17 April, 2024


Yoga: The Miracle Of Education

By Sajeeva Samaranayake

 Sajeeva Samaranayake

Sajeeva Samaranayake

Since the dawn of thinking mankind knowledge has been a source of power, and a means of control. (We are less familiar today, with knowledge as virtue and a resource for caring and understanding.) Ideas from God down to human rights have become subject to the corrupting influence of human thought. This corruption takes place through a deliberate or unconscious tendency to possess and objectify ideas. They are turned into ‘things,’ weapons and grand symbols which can then be used to bolster your identity and dominate others. All this is the work of the thinking ego – our monkey within.

All philosophies and religions recognize this possibility – of the devil appropriating the scriptures and using them for its own worldly ends. Yet this appreciation can become progressively dim in some religious traditions. We can now see, very clearly, the consequences of the failure to guard against this within the Buddhist tradition of Sri Lanka. Taoism is rather unique in its insistence on invisibility and on the ultimate powerlessness of thoughts and words. As Ron Hogan puts it delightfully in his ‘off beat’ version of the Tao Te Ching:

Tao doesn’t have a name

Names are for ordinary things

Because the ego stands for a sharp separation and division of this from that; of the right from wrong and good from bad these ideas (from God to human rights) have helped to disconnect man from man instead of helping to unite them. Great ideas and ideologies have thus become great dividers – thus defeating their basic purpose of functioning as great connectors.

How do we avoid this elephant trap?

Our education is driven on abstractions, and fixed sacrosanct concepts. We need to ‘unpack’ them or de-conceptualize them and walk them back to real life. This means that we must observe their working within the laboratory of our personal or inner life. How much do these principles and ideas matter to us in our daily thoughts and actions; in our closest relations with our family, servants and friends? What kind of democracy and freedom of speech do we practice outside the glare of the media when we are no longer play acting?

This is the process of observation and awareness that we in the East once knew as “yoga.” It is yoga which unites mind and body to connect it as a whole with an ever expanding world of ideas which we know as education. So long as we are separated and disconnected within these new ideas fail to take root in our lives. Having failed there, they cannot succeed in society. They cease to be “pra-yogika” or practical.

Every branch of knowledge or discipline has been disciplined by a set of human values which provide the raison d’etre or justification for its existence in human society. When teachers lose sight of these values and impart dry bones of knowledge without the living flesh and blood that holds them together our poor children are led astray en masse. Of these values the most fundamental value is that of human agency and relationships which enables concerted action, and human happiness which is surely the goal of all human endeavour.

This takes us to a fundamental shift in the methodology of our education. Instead of passively imbibing what solid and fixed concepts and definitions mean we must experience their truth within us, personally, subjectively, emotionally and deeply as human beings. Ajahn Brahmawanso is a great story teller and teacher who rises above his denomination to share his insights from a life lived deeply. Introducing his collection of stories from ‘Opening the door of your heart’ he states:

Life is a series of interwoven stories, not a set of concepts. Ideas are generalizations, always some distance from the truth. A story with all its array of meanings and richness of detail, is recognizably much closer to real life. That is why we relate more easily to stories than to abstract theories. We love a good yarn.

We know this as ‘internalizing’ or ‘experiential learning’. But in this country we have succeeded in turning all this into mere words. We have become irreverent players in the game of words and as we cross swords rather shamelessly with the Indians and the English we tend to forget the debt we owe them for teaching us their cultures and languages in the first place. To lose the virtues of respect and gratitude for your teachers is to lose everything. Having mastered words sans their meaning we have grabbed, appropriated and ‘developed’ everything from ayurveda to vipassana meditation. We speak on every topic under the sun except the truth in our hearts which our repressed self would dearly love to say. It must also be added that we refrain from telling the truth because the social environment we have co-produced is highly toxic, critical and lacking in human warmth. We are no longer confident of disclosing to ourselves or to each other – far less to the world, who we really are. If we wish to regain ourselves we must find good teachers with whom we can be ourselves and stop pretending.

