Some ideas on Changing Education-
Inspiration : The Taoist Way
I. Inner Transformation – from Being towards Becoming
Any intention to change the existing way of education has to begin with the effort towards a gradual self transformation, learning to think beyond the territorial frame into which we are born, forcefully tinting our views about ourselves and our surroundings.
Self transformation will lead to explore Life and Death as a continuous flux, the Becoming rather than the static illusion of Being. Becoming can be sensed, by its inherent essence, out of territorial limitations as Becoming means dynamism, and change, a frontier less metaphoric happening. Being is necessarily related to fixed characteristics, ruled by the criteria of pertinence.
“To learn the way of the Buddha is to learn about oneself. To learn about oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be enlightened by everything in the world. To be enlightened by everything is to let fall one’s own body and mind” - Dogen (13th century)
(Anne Bancroft, Zen Direct pointing to reality, 1979: 5)
“Tantra, in fact, plunges one back into the roots of one’s own identity, mot just by discussing social roles and interpersonal communication, and not by of offering the kind of clear-cut or comforting answers given by the dogmatic theology as straight religions. Tantra says if you do these things which Tantrikas have discovered, you will find yourself in a positive experience what the truth is about yourself and your world as directly as you can experience the street.”
(Philip Rawson, The Indian Cult of Ecstasy Tantra, 1973’p.8
II. Overcoming loneliness by cultivating the virtue of Solitude
Belonging to a particular territorial frame means to confide in something which is apparently solid and permanent. Thus, belonging to a certain territorial frame (be it nation, faith, party etc) requires adherence to an implicit corpus of behavioral ethic, which determines virtue versus vice, the presumably Good Way as the opponent of the Bad Way.
By freeing oneself of inner territorialism and learning to be an integral and inseparable part of the Becoming or Infinity, we learn a different Ethics. Not the one imposed by the rules of temporary cultural context but the one linked to the Universe Breath.
Every day becomes a new challenge to improve the adaptation of body, soul, mind and energy to the outer phenomena and events, so that we become a part of them. We become the observer and the explorer at one and the same time. Paradoxically the non pertaining mind is continuously involved in the big cosmic happening. This alertness is also a magnificent solitude. Solitude enables us to participate in the Great Flux of everything.
“When you become dependent on something outside without having awareness of the reality within you, then you will indeed be lonely. The whole search for enlightenment is to seek within, to become aware that you are complete in yourself. You are perfect. You don’t need any externals. No matter what happens in any situation, you need never be lonely.” (Swami Rama: Living with the Himalayas Masters, p.53)
III. The Effortless Effort
Loneliness is a product of the territorial experience, as the members of the community that might feel lonely if their modus Vivendi does not respond to the dominating notions of success or failure.
Free of the box of fixed social views about success or failure, every new endeavor enriches our spirit just because of its freshness and the link to the mysterious and the Unknown. Daily life becomes an adventure, leading to new gates, new paths. This way of living the days is not conditioned by a final goal, which will presumably grant us the crown of success or bestow on us the shame of failure.
By making the way an inseparable part of the goal – success or failure lose their significance, as every occurrence is appreciated by its Uniqueness.
“……Therefore Evolved Individuals
Hold their position without effort,
Practice their philosophy without words,
Are a part of All Things and overlook nothing.
They produce but do not possess,
Act without expectation,
Succeed without taking credit.”
(Lao Tzu’s Classic Guide to Leadership, Influence and Excellency (Trans. R.L. Wing), 1986: 2)
“….If nirvana is ‘de-spiration’, it is the act of one who has seen the futility of trying to hold his breath or life (prana) indefinitely, since
to hold the breath is to lose it. Thus nirvana is the equivalent of moksha, release or liberation. Seen from one side, it appears to be despair – the recognition that life utterly defeats our efforts to control it, that all human striving is no more than a vanishing hand clutching at clouds. Seen from the other side, this despair bursts into joy and creative power, on the principle that to lose one’s life is to find it to find freedom of action unimpeded by self frustration and the anxiety inherent in trying to save and control the Self”
(Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, 1985, p. 50
IV. The Ultimate teaching of an interdisciplinary insight.
We are part of Nature, part of the minerals, stones, plants, animals, landscapes - nothing is separated; every fragment is prompt to be alternated, according to a different context. Over sophistication, definitions, categorization and similar conceptual pre-concepts might darken the mind and avoid grasping reality, which – similarly to a mirror- never shows the complete picture or an ideal wholeness. Thus, in order to attain inter-disciplinary complexity, we may start practicing simplicity and anchoring, so as to avoid being lead astray by personal anxieties, ambitions, fancy or any other illusionary fantasy.
