Advaita Vedanta in Indian Schools

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Sep 26 00:11:16 CDT 2002

On Mon, 23 Sep 2002, KRISHNA RAO wrote:

> Dear All, I just joined this mailing discussion a couple of weeks ago. I
> am simply amazed by the knowledge base of all those out there. In this
> connection, I feel strongly that this philosophy should be a regular
> part of the curriculum in Indian Schools.

While your heart is obviously in the right place I don't think this is a
good idea.  For a start it is the fact that schools in India are highly
centralized and rife with politics.  When leftists come into power
curriculums are written to suit their views and when rightists come into
power they are rewritten to suit them.  Would you want such a precious
jewel in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians?

Secondly it is a fact that most people are only interested in a formal
education to the extent that it will help them get a job.  This isn't just
an Indian phenomenon.  Here in America the number of people studying the
liberal arts is plummetting while enrollments in e.g business or technical
fields is growing.  Advaita Vedanta is not at all "practical"  in fact it
involves the negation of this world!

The above observations can be combined to make a third.  In a democratic
country, the government has to provide education for all--even if they are
unsuited for it or don't want it.  Schools tend to be factories for the
mass production of facts.  This works pretty well for some kinds of
knowledge and less so for those that require talent.  Just because you put
1000 random children into intensive music classes, doesn't mean you'll get
1000 master musicians.  Some will show great ability, some will be
horrible, and most will be somewhere in the middle.  In the same way in
any given sample of people, many will not be able to really understand
Advaita Vedanta.  Brahman is in everything, in a rock as much as
Shankaracharya.  But a rock will have much less ability to get moksha
because it has much less chetana and viveka.  It would be sheer folly to
force this sublime thought on those who are not prepared for it.

> If we need to preserve the
> ancient heritage and see to it that there is a continuous propagation of
> thoughts it is important that the young Indian minds be given the right
> ingredients at a very young age itself.

I agree but the kind of high-level topics discussed here are not the right
ingredients.  What is needed more than facts is motivation.  A motivated
person will seek out facts for themselves.  They will start asking
questions and that's when they can benefit from advaita-l.  "ancient
heritage" always reminds me of some dusty old museum.  It is more
motivating I think to show your beliefs are lived right here and now.

My daughter just turned 10 months old.  Already she sits in my lap
sometimes when I do puja in the morning.  She has learned to clap when we
say a dhun like "Radhe Radhe"  When she gets older we'll teach her a few
shlokas and bhajans, take her to mandirs and read her stories from
shastras.  And more importantly she will see her parents, family and
friends practice dharma without fear or hesitation.  When she reaches high
school or college age she will be motivated to seek in earnest and that
will be the right time to introduce her to Advaita Vedanta.

> Most people at least those who I
> have come in contact with are of the opinion that such discussions
> should enter a person's life when he/she is in their 40s/50s . I
> strongly oppose that notion and somehow wish that by germinating these
> seeds of wisdom early in a child would maintain the sanctity and legacy
> of this rich tradition. Let me know your thoughts. Krishna

Our sages have recommended life be divided into the four ashrams for sound
psychological reasons.  How will you convince a teenager that samsara is
full of death and suffering?  They think they are immortal and every
experience is new for them. There will be a few exceptional ones (like
Shankaracharya himself) and I'm not suggesting they should be held back.
Because Brahman is all, its' realization cannot be bounded by time.  But
most young people will not be ready.  And it is true that wordly
experience and knowledge can deepen your appreciation of the spiritual.
How can you say "not this, not this" if you don't know what "this" is?
Shankaracharya almost lost the debate with Mandana Mishra when he was
asked questions about kamashastra which being a bala brahmachari he had no
idea how to answer.  The crisis was only averted when he temporarily
inhabited the body of the recently deceased King Amaru.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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