Education is The Manifestation of The Perfection Already in Man – Swami Vivekananda

This is a famous and most often quoted quote on education by Swami Vivekananda. It clearly demonstrates the clarity and crispness with which Swami Vivekananda delivered his messages.

As I was contemplating on this quote this morning, three important messages popped out from this statement – Manifestation, The Perfection, Already in Man…

Manifestation – It is not assimilation, but Manifestation Swamiji is talking about. The learning has to be manifested. Something is said to be manifested only when it finds an expression. Mere intellectualisation of concepts and ideas do not suffice. True education is to see that the learning has manifested in us and our works.

Agreed! One cannot change overnight. But, there is no purpose going on learning hundred things, without giving them scope to find expression in our life. It is advisable to take one thing at a time and incorporate it into our system, before we say we have learnt that. This holds true, especially for life lessons.

Perfection - Whatever we learn should be manifested. But the question arises… what should we learn? What should be manifested? Swamiji talks of manifestation of perfection. As it is the case with most of Ancient Indian Scriptural Concepts – Perfection, as used by Swami Vivekananda needs to be viewed from two levels/perspectives.

At the spiritual level, it denotes the divinity or completeness of an individual. The perfection or divinity in man should find expression as a result of education. In Swamiji’s own words…

“The Light Divine within is obscured in most people. It is like a lamp in a cask of iron, no gleam of light can shine through. Gradually, by purity and unselfishness, we can make the obscuring medium less and less dense, until at last it becomes transparent as glass”

Here Swamiji talks not only about the Divine within, but also the means by which that Divinity has to be brought out. More on this in a later blog.

At the practical, worldly or empirical level, perfection denotes the ability to address various problems human beings encounter in society. Again in Swamiji’s words…

“The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out the strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.”

Education must provide “life-building, man-making and character making” assimilation of ideas so as to develop an integrated person – one who has learned how to improve his intellect, purify his heart, handle his emotions and stand firm on moral virtues and unselfishness.

Already in Man - This is the key principle in the above quote. The perfection which has to be manifested, Swamiji declares – is already in man. When we already have it, what is the role of education? What are we learning? The process of education is actually a process of purification. A process by which we realise the perfectness within. A process which brings out the strength within and makes us courageous like a lion and help us stand on our own legs in this society.

Here lies the critical role of an educator – be it a parent at home or a teacher at school.

Here lies the importance of making education student centric.

It is an educator’s responsibility to throw light on the strengths of the student and facilitate ways and means to bring out those strengths, so as to nurture a confident and courageous adult. His/her role is that of a farmer, not a sculptor.

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4 Comments

  1. Anita Srivastava

     /  January 14, 2014

    I read this post with keen interest but I must admit that I have not read Swami Vivakanandan philosophy of educational. I am familiar with educational thinking of ancient as well as contemporary western thinkers as these philosophies and theories gives us clear understanding of history of education. Educational writings of Aristotle, Plato and many contemporary thinkers like John Locke, Rousseau, John Dewey as well as Harace Mann have influenced the education system in western countries and mostly US.

    Swamiji’s thought that perfection is always present in human being waiting to be manifested, is a thinking that can be found in several contemporary thinkers. According to him, essence precedes the existence. This is contrary to what John Locke (1633-1704), an influential classical theorist proposed. He wrote that a child’s mind is like a “tabula rasa” or translation a blank slate and do not contain any innate ideas and knowledge comes from perception and experience. This concept was popular until 20th century which also gave credence to eugenics movement in western world. Eugenics movement meant that intelligence is correlated with social class and thus promoted selective reproduction. But thankfully, this theory was rejected because it supported not only a class system but also a system of racism. I suppose the competing theories of nature vs nurture can be debated depending upon point of view. But my problem with tabula rasa is that it does accept that children are not born with blank slate but have certain innate instincts and a consciousness. Existential theorist believed that existence preceded essence hence tabula rasa.

    I totally agree that we need to understand what is true meaning of learning. Our education system should be designed to address the goals of the education. There is a common agreement amongst educators that education’s main purpose is to produce a learning society. John Dewey (1819-1952) would agree with Vivakanandan that knowledge is a means and not an end itself. Knowledge and thinking are closely related to action both at spritual and practical leve. Earlier common schools proposed by a Horace Mann in east coast of US, were based on the similar thinking that education will produce a moral, ethical and just society. Initially, young children from elite families were sent to school so they could learn to read bible but later schools started teaching all the skills needed to be a productive citizens of the society. Though the role of teacher is very important yet it should remain student centered. Mostly a teacher is coach or facilitator in the classroom.

    Reply
  2. I am the big fan and follower of swami ji as the modern and subtle definition is given by swami ji only. It is my urge to nation that principles and ideologies of swami ji are permeated to the youngsters then only we can expect the prosperous nation.

    Dr.(Mrs.) NEERU JOSHI
    PRINCIPAL, BBPS , MODINAGAR

    Reply
    • Joshi Ji,

      The country will prosper as more and more principals and educators like you at school level are thinking on these lines. Glad to share that We at Ankur are working on these lines and seek your wishes and support to succeed

      Reply

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