The dictionary meaning of education is ‘to know and to impart’, but ‘to know what?’ is a question we must ask ourselves. Does our education system really teach us to go beyond the routine? Does it really prepare us to face the challenges of the world?
As per our ancient scriptures, education is of two kinds: the education of the outside world and education of the inside world. Education of the outside world is called avidya and that of the inside world is vidya.
Avidya includes all that is normally taught in every school, subjects like physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, geography, history, etc. These subjects basically help us to understand how the world works outside, such as why the tree is green, why the sky is the way it is, why we have low tides and high tides, how it is that birds can fly, etc. In short, this education of the outside world merely helps to understand the mechanics of nature.
Efforts at understanding nature through the processes of science are called avidya. Normally, schools focus on this kind of learning, that is, avidya, and miss out on a very important aspect of learning, that of the ‘inner being’.
This knowledge of the world within us and how it works is called vidya. There are many questions within us: why we are happy when we are happy, why we are angry when we are angry, etc. This ‘why’ of the inside world is called vidya.
Vidya means creating an environment within us to enable us to absorb avidya. As we all know, we have an infinite capacity to absorb information. Vidya creates that space within, through the process of samadhi (taught in SSY), which will allow our child to absorb infinite information from the outside world.
This can happen through a continuous cleansing of the inside mind. Both these forms of education must go hand in hand: taking in information, registering it inside, storing it in the subconscious, cleaning the blackboard (i.e., the mind) and then taking in more information and repeating the process time and again, all the time.
Let us take the sea as an example. Suppose we pour one glass of pure water into the sea, followed by more and more glasses of pure water; all of it becomes one with the sea. This outside glass of water is avidya — the knowledge of how the world works.
The sea represents us, and as we go on taking in knowledge, the two merge; but we can absorb it only if we are clear; our mind should be clear and ready to receive. This is facilitated by vidya.