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Foundation for Comprehensive Dispute Resolution

Foundation for Comprehensive Dispute Resolution

[Paper presented on 6th January 2020 in the PEACE & RECONCILIATION conference]

Right Education is the Key to Peace:

Conflict resolution to Young Minds & Perpetuity of Peace

Betrand Russell Objective view of knowledge is the way of reacting to the environment by the subjective view as awareness.

Pausing to look at this topic after the excitement that this essential theme is being addressed, I wondered about the word ‘teaching’. Teaching to me denotes passing of some information which is received, analysed and internalised; then stored for use. It also inherently means a responsibility to help to discover, be mindful, and be respectful of fellow men and the information gathered. It then enables one to move to a space which assures true freedom. Freedom here is not obtained by choice but by accepting the role one has to play in life and obeying the dictates attached to the role.

Is there then something that can be said to be a ‘Right Education?’Is education an external element that helps one to handle the coordinates that life hands one or is it something more, an internal element which when activated enables the individual to what will enable harmony? If education means knowledge, what is knowledge? What is value based education and does it mean knowledge?  Is knowledge, something that is acquired or realised or internalised which shapes the individual? Is the individual capable of evaluating his/her knowledge? I found that Collins defines meta-knowledge as ‘Knowledge about one’s own knowledge.’ So then education has to address this meta-knowledge to be of value.

 Different streams of education now offer a lot in terms of expertise. It is time we paused to question whether this education has helped us to discharge our social responsibility or responsibility to ourselves? Has the ‘education’ that one derives has helped them to handle life and the quagmires that one finds while wading through life. ‘Is this system ‘good enough?’

While social responsibility is accepted as an ethical theory that stresses on accountability to self and to the society, it has now come to be superimposed with the image of rights and freedom that a person feels that he/she is entitled to. These rights and sense of freedom are again a prescription of social norms and based on the collective identity that one is forced to adopt to get social acceptance. Efficacy of a person and efficacy of handling a situation is determined by social acceptance and social norms. The question then is whether education is enabling our citizens to find their identity and use their potential? The question then is what is the basis of any society?

The social capital of any society is education and identity. Valid identity of the individual, identity of the collective and identity of the nation sustained and enabled by proper education/knowledge results in positive growth and development both of the nation and the individual. The culture that ensues has to be primarily rooted in individual strength and the respect for individual identity as opposed to a universal norm or need to be attached to an identity. Chaturvedi Badrinath categorically states that “freedom is always freedom from” and “freedom is freedom also from wrong perceptions of the relationship between the two, between the self and the other, both in a personal and collective sense.” To encapsulate freedom or to understand its inherent quality one has to understand one’s identity.

There is a strong urge to get into an identification phase without understanding the need to establish one’s identity. To move from the perceived need to attach to the identification phase to identity, one needs valid knowledge and not aligning with a group based on fear or social proof. Formal education is unable to provide this kind of knowledge as it is more of identifying with the ‘herd,’ necessarily due to the nature of information that is imparted to the individual. There is no scope for learning about basics of valid knowledge that lead to identity formation of the self.  What are taught in formal education are topics of interest for the group and not information to deal with the self and to deal courageously with the true nature of the self/svabhava. The activation of a disruption mode in inter-personal interactions is a corollary of the inability to deal with the self.

Most of inter-personal interactions are based on expectations which in turn are rooted in entitlements. There is a sense of entitlement based on perceived rights, and moral obligations. Expectations are mere projections of entitlement. They can be either fulfilled or frustrated. Often the question is ‘why not.’ Expectations are also often based on a civic identity, a social proof acknowledgment or need. When the collective need takes over, the ability to analyse, evaluate individual needs loses its ability to surface, and emotions take over to establish a projected ‘right’. There is a tendency to attribute a moral responsibility to the other as it is deemed reasonable to expect from the ‘other’ fulfillment of an action or deed, holding the other to the expectation, even if he/she is aware of it or not.

Expectations are also thoughts that get hijacked to a disruption mode by fear, concerns, improper esteem and ineffective valuation of the self.  Expectations cannot survive and thrive in limbo. Expectations are bondages which attract external influences like people or object or situation that one relates to. It is more of an external force and tends to submerge the internal self. The self is always in a controlling mode and expectations are a reason to justify control. The paradox is that resistance to any idea tends to become irresistible. Control, exercised in the form of resistance or irresistible wants projects expectations as entitlements. Any resolution or understanding of a conflict, either with the self or with the other, needs to address the energy in expectations and its projection as entitlements. One has to first learn to negotiate with the self to negotiate with others

 The primary need to rise above the gravitational pull of the wants of the self is to learn how to observe:

  1. Expectations and reasons for avoiding situations and people and demands based on perceived rights bring about dissonance,
  2. Irrational beliefs which lead to  behaviour which is self sabotaging and preventing finding true identity need to be challenged
  3. Entitlements that cloud focus and retrograde actions.

