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National Symposium 2017

National Symposium on ‘Competencies, Compassion and Commitment’
under the series of Conferences on Spirituality and Social Work
held on April 7-8, 2017 at Ahmednagar
jointly organized by


Brief Report


National Symposium on ‘Competencies, Compassion and Commitment’ under the series of Conferences on Spirituality and Social Work was held on April 7-8, 2017 at Ahmednagar jointly organized by BPHES’ CSRD Institute of Social Work (CSRD-ISWR) and Research and Institute of Management Studies (IMS-CDR). Altogether 44 delegates from different parts of the country attended the symposium. The major objective of the symposium was to review the past five international conferences organized by CSRD-ISWR and develop perspectives for the sixth international conference.

Inaugural session

Dr. PV Rasal from Savitribai Phule Pune University was the chief guest for the inaugural session held at 11 AM to 12.40 PM on 7 April 2017. In his inaugural address, he stated ‘Education is constructing mind, not collection of information’. Education is drawing out the capabilities of children and development of natural abilities. Life is the continuous problem solving process. Personality is a dynamic adjustment of life with the environment. We have all sets, still we are upset. For a harmonious life, we need spirituality. Spirituality is an attitude of mind, right perspective or vision to deeply understand culture and mind. Spirituality is the combination of action, utterance and mind. Everyone wants peace, happiness, willpower, love, purity and knowledge. These are spiritual qualities.  Freedom and wisdom are the free gifts given by nature at the time of our birth. Nature-culture-future is the continuum of our life. Our culture is spirituality. Spirituality is to look inward and outward. Prayer is bringing in mind positive thoughts continuously. Religion is what brings people in morality and ethics. Knowledge, wisdom, skills and attitude are the purusharthas of life. Spirituality is respecting the nature and life in all forms. Aim of spirituality is softening of our ego. Thoughts are positive, negative, waste and necessary. Spirituality gives proper vision and perspective for our life. Spirituality is for self development and self perfection. Spiritualism gives the vision to share our knowledge to uplift the downtrodden. This is the vision of SPPU. Gratitude, self awareness, brilliance, selfless love and self offering are the spiritual characteristics. Spirituality indicates, God is not outside, but within me. It gives the insight where to begin our journey to self awareness and self development. Its emphasis is individual, but effect is global. It enhances self confidence helping to overcome the hardships in life. It renders optimism and high self esteem. To meet the objectives of the higher education we need spiritual base.

Session 1

The first technical session was held on the topic, ‘Relevance of Spirituality to Contemporary Society’ at 12.50 to 1.30 PM on 7 April 2017. Dr. John Menachery moderated the session and Dr. Suresh Pathare, the director, CSRD-ISWR, was the keynote speaker. He stated, ‘Mandala’, the symbol of spirituality is all inclusive of various aspects of life. It is common in various religions. Religion, spirituality and social work – exploring connections placed mandala as the emblem. Human, the bio psycho social and spiritual phenomenon is the modern trend. Quest for liberation, relief from suffering and experience of harmony were the spiritual pursuits. Spirituality is the centre of the person and spirituality as wholeness of the person in relation with all. Spirituality is meaning making. It is transcendental of any isms. Spirituality is the connectedness with everything within and everything outside, spontaneous in compassion and service, beyond divisions, and an expansive cosmic consciousness. It is a new mode of consciousness inclusive of trans-culturality and spiritual diversity. It is connections between differences requiring respect, competence and comfort. Consciousness, behaviour and team work include and transcend multiple perspective. We are centred in spirituality, not to get distracted. Helping is natural to human being. Spirituality makes you to be natural in helping others.

In the discussion followed by the keynote address, several ideas and resolutions were evolved. Helping had been the mandate of social work which has evolved into an empowering profession now. Secularism and inclusive development are misinterpreted. Research has proved that spirituality is ingrained in human DNA. Brain centres of spirituality have been identified. We need to distinguish spiritualism from spirituality. The spirituality is beyond spiritualism and religion and deals with love, peace, social justice, equality, truth, tolerance, etc. Each one experiences spirituality differently. When we talk about spirituality, whose spirituality are we talking about? Can we talk about the spirituality of the marginalized? We need to define spirituality in clear terms. We need to bring back spirituality into the mainstream education. Ignorance is the dangerous aspect and the main block in the path of spirituality. There is lot of interpretations and misinterpretations. We need to take the discussion forward and give spirituality its right place. Breaking the boarders and bridging the gaps is the spirituality. It is not my truth or your truth, but accepting truth which is common to you and me.

