Anna daanam param daanam vidya daanam atah param
Annena kshanika truptih yaavajjevam ca vidyayo.
These verses say that offering food to the needy is very noble. But giving the gift of education is the highest. While food brings temporary satisfaction, true knowledge brings contentment across lifetimes.
When you gain knowledge it is a wealth.
When you share knowledge it brings merit.
But what is knowledge? Stuffing the brain with information is not knowledge. Real education is when you enable the child to have a shining personality through the development of human values, skills and talents, and proper communication. It should mould their character and behavior patterns and bring out the best in them.
Another beautiful verse says –
Vidya dadaati vinayam vinayaadyati patrataam
Patratvaadanamaapnoti danamdharmam tatasukham
Proper education brings humility, which is a sign of a worthy person. Wealth seeks such an individual and the sharing of that wealth with those in need, brings real joy.
Gurudev says that education should broaden one’s vision and deepen the roots. It should nurture a caring and sharing attitude. It should bring up self-esteem, confidence and courage. It should bring up pride in non-violence. In the olden days, children were sent to the serene atmosphere of a Gurukul to learn under the guidance of a Master. It was not just about collecting information from the Master but imbibing the qualities that he exudes. What the guru says, how he says it, what he does – everything is a part of learning. They imbibe knowledge by being in the presence of the Master. Intellectual nourishment was just one part. Experiential learning was given the highest importance. Further, through regular interaction with the child, the Master is able to understand and shape the total personality of the child.
The word ‘Gurukul’ itself means being part of the lineage of the Master. And in that space, all children were equals, irrespective of their backgrounds. Even kings lived in simple kutirs and served and learnt from the Master. The child is a ‘nobody’ in the Gurukul and learns to rise above differences.
Times are different today. We need to move with the time. The ancient practices have to be revisited and made suitable for today but the essence should be kept pristine & pure – to impart knowledge which will refine one’s being and mould the character. After the mother and the father, the Guru was the biggest influencer in a child’s life. Even today, most of a child’s waking hours are spent with the teacher in school. So it is important to have a cordial and stress-free environment. We are fortunate that we have meditators as teachers in our SSRVM schools. If the teacher is stressed and unhappy, how can he or she teach the children in a relaxed manner?
Teachers must focus on inculcating values and developing communication skills along with giving them the tools to learn the subject matter. We have to be sensitive to the demography and be locally relevant, though being a global fit. Educators must keep this in mind and make a beautiful atmosphere, unpolluted, and stress-free where children learn to appreciate and honor life.
A Japanese educationist once came for a visit to our free school opposite the ashram. When he met me after the school visit he was simply amazed! He asked me, “These children have very little by way of physical comforts, their families are below the poverty line – yet they are all so joyful and happy! How is this possible? I have not seen so many smiling faces even in the best of schools in Japan!” His observation highlights the importance of a joyful atmosphere needed for nurturing the happiness quotient and enabling proper learning. I am very happy to share that this kind of environment has been created in all our 435 free schools across the country where over 58000 children receive holistic education. Unfortunately today, many families still believe that the girl child does not need education. But when the mother is educated, she will ensure that the whole family benefits from it. Girl child education must come to the forefront. The education system should give one the insight and the skills to deal with these social ills and overcome them. As Gurudev says,”Only an education that can nourish inbuilt virtues can impart true intelligence.”