What is RIGHT may not always be what is correct or what is necessary.

The word Jnanam helps us to understand both knowledge and what is right. It’s connotations are observation insight, intuition, contemplation, learning and so on. More than literacy, or knowledge of something, it is a process which enables one to have a holistic perception and appreciation of what one can glean from an object, situation or person. This understanding of valid knowledge of awareness and right cognition is based on the understanding that reality is not absolute and that sanskara/reality has three dimensions:

  • Paramarthika– absolute/ metaphysically true
  • Vyavaharika– time & context makes it flexible/metaphysically not true
  • Prathibasha– constructs that one tends to make.

Education has to ensure jnanam which dictates that self knowledge is comprised of:

  • Yamas– ethical ways/right conduct
  • Ahimsa– non-violence
  • Satya– truth
  • Astaya– abstinence from theft
  • Aparigraha– abstinence from possessiveness, craving.

These facets of self knowledge make it clear that when one is able to move away from expectations and external forces, meta knowledge takes over to enable one to do what one is capable of.

Indian philosophy does not talk about ethics as valid knowledge and clarity in thinking suffices for one to do what is ‘right.’ The letters themselves aid in understanding how ethics plays out. Jnanam and Karma/right action starting with guttural sounds arising from the throat, where the former is deeper down, shows that if one is able to internalise what is the correct cognition, it triggers right action. Dharma or valid conduct then ensues. The first letter in dharma being a dental sound, coming from the front part of the mouth, is then a consequent action of what is produced from deeper down. Svabhava and svadharma alone dictate action and conduct.

Recently I met a very sensible lady, a senior counsel from France, who has her roots here, and is practicing Buddhism. She said that when we talk about conflict or what is right and try to establish a fact, the one question we have to ask ourselves is “by reason of this exercise I may prove I am right, but am I at peace.” This jolted me. My practice as a lawyer or as a person who believes that ethical standards have to be followed has never brought me to the point where I thought about peace. We do not teach about peace, harmony or equanimity. We only teach and talk about resolution. Resolution presupposes a difference, a difficulty and overcoming that. Is it then possible through an external source? Does that ensure PEACE?

So what is this PEACE?

When I paused to look at PEACE, I felt that peace is such a personal component of one’s thinking process that it is incapable of being addressed by external factors. In any conflict resolution we look at external factors that address the issue that caused the constraint, turmoil, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, frustration and so on.  All these are factors that arise out of the thought process of the individual and is rooted in the image of the ‘I’ or the superimposition of the ‘I’ness in everything by the individual. Most of it is also due to social conditioning and social acceptance.

What then is this self and the potential of the self which pervades the action, the evaluation of choices, the action and the ultimate goal in any interaction?

Western thought and psychology speak about the import of ethics as the code of what is the right way of action. The theory of ethics is also based on what is RIGHT as against what is GOOD. Immanuel Kant’s ethical duties speak about duty to oneself and duty to others. In his “Metaphysics of Morals’ says that there can be enforcement of ethical duties, and that the rational self through the feeling of respect, conscience, love and morality has to acknowledge the ethical duties and act according to its dictates. In a way it is an indirect understanding of dharma under the nomenclature of ethics.

Ethics in common parlance presupposes value choices, that which would be better to reach the outcome or projected/goals and that which determines and justifies proper behaviour. This gains support and is in essence an understanding of the concept of social responsibility. On the other hand, our philosophy does not define ethics or identify what is ethics. A code of conduct based on one’s dharma is the defining factor which determines right action. That alone can lead to equanimity. As opposed to resolution or de-escalation which is circumscribed by external factors, moksha is freedom is from within. It is greater release from the cords that bind one to obligations and reciprocity.

The goal, its attainment and conceptualisation are influenced by Karma and Dharma. One has to understand that instead of moving towards a conceived goal, one has to develop his/her ability to see, hear, think and exercise free will to aid universal order. The act and the consequence that follow in this pursuit, though generally termed as ‘karma’, is conceptualized as practical action. When one acts contrary to his/her dharma, the karma or action that follows generates its own consequences which one cannot avoid.

