Vedic Knowledge and Modern Education
Vedic knowledge was previously imparted in a systematic manner, covering spirituality, social roles, and responsibilities, as well as vocational education on a person’s role in society. For example, Mahabharata describes how the Pāndava and the Kaurava were sent for education to Dronacharya where they were taught spiritual topics, their duties as kings, and the science of warfare and weaponry. This principle—i.e. spirituality, duties, and vocation—still holds good. However, much by way of duties and vocations has now changed. This post argues that the traditional Gurukula system—with its rigorous emphasis on the chanting of Vedic mantra, the performance of yajña, and the rigorous mastering of Sanskrit to interpret the Sanskrit texts—is no longer necessary and in many cases not feasible. We should instead view the Gurukula as centers of scientific education of reality based on Vedic principles.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Basic Principle of Education
- 2 The State of Primary Education
- 3 The State of Higher Education
- 4 Problems in Modern Education
- 5 Academic Presentations of Vedic Knowledge
- 6 Making Education Relevant to Children
- 7 Primary vs. Secondary Knowledge
- 8 Sāńkhya’s View of Developmental Psychology
- 9 The Developmental Stages in Sāńkhya
- 10 Preparing for the Real World
- 11 Types of Vocational Education
- 12 Forms of Higher Education
- 13 Considerations of Daivī Varṇāśrama
- 14 The Traditional Gurukula System
- 15 A Modern Gurukula System
- 16 Reforming Modern Education
- 17 Share this:
The Basic Principle of Education
The material world is like an inverted tree, in which you can see downward, but you can’t see upward. This means that if you are sitting at a particular leaf, you will only know about that leaf. If you climb up the tree and come to a twig, then from there you can see the twig and all the leaves that are directly emanating from the twig. As you climb up further, you can see many twigs coming out of a branch, and then you can see the branch as well as all the twigs and leaves emerging from it. Thus, as we climb the tree of material knowledge and understanding, we perform two kinds of activities—broadening and deepening.
By broadening I mean that as we climb up the tree of knowledge, a greater number of branches, twigs, and leaves come within our vision; our knowledge is therefore broadened by rising. Similarly, as we climb up the tree, we find a new kind of unity that reconciles the aforementioned diversity; our understanding is deepened by the unity that reconciles a greater amount of diversity. The broadening of the knowledge and the deepening of the understanding are processes that go hand-in-hand.
The State of Primary Education
Realizing this principle is important because at present we ask children to broaden their knowledge by cramming many subjects without giving them insights by which they can deepen their understanding of how all this fits together. For example, if you examine the teaching patterns in present-day schools, you will find middle grades imparting education in so many diverse and unrelated areas—algebra, geometry, arithmetic, biology, chemistry, physics, civics, geography, history, languages, literature, computers, art, sports, dramatics, etc. Not only are these subjects taught by different teachers—who have generally a very limited understanding of the other subjects—but there is also no attempt to show how civics and geography are actually parts of the same tree of knowledge. Nobody today has the understanding of how algebra and linguistics, or biology and computers, can be branches of a single knowledge tree.
The result of such education is that children cram lessons, spit them out during an exam, and then erase them from memory as a bad dream which should have never happened. Most children come out of the education system hating it, but as they grow up, they force their children into the same system again.
The State of Higher Education
People hope the situation will get better when they grow up, but it actually gets worse. While school children are taught arts, social sciences, physical sciences, life sciences, and logical sciences, the topics decrease to a focused few by high school. For example, students have to choose between physical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences; the art students detach from science; and so forth. As one goes into college, each of the physical, life or social sciences are further divided, and one picks a specialization. For example, there are separate departments for physics, chemistry, and mathematics in all universities. As one pursues a masters program, the focus is further narrowed within a department. When one goes into a doctoral program, a very specific topic, within a very narrow area, is assigned for investigation. And this trend continues later in life through post-doctoral studies and research. In short, the education focus is very broad in school and gradually narrows subsequently.
