Purnapramati – A Method to Madness

Sreenivasa G and Srinidhi V
Doctoral Students, IIIT-H and IIM-B
Purnapramati Team

Purnapramati is completing its 2 years shortly. It may be a good time to retrospect on our journey and also contemplate on future directions.  The idea of Purnapramati was seeded, nurtured, planned and course-corrected for more than a decade, all based on experiences, explorations followed by serious pursuit in studies and research. Planning is the key to the success of any work. Even Lord Brahma, did penance for long years before creating this universe:

निशम्य तद्वक्तृदिदृक्षया दिशो विलोक्य तत्रान्यदपश्यमानः ।
स्वधिष्ण्यमास्थाय विमृश्य तद्धितं तपस्युपादिष्ट इवादधे मनः ॥ – भागवतम् (२/९/७)
Experiences are our most valuable assets and if we can reflect on them dispassionately, they can not only help in our course correction, but also play an important role in identifying our innate passion. Experiences also become richer with wider exposures. Exposure is a natural result of explorations. Exploration of life through travelling and reading are two key sources to get a wider exposure: ‘ದೇಶ ಸುತ್ತಿ ನೋಡು, ಕೋಶ ಓದಿ ನೋಡು!
In a country as rich and variegated as India, be its mountains, rivers, forests, people or her culture,  each one of them have inspired every step of this journey.  From Kalish-Manasa-sarovar in Tibet to Kumara Parvat in south, Kanchanaganga in East to Narayana-Sarovara in Gujarat, an Anna Hazare in remote village of Maharashtra to Anil Agarwal in Delhi, Prabodhini Gurukula in Hariharapura to Siddh School in Kempti, the insights of Bharat Jhunjhunwala to works of Rajendra Singh are just a few sources for powerful and diverse inspirations.  Such exposure also brings a new perspective to life. The pursuit of such wider exposure requires stretching physical limits, in climbing the peaks and trekking the remotest places of the world, and this in turn makes us mentally strong with resilience to pursue the impossible.

Modern world, along with material prosperity, also brought the very purpose of modernity into question. Ironically, the foundations for providing any answer also became questionable. What is development? How do we answer it? What is our role? Such fundamental questions have driven the idea of Purnapramati, towards serious studies in Philosophy and its relations with society. From a social perspective, consider the projects like Kaiga Nuclear Plant or many other such projects, at the cost of enormous natural resources, which have been sustained over millions of years to meet our energy needs.

Philosophical questions lead to a different kind of adventure. Our land is a treasure trove here too. Like the Majestic Himalayas, a wonder in many ways, be its geographical features or culture, Indian literature too, like Mahabharata and Ramayana unravels the infinite wisdom. It is such works spread across the country, in manuscripts and living traditions that bring the spirit of this ancient civilization alive. Many shaastras and kalaas (arts) in our tradition blend pure intellect, emotions and beauty together. The contemporary issues surrounding our society and polity are missing these roots, arguably due to our own slavery, so that we still are educated without these, and it only continues to weaken them.

Creating a new world and order – Shangri-la, within whatever limited scope, has always been the driving force behind Purnapramati. Time had given some good insights and wisdom, to ensure that this does not end up nowhere like a trishanku creation. This is seeded strongly in core values representing the essence of eternal Dharma and is being guided by the people who can articulate and practice these in tune with contemporary societal needs. We hope this will not only stand the test of time, but will multiply as integrated learning centers of excellence. Like Nalanda or Takshashila, ancient universities, open to all sections of society for all branches of higher learning, Purnapramati is envisioned to be a one-stop integrated learning center for all, where the wisdom of important disciplines of learning in the world are introduced in reasonable depth.  It also has a deep desire to extend integrated learning to higher education and research. Outreach programs meant for public will make it a platform for integrated learning for all ages.