Session 2

After the lunch break, the second technical session was held on ‘Competencies and commitment for social justice and equity’ at 2.30-3.30 PM on 7 April 2017. The session was chaired by Prof. Shitole and the keynote speaker was Dr. Jaimon Varghese. In his presentation he stated, ‘White is the fusion of all colours. Compassion, competence and compassion are necessary dimensions of spiritually sensitive social work. We need to crash the differences in the sense we need to stop the discrimination based on differences. Competencies and commitment are the strategies and social justice and equity are the goals. Competence is the knowledge and skill part of the profession. It is the intellectual dimension of the profession. It is acquiring the necessary information, knowledge, concepts and research based learning concerning the profession. Commitment is the feeling component where ‘heart’ speaks. Here the feelings and sentimentality predominate. It is the emotional part of social work. Commitment is the dedication, motivation, sincerity, honesty and the hard work put into the achievement of a pre set goal or for the realisation of a vision and mission in life. Without commitment, nothing can be achieved in life. It the endless hope for success in any pursuit. It is expressed in invincible spirit and tireless effort. Social justice and equity is the common goal for all the social enterprises. It is the national goal for any welfare state. It is the vision for the policy makers, social scientists, educators, social activists, reformers, thinkers and saints. While commitment and competence are the chief strategies for achieving these goals, spirituality is the intervening variable. Spirituality is the invisible force within each person and the commitment and competence are the by-products. Spirituality is the vision of visions and strategy of strategies. We had the conceptual clarification on spirituality in the first session and let us deliberate on the following key questions: What are the competencies required for social justice and equity? What is the role of spirituality to achieve the goal of social justice and equity?

In the discussion followed, several ideas were generated and got converged. Competence and commitments are not only strategies, but also means for achieving the goals of social justice and equity. There are enough competencies required for social justice and equity, but the second question, the role of spirituality in achieving social justice and equity is to be taken care of. Being spiritual means to be accommodative, to dialogue with and be open to truth. We need to accept and acknowledge the reality of discrimination and the structural issues involved in it. We need to deconstruct the idea of spirituality. Religion has a frame, but spirituality does not. Curriculum of spirituality in social work is a difficult task. What will be nature of spirituality in field practicum? Religion is a social institution and spirituality is a natural phenomenon. Tribal communities are more spiritual, not religious. Spirituality is not new thing in social work. Social work started with spirituality and values.

Problems are old and many, but we need new theories and strategies to solve these problems. Every faculty has to bring spirituality in practice, make students to write papers on spirituality. The faculty can probe the issues and make the students more compassionate. Compassion will lead to commitment. Majority of Indians are believers in one religion or the other. You cannot market spirituality without a religious tag. That is why communism failed in this country (communists cannot be religious). Religion is a social institution. Spirituality is de-institutional. Religion is artificial which destroys what is natural. However, religion can be one means to spirituality. We need more parity among religions and people. Whatever reduces the distance between two people is spirituality. It is the key of social justice. We need to define spirituality in terms of a strategy to reduce the distance between the people. For the last 10 years, it has been found that the majority of the students lack the compassion compared to the students of the previous decades. Spirituality is serving everyone regardless communal status.

Whatever is your religion, you need to respect the individual. How can we crash the castes? It is very difficult to break castes. Pluralism is to be accepted. Truth is beyond the reach. Spirituality is just keeping the openness towards truth. Eternal values are to be respected. Respect others and we will be respected. Logic should be made compulsory for all students to know the truth.

