Education is about skills and self-awareness: The Tribune India

Maj Gen RN Tikku (retired)


Be yourself, love yourself;
And lift yourself up – on your own.
— Mantra for young India

Does education prepare children for life? Can we think critically and creatively under stress? What about focus, collaborative learning, resilience and enthusiasm? Every day we read of actions and behaviors of young people that show an absence of self-regulation, ethics and a sense of social responsibility. Environmental degradation has added to the ‘madness’. In such a scenario, how do we navigate between young people, mentors and the environment? The exit is inside. The mind, the most powerful organ in the human body, comes into play. Take charge of your mind and a conscious journey begins from within. You evolve, and give your best version on the field.

The current education system, society and mentors overemphasize academic excellence and the economics of ‘job hunting’, compounded by the ‘expectations’ and ‘wants’ imposed on students. This ends up harming the child’s learning process and self-esteem. Emphasis should be placed on the “life fulfilling” and “life supporting” aspects of a student’s journey to responsible self-reliance. People like Einstein, Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and so many other successful sages were never the academic heroes of their schools.

A good educational institution stands out for the film or the gyan it imparts to students, not for mere academic prowess. It uplifts the spirit and rejuvenates the power to create. Another kind of knowing emerges – how you will behave and manage others in the face of daunting challenges. You reinvent and develop employable skills: a “fullness”; discernment ‘connecting with people and situations; and you learn to embody your inner strengths and latent talents for a purpose that adds value in the lives of others and yours as well.

We live in patterns and habits and follow recurring pathways daily. The first step is to clear the mind of all negative thoughts with tools like meditation, introspection, and contemplation, and develop new paradigms that are in tune with the reality we want. Let’s change into a state of joy rather than letting a calamity happen. We must not stop there; otherwise, it will not shapeshift while traveling.

True education can only begin from a foundation of self-awareness, the key to self-discovery. It gives a new perspective outside of the ego’s constant ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ syndrome. Once there, there is a possibility of real change. You develop a holistic approach to learning, which seeks to open the mind, nourish the spirit and awaken the heart. An open mind embraces the new and the unknown, and aligns the reasoning head and the feeling heart. There is harmony between what you think, what you say and what you do. You evolve inside and develop a vision, a nazariya, to see the world upside down. There is then balance and harmony in your behavior and your relationships at work, at home and in your leisure time. In the awareness of who you really are, you also see the sameness in what others are like, encouraging the unity of humanity.

The next step towards empowering the mind is to master the art of thinking – how to think and how not to think. We feed on impressions all the time. People improve their standard of living, but not their standard of thinking. We exercise selectivity and choice in all of our transactions, whether it’s groceries, clothing, cooking or movies. Why not do the same with our thoughts? Let’s not start the day browsing negative information via mobile or television, which serves as the raw material for our worrying thoughts throughout the day. Instead, start the day by greeting the sunrise with mindful attention. The sun presents a breathtaking spectacle of wonder, productivity and interdependence. Flowers, plants and trees eagerly await the rays of the sun to bloom into their glory and spread fragrance, joy and joy to all passers-by. Such sensory delights detoxify the mind and nourish the spirit. Music, poetry, sport, proximity to nature and inspiring reading are excellent de-stressors. They promote a sense of unity in diversity, unity of creation and sensitivity to the beauty of things around us. As you sow in the subconscious, you will reap in your body and environment.

Well-educated children dread being alone, so they seek constant companionship through the television, computer, cell phone, and superficial friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Let’s challenge students to learn to live consciously; feel the environment; enjoying one’s own company; and think about getting to know each other better. The history of India, its rich cultural heritage, the wonders of creation in the human body and outside it, meaningful activities on ‘Earth Day’ and ‘National Youth Day’, raise the level of consciousness and help the child build a relationship towards a higher goal. Every child needs “to be recognized”. This need transitions into high “self-esteem” in a youngster with the aforementioned schooling, as they now learn to be a true expression of who they really are.

The Bhagavad Gita enjoys popular esteem worldwide for its practical ethical significance. Emerson, an American transcendentalist, called Gita a “transnational book”. He lectured at Harvard and Cambridge in the 1850s. His poem “Brahma” (1856) is modeled on passages from Hindu texts. Even today, American universities fervently provide “signature courses” on the Gita, yoga and meditation. The impermanence of life, the immortality of the soul, the body-mind-spirit integration, provide profound insights into life. It is high time that the Gita became part of the basic curriculum of our schools and colleges without any reservations.

Let’s strive to be a good human being, a cultured citizen and a good professional, and that’s what a person is supposed to be.