The journey so far has had its moments. What started as an utopian idea in public perception, i.e. to host a Gurukul in the forests on the banks of a river, kept moving from farther options to nearer options and to be finally settled in our own backyard in Bangalore city.  Integration of humanities in higher education pursued in IIIT-H crystallized our thoughts and gave the impending force to pursue. Visits to alternative schools like CFL and Valley in Bangalore expanded the ideas and instilled confidence in our ideas.
Research work in identifying and publishing some important unpublished manuscripts added clarity and brought confidence. We were capable of dreaming and reifying it as well! Lakhs of valuable manuscripts still preserved in libraries in Bikaner to Tanjore, Varanasi to Tripunatra, Jammu to Bhubaneswar is undoubtedly a wonder of highest order. While such an unparalleled wonder motivates life forever, their decaying state sets the goals for our life.

In most social works, where participation of many individuals is a necessity, it is important to have a team of like-minded and like-hearted people who share the same vision and values. A core team should have had time-tested relationships, those that can result in commitment for a purpose. With blessings, support and wishes from Gurus, who are an anchor through their wisdom, like-minded friends and extra-ordinary people with similar values, the idea of Purnapramati became a dream and, within months, the mission of many. All at Purnapramati committed to this new school of integrated learning.

Integrated learning is not just a rhetorical phrase, but the philosophical foundation of Purnapramati. It is the overarching principle that defines the values, culture, academics and metrics at Purnapramati. However, integrated learning has multiple connotations in daily use. Can we understand this principle in a comprehensive way? What do we at Purnapramati mean by Integrated Learning? Can it be translated or does it diffuse? How does it percolate to the operations in an educational environment?

By integrated learning, we essentially mean expanding the dimensions of knowing reality. Expansion implies multiple lenses, while reality mandates inter-linkages in those domains. Therefore integrated learning is not just multidisciplinary but also interdisciplinary. It means integrating care with science as in medicine, integrating interpretivism with objectivism as in social sciences, integrating justice with development as in public policy, integrating exactness with performance as in arts, integrating sociology with economics as in politics, integrating emotion with intelligence as in education, integrating self-development with social dutifulness as in Vedanta.

Dreaming has been habitual, but so are serious attempts, pragmatic or not. But, the real turning points have always been guided by Gurus, who have either done it themselves or have the tapas to be the backbone. Seeding of Purnapramati, in all accounts, is due to such a force, during December 2009. During a conversation at his home, Acharya said `Time is ripe for such an effort. Don’t look back. I will be the first parent and will back this initiative in all forms’.  This was followed by the Sankalpa , blessed by one of the greatest social philosopher of our times, Shri Pejawar Swamiji.

Discussions with hundreds of elders, friends, well-wishers and potential parents during this phase helped bring greater conviction and aided in formulating the specifics. In a few weeks following the Sankalpa, the story was made public showing our vision in the sky. We had nothing. No Funding. No Infrastructure. No background. All we had was an idea we loved the most and a will to pursue. Many questions were asked. Given the ground work for years, we had broad answers to most of them, but specifics had to follow. But with just a talk in thin air, more than ten parents committed to join. Their courage and commitment will always be remembered, along with other founding parents who joined in the first year.

By Yugadi 2010, we had a small rented place and the readiness to get started. We were able to cross our target of 32 children and the school was inaugurated with the first batch of 37 kids on June 2nd 2010.

All this was possible, within a short span of a few months, due to the committed hard work of Purnapramati Team. This team of people, sharing common goals for larger good, with similar values, has been the driving force. It has been this kind of a voluntary, selfless, social participation that stands as a unique feature of this initiative. While team played the role in the backstage, the teachers were the real actors. Even for a very small set of students, we had 10 teachers.  They sowed the seed of the vision and nurtured it.

The formative stage was exciting and as demanding in terms of communicating the concept across the team and parents.  The first few months had many challenges, be it transportation or gaining parents’ confidence. Innovative events, as visualized earlier, kept the clock ticking. Purnapramati Utsava 2011, almost a weeklong festival, was the first landmark in not just showcasing the concept, but also in hinting at soundness and growth potential of this idea. The seminar series on education has also been instrumental in keeping the mission progressive, and more importantly in getting the Intelligentsia’s attention to this concept.

The preparation for the second year began with a new set of deliberations. In hindsight, the decision to include 3rd and 4th standards through lateral induction was a good one, though it had its share of challenges. Abhiyaana, the initiative by team to visit house by house, to communicate about Purnapramati was the main trigger. It was followed by a number of discussions, both interesting and tough, with each parent. Locating a suitable place for the school was not easy either. Most importantly, finding teachers of high quality was the toughest part. Unfortunately, the teaching profession has lost its prestige in the modern India. Understanding this reality, we have always focused on passionate people interested in teaching at Purnapramati, even if there is a variance in the requisite experience or background. This has helped to get the best talent who can quickly learn and deliver quality results.