The shift from unknown or half baked concepts to reality must take us to the most logical and direct starting block of our education. This is our own experience and honest reflection in the company of people we can love and trust.

The time has come to realize the miracle of close, personal relationships without which learning becomes a sterile, meaningless exercise. And on that meaningless foundation – no society of human beings can be raised. We may raise perpetually dependent children, unthinking media programmed mobs and robots; but not human beings who possess the unity or yoga and inner power which is the hallmark of an educated human being.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    This means that we must observe their working within the laboratory of our personal or inner life.

    Looks like you have discovered what Lord Buddha discovered as well. Its called Mindfulness.


  • 2

    Today,it is essentially a battle for survival for all of us.
    Education towards acquiring a qualification which will enable survival with a reasonable level of living is the desire of all parents,for their children.
    Education in english is the desire of all parents for their children as all know that this will ensure this.
    But,all in sri lanka do not enjoy this.
    After getting a reasonable means of income,there will be time to ponder on the abstract concepts in this article.
    Meditation or religious activities are not possible on an empty stomach.

    • 0

      The mentality of survival and struggle can continue – long after your stomach is full. This is one key post war lesson in SL.

  • 1

    Education in Srilanka is mostly science based because of the job market. A good liberal arts education is rarely possible.Even religions do not teach proper philosophical thoughts or values. On the contrary religions have become institutions competing for power like in the rivalry between football teams. Religious zelots are willing to kill rivals. BBS in Srilanka is just doing that.Our political leaders have no education. They behave like thugs.There is no separation of State and Religion.Take the case of the deported French woman with Buddha tattoo.
    On the whole we need good education which plants values in human mind and not greed.

  • 0

    most articles are interlectual hogwash. Most people are lost because they want to know the unknown without facing the reality of life.
    1.There is only one God- creator of all what we know and we dont.
    he is the only one,not born or gives birth. a being so supreme our interlect cannot comprehend. Allah says in the Quran look at my creations
    and beleive. If you are a father or mother having children,can u say u created the child pefectly. with right amount of fingers,toes,and a head
    which is shaped properly.never. only Allah creates.
    most religions except islam have no idea as they a totally misguided by there monks,priest and rabbies and swamis. has any swami lived forever.
    did sai baba live for ever,he died therefore he is not god. niravna or
    nothingness is absolute nonsence, no proof,and mathamatical impossibility.

    • 1

      GOD:-“no proof,and mathamatical impossibility.”(sic)

      Jehan, what you say about other religions, applies equally to your own GOD!

      By the way, if there is only ONE GOD, which one do you believe in? The GOD of Christianity or the GOD of Islam?

      Or, if are they the same GOD? What are you fighting about?

  • 1

    Tagore said in his lecture on the Centre of Indian Culture:

    “… it has to be admitted that the world is full of different religious sects and will probably always remain so. It is no use lamenting over, or quarreling with, this fact. There is a private corner for me in my house with a little table, which has its special fittings of pen and ink stand and paper, and here I can best do my writing and other work. There is no reason to run down, or run away from, this corner of mine, because in it I cannot invite and provide seats for all my friends and guests. It may be that this corner is too narrow, or too close, or too untidy, so that my doctor may object, my friends remonstrate, my enemies sneer; but all that has nothing to do with the present case.

    My point is that if all the rooms in my house be likewise solely for my own special convenience; if there be no reception room for my friends, or accommodation for my guests, then indeed am I blameworthy. Then with bowed head must I confess that in my house no great meeting of friends can ever take place.”

    Tagore, Rabindranath (1919) from the first lecture delivered in English in India in Madras on February 9, 1919. The Centre of Indian Culture Rupa New Delhi (2003)

    Yoga has no central authority like a policeman to guard over it. It has been democratized. As such it is a living praxis in many countries around the world and within different cultures. There is equal room for the purist and beginner alike to discover what it truly is…..

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