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Indic Sciences for Today’s Children

It is clear that our mod­ern edu­ca­tion sys­tem has pro­duced high intel­lec­tu­als in var­i­ous dis­ci­plines and def­i­nite­ly con­tribut­ing a lot to the growth of the coun­try. How­ev­er, the indi­vid­u­als that come out of the cur­rent sys­tem are dis­con­nect­ed from the soci­ety they belong to, their envi­ron­ment and from their his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al roots. For exam­ple, chil­dren study physics and chem­istry as sub­jects, but do they know what their social impact is? The impact of one’s actions on the envi­ron­ment and soci­ety is not dealt with in the cur­ricu­lum. Edu­ca­tion that can help indi­vid­u­als con­nect to the soci­ety and envi­ron­ment is what is need­ed most. Most of us real­ize that we need an edu­ca­tion sys­tem that imparts val­ues to stu­dents. While gener­ic val­ues like hon­esty and sin­cer­i­ty are no doubt impor­tant, a sol­id ground­ing in Indic sci­ences becomes absolute­ly essen­tial to con­nect indi­vid­u­als with our land, Bhara­ta.

What is the sig­nif­i­cance of Indic sci­ences in trans­form­ing edu­ca­tion? Let us look at what three impor­tant research works in the recent years have to say about it:

1) San­skrit – Neu­ro­science effect

2) Clock genes (Nobel Prize in Med­i­cine 2017)

3) Autophagy (Nobel Prize in Med­i­cine 2016)

These three works con­firm what ancient Indi­ans had dis­cov­ered and what was fol­lowed in every home.

Sanskrit – Neuroscience effect

A team of researchers con­duct­ed an exper­i­ment on Indi­an pun­dits, where they placed diodes on their heads as they chant­ed San­skrit shlokas. They dis­cov­ered that the entire place rever­ber­at­ed with the vibra­tion dur­ing chant­i­ng. Fur­ther, they found dur­ing neu­roimag­ing that the num­ber of grey cells increased in the mem­o­ry area. Chant­i­ng of shlokas enhances the mem­o­ry and cog­ni­tive capa­bil­i­ty of chil­dren.

Autophagy

Cells have the capac­i­ty to regen­er­ate them­selves. Dead cells in our body are eat­en up and digest­ed by the sur­round­ing cells. This process, called autophagy main­ly hap­pens dur­ing long gap in eat­ing. Indi­ans observe vra­ta (fast­ing com­bined with a spir­i­tu­al prac­tice) on cer­tain days such as Ekadashi. Some peo­ple fast from morn­ing until evening and break their fast with a light din­ner. Such prac­tices are com­mon­place in Indi­an fam­i­lies. The gap in intake of food enables the cells to regen­er­ate and recy­cle, mak­ing the per­son healthy. The Nobel Prize for Med­i­cine (2016) was award­ed to Yoshi­nori Ohsu­mi for his dis­cov­ery of the mech­a­nisms of autophagy, some­thing that is built into the Indi­an tra­di­tion as a lifestyle habit.

Clock genes

This year’s Nobel Prize in Med­i­cine was award­ed to Michael W. Young, Michael Ros­bash, Jef­frey C. Hall for their dis­cov­er­ies of mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nisms con­trol­ling the cir­ca­di­an rhythm. What they had dis­cov­ered is that we pos­sess “clock genes”, which get trig­gered when our body is exposed to sun­light in our envi­ron­ment. Indi­ans had dis­cov­ered in ancient times that our body changes with the move­ment of the sun and the moon. Anoth­er dis­cov­ery they made was regard­ing the tim­ing of admin­is­tra­tion of med­i­cine. The time of prepa­ra­tion and admin­is­tra­tion of med­i­cine or per­for­mance of surgery is impor­tant for suc­cess. In Ayurve­da, dinacharya or the dai­ly rou­tine – what action is to be done dur­ing the day and what time to do it – is con­sid­ered absolute­ly nec­es­sary to estab­lish bal­ance in a per­son­’s body and mind by reg­u­lar­iz­ing his bio­log­i­cal clock.