The second year began with around 130 students on the roll. The first couple of months were very challenging. There was the expected anxiety among some parents, given our integrated curriculum and unconventional position on certain aspects of education. An orientation to parents by Dr. Gururaj Karajagi helped ease those anxieties, but we know that a strong conviction needs some more time. However we realize that this partnership between parents, children, teachers and us is not an one-day or one year transaction, but atleast a decade long. We have patience and trust till the seed transforms into a tree full of flowers and fruits.

We faced a new problem for admissions in 2012: More applicants than seats available! We started a process to make sure the selection is fair, equitable and appropriate.

Purnapramati still has a long way to go. One of the main challenges is to build our own infrastructure. The land for our dream campus (Anandavana) needs to be identified at a manageable distance. Our two year search has been intensive, albeit without results. However we have good clarity on our requirements of geographical locations that suit us. Public participation in this movement, in all forms and capacity, will be critical. We must have a working campus within next two years.

Diversity is another important area of concern. Purnapramati is meant to be a pan-Indian school, open to all interested in integrated education of this kind. In this regard, unlike the first year, we saw a positive change in 2011, which only improved further in the 2012 admissions. We will continue to be alert about this for some time to come.

As we move to higher classes, there is bound to be a lot more work, with many more challenges, on the academic front. The dream of integrated learning is an ambitious one, and it requires extraordinary conviction and commitment. Serious efforts in planning and execution are needed to produce high quality. Research on integrated learning, followed by publishing age-appropriate textbooks and other teaching aids is a must.

Building a new educational organization requires leaders in all domains, be it infrastructure, finance, administration, academic research and of course in the core domain of teaching. It is very essential that they inspire and achieve excellence through a life-time commitment. It also requires a continued resilience in the team spirited by the values and vision of Purnapramati, anchored by elderly advisors. The roadmap does look challenging, but it truly is a blessing to have such an exciting goal which provides immense satisfaction at every moment in this less traversed path.

In summary, the seed for the idea was to understand the nuances of life, its reality, and its implications on the society. While the mainstream is moving towards the paradigm of global village, by connecting the village with globe, we want to see it the other way: a globe in each village; each village being breathing, sustaining on its own. The paradigm of integrated learning is but a parallel to making a globe out of each individual. We acknowledge that only extreme passion – the uninformed call it madness – can fuel it. And the fuzzy explorations of the journey so far reveal the madness. But Integrated learning at Purnapramati is just a method to that madness.

Source:  ಊರ್ಧ್ವಮೂಲ Purnapramati Souvenir 2012

Sreenivasa G

3 Responses to Purnapramati – A Method to Madness

  1. Nagarathna Rao

    Firstly kudos to both of you for doing such an exemplary act by starting this amazing integrated learning centre!

    It was highly inspiring to read the motto and the vision behind this and to know how it is shaping up.
    this will certainly usher in a new era in education healing the breach between humanity and it’s habitat !
    I am sure Poornapramathi will reach great heights and make Education really meaningful !!

  2. Jayashre Venugopala

    Inspiring vision and kudos to implementing this. Many of us dream of such a holistic education but few actually get to experience it in one way or the other.

    I volunteer to be a part of this exciting journey.

    Keep up the good work

    Regards…Jayashree

  3. Sreelakshmi

    Namaskaara,

    I came across your article just by chance and I find myself lucky to have read such an inspiring flow of ideas and vision you have for your school. Having such a school is no less than dreaming an age-old Gurukul in Namma Bengaluru, but going by the vast, selfless vision you have about your school, I really feel happy that such a great vision will definitely make Purnapramati a SUCCESS. I congradulate you all for having such a wonderful approach towards education. As parents, we always long for such a school, which not only provides education, but more importantly teach our kids to deal with real-life situations. I hope your school is just the right place for that. I really wish to expose my kid to such an environment.

    Dhanyavaada,
    Sreelakshmi

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