“Over the peak spreading clouds,
At its source the river’s cold.
If you would see,
Climb the mountain top.
(Zen Poetry (ed. & trasns. by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto,1981, p.46).
“Then comes the valley of love;
Whoever enters this valley falls into fire.
The lover becomes alike to the fire;
Warm, hot and rebellious;
The good and the bad become equal to him.
When love arrives, everything perishes.
Others live for a promised tomorrow,
But the lover lives in his own presence.
The intellect loses significance,
Since love is not an art for the mind.
If your eyes may see secrets,
You will witness the origin.
But if your eyes are those of the mind,
You will not see even the image of love.
Sheikh Farideddin Attar Neyshapouri (1341)
(Nahid Angsha, Principles of Sufism, 1991, pp 69-70)
V. Process-based approach to Education
Education that stresses a continuous process has a dynamic that unites a way-of-thinking and a set of goals. This is opposed rather than education that emphasizes a rigid plan with an associated method and goals. The teaching of process, in any domain of studies, requires a complex approach that is based on a continuum or interlinking within time and space.
In order to adapt a way of thinking that mimics a continuum with no definite beginning or end, there is a need to modify the inner vision. The Way of Process does not make any differentiation between the rational and the emotional, the spiritual and the physical.
Categories are artificial - serving an a priori thesis, and they depend on a cultural context in space and time. As such, they are relative and unable to comprise the continuum .The Way of Process gives up definite answers or solutions. Rather, it triggers the curiosity to find multiple interlinking approaches and thus enables the mind to continuously explore and experience the multifaceted universe. This ever- new interlinking process brings forth new insights. The new insights enrich the spectrum of the interlinking effect and so the teaching\learning endeavor becomes a real celebration.
Due to its regenerating aspect, education by process, gives up absolute truths or deterministic theories, and opts for a lively search, always open to the Unknown. It cannot be fully comprehended as the unknown of yesterday becomes the Known of today bringing forth the Unknown of tomorrow….. A process marks the infinite interlinking of things and phenomena, introducing a space for mystery, for the yet unexplored. Everything is relative and comparative, as we are part of impermanence. Acknowledging our inherent limitation as mortal beings permits an approach that is both humble and daring. Humble due to our finite nature and daring due to our willingness to explore the Infinity of The Ever Changing Nature of Everything.
The Way of process, shedding light on the potential infinite interlinking act, increases the ability to experience the vanishing concreteness and thus paradoxically also increasing our capacity to touch The Subtle.
“The ‘this’ is also ‘that’. The ’that’ is also ‘this’…That the ‘that’ and the ‘this’ cease to be opposites is the very essence of Tao. Only this essence, an axis as it were, is the centre of the circle responding to the endless changes”
(Fritjop Capra, THE TAO OF PHYSICS, Boston, 1991,p.114 based on Lao Tzu, TAO TE CHING, trans, Ch’u Ta-Kao, chs 40 and 25)
VI. Intercultural experience
Process avoids seeing the world by means of grouping into categories or asserting by pre-conceptual hierarchical criteria. Both methods depend on cultural context. However, Reality that seems to be sensed, can be imagined as an unseen thread, with no beginning or end, in which all phenomena appear, remain or not, in a personal or collective memory apparatus. All phenomena intermingle in the invisible flux. The intercultural aspect in teaching/learning can help to point out the flux of successive events, the ever changing context of The River of Being. By resigning to count the drops of the River we may be enriched by the running water.
Within the running water the beliefs - icons, myths and symbols of Humanity - may be envisioned, each time by an alternative cultural point of view. The intercultural journey may become an enriching source of information and enticing excitement.
“Make everyone love this land,
Love this place, that place,
This is the interaction that we are leading people to practice,
It is this force; it will reach around the globe”
Dharma Master Hsin Tao,
Dharma Master Hsin Tao, TRUE MIND, Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society
As Life is by its nature – secretive for it is a continuous walking towards the Unknown, we may teach and learn the Vitality of Awe.
Awe is vital as it is a disposition to be open minded towards the coming events. In comparison to memories of the past, which depend on our personal and collective good or bad experiences, awe may be grasped as a latent emptiness to be refilled in one way or another. Good memories are likely to drag the learner into a futile attempt to repeat his past deeds. Bad memories are liable to become an imaginative obstacle, withholding any possible achievement. So as to overcome both repetitive acts as well as the abstention of initiative and endeavor, we should cultivate, as teachers and learners, the ability to wonder. This is done not only by will but by a daily effort. Contemplation and observation are excellent tools to trigger awe. Contemplation of the continuum
necessarily requires an innovative eye to hunt the perceived reality, with no prey in the hand. The act of aimlessly hunting the passing events – brings forth the awareness of transformation and transfiguration. The Science of Awe makes us alive, as we become an integral part of the Flowing Life.