Understanding of appropriate karma, and the process of maintaining cosmic order is pivoted on a binary action:

  1. Privarthi: giving into external action; and
  2. Nivirthi: withdrawing from the external action.

External action and its impact on karma helps the individual to be attached or detached to desires and is the force behind the constant whirlpool  of throughts induced by desire that has a hold on rationality. To be conscious of this effect one has to understand the relation of the self to action and consequences and the need to move out of the clutches of external forces.

Karma’s chief energy trigger is chetana or volition. Chetana is the energizer which enables the surging of ‘I’ ness in the self and consequently enabling the ego-reference. It takes control of free will when ego gets attached to chetana. Depending on the choices one makes, the ego develops and the ‘I’ gets rooted as the focal point of thinking. Ego is not intrinsic in the mind but gets attracted to and has an influence on the acts of the self. Bias, habits, reflexes are due to the conditioning of karma or volition. An unconditioned chetana which can be conscious of the self alone can aid objectivity. Chetana then is consciousness and awareness.

To understand the potential for dissonance or resonance one has to understand dharma. Dharma is what is prescribed, what is in place and the path one has to tread. An individual cannot choose dharma. Everyone has a dharma and the person has to decide whether to fulfil the dharma or not. While the concepts of freedom and responsibility in western thought relates to accountability, freedom and responsibility, accountability is inherent in the practice of dharma and it is understood that freedom comes after responsibility.  The Bhagavad Gita is a case in point. Arjuna’s dharma is predetermined, the question is whether he will follow its dictates or not. He does not have the freedom to question.

Ones role in the world is therefore an expression of one’s nature or svabhava. It is defined by Svadharama or the duties of the individual. Dharma is thus the innate nature in the role or function of the person. There is a duality and hence dharma is fluid. Arthi Dand in the ‘Ethics of Dharma and the Dharma of Ethics’ says that “the theory of the Good always forms the backdrop for the theory of the Right.”

An inquiry then as to what is true or what exists leads one ‘ITI’ and “NETI.’

The dictonary gives the meaning of ‘ITI’ as cause, motive, to use, to conclude or compare or as a corollory, manifestation etc. By itself the word has no identity of it’s own, but when attached to something, it raises a connotation. Obsviously, then it is the ‘ITI’ that triggers the conflict and the reaction. What better word can we have to understand why the self is caught in a quagmire of non-cognition or to acknowledge that we tend to connect, to superimpose, to give effect to a comforting giving stance, by using the aid of one such ‘ITI’ as a determining factor for justifying the conclusion or claim based on entitlement. It therefore follows that only when there is a conscious understanding and objective veiw of ‘ITI’  the natural flow into a correct thought process is enabled. The dharma here is the opening the channels to the potential for attaining equanimity. As a corollory then ‘NETI’ cannot be ‘ not this’ alone, but something more as explained by Chaurvedi Badrinath in his Mahabaratha. Freedom from ‘ITI’ will then open the channels for inquiry as ‘NETI.’

An  inquiry about negation and valid knowledge has to cross the barrier of non-cognition. As a first step one has to understand that every situation or action has potential to be binary or multi-dimensional and so it is essential to recognize non-cognition more than looking at valid cognition. Recognition of non-cognition, understanding svadharama will enable ability to perceive and cognize without the gravitational pull of bias and conditioning. That is true education.

Perception and cognition being the triggers for processing of information, unless it is inclusive and has the ability to acknowledge what is latent, one cannot really SEE or KNOW.  Training the self to move out of the ‘I’ness and view objectively needs understanding that darshana comprises of:

  1. Bhavana/to feel/recognize;
  2. Dharana/to hold/focus;
  3. Smrithi/memory/ impressions;
  4. Vedana/sensation/feelings; and
  5. Sankalpa/determination, volition.

One has to develop the ability to recognize, then to focus and move from impressions which give rise to feelings and understand the need to determine the action to be taken. This presupposes that there is need to HEAR, REFLECT AND INTERNALISE [shravana, manana and nidhidyasana] to enable the person to move from the construct that he/she has created based on the ‘I’ in the situation. Any positive inter-personal interaction is based on the ability to listen, listen consciously without mind chatter, listen without the need to superimpose one’s ideas and beliefs, listen without being tugged by the need to justify, qualify or retort. Listening then is not just to the words, but also to the intention behind the communication and the context.

Mere listening leads to the information gathered being sifted through the norms and parameters that one has been conditioned to. Even a toddler is taught that when he/she falls or gets hurt, the blame is to be allocated to someone else. Every individual passes through life without accepting responsibility for one’s actions thereby. Listening effectively enables one to look at the larger picture, hear the import without superimpositions or judgement or evaluation to need to defend. Primarily one has to understand the needs of the other and the potential in the situation.

