Sciencia potensia, Knowledge is Power
The above Latin phrase is not a misnomer to describe the efforts of the Vedic Cultural and Educational Centre. Why would we call it a misnomer? While most will associate power as an adjective for an enforcing nature or ruler like presence, the true sense of power here is the power to transformation. Knowledge is not merely stacks and heaps of information with facts and figures. Real knowledge as it is presented in Vedic scriptures like Bhagavad Gita is meant to be transformational. That is why the ancient philosophers said that knowledge is power. Because knowledge can lead to transformation, of which the most powerful is the transformation of heart. A person who is greatly learned is regarded like a huge fruit bearing tree. Being laden with delicious, nutritious, mouth water fruit, the tree hangs low, allowing one and all to come and savour the fruits of ripened knowledge. Similarly, a truly wise person is humble, like the tree, and freely distributes his vast self-realized knowledge for the betterment of others. He holds nothing back for himself, but lives – like the tree – for the sake of others. This is the power of knowledge, to turn the most self-absorbed ignorant person into a selfless loving being.
Sadly, we don’t seem to find such characters in the education industry today. As it has been commonly referred to, education is now commerce. The profit of giving so-called knowledge to others has overshadowed its purpose. Why do we term it “so-called knowledge?” this is because, while so many of today are equipped with double degrees, post graduations, super specialization and foreign recognitions – people still seem to be in the darkest of ignorance! The world has seen more chaos and wars in the past 100 years than it has seen in the last 1000 years of ancient history! Has modern education failed to purify the hearts of man? Or what has been considered knowledge nothing but costly statistics.
VCEC’s approach to education is to be based on the Vedic scriptures, primarily the Srimad Bhagavatam, where nuances of life lessons are to be learnt. Those who have seriously studied and relished studying the Bhagavatam have experienced the change of the cacti like heart into a blossoming mango tree. The Bhagavatam is not a superficial books of stories, rather it’s a scientific treatise of expertly presented case studies that mould the foundation for divine consciousness. The main annex of education at VCEC is the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha, a chaplaincy for systematic training of monks to be better leaders and visionaries of the society as per the Varnashrama system. Wanting a prosperous society without having a detached, renounced priestly order of guidance is like having a stout body without a head. What is the use? The students here enter into a two year course testing them not only philosophically, but in terms of practical application of the knowledge, cognitive thinking, group and individual dynamics and how to put it all together in the best humanitarian spirit possible.
The students begin each day’s lesson by worshiping the Bhagavatam with aratika presentation and recitation of its verses. Such worship itself shows the power of the knowledge that the Bhagavatam holds. On the contrary, people spend so much to purchase the daily newspaper, the weekly magazine or the monthly digest, in hopes of amassing newer, greater amounts of information, but then immediately afterwards, that very source of ‘knowledge’ finds itself in the dustbin or being re-used for wrapping some eatables or wiping a dirty surface.
The worth is in the worship. Srimad Bhagavatam and other ancient Vedic texts remain unchanged for eons and millennia and till today, people can read and re-read these texts and experience newer and newer taste with every page.
Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage (LNHO)
The L.N.H.O Gurukul or spiritual boarding school for rural and underprivileged children and currently benefits children from the 5th till 10th standard. The Gurukul also complies with the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary Education (MSBSE) while simultaneously presenting knowledge in Vedic sciences and culture. Along with the fundamentals of math and science, students learn the science of the soul, reincarnation, the principle of karma and process of non-reactive action that leads to liberation from entanglement. Eventually with more support, the Gurukul plans to expand, involving more grades of standards and even accreditation from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). At this point, one may begin to question, “Didn’t you just say that the modern education was a disaster in terms of cultivation of human spirit?” Well, we would go so far as to call it a disaster than a misdirected good tiding. Whatever it maybe, the Vedic principle has always been that of inclusive rather than exclusive. The modern education phenomenon, if uncoupled with higher purpose and insight stands redundant in shaping the potential of man. No doubt physical science has achieved great feats but without spiritual education, the entire effort can be linked to beating empty husks of paddy for rice grains.
Therefore in line with the times, children are taught the modern curriculum but as an added advantage, they learn various mantras, metered prose and verse pronunciations and recitations. These children are also taught how do to farming, the basic sustenance of human life. The modern day scholar and spiritual revolutionist, His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami has often quoted that despite the numerous factories and outlets, human beings can’t be eating nuts and bolts! Basic agriculture is the fuel for human existence, and for one who knows how to till the land, he has no anxieties to maintaining his livelihood. Taking care of cows and cattle, folk art, music, dance and even cooking, help shape an all rounded complete education that can be practically inculcated as well as easily passed on.
Spiritual Education for Bachelors, Families & the elderly
For others on the commune, daily if not weekly classes are held to help bring about that transformation in heart that Vedic education promises. For bachelor staffs, a weekly class held by the brahmacaris help them to bring balance and foundation to their lives. The congregation members too have weekly classes, held in turn at different household every week. This too gives that householder a chance to serve each other by preparing reception and meals, thus further fortifying the knowledge learnt. For the brahmacaris at the ashram, daily morning classes, evening discussions, and smaller group studies help them to keep focused and absorbed in the service of the Lord. Such study is never with a scholastic attitude of conquering the subject matter but rather enjoying the association of the Lord who is present in the form of the scripture.
Rural Outreach Programs
Further, GEV also conducts rural outreach programs in twenty five nearby villages, some distant villages. The resident resident monks and family men at the GEV organize spiritual discourses, cultural programs, Hare Krishna festivals, sankirtan (congregational singing of God’s names), annual Jagannath ratha yatra and occassional pilgrimages. Special youth programs, namely ‘Prerana’ are also conducted once in month.
With the vase subject matter and presentations of the Vedic texts, all sections of society can be easily attracted and benefitted. Neither a children’s story of the pastimes of the Lord, nor a philosophically laden description of the structure of the universe, is devoid of heart churning bliss. One immediately feels gratitude and immense satisfaction from it. The only criterion is that one studies from a bona fide teacher who himself has heard and studied in an authorized disciplic succession. Such presentation can thus be 100% potent and immediately felt by the student.
The saying that old is gold comes to mind. Vedic education and culture is not an out-dated collection of myths. It’s simply a forgotten treasure trove that holds the wealth to elevate the condition of the poverty stricken people of today.