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Excerpts from Education and the Significance of Life

FROM CHAPTER 1 'EDUCATION AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE'  

"WHEN one travels around the world, one notices to what an extraordinary degree human nature is the same, whether in India or America, in Europe or Australia. This is especially true in colleges and universities. We are turning out, as if through a mould, a type of human being whose chief interest is to find security, to become somebody important, or to have a good time with as little thought as possible. Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Conformity leads to mediocrity. To be different from the group or to resist