Spirituality is an important aspect of life for people all over the world. No universal definition exists for spirituality, but it is commonly known to be complimentary to physical and mental health, helpful for an individual’s wellbeing and is interconnected with culture, ethnic heritage, and racial or ethnic identity. It is often measured by whether people believe in God and if they do, how often they attend religious services, or what their religion is. The degree to which spirituality is an important part of life for youth is not studied much till date. Discovering and promoting ways to nurture the spirituality of youth could help them with a means to cope with challenges in their lives. Most youth took up a view of spirituality that includes reverence for God as a source of protection, love and fulfillment.
Notion of spirituality in the Western philosophical tradition: The Western intellectual tradition is largely influenced by the ancient Greek notions of soul or spirit especially by Plato and Aristotle. The Greek philosophers considered all living things as possessing a spirit and as having a soul, or life-principle which departs at death.
The Greek philosophy tried to develop this line of reflection into the discovery of mind. In humans, soul is considered to be independent of matter which enabled it to go beyond the material body to grasp reality in the form of ideas. In this sense spirituality was the basis of the distinctively human attributes namely language, laughter, abstract thought, and reasoning – all of those characteristics which were distinctive of human life.
Any discussion on spirituality and education would definitely sound incomplete without a mention of Swami Vivekananda’s views on it. The educational philosophy of Swami Vivekananda is a comfortable blend of the ancient ideals of the East and modern Western beliefs. He stressed upon the physical, mental, moral, spiritual and vocational development of the child and upheld the importance of women education as well as of the masses. The basic characteristics of educational philosophy of Swami Vivekananda are idealism, naturalism and pragmatism. He emphasized that real education is possible only through nature and natural propensities on the naturalisitic front. On the idealist front, he insists that the aim of education is to develop moral and spiritual qualities in a child. As far as the pragmatics of education is concerned, he emphasized on the Western education of technology, commerce, industry and science to achieve material prosperity. In a nutshell, he emphasized spiritual development, then the material development and then the safety of life and an access to food and clothes especially for the masses.
Vivekananda locates religion at the core of education and says education devoid of the study of religions is not useful. He is of the opinion that religion should be a vital part of a sound curriculum where Gita, Upanishads and the Vedas must be studied in depth. According to him, religion helps not only in individual’s development but also in transforming a man totally. The true religion should ideally cross the temporal aspect. He urged people for having a unity of world religion. One would realize truth only if religion is practised. He held the truth to be the power, untruth to be the weakness of individuals. Knowledge is an asset, ignorance is curse. Thus truth contributes to the manifold increase of power, courage and energy. Truth is light and ignorance is darkness. Vivekananda also opines that ethics and religion are one and the same. God always stands by goodness. To serve God one has to fight for goodness all over. The moral and religious education develops the self confidence among the young men and women.
Students with a high flare for spirituality find colleges which have courses on spirituality. They are of the opinion that they would find the right purpose of life by attending those courses. They also expect that their college experience would immensely contribute to their self-understanding, and to their emotional and spiritual development. Students who are inclined towards spirituality could nurture themselves with mediation and self-reflection by doing which they will grow to be very responsible citizens of the country who respect others’ beliefs and opinions. Such students would also tolerate others’ religious bent of mind; they would also involve themselves in charitable organizations and services towards humanity.
Spirituality cannot be equated with religion as it often was thought to be. Spirituality promotes equal respect to all religions and respect for others’ belief systems. The lessons along spirituality lines have to be introduced quite early in a child’s life, precisely starting from the primary school in the form of moral science classes. Children who are drawn towards spiritual education would develop a higher tolerance level by which they would be able to respect others’ religious inclinations. They would not unnecessarily interfere in others’ affairs; instead they would let others follow their own courses of life.
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