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Turning the civilisation upside down: What a mechanical education can do
Once a Zen monk was visited by a very reluctant scientist who refused to believe that there could be anything worth learning that existed beyond the realm of scientific calculation. He denied the existence of God, and went to the extent of losing a sense of wonder at all the natural beauty around. To him the glorious sunset and sunrise were just physical phenomenon that could be experimented upon; to him a butterfly's splendid wings were just accidents of evolution!
This man was a very well renowned scholar and had published many books. He delivered speeches and addressed great audiences the world over. Once, his colleague had happened to mention the Zen monk and had told him that his vision of looking at the world merely in terms of hard scientific phenomenon and no wonder might undergo a radical shift if he once dared to visit him.

The scientist was at once offended and laughed at a proposal that seemed extremely idiotic at first. But ever since that day he had made it a point that one day he would visit this Zen monk.

The day had finally arrived and the Scientist reluctantly entered the room of the Zen monk. His eyes were overflowing with a scepticism that is inherent to scholarship and as his eyes met with the Zen master he became uncomfortable. So, he immediately let him know that he would never believe anything spiritual and that visiting the monk was only out of curiosity.

The Zen monk smiled with a peaceful serenity lighting his gentle face. He asked the scientist to sit down under the glow of a lamp that was lit for the night. Amidst the setting darkness outside, the face of the scientist looked illuminated, almost magically in the sparkle of the lamp.

The monk stood up and made two cups of tea, offering first to the scientist. As the scientist picked up his cup from the table to take the first sip, the monk held his hand to stop him. Baffled, the scientist kept the cup down and looked at the monk. The monk raised the tea pot from which he had poured him tea and began pouring into it again. The already full cup began to overflow, spilling the tea all over. The scientist now became certain that the monk was indeed a mad man and thought that if he did not even know how to serve tea, how he could be capable of challenging his beliefs.

The monk looked at the scientist and said that just as you see the cup overflowing with tea because there was no space in it to carry anymore, similarly, you have closed all your doors and thus no light of knowledge can come in. Only emptiness is capable of being receptive.

The clutter in our rooms, the tendency to fill up every possible corner with furniture kills the 'roominess' from the room. But like these physical spaces, we often have to undertake the process of unlearning, unburdening and uncluttering our minds and hearts so that a new light can enter.

The scientist had been struck by the sharpness of the thought and could not challenge the monk. He took his leave and walked back home in the dark, star studded night. The moon, the moist night air, the jewelled horizon and the gentle breeze slowly began to invite the scientist, who had so long lost the beauty of nature in the urge to decipher it. Like a woodcutter, who carries the load of sandalwood on his back for ages he has never smelled the fragrance of the divine that had been calling out to him. This simple interaction with the monk, his mere presence had given him a new life that he had so far deprived himself of.

The story that has been narrated above is metaphorical but deeply illuminating. What the interaction with the monk had done to the scientist, life affirming education does to each one of us. And in its absence, we go on living life day after day but never understand the real meaning of life. Our lives become only the routine repetition of events and we never pause for a moment of contemplation or introspection.

When death comes, we feel utterly unsatisfied and puzzled. We are amazed how life could have so quickly passed and yet we did not even once feel that we were alive? Birth, education, job, marriage, children, retirement and then death-this has become the usual pattern of our existence but what about our inner calling, our heart's passions for which we had come to the earth?

It is not surprising that today education has only been limited to getting degrees and qualifications and nothing more. The proliferation of coaching centres and education rackets across the country only exemplifies the fact that today education has been reduced into a mechanical endeavour which is undertaken only and solely to secure a good lifestyle.

This automatically also means that when people are educated in such a manner it denies them their essential human qualities such as relating to others, sharing, mutual concern and an urge for collective well-being. Rather, this means that limitedness of minds and hearts becomes an inherent characteristic of this kind of education system which is life denying, unnatural and deeply pathetic.

Many events in the recent past only prove this, the Kalahandi images where a man carried a dead body on his back for over ten kilometres, or the ironic treatment of Irom Sharmila after she quit her tremendously long fast, the agony and pain of people stuck in the Bihar floods or the persistent tension in the Valley of Jammu and Kashmir are all representative of the fact that today our education and our everyday lives as individuals have come to be completely dissociated.

We are a conflict ridden, poverty stricken, violent society where the personal wealth of some people may be reaching heights but the everyday hardships of the commoner are only expanding each day. Our techno-scientific advancement, our nuclear deals, our ability to participate in global exchange or even build smart cities have not reduced the pain in our lives and if they have only done anything that is to separate us from each other and build walls that no bulldozer can break.

Thus the alienated knowledge that we value, the money making machine that we aim to turn individuals into and the kind of technocratic societies that we call development are leading to broken relations, violent social clashes and decline in the ethical fabric of society. Is this the kind of education that we strive for?

The answers are complex and the questions haunt us each moment. It is time we came out of our self-centered cells and thought together as a collective, in fact as humanity in crisis.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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