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VIVEKANANDA - Dimensions of Curriculum

Dr V.K.Maheshwari Sudha Maheshwari Dr Suraksha Bansal

Former Principal Former Principal Principal

K.L.D.A.V.College A.K.P.I.College Gandhi Instt

Roorkee.INDIA Roorkee.INDIA Meerut.INDIA

Knowledge acquired by the first means is called science; and

knowledge acquired by the second is called the Vedas.

Paper on Hinduism
Read at the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago
19th September 1893

Amongst the contemporary Indian philosophers of education,

Swami Vivekananda is one of those who revolted against the
imposition of British system of education in India. He criticized
the pattern of education introduced by the British in India. He
pointed out that the current system of education only brings about
an external change without any reflective inner force

Above all Swami Vivekananda helped restore a sense of pride

amongst the Hindus, presenting the ancient teachings of India in its
purest form to a Western audience, free from the propaganda
spread by British colonial administrators, of Hinduism being a
caste-ridden, misogynistic idolatrous faith. Indeed his early foray
into the West would set the path for subsequent Indian religious
teachers to make their own marks on the world, as well herald the
entry of Hindus and their religious traditions into the Western

Although Swamiji is of the opinion that mother tongue is the right

medium for social or mass education, he prescribes the learning of
English and Sanskrit also. While English is necessary for
mastering Western science and technology, Sanskrit leads one into
the depths of our vast store of classics. The implication is that if
language does not remain the privilege of a small class of people,
social unity will march forward unhampered.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of

mind is increased, the intellect is expanded .What we need is to
study, independent of foreign control, different branches of the
knowledge that is our own, and with it the English language and
western science ; we need
technical education and all else that will develop industries, so that
men instead of seeking for service may earn enough to provide for
themselves and save against a rainy day
My idea is first of all to bring out the gems of spirituality that are
stored up in our books and in the possession of a few only, hidden
in monasteries and forests. Bring the as it were bring them out ; to
the reach of all. knowledge out of them, not only from the hands
where it is hidden, but from the still more inaccessible chest, the
language in which it is preserved, the incrustation of centuries- of
Sanskrit words. In one word, I want to make them popular. I want
to bring out these ideas and let them be the common property of
all, of every man in India, whether he knows the Sanskrit language
or not. The great difficulty in the way is the Sanskrit language, this
glorious language of ours, and this difficulty cannot be removed
until, if it is possible, the whole of our nation are good Sanskrit
scholars. You will understand the difficulty when I tell you that I
have been studying this language all my life and yet every new
book is new to me. How much more difficult would it then be for
people who never had time to study it thoroughly !
Therefore the ideas must be taught in the language
of the people. Teach the masses in the vernaculars. Give them
ideas they will get information, but something
more will be necessary. Give them culture. Until you can give
them that, there can be no permanence in the raised condition of
the masses.
At the same time Sanskrit education must go along with it, because
the very sound of Sanskrit words gives a prestige, a power and a
strength to the race- Even the great Buddha made one false step
when he stopped the Sanskrit language from being studied by the
masses. He wanted rapid and immediate results ; and translated
and preached in the language of the day Pali. That was grand ; he
spoke the language of the people and the people understood him. It
spread the ideas quickly and made them reach far and wide. But
along with that Sanskrit ought to have been spread. Knowledge
came, but prestige was not there. Until you give them that, there
will be another caste created, having the advantage of the Sanskrit
language, which will quickly get above the rest ,and can make a
nation great
Vivekananda, in his scheme of education, meticulously includes all
those studies, which are necessary for the all-around development
of the body, mind and soul of the individual. These studies can be
brought under the broad heads of physical culture, aesthetics,
classics, language, religion, science and technology. According to
Swamiji, the culture values of the country should form an integral
part of the curriculum of education. The culture of India has its
roots in her spiritual values. The time-tested values are to be
imbibed in the thoughts and lives of the students through the study
of the classics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gita, Vedas and
Upanishads. This will keep the perennial flow of our spiritual
values into the world culture.
Education, according to Swamiji, remains incomplete without the
teaching of aesthetics or fine arts. He cites Japan as an example of
how the combination of art and utility can make a nation great.
.Swamiji reiterates that religion is the innermost core of education.
However, by religion, he does not mean any particular kind of it
but its essential character, which is the realization of the divinity
already in man. He reminds us time and again that religion does
not consist in dogmas or creeds or any set of rituals. To be
religious for him means leading life in such a way that we manifest
our higher nature, truth, goodness and beauty, in our thoughts,
words and deeds. All impulses, thoughts and actions which lead
one towards this goal are naturally ennobling and harmonizing, and
are ethical and moral in the truest sense. It is in this context that
Swamiji’s idea of religion, as the basis of education should be
understood. We note that in his interpretation, religion and
education share the identity of purpose.
Why religion forms the very foundation of education becomes
clear in his following words: ‘In building up character, in making
for everything that is good and great, in bringing peace to others,
and peace to one’s own self, religion is the highest motive power,
and, therefore, ought to be studied from that standpoint. Swamiji
believes that if education with its religious core can invigorate
man’s faith in his divine nature and the infinite potentialities of the
human soul, it is sure to help man become strong, yet tolerant and
sympathetic. It will also help man to extend his love and good will
beyond the communal, national and racial barriers.

