Education to connect
Vyavahara and Paramartha are an integral part of Bharathiya Samskiriti. We see God element in everything around us. In our traditions, in our actions, there is always a connection to God.
The following verse from the ancient text of Brahma Samhita explains how Paramatma or God is situated in every atom.
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
We, therefore, revere everything as sacred eg: our rivers, lakes, trees, plants, hills in nature. We seek God in everything we do as well. Let us take the example of the process of offering naivedyam and then partaking the remnants as prasada.
In Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells in chapter 3 verse 13:
यज शि षा शि नः सनो मुचनेस रव कि लि षै।
भुञतेतेतघं पापा येपचनातकारणात्॥ १३ ॥
“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.”
So, when we cook food in purity and offer it to God, food becomes prasada. The moment we remove the god element from prasada, our exploitative mentality takes over. Thus, food made its way to the market where it can be bought or sold. A shift from 1000s of years of belief and practice that food can not be sold. If you look back even 50-60years ago, there were no hotels or restaurants. When people went on pilgrimages or travelled, they didn’t go hungry. Others offered them food. It was seva to serve food to a weary traveller or a pilgrim. Those were the times when Food was not sold. Education was not sold. Medicine was not sold. But when we remove spirituality or Paramartha from all these aspects, everything we do becomes a matter of consumerism.
The overarching principle is basically to understand that it is not “WE” who are in the centre. We need to put “God” in the centre. We need to put our “nation” in the center. We need to put “Prakruti” in the centre. We need to put “family” in the centre. And that type of life is very satisfactory and that type of life helps us build humility. It helps build Seva vritti in us, which is contradictory to Bhoga vritti. The moment we remove Paramartha and separate it from our vyavahara then we become exploitative of resources, people and things around us.
Similarly, there are 16 samskaras that are followed all across our country – from Kashmir to KanyaKumari. We gave a lot of importance to these Samskaras because of the sacredness that comes along with them. If we take Vivaha Samskara as an example – We uphold the Vivaha even with difficulty in our relationship. We don’t run away from difficulties because of our understanding of karma siddhanta. This understanding of karma siddhanta is the paramartha part in marriage. The moment you remove the aspect of Paramartha, the marriage remains just a contract which can be broken easily or compromised easily; people could have multiple relationships or choose the easy way out…divorce. And that’s where our society is headed nowadays.
Traditionally, when we get a new object at home, our practice is to offer it to God before using it. That’s not the case anymore. We largely don’t care about such practices anymore. The simple principle behind that offering was to express gratitude to the environment or to the farmer who grew the food, to the weaver who has made the cloth with a lot of time and pain and the people behind in bringing it to us. And also to express our gratitude towards mother earth, for the resources that we are taking from her. We might be paying money but that money can never compensate for the energy, time and effort that is spent in its making. It’s crucial for us to connect with this aspect and keep our Vyavahara and Paramartha together.
The concept of seeing Paramartha is deeply integrated in our festivals as well. For example in Ayudha pooja or VishwaKarma pooja as called in the northern part of India, we worship the objects that we use in our daily occupations. People worship their cars, bikes, computers, household equipment like refrigerator, TV etc. Basically these festivals are there for us to understand how reverentially we are supposed to use these objects and it is to engineer our thinking pattern – the way we think or the way we look at these objects. Do we want to look at them exploitatively or we look at them as tools in the service of others, society or in the service of god. That type of mindset is what we need to inculcate and develop. We need to practice and internalize this principle before we can pass it onto our next generation. As Swami Vivekananda has said “Be & Make.”
Samskaras are the impressions on the Chitta or conscience. 14 out of 16 Samskaras are performed in the first 7 years after the birth. Even before we take birth, the Garbhadhana or Srimantha Samskara are done when we are in the mother’s womb. All these Samskaras are so crucial because as per Bharathiya tradition we believe we are travelling in this body and we are not this body. And that fundamental consciousness has to be realized in this journey. The samskaras are so engineered that through the performance of the 16 samskaras, gradually the consciousness is framed.
