THE PANACEA OF ALL SOCIAL EVILS - The Present System
The education that you are getting now has some good points, but it has a tremendous disadvantage which is so great that the good things are all weighed down. In the first place it is not a man-making education, it is merely and entirely a negative education. 'A negative education or any training that it based on negation, is worse than death. The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth, that all the sacred books are lies ! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless. And the result is, that fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three presidencies. Every man of originality that has been produced has been educated elsewhere, and not in this country, or they have gone to the old universities once more to cleanse themselves of superstitions.
We have had a negative education all along from our boyhood. We have only learnt that we are nobodies. Seldom are we given to understand that great men yt@te ever born in our country. Nothing positive has been taught to us. We do not even know how to use our ^-hands and feet! We have learnt only weakness.
The present system is nothing but a perfect machine for turning out clerks. I would even thank my stars if that were all. But no ! Sec how men are becoming destitute of shraddha and faith. They assert that the Gita was only an interpolation and that the Vedas were but rustic songs ! They like to master every detail concerning things and nations outside of India, but if you ask them they do not know even the names of their own forefathers up to the seventh generation, not to speak of the fourteenth!
Our pedagogues are making parrots of our boys, and ruining their brains by cramming a lot of subjects into them. Goodness gracious! What a fuss and fury about graduating, and after a few days all cooled down ! And after all. that, what is it they learn but that what ^apgion and customs we have are all bad and wh^t' the Westerners have are all good! At last, they cannot keep the wolf from the door ! What does it matter if this higher education remains or goes ? It would be better it the people got a little technical education so that they might find work and earn their bread, instead of dawdling about and crying for service.
Is that education, as a result of which the will being continuously choked by force through generations, is now well-nigh killed out ; under whose sway, why mention new ideas, even the old ones are disappearing one by one,— is that education which is slowly making man a machine ? It is more blessed, in my opinion, even lo go wrong impelled by one's free will and intelligence than to be good as an automaton.
Well, you consider a man as educated if only he can pass some examinations and deliver good lectures. The education which does not help the common mass 61 people to equip themselves for the strung!® for life, which does not bring out .strength' of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion — is ii worth the name ? The education that you are receiving now in schools and colleges is only making you a race of dyspeptics. You are working like machines merely, and living a jelly-fish existence.
What is education ? Is it book-learning ? No. Is it diverse knowledge ? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful, is called education . . . (True education) may be described as a development of faculty, not an accumulation of words, or, as a training of individuals to will rightly and efficiently.
The ideal of all education, all training should be man-making. Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library. ‘‘The ass carrying its load of sandal wood knows only the weight and not the value of sandal wood." If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages in the world, and encyclopaedias are the rishis. •
By education I do not mean the present system, but. something in the line of positive teaching. Mere book-learning won't do. We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet. What we want are Western science coupled with Vedanta, Brahmacharya as the guiding motto, and also Shmddhd and faith in one's own self.
Does higher education mean mere study of material sciences and turning out things of everyday use by machinery ? The use of higher education is to find out how to solve the problems of life, and this is what is engaging the profound thought of the modern civilized world, but it was solved in our country thousands of years ago.
Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man. I look upon religion as the innermost core of education. Mind, I do not mean my own, or any one else's opinion about religion. Religion is as the rice, and everything else, like the curries. Taking only curries causes indigestion, and so is the case with taking rice alone.
Concentration and Detachment: We have but one method of acquiring knowledge. From the lowest man to the highest yogin, all have to use the same method ; and that method is what is called concentration. The chemist in his laboratory concentrates all the energies of his mind into one focus, and throws them upon the materials lie is analysing, and so finds out their secrets. The astronomer concentrates all the energies ol his mind and projects them through his telescope upon the skies and the stars, the sun, and the moon, give up their secrets to him.
How has all the knowledge in the world been gained but by the concentration of the powers of the mind ? The world is ready to give up its secrets if we only know how to knock, how to give it the necessary blow. The strength and the force of the blow come through concentration. There is no limit to the power of the human mind. The more concentrated it is, the more power is brought to bear on one point; that is the secret.