Vivekananda did not advocate the emerging area

of parapsychology and astrology (one instance can be found in his
speech Man the Maker of his Destiny, Complete-Works, Volume
8, Notes of Class Talks and Lectures) saying that this form of
curiosity doesn't help in spiritual progress but actually hinders it.
It is a misinterpretation of Vivekananda’s philosophy of education
to think that he has overemphasized the role of spiritual
development to the utter neglect of the material side. Vivekananda,
in his plan for the regeneration of India, repeatedly presses the
need for the eradication of poverty, unemployment and ignorance.
He says, We need technical education and all else which may
develop industries, so that men, instead of seeking for service, may
earn enough to provide for them-selves, and save something
against a rainy day. He feels it necessary that India should take
from the Western nations all that is good in their civilization.
However, just like a person, every nation has its individuality,
which should not be destroyed. The individuality of India lies in
her spiritual culture. Hence in Swamiji’s view, for the development
of a balanced nation, we have to combine the dynamism and
scientific attitude of the West with the spirituality of our country.
The entire educational program should be so planned that it equips
the youth to contribute to the material progress of the country as
well as to maintaining the supreme worth of India’s spiritual
In his book Raja Yoga, Vivekananda explores traditional views on
the supernatural and the belief that the practice of Raja Yoga can
conferpsychic powers such as 'reading another's thoughts',
'controlling all the forces of nature', become 'almost all-knowing',
'live without breathing', 'control the bodies of others' and levitation.
He also explains traditional eastern spiritual concepts
like kundalini and spiritual energy centres (chakras).
However, Vivekananda takes a skeptical approach and in the same
book states:
“ It is not the sign of a candid and scientific mind to throw
overboard anything without proper investigation. Surface
scientists, unable to explain various extraordinary mental
phenomena, strive to ignore their very existence.
He further says in the introduction of the book that one should take
up the practice and verify these things for oneself, and that there
should not be blind belief.
“ What little I know I will tell you. So far as I can reason it
out I will do so, but as to what I do not know I will simply
tell you what the books say. It is wrong to believe blindly.
You must exercise your own reason and judgment; you
must practise, and see whether these things happen or not.
Just as you would take up any other science, exactly in the
same manner you should take up this science for study.
[131] ”
Vivekananda (1895) rejected ether theory before Einstein (1905),
stating that it cannot explain the space itself.
In his paper read at the World Parliament of Religions, Chicago
(1893), Vivekananda also hinted about the final goal of physics:
“ Science is nothing but the finding of unity. As soon as ”
science would reach perfect unity, it would stop from
further progress, because it would reach the goal. Thus
Chemistry could not progress farther when it would
discover one element out of which all other could be made.
Physics would stop when it would be able to fulfill its
services in discovering one energy of which all others are
but manifestations ...
All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long
run. Manifestation, and not creation, is the word of science
today, and the Hindu is only glad that what he has been
cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in
more forcible language, and with further light from the
latest conclusions of science.

The great electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla, after listening to

Vivekananda's speech on Sankhya Philosophy, was much
interested in itscosmogony and its rational theories of
the Kalpas (cycles), Prana and Akasha. His notion based on the
Vedanta led him to think that matter is a manifestation of energy.
After attending a lecture on Vedanta by Vivekananda, Tesla also
concluded that modern science can look for the solution of
cosmological problems in Sankhya philosophy, and he could prove
that mass can be reduced to potential energy mathematically.

Another important aspect of Swamiji’s scheme of education is

women’s education. He realizes that it if the women of our country
get the right type of education, then they will be able to solve their
own problems in their own way. The main objective of his scheme
of female education is to make them strong, fear-less, and
conscious of their chastity and dignity. He observes that although
men and women are equally competent in academic matters, yet
women have a special aptitude and competence for studies relating
to home and family. Hence he recommends the introduction of
subjects like sewing, nursing, domestic science, culinary art, etc
which were not part of education at his time.
The exposition and analysis of Vivekananda’s scheme of education
brings to light its constructive, practical and comprehensive
character. He realizes that it is only through education that the
uplift of masses is possible. To refer to his own words: Traveling
through many cities of Europe and observing in them the comforts
and education of even the poor people, there was brought to my
mind the state of our own poor people and I used to shed tears.
When made the difference? “Education” was the answer I got.’
He states it emphatically that if society is to be reformed, education
has to reach everyone-high and low, because individuals are the
very constituents of society. The sense of dignity rises in man
when he becomes conscious of his inner spirit, and that is the very
purpose of education. He strives to harmonize the traditional
values of India with the new values brought through the progress
of science and technology.
It is in the transformation of man through moral and spiritual
education that he finds the solution for all social evils. Founding
education on the firm ground of our own philosophy and culture,
he shows the best of remedies for today’s social and global illness.
Through his scheme of education, he tries to materialize the moral
and spiritual welfare and upliftment of humanity, irrespective of
caste, creed, nationality or time. However, Swami Vivekananda’s
scheme of education, through which he wanted to build up a strong
nation that will lead the world towards peace and harmony, is still
a far cry. It is high time that we give serious thought to his
philosophy of education and remembers his call to every-
body-‘Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.’

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discoveries, 6 vols. Calcutta: Advaita

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Vivekananda. 2 vols. Madras: Vivekananda
Prakashan Kendra.

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Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission
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Calcutta: Ratna Prakashan.

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printing. Calcutta: Udbodhan
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Calcutta: Shishu Sahitya

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Vivekananda. Patna: Janaki Prakashan.

Sudipa dutta Roy , July 2001

Education In The Vision Of Swami Vivekananda



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Vivekananda. Bourne End, United
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