Increasingly we are moving away from these concepts of Samskaras and they have become mere rituals. So, there is a definitive bearing of such degradation, a casualness towards our tradition is developing.
If you look at the current education system, We have reduced Education from Knowledge, Gnana to mere information or collection of a lot of data to pass examinations. At the subtle level science and maths are no more subjects to understand this creation of god, but to master and exploit the nature. Today’s education is not to learn but to get a certificate. Such Education is not inspiring or guiding children enough in the direction of learning to learn but the objective seems to be reduced just to passing exams.
And this aspect gets deeply ingrained in our children as they transition from being a child to a teenager to an adult. What principles that goes in eventually comes out. These deep set approaches towards life of being very superficial, exploitative, result oriented, years and years of efforts have gone past in this manner. It’s very tough for the children who have spent good 15-20 years in this manner to change and think holistic and to go deep in the subject of their understanding. If you observe, we have disconnected Paramartha or God element from our education. We have reduced it to mere information or subject matter of passing exams for a job or earning money. Passing exams, getting a job or earning money are the byproducts of education and not the core of the education itself.
If you have studied well, if you have gained knowledge, for sure, you will be successful in applying what you have learnt, in making Artha out of it in the later part of your life.
Krishna says in Geetha “The one who sees me in everything and everything in me is never lost to me nor I’m ever lost to him”. This is a very integral part of our culture and our way of looking at things and hence when we build these connections. When we see God in everything, we develop respect, reverence and gratitude for those objects. For example, even as a child, if we accidentally step on a paper or a notebook, we immediately touch that object to our head to express our apology or gratitude for that object as we see those notebooks as representations of Saraswati.
When we wake up and before we set foot on the floor, we are taught to chant
समुदवसनेदे वि प रवतसनमणले।
वि षुप ति नमसुभं पादस रश कमसमे॥
Samudra-Vasane Devi Parvata-Stana-Mannddale |
Visnnu-Patni Namas-Tubhyam Paada-Sparsham Ksamasva-Me ||
Oh Mother Earth You Who have the Ocean as Your Garments, and
Mountains as Your Bosom,
O Consort of Lord Vishnu, Salutations to You; Please Forgive my Touch of
the Feet (on Earth, which is Your Holy Body).
We were taught to remember all the rivers during taking bath,
गङ्गेच यमुनेचैव गोदाव रि सरस ति ।
न रमदे सि नुकावे रि जलेऽ सि न्संिनिधं कु र ॥
Gangge Ca Yamune Caiva- Godaavari Sarasvati |
Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri Jale-[A]smin Sannidhim Kuru ||
O Holy Rivers Ganga and Yamuna, and also Godavari and Saraswati, O Holy Rivers Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri; Please be Present in this Water and make it Holy.
There are many more small and simple practices that are part of daily life which reminds us that “God” in the centre and such practices help us to build gratitude. These aspects are integrated into ourselves deeply from our childhood.
Similarly, we have seen historically, till the time forests belonged to the villagers or tribal people, they worshipped the forest. They used to say that there is forest “Devatha” or “Devi” and worshiped them. They saw forest as an extension of “Devi” or “Devatha,” hence they did not exploit the forests. After the Britishers brought the ordinance that Forest does not belong to tribal or villagers instead it belongs to the government, things changed. Forest was a great source of revenue for them. The trees they cut and resources they got from the forest were all sent to the UK by ship. Unfortunately, this caused a lot of damage to our culture, slowly the villagers or tribal people who were seeing the god in that forest lost that connection. Once you lose the connection, you start exploiting those resources.
In exactly the same way, we will not exploit our children or our brother, sister or parent because there is a relationship or connection and sense of belonging. But when that connection does not exist anymore then exploitation starts. Then we don’t see things connected and it sort of gives rise to consumerism or bhogha-vritti.
So, the most important thing to any education institute or any parent or teacher is to help the child to build these connections. And hence an education system which helps connect the Vyasti, Samasti,Srishti, and Paramesti for the child through education does a great service to the next generation and leaves a great legacy.