As time passes, and as we become more educated, our expertise narrows, because the education system teaches us more and more about less and less. In the logical limit of this ongoing educational effort, we will know everything about nothing. The modern education system goes from diverse branches towards leaves, rather than from the branches to the root. The modern system neither broadens our thinking nor deepens our understanding; it rather narrows and shallows. As you enter the specialized fields of modern science you increasingly find enormous amounts of data generated in each field, but very little understanding of how to parse and comprehend this data variety.
There are also many difficulties in broadening the knowledge formally because the knowledge is divided into different departments which largely remain incommunicado. And we cannot build strong bridges because attempts to unify diverse areas is viewed as an existential threat to current identities. Thus, knowledge is not a single tree with many branches. It can at best be called a forest of many trees, which have grown haphazardly, although they coexist in the same ecosystem. Just as you can get lost in a forest, similarly one can get lost in the dizzying jargon of the diverse knowledge areas.
Problems in Modern Education
I could have begun with the issue of how to impart Vedic knowledge, but I have begun by describing the problem in modern education itself. The reason is that we cannot replace an existing system with a new system without understanding what to replace, why to replace, and how it will change the system.
The essential problem in the modern education system is that it is not broadening and deepening in the sense that we cannot see how diverse branches are part of the single tree. The human mind is limited and it cannot hold large amounts of data. And since we cannot obtain an understanding of the whole, we focus on the leaves of a particular branch—thereby overlooking the roots. As we forego the study of the higher parts of the tree, there is a decline in mental and intellectual development, emotional stability, and moral judgment. Atheism and social decline follow as natural consequences.
Modern education is beset with cynicism about the potential for unification because you cannot find any academic pressure to unify diverse departments, or even emerge with a unified basis of their diverse theories. Nobody in a university believes that one day there would be one department which would be regarded as the supreme department to which every single student has to enroll, regardless of what they are studying, because this department unifies all other departments. Nobody in the modern education system actually practices a hierarchy of the departments—even though they profess reductionism over and over—because the fact is that they are unable to reduce.
Anyone seeking the truth about reality is quickly lost in the forest of many trees. If one examines these trees, we can find that they propose contradictory ideas and theories, and while they demonstrate some convergence within their own domains from leaves to roots, ultimately there are so many trees that you can never conclusively answer any of the human and existential questions. In fact, many people now mock these questions, calling them a waste of time. It has become fashionable to disregard deeper questions and focus on the superficial details.
Such an education system serves no ultimate purpose; it can, however, create employable specialists and education is now entirely about vocations, not about a true understanding of reality, which can then be used to convincingly decide the nature of right and wrong, good or bad. As society heads towards greater materialism, we can expect more unhappiness, more disruptions, and more decadence.
Academic Presentations of Vedic Knowledge
Vedic knowledge is taught in modern universities as part of the department of religion, with religion being one of the dozens of departments. This approach to Vedic knowledge effectively views it as yet another subject to be crammed in like the other subjects. What could be the use of such cramming? We have to view Vedic knowledge as the method of education—i.e. that there is a tree that has something at the root and something at the leaves. With that understanding, we can go from leaf to root, and then grow more branches and leaves.
Vedic knowledge is not another subject of knowledge—like civics, geometry, or chemistry. Vedic knowledge is the approach to education in which all ideas are part of a single tree of ideas. Acquiring Vedic knowledge means understanding the root idea, the trunk ideas, the branch ideas, and so forth until one can explain the observed phenomena based on these ideas. All things in the material world are ideas; we just don’t understand the process by which they were created. Education means seeing the idea hierarchy, understanding how it is produced from a root, and then producing the most useful new branches, twigs, and leaves on the tree for everyone’s consumption.
Vedic education and modern education obviously differ in many ideas that they impart. But before that difference, they differ in the notion of education itself as a single tree vs. a forest of trees.
Making Education Relevant to Children
Apart from the fact that modern education broadens without deepening, most people dislike education because it does not seem relevant to them as human beings. For example, what does the geography of soils, mountains, and seas have to do with one who is interested in art? Or the study of various types of animals and plants have to do for one who wants to be a soldier?
