Revive the Gurukul

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

If you compare the present system of education with our ancient gurukul system, there is a wide gulf between the two. Mark the difference between the secular education in universities and spiritual teachings of seers. Note how the rishis have given instructions to their students when they had finished their course of study:

Speak truth. Do not neglect the study of the Vedas. Do not swerve from truth. Do not swerve from duty. Do not neglect your welfare. Do not neglect your prosperity. Do not neglect the duties towards God and forefathers. May the mother be your God. May the father be your God. May the preceptor be your God. May the guest be your God. Do such actions as are blameless, not others.

Every student in the gurukul had knowledge of pranayama, mantra, yoga asana, the code of morals, the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads. Every student possessed humility, self-restraint, obedience, spirit of service and, last but not least, a desire for acquiring atma jnana, knowledge of the self. Every student in the gurukul was pure. Every student had perfect moral training. This was the predominating feature of ancient culture.

Education must be based on a sound philosophy of life. If there is no right understanding of the ultimate aim of human life, if there is no clear idea of what one is meant to become through the process of life, no scheme of education will be satisfying and beneficial.

Education is training for life, in which ethics has the most dominant role. Education of the intellect, without moral discipline, is injurious to human progress. Intelligence without character is a source of danger, both to the individual concerned and to his fellow men. Development of the body and the intellect alone, without moral discipline, will produce selfish men and women who will have no feeling or sympathy for the poor, or reverence for the elders and the wise, or respect for life. Education must help to form a strong, pure and beautiful character. There is nothing in our present system of education that will teach our young boys and girls how to form a stable character.

India’s educational ideals are in a ferment today. Our schools and colleges have become shops of profit and loss. Our graduates run after money, power, comforts, honours and titles. The mind of the youth is corrupted by much undesirable literature.

Education has lost its value today. It is now becoming fragmentary. It is not integral, rich and full. The different intellectual sciences which are taught in the universities of today are a feeble apology for the integral education which is necessary for the attainment of perfection. Degrees like ‘Master of Arts’ mean nothing. It is the wisdom that matters. Sri Shankara graduated himself, not at some foreign academy or university, but in the lore of Govindapada and his predecessors Vyasa, Vasishtha, Suka and Parasara.

The present system of education in India needs a thorough, drastic overhauling immediately. The ancient gurukul system should be revived and adequately revised according to the needs of the time, so that the students might be able to derive the maximum benefit from it.