Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas

Indian Perspectives on Shiksha (education)

Hindi note education conference sept 2011.pdf

September 29 – October 2, 2011

We use the word “education” carelessly, never seriously engaging with the meaning behind the word. In Indian traditions whether they are Buddhist, Jain, Sanatani Hindu or Islam; or educationists like Krishnamurthy, Aurobindo, Ravindranath or Mahatma Gandhi ) shiksha or taleem is the word frequently used instead of education. But do the two words mean the same? We refrain from asking if education means the same as meant by the word shiksha in Indian traditions.

There is a lot of discontent with present day education. Even those who do not question the philosophical foundations of present day education are not happy with its outcomes. On the other hand, huge amount of resources and energy is being invested in universalizing the present day education. Of course from time to time, efforts have been made for improvement and modifications, but they are always within the same framework. The assumptions remain the same. Therefore there is a serious need to present different perspectives on how shiksha is perceived in different Indian traditions.

Education cannot be seen and imparted in isolation. After all, education is only for human beings, not for other species in existence. (Animals and birds do not need education; if at all they merely need training.) Human beings are impacted by their environment and can make a difference in the environment in which they live. Education greatly impacts their actions – both good and bad.

Today the world is facing major crises- unparalleled in the known history of mankind. The environmental crisis is looming large in different forms. Global warming, melting of glaciers, rising sea level, crisis of water, melting of glaciers, floods and famine, pollution of air, water and earth is just one part of that crisis for which no one seems to have an answer. The crisis of terrorism (including state sponsored terrorism) and war has reached unprecedented proportions. Again we seem to have no answer here. Then there is the economic crisis which has become far too dependent on virtual economy and paper money with no real wealth to support it.  Current economy is based upon mindless growth at the cost of global warming, pollution, depletion of natural resources, arms race and unprecedented disparity between the rich and the poor. This is the “development” paradigm with its inherent contradictions; if one crisis is managed, other problems get escalated. Present day education, a product of this paradigm, ends up supporting it.  

The modern man does know "what to believe"; cannot trust anything. Faith in religion went for a six with modern science hammering at it. Now faith in political leadership, judiciary, press, bureaucracy (the so called pillars of the modern state) is also being questioned. Faith in scientific theories are also being strained; faith in technology; modern medicine or fertilizers etc.. all are being questioned. We use and consume things but we also have a doubt. 

Under the circumstances we feel the need to examine what are the views on shiksha in Indian traditions, even if the environment may be not conducive for implementing this kind of education immediately. At least we need to articulate these views and present them clearly. What are the philosophical foundations on which these views are based? How do these traditions view the ultimate purpose of human life? How do these views look at the relationship between human beings and other entities in existence? How does shiksha support these views? What are essential elements of shiksha in these traditions?

We “Deer Park Institute and SIDH” are planning a series of contemplative dialogues on the “Indian View of Education (shiksha)’’ under the patronage of Professor Rev. Samdhong Rinpoche (presently Kalon Tripa of Tibetan Government in Exile). We are inviting educationists and philosophers from different Indian traditions to present their thought and belief systems. There will be about 20 participants and another 8-10 observers who will reflect upon the discussions and will be able to ask questions in the allotted time. To get an in-depth understanding of the various philosophies and to ensure a serious dialogue the seminar will be for four full days from the morning of 29 September, 2011 through 2 October, 2011.

The participants and observers would be expected to arrive the previous day i.e. September 28th, 2011 at the venue, The Deer Park Institute, Bir, H.P and leave only on the evening of the 2nd October or the next day. The proceedings will be recorded with a view to produce a document giving the different perspectives. 

Once we have your confirmation, our offices will work out with you the best means for travel, and we would happily arrange that to have you here with us in the Himalayas.

We cordially invite you to join us for this historical gathering, led by Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche.

With respects and regards

Pawan Gupta (SIDH)

Prashant Varma (Deer Park Institute)

NOTE: The event is not sponsored or supported by anyone. The expenses are partly being borne by SIDH and Deer Park institute through their internal resources. We expect participants/ observers other than the speakers/ presenters to take care of their travel and boarding/ lodging expenses at Deer Park by making a contribution of Rs.4,000/ per participant. This contribution is expected to support part of the expenses on the conference.  


Bir Conference October 2011 organised jointly by SIDH