The idea underlying such education is that if children learn everything, maybe they will become interested in something. Or, maybe they will find all this knowledge useful in some way later in life. These notions of education are flawed because even if you know some biology it is worthless: a little knowledge can be very dangerous. You are not likely to cure your diseases with a high school biology education. You will still go to a real doctor who knows the full science, not just a few parts superficially.
The education system fails to impart the education relevant to all children, not just a few of them. In fact, the majority of the children dislike education, and very few love it. Most education is also at odds with the kinds of questions that naturally arise in a child owing to their gradual psychological development. For example, children naturally ask their parents and teachers about where they came from. Parents mostly trivialize the question (e.g. that a stork delivered the baby) or provide a materialistic explanation (e.g. that the child is produced by a sexual union), when this question can be the beginning of an investigation into who we are and why we are here.
These are then two prominent problems that a theory and methodology of education have to solve—making the education relevant, and adapting it to their developmental stages. These are hard problems because to find something relevant to everyone implies understanding the meaning of humanity. Similarly, in order to impart education according to the stages of a child’s psychological development means grasping the stages of human cognitive and perceptual advancement. Ultimately, we can see that the solution to both kinds of problems lies in understanding who we are.
If we know who we are, we can make education relevant. If we know the stages of development, then we can stagger the education according to the developmental stage. Imparting the truth too early is not good, just as imparting the truth too late is not wise. We must understand that our capacity to learn develops gradually, and learn accordingly.
Primary vs. Secondary Knowledge
Vedic texts describe the process of the creation of the universe, which offers useful insights into the education process. Lord Brahma—the first created being—is also said to be the person who undergoes a process of education before he applies his knowledge to the creation of the planets, species, universal administration, etc. The universal creation is divided into two parts—called primary and secondary. The primary creation concerns the essential universal principles that apply universally in all areas. The secondary creation concerns the specific applications of these universal principles.
Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu creates the principles—from bottom to top—and manifests Lord Brahma as the embodiment of the topmost principle (mahattattva) on a lotus (space in which the petals are directions and each direction is a unique meaning). Lord Brahma attempts to understand the universe top-down by climbing down the stem of the lotus for 10,000 celestial years but fails to find the bottom of the universe—i.e. the origin from which the lotus has sprung. He then climbs back up, sits on the lotus where he hears the sound ‘tapa’, and he performs austerities.
The act of climbing down the lotus is the act of looking deeper inside matter. Lord Brahma thus executes the same process of investigation as the modern materialistic scientists who think that the universe must be comprised of the smallest parts, which can be found if we dig deeper and deeper into material objects. Lord Brahma finds that as he digs deeper and deeper—by climbing down the lotus—he cannot find any foundation. Going down the stem means dividing something big into smaller parts. There is no limit to how much you can divide. For example, you can divide 1 by 2 to get 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc. At each step, you create two branches out of each node. But by such division, you can never reach the origin—i.e. the number 0—although you can get closer and closer. Also, if you actually understand the process of division, you know that there is no logical limit to it. The origin is assumed in everything, including the process of division, and yet, you cannot reach this number by division.
The lesson is that the foundation of the material world is not the smallest atom. The foundation is the biggest idea. The universe originates in the biggest idea, not the smallest atoms. The universe is sandwiched between two ideas—everything and nothing. The idea ‘everything’ is at the top of the universe (above Brahma) and the idea ‘nothing’ is at the bottom of the universe (the root of the lotus). If one tries to seek the origin downwards, neither can one reach this origin, and even if someone got close to it, their conclusion would be that the foundation is ‘nothing’. Looking deeper inside matter is therefore an infinite process, and it ultimately ends in the conclusion of nothingness.
This is the essence of Lord Brahma’s education in the material world before he becomes the secondary creator. This also can be a child’s education before the child becomes a productive person in society. The understanding of the universe as an inverted tree—in which we begin with the idea of ‘everything’ and go on dividing it into smaller and smaller parts to obtain ‘nothing’ is the primary knowledge. Both ‘everything’ and ‘nothing’ have forms, and the things between these two extremes also have forms. What we call sociology, economics, management, physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, medicine, law, etc. are secondary knowledge—i.e. in between the extremes. God creates the extremes and allows secondary creators to create things in between the extremes. Some are thus running upwards towards everything and others are running downwards towards nothing.
