Philosophy of Indian Vedic Education System

The modern education system of India is a legacy of the British. Although most of us criticize our current education system, we are completely unaware of the great education system we already had in place in India, before the British. In this article I will give you a brief introduction to our traditional Vedic Education System.

The founder of the modern Indian Education System is Thomas Babington Macauley. In his Minute on Indian Education of February 1835, he asserted,

“It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgment used at preparatory schools in England”

Think about it, our modern education system was built with this thinking in mind. In Macaulay’s mind this world could be divided into civilized nations and barbarism, with Britain representing the highest point of civilization and India was a barbarian nation with nothing of value to offer to this world. So the modern Indian Education system was built to civilize the barbaric Indian to appreciate the greatness of the British Empire.

Over the next 100 years British succeeded in completely destroying the traditional education system of India. By the time we gained independence all the Indian elites had been trained through Macauley’s education system, while Indian knowledge system was relegated to the background. Even now we have Macauley’s children who are thankful to Macauley for giving us our education system. They are thankful to the British for increasing materialism, consumerism and other western values into the modern Indian society. You know sometimes I think, if Gandhiji had been alive today, he would have been disappointed with all of us. He despised western education system as he could clearly see that western education is not really education and that is why he home schooled all of his sons and did not let them attend the school. He had imagined an India with her own swadeshi education system based on traditional Indian values and yet we ended up with the same education system that British had designed to produce servants for the empire

Just as nowadays in Pakistan a full-fledged Madrassa system has come into existence, which produces servants for the Wahabi ideology of Islam, our Indian education system also produces servants for modern industrial society. No wonder Indians is great at being servants, one such product is here right in front of you. The funny is that we are proud of it. Silicon Valley is the best example for it. We are proud that the CEO of Google, Microsoft and Adobe are Indians. But you must know that a CEO is just an employee to the board of share-holders who hold the real power and are all Americans. Even Indian software companies such as Infosys, TCS and all are also just service providers, in other words servants. We are proud that Indians are good at software, but when you think about who holds the real power of software industry then you notice that they are all American companies such as Google and Facebook. people who really hold the power are the American companies. Indian software companies only provide manpower to these companies.

If we really desire making leaders in India, then we need to incorporate traditional educational principles in Indian education system. And again let me make it clear that I am not saying that we deviate from the modern day science as that has traditionally been the part of our education system any ways, moreover our education system can be based on traditional Indian values and still be secular, as what needs a change is the philosophical approach towards education. Unlike what you might have been taught, the truth is that India has always been a knowledge-based society with great emphasis towards learning and education, which is a proof that we already had working system in our country for education the new generation. It is the robustness of our education system, which is the main reason why our civilization survived so many shocks throughout history and still managed to conserve its knowledge. I will do a separate video on that sometime in future. Here we will focus on the philosophy behind Indian education system.

To understand the philosophy behind the Indian education system you must understand that it follows the same worldview as the worldview of Indian civilization. In our Indian civilization every Individual exists on multiple planes of existence. And each plane of existence has a corresponding body associated with it. Education in Indian respect is to improve oneself for each of these planes of existence. Therefore a Vedantic approach to education involves overall improvement of an individual so that he or she can live a fulfilling life and attain the four Purusharthas of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. This involved separating the education of an individual into developing 5 different parts of one’s personality or purusha. These are as follows.

Anamaya Purusha/Sthool Shareera: In Indian tradition the lowest level of existence is our physical body. To carry out any physical task in life, one must have a well-functioning healthy body and therefore Indian education system placed a lot of emphasis on physical education to build a healthy and strong body. This training involved studying martial arts, dhanur-vidya and mastering other weapons. There was also a strong emphasis on cultivating discipline and self-control in the student so that he develops into a responsible human being.

Pranamaya Purusha/Kaaran Shareera: Prana as we all know is the vitality of human body. Only a human being who has vitality can do great things, therefore our traditional education system has put an emphasis on developing a student’s vitality. Vitality increases when one feels emotions therefore students were encouraged to learn activities such as art, poetry, music and dancing.

Manomaya Purusha/Buddhi: This section of our traditional education system was targeted towards developing one’s mind. The students were taught reasoning and logic, how to put forward an argument and then debate with others. Since India had an oral tradition of knowledge transfer, a great deal of focus was also placed on improving one’s memory. As you can see our current education system only considers this to be education. This is the reason why India these days only produces geeks as opposed to well-developed individuals.

Vignanamaya Purusha/Gyani: Swami Vivekanada used to say that the difference between an ordinary person and an extraordinary person is mostly in the level of concentration. This part of our traditional education system focused in improving just that. It focused on practical techniques for Yoga and meditation, which allowed the students to cultivate a calm mind, which does not get distracted very easily. Such a calm mind can easily take on all the challenges that life throws at it.

Anandamaya Purusha: Finally, we come to the highest education where the student realizes his true identity about who he really is? This is an open-ended area where the student is encouraged to explore within himself his true identity. It is this kind of knowledge that creates people with strong convictions who can take on this world with full confidence and not shake under extreme pressures of life.

So, as you can see our traditional education system focused on the comprehensive development of the student, which would have created strong minded individuals who has the fortitude to take on the challenges of life under stressful situations. In the modern times our traditional education system has been replaced with an education system focused only on skills that helps the student get a job and make a living. Instead of developing wisdom and fortitude, our education system is designed to cultivate babus with desk skills. This is understandable as the whole motivation of the British was to create people who could serve them as servants in empire they were running and they have fulfilled it.

Originally published at https://stoicsadhu.com on April 12, 2020.

Discover Indian Heritage: Arts, Science, Religion and Philosophy of India