Women's Education

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Women's Education

Written by -S. Radhakrishan.

               You are living in an age when there are great opportunities for women in social work, public life and administration. Society requires women of disciplined minds and restrained manners. Whatever line of work you undertake, you should bring to it an honest, disciplined mind. You will then succeed and have the joy of your work.

               Actually in our country, education, so far as girls' education is concerned, is not widespread enough. So every institution which contributes to the education of girls is worthy of recognition and encouragement. But I am anxious that the kind of education that is imparted must not only be broad but should also be deep. We are lacking in depth. We may become learned and skilled, but if we do not have some kind of purpose in our life, our lives themselves become blind, blundering and bitter. The Gita says: vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha. For a truly cultured mind, there is a single-mindedness, a dedication to a single purpose. For the uncultured mind, the whole life is scattered in many direction- bahusakha hyanantascta. Therefore it is essential that the education which you acquire in these institutions should give you not merely learning and skill but endow you with a definite purpose in life. What that purpose is you have to define for yourselves. It is said that vidya gives you viveka, vimarsarupini vidya gives you a sense of what is right and helps you to avoid what is wrong. You must try, therefore, to find out what is required of you in this generation. A purpose which held good centuries ago may not hold good today in view of the rapidly changing conditions of our country and of the world. So the purpose which you adopt in your life must be adapted to the relevant needs of the present generation.

               Every time we start, we use our hymns and end with saying santih, santih, santih. The teacher and the pupils are expected to avoid hating each other.

               Compassion; daya, is the quality which is more characteristic of women than of men. I read recently a book which speaks about the decline of womanhood, and says that this is so because there is a decline in compassion. In other words, the natural quality of woman is compassion. If you do not have compassion, you are not human. It is therefore, essential for every human being to develop the quality of considerateness, kindness and compassion. Without these qualities we are only human animals, nara pasu, not more than that.

               There is a famous verse which tells us, samsara visavrksasya. In this imperfect world, samsara, there are two fruits of inimitable quality. They are the study of our great classics and communion with great minds. These two are the things which mould men's minds and hearts. I am anxious that our great classics should be studied, the classics of all countries of which we are the inheritors. It is a small dialogue in an Upanisad that a question is put: 'What constitutes the essence of good life?' The teacher replies: 'didn't you hear the answer? There was a thunderclap: da da da. Immediately the teacher explained that these were the essence of good life dama, dana, daya. They constitute the essentials of the good life. You must have dama of self-control, restraint, which is the mark of a human being. In the Ramayana when Lakshmana sets out for the forest, his mother tells him: 'Look upon Rama as your father, Dasaratha; Look upon Sita as myself, as your mother: Look upon the forest as Ayodhya; go my dear.'

               There are ever so many thrilling stories in our classics which will instill into us great moral strength, which will lay down for us the lines on which we have to conduct ourselves.

               Give us good women, we will have a great civilization.

               Give us good mother, we will have a great nation.

               When you talk about education, you have several aims in view: give the people, those who are taught, knowledge of the world in which they live- science, history and geography enable you to get that knowledge; you also train the people to acquire some technical skill by which they can earn a livelihood. These are still accepted the world over as the objects of education: knowledge of the world in which you live and technical skill by which you can earn livelihood. But what is there specific about the kind of education imparted in the institutions of our country? We have heard that the chief purpose of education is not merely the acquiring of skill or information but the initiation into a higher life, initiation into a world which transcends the world of Space and Time, though the latter informs and animates the former. That has been the main purpose of education. For some centuries we neglected our womenfolk. Our tradition, however, has been somewhat different:

               Prakalpesu narinal

               Mandira vandana nisccitah

               Adhyapananca vedanam

               Gayatri vacanam tatha.

               In ancient times, our women had the ceremony of upanayana performed for them. They were entitled to a study of the Vedas. They were also entitled to the chanting of the gayarti japa. All these things were open to our women. But our civilization became arrested and one the main signs of that decay of our civilization is the subjection of women.

               After Independence, through the exertions of Mahatma Gandhi, a revolution has been effected in our country, and women are coming into their own.