Even the lowest shoeblack, if he gives more concentration will black shoes better ; the cook with concentration will cook a meal all the better. In making money, or in worshipping God, or in doing anything, the stronger the power of concentration, the better will that thing be done. This is the one call, the one knock, which opens the gates of nature, and lets out floods of light. This, the power of concentration is the only key to the treasure-house of knowledge.
Along with the development of concentration we must develop the power of detachment. We must learn not only to attach the mind to one thing exclusively, but also to detach it at a moment's notice and place it upon something else. These two should be developed together to make it safe.
This is the systematic development of the mind. To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting of facts. If I had to do my education over again and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will. Side by side, in the child, should be developed the power of concentration and detachment.
Brahmacharya : Every boy should be trained to practise absolute Brahmaeharya and then and then alone, faith and shraduhd will come. Chastity in thought, word and deed always and in all conditions is what is callecf Brahmachanja. It is owing to want ol continence that everything is on the brink of ruin in our country. By observance of strict Brahmaeharya all learning can be mastered in a very short time ; one acquires an unfailing memory of what one hears or knows but once. The chaste brain has tremendous energy and gigantic will-power. Controlled desire leads to the highest results. Transform the sexual energy into the spiritual energy. The stronger the force is, the more can be done with it. Only a powerful current of water can do hydraulic mining.
Shraddha : The idea of true shraddha must be brought back once more to us. What makes the difference between man and man is the difference in the shraddha and nothing else. What makes one man great and another weak and low is this shraddha. No good comes out of the man who day and night thinks that he is nohodv
If a man day and night thinks that he is miserable, low and nothing, nothing he becomes. We are children of the Almighty, we arc sparks of the infinite, divine Fire. How can we be nothings ? We arc everything, ready to do everything ; we can do everything. This faith in themselves was in the heart of our ancestors ; this faith in themselves was the motive power that pushed them forward in the march of civilisation. If there has been degeneration, if there has been defect, you will find that degeneration to have started on the day our people lost this faith in themselves. Therefore, teaeli this lifesaving, great, ennobling, grand doctrine to your children, even from their very birth.
Character : What you want is character, strengthening of the will. Continue to exercise your will and it will take you higher. The will is almighty. It is character tbs' can cleave through adamantine walls of difficulties. The character of any man is but the aggregate of his tendencies, the sum total of the bent of his mind. We are what our thoughts have made us. Thoughts live; they travel far. And so take care of what you think. Every work that we do, every movement of the body, every thought that we think, leaves an impression on the mind-stuff. What we are every moment is determined by the sum total of these impressions on the mind. Every man's character is determined by the sum total of these impressions. If good impressions prevail, the character becomes good, it bad, it becomes bad.
When a large number of these impressions is left on the mind they coalesce, and become a habit. The only remedy for bad habits is counter-habits ; all the bad habits that have left their impressions are to be controlled by good habits. Go on doing good, thinking holy thoughts continuously ; that is the only way to suppress base impressions.
Good and evil have an equal share in moulding character, and in some cases misery is a great teacher than happiness. In studying the great characters that the world has produced, I daic say, in the vast majority of cases, it will be found that it was misery that taught more Ilian happiness, it was poverty that taught more than wealth, and it was blows that brought out then inner fire more than praise. Brought up in the lap of luxury, lying on a bed of roses and shedding a tear, who has become great ?
Communion with Nature : Haven't you read the stories from the Upanishads ? I will tell yon one. Satyakama went to live the life of a hiahmachdrin with his gmu. The gum gave into his charge some cows and sent him away to the forest with them. Many months passed by, and when Salyakama saw that the number of cows was doubled he thought of returning Lo his guru. When the disciple came back, the gum at once saw by a mere glance at his face that the disciple had learnt the knowledge of the Supreme Brahman. Now, the moral this story is meant to teach is that true education is gained by constant living in communion with Nature.
