Education that is Multicultural: Spirituality and Education in India

Blog #3

January 3, 2017 

This blog is authored by Study Abroad India student Erica Sabino who is a graduate student at the City College of New York College. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Currently she is working as a head teacher at a preschool named “Footsteps”. Her future goal is to get certified and work as a first grade or Kindergarten teacher.

Our third class session was about a brief background of the educational philosophies of Tagore and Krishnamurti who saw education beyond just textbooks and traditional class teacher directed approach.

The main focus of this discussion was Tagore, who believed in a more practical manner of teaching, and a more profound connection with the student, teacher and environment. Tagore believed that there needed to be a deeper connection between the student and the teacher in order to enhance students' potentials. He also believed that students, rather than focusing on competing with others, should be competing with themselves and that is what educating the mind and the heart is about. Tagore says, “But when u remove that, then you compete with yourself, you strive for excellence at the level of your own potential, not someone else’s (Mukherjee, 2016, p. 9). And that is how you connect yourself with spirituality. Spirituality is about the self. Not the religion like many people think of. Religion is just the head, spirituality is the heart (finding your true self).

Therefore , in the classroom spirituality is about that connection between the teacher and the student, creating a deeper bond, beyond textbooks can offer. It should be focusing on the student's ability and then preparing the child to be ready to learn new materials and be able to be successful. It is about nurturing creativity and critical thinking (Mukherjee, p. 8). As philosopher Krishnamurti which was also part of the discussion for today, “Education is not just to pass examinations, take a degree and a job, get married and settle down, but also to be able to listen to the birds, to see the sky, to see the extraordinary beauty of a tree….and to feel them, to be really directly in touch with them” (Mukherjee, p. 14). This is the self-spirituality connection within the classroom context.

Later that day we visited the Ba’hai Lotus Temple. As I walked through the valley of the temple I noticed how spirituality plays out in New Delhi. It is all about respecting the self and others and connecting all together in unity no matter from what belief and religion they come from. As we were about to go inside the temple as a signal of respect they told us to remove our shoes and to turn off our devices. Once we were inside the temple everyone remained silent. It was interesting to see the level of of reverence once people were inside the temple. Everyone sitting down praying even the children were silent. All religions were accepted inside that temple. In the Ba'hai faith people were seen as members of the human and as beautiful flowers growing in the garden of humanity.

Spirituality is about the deeper connection with the self and it is surrounding (people, Gods, natural environment). It is about creating a connection first with yourself - your inner world - and then with the outer world. It is a connection with the soul and how you as a teacher, student, children, adults create those relationships that creates the sense of spirituality within us. Humanity - this is what today’s lesson focus about. Rather than just focusing on materials physical things; textbooks and religion, focus on the deeper meaning of everything. Spirituality is within, education is within.  And that was today lesson.

11 responses
The lotus temple was a very spiritual environment. I really appreciated how they accepted all religions under one roof to come and pray together! That shows a sense of community within the country. That also shows how the spirituality within the community beings the people together! The difference in the United States is that there is a separation between church and state! Here in India the states embrace the spirituality and all religions!
Being surrounded by so much honking and constant noise for the past six days started to feel somewhat normal. However, entering the Ba’hai Lotus Temple and experiencing complete silence for probably the first time in my life felt like a weight coming off of my shoulders and an extreme moment of relaxation. It was beyond beautiful.
The Lotus Temple was the highlight of my day. It represents India, not only because it is the national flower, but also because it brings all religions and people together. While sitting in the temple, it was silent and peaceful. I noticed there were no shrines or figurines. It was just a place to sit, pray, meditate or even make a wish.
Our trip to The Lotus Temple was one I will hold dearly. The serenity that I felt radiating off of everyone was intoxicating. I was very grateful for the opportunity to sit with my thoughts and reflect on many deep personal things, I am not able to find time for back in NY. I believe the inclusiveness of the Baha'i temple reflects that of the Indian society at large. Just in Delhi, I have seen spirituality of all faiths freely expressed in terms of statues, tombs, places of worship, clothing, head attire. It is very interesting to see how an "inclusion of religion (quite the opposite of the US's separation of power) in everyday life (school, work, business, home) seems to work for the Indian people.
He lotus temple of the Baha'i faith in my opinion was so inspiring. It reflects what India is truly about, which is acceptance of all.people of all denominations and religions can come together in one common area and devote their time to their own individual beliefs without conflict, and that is very beautiful. It also shows the movement of tolerance of all that has been a huge factor in the spirituality of Indian culture.
When I first looked at the Ba’hai Lotus Temple, there was something amazing about though it was so far away from us. What I realized as we approached it was the closer the people got, the less noise they made. After removing my shoes, the first steps to the ground were so cold. However, the more I walked, the more I was invaded with a feeling of humbleness. This feeling was even more present inside the temple. I also noticed that as people walked out, they were quieter than even before they went inside the temple. What an experience!
Tagore really stood out to me as his upbringings affected his views on how he viewed education. Coming from the same type of education upbringing as him, I too want to focus on education for the less fortunate. His wants reflect my wants for our future.
Erica well written! I absolutely loved the article you made references on called "On Education", it was absolutely amazing and I completely agree with many of the statements it stated. I also agree with what you wrote, "The classroom spirituality is about that connection between the teacher and the student, creating a deeper bond, beyond textbooks can offer." We saw this example being clearly expressed when we visited the schools the other day. The teacher and students were in a tiny square room but you can see and FEEL how much they are learning without the "textbooks". They demonstrated intimate, happy and emotional relationships. This was a similar feeling that I believe we all as a class encountered in the Lotus Temple, safe, respectful and intimate. The fact that anyone can come in and pray the way they want to pray is an absolute privilege and an example of how completely welcoming India truly is.
This visit meant a lot to me. Because of the nature of our trip, interactions with locals are limited. Just being able to sit quietly with so many people for a moment I was able to suspend our differences - faith and language etc and connect in our silence. I felt grateful to be included in such a quiet intimate moment.
The lotus temple was such a drastic departure from the constant noise that I've gotten used to while in India. It was a very serene environment, and I couldn't help but meditate during the brief time I was in the temple.
Dr. Muckherjee's article on inclusive education, through the lens of Tagore, was revolutionary for me. I have studied education in various institutions and at various levels and yet, I have never had any exposure to Tagore's educational philosophy prior to this course. It truly has inspired me to move beyond Dewey & Vygotsky, and seek understanding from scholars that interrupt the westernized 'canon' of educational literature.