The adults—who have received modern education—should go from secondary to primary knowledge: i.e. understand how the diversified forms of modern knowledge are incomplete without deeper levels of subtle reality which are absent in modern science. The children, however, can be educated from primary to secondary in a new system of education.
Sāńkhya’s View of Developmental Psychology
Once we understand the principle of education, then we can discuss the methodology of imparting it. Dissemination of knowledge depends on the mental and intellectual development of the child. For example, we cannot impart the understanding of karma to a young child because the discussion of hell will conjure up images of ruthless punishments, painful torture, and immense suffering. This is not suitable for a young child, but it is appropriate information in the late teens. Similarly, we cannot teach them logic unless they understand the nature of concepts, how all concepts are produced from opposites, how these opposites create principles of mutual-exclusion and non-contradiction. Everything has a time and an order. If this order is not respected, knowledge won’t be grasped.
Sāńkhya is a theory of matter, but also a bottom-up theory of a child’s development. It begins in sense objects and then proceeds into sensations, senses, concepts, judgments, intentions, morals, the consequences of actions, the nature of our desires, and finally the spirit soul which is the origin of all desire. One of the great facts about Sāńkhya is that we are not trying to understand things irrelevant to us; we are trying to understand how we perceive and conceive the world. There is nothing of greater relevance to us, than the knowledge which describes the process of experience creation.
Therefore, there is nothing boring about this education; education is a description of who we are. It is not theoretical because we have various kinds of experiences to test the theory. Sāńkhya is a theory of experience, which begins in the objects we experience and culminates in the subject who experiences. It turns out that there are many additional material stages between the objects and the subject. All these stages are relevant to our understanding of the mind-body complex; they are relevant to understanding other people and societies, and they are imperative to grasp the laws of nature.
The Developmental Stages in Sāńkhya
Sāńkhya therefore should be viewed as the different developmental stages themselves. These stages are briefly highlighted here. There is of course much more to Sāńkhya than this brief summary.
- First, there are sense objects—e.g. you can see apples, trees, houses, etc. Accompanying these sense objects is also the perception of motion or change—e.g. that if you eat an apple, it disappears, and time changes things. There are also sensations of pleasure and pain.
- Second, there are properties—e.g. you realize that there is something called color (red vs. blue), and shape (square vs. round)—which are in the objects, and yet not purely objects. For example, you can show people red and blue, but you cannot show them the idea of color.
- Third, you understand that you have many kinds of senses—e.g. taste vs. smell vs. sight—and therefore there are other people who can also see, taste, touch, and smell. A child begins to understand that just as I can experience, other people can also experience.
- Fourth, we understand that there are concepts that apply to many objects; for instance, apple is a concept, and the red, round, sweet thing in my hand is actually one of many apples. This is the beginning of mental development beyond the sensual experience of the world.
- Fifth, we begin to understand that the diversity of concepts is actually produced from a few concepts: this is the dawn of scientific thinking, in which a child realizes that the conceptual diversity can be reduced to a few essential ideas, which constitute a theory about nature.
- Sixth, the child begins to understand that all such theories are motivated due to goals, or solving some specific kinds of problems; the conclusion is that different people are trying to solve different problems; they have conflicting goals and therefore conflicting theories.
- Seventh, the child realizes that these conflicts cannot be resolved unless we constitute moral principles of right and wrong, good and bad, which have to be applied to society at large. Society cannot be governed simply by my goals, but by moral principles.
- Eighth, the child can see that even though there are moral principles, not everyone is acting according to these principles. What are the consequences of not acting morally? This leads to an understanding of karma and transmigration through different bodies.
- Ninth, once transmigration is understood, the child can see that there are other living beings too—i.e. animals—who are living beings too (they have the capacity for perception, sensations, emotions like humans) but they don’t have a realization of how they got into that life.