Session 3

The third session of the day was on the theme, ‘Compassion a core competency for community wellbeing’ held at 3.45-5.00 PM, chaired by Dr. Sahastra Buddhe. Dr. GD Londhe was the keynote speaker. In his thought provoking sharing, he stated, ‘Compassion is a core competency for community wellbeing. Compassion can be hereditary or learnt. Jesus was compassionate to the downtrodden. Compassion is the divine quality. Vivekananda said, ‘humanity is divine attitude’. Compassion is an attitude of mind. Every compassionate thing is divine. It is to love each other. Jesus said about loving one another. God is love and loving means knowing God. Five domains of human life are physical, psychic, social, spiritual and consciousness. If God, the creator is compassionate and kind, how can humans be unkind? Compassionate work can be philanthropic or professional social work. Beyond compassion, social work believes in competence. Core competence is maximum quality, consumer satisfaction, additional value and efficiency in production, service, marketing, and professions. Core competencies for social work are different from commercial competencies. Using competencies for wellbeing of the society is social work. Welfare of the people was not government mandate earlier. Now it is government agenda. Corruption and exploitation in the system are the challenges for social work. Competence is inculcating values. Srikrishna to destroy the evil, remove the darkness from mind, heart, action and thought. Pasayadan is prayer for bringing light and happiness’.

In the following discussion several ideas were evolved. In the context of the neoliberal values of competition and exploitation, compassion has little place. The key questions are, how can compassion be cultivated? Why religious people are not compassionate? There is a controversy between compassion and competence – market needs competence, not compassion. Development is bringing people from one category to another category – poor to rich; backward to forward. What about the indigenous people? Wellbeing, compassion and competence is a top down model. Who defines the wellbeing and competence? One Brazilian model cannot be applied everywhere. Adult education and social education models of SPPU is similar liberal model for India. Religion and social work can go together. Similarly, religion and spirituality can go together. In compassion, we decide for others out of compassion. All compassions do not lead to charity. It can also be professional. If you do not have compassion, don’t become social worker. Today, social workers have become more competent and less compassionate. Students do not really see and listen. They see what they perceive. They do not attend to the reality. We need not teach culture to the tribal people, we can learn from them. We need to develop humans from human beings. Religion is one of the management bodies for welfare. Think well and derive solutions to various issues. Spirituality is becoming compassionate.

Session 4

Fourth technical session of the symposium on ‘Spiritual values for promoting sustainable communities and environment’ was held on the second day, 8 April 2017 at 9 to 10.30 AM. It was moderated by Dr. Bipin Jojo. Key thoughts were shared by Dr. Jyoti Kale, Maharshi University of Spirituality, Goa and Dr. M Arif, Visiting Professor, Sarda College and BPHES’ CSRD-ISWR.

Dr. Jyoti Kale spoke about the need for spirituality for social workers. Mahatma Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay, is founded by Dr. Athavale, a psychiatrist who practiced in London and Mumbai for over 20 years. One should make efforts for spiritual progress to attain God realisation. Purpose of life from a spiritual perspective – to complete the destiny or karma one is born with and to grow spiritually. One’s life is affected by destiny (give and take), people with bad energy and dissatisfied ancestors. Social work is give and take account. Personal satisfaction, spiritual growth and karma yoga are the motivation for social work. In social work, problems may rise because of ego (pride may rise) leading to stagnation, emotional involvement and attachment, expectations, ego. Identify the problem, identify the cause (physical, psychological and spiritual) and apply the remedy.  Solutions are physical, psychological and spiritual. Chanting the name of God of the religion where one is born. Good chants are ‘Om Namo Vasudevaya’, ‘Sree Gurudeva Datta’. Personality defect removal (PDR) process is identifying internal and external stressors and removing personal defects through observation, feedback from friends, maintain a dairy, introspection and auto suggestions (AS). Social worker needs to remove ego, develop immunity and practice spirituality.

