Gandhian Studies at the University Level in Japan Today

Presented by: Shinya Ishizaka

I have completed my PhD. last year, in 2008, at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Japan. The title of my dissertation is "Gandhian Environmental Movement in Contemporary India: Thinking and Activities of Sunderlal Bahuguna".

Since last year, I have started to teach at various universities as a part-time lecturer. I chose Hind Swaraj as an assignment text for the students' book report. I have read 662 students' book report on Hind Swaraj since then. I would like to introduce how Japanese university students at the undergraduate level read the text. It will show how difficult but not impossible to promote Gandhian Studies through reading Hind Swaraj at Japanese universities.

How difficult? Firstly, it is now a difficult work for a teacher to make undergraduate students read any books in Japan. Secondly, they are used to reading texts very "critically". They seem to think that a good book report should be written in a critical manner. So, they tend to read and see Gandhi either as being simply unrealistic or imbalanced: a typical response would be “modern civilization also has a good aspect”, etc. However, a few students did seem to have received Gandhi's message in their heart and soul.

But, in that case, a serious problem arises. This problem is suggested in Prof. A. K. Saran's impressive paper as follows:

"The aim of this educational programme will be to create a majestic design and a moral support-system for metanoia. The students will gradually experience a transformation of their mind, a turning away and a turning towards of this consciousness, a change in the centre of their thinking. A change in their character is bound to follow. Also, possibly some cases of schizophrenia. In a word, the aim is conversion in the sense of a total turning of the heart. Accordingly, all appropriate precautions will have to be taken, as also unavoidable risks will have to be run. It should be clearly understood that, in so far as an educational programme of this kind is at all successful, the graduate will have no end of trouble and suffering in adjusting with actual life-situations.” (Saran 1979: 380)
Can a university teacher take responsibilities for student's schizophrenia and "no end of trouble and suffering in adjusting with actual life-situation"? It is a really difficult question. I would like to consider this matter in my talk.

A. K. Saran, 1979, "On the Promotion Gandhian Studies at the University Level", Gandhi Marg, Vol. 1, No. 7, pp. 363-381.


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