- Tenth, the child sees that humans can realize the nature of repeated birth and death, and this is the main problem of life; the purpose of life is to exit this cycle; everything else that we do has to be done with the intent of ending the cycle. The purpose of life is transcendence.
In Sāńkhya, these stages are called bhūta (sense object), tanmātra (properties), indriya (senses), manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahamkāra (ego), mahattattva (morality), karma (consequences), guna (innate qualities), and jīvā (the soul). If a child is systematically taught these ten steps over 10 grades, the children out of school would know that the purpose of life is getting out of the cycle of birth and death. If schooling is begun at the age of 6, and a child undergoes systematic education over 10 years, then by the age of 16 he or she would understand the highest conclusion of life—athāto brahma jijñāsā—now (that you are in human life), therefore, inquire in the eternal self.
Preparing for the Real World
Once the child has acquired this conclusion, the next 2 to 9 years can be spent in vocational education, according to one’s guna and karma. It is essential that the child is informed about the guna and karma before they enter a particular type of vocational training because without this knowledge they will consider the entire system biased and reprehensible for the rest of their lives. The prior school education, therefore, is essential to make a child understand what they should choose in life.
A great problem in modern times is that children go through school without a good understanding of what they need to do after school. All children look at the latest fads, do some personal research, consider what their friends are doing, where they can make the most money, etc., and then make a decision. This is a most flawed approach to picking a vocation—which is called Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra—because you cannot be successful (materially or spiritually) just by looking at the latest fads, what other people are doing, where the most money is available, etc. The best route to one’s success is their guna and karma. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no guidance today on this front. As a result, the choices that children are making are no better than a coin toss—i.e. random.
An understanding of guna and karma is necessary to realize what kinds of professions are most viable for a person, but also understand where they can be most successful in the ultimate aim of life, i.e. transcendence. When children understand that the greatest vocational guide in their day-to-day life is their guna and karma rather than their research and random discussions with friends, they can pick the right kind of vocation themselves. Formerly, wise teachers were capable of understanding a person’s guna and karma in order to engage the students in the right kind of vocational activity. This is not impossible today either. One needs an understanding of the material modes because based on those modes one can see a person’s previous life, and based on that one can know the karma.
Types of Vocational Education
By vocational education, I mean secondary knowledge. This can mean arts and crafts for the Sudra, economics, and management for the Vaisya, sociology, law, and governance for Kshatriya, and linguistics, logic, and philosophy for the Brahmana. The essence of this education is to prepare a person to become a secondary creator. They need to be trained in the specific things they will create. This corresponds to the modern system of pre-college, vocational diplomas, and college education.
Vocational education can be short (typically for workers) or long (typically for intellectuals). If one has gone through school until the age of 16 years, the person can become vocationally educated anywhere between 18 to 25 years. Most workers would be capable of contributing by the age of 18, while most intellectuals would be ready to contribute to society by the age of 25. This is the time by which they can be considered qualified enough to formally begin the vocation of their own choice.
The goal of vocational education is to get a person constructively engaged in society. Naturally, we expect the education of the Brahmana to be more arduous and extensive than the education of the Sudra. Thus, only those who are capable, interested, and qualified will venture into such vocational roles. Since society is structured hierarchically, attaining a higher position in society also entails attaining a higher level of qualification. The value of a social stratum is recognizable only when the hurdles in attaining that stratum are significantly higher than the previous strata.
Forms of Higher Education
Typically, the education of the Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra ends by the time they get vocationally occupied. Beyond that initial engagement, they grow in expertise and experience, not in knowledge. That is, they learn how to apply the knowledge in better and better ways. However, for the Brahmana, education is a lifelong process; this includes life-long efforts to educate others, but also to be on the lifelong path to the study of Vedic texts and the elucidation of Vedic knowledge to others.
