Restructuring Education Based on Spiritual Secularism for Kindness, Tolerance and Nonviolence

EDUCATION, 13 Aug 2018

Surya Nath Prasad, Ph. D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Education as a discipline is cosmopolitan because there is no Chinese mathematics, Russian physics, American chemistry, and Indian biology; and as self realization is manifestation of perfection already in every man and woman everywhere without any discrimination, and hence education needs to be restructured universally based on spiritual secularism for kindness, tolerance and nonviolence. The author highlights these aspects of universal education with special reference to restructure of Indian education system based on the basic principles of Indian constitution, which will help other nation-states to understand the true nature and spirit of education, i.e. spiritual secularism in framing the educational systems for the people of their respective nations to be kind, tolerant and nonviolent in a violent world.

The paper is based on the Chief Guest Speech of the author delivered at the Seminar on the theme Restructuring Education Based on Spiritual Secularism on 9th March 2002 at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.    

Reasons for Reconstruction of Education

Question arises what is the reason to reconstruct our education? Though in principle, India has the best democratic constitution in the world for the betterment of its people, and it can be the role model for the other nations to follow, in practice, we have failed to meet the promises laid down in our constitution, i.e. “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a (Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic) and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

And to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity (unity and integrity of the Nation);


However, even after more than 70 years of our Independence, we as people are neither sovereign nor socialist nor secular nor even democratic. In democracy, real sovereignty should lie with people. But people are dependent on elected persons for everything. They rule them, they decide their fate. People as nation are also not socialist because there is disparity between high and low, rich and poor. It means people are discriminated socially, economically and politically in practice. We are not democrat also except we practice democracy to some extent in election only when we elect our representatives to serve the nation who are the people of the territory, but they fail to do so after being elected acting as our masters. We as India, the people of different sects are not secular also because we have not learnt to live in harmony with each other following our different faiths – rather we fight each other for our narrow beliefs forgetting we all belong to the same species – Homo sapiens.

The main cause for not meeting our promises written in our Constitution is that we have not constructed our education on the secular nature of our Constitution based on the different people living here. In this sense, our present education is destructive in both ways. It destroys those whom it reaches being an exploitative class, and also it destroys those whom it is denied being a class of ignorant people. However, People are main crux in framing the education especially in a heterogeneous society like India, which is mini-world. And people as human beings are everywhere the same belonging to the same species following different faiths.

Secularism for Open Society

Secularism is a temperament. It is commitment to tolerance and open society. It means of rising above one’s own religion. Followers of one religion are not superior to people from other religion. This might be the reason before King Ashoka who cut into the rock and he said: “Do not quarrel about religions, concord is meritorious. Do not imagine that you have a complete hold on truth. You may not have it. No religion has a monopoly of Truth; you must try to know the God above all gods who is expressed in different ways and different individuals.”

Ashoka desired that all religions should coexist at all places and increase in their inner strength. He hoped that the followers of all religions would learn much from each other and follow the auspicious path. Ashoka enjoyed on all his subjects the duty of mutually respecting each other’s religion, for this, he said, one can increase, or spread one’s religion and help others’ religions. He who reverences his own religion, and disparages others’, destroys his own religion (Edicts of Ashoka).  

The knowledge and learning about others’ religions only make people to be tolerant towards each other that lead them to live in peace and harmony. The QUR’AN (SURAH XLIX, THE APARTMENTS, V.13) also teaches us:

“O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other.”

Pico della Mirandolla (1463-94) a representative humanist in the 15th Century remarks in his work – De Dignitate Hominis. Having created man and put him at the center of the universe, God told man, “Adam, I would not have conferred your place, shape and role; this is because I want you to define your place, figure and responsibility according to your own wish, will and decision. All the other creatures have been formed by the universal law. However, you, as a man, are not restricted in any sense. To you, I delegate the power that you form your own appearance to your own will.”

Perhaps this was why Akbar (1542-1605) Mughal Emperor of India told, “I consider it my duty to make sure I understand others. If they get in accordance with the will of God, it would be reprehensive of me to interfere in their actions; if they do not, they are victims of their ignorance and deserve pity.”

Truly, men are ignorant and deserve pity in the sense of Akbar because men are killing men. Indian people as nation, which belong to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and the people of other sects, are destroying each other in the name of their respective religions. Occurrence of several communal riots between people of different faiths, and the violent attack on Hindus by a group of Muslims in a train in Gujarat, and in retaliation violent murderous attack on Muslims by Hindus show deviation of men from the will of God, they fail to form their own will, hence they have become inhuman, non-human and anti-human, and it is due to their ignorance. It means it is for the lack of education for all based on spiritual secularism.

Spiritual Secularism for Secular Humanism

Spiritual secularism leads to secular humanism. In other words, spiritual secularism is human-centrism, which regards man as “a spiritual being who is neither God, nor an animal”, and puts emphasis on the “dignity of man”. It emphasizes the uniqueness and independence of human beings. Human-centrism reaffirms human beings as the centre human civilization, and it considers humanity as above everything else. The ancient Indian epic Mahabharata also tells us, “There is nothing higher than man in this world.”

A great Indian poet Iqbal advises men and women of all sects which reflect spiritual secularism, however, in half way:

Khudi Ko Kar Buland Itna
Ki Har Dadbir Se Pahale
Khuda Bande Se Pucche
Bata Teri Raja Kya Hai?

Develop your individuality utmost so that even God Almighty before to decide your fate may ask you: O man, tell me what do you want?

It means, there should be proper opportunity for everybody to develop his or her self or individuality to the highest extent so that his or her ability could be properly honored and awarded. But there is a highest possibility for that individual to be autocrat, dictator and tyrant. This may produce personality like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and alike persons.  It means that Iqbal conviction about man’s nature tells us half truth about man. And the other half truth about human nature can be supplemented by the sayings of Sufi Saints, who say:

Nukte Ke Her Pher Se Khuda Juda Hua,
Nikal De Khudi Ko Tuhi  Khuda Hua.

The change of place of a dot, the word “Khuda” (means “God” in Urdu Language) becomes “Juda” (means “Separated” in Urdu Language) . Merge your Ego into collectivity; you will be the God (Khuda).

This is why it is said: “Apni Atma, Atma Hai; Sabki Atma Paramatma Hai”. Self of an individual is soul, and selves of all are God. Collectivity is God.

The very nature of man as defined by Iqbal and Sufi may unfold or make man spiritually secular. Therefore, there is a great need of education for secularization. For this, we have to define man keeping in view of the sayings of Iqbal and Sufi. And then we shall certainly be in a position to restructure our education based on spiritual secularism.

Man is made of five sheathsphysical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual. First four sheaths may help to prepare man as individually giant (Iqbal), and the fifth sheath may enable man to be human, humane and spiritual (Sufi). Hence, integral course should be prepared for the development of integral man and woman who would create spiritually beautiful, materially affluent and humanly rewarding society (Choue, Young Seek, 1983) as a nation or even the world. Another thing which is very important is that this integral education must reach to everyone leaving none. Thus education as a discipline is cosmopolitan in the sense there is no Chinese mathematics, Russian physics, American chemistry, and Indian biology; and also education as self realization is integral manifestation of perfection of all the five elements, viz. body, vitality, mind, intellect and spirit already in every man and woman everywhere without any discrimination, hence education needs everywhere to be restructured based on spiritual secularism for kindness, tolerance and nonviolence.

Perpetual Learning for Kindness, Tolerance and Nonviolence   

Methodology of teaching would be dialogue and problem-posing, not problem solving, and based on mathetics-the science of learning, not pedagogy- the science of teaching. Merely to get degrees is not the end of education; hence, people must read perpetually, learn perpetually, help others in learning perpetually and write perpetually. These practices will help people for being integral men and women of competence, kindness, tolerance and nonviolence. People will help each other in their development and in the progress of the nation and the world. Thus people as the nation will meet the promises written in the Preamble of Indian Constitution, which may be the best role model for other nation-states to restructure their educational systems based on spiritual secularism for the benefit of their people.    

Free Education for All

Concerning financial resources, it should be managed by the government for free education for all from primary to higher education to make them indebted towards the nation and the world, and to build a non-exploitative society as the nation and the world. Teachers should be given high salary and better facilities for this noble cause of creating a new type of men and women. And Government is competent to mobilize its resources for the betterment of education. The Government should change its attitude that expense on education is expenditure, because education is an investment in human development. The Government should not think that it is non-merit good and even higher education should not be compared with diesel, electricity and fertilizer. Countries which spend higher percentage of their income on education have progressed. Japan spends 35 percent on education and salary of its teachers. Costa Rica has no military; hence it spends much on education for betterment and welfare of its people.


Dr. Surya Nath Prasad, former president & currently executive vice president of International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), associate professor of education emeritus, former visiting professor, the graduate institute of peace studies, Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea, founder & editor-in-chief, Peace Education: An International Journal.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Aug 2018.

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