So we see that the Indi­an sci­ences have tremen­dous scope in expand­ing our knowl­edge and def­i­nite­ly need to be revived. Study­ing and prac­tis­ing the Indi­an sci­ence leads to an imme­di­ate recog­ni­tion of our cul­ture. In the glob­al con­text, when we are asked,”What is your cul­ture? What is your way of life? How do you do things?” most young­sters don’t have an answer — an answer which reflects the depth and unique­ness of our civ­i­liza­tion­al knowl­edge and best prac­tices. A sys­tem­at­ic intro­duc­tion to our tra­di­tion­al knowl­edge to con­nect with our land is not present in the cur­rent sys­tem.

The historical aspects

When we seek an ide­al mod­el of edu­ca­tion, all of us, includ­ing chil­dren them­selves think of our ancient Guruku­las. The Guruku­la sys­tem has many aspects that chil­dren like. Dis­ci­pline is a flow as the stu­dent lives with the Guru. The Guru’s life is the mes­sage. There is no preach­ing , only prac­tis­ing. Stu­dents sim­ply start prac­tis­ing and the learn­ing hap­pens. In those times, the Guru used to ded­i­cate his or her life for the cause of edu­ca­tion. This was how beau­ti­ful and well-evolved the Indi­an edu­ca­tion sys­tem was. Pro­fes­sor Dharam­pal, in his book, “The Beau­ti­ful Tree”, has tak­en records of British­ers on the Indi­an edu­ca­tion sys­tem. It con­tains the evi­dence for the kind of edu­ca­tion sys­tem that exist­ed in India. Just to get a glimpse, in Ben­gal province alone there were 1 lakh schools. Every­one was lit­er­ate. So it is not true that the Indi­an edu­ca­tion sys­tem was in any way back­ward or prim­i­tive. In fact, the numer­a­cy skill and IQ of house­hold women was very high.

Beauty of the Indian sciences

Observ­able at home: The beau­ty of Indic sci­ences is that its prin­ci­ples are observ­able at home. For instance, the quan­ti­ty of vit­a­mins and min­er­als present in a food can only be mea­sured in a lab­o­ra­to­ry. But Ayurve­da has brought it to the kitchen – we refer to a bal­anced diet as aruchu­vai unavu, which is food that is bal­anced in six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bit­ter and astrin­gent. Our dai­ly cook­ing – rasam, curd and poriyal can be looked in terms of these six tastes. When such sci­ences are built into a home and are part of every­day life, chil­dren will devel­op pride in the tra­di­tion­al knowl­edge of our land.

High­ly inte­grat­ed: Anoth­er aspect which express­es the beau­ty of Indic sci­ences is that they are all high­ly inte­grat­ed: one can­not be stud­ied or pre­dict­ed with­out the oth­ers. Today, we have biol­o­gy stu­dents say­ing they don’t know math­e­mat­ics and engi­neer­ing stu­dents say­ing they don’t know biol­o­gy. But when one stud­ies Indic sci­ences, one will require back­ground knowl­edge of all sci­ences to under­stand ful­ly with­out gaps.

Ayurve­da is the sci­ence of life. An impor­tant com­po­nent of Ayurve­da is Jyotisha, which is the sci­ence of align­ing the tim­ing of human actions with astro­nom­i­cal events. For exam­ple, to pre­pare Kashayam, pick­ing the leaves of herbs and prepar­ing the actu­al kashayam are both timed accord­ing to Jyotisha. Jyotisha requires knowl­edge of cos­mol­o­gy and geog­ra­phy, both of which imply a strong back­ground in math­e­mat­ics. A stu­dent of Ayurve­da must know Jyotisha, and in turn math­e­mat­ics also.

