This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Search for methodological options in education — the Upanishadic way

Rashmi Sethi — University of Delhi, Delhi

Drawing upon the principal Upanishads for illustrations, this presentation is representative, interpretive, and commentative. The Upanishadic literature, apart from philosophical abstractions unfolds varieties of educational methods. Though employed to address a particular genre of discourse the Upanishadic teachers employed numerous pedagogical devices, in addition to the celebrated knowledge paradigm of sravana, manana and nididhyasana, having great import.

The methods referred to are:

  • The Aphoristic Method: This upanishadic method helps compressing complex conceptual wealth into brief epigrams which are easy to transact. The four Mahavakyas (tat, tvam asi) etc. illustrate this significant method.
  • The Etymological Method: Employed  in Chhandogya, Brhdaranyaka and other Upanishads, to determine the appropriate meaning of concepts, it provides bases for varied interpretations as well.
  • The Analogical Method: The renowned Upanishadic teachers; Yajnavalkya, Aruni etc employed it to concretise abstract concepts for example. The analogy of the rivers flowing into the ocean to illustrate  relation between the individual soul and the Universal soul.
  • The Dialectic Method: Is a significant method employed to sustain the discourse? It builds up argument through animated discussions and dialogue. Yajnavalkya and Shakalya used it to a  ‘great impact’ in Janaka’s court. This method has immense possibilities for modern pedagogy of dialogical genre.
  • The Integrative Method: Inclusive in nature is used in Chhandogya Upanishad and by Pippalada in Prashnopanishad.
  • The Ad-hoc Method: It is a method marshaled to meet an emergent thoughtful situation. The Indra-Virochana tangle regarding the nature of reality, handled by Prajapati in Chhandogya Upanishad, is an illuminating example. This approach has implications for dealing with students having varied psychic dispositions.
  • The Regressive Method: Involving questions ad infinitum, employed by Yajnavalkya in Brhdaranyka are examples of pursuing a point to a limit through a series of questions.
  • The list of the methods is stretchable. These methods have a great relevance and spin-off, for modern day teachers who deal with the content-rich subjects along side dispositional variations of students, the treasure within.