Indian Philosophical thought is both Dharma and Darshana.

Human life circles around four Purusharths – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Salvation or Moksha as the ultimate goal but through karma or good acts it must not be confused with liberation after death rather every human must strive for being a ‘Jivan Mukta’ performing ones duties and also helping society at large.

Human mind operates at two levels – Reactive or Reflective and to make wiser professional and personal choices Kathopanishad Upanishad offers the concept of Shreyas and Preyas. Shreyas stands for an act that is good for the Atman and also the people around as human in Indian thought is a part of a family and society.  Preyas on the other hand refers to the acts done for pleasure that is short lived and only good for senses.

“Moral concepts are explained in a very subtle manner through stories or narratives in Indian thought. Continuous polishing and refining of the knowledge is the forte of Indian thought,” adds Prof Prashant Shukla.

Samvad or a dialogue forms an essential ingredient for any counselling session. Indian system safely and sanely encourages a healthy dialogue on multiple and diverse themes. Be it Yama and Nachiketa samvad in Kathopanishad, Krishna Arjuna in Bhagwat Gita, Yajnavalkya and Gargi, Yam and Yami samvad that deals with the sensitive theme of incest in the Rig Veda, dialogue between Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs and Baba Banda bairagi who later transformed into Baba Banda Singh Bahadar are just few of the examples.

The Concept of Self in Indian philosophy is very different as that of Self in Western thought. Dr. Prashant Shukla explains: “The Maslow’s model of hierarchy of needs begins with human satisfying his basic needs of food, clothing and shelter and finally reaching self Actualisation but Indian thought goes up to Self Realization. Actualization is based on how successful you are but self realization has spiritual significance. It refers to the heightened awareness, a mental state that has a settled intellect that of a Sthithpragya, of the Bhagwat Gita.”

Filling this gap and a lacuna in the Indian Education system, Misra having three decades of teaching experience explains: “N.C.E.R.T and UGC must work in unison and plan the curriculum for the school and college students.”

Religion as an academic subject too needs a rethinking on the part of the educational bodies and also the minds involved in planning curriculum. Moral education is an important tool to build not only characters but Nations too. Till now this subject has been taught by teachers of any stream but no specialised teachers are appointed to teach this subject. Terming candidates with Religion as an academic background as Pracharaks seems an unfair and ill-informed judgement.

It won’t be wrong to quote the Kenyan author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o from his book ‘De colonising the mind’, who says, “decolonising the mind is a process to end a false universalism in the guise of westernised canvas that attribute truth only to western forms of knowledge production.”

This in no way is bhagwakaran of education or Right wing politics.  It’s time that India that is Bharat must come out of its spiritual and mental slumber and subjugation. Renaming of the places, laws, roads, and building does not make a Vishwa Guru or Viksit Bharat but re-shaping of the mind with Indian wisdom, values and valour surely does.  

(Views expressed in the article solely belongs to the author)



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