Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Questioning the question: Guru= shishya…shishya= guru???

The early concept of gurukulam in which a guru (teacher) teaches and guides his (sic) shishyas (students) was one which was tried and tested to a great extend in the Indian context. Even now it continues to rule the roost in many institutions. This concept even made perfect sense. The message would travel from the guru in the direction of the students with minimal disturbance, since the students would usually sit in rapt attention of their teacher. Any alteration would be dealt with sternly. Feedback was not expected since the guru was the authority on the subject.

Students who dared to question what was taught would be ousted and some of them were creative and brave enough to start their own schools. These days the balance of power has shifted. Information is available (not for all in India) and this, when converted into knowledge can put an individual in a position of privilege. The traditional model of communication therefore stands exposed in it’s weakness. A relevant model would then be a criss-cross between two centres of knowledge, where the distinction between guru and shishya is blurred.

This would make perfect sense to many. But there is a catch here. The feedback and two way communication is only between two power centres. What then happens to those who can’t catch up into the realm of these power centres? In effect they are left out of the process of communication. This converts the guru-shishya into the insider-outsider. (Interestingly the outsider is a construction of the insider)

The democratization or the new face of education is then a new face of discrimination and neglect. What then could be a solution to this? One of the answers could well be the disruption of the communication process. Small centres of protest will form human chains of protest to prevent a skewed and selective communication. This will last till we accept every shishya as a guru in his/her capacity or moment (This is a very popular usage these days) rather than accepting a selective phase of blurring where selective gurus and shishyas switch into each others domain.


Dr.Rudhran said...

your views are interesting. i am currently working on understanding the farce that is sold as gurudom. i hope we keep in touch

Fr Jerry said...

I guess in India a lot is 'sold', and 'packaged'. That's the problem. Education in countries like India is an exchange between 'haves' whereas the 'have-nots' are out of the equation. I am keeping track of your writing as well.

Rohan said...

An apt one, Jerry! It’s true of any system built on the gurukula model. This famous thanksgiving prayer, “I thank you, Father… because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, such was your gracious will” destroys the absolutized power center. This model builds up on the hitherto unheard.

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks Rohan. I guess we need to shake up the system a bit. And I think we should start with the theological system as well. Somehow we are doing the opposite of what we are supposed to do.The prayer is indeed a good one.