Why Hindus give importance to Education

  • The author simply and briefly tells why Hindus attach so much importance to education.


Around the time when the issue of wearing of Hijab to classrooms in a Karnataka school was at its peak I saw a video of a college in Telangana that stopped a group of Hindu women from entering a recruitment centre until they took their mangalsutra and other jewellery. Instead of protesting the women did just that and entered the examination hall. Clearly giving their exam was number one priority.


Post completing the exam they collected their jewellery and wore their mangalsutra etc. Remember that taking off the mangalsutra is considered a grave move against tradition for married Hindu women. The behaviour of these women who chose education over tradition, contrasting with those agitating for the right to wear hijab in the examination hall despite losing years of hard work, has been summed up very succinctly by Adv. Rizwan Ahmed in this video.


This whole event however set in motion the thought process about how important education has always been for the Hindu above all else.


Take for example my parents, coming from a background of local Malayalam schools. They did not for a moment hesitate to send me to a convent school knowing the importance of the English language in the distant future. For whatever Macaulay may have intended, this move actually has certainly given rise to a whole crop of English speaking persons well equipped to defend the Hindu-Indic way of life. 


This inclination can be seen from the day a child is first taught to draw the and Devanagari alphabets in a sacred ceremony as a prelude to introduction to learning and entry into formal education.


As a child the main deity at home is SARASWATI, the Devi of learning, the first set of pencils and books were placed at her altar, this carries on to the first geometry box, ruler; paint box  and brushes if you were artistically inclined; veena, flute or harmonium if musically and so on. Books and instruments of learning were revered. The intention of parents was to equip their children with the tools of survival. Goddess Lakshmi made an entry much later when one was ready to go out, armed with a degree, to earn a livelihood.


This article though is not about right and wrong, actions and reactions but about the innermost kernel or spark that drives the Hindu mindset towards education and learning. I have always been in awe of Dr. Ambedkar, who despite all odds went to school, continued his higher education and became the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution.


This preference for learning and education, in the face of all adversities, can also be seen in the case of the Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of their homes living in abject conditions in sweltering camps, they still managed to educate their children many of whom are professionals spread all over the globe. They could easily have degenerated into a different way of life but managed to pull out of a heart scorching event and make their mark.


There are many such examples in the story of Hindu India, of people who rose to excel in their field. This love for learning one can find in every state and village of India in one form or another in inventions and innovations.


The culture of this land is such that this spark is more often than not supported by family, immediate and distant; by teachers and mentors; emotionally and sometimes financially for e.g. rich uncles and aunts supporting by way of fee money and or travel allowances to universities in India and aboard.


In my case my love for writing was nurtured by my English teacher Ms. Nalini in school and my philosophical quest by my professor Ms. Sneh Mahajan in college; my father contributed by making sure I always had access to library memberships and tomes of books in the early developing stages. 


In the case of Dr. Ambedkar he got unconditional support from Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, then ruler of Baroda, who sponsored Ambedkar’s higher education and Marathi author and social reformer, Krishnaji Arjun Keluskar who formally requested Sayajirao to grant Ambedkar a scholarship of rupees twenty-five, a grand amount in that era, per mensem during his college education. Even his school teacher took such a liking to him that he changed his surname in school’s records from Ambavedekar to his own i.e. Ambedkar.


This thirst for knowledge has its roots deep in the ancient philosophy of this land and its people.


tapaḥ svādhyāya-īśvara-praṇidhānāni kriyā-yogaḥ ||1||

 The activities of Yoga are self-discipline, self-study and dedication to the lord.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2-1

According to Yoga International magazine, “Svadhyaya means study of the self; study by oneself; understanding each and every chapter of life separately, as well as in relation to each other; a thorough study of oneself; thorough study of the scriptures.”


Svadhyaya is the study of the Self. In 1998, my guru Yogiraj Siddhanath initiated me into the evolutionary Mahavatar Babaji's Kriya Yoga and effortlessly turned the lens inwards. Both the studies are considered equally important. The stage for the inner came after completion of the outer. 


The word Vidya is derived from the Sanskrit root Vid meaning to know, to perceive, to understand. Vidya means correct knowledge of the subject at hand and Vidyarthi is the student or scholar. Since ages the people of this land have been engaged in this 'seeking' of knowledge both internal and external. 


One can see the results of this emphasis on learning today as we see top spots in the U.S. corporate world being filled by people of Indian origin. “Another month, another announcement of an Indian taking over a large corporation or university,”- says Fortune. I say Indian but most of the names are of Hindu origin be it Indra Nooyi from PepsiCo, Lakshman Narasimhan of Starbucks, Sundar Pichai of Google, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, the list goes on. Let us not forget Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of UK. 


But even in those who are not in the limelight this fire for learning burns deep wherever they may be in the world. This thirst for knowledge has its roots deep in the ancient philosophy of this land and its people.


India was home to the oldest universities in the world, Takshashila, Vikramshila Bihar, Mithila, Sharada Peeth, Nalanda Bihar, Vallabhi, Pushpagiri, Odantapuri, Nagarjuna, Morena and Jagaddala to name a few. They were beacons of light to students from the region and all over the globe. The range of subjects was wide and included philosophy, medicine, mathematics, alchemy, astronomy and other varied subjects including weaponry and war strategies.

From time immemorial the four cornerstone of life, Dharma (right action), Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure) and Moksha (liberation), was understood to be achieved through Purusharth - purposeful self effort via the path of learning. Hindu parents put all their efforts into equipping their children in this direction.

There was no dichotomy in ancient Indic thought about wanting wealth or pleasures as it was meant to be guided by the first principle of Dharma or right action which excludes all negative connotations of the desire for wealth and pleasure. The inherent idea being once these are fulfilled the individual mind automatically turns towards Moksha, the liberation of the soul from the cyclic sequence of birth and rebirth into suffering.


This endeavour is augmented by the four stages of life or Varna ashram dharma i.e. brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sanyasa. The age of Brahmacharya being dedicated to acquiring the skill set to be able to earn a livelihood to take care of oneself and one's family; Grihastha a time dedicated to the pleasures of marriage, family and material acquisitions; Vanaprastha and Sanyasa leading to detachment and final liberation.


The love for knowledge in the Hindu mindset and DNA does not necessarily require the person to be a practicing Hindu, if there is any one such thing that can cover everyone. But verily being born with this DNA is enough to fuel this enquiring mind. That is the beauty and freedom of being born in this ‘religion’ that has its roots in the Sanatan way of life.


Author Kriyacharya Jyoti  grew up as a child in Kerala. Later on she stayed in Punjab for decades.


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