Overview of the Webinar

Sampad ji introduced the session and welcomed the guests and viewers to this second part of the celebration of 150 years of Sri Aurobindo and 75 years of India’s independence.This second program also marked the launch of the Transform India project which will be elaborated in the next two years to mark these celebrations.

Gitanjali ji introduced the Transform India project, the reason for its creation, its aim and partners.

She introduced the website with the 12 areas that have been defined as a framework for the study over the next two years.

Gitanjali ji elaborated on the need of the Transform India project at this point in our history underlining that India has done experiments in these twelve areas but is still following the prevalent models which are not aligned with its genius and culture. Mentors and mentees are invited to proactively sign up on the website (transformindia.com) and participate in this study towards content creation, research and comparative studies in the domains of their choice.The following list has the 12 fields and future webinars will be dedicated to each of these fields, during which a concrete action plan will be built for further collaboration.

  1. Spirituality and Consciousness
  2. Language and Literature
  3. Politics and Governance
  4. Art and Culture
  5. Health and wellness
  6. Education and Research
  7. Technology and Artisanship
  8. Dairy and Agriculture
  9. Design and Architecture
  10. Business and Economics
  11. Humanities and Liberal Arts
  12. Maths and Pure Sciences

Sonam Wangchuk is also the founding trustee in this venture, along with Sampad ji and Prof. Subhash Kak will participate as an advisor.

Once the Transform India initiative and meaning was presented, Gitanjali ji then conversed with

Prof Subhash ji and Sonam ji on exploring the key questions in some of the domains and questioning how India’s spiritual wisdom can best be expressed in each of these areas.

Here is an overview of the discussion in the following domains:

Language and Literature

Prof. Subhash Kak and Sonam ji were aligned in their ideas in this domain expressing the importance of early as well as higher education in the child’s mother tongue.

Prof. Kak mentioned that India needs to create avenues for all children to master the fundamentals of all subjects in their mother tongue.The English call our languages as vernacular languages but they are as great as any other language. Children and students should not have to face the challenge of learning English first to gain access to higher education, or education in computer science or the pure sciences.

Sonam ji expressed his own example and that of Tibetan communities, of having the first formal learning of all fundamentals in their mother tongue. Given that a child since his birth understands and then speaks the language of his mother, and then picks up the languages prevalent in his surroundings, the language

in which he acquires all knowledge most naturally will also be his mother tongue. His grows in the self- confidence of his faculties and this is the key for him to pick up any new subject or language later on in his growth.

Prof. Kak believes that Sanskrit is very much alive in India and for it to be successfully integrated in our life, we need to translate world literature into Sanskrit.We should also pay attention to all other avenues to integrate this language completely in our society.

Gitanjali ji, Prof Kak and Sonam ji were all happy and hopeful about the changes that will be implemented with the national education policy that stresses on the importance of the mother tongue in education.

Innovation, Technology and Artisanship

Gitanjali ji asked Sonam ji to share his thoughts on how local technology should be developed.

Sonam ji shared the irony of the state of affairs in India today explaining that most of the government schools that function in the rural areas have the mother tongue has the medium of instruction.The rural population of India is very innovative because they have this originality of thinking but unfortunately because they get disadvantaged in formal higher education, their innovativeness gets limited to what

we call ‘jugaad’ which is a sort of an inferior form of what could have been termed as ‘innovations’ and ‘breakthrough inventions’.

The innovative half of our country are not able to access latest technologies, digital interventions and softwares because of our own self-imposed limitations.The other half, who are put through English medium, private schools are very savvy with languages and etiquettes, but are not as innovative and original and they end up becoming digital coolies to the corporates of the world.

The focus should be to gear our innovative minds towards solving our own problems. Even for that, our rural youth need more science than only jugaad. He expressed that ideally, we should have a better

combination of higher education in Indian languages which will give the youth greater command on the use of Physics and Chemistry whilst nurturing their creativity and originality.Thus having a better understanding of our own context already, this approach would help in solving our problems for India rather than blindly getting ready made products from the west and aping their solutions.

Maths and Pure Sciences

Prof Kak completely agreed with Sonam ji’s observations on the divide between our English medium schools in the cities and the mother tongue medium schools in rural areas. He believes this divide should go and Science should be taken in a much more wholesome way to all corners of the country, so that the youth, irrespective of their background and their mother tongue can learn sciences, programming and systems that would be useful to them.This will unleash all their creative forces.

He deliberated on the truth that India was one of the greatest centres of the Sciences, in Mathematics, in Technology, in Medicine and many others.The British rule played out their strategy over 200 years in making us believe that we didn’t know anything and that we needed the British to show us the way to everything, such as governance, construction, modern science etc.

We need to claim our forgotten selves and we need to know the past for what it was, so that we address issues that confront us in a way that we use all the faculties that need to be used.With logic and self- confidence, we can connect to our own intuition and bring out solutions. Prof Kak and Sonam ji both believe that self-confidence is the most important element for creativity.

We have to believe in ourselves and stop copying the west. In the west, they have a culture where self- confidence is promoted.They also have a clear idea about their past. Our education in India has to shape our minds in giving us a proper and authentic idea of our past, and thereby strengthen our beliefs and our self-confidence.