Dr. M Arif spoke about environmental sustainability and spirituality. Development induced environmental problems are catastrophic. Islamic foundations for environmental sustainability say, Islam means peace and harmony. Man is not the master of the environment, but a friend and guardian. In 8000 BCE, humans were in perfect harmony with nature. Gradually the agricultural, industrial and post industrial economy inflicted irrecoverable damage. Environmental pollution cause large number of casualties. Around 200 years ago CO2 was 240 ppm and today it is 800 ppm. Himalayas would be devoid of glaciers and water loss is irrecoverable. Soil erosion is in the similar scale. Detergents are more toxic than cyanides. Toxics are destroying the environment. Fresh air is scarce, polluted water is abundant. Modern world is mechanized, weaponized and digitalized. Nine nations are with nuclear weapons. ‘Jaan he tho jahan he’. What the development lacks is the value base. Science, technology and industry need morality, religion and spirituality. Promotion of environment is a cultural and social issue, not a technological issue. Mindset is more set by spiritual and cultural factors than science and technology. There are 37 Islamic countries and terrorism is only in a few countries. Koran is a book of guidance on everything in life. Things given freely by God and nature are not to be charged by man. Planting tree is renewing the energy. Living and non living beings are interdependent, interacting and interconnected through food chains. Giving spirituality is giving the technology of catching fish instead of simply giving fish to a hungry man.

After an interesting question answer session, the concluding remarks were given by the chairperson. Tribal people believe in spirit, not any religions. There is utilitarian value in spirituality of tribal culture. The nature and human nourishing relationships based on spirituality. What are the good practices that are spiritual in nature and contributing towards the sustainability of life and nature?

Session 5

The fifth session of the symposium on ‘Identifying scope and areas for research, practice and knowledge dissemination on spirituality’ was held at 11 AM to 12.15 PM. This was the group work session. All the participants were divided into small groups and worked on several aspects of spirituality and social work. Prof. Sanjai Bhatt was the moderator. Scope for further exploration, areas of research, action and dissemination were discussed in groups. Why and how of spirituality in social work was the chief concern. Social work values are for prevention, promotion and protection. They are close to spirituality and nature. Social work methods are applying spirituality. Individual and institutional spirituality are all important. There used to be prayer in our school days. These prayers are ways to instill spirituality in children. Is there any means to bring in commitment in the profession? NAPSWI plans for a pledge including competencies, compassion and commitment. Can we proclaim the values of secularism, social justice and equity? Then it will be binding on us. Can we bring out a manual to bring out these values? Whatever you think, is converted into speech, the sound energy which will remain for many years in the cosmos. We need the antenna to catch the energies available around us. Why do we need temples? There is lot of energies in such places which reinforce your own spiritual energies. Brainstorm yourself and identify the how.

Some of the ideas and strategies evolved during the group work session were the following:

  • There could be a paper on Compassion, Competence and Commitment for MSW
  • There should be practicum for compassion
  • Commitment from reading great peoples’ life
  • What is required for commitment? Values, but compassion
  • There are natural and nurtured values. What strategies are needed to make the nurtured values natural? Mindset needs change. It will bring commitment and compassion. Social worker should inspire.
  • Does the farmer’s child comes back to change the farmers’ lot. The educated ones are alienated from the mainstream. What will be their commitment?
  • Tribal communities need competencies to develop themselves in their own habitat. Once they develop themselves, there is a trend that they get themselves separated from their own society.
  • Tribal people have their own culture. Social workers need to uplift them within their own set up. Cultural exploitation should not take place.
  • Research on tribal values and culture and learn the lessons of compassion, commitment and competencies from them.
  • Research areas: farmers’ suicide, famine, and droughts. Farmers cannot decide the price of their produce, but manufacturers can fix the price of their products.
  • Action and dissemination: Art of living to work with farmers’ mindset.

Valedictory function

The valedictory and the concluding session was held at 12.30 to 2.00 PM. Reporting of the symposium was presented by Dr. Pritam Bederkar. Dr. Suresh Pathare shared the overall reflection of the symposium. The need for continuing the international conference was felt by the participants strongly. It was decided that all the participants shall come prepared with their thoughts and evidence based learning for the international conference. Valedictory address was given by Prof. Sanjai Bhatt. Mr. Vishal Barnabas, the secretary of BPHE Society made the chairperson’s remark. He mentioned, ‘Speaking is not my strength. We are so mechanized and we need to either perform or perish. Emotional intelligence and spirituality is important in organization. There would have a great value addition’. He shared a small and brief history of BPHES, founded in 1969. With the lunch the symposium was concluded.