We have just finished a 5-day contemplative, residential, parisamvaad, a detailed discussion, on tradition and modernity, at Bangalore. The Parisamvaad was organized by Udhbhavaha, an alternative school that works closely with SIDH. Held at the Art of living ashram, the parisamvaad had around 20 participants who had a slow conversation around some passages from ‘Illuminations’, a book by Professor A.K. Saran. The objective of the parisamvaad was to help participants ‘see’ through the fog and brainwashing inflicted on us as we pass through the modern education system of India. It looked like the objective was met to a certain degree and all the participants felt that we had a useful conversation that opened some new doors and showed some new perspectives.
About the usefulness of the parisamvaad I had an insight that I shared with the participants. Long ago, I had gone for a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat to Igatpuri around the monsoon season. Set in the Western ghats near Nasik, Igatpuri was green and cloud-filled-wet and incredibly beautiful. I stayed in a small, isolated, single-room cottage on the campus as I went through the intense silent meditation retreat. I was deeply moved by my experience and at the end of the retreat I came out of the Vipassana centre thinking that my life was changed forever. I resolved that I would spend the rest of my life in the service of the divine and planned to further explore my deep meditative experience. As I travelled towards Mumbai in increasingly crowded local trains, I found my resolve weakening and my experience fading like a dream. My insight during the parisamvaad, however, was that even though the experience faded and I got caught in the rush of life, something had changed, because we cannot unsee what we have once seen. I felt that these slow conversations we have been having at SIDH samvaads also serve a similar purpose, where like minded people come together in friendship and openness and at an individual level get a little bit more clarity than before.
To give you a flavour of the parisamvaad, let me conclude with a sample passage that was discussed at length during the meeting:
“The Illuminations School has to grapple with minds which, to a good extent, are already formed and largely conditioned in favour of “modernity” (and the modern Western civilization) and against tradition (and the ancient civilizations). The first requirement of such a situation is to get out of the tradition-modernity antithesis or dichotomy…to go deeper and deeper into the nature and inner telos of modernity. Education aims at truth and not at desired types of mentality. The second requirement is to create a free, uncluttered intellectual space so that there can grow genuine receptivity in minds shaped and equipped by the present educational system for gullibility of one sort or another. The third requirement of our present pedagogical situation is to restore the internal relation between knowledge and action, theory and praxis, thinking and living; a relation which modern education completely disrupts, at best, rendering it contingent. Our task in the Illuminations School is to seek pedagogic methods, strategies and techniques that may meet the above requirements as adequately as possible.”
– Page 18 and 19, Illuminations, A. K. Saran