Today you will all receive prasad. There are notebooks in your school-bag, a geometry set, pens and pencils. Your bag also contains a T-shirt and trousers, and one invisible thing – my feelings and blessings. You may not see that but the feeling of my heart is there.
In the twentieth sloka of Neetishatak, Bhartrihari states,
Vidyanaam narasye roopamadhikam prachchhahnaguptam dhanam
Vidya bhogkari yashah sukhakari vidya gurunam guruh.
Vidya bandhujano videshgamane
Learning is man’s abundant beauty, it is his hidden treasure. Learning is a source of enjoyment, fame and pleasure, learning is the super preceptor. While in a foreign country learning is your friend and guide. Learning is supreme fortune.
I have travelled in foreign countries. Swami Vivekananda travelled in foreign countries. We won the world by dint of our learning and knowledge. Learning, knowledge and wisdom are required to win the world. Therefore, you should take a keen interest in your studies and acquire knowledge to stand on your own feet. You should motivate your parents also to learn something. Devote more time to your studies.
I have to give the same message to the boys also. Avoid idle rambling, avoid the company of cigarette smokers, tobacco chewers and those youngsters who are fond of liquor. Maintain a respectful distance from those idlers who have no stake in life. If you have to fashion a decent future, you should take your career seriously. I am particularly addressing the young boys. The government has offered a number of concessions to the backward classes. You must try to avail yourselves of these concessions without resorting to underhand methods.
I give books and stationery to a number of boys and girls admitted to St Francis and Ramakrishna Mission Schools. I am working on many projects to promote education in this area. You must remember the feeling of my heart, which I have put into your bags with the reading and writing materials. Try not to forget it. You should always bear in mind that Swamiji wishes you to pursue your studies in the right spirit, earn something, serve society and then enter into family life. Entering into holy wedlock and producing children should be relegated to the last option. Marriage and children should never be your first priority. Try to remember that marriage and progeny should be your last priority. First is education, second is profession and third is reproduction - marriage and progeny.
The problem is that these children have ambitions, but their parents are ill-bred and ill-informed. They can’t see beyond their noses. The village girls of this area tend domestic cattle, collect the cow dung in the early morning, graze the cattle and goats and by the time they are eighteen or nineteen they are the mothers of two or three children. To beget a number of children was the necessity of the past, when our society was primitive and agriculture was the mainstay. Now the times have changed and children have ambitions. They talk among themselves of their dreams and ambitions. But their parents cannot see beyond begetting children. They don’t know how to plan their families or how to make sacrifices for the well-being of their offspring.
There are many fathers who drink beyond their means and leave nothing for their wives and children. They say, “What will the children do after they have received higher education?” I asked one of the fathers to send his daughter to school. Quickly came the reply, “What will she do after getting an education? Will she do anything other than dealing with the cow dung?” This concept of education is very prevalent in society; it is not an insignificant concept.
This year I have involved the children in giving away prasad to the people gathered here, as a means of training. Children should learn how to give, how to share their food with others. Training in receiving is not essential because a child learns this in the mother’s womb. So I don’t give that training as children are born with it; they are trained graduates in that matter, past masters so to say. If children are trained in giving or sharing, they will learn how to give when they are grown up. I could have had the prasad distributed by any group of people, but I have involved the children in this work for their training. To give or share is an art. To give is to share.
—17 December 2001, Rikhiapeeth