The knowl­edge of math­e­mat­ics and astron­o­my is essen­tial for tem­ple design and con­struc­tion. The build­ings of today may last for 50 years or max­i­mum of 500 years. But our tem­ples are 3000 – 5000 years old. This could have only been because of the high pre­ci­sion engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics that was used in their design. The Bri­hadeeswara tem­ple, Bada­mi cave tem­ples in Kar­nata­ka, Hampi in Kar­nata­ka, Maha­balipu­ram tem­ple are out­stand­ing exam­ples of beau­ty com­bined with math­e­mat­i­cal pre­ci­sion. To revive such meth­ods of design and con­struc­tion, we need to revive the Indic sci­ences.

In the field of math­e­mat­ics, India was the first to give zero to the world. Although it does not seem sig­nif­i­cant, zero is the most sig­nif­i­cant because it is what con­tains every­thing with­in itself. It is an emp­ty place­hold­er that makes it pos­si­ble for us to assign mag­ni­tudes to num­bers. There were some civ­i­liza­tions that did not have the con­cept of zero. With­out zero, there is no dif­fer­ence between 5 and 500, because there is no emp­ty place­hold­er. In the Vedas, gigan­tic num­bers such as 10 ^(bil­lion) and 10 ^(tril­lion) are men­tioned and used. This shows their depth of under­stand­ing of the scales encoun­tered in our uni­verse. The dis­tance between earth and sun was cal­cu­lat­ed using trigonom­e­try. In the field of med­i­cine, our texts describe meth­ods of plas­tic surgery as prac­tised by the renowned physi­cian, Sushru­ta as ear­ly as the 6th cen­tu­ry.

In terms of eco­nom­ic out­put, India’s GDP was very high in the past. In 1 AD, India con­tributed to 40% of the world’s GDP. After that, there was a very strong decline. It is not a coin­ci­dence that India was invad­ed by sev­er­al rulers and colo­nial pow­ers dur­ing the peri­od of the decline. It is obvi­ous that a nation that pro­duced such a high share of the world’s GDP was pop­u­lat­ed by high­ly intel­li­gent peo­ple, because pros­per­i­ty can­not hap­pen with­out knowl­edge. The knowl­edge that drove such high eco­nom­ic out­put was impart­ed through edu­ca­tion, which was based on the Indi­an sci­ences.

None of what is writ­ten here implies that the present sci­ences need to be removed from the cur­ricu­lum of course. The west­ern sci­ences can be there, but the Indic sci­ences need to be inte­grat­ed into our edu­ca­tion sys­tem.

Why are Indic sciences important for our children?

1)Better con­nect with our land

Study­ing Indi­an lan­guages is very impor­tant to under­stand the essence of the Indic sci­ences. What has hap­pened is that many of our great­est works have been trans­lat­ed by for­eign­ers, who have inter­pret­ed the text in their own way, with­out an under­stand­ing of the Indi­an ethos.

In Europe, for exam­ple, stu­dents learn all their sub­jects in native lan­guage. It is only at the post-grad­u­ate lev­el that they study sub­jects in Eng­lish. And they are not apolo­getic about the fact that they are well-versed in their own native lan­guage but not Eng­lish. They take pride in learn­ing all their sub­jects in their native lan­guage.

In our coun­try, it is only those stu­dents who do not obtain the marks required for a seat in oth­er col­lege degrees such as engi­neer­ing and sci­ence, who take up BA lit­er­a­ture. Such an impor­tant aspect of edu­ca­tion as native lan­guage train­ing can­not be side­lined to unin­ter­est­ed peo­ple. To go back to our roots, a sys­tem­at­ic train­ing in our basha, Indi­an lan­guages such as San­skrit, Hin­di and Tamil, is essen­tial.

2) Enhances mul­ti­ple intel­li­gences

The neu­ro­science exper­i­ment demon­strat­ed that San­skrit enhances ver­bal intel­li­gence. There are a vari­ety of words in San­skrit, each of which can be traced to a seed sound, called Bija Mantra. Dai­ly chant­i­ng of Bha­gavad Gita and Thirukkur­al is extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial for the all round devel­op­ment of children’s intel­li­gence.

Ayurve­da con­nects chil­dren with plants and the land. An Ayurve­da plant expert can iden­ti­fy 20–30 herbs in a small patch of land and list their med­i­c­i­nal prop­er­ties. Such diver­si­ty in Ayurve­da con­nects indi­vid­u­als with the land. In fact, stu­dents of Ayurve­da do not even touch the plants with their feet to indi­cate them; that is how much con­nect­ed they are with the plants.