The tree of knowledge is infinite because it can always grow new branches, twigs, and leaves. Brahmana can also be the creators of new forms of knowledge. One of the key lessons of modern science is that completely new fields of knowledge that were heretofore unknown have been created. For example, until a few centuries ago, subjects such as particle physics and organic chemistry did not exist. Organizational theory was unheard of, as was the subject of psychoanalysis. All these are not entirely new areas of knowledge because they are created from the same original principles. Nevertheless, society has to continually produce new forms of knowledge to engage the intellectuals.
The tendency of an intellectual is to create new ideas. Intellectuals like to debate and argue; they like to write treatises and split hairs on finer points. This is not a bad idea at all. In fact, the six systems of theistic philosophy in the Vedic tradition—namely, Sāńkhya, Yoga, Mimānsa, Vedānta, Nyaya, and Vaiśeṣika—are byproducts of intellectual activities based on Vedic texts. These fields are not directly Vedic texts. But what are the intellectuals going to do if not expound on Vedic philosophy?
The Vedic tradition has been alive for millennia because of its ability to support infinite intellectual work within the ambit of its basic conclusions. We can expect that those interested in Vedic philosophy will not only explain its conclusion but also create new forms of knowledge based on Vedic principles, quite like modern science has created many new departments.
Considerations of Daivī Varṇāśrama
We must note that the classical Vedic system—called Varṇāśrama—doesn’t support the education of Sudra. In other words, the children of the Sudra were not allowed to go to a teacher, obtain any education, and then determine whether they are qualified for any higher roles in society. This is the fundamental reason that over time the Sudra feel left behind in society because the upper three classes—Brahmana, Kshatriya, and Vaisya—get educated, and by that education, they can change their roles. The classic Varṇāśrama system allowed social mobility between the top three classes but excluded the children from the lowest class. This class then becomes a disenfranchised and disenchanted population that revolts against the higher classes (especially as its size grows) to dismantle the hierarchy.
The Daivī Varṇāśrama system is different, as I have previously discussed. In this system, there is primary education for all classes—regardless of their birth—bringing them to the point where they can make informed vocational choices. In the modern age, the differences in guna and karma between the four classes have declined rapidly and most of the population is therefore Sudra. If we follow the classic Varṇāśrama system, there would be hardly anyone to educate! The Daivī Varṇāśrama system, therefore, envisions that the social classes are based on a person’s eternal form, not their present conditioned state. For example, there are certain things that each person naturally relishes doing; some people may like administration, while others prefer business; some may like intellectual knowledge while others prefer art. These traits are real and eternal; the temporary and illusory are the numerous modifications of these traits by the three modes of material nature—e.g. a person interested in reading devours fiction rather than true knowledge, or a person perceptive in art considers ugliness as beauty. Under the guidance of the right teacher, our native tendencies can be encouraged, practiced, and realized.
Primary education is therefore meant to give all children a chance to excel. The message to such children is very similar to what modern society gives to its children—study well so that you can lead a higher life later. In other words, education is not limited to any class, and every class has the option of full social mobility across any other class. This system of Daivī Varṇāśrama has been preached and practiced by the Vaishnava Acharya in recent times. One must bear in mind that it is not the classical Varṇāśrama system that forbade education for the Sudra.
The Traditional Gurukula System
The Gurukula were residential schools in which children studied under the tutelage of an enlightened teacher and helped him in running the school by collecting alms from nearby villages, firewood, and fruits from forests, as well as growing whatever minimal was feasible within their modest means. Śrimad Bhāgavatam describes how Kṛṣṇa and Balarama went to Sāndipani Muni for education where they mastered 64 arts in a very short period of time, indicating how a single teacher had the mastery over all branches of knowledge and so he was a complete educational institution in himself.
A large part of the Gurukula system was focused on the development of Brahmana—and the dissemination of Vedic knowledge. The role of the Brahmana in traditional Vedic society was teaching and performing yajña. Extensive mastery of Sanskrit was required both for the performance of yajña as well as teaching Vedic knowledge to disciples because the tradition was based on the oral transmission of information. With the dawn of Kali-yuga, the oral tradition was converted into a written tradition and several prominent Acharyas have written extensive commentaries on the Vedic texts.
