Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is 'Spiritual education'?

Over the years I have been feeling that the most important component of our educational journey, the most value we have created together, has been due to the simple fact that due to great good fortune all of us ended up spending a whole lot of time together as a family. This i have been feeling has resulted in all of us growing up TOGETHER and also miraculously growing TOWARDS each other.

- I got interested in history because of Aditi my daughter's interest
- Dinkar our 7 year old got interested in kabir bhajans because of me
- 10 year old Srikant likes and understands carnatic music so all the rest of us are also very interested in it
- All five of us together have begun to awaken to beauty in art and nature

I can give many more examples but you get the point no?

Now take a look at this excerpt:

After all, the child is essentially a soul with a body, life-energy and mind to be harmoniously and integrally developed. The education is therefore so organised as to secure:
* the fullest possible development of the physique;
* a fruitful channelisation of the life-energy in pursuits that contribute to the growth of the personality;
* a sufficient training of the mental faculties in the fields of various Humanities and Sciences; and
* the requisite help, through a powerful spiritual atmosphere, for the soul to come forward and gradually begin to govern the rest of the being.



This now makes me ready to attempt a tentative definition for what spiritual education may mean. Here goes...

we can define 'Spiritual art' as art that is created by a 'spiritual' artist
(Think of Ajanta or the great temples or a beautiful Tibetan Thangka all of which if it moves you inexplicably are probably created by spiritually evolved humans)

we can probably define 'Spiritual education' as education happening around a 'spiritual' educator
(Or in other words education taking place within a spiritual atmosphere)

Does that make sense or does that sound a lot like trying to define one variable in terms of another? What do you think?


  1. I for one stay away from fancy words like soul, spiritual etc. Can the 4 points from website be simplified to:

    * Become as physically fit as possible
    * Figure out who you are (your likes, dislikes and what gives you happiness)
    * Learn sciences and humanities
    * Let brain control your body i.e. think before you do anything

    If that is what they mean, why don't they say that? If that is not what they mean, what the hell are they saying?

  2. Dear Arvind,

    No that is not what the fancy words mean. Let me try to answer. Please read what is written below with an open mind.

    In any scientific inquiry there are three broad steps that are followed
    1. A practical injunction: eg. Mix liquid A and B
    2. An apprehension or experience: Observe the color change
    3. Communal checking (rejection or confirmation): And the color changes if you do it or I do it

    Now the example above is for a 'physical' truth. If we wanted to calculate the value of Pi and we did a mathematical proof we would have verified a 'mental' truth. Here too you had an injunction an apprehension and communal verification which is why we all agree on the value of pi. But notice that there is no 'Physical' thing that we can see with our 5 senses here. The whole scientific inquiry happened inside our mind.

    The point of the long story above is that there are also 'spiritual' truths and right now you dismiss it as a fancy word because you haven't done the right experiments to scientifically verify any of those 'truths' for yourself. The unfortunate thing about spiritual truths are that they take a longer time to apprehend and verify. So the injunction may look like- Meditate using technique A for B years and the result will be C. And over time thousands of people have done these experiments and verified the results over and over again. In my opinion there is not much chance that they are untrue.

    You should try it out for yourself. I highly recommend a 10 day Vipassana retreat at Igatpuri to start you off on your meditation practice and then one year of practice and I invite you to look back at your comment and laugh at it yourself.

    Friend, I hope you don't read any of this as a personal attack or trying to make fun of you or anything of the sort. I am serious and I am scientifically convinced having myself started the experiments some years ago and having verified parts of it for myself.


  3. Dear Arvind,

    And the second point that you mention
    'Figure out who you are'
    is really the core problem of any deep spiritual inquiry.

    Listen to what Aldous Huxley says about what he calls the perennial philosophy that he considers to be common to and the backbone of all the main religious movements.

    'At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.
    First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness--the world of things and animals and men and even gods--is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.
    Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
    Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
    Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.'

    Peace again,

  4. Dear Arvind,

    And I realize now that I was trying to define 'spiritual education' without first trying to define what 'spiritual' means.

    Thanks for giving me an opportunity to work it out of my system. :-)

    Peace once again,

  5. I don't think your experiment about meditation is scientifically correct. If a scientific experiment fails even once, the theory behind the experiment might be incorrect. Does the Vipassana experiment have 100% success rate? I think the problem with the experiment might be our own bias. I equate meditation to resting / sleeping / relaxing etc. My guess is that the spiritual experiment will have a higher failure rate for people like me and a higher success rate for people who already believe in a God / soul.

    For example I am sure there are fair number of people in this world who believe that the Matrix (from the movie) really exists.

    Text from Huxley doesn't make any sense unless you first assume that there is God / soul / spirit etc. I would be very interested in the following experiment. Tell yourself that there is only the physical world - no God, no soul. Then read the text again and see if it makes any sense.

    Being an atheist / agnostic I believe that all religious movements have in something else in common - they are all wrong :)

  6. Dear Arvind,

    Why do you think the meditation experiment is not correct? You have to try it out first to reject its effectiveness. If you reject it out of turn you are using preconceived notions or dogma and not your scientific temperament.

    Here is what I am saying from my own experience. I have followed the injunction and I have got the experience and I am inviting you to communally verify it. Yes I certify attest guarantee warrant and any other legal word you want that the Vipassana experiment will work 100% of the time. The retreat is a 10 day affair. You have to attend it (or any other form of meditative training retreat) with 100% of your scientific mind open and then you have to continue the practice for one year. And then you are qualified to reject it or discuss it with me. But you know what, I am sure that much before your one year is up you won't reject it anymore because it will lead you irrevocably to the same repeatable verifiable scientific contemplative truths that has stood the test of time for 3 or 4 thousand years for EVERYONE who has taken the trouble to follow its injunctions.

    Ok one more point. Talking about sleep you have unknowingly hit a spiritual nail on its very head. Read the following excerpt:

    'The great wisdom traditions (such as Christian mysticism, Vedanta Hinduism,
    Vajrayana Buddhism, and Jewish Kabbalah) maintain that the 3 natural states of
    consciousness—waking, dreaming, and deep formless sleep—actually contain a
    treasure trove of spiritual wisdom and spiritual awakening.... if we know how to
    use them correctly. In a special sense the
    3 great natural states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep contain an entire
    spectrum of spiritual enlightenment.'
    - From the writings of Ken Wilber

    If you want to know more about this or discuss this topic further I am open to it but let us take this discussion away from here and onto gmail. The other people who read this blog (there aren't all that many really) may not be interested in this topic.

    With love and peace,