41 Knowledge and Goodness

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Knowledge and Goodness

By Ac. Shambhushivananda Avadhuta

In 1781, John and Elizabeth Phillips founded a school in NE United States called “Phillips Exeter Academy” on the twin principles of “knowledge” and “goodness”. In his words: “Goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet, knowledge without goodness is dangerous”. In 1986, Shrii P.R. Sarkar propounder of Neohumanist Education expressed a similar sentiment while giving a message to teachers: “Education which leads to the acquisition of knowledge plus morality makes for a peaceful society.”

Knowledge, first of all, is an essential ingredient to ensure the survival of the planet and all its inhabitants. The inhabitants include not only humans but all things that live: flora, fauna and all other life forms including the microvita which are invisible to the naked eyes but are said to be the fundamental building blocks of all life. All need to exist and thus deserve to be preserved at all costs. The recognition of existential value of all creatures would enhance the chances of survival and thrival of all species on the planet. One of the primary objectives of the gurukula system of education is to strive incessantly towards a better understanding of the created world and to fully grasp the raison d’être of life forces that make up our colorful mysterious world. Thus, the scientific perspective in gurukula education is an endeavor to help students better understand the mysteries of creations, develop a rationalistic mentality and live with “awakened consciousness”.

Knowledge itself is neither good nor bad, but its utilization may make it so. It must, therefore, be guided by some higher criteria which will fully manifest the usefulness of all created entities. Human beings often use knowledge to manipulate situations and other people for selfish ends. The knowledge should instead be used for all-round welfare and happiness. Morality is not a utopian ideal but a self-preserving instinct of the collective mind. All desire to be happy and to live in peace. Education based on ethical foundations could help to build a peaceful and harmonious society. The emphasis on aesthetics and cultivation of higher sensibilities in the spirit of goodness is thus another defining characteristic of gurukula education and must also pervade the entire educational process.

The purpose of educational institutions is to cultivate knowledge and wisdom that will foster goodness in this world. Further, education should ideally free the human intellect from all dogma and divisive, narrow sentiments; contribute to greater justice and fairness; and ultimately bring transcendence and emancipation.

Spiritual knowledge and mystical sciences are the product of an unending endeavor to link the finite with the infinite. Human beings have an unlimited thirst for limitlessness which leads them towards pursuit of deeper knowledge beyond mere intellectual thought. This search for the unknown has led humanity towards exploration of Higher Consciousness. Besides academic qualities, an educated person must, therefore, also possess inner tranquility, blissful mind and ensconcement in the cosmic-controlling nucleus. This yoga – unison of the unit mind with the cosmic mind is the final liberating goal of gurukula education.

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“Sá vidyá yá vimuktaye - Education is that which liberates”