The traditional system of yajña has also gradually disappeared because people are no longer capable of performing these complex procedures accurately and inaccurate performances produce no results. The yajña are no longer viable because most of these procedures do not produce expected outcomes.
In this sense, all the key functions of the traditional Gurukula are now unnecessary: (1) the system of yajña is now ineffective, (2) the accurate pronunciation of the Vedic mantra is not viable for most people, and (3) the interpretation of Vedic scriptures is a task beyond the purview of common people. Since the mantra, yajña, and scriptural interpretation are not dominant needs, the learning of Sanskrit may be personally interesting to people, but it is not essential for a successful life.
A Modern Gurukula System
What is then the Vedic education system supposed to do? I will argue that the purpose of this system is to impart three things: (1) knowledge of transcendence beyond matter, (2) understanding of matter and its laws, and (3) moral and theistic vocational education to create a stable and peaceful society. For such a system to be successful today, it has to educate a person in the same kinds of fields that modern education offers—e.g. economics, sociology, physics, management, biology, medicine, mathematics, etc.—but by using an entirely different set of concepts. These concepts will be drawn from Vedic philosophy.
Thus, when we speak of a Gurukula in today’s times, we should not conjure images of children reciting Vedic mantra, performing yajña, or mastering Sanskrit so that they can provide scriptural interpretations. We must rather envision Vedic knowledge as being used to answer the questions that are relevant today, such that education can replace materialistic and atheistic ideas. It is said that the inquisitive soul must inquire from a teacher by submissively asking questions. The questions being asked today are quite different from the questions that were previously asked. The answers to these questions can be based on Vedic ideas, but they are answers to different questions.
For example, people at present want to discuss whether capitalism is better than socialism, whether women and men are equal or unequal, whether reason is more important than emotion, whether the universe is stable or expanding, whether time flows one way or two ways, how the species were created one by one, how fossil records tell us about the past, how old is the universe and how long will it live, are we alone in the universe or are there others, what is the origin of language, does the mind think in a language or is thought separate from language, how can machines do what the minds to today, why is nature mathematical, how do our minds know the world, how are dreams created, what is the ideal organization structure, does the structure create a function or does function create structure, etc.
The list of questions is endless, and the questions are deeply at variance from previous questions. We cannot pretend that people are the same in the past and at present, because obviously their concerns, requirements, problems, and needs have changed. All this presents itself as new questions.
The purpose of education is to answer one’s questions. The purpose is also to take one to the final conclusion. With these two in mind, we have to reinvent education—not by changing the ideas—but by answering a whole new set of questions using the same ideas and principles. The Brahmana previously had education and yajña as their main responsibilities towards society. Now, yajña is no longer their sole prerogative. Similarly, we have the translations of the Vedic texts available in many languages. The key requirement, therefore, is to make the knowledge accessible in a modern way—i.e. by answering the questions that people are asking now, not the questions that they were previously asking.
Reforming Modern Education
Education theory is a huge area of modern study that lies at the intersection of child and developmental psychology, the philosophical questions of what constitutes education, the pragmatic needs of modern society that drive various vocations, and the methodologies by which education is imparted.
It is fair to assume that we cannot do justice to any of these areas in a short post like this, and the idea is not to do so. The intent is to make enough points about the Vedic system of knowledge and education that it can help us see how this system is dramatically different than modern education, and how it overcomes the numerous problems of the modern system, including, but not limited to, broadening the knowledge and deepening the understanding, unifying the diverse fields of knowledge into a single theory of nature, and making education relevant and interesting to children to motivate them to get educated not just because they consider it a necessary evil, but because they find the knowledge relevant to who they are.
A formal theory and methodology of education needs many things. These include the view that the material world is concepts, that these concepts are organized as a tree, the various branches of knowledge emulate the branches of the world, the differences between primary and vocational knowledge, the developmental stages of psychological development, and how education can be made relevant, just, competitive, and fair.
Education is the most urgent need in modern society. If we had only one thing that we could change about the world, it would not be politics, environment, economics, healthcare, or national boundaries. It would be the education system that creates the new generation which shapes everything else.