Gurukulu system : My idea of education is gurugriha-vasa. Without the personal life of the teacher there would be no education. One should live from his very boyhood with one whose character is like a blazing fire, and should have before him a living example of the highest teaching. In our country the imparting of knowledge has always been through men of renunciation. The charge of imparting knowledge should again fall upon the shoulders of tyagis.
The old system of education in India was very different from the modern system. The students had not to pay. It was thought that knowledge is so sacred that no man ought to sell it. Knowledge should be given freely and without any price. The teachers used to take students without charge and not only so, most of them gave their students food and clothes. To support these teachers, the wealthy families made gifts to them and they in their turn had to maintain their students. The Teacher must not teach with any ulterior selfish motive, for money, name, or fame ; his work must be simply out of love, out of pure love for mankind at large.
The disciple of old used to repair to the hermitage of the guni, fuel in hand, and the guru, after ascertaining his competence, would teach him the Vedas. Without faith, humility, submission and veneration in our hearts towards the teacher, there cannot be any growth in us. In those countries which have neglected to keep up this kind of relation, the teacher has become a mere leclurer, the. teacher expecting his five dollars and the person taught expecting his brain to be filled with the teacher's words and each going his own way after this much is done.
The true teacher is he who can immediately come down to the level of the student, and transfer his soul to the student’s soul and see through and understand through his mind. Such a teacher can really teach and none else. The conditions necessary for the taught are purity, a real thirst for knowledge, and perseverance. Purity in thought, speech and act is absolutely necessary. As to the thirst after knowledge, it is an old law that we all get whatever we want. None of us get anything other than what we fix our hearts upon. The student who sets out with a spirit of perseverance, will surely find success.
Psychological approach : Another thing that we want is the abolition of that system which aims at educating our boys in the same manner as that of the man who battered his ass, being advised that it could thereby be turned into a horse. You see no one can teach anybody. The teacher spoils everything by thinking that he is teaching. Vedanta says that within man is all knowledge — even in a boy it is so — and it requires only an awakening, and that much is the work of a teacher. You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant. All you can do is on the negative side — you can only help. You can take away the obstacles, but knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge round it ; see that it is not killed by anything, and there your work stops. You cannot do anything else. The rest is a manifestation from within its own nature. So with the education of a child ; a child educates itself.
Present Need and the Swami's Plan
What we need is to study, independent of foreign control, different branches of the knowledge that is our own. and with it the English language and Western science : we need technical education and all else which may develop industries, so that men, instead of seeking for service, may earn enough to provide for themselves, and save something against a rainy day.
We haven’t even got a single book well suited for the little boys. We must compile some books with short stories from the Rinnayimu, the MuhabhCiralu, and the Upanishads, etc., in very easy and simple language, and these are to lie given to our little hoys to read.
My whole ambition in life is to set in motion a machinery which will bring noble ideas to the door of everybody, and then let men and women settle their own fate. Let them know what our forefathers as well as other nations have thought on the most momentous questions of life. Let them see specially what others are doing now and then decide. We are to put the chemicals together, the crystallization will be done by nature according to her lavs.
We must have a hold on the spiritual and secular education of the nation. You must dream it, you must talk it, you must think it, and you must work it out. Till then there is no salvation for the race. We must have the whole education of our country, spiritual and secular, in our hands, and it must be on national lines, through national methods, as far as. practical. Of course this is a very big scheme, a very big plan. I do not know whether it will ever work out. But we must begin the work.
We must have a temple, for with the Hindus religion must come first. We will make it a non-sectarian temple, having only ‘Om as the symbol, the greatest symbol, of any sect. Here should be taught the common grounds of our different sects, and at the same time the different sects should have perfect liberty to come and teach their doctrines, with only one restriction, that is. not to quarrel with other sects. Secondly, in connection with this temple there should be an institution to train teachers who must go about teaching religion and giving secular education to our people ; as we have been already carrying religion from door to door, let us along with it carry secular education also. That can be easily done. Then the work will extend through these bands of teachers and preachers, and gradually we shall have similar temples in other places, until we have covered the whole of India. That is my plan. It may appear gigantic, but it is much needed.