New Dimensions in Modern Education and research findings for its implementation
By Dr H R Nagendra, Vice Chancellor,Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anushtana Samsthanam, (Svyasa), Bangalore

Where are we heading in our quest for happiness?

Our global society is overwhelmed by problems: gun culture, drug addiction, terrorism, rape, child abuse and psychosomatic ailments are draining the people of their energy, engaged as they are in a rat race to achieve more, acquire more, accumulate more.

The objective of all life is 'Quest for Happiness.'  Every action of ours is dictated by this search for happiness. But we fail to realise that we do not get more and more happiness by merely acquiring more and more objects to satisfy our immediate needs and comforts. 

What is Real Happiness?

Say, you love gulab jamun. You visit your friend, whose mother has made it specially for you, knowing it's your favourite sweet.  You eagerly eat two jamuns; then, your friend's mother coaxes you to have one more, and you do.  Though you do not enjoy it as much as the first two jamuns, you eat it to make your friend's mother happy.  Then, she forces one more jamun on you, and then one more.  With each extra jamun, your distaste for the delicacy you love, increases! 

It was the law of diminishing interest, and not increasing pleasure that was in operation in the case of the jamuns.  Similarly, acquisition of an increasing number of external objects does not assure greater happiness. Real Happiness lies in achieving an inner state of peace. Education must help us transform our search for happiness from one that merely seeks external objects of enjoyment to a search for what the Upanishads call 'Reality', or 'Pure consciousness' or 'Bliss' - Sat-Chit-Ananda - within the silence of our hearts.

The Vedic way to Real Happiness

What can be there in the silence of our hearts?  Only void.  But void is not just zero, it is also infinity, taught our ancient seers - there is nothingness in space, which is infinite!  If you deduct the Infinite from the Infinite, what do you have left, except Infinity itself?

Purnamatah purnamidam purnat purnamuduchyate

Purnasya purnamadaya purnamevavasishyate

Nowadays, we think that Vedanta is only for the aged, forgetting that it was taught to students in the gurukulas of ancient India.  What we need today is a revival of this spiritual basis for our education.  Education must not merely be oriented towards 'bread earning'; it must re-orient itself towards 'man-making'.  Modern Science, which is the knowledge of the West, can help us understand the physical universe, but it is yet to fathom the subtle.  On the other hand, the knowledge of the East, of which the Prasthana Traya consisting of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras are a part, teach a holistic value system.

The need for a new, global system of education based on Indian values

You might have heard this famous episode relating to Michaelangelo before: Once, the famous sculptor was asked how he could create such beautiful images in stone.  Michaelangelo replied that the images already existed in the stone, and all he did was chip away the portions that did not belong to the image!

Like the stones in which Michaelangelo 'discovered' the images, Education must help the individual get rid of the impurities that cloud his mind and discover the perfect self within himself.

In being uni-dimensional, tending only to our body which is in a continual state of flux (the Nirupadhika Brahma, as the Upanishads term it), we are inclined to completely forget to nurture the unchanging entity within us - call it the self or soul or, as our Upanishadic seers did, the Sopadhika Brahma. Apara Vidya or the knowledge of the external world must be taught alongside Para Vidya or the knowledge of the inner self. 

Implementation of a model education system based on Indian tradition

Yoga and Sanskrit have been found to revolutionise the way children think, feel and learn. Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anushthana Samsthana (SVYASA), a deemed university, began an educational experiment based on the tenets discussed in the preceding paragraphs, in Arunachal Pradesh, in the 1970s.  The areas chosen were so backward that distances in the locality were measured not in miles or kilometres but in terms of days' walk - that is, the number of days it would take to move from one place to another!  The people were almost unlettered and the area, undeveloped; there were no buses, or even roads!  No teachers would go there, initially.  But SVYASA's initiative bore such remarkable results, that the organization now runs 18 Vivekananda Kendras, or residential schools, and 5 non-residential schools in the region.

The challenges before the new millennium are combating stress, promoting health and providing value education.  In the USA, 90% of the students are reported to have tried minor or major psychedelic drugs at some point in their lives, and 3% get stuck with major psychedelic drugs.  Murders and suicides committed by young people are becoming more commonplace throughout the world.  It is the stress and restlessness brought about by unrestrained desires that lead to greed which cause the youth to adopt such extreme measures. 

Education must impart a holistic value system.  Our country needs an education system that will inculcate in us civic sense, patriotism, service mindedness and a zeal for nation building.  What is required is a multi-dimensional solution, with a spiritual basis, for addressing our physical, mental, emotional and intellectual needs.  And a solution for this lies in our Vedas, as SVYASA has shown.