Whether one wants to hear, wants to but is unable to understand the import, or is ready and willing to hear makes a difference in understanding of the communication. Every word has an associated relateability and how the person chooses to understand the context depends on whether the person is prepared to hear the communication without mind talk and with absolute self-restraint. Effective listening entails

  1. doing nothing and remaining alert, and
  2. being aware and reflecting or ruminating without adding/formulating anything.

When logic comes in the way of receiving information, and there is a ‘mind talk’ about something being right or wrong, then it is not listening. When the parallel mind talk interferes with grasping the true communication, supposition leads to superimposition, bias based recognition, deletion or addition. To effectively hear what is said there should be sakshibhava or witnessing/quantum cognition. It awakens witnessing inside, and outside of it and thereon leads to equanimity.

Sakshi bhava is an action which is in the present or in other words a consciousness of the present which gives impetus to appropriate action. A demand, on the other hand, is for something to be done in the future. When there is sakshi bhava or when one is able to witness, demand is absent, as the focus is on ‘what is,’ as opposed to ‘what if’ of a demand. In witnessing, there are no suppositions or presumptions as the self- does not search for justifications. Listening intently as an observer is the best way to gather correct content. In essence active listening is sakshi bhava.

Listening and processing of information is rooted in the chitta. Changing the thought process has to address the various states of the Chitta:

  1. Jagrat chitta– waking state;
  2. Samskara chitta-storehouse of impressions/experiences;
  3. Vasana chitta– vibrations formed by different thoughts/experiences with the same intensity at different times to overlap and take a different form of impression;
  4. Karana Chitta– all knowing intelligence; and
  5. Anukarana chitta– intuition, clarity and insight though the super conscious mind.

The real education or valid knowledge is based on practice of shravana, manana and nidhidyasana. This will enable the individual to move from entitlements to taking responsibility, from mind chatter and effect of qualia to a state of dharana and anusandhana, as there will be a pragmatic processing of information. The ‘field of sub-conscious mentation’ spoken about by Swami Sivananda gets addressed. The energies of true knowledge or the power of the universe then enables one to understand the potential of

  1. Jnana saktti– or the power to know, including memory,
  2. Icchasaktti or the power to will which includes desires, doubts, emotions
  3.  Kriya saktti or the power to act which is inclusive of skill, creative power

 helps the individual to move from conflict to equanimity. An uncluttered mind and balanced thinking emerges from viveka and vyragya and this enables free will.

Chaturvedi Badrinath says that in the act of self-preservation, what is seen as inherently right, and in most circumstances, the prudent way to act may not be in consonance with what is necessary. Also it may not be strictly applicable in a different situation, though on principle it may seem right. The dilemma is always between what is right and what could also be right, as inviolable duties are manifest. Chaturvedi Badrinath, goes on to say that  life is a complex system of energies. Love and hatred are also energies. “What is true although not evident is that there exists, at its very heart a profound paradox. The highest form of energy arises from complete inner stillness- the paradox of energy.”Self discipline in relation to the self and in relation to others defines dharma.”  

Dharma also manifests as free will and is relatable only to the self. The natural corollary is that dharma is experiential, relational and defined only by free will as it is an inherent part of the nature of the individual. Free will then is the consequence of dispassion. Every thought process is a vritti or an energy wave. Harnessing this energy, holding it, observing it and using it according to one’s svadharma is the way out of from conflict zones.

Enabling the mind to move from ‘ITI’ to ‘NETI’ makes one take on the sakshi bhava and understand the dharma in the situation. Acknowledging that there are no absolutes and understanding the factors that spur non-cognition gives a chance to valid knowledge to surface and perceive ‘what could also be right.’ This is freedom and space that is not dependent on responsibility or accountability but on self- awareness, self regulation and self determination. This guarantees proper action.

The sakshi bhava and understanding of svadharma will then automatically enable the individual to understand the concept of TAT TVAM ASI. It opens the floodgates to realising the potential of the self, the awareness of the dharma of the self and the karma that one should initiate to obey the dharma of the individual. Obligations, reciprocity, rewards do not determine the outcome. The outcome and its path is already ordained, if one is able to understand the TAT and TVAM.  Then realisation and equanimity follows. This negates conflict with the self and with the other.


Uma Ramanathan

Uma Ramanathan, Advocate, Mediator, and Mediator Trainer. She is also the Organising Secretary of the Tamilnadu Mediation and Conciliation Centre, High Court, Madras. She practiced as an advocate in the High Court Madras, Tamilnadu, India for 29 years. She has been practicing as a Mediator since 2005 and training mediators… MORE >

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