Radhakrishnan As a Teacher and His First Visit Abroad

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Radhakrishnan As a Teacher and His First Visit Abroad

Radhakrishnan As a Teacher

Radhakrishnan’s intelligence and physical appearance were best suited for his being in a teaching profession and he opted for that only. He was a disciplinarian with a heart full of warmth and affection for his fellow beings. He was tall slim and well dressed man. After obtaining a letter of introduction from William Skinner (Professor at the Christian College) to the Director of Public Instruction, he was appointed Lecturer in Philosophy in the Presidency College, Madras in 1909. Teaching philosophy enabled him to be close to his students and he educated young pupils to belief in a spiritual universe.
Radhakrishnan As a Teacher and His First Visit Abroad 1
Radhakrishnan possessed abundant knowledge of philosophy, so he never carried books to classroom and the students attending his classes were deeply impressed by his knowledge. He was able to simplify the most abstract philosophical doctrines so that all the students were able to understand the subject easily. After working in the Presidency College for some time, he was deputed to the teacher’s training college at Siadapet for the Licentiate in Teaching (L.T.) in order to qualify for a permanent post of Assistant Professor.

His proficiency in lecturing was remarkable. Because of his balanced oratory, most of the students appearing for L.T. examination, requested him to deliver a few lectures on Psychology as they were not well prepared to take the examination. These lectures were later published in the form of book named “Essentials of Psychology” by Oxford University Press, London.

After completing the L.T. Course in 1911, he returned to Presidency College and served there for the next five years. First, he was appointed as additional assistant professor and later was promoted to the post of assistant professor of philosophy. Radhakrishnan was an ideal teacher possessing all the qualities of a noble man. His style of English was simple yet effective. His dressing was according to his personality and figure and he used to wear long silk coat, a white dhoti with a black border, black slippers and turban of white colour. This was his dress for the rest of his life and it never changed even when he rose to the position of the head of a state.

In 1917, Radhakrishnan got transferred to Rajahmundry and joined Government Arts College. He became popular among the students there without much effort because of his arresting personality and profound knowledge. He made friends who were all intellectuals. Thus his brief stay in Rajahmundry had great impact on his life as he himself said that those days spent there, were the happiest years of his life. During this period he wrote journals like “The International Journal of Ethics” “Monist” and “Quest”.

He studied, the works of Rabindanath Tagore which led to the publication of a book on “The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore” in 1918. He stayed in Rajahmundry till 1918 and joined Mysore University in July, 1918 as Professor of philosophy. He stayed at this post for a period of three years. During this period, he worked on his next publication. “The Reign of Religion in “Contemporary Philosophy” and the book came out in 1920. His second book was quite different from his first book on Rabindranath Tag ore.

In his first book he had elaborated the philosophies of Rabindranath Tagore so effectively that even the poet himself was more than satisfied with the interpretation. But his second book was quite different and was a very professional effort. In this book, he made a serious attempt to understand western philosophy and asserted that religion must not influence philosophy “Instead of trying to make philosophy religious, we should if possible make religion philosophical” was the basic idea.

According to Radhakrishnan, beliefs should not influence our thoughts. He was of the view that only true philosophy would result in true religion. When published, this book was widely appreciated. During this time he also published a series of articles in “Mind”, “Moist”, “The Guest” and “The international Journal of Ethics”. These articles established his unopposed intellect and his power to grasp the truth. Thus during his years in Mysore, his creative energy was at its best and his works were widely recognized. He also completed his work on “Indian Philosophy” which was one of his greatest books and was considered to be his “magnus opus”.

Radhakrishnan was so popular among students that they never missed any opportunity to attend his classes. His language was simple yet full of meaning with a touches of humour. His personality was such that he was respected and loved by all. He was very much familiar with his students and because of his sharp memory, always remembered their names. This habit is very good as far as teachers are concerned as the students feel close to that teacher.

He used to encourage his students by patting lightly on their backs and shaking hands with them warmly. He was gently noble yet full of confidence. He always laid stress on spiritual values along with intellectual thoughts and also used to teach a lot about Indian Culture. In the words of Professor M.V. Krishna Rao, “He captivated us by his elusiveness and one could never understand him fully;…………. he was uncommon in everything.”

In 1920, the Government of Madras appointed him in the Indian Educational Service which was the highest grade in the educational service under Government. In 1921, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, decided to appoint Radhakrishnan as he was very keen on getting the best man. Ashutosh Mukherjee had read Radhakrishnan’s two books and was impressed by his creative genius. This appointment was recognition of his star quality. He was thirty years old and he.had come a long way. His intellectual capacity and remarkable knowledge of his subject had carried him through very hard times.

At first Radhakrishnan was busy in teaching and writing but following the advice given by Ashutosh Mukherjee, he started participating in executive and deliberative bodies like the University’s Board of Higher Studies, Free Scholarships, Research Fellowship Awards Committee. In 1922, the “All India Oriental Conference” was held at Calcutta and Radhakrishnan actively took part in it and invited all members, attending the conference, to his house and gave a dinner. He also founded the Arts Faculty Club in Calcutta University.

After the publication of Radhakrishnan’s “Indian Philosophy”, the teachers and the students of philosophy in the country urged Radhakrishnan to form a National Forum for the promotion of philosophy. Even Radhakrishnan had been feeling for some time the need for the philosophers of the country to meet and exchange ideas. So keeping this in mind, he established Indian Philosophical Congress in 1925 and its first session was held in Calcutta in December of the same year. The first president of Indian Philosophical Congress was Rabindranath Tagore. Thus due to sincere efforts of Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy came to be recognized as an important branch of study.

His First Visit Abroad

In 1926, Radhakrishnan was nominated by Calcutta university as its representative at the Congress of Universities of the British Empire to be held at London. Although he was not much interested in going out of India, he could not refuse the invitation sent by L.P. Jacks, the Principal of Manchester College at Oxford, to deliver the Upton lectures. “The Social Reformer”, wrote about this incident; “Today the University of Calcutta has really honoured itself in picking up a genius like Prof. Radhakrishnan, who has been sent as a delegate to the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire. When he came in that capacity, Oxford, the oldest and the best of the Universities has availed itself the opportunity in choosing Prof. Radhakrishnan and broke a tradition by calling an Indian for the first time to deliver the Upton lectures at Manchester College.”

Radhakrishnan delivered the Upton lectures which consisted of fair lectures and these lectures were published under the title “The Hindu view of life”. This book, when published, sold widely. In this book, Radhakrishnan’s aim was to represent Hindu religion as a positive and progressive movement. He wanted to show to the Western audience that Hinduism was more a way of life than a form of thought and it was not static; Hinduism was still evolving. He asserted that those who followed Hindu religion were ‘torch-bearers of enlightenment.”

Thus Radhakrishnan came to be recognized as the spokesman for Indian Philosophy as well as Hinduism. After this he was in much demand elsewhere. He also delivered a lecture on Bradley and Samkara at Moral Sciences Club in Cambridge, England and gave three lectures in London on philosophic basis of Hinduism.

In September, 1926, he was deputed by the University of Calcutta to represent it at the Sixth International Congress of Philosophy held in America. He delivered the Haskell Lectures at the University of Chicago and also lectured in other universities. He was greatly appreciated there and his world wide reputation as a philosopher was established during this period. He came back to India in the following year in December.