Book Review: The Educational Heritage of Ancient India

The Educational Heritage of Ancient India: How an Ecosystem of Learning Was Laid to WasteThe Educational Heritage of Ancient India: How an Ecosystem of Learning Was Laid to Waste by Sahana Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A amazing, succinct book which takes a look at the system of education in India during the ancient times, during Mughal rule, during British rule and since independence.

* Ancient times
In great detail the book describes the rich Indic education system. It describes the times when education was highly valued, people travelled long distances (sometimes across continents) to learn, where there was a complete ecosystem which supported education and people pursuing it, where both men and women had equal opportunities to learn and where the scholars were experts in their areas of excellence and were far ahead of their times!

* During Mughal rule
This educational ecosystem was intentionally destroyed by the Mughal rulers who invaded India. They destroyed these institutions, burnt libraries and killed the scholars all across India. They were responsible to flung back India centuries behind in its knowledge and scientific pursuits.

* During British rule
The British rule further ruined even the remnants of Indic education system. Their strategy was to create a population which is unaware / hates its own heritage. And to impart an ‘English’ education to them in order to create a population which can be ordered to work but which cannot think for itself.

* After Independence
Sadly, the details of the murder of education system and the rich ancient culture in general by the previous rulers has not been presented correctly to the citizens even after independence. Sometimes the very people who caused this massive destruction have be glorified in the books. It’s high time that we the people, are aware of the rich educational / cultural systems of ancient times and how they were destroyed by the rulers in the past.

Educational systems are the foundation of any society. Educational institutes from schools to universities impart not just knowledge of different areas but also builds minds which can solve unknown challenges of the upcoming times! Thus if the educational system is broken, then the population itself is not capable enough to face the future, which in turn leads to an unstable, sub-par society.

Also, I don’t think we need to go back and copy the exact models of ancient educational systems. Some of the key aspects of the ancient education system can be adapted to the current times to build better educational systems today. The key take-away from this book is that we should be aware of our rich educational heritage as well as how it was brutally destroyed by Mughal / British rulers. Sometimes just accepting the past in itself is a big step towards progress. Finally, we need to rethink and redesign the current day educational systems so that it is good enough to create a society that can tackle the problems of tomorrow!

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Teachers of Life

A kid stepped into the world,
To explore and to learn new things,
Excited of the numerous possibilities.
Filled with dreams of the future.
You were the one who held the hand,
sharpened the minds,
and guided on the path of life.
Taught the smallest of things
to the deepest of concepts,
From numbers, alphabets to the topics of expertise.
You taught things in a manner which was fun.
Even in a classroom, you had the power
to time travel across the universe.
You were always there, to motivate and guide.
And to show that life is much more than an exam.
From school and then to college,
You were there at every step of life.
You told about the reality of life in the most lucid way.
And sometimes shared things not in books,
which would be actually useful in life.
You shared your wisdom gained over years of experience
as well as the lessons you learnt.
Thank you for being there always,
For shaping up the minds and then setting them free.
To go out in the world and live life.
To actually, apply the lessons taught,
and to lead a meaningful life.
There is always a part of you,
in every kid or youth you taught,
if the form of your ideas and lessons,
which you have instilled in their minds.
You are the light which brightens the world.
You are the star which guides on the right path.
You are the one who lays the foundation of the minds.
You are the one who builds the world.

A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all my teachers in school and college.
And to other people who have been like teachers and are guiding in my journey of life.
Wishing you all a very happy teachers’ day 2014!!!

Self Esteem vs Ego

Angel vs Demon

Ego can be defined as the feeling of “self”. I don’t think ego is bad. Ego is just knowing the difference between ourselves and others. As the popular quote by Aristotle goes – “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Everyone must have a sense of self-respect and self-esteem. Without these two qualities, the world starts extracting unjust benefits from us in every possible way, which is not good. Also its a big gift to know one’s self-worth. However when this ego is boosted more and more, a person starts having a superiority complex by which he starts feeling that he is superior that everyone else. And this may include one’s parents, teachers, elders and other wise people. And i think this is where the problem begins. So further, lets consider ego in its extreme form and analyze it.

Due to highly egoistic attitude, people start taking things for granted. They consider that they are the kings and queens of the world and even start behaving like that. And worst of all, they also expect others to treat them in the same way ! I can say that such attitude is highly detrimental specially for students. If students consider themselves the master, then there is no way in which  their master (teacher/Guru) can give them knowledge. As they say, how can a teacher fill a cup when it is already full. Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” We need to  empty our cups before comings to our Gurus. And believe me there is nothing wrong or embarrassing about it. Its always good to make a fresh new start.

Its always good to be respectful and humble.  Our elders may not be always correct (they are also humans like us) but we must always remember that they have more wisdom than us because of their experience. They have seen more life than us and i am sure there cannot be a better teacher than life. We must not always blindly agree with what others say, but at the same time we must have faith and respect in them. We must not confront them rudely however we must be able to express our views to them. They are our well-wishers and work towards our best interests. So instead of disrespecting others, i feel that it is always better to look at the positive aspects of others and try to inculcate those qualities in ourselves.  After all who are we to judge others. I think if we feel the urge to judge someone then we should rather judge ourselves. An awesome thought i heard today which made me think all this is – “Even the cow gives milk only when you sit down near its feet on your knees, and not when you ride on its back.”

There is a very fine line between self-esteem (the angel) and ego (the demon).  Only the smart ones can see the difference between these. This is the thing which we need to master. If we can determine whether our actions will boost our ego or our self-esteem then we can consider ourselves to be “wise”. To the ones who want to be wise, here is a quote by Confucius which i like a lot –
“By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
I think is some cases its wise to learn from others experience as well. I consider myself blessed to have such parents and teachers who always encourage me to express my views and at the same time argue and stand for my views. “Lucky me !” 🙂

On a lighter note here is a news flash !
“The earth revolves around the sun. This might upset a few out there who still think that the world revolves around them.” 😉