उमीद है…

उमीद है खुली हवा में साँस मैं लूँगी,
जीवन का आग़ाज़ कर
संसार में रंग अपना मैं बिखराऊँगी,

उमीद है मन आज तुम्हें मोहित कर
तुम्हारे चेहरे पर मुस्कुराहट की वजह मैं बनूँगी
तुम्हारे जीने की वजह मैं बनूँगी…

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Shiksha: My Experiments as an Education Minister by Manish Sisodia

‘Education’ though the strongest pillar of the society, has never been in the election agenda of any political party. Why? Because the investment in education does not yield instant results. And if anyone were to invest in education, looking at the dismal condition of the government schools the political parties would find it more sensible to look the other way than take upon them the herculean task of revamping the schools in their constituencies.

The Delhi government(I did not mention the name of the political party on purpose. What’s important is that the political party ‘X’ gave importance to education and it became the harbinger of change) has done the unbelievable in the field of Education. They have literally turned the tables. This book describes their efforts of four years in the field of education and also documents the story of transformation in the government schools of Delhi.

They started the reforms by increasing the budget allocated for education, a steep increase from 12 percent to 25 percent. The personal involvement of the Education minister too, made a difference.

Next, they changed the look of each school. The schools were cleaned, classes were whitewashed, toilets were made and further steps taken to provide the basic ‘modern’ infrastructure which is the prerogative for learning to happen.

The other measures taken were

  • the Principals were empowered by strengthening their positions and more funds were at their disposal
  • The teachers and Principals were trained in Delhi and in IIMs
  • They were also sent abroad for training
  • Teachers were to focus on teaching rather than do other clerical jobs for the govt.
  • The system of Mentor-Teacher was introduced
  • The participation of parents was increased and they were given full dignity. PTMs were started and the teacher-parent partnership was strengthened for the improvement of academic performance of students.

In addition to these, steps were taken to reform the education system so that a new society could be created through education which rises above the evils of discrimination. The officials underwent training of ‘Jeevan Vidya Shivir’ which is based on the concept of coexistence. The concept of competition was to be minimised because the competition has to be with oneself and not the others.

“Children have to have faith in themselves. Faith in self means understanding the usefulness of oneself, to have faith in life.”

Manish Sisodia

The Happiness Class was introduced so that the students understand their emotions, needs, wants and desires. During these sessions, the students practice mindfulness meditation, listen to inspirational stories and then discuss their thoughts and reactions. It reminded me of the Awakened Citizen Program training I had undergone at the Ramakrishna Mission, which emphasis that goodness is intrinsic in each human being.

For classes 9 to 12, Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum has been painstakingly designed and implemented. This has been done with the objective that these students will be future ready and confident enough to ‘create jobs’ for others rather than merely seek jobs. In the words of the Education minister, “an economy of jobseekers can never compete with one of job creators and providers.” Thus, if we have to compete in the world arena, we require entrepreneurs.

Whatever has been documented in this book, is at the nascent stage and yet it has brought about tremendous change. The Board results of past few years are a proof of the positive impact of these reforms. I hope that other governments and political parties follow suit and embark on a journey to achieve the aims of education, i.e. to make people learn the ability to live happily and to help others live happily!!

The Foreword of this book goes, “Delhi, a Hope…” It has made me hopeful. Acche din aayenge…zaroor aayenge!!

The Unborn – The Life Teachings of Zen Master Bankei – Translated by Norman Waddell

“All the things are resolved in the Unborn” ~~Master Bankei

I am a fan of Buddhism and a bigger fan of Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism has helped me connect with myself. In the process, I have evolved and grown as a person. Or rather, I should say that I am evolving each day, each minute and with each breath.

The Unborn – this book introduced me to an entirely new concept of Zen Buddhism. The Zen Master Bankei(1622-1693) preached about the concept of the Unborn. As you can make out, it is connected to the state before the birth. According to him, the human mind is enlightened when it is ‘unborn’. The Unborn is the origin of all the beginning of all. There is no source apart from the Unborn and no beginning that is before the Unborn. So being Unborn means dwelling at the very source of the Buddhas.

He came to this realisation and attained enlightenment when he was at the age of 26 years. He had to undergo great difficulties to attain it. He had put his body and mind through long years of struggle which had weakened him both mentally and physically. He stayed in hermitage for years together to find answers to the questions about life. And after fourteen years of incredible hardship, he had achieved a decisive enlightenment.

He also introduced the concept of ‘the undying’ along with the Unborn. In the words of Master Bankei, ‘there can be no death for what was never born, so if it is unborn, it is obviously undying.’ He urges the people to stay in the Unborn and not add to illusions. When the mind has illusions, it leaves the enlightened state.

A few more teachings of the Zen Master…

‘The Unborn Buddha-mind is where the Buddhas of the past all attained their realization and where future Buddhas will attain theirs.’

‘Not a single one of you people at this meeting is an enlightened. Right now you are all sitting before me as both of us. Each of you received the Buddha mind from your mothers when you were born and nothing else. This inherited Buddha mind is beyond any doubt unborn, with a marvellously bright illuminative wisdom.’

‘Your self-partiality is at the root of all your illusions. There aren’t any illusions when you don’t have this preference for yourself.’

The narration of the book is slow paced and that helps the reader to introspect and contemplate. If the reader chooses to, he/she gets enough time to soak in the teachings.

The translation is rather crude. It could have been better had the writer had in-depth knowledge about the Eastern religions and philosophies. As a result, there are places where the Zen Master comes across as boastful and self-centered. This goes against the essence of Buddhism. I have read many books translated by the people from the west on these topics and do justice to the content. It would have made the teachings far more impactful, had the translation been any better.