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Education with Hands, Hearts & Heads

Satish Kumar is a world-renowned speaker on ecological and spiritual issues that visited Tunghai University’s campus, where he gave a talk on “holistic education” last week.

Dr. Satish Kumar opened up his presentation with how nonviolence can improve the quality of life and how it allows us to participate in social and political movements for peaceful and a positive change. Nonviolence is a basic principle of a harmonious relationship with the natural world, the spiritual world and the social world. It allows us to interact with each other, and with the natural environment in such a way that our lives are enriched and fulfilled. According to Satish Kumar, “when we have respect for all life; not just human life but animal and plant life, water life, and the life of the earth, the qualities of compassion and love blossom in us, which in return makes us more creative, imaginative, and even happy.” His main point was to create a new understanding where human beings can live well without harming the Earth. Dr. Satish Kumar stressed that we can have an enjoyable, comfortable, good life without needing material possessions. “They do not improve the quality of our life!” What we really need is to work hard to enhance, nurture, nourish and improve our human relationships and our relationship with the natural world.

Dr. Kumar used the analogy of the soul being like a seed, he said that, while the seed, may seem like nothing, yet it has the potential to blossom into the apple tree that will nourish many. Kumar said that the gardener cannot turn the seed into a tree; Instead, he can only provide the right conditions with good soil, plenty of water and sunlight, etc – so that it can realize its potential.

 Learning is a life-long process. It does not end when one leaves a school or a university. In fact, true learning begins when life at school and university ends. Schools and universities provide formal education of limited value. Whereas, learning from living, from doing, from making and from interacting with others is informal learning and is much more real and of far greater importance. A society that values success and despises failures is not a learning society. We learn from nature, we learn from people, we learn from difficult experiences and above all, we learn from our mistakes and failures.

In this mind-opening talk, Dr. Kumar drew attention to the lack of a genuine understanding of nature in our education systems. He provided his theoretical framework for how education should be holistic, which is learning with the whole being. His compelling case for a more holistic approach to education involved the three H’s: heart, head, and hands. Current education, he said, focused only on the head. While it was important, it needed to also focus on doing things with the hands and learning how to build and foster relationships with the heart.

In the age of money and power, the meaning of education has become distorted. People and institutions often lose sight of the bigger picture, because they have mistaken education as filling “empty baskets” with knowledge, he said. In addition, Satish addressed the importance of growing and cooking food because these are ways to develop relationship with soil, land and the nature by saying that, “we need to have a deep commitment and connection to nature.”

Satish is a teacher who has always walked his talk, and always found ways to put his philosophy into practice. It was an excellent speech that provided many practical ideas for how we can actively move into this new paradigm. In the spirit of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus, Satish Kumar brought his gentle wisdom and shared that we need to end the pattern of destruction that threatens our world today.

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