Broadly, education is any sort of imparting of knowledge, but this article specifically concerns the established educational system through school, high school and university. Education is widely understood to be a system of structured instruction during the developmental years of a person to set him up for success in his future.
SUCCESS ≠ MONEY
The definition of success, therefore, determines the definition of education. In today’s world, much importance is given to the capacity to earn money. A man is considered successful if he somehow or other acquires money; and if he cannot, even if he has got some talent, he is only called talented but not successful.
Especially possessing a vast amount of wealth and having a large following are the cherished ideals of modern man. A great following cannot be sustained without money and on the other hand, if one has money, one immediately becomes famous and will have large following. So, money is thus conceived of as the index of success.
We often see personal success stories on TV or the internet and it is all about how they have amassed a lot of wealth. From every direction, we are indoctrinated with the idea that wealth is the holy grail. The currently established education system, therefore, is teaching us how to earn a livelihood. A college graduate’s next mission would be job-hunting for earning money. The better his grades are, the more money he can earn.
If money can be earned lawfully without a formal education, the very need for an education system is questioned. In today’s Internet-connected world, people are making money doing all kinds of things and are projected as successful even though they might not have a formal education.
Money is definitely necessary, but is not the ideal of life. Money is only an enabler. Firstly, and most importantly, it is temporary. We exist after death but we cannot take either our body or money with us. While we are here, it enables us to do whatever we want to do. It enables the good and bad alike.
THE DANGERS OF MONEY
What is good and what is bad? That has to be judged by the result. However good or moral an acticity may appear to be, if the result of such an activity propels us in the cycle of repeated birth and death, it is bad. If an activity propels us to the eternal life in the kingdom of God, that is good. This is the simple test. The path of sense gratification hurls us in the cycle of birth and death. The path of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa qualifies us to enter into the eternal kingdom of God, Vaikuṇṭha, or Goloka Vṛndāvana, the highest planet in the spiritual sky.
For want of spiritual knowledge, the thoughts of the modern civilization are filled with sense gratification. In that consciousness, money becomes dangerous and indeed a gateway to hell. On the other hand, if one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness or devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, money becomes a great asset in that service.
Even spiritual projects like the printing of books such as Bhagavad-gītā, magazines and the like, construction and maintenance of temples, etc. need land and capital. But such facilities will be provided by the grace of goddess Lakṣmī who is forever ready to bless the devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa so that they can serve Him with such wealth; whereas the wealth of the sense gratifiers is a blessing of Durgādevī, a shadow potency of the transcendental Lakṣmīdevī. Such wealth becomes a source of great bondage in this world.
In fact, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.23.18-19) enumerates some of the bad qualities one acquires when he chases material wealth: “Theft, violence, speaking lies, duplicity, lust, anger, perplexity, pride, quarreling, enmity, faithlessness, envy and the dangers caused by women, gambling and intoxication are the fifteen undesirable qualities that contaminate men because of greed for wealth. Although these qualities are undesirable, men falsely ascribe value to them. One desiring to achieve the real benefit of life should therefore remain aloof from undesirable material wealth.”
LAKṢMĪ BLESSES DEVOTEES
On the other hand, the wealth of the devotees is of a different nature. Take a look at these words by Śrīmatī Lakṣmīdevī Herself, the goddess of fortune, to Lord Nārāyaṇa [Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 5.18.22]:
tapyanta ugraṁ tapa aindriye dhiyaḥ
ṛte bhavat-pāda-parāyaṇān na māṁ
vindanty ahaṁ tvad-dhṛdayā yato ’jita
“O supreme unconquerable Lord, when they become absorbed in thoughts of material enjoyment, Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva, as well as other demigods and demons, undergo severe penances and austerities to receive my benedictions. But I do not favor anyone, however great he may be; unless he is always engaged in the service of Your lotus feet. Because I always keep You within my heart, I cannot favor anyone but a devotee of Your Lordship.”
Such pure devotees of the Lord remain uncontaminated even in the midst of great wealth for they perfectly know that everything belongs to the Lord and that He alone is the enjoyer of everything. They use such wealth to broadcast the glories of the Lord far and wide. Firmly fixed in this understanding, they easily cross all the obstacles of conditional life and make it back home, back to Godhead.
