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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Muskoka Foundation: A Traveling Gurukul Network

The Muskoka Foundation - Website Screen Shot

In my last post, I attempted to describe the amazing things that Jay, an old school buddy, had been up to on his adventures around the Globe. Having driven from Chicago to Chennai, stopping off along various points in 32 countries on 3 different continents in between, he has been spreading the word of "Eudaimonia" wherever he goes, a mission that surprisingly, people in his own country don't seem to be welcoming with much greater fanfare, but more on that later. Including myself in this number until recently, following up on his own website – – as well as his other social media profiles, I came across an interesting article by Alice Gugelev, Director of The MuskokaFoundation, titled "Why I Take OverPeople's Kitchens All Over the World". It was a well-written piece and one that helped bring out the reciprocal nature of life, but to me, the foundation itself with its philosophy of “Do Good As You Go” was of primary interest. With a very tip-of-the-iceberg kind of cursory glance, I soon discovered it to be an outstanding effort on the part of several individuals the world over, putting their faith in humanity and being willing to make a real and lasting difference. The first words that sprung to my mind were, "A Traveling Gurukul Network...Excellent!"

The Gurukul System of Education

In ancient India, the "gurukul" system of education practiced involved sending children to live with a "guru" or teacher essentially, in a "kul", derived from the Sanskrit word "kula" for extended family (Wikipedia, "Gurukul"). From a very early age, they would have to remain at this place until they achieved adulthood. It was considered of great value to be able to learn from such a wise person as a "guru" a term not easily conferred to people, and this system that somewhat resembles the practices of "apprenticeship" in Europe and the "uchi-deshi" system followed in Japan, helped paved the way for a much more harmonious societal existence. In a gurukul, the students paid no fee to the guru, choosing instead to serve him in any way that they could during the time they spent with him, and offering him a token of gratitude at the end of the course of study, which was not necessarily monetary in nature. Of course there were some areas in which even such a system was lacking, with regard to the prohibition of women from attending, among other things, but overall, it sought to pass on the knowledge, the wisdom of those who had experienced life to those who were readying themselves to the challenges of the same.

A Traveling Guru

The Muskoka Foundation offers volunteers from all walks of life and any field of study and expertise to come together in the common mission of truly making the world a better place. Unlike other charitable organizations I have come across before, the biggest difference I seemed to notice about the way in which this organization worked was to tap into the increasing stream of global travelers, themselves very bright, educated folk who traverse this life-giving rock in our Solar System in search of a sense of fulfillment. Because many of these people are superbly qualified and extremely capable, as you can tell when you browse through the "Meet Our Travelers" page, the benefit to the organization and its students is immense. However, the returns of joy and satisfaction that they in turn receive must be immense, especially if you consider how long and how far some of them have traveled to do what they love to do. Jay happened to bump into them, or it might be better to say, learned of them and their noble mission back in Kenya, during his bike journey and they requested him to assist with the task of "partner scanning" in Mozambique, before making his way to an orphanage in South Africa to give the kids there a few basic photography tips. If I had come across this during the week that he was here, I would have surely asked him a lot more about his experiences with The Muskoka Foundation. Still, I'm hoping to learn more and to be able to contribute in some way, perhaps even here in my own country, India.

A Traveling Gurukul Network

In retrospect, the words that popped into my head when I first came across the Foundation were erroneous – It's not the "gurukul" that travels, but the "guru" who does so between the many "gurukuls", or centres, as the case may be. Also, it is obvious that the pupils are not required to satisfy any conditions other than having a willingness to learn, and to use that knowledge to help support their families, and indeed the communities that they are a part of. But really, something else that the Muskoka Foundation brings into question is how much we really need to learn to survive in the world, whether of today or in the future. As formal education structures slowly show signs of rot and aging under hideous piles of academic drivel and an fundamental negligence of the student, organizations like The Muskoka Foundation seem to be thriving on helping the transmission of essential information that will make a difference today, not at some time in the future. Furthermore, the sense of satisfaction that everyone receives in the process is priceless, and it's easy to imagine why that is. While I look forward to updates from Jay and The Muskoka Foundation, I also look forward to the new and more illuminated world that they are creating in the process.

*Thanks to Jay for sharing the articles in question.
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