Prof Kak also agreed on a line of thought that Gitanjali ji pointed out. She mentioned that Indian thought may have in it lessons which would be important for modern Science. He continued that that comes from the fact that Indian thought and Indian Sciences have devoted a lot of attention to the problem of consciousness, and that subject is the frontier research area in Science at present. For example, how does

a brain have consciousness while a computer doesn’t? Questions are being asked and studied in Physics, in neuroscience and in computer science. He believes that some of the problems that modern sciences are facing can have their solutions in our ancient thought and knowledge which we first need to understand and then bring forward.

Politics and Governance

Gitanjali ji delved into the questions of governance and the political model that is best suited to India. Sonam ji expressed that this present system certainly requires a deep cleansing as politics has become a domain which the best of brains avoid. Instead of having the wisest and forward thinking youth join politics and govern their country, our current model gets only those individuals of much lower thinking standards. The presidential model would be better as a father/grandfather like figure can be elected, who much like in a family, is there as a guide that everyone looks up to, and then he gets to nominate the best of minds to work for the country.

Gitajanli ji recollected that Dr. Sampad ji had once mentioned that Vashisht Ganapati Muni, in 1934, had written a constitution for India, in Sanskrit. However, this version has never come into the mainstream of politics. In India, the concept has been, like Plato said, of a philosopher king. It is believed that anybody

who rules or makes policies has to do it out of his “tapas”, out of his spirituality; his work is not merely an exercise of the mind.

She mentioned that Transform India has partnered with Rashtran School to examine the domain of Politics and Governance and hopes to study and bring forth Vashist Ganapti’s constitution during this collaboration.

Humanities and Liberal Arts & Art and Culture

Gitanjali ji pointed out that the liberal arts education today is completely forgetting or rather ignoring the Indian perspective. History and narratives of history were written by foreign viewpoints and are still studied to date. The study of philosophy is limited and does not even touch upon the Upanishads or the Vedas which are considered the roots of wisdom in philosophy. Even in psychology today we continue to study Freud and Jung. But what is it that India should offer? What needs to be done in the liberal arts education in this country?

Today, if we try to go back to the Ramayana or the Mahabharata, a vast majority of the writers play to the western audience and present these epics in reductionist models, thereby erasing the nuances prevalent in Indian traditions and culture.

Prof Kak believes that a starting point could be the setting up of a new curriculum for liberal arts education which gives the due place to the Indian contribution to all these subjects.

On being questioned upon the importance of Art, Literature and Culture, Prof Kak responded by saying that Arts and Literature turn out to be very important.They provide you with the capacity to first of all synthesize knowledge.This synthesis in your mind helps you develop your unique insight. And that guides you to get in touch with your own intuition, pragyan. He questions the difference between a great writer and an average writer or scientist. It’s not as much their command of the language as much as it is about their insights and intuition that makes them exemplar.

Education and Research

Throughout the conversation, the panellists accentuated the relevance of a thorough education system for the Indian youth. Education in one’s mother tongue enhances original thinking, boosts self-confidence and spurs creative thinking. It also helps us to better understand our environment intuitively and gives us the capacity to innovate solutions pertinent to the Indian context.

Having been in the field of education, Sonam ji expressed that India has a great possibility of being a leader to the world in this field. Instead of copying our education model from the west, we should perhaps base it on our ancient wisdom, in which learning was based on wisdom, insight and intuition, pragyan.

There were three types of pragyan, shrutmayee pragyan, which is wisdom that is heard, (lectures that we used to get from teachers), chintanmayee pragyan, where the analytical and critical mind is used to reflect, and bhavnamayee pragyan, which is experiential learning, where you actually go through a process.

India can lead with bhavnamayee pragyan, which is the future of education. In this model, schools become an application ground, as the ‘karam bhoomi’, where children come together to interact and apply their acquired knowledge, by doing projects in which they create and solve the problems of the people of their region.

Sonam ji also remarked that we blindly took the three ‘R’s from the west, which is reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead India should offer the three ‘H’s;The first ‘H’ being for a bright ‘head’ education, developing the faculties of the mind.The second ‘H’ connoting the use of one’s hands and developing physical skills.The third ‘H’ signifying the development of a kind and compassionate heart.

The compassionate heart thus brings the head and hands together in service of humanity and for the good of the planet. Sonam ji believes this to be the Dharma that will mark a difference in humanity’s evolution, in tune with the planet’s needs.This wisdom and spiritual aspect has to be integrated in Education and India can then rise in this domain.

Gitanjali ji concluded the conversation with the thought that education therefore becomes the backbone to any society.The evolution of consciousness and the growth of the human to the higher mind, to intuition and to a deeper heart is what will solve the problems of the future. She also remarked that we are aligned to Sri Aurobindo’s message that the next step of human evolution is towards the higher and intuitive mind.

Transform India’s aim is to bring India’s great Rishis’ spiritual wisdom to every aspect of life to build new forms of expressions of those truths.The platform is a place for all to contribute and build towards a better future. It is a project to stand in time for all to benefit from

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Renaissance, the monthly e-journal of Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Indian Culture (SAFIC), features inspiring articles, essays, book reviews, interviews, and reflections that speak of how the eternal spirit and creative genius of India are being reborn and renewed in various domains – spiritual, artistic, literary, philosophic, scientific, aesthetic.

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