Seeing All Beings as Oneself: Internationalizing Higher Education for Universal Harmony
This paper will be an exploration into the internationalism inherent to a certain religious tradition to explore its ramifications for seeking and receiving education abroad. The tenets of Hinduism share a complicated relationship with international higher education for an important reason: the purported taboo overcrossing oceans. This taboo was strictly applied in the case of the Brahmins, who also happened to be the caste with near-monopoly over access to and imparting of education. The ethos of Hinduism, however, is deeply embedded in a posited harmony of individuals and cultures. A spiritual text identified with Hinduism, the Chandogya Upanishad, for instance, contains dedicated segments exploring such themes as tattvamasi or the connection of one’s innermost self to the divine soul and the doctrine of bhuma or infinity. This makes it a faith that at once embraces the value of intercultural exchange while challenging contemporary understandings of how it is best achieved. Rabindranath Tagore embraces this philosophy summing it as “he alone sees, who sees all beings as himself. Implications for internationalism in higher education will be teased out from the spiritual and religio-cultural underpinnings of Tagore’s experiments in the field, namely, Vishwa Bharati and Shanti Niketan.
The paper will then argue that the deeply entrenched Western-centric bias in what is increasingly described as “global” higher education defeats the true motivations of internationalisation of the University. It will further explore the ways in which reference to religion (Hinduism in particular), not just in structuring curriculum for foreign students, but in reimagining the basis for globalization of higher education could potentially counter these trends towards homogenization and reset internationalisation efforts on a more meaningful trajectory. Spiritual learning, rather than multiculturalism, will be proposed as the better approach to conceptualising internationalisation of the University. It will be shown how this approach holds particular promise for emerging countries who have thus far been unable to fulfil their potential to offer meaningful learning experiences for foreign students due to their higher education institutions being unfavourably compared with Western counterparts.
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