Should VEDAS and UPANISHADS be taught at schools?: History
Please note this is an old version of this entry, which may differ significantly from the current revision.
Subjects: Cultural Studies

It can be claimed that research in the VEDAS and UPANISHADS, though unfoundedly projected as religious scriptures of Hinduism, actually contains deep reservoirs of knowledge related to science, history, morality, and philosophy. Going deeper into it, we would find that under its vast legacy, these texts contain a deep reservoir of knowledge. This piece warms up to the fact that these texts should be incorporated in the modern education curricula since they have the potential to impart all such essential life skills and wisdom. This article advocates for a thoughtful discussion about how enrollment of such teachings in schools and society thinking, plus the challenges of the educational system could be given way to. It creates a historical context, as well as personal reflection, focusing on the importance of cultural heritage and the past for future generations.

  • vedas
  • upanishads
  • knowledge
  • sit near me
  • sanskrit
  • mental colonisation
  • india
  • indian culture and heritage
  • should vedas and upanishads be taught at schools?
  • what are vedas and upanishads

Before discussing whether a teaching of VEDAS and UPANISHADS is permissible in schools, they have to be defined. The mere sound of the word VEDAS, or UPANISHAD, conjures in most people's minds the notion of religious or sacred scriptures common to the Hindu religion. This is a partial perception only. J]ust as social science encompasses more than just geography, including history, political science, and economics, the VEDAS and UPANISHADS are not purveyors of religious doctrine alone. Even the term VEDA in Sanskrit means "knowledge," and UPANISHAD means "sit near me." Both these texts are vast storehouses of knowledge of varied scientific, historical, moral, political, and many other fields of expertise. Such knowledge is a basic need to lead a life that is purposeful, orderly, happy, peaceful, and valuable.

The UPANISHADS, for instance, delve into profound philosophical concepts such as Brahman and Atman. They teach that the universe is interconnected and has a single unifying principle called Brahman, which resides in the Atman, or the unchanging core of the human individual. They also emphasize that the individual's higher self, or Atman, seeks union with Brahman as its ultimate life goal. The UPANISHADS teach that true peace of mind can only be achieved when we realize the interconnectedness of all things. They also advocate for the harmonious combination of duty and devotion. But neither I nor anybody can explain what really VEDAS and UPANISHADS teach; one can understand only if he reads them by himself. A young student like me feels that these VEDAS and UPANISHADS have to be taught in schools. They are not just religious or sacred books, but have profound truths about the real meaning of human life. This way, life can be orderly, happy, peaceful, beneficial if VEDAS and UPANISHADS were taught in schools; then we would have the only subjects in which we are taught about life per se.

Sadly, it remains a fact that most children are not interested in the Vedas and Upanishads because of the attitude of the parents by and extensive and the prevailing education system, which is more mark-oriented rather than knowledge-oriented. Not that it is that bad, but there are areas where it needs a bit of fine-tuning. I still remember when I was in 5th grade, my social studies textbook mentioned the VEDAS and their four parts, including their hymns, but it did not have a mention annotated with what they taught us. These days, children are taught that the VEDAS consist of the RIGVEDA, YAJURVEDA, SAMAVEDA, and ATHARVAVEDA, of which RIGVEDA is the oldest and consists of 1028 hymns. However, they are not at all made aware of what exactly they are, and hence, consequently, the prime cause is that most children these days are not interested in learning the same.

I feel schools should at least brief the VEDAS and UPANISHADS so that children would generally be aware of such a thing.

But today, it is tough to teach the VEDAS and UPANISHADS in this age of ours because the teacher is not adept in all the branches of the VEDAS. In contrast, upon the rule of the Gurukuls in the olden days, the Gurus or the Acharyas were bright in each VEDA and UPANISHAD.

These gurus drew students not only from India but also from countries like China, Tibet, Babylon, and others into the universities of Takshashila and Nalanda, which were in ancient times equivalent to Harvard and MIT today. This is why students hailing from any country were intelligent, with self-awareness and self-discipline; they were also taught the VEDAS and UPANISHADS. Xuanzang, the Chinese traveler, has recorded that there were thousands of boys and girls at Nalanda. Yet, not a single case of misbehavior or breaking the rules was brought before the authorities. This just goes to show the moral character of the students. But unfortunately, we cannot adopt the model of education followed in Takshashila and Nalanda, for the world has changed tremendously. The mindset has varied, and in the present days, if a person wants to study Sanskrit or any Vedas and Upanishads, they can mostly be shamed by society for considering such interests and wasting time. A student who has studied in a Hindi medium school usually is not deemed educated even if they are thorough in every subject except Hindi. All this is the fruit of mental colonization that has put the Indian culture in very harsh terms. In this world, if a person knows just English but not any other regional language, then it is acceptable, but if a fellow knows Hindi but not English, he is no less than a culprit. We need teachers who are an expert in them and parents who are ready to change their attitude towards the teaching of the VEDAS and UPANISHADS in the school. So, if a child wishes to learn the VEDAS and UPANISHADS, there should be no discouragement. Unfortunately, that would also take much time, as the people's mindsets need to change. Also, they may feel that it pinches the sentiments of other communities when teaching the VEDAS and UPANISHADS at school.

But this is not a debate about proselytizing for one's religion over another; it is to preserve and impart precious knowledge that is part and parcel of our heritage. For example, a few years back, when our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited an Irish school during one of his visits, he was received by the students chanting Sanskrit Shlokas. Most of this quantum of respect for our culture is missing in India. For a yoga class, there is one almost every week in the U.S., and in India, not a single one; that is how we are failing our culture and heritage. This is attached to teaching the VEDAS and UPANISHADS within classrooms. Its application is considerably challenging in today's society with cutting-edge education. Deeper insight, knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment for the welfare and well-being of individuals and society collectively come to the front in these texts. Changing the societal attitudes by incorporating these knowledge to be viewed at later points in the education system can lead to a more enlightened and culturally aware generation.

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