Monday, January 16, 2012

Swami Vivekananda on Education

Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.

Knowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside. What we say a man “knows” should, in strict psychological language, be what he “discovers” or “unveils”. What a man “learns” is really what he “discovers” by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.

You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant. The plant develops its own nature. The child also teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is not of a positive nature but negative. You can take away the obstacles, and knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge around it; see that it is not killed by anything. You can supply the growing seed with the materials for the making up of its body, bringing to it the earth, the water, the air that it wants. And there your work stops. It will take all that it wants by its own nature. So, with the education of the child. A child educates itself. The teacher spoils everything by thinking that he is teaching. Within man is all knowledge, and it requires only an awakening, and that much is the work of the teacher. We have only to do so much for the boys that they may learn to apply their own intellect to the proper use of their hands, legs, ears and eyes.

Liberty is the first condition of growth. It is wrong, a thousand times wrong, if any of you dares to say, ‘I will work out the salvation of this woman or child.’ Hands off! They will solve their own problems. Who are you to assume that you know everything? How dare you think that you have the right over God? For, don’t you know that every soul is the Soul of God? Look upon everyone as God. You can only serve. Serve the children of the Lord if you have the privilege. If the Lord grants that you can help any of His children, blessed you are. Blessed you are that that privilege was given to you when others had it not. Do it only as worship.

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, assimilating 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. If education were identical with information, the libraries would be the greatest sages in the world and encyclopedias the rishis. To me, the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collection of facts. If I had to do my education once again, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument, collect facts at will.

Are you educated? Getting by heart the thoughts of others in a foreign language and stuffing your brain with them and getting some university degrees, you consider yourself educated. Is this education? What is the goal of your education? Either clerkship, or being a lawyer, or at the most a Deputy Magistrate, which is another form of clerkship – isn’t that all? What good will it do to you or to the country at large? Open your eyes and see what a piteous cry for food is rising in the land of Bharata, proverbial for its food. Will your education fulfill this want? The education that does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name?

Worship your Guru as God, but do not obey him blindly. Love him all you will, but think for yourself. With the teacher, our relationship is the same as that between and ancestor and his descendent. 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 lecturer; 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. But too much faith in personality has a tendency to produce weakness and idolatry. Worship your Guru as God, but do not obey him blindly. Love him all you will, but think for yourself.

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