Haridas Chaudhuri, who was one of the original professors appointed to the American Academy of Asian Studies, asserted that educating for peace was central to his founding vision of the California Institute of Asian Studies.
In Chaudhuri’s book The Evolution of Integral Consciousness (1977), he listed the 12 “most fundamental principles of integral or holistic education for the world community.” He believed that these principles would lead to “the building of one internationally unified global society” (p. 84). Chaudhuri specified three principles that provide a rationale for our commitment to multicultural understanding and social transformation through community service. These are:
1. Promotion of intercultural, interracial, and interreligious understanding ….
2. Affirmation of the intrinsic dignity of all individuals, men and women, everywhere in the world….
3. The essential equality of all races, and peoples, and nations in the world. (1977: 84)
While these principles are supported today in US higher education, even mandated by the Federal Government and accrediting commissions, they reveal the extent to which Haridas Chaudhuri and his colleagues were ahead of their time. This should not be surprising given that CIIS was a leader in the 50’s and 60’s San Francisco Renaissance which did much to raise awareness regarding non-violence, civil rights, social justice, and ecology. [Chaudhuri, Haridas. 1965. Integral Yoga: A concept of Harmonious and Creative Living. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House.]
Dr. Chaudhuri was well aware of this worldview many years ago as he insisted that higher education needed to provide a global perspective if we were ever to have global peace. He wrote:
"The educational system, as it operates today, does not take into account the whole man, nor does it take into account the whole world. It is concerned neither with global consciousness nor the integral man in his full integrity and in the multidimensional richness of his total existence. We find that these concepts do not go into the educational planning (1977:78)."
Unquestionably, this citation attests to Chaudhuri’s passionate commitment to implement a new vision for higher education – he was not interested in developing one more college or university. In his unique plan, education was to lead to personal transformation which in turn would lead to social transformation. He maintained that personal and social transformation, so necessary for peace building, required contemplative practice, spiritual inquiry, and interreligious dialogue.
In 1951, Alan Watts, who was the Chaplain at Northwestern University, arrived at the American Academy of Asian Studies to join Haridas Chaudhuri in being among the Academy’s founding faculty... He recalled his many dialogues on spirituality with Dr. Chaudhuri who with
“his gentle humor and learned mind made him a wonderful partner in debate, so that we could argue endlessly without losing tempers” (235).
Years after his work at the Academy, Watts acknowledged the success of Chaudhuri in creating the Institute; and he noted that Chaudhuri built on many of the relevant themes of the Academy. Watts wrote
“Haridas Chaudhuri went off on his own and replaced it [the Academy] with the California Academy [sic] of Asian Studies, which is where something of the original tradition of the work is now alive and kicking quite interestingly” (262).
Despite the troubled times and issues surrounding Watts and his relationship to the Academy, there is no question that his intellectual brilliance and personal charisma brought attention to the predecessor of CIIS, and that it positively affected the founding vision of CIIS. From its first days, CIIS has been offering courses in the world’s religions and spiritual traditions. For example, the CIIS Self-Study Report for WASC written in June 1973 cited the following courses: Comparative Theology, Comparative Religion, Basic Scriptures, and Critique of Religion and Mysticism.
These principles echo Haridas Chaudhuri’s statements regarding the inevitability of religion as well as the need for us to “reconstruct” religion to contemporary issues. In his book, Modern Man’s Religion (1966), he thoughtfully noted:
"Religion is an autonomous function of the spirit. It can hardly be replaced by any non-religious discipline. That which seeks to replace religion in a radically atheistic and anti-religious mood begins soon to function as a special kind of religion. So the great need of our day is not to reject religion but to reconstruct it in accordance with the intellectual climate and the specific requirements of existence (ix)." -----. 1984 . Modern Man’s Religion. San Francisco: Cultural Integration Fellowship.
[Educating for Peace: The Founding Vision of CIIS By Joseph Subbiondo, President of the California Institute of Integral Studies] http://cejournal.org/issue-72012-2