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Five Basic Principles For Meaningful Education Based On Hinduism Teachings

According to Hindu scriptures, the twin ideals of material prosperity and spiritual emancipation are complementary. In fact, real material prosperity is possible and meaningful only when it is oriented to spiritual emancipation. That is why in Hinduism the chief purpose of education is to acquire and impart knowledge for one’s own welfare and for the welfare of all living beings. It is only then that knowledge becomes fruitful. For the attainment of this purpose five basic principles have to be adhered to:

Jijnasa, or the desire to know. The desire to exist, the desire to know and the desire to enjoy are the three basic desires of a human being. Of these, it is the desire to know that governs the other two. Therefore its proper cultivation occupies a primary place in education. By jijnasa is meant not mere curiosity but (a) love of knowledge for its own sake, and (b) the longing to know the ultimate Truth.

Shraddha, or faith. Faith is more than just belief. It is ‘trust’ (a) in one’s higher self (Atman) and in one’s own potentialities, (b) in God, and (c) in dharma, or the moral order that governs the universe (which involves a conviction that virtue will ultimately triumph).

Shakti, or strength. Strength does not mean the strength of a brute to fight and destroy. It inludes (a) physical strength to discharge one’s duties properly, (b) mental strength to bear the unavoidable adversities of life, (c) strength of will in the exercise of self control (samyama), especially with regard to enjoyment, and (d) the capacity for one-pointed application or perseverance in any form of work undertaken (including higher meditation).

Niti, or morality. This consists of (a) personal moral principles such as truthfulness, chastity and non-violence, (b) social moral principles such as respect for elders and women, dignity of labour and non-exploitation of others, and (c) collective moral principles such as patriotism, international understanding and religious harmony.

Seva, or service. Service rather than being restricted to some special kinds of activities, should become a ‘way of life’, that is, it should be a basic attitude towards social life. Such service has four main components: (a) service to one’s parents, (b) service to holy people and one’s teachers, (c) service to the poor and the sick, and (d) service to humanity at large through the work one does.

In addition to the above principles, we should also have a well-defined method in order to improve ourselves morally and ethically. Evaluating ourselves against the values listed above, along with the practice of self-introspection, will help us in that. This kind of self-introspection acts as a mirror and shows us where we stand. Our whole life must become a course in self-discipline. Perfection is not a fixed value; there is no end to it. As long as we live, we must keep learning and improving. There are no short cuts here. So we need not be too ambitious in the beginning. Before attempting to run, we must learn to walk easily.

SourceExcerpt from article titled ‘The Need for Spiritually Enlightened Citizens’ by Swami Jagadatmananda in Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2006 issue.