By Gaurav Sharma
Albert Einstein once said, “Education is that which remains, if one has forgotten everything one learned in school.” The statement made by one of the greatest minds in the world, is a stark derision of the education system, especially as it is propounded in schools today.
Most people believe the purpose of education is to provide employment, propagate knowledge and eventually lead to the progress of civilized society.
While no one can deny that education guarantees us a place in society, in the sense of providing us with a job, does that encompass the all-in-all of knowledge? And is progress limited to mere economic and social development?
The modern education system which has its roots in the Imperial days, would have us believe so. The anglicized education system introduced, was meant to generate a class of people who would serve the British in running the administration.
Sadly, 68 years after the ousting of the British, the fangs of slavery are yet to be quashed. In school, the young impressionable minds are ingrained with certain ideas and notions that are deemed as basic ‘facts of life’.
Consequently, when the child comes out of school, his way of looking at the world is usually centered around the tenents of certain theories labelled as ‘science’. One such theory which is supported by a range of biologists and scientists, and is gaining popularity amongst the younger generation is Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
In his book, Origin of Species, Darwin, proclaims that all species have descended over time from common ancestors, evolving through a process known as natural selection.
Natural selection basically refers to the variation that exist in the population of organisms. This variation is attributed to “random mutations” that arise in the genes of the individual, in interaction with the environment.
The claim that life evolved through random mutations, has significant implications. This thesis reduces life to a mere bag of chemicals. As a corollary, this means that life, verily, has no purpose behind it. We are a product of matter, a combination but only of the X and Y chromosome.
A natural consequence of such an atheistic theory is the proposition of survival of the fittest. In other words you either adapt or die.
When a person comes under the warp of such a bleak and gloomy outlook, it inevitably means he feels justified in being crude towards other human beings, what to say of slaughtering animals for the satisfaction of the tongue.
Subconsciously, a pattern is drawn which makes one feel separate and distinct from other living entities. When such a sense of separateness pervades the mind, it leads to the hedonistic attitude that is prevalent in the society.
Basic moral practices such as compassion, love, tolerance, respect are reduced to bare precepts formulated by some non-existent entity.
Bodily necessities take precedence over other subtle realities. When bodily necessities assume paramount importance, existence is limited to survival and enjoyment. Questioning is shunned to the background of clouded thoughts.
This begs the question:
Is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, The Explanation?
Besides the immense damage that the theory of evolution has wreaked on the psyche as well as the functioning of society, it also suffers from several loopholes. In the midst of the scientific view that every action has a reason or a cause behind it, how can existence crop up virtually from nowhere? (the design argument)
It is tantamount to saying that an apple falls from the tree without the existence of gravitational force.
Secondly, it is quite absurd to state that Nature which operates on a set of physical principles does not possess the necessary control in making and implementing decisions. (the intelligence argument)
The most fundamental flaw that lies behind Darwin’s conception is the failure to explain the myriad differences between individuals of the same species, especially in the light of proposition that they are simultaneously generated and, therefore, should be identical in all respects.
More importantly, mere physical changes can hardly be a logical explanation for the attainment of complex states of mind.
A Vedic Alternative
The Vedas expound an explanation for evolution which is consistent with the laws of physical science.
Evolution cannot exist without an involution. This means that the attributes of evolution already lie dormant within the evolving entity. They manifest when the conditions become favourable. Thus, life is already involved in matter. In plain words, Life comes from Life.
This discovery comes in the form of a simple yet profound aphorism: a tree already exists within the seed. This is in compliance with the laws of conservation of mass and energy, that energy can neither be created nor be destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another.
Moreover, the theory of rebirth lends credence to the existence of different living entities belonging to the same species. According to this theory, a living entity can take a higher form when the lower form is no longer suitable for its evolution. This has been upheld by notable psychologists and cannot be rubbished as mere superstition.
It can also be empirically confirmed that Vedic injunctions could indeed help in formation of ethics and character, the main import of real education.
The proverbs of Chanakya Pandita are pertinent in this regard.
Matrvat para-daresu: This means viewing every woman except the wife as one’s mother. Such a thought would naturally stem the flow of sexual violence inundating the present day and age.
Atmavat sarva-bhutesu: This maxim entails looking at every living being as oneself. If everyone follows this doctrine, there is no question of treating others inhumanely or ‘justly’. Everyone would be treated as one would treat himself/herself.
Nowadays, a lot fights happen over property. Chanakya’s view on property also hold universal application. He said one should look at others property as stones or garbage on the street.
Although, such moral precepts might seem too strict for the modern man to follow, towing the line with such principles, can result in more peaceful, co-existent and happy society.
And, herein lies the crucial missing link between the modern education of the west and the now relegated-to-the-fringe-Vedic-education: consciousness.
The goals of life,as per the Vedas, included right action(dharma), fulfilling need and wants(kama) and economic development(artha). Engagement in the cycle of such fruitive actions was only a preparation towards the ultimate aim of moksha or liberation.
The current education system focuses only the aspect of economic development. Words such as morality and compassion have withered away. Liberation is projected as the sole prerogative of sadhus or monks. Mostly, such knowledge has been outcasted from the mental and physical reach of the public. One either has to go to some ashram or to some religious organisation for studying the enlivening Vedic texts.
This education system is formulated by political leaders in cahoots with the technocrats, the industrialists and the scientists. Such people are mostly interested in minting money and are personally motivated. Naturally, they lack wisdom, philosophical insight and depth of knowledge to guide themselves, what to say of the society.
When materialistic pursuits and ambition become the crux of the education system, it invariably forebodes tension within the ‘created’ social groups and wars between ‘pieces of land’ marked as countries.
Therefore, the root of the present education system lies in not understanding the basic purpose of education. The principles that are governing education are highly questionable, especially because they splinter us into different fractions.
In this regard, the knowledge propounded by the Vedic literature hold much significance for society. It is a timeless wisdom beyond sectarian boundaries and dogmas, which cannot be appropriated by any particular group. (even as the Hindus try to).
Such knowledge cuts through political, geographical, social, cultural, economic and national barriers because all living beings, at their core, are essentially the same.
The Vedic proclamation: Aham Brahmamsi ( I am Brahman) is the king of all education because such realisation is capable of uniting us, instead of widening our differences.
The most question, therefore, is, where is such knowledge available? Some obscure place that is definitely not our school.