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imageSwami Satyananda - Purpose of Education

Education has two purposes. The first is to equip you with qualifications so you can earn a living in agriculture, commerce or technology. You receive instruction about the outside world. The second purpose is to impart knowledge about the inner world.

This form of education teaches you about yourself, your body and your social dealings. In today's system of education we have neither. The instruction imparted is of no use either in material or spiritual life, either in the outer or inner world.

In India, schools are competent as far as elementary education is concerned, but they are not teaching anything of national value. Education must cater for the social and national needs of the time. India is on the threshold of the twenty-first century, but the mentality is back in the sixteenth century. Many villagers still live a fourteenth century lifestyle. Some towns are living at the level of the nineteenth century where trains still run on coal and steam. The nation cannot make economic progress until students are trained to earn their living. Unless students receive practical training, there is no freedom from poverty, family members cannot be cared for and elderly parents are neglected.

On the spiritual education front there is complete darkness and ignorance. People do not know what spirituality is. The Upanishads talk about two vidyas, or forms of knowledge. Apara vidya refers to formal, academic or worldly knowledge which helps you to earn a living. It gives empirical knowledge about mathematics, science, astrology, physics, chemistry, biology and other material sciences. Para vidya is transcendental knowledge, spiritual knowledge.

Nowhere in the world have these two forms of knowledge been incorporated into the education system. Everywhere the stress is on empirical knowledge. Therefore, the nation will have to rethink. In fact, the whole world will have to take a fresh look at education. One type of education will not serve the whole world. In Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, China and Central Asia, only one system of education was adopted, which is why there is economic imbalance. Students spend many years at college and university, yet there are no jobs when they graduate.

The purpose of education should be twofold. First, it should make a student capable of earning as early as possible without spending so many years in school. Second, it should develop the personality so that the student can discover his own self. A major reason for social disorder is that we have not discovered appropriate forms of education for different types of people. In Africa or India, children are taught about political leaders, kings and queens and how many children they had. This kind of education does not help at all. What does it matter to a poor carpenter, a farmer or a mason? He wants his son to earn as soon as he is eighteen. The son graduates, but he does not know what to do. He does not even know how to drive a car, so he cannot become a taxi driver.

Education should not be universal, but modified for different types of people. Children should be taught from an early age how to cope with the demands of their day-to-day life. In India, more than seventy percent of the population is based in agriculture, so the education of rural children must be oriented towards farming, cattle breeding and small business. However, people do not demand this type of education from their government. A sophisticated, technological education will not help this country. The more sophisticated technology becomes, the more you can expect the unemployment that exists in highly technological countries in the West.

There is a lack of practical education in India today. A movement needs to be launched to promote vocational or job-oriented education. The purpose of education today is to earn a living. Those of you living in villages, towns and cities must rethink your education system. If you can see that much of what is taught in schools today is unnecessary, then why continue admitting your children and increasing the number of students?

I took sannyasa at the age of nineteen and lived in my guru's ashram for twelve years and I never used the knowledge I obtained at school. However, whatever skills I learned in my guru's ashram, whether typing, accounting, book-keeping, translating, printing or construction work, all proved of great use to me in later life. The most valuable lesson I learned was that life is ever flowing, always moving ahead. One just has to watch the phenomenal world as it comes, and take it in one's stride. I learned many practical things from Swami Sivananda. Now I think that my first eighteen years of school education were useless. The same is true for many people I see around me.

An extract from, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Sankalpa of a Sannyasi, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, 2008

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