Dr.S. Radhakrishnan was born to a poor Brahmin family in Tiruttani, a small village in Tamilnadu. Being poor his father wanted to make him a priest but Radhakrishnan was a brilliant child and so was sent to the village school. Throughout his education he studied with scholarships. At college he took up philosophy by sheer coincidence, as he took the books on philosophy from a cousin who was giving them away. Radhakrishnan had no money to buy any books so he took up studying philosophy with books donated by his cousin.
The coincidence as destiny planned it, brought out an exemplary philosopher. The student of philosophy went on to become a great teacher, an astute philosopher and a capable country head, when he was at first the first Vice President of free India and later the second President of India.
Dr. Radhakrishnan held key positions in the educational scenario. He started his career as a teacher. He was known to be a kind and warm teacher. He believed that education should not be thrust upon students but the teacher should win the confidence of his students by being kind and understanding. He gained popularity with this practice and won recognition in the world of education. He was selected as the Vice Chancellor of the Andhra University and later as the Vice Chancellor of the great Banarus Hindu University. He held a prestigious post in the Oxford University for more than a decade as the Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics.
He was awarded the highest honor in India –The Bharat Ratna, for his meritorious role in the field of Education. Being a great teacher his birthday on 5th September is remembered as Teacher’s Day in his honor.
According to Dr. Radhakrishnan Indian Philosophy was an understanding of life. He simplified the intense Hindu philosophy and made the Western world realize the rational views of Indian philosophy and how one could use it in life. This made the West sit up and accept Indian philosophy and won India the much needed respect and admiration.
Even in his political career he brought in his philosophical views and brought India to the forefront when she was reeling under the British suppression. Though he was an intellectual scholar Dr.Radhakrishnan was the most popular teacher right from the time he taught at Presidency College Madras till he became a Professor at Oxford. He was warm hearted and reached out to his students with his kindness. He professed that learning was a “life-long” affair and spread his passion for education.
Dr.Radhakrishnan had great faith in Hinduism and simplified the doctrines of the religion, especially to the West, that people in the west started looking up at Hinduism and started appreciating the logical aspects of the religion. He declared that “Hell “does not exist as there is no place, where God is not present and hence a hell with all evil and no Godliness could never exist. In India several religions thrived and Dr.Radhakrishnan said that it was possible only because we practiced a lot of tolerance.
He spread the messages of the Upanishads that took the individual above the materialistic world and made them see beyond this world. His broad minded views made him a popular statesman and a much loved teacher. He strongly convinced the world in general and the west in particular that Hinduism was not just a religion but a “way of life”.
Dr.Radhakrishnan was a popular statesman, a successful diplomat, a capable administrator but he was above all these roles, a great teacher who spread the message of philosophy. He was loved greatly by his close associates, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru who hailed him as “one of the greatest Teachers of India”.