What the nation can learn from Dr Radhakrishnan on Teachers' Day

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's mastery over English, clarity of perception, enlightened approach and lucid way of teaching made him one of the greatest modern teachers

Sumit PaulUpdated: Monday, September 05, 2022, 11:00 AM IST
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Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi | Wikimedia

Teachers should be the best minds in the country.

Education to be complete, must be human, it must include not only training of intellect but refinement of the heart and discipline of the spirit. No education can be regarded as complete if it neglects heart and spirit.

These profound statements of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, whose 134th birth anniversary falls on September 5th, assume much greater significance in these mediocre times when the desire to impart and acquire knowledge seems to be receding on the part of teachers and students respectively. Despite his exposure to western education and experience of teaching at the world's greatest universities, Dr Radhakrishnan always believed in the guru-shishya parampara (the interactive tradition of a teacher and disciples) which transforms the seekers of knowledge from within. According to him, education is beyond degrees and professionalism. It's a process of humanism.

Dr Radhakrishnan opined in a letter to his friend Jawaharlal Nehru that we must look for teachers who would not only be able to teach but also be keen on inculcating in students the necessary ability to question, seek and find answers. Like Socrates, Dr Radhakrishnan also believed that an unexamined life is not worth living. This is education which leads to knowledge, knowledge that blossoms into wisdom and wisdom which finally culminates in enlightenment. According to Dr Radhakrishnan, true education emancipates, ennobles and evolves an individual. He believed that education sharpened a person's thinking capacity and to educate is to rationalise an individual. Alas, that very concept of education, evolution and rationalisation is woefully absent in these times when instead of evolving minds, education is devolving humans. The way we're all reacting to petty things and becoming communal and parochial by the day, it shows that the kind of education being imparted and acquired is patently flawed.

While teaching Eastern Religions and Ethics as a Spalding Professor at Oxford, Dr Radhakrishnan would always urge his students to go beyond the precincts of all religions and imbibe their spirit. In his book The Hindu View of Life, he clearly and categorically mentioned that not just Hinduism but all religions are ways of life, and spirituality is independent of religion. But today, spirituality has been shelved and we're sparring over the different labels of faiths. Religious idiosyncrasies have become our favourite hobby horses and the essence of religion has vanished into thin air. Had Dr Radhakrishnan been alive today, it would have pained him no end. En passant, Dr Radhakrishnan was appointed as a Spalding professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford. This position was specifically made by HN Spalding in 1936 because he was impressed after Radhakrishnan’s lectures in London, and was also fascinated by his sagacious personality, clarity of thoughts and unparalleled erudition.

Radhakrishnan, like Jiddu Krishnamurthy, had a universal vision and he believed in the lofty ideal of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (the whole world is a family). “Think Globally” was his mantra. In his philosophical lectures and discourses, he'd often refer to Socrates, who called himself a global citizen millennia ago. Radhakrishnan promoted the idea of global citizenship, at least, in spirit, so that people could rise above their petty differences of class, caste, country, colour, contour, creed, continent, culture and civilisation. He wanted people to broaden their vision and, to him, only by broadening horizon, vision and canvas can we all become universally and equally evolved. In a way, he was a practical thinker, not an armchair philosopher or an indolent lotus-eater who loved only to theorise and philosophise. To encapsulate, his philosophy had a humanitarian approach and a universal appeal.

Radhakrishnan, who was also the second President of India, admitted that his presidential tenure and responsibilities robbed him of his profound philosophical pursuits. Someone rightly said of him that he was too learned to become the President of any country. Being an extremely sensitive and kindhearted man, Radhakrishnan tried to get capital punishment abolished from all over the world and wrote extensively on this subject. His mastery over English, clarity of perception, enlightened approach and lucid way of teaching made him one of the greatest modern teachers. A bibliophile, he'd always say that books are the means by which we build bridges between cultures. It's worthwhile to mention that Dr Radhakrishnan was nominated 16 times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and another 11 times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Let's salute the great savant on his birthday and learn from his life and lofty ideals.

The writer is a regular contributor to the world’s premier publications and portals in several languages

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