“On the rocky slope, blossoming
Plums – from where?
Once he saw them,Reiun
Danced all the way to Sandai”
(Chinese poetry in ZEN POETRY, ed. And trans. Lucien Stryk, L, and Takashi Ikemoto, London, 1977, p.11)
VIII. Less is More
Awe has to be attained by hard work as it requires freeing oneself of the memories grip. Experiences, if seen in the context of Awe, obtain in every moment a different facet. They escape a defined monolithic significance. The memories of past experiences may become a dynamic particle of the fluidity of events, enriching our awareness. If past experience is absorbed and ever colored by changing circumstances, we need not worry about the accumulation of data and information offered by the past. Instead, we should live ad hoc, overcoming the artificial separation of past-present or future tenses.
The teacher/ learner of awe may, therefore, consider sometimes using less learned argumentation in order to prove a certain theme. They would rather choose a succinct refreshing insight, causing the mind to abandon the logic of causality, always depending on a preconceived and linear system.
“He who conforms to the course of the Tao, following the natural processes of Heaven and Earth, finds it easy to manage the whole world”
Jiao Man Tzu
(Capra, Op.citp. p.105)
Maybe universality can be comprehended as the contribution of every new learning field to improve the quality of everyday life. Universality might be realized only if we overcome the separation between theory and practice, soul and body, life and death….
Every material body is actualized by its soul or Spirit….Every creature is born, nurtures itself, begins the process of growth and ends in death. It is better if a botanist tends his own garden and if a veterinarian avoids eating meat…Theory, as part of praxis, and vice versa, helps annul inner conflicts, avoiding the fall into stigmas, prejudice and generalizations. Freshness of ideas is counterbalanced by the freshness of the effortful action. The non separation of body/mind/feelings/energy – facilitates the exploration of the Existent.
“Outside, hundreds of acres of green shades,
Pairs of yellow orioles sing in roundelay,
Waking up from my mid-day nap,
Everything touches off latent feelings,
I sauntered to the parasol tree by the drinking well,
A wind stirred
And the shadows of dancing flowers filled the yard.
Ru Meng Ling
(MODERN RENDITION OF SELECTED OLD CHINESE CI-POEMS, trans. Kung Ching Hao, Beijing, 1996, p.120)
X. The Cyclic and Linear Enterprise
All creatures participate in the cyclic and linear enterprise of Creation.
Every individual - be it a plant, an animal, natural phenomena – follows its own linear path starting by birth and ending in death. However, the cycle of birth and death of everything (the species, the plants, galaxies….) is unending. The abstract and absolute cyclic characteristic of all things cannot be grasped without the concreteness of the particular and linear death (John, Jane, Yana ….)
The teacher/learner therefore is asked to see at one and the same time, the circular and the linear: the linear which is finite and vanishing, as well as the Eternal Cycle of the Universe or the Ever-Changing Essence. Such an educational path, comprising both the visible linear and the invisible circular, may ameliorate both the observation of detail as well as the capacity of abstraction. Thus, we could feel at ease with temporary solutions as well as with pending questions, with the presumably known and the Unknown.
“Using what is not
Thirsty spokes converge at one hub;
What is not there makes the wheel useful.
Clay is shaped to form a vessel;
What is not there makes the vessel useful.
Door and Windows are cut to from a room;
What is not there makes the room useful.
Therefore, take advantage of what is there,
By making use of what is not.
(The Tao of Power, a new translation of the Tao Te Ching by R.L. Wing, Northamptonshire, 1986, p.11)
To be relevant is to act according to the flux of Being. In other words, to be equally released of past experiences and of future goals. The present way is the present goal, which continuously evolves as the way goes on. Amplifying the here and now by uniting inner and outer worlds: body, feelings, mind, energy and momentary experience. We, then, decrease the tension between a subjective trained minds, confronting the world by labeling, looking for answers, fearing….Instead we become explorers who delight in searching The Unsearchable.
“Those who would take over the world and manage it,
I see that they cannot grasp it;
For the world is a spiritual (wen) vessel
And cannot be forced.
Whoever forces it spoils it.
Whoever grasps it loses it
(Allan Watts with collaboration of,Chuang-Liang Huang ,TAO THE WATERCOURSE WAY, London, 1976,p.52
(For additional reading please see The Book of Inter-religious Peace)
The Book of Inter-religious Peace