CONTENTS OF PERFECT EDUCATION
This should be the ultimate end of human endeavor. Therefore, there has to be an education system which enables everyone to become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a great science. This is exactly the subject matter of Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the quintessence of Vedic literatures. Firstly, we learn that we are not this temporary body but the eternal soul. We have neither birth nor death. We only change bodies like we change clothes everyday. But we do not need to undergo these changes of body. We can have our eternal life, without any disturbance. That can be obtained if we revive our eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. We then become eligible to enter into the spiritual kingdom, into the association of the Supreme Lord, never to return to this temporary, miserable world. We are here only because of our forgetfulness of our eternal loving relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Human life is meant for achieving this perfection of returning home, back to Godhead. We have to be taught all those things that qualify us to achieve that goal. In the Bhagavad-gītā, these qualifications are enumerated by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.42) as follows: “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness.”
All these desirable qualities are automatically achieved in one stroke by executing Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 5.18.12, this is confirmed as follows:
yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcanā
sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ
“All the exalted qualities such as religion, knowledge and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva.”
Therefore Lord Kṛṣṇa said that the knowledge of devotional service is the king of all education. Bhagavad-gītā 9.2:
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam
“This knowledge (of Kṛṣṇa consciousness) is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.”
ACHIEVING COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE
What is the substance of such an education system? Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā (5.29):
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
“Whoever knows Kṛṣṇa as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.”
We have to know Kṛṣṇa. How to know Him? Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55) bhaktyā mām abhijānāti — Only by devotional service can Kṛṣṇa be understood as He is.
Moreover, it is not that by pursuing this transcendental system of education, one is devoid of all other knowledge. The byproduct of knowing Kṛṣṇa is that we can know everything that needs to be known. The Lord Himself confirms this in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.19):
yo mām evam asammūḍho
sa sarva-vid bhajati māṁ
“Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is to be understood as the knower of everything, and he therefore engages himself in full devotional service, O son of Bharata.”
Therefore devotional service constitutes real education. That is performed in the following nine ways as enumerated in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.5.23-24):
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau
bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā
kriyeta bhagavaty addhā
tan manye ’dhītam uttamam
“Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Viṣṇu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.
“One who has dedicated his life to the service of Kṛṣṇa through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.”
PREPARING FOR THE FINAL EXAM
Just as the current education system has examinations, our human life is a preparation for the examination called death. At that time, everything is tested. How do we know we passed or failed?
Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.5-6):
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt. Otherwise, whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.”
So if we can remember Kṛṣṇa at the time of our death, we will have passed the exam. We shall return to Him to enjoy an eternal life of bliss and knowledge. Otherwise, we shall return to the path of birth and death in this miserable material world to take on a form that is just befitting our mental condition at the time of death.
Therefore, unless we have practiced our entire life remembering Kṛṣṇa, we cannot possibly remember Him at such a disturbing time as death. To add to the difficulty, there is no warning. Death can knock at any moment. Are we ready?
Therefore, the earlier in life we start treading this path the better. Therefore, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.6.1) suggests:
kaumāra ācaret prājño
dharmān bhāgavatān iha
durlabhaṁ mānuṣaṁ janma
tad apy adhruvam arthadam
“One who is sufficiently intelligent should use the human form of body from the very beginning of life — in other words, from the tender age of childhood — to practice the activities of devotional service, giving up all other engagements. The human body is most rarely achieved, and although temporary like other bodies, it is meaningful because in human life one can perform devotional service.”
Parents want to provide their children with the best education system. This is what they should give them — devotional service. First of all, they should learn the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and then teach it to their children. In fact, if they don’t, they have to pay for it with severe ramifications. Therefore it is advised in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (5.5.18):
pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt
na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum
“One should not become a father or a mother if he or she cannot ensure liberation for the child from the cycle of birth and death.”
Therefore, if at all the society has to come to sanity, there has to be a thorough overhaul of the entire education system based on the real aim of life, which is to go back home, back to Godhead. Otherwise, we cannot expect to have a peaceful society when the sole aim is economic development.