There are certain condtions necessary in the taught, and also in the teacher. The conditions necessary in the taught are purity, a real thirst after knowledge, and perseverace. The true teacher is one who can throw his whole force into the tendency of the taught. Without real sympathy we can never teach well.
Swami Vivekananda, the great spiritual luminary, thinker,
and patriot-prophet of our times, had many deep and
insightful ideas on education. As time rolls by, his far-reach-
ing vision of education is influencing an increasing number of
thoughtful people the world over. Recognizing this contribution of his, UNESCO has identified Swami Vivekananda as one of the eminent educationists of the world.
There are some books that make available the Swami's thoughts on education. Sometime ago, Dr. Kiran Walia, Reader in Education, National Council of Educational Research and Training, selected from these sources some principal thoughts of the Swami on education and classified them into convenient sections. We have built on this through a careful edition and addition of relevant quotes, giving proper references to The Complete Works if Swami Vivekananda.
To give the readers at the outset a synoptic view of the Swami's thoughts and the Swami himself, we have included two write-ups. The first is a monograph by Swami Prabhananda, the present General Secretary and a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order. This was written at UNESCO'S be with a focus on Swami Vivekananda's contribution educational ideas. It has been published in UNESCO 'S 'Prospects' (Volume XXXIII, Number 2, June 20 and is reproduced here with the permission of the author. The second article is by Swami Yatiswarana 1889-1966), who was a Vice-president of the Ramkrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.
A regal, majestic figure of commanding presence, vast learning and deep insight, Swami Vivekananda was barely 30 years old when he created a stir at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Three and a half years later, when he returned to India, his homeland, he was as a colossus of strength, courage, confidence, love, and manliness-the embodiment of the ideal of the 'man-making and character- building' education he propagated.
Swami Vivekananda was born Narendranath Datta on 12 January 1863 in Kolkata, in a respectable middle-class family. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was an attorney, and a lover of arts and literature. Although liberal-minded, Vishwanath was skeptical about religious practices. On the other hand,
Narendra's mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was a pious, kind- hearted lady, devoted to the Hindu traditions. The influence of each of his parents on Narendra was different, yet together they provided a congenial atmosphere for the precocious boy to grow into an energetic young man with high ideals.
During his formative years, he developed extraordinary mental abilities which some people either misunderstood or ignored, but which others appreciated and recognized as signs of an outstanding individual. As a child he liked to play at meditation and would easily become engrossed. Once when he was seated thus in meditation along with some of his friends,
the sudden appearance of a cobra slithering across the floor
drove all the children out of the room except Narendra, who
remained absorbed in meditation.
Narendra's power of concentration-of fixing his mind on one thing while detaching it from everything else-was remarkable. In his later life he once shot in succession, twelve eggshells bobbing up and down on the water of a river, although he had never fired a gun before! No less striking was his self-control. He remained calm and unruffled, no matter
how dramatic the situation he was in.
Ever since childhood, Narendra had great admiration for wandering monks, and he liked to think that one day he himself would become a monk. But his ambition only became evident during his college days at the Scottish Church College. He began to search out scholars and spiritual leaders in order to question them. But none of them could satisfy him. It was from Prof. William Hastie, principal of his college that he heard for the first time of Sri Ramakrishna, the saint of Dakshineswar. His meeting with Sri Ramakrishna in November 1881 proved to be a turning point in his life. About this meeting, Narendranath said:
He [Sri Ramakrishna] looked just like an ordinary man, with
nothing remarkable about him. He used the most simple language and I thought, 'Can this man be a great teacher?'-I crept near to him and asked him the question which I had been asking others all my life: 'Do you believe in God, Sir?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'Can you prove it, Sir?' 'Yes.' 'How?' 'Because I see Him just as I see you here, only in a much intense
sense.' That impressed me at once .... I began to go to that man, day after day, and I actually saw that religion could be given. One touch, one glance, can change a whole life.'
Sri Ramakrishna's life was one of spiritual experience and
achievement. He also discovered some truths of great significance to all of us today. About this Sri Ramakrishna said:
I have practiced all religions-Hinduism, Islam, Christianity-and I have also followed the paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God towards whom all are directing their steps, though along different paths."
Sri Ramakrishna carefully guided Narendra and a band of other young dedicated disciples, and the Master chose Narendra as the leader of the group. After the Master's passing away, these young devotees gathered together in a dilapidated
house in Baranagore, a northern suburb of Kolkata, which became the first centre of the Ramakrishna Order. With a total rejection of material possessions and an unshakable commitment to their Master and his teachings, they endured unbelievable privations and devoted themselves to spiritual practices.
Travelling throughout the length and breadth of India, mostly on foot, Narendra was trying to work out a purpose for his life. While on the road, he often faced starvation and frequently found himself with nowhere to stay. To Narendra, this was an opportunity to study India and its needs at first hand. He observed that his country possessed a priceless spiritual heritage, but had failed to reap its benefit. The weak points were poverty, caste, and neglect of the masses, oppression of women and a faulty system of education. How was India to be regenerated? He came to the conclusion:
We have to give back to the nation its lost individuality and raise the masses.... Again, the force to raise them must come from inside."
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