3) Inher­ent­ly val­ue-based

It is evi­dent that there is no val­ue-based com­po­nent in col­lege edu­ca­tion in terms of life skills and val­ue skills. Indic sci­ences can trans­form that.

4) Cre­ates social­ly and envi­ron­men­tal­ly con­scious chil­dren

The fun­da­men­tal thread with which the fab­ric of Indi­an cul­ture is woven is that every­thing is Divine. Every per­son, every being, every­thing is Divine. And this fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple is embed­ded in each of the Indic sci­ences – Yoga, Ayurve­da, Indi­an astron­o­my, Jyotisha, Vas­tu Shas­tra, and so on. No oth­er land has this prin­ci­ple at its core. It is only in our land that we live this prin­ci­ple every­day.

What sci­ences can we intro­duce?

B – Basha: The Indi­an lan­guages, which are sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly designed, com­plete with vari­ety of sounds and excel­lent code of gram­mar. Need­ed to under­stand Indic sci­ences in their orig­i­nal form.

I – Iti­hasa: mean­ing “as it is”, Indi­an his­to­ry, Mahab­hara­ta and Ramayana which con­nect stu­dents with the true his­to­ry of Bhara­ta and realise the civ­i­liza­tion­al con­ti­nu­ity; and which offer sto­ries that incul­cate val­ues and inspire stu­dents to put in their best effort towards knowl­edge. For exam­ple, the sto­ries of Arju­na and Guru Dronacharya.

J – Jee­va vidya : the sci­ence of life, Yoga and Ayurve­da, to have the right under­stand­ing of life and how the human being and the uni­verse are relat­ed.

A – Antarik­sha vidya : the study of space, Indi­an astron­o­my and Jyotisha, to incul­cate the habit of observ­ing the sky and devel­op aware­ness of the rela­tion­ship between events in human life and astro­nom­i­cal events.

BIJA, mean­ing “seed”

Where can we start?

Night Sky Watch­ing: Most chil­dren stay at home in the night and wake up only after Sun­rise. Few min­utes of sky watch­ing every night, sup­ple­ment­ed with tools like Google Sky Map can be very trans­for­ma­tion­al as they observe the shape of moon, the posi­tions of the plan­ets in var­i­ous con­stel­la­tions and how each plan­et tran­si­tion with var­i­ous speeds. Observ­ing the north­ward and south­ward move­ment of the Sun can also be fas­ci­nat­ing

Food and Impact on Body: Intu­itive Indi­an health frame­works like Vata, Pit­ta and Kapha can help chil­dren observe the impact of var­i­ous foods on their body. Map­ping the foods they eat and the Ayurvedic prin­ci­ples can make chil­dren con­scious about what they eat. Most prob­lems arise lat­er in life main­ly due to uncon­scious con­sump­tion of food.

Yoga for Flex­i­bil­i­ty: For robust health it is not only impor­tant for chil­dren to have a strong body but a flex­i­ble one too. Yog­ic prac­tices not only give a healthy body but also a mind that is free from stress and ten­sion.

Val­ue Based Sto­ries from Ithi­hasa: The Mahab­hara­ta and Ramayana are replete with val­ue-based sto­ries. Intro­duc­ing chil­dren to them can help them cul­ti­vate the right set of val­ues need­ed to han­dle prob­lems of the soci­ety and emu­late good role mod­els.

Intro­duc­ing San­skrit: San­skrit has come through years and years of refine­ment and has one of the finest gram­mars. It is a mature and high­ly struc­tured lan­guage. Dai­ly prac­tice of San­skrit can have immense ben­e­fits to chil­dren includ­ing enhanc­ing their ver­bal and cog­ni­tive capa­bil­i­ties. Some form of chants every­day can be intro­duced and grad­ual increase in the com­plex­i­ty of the chants can be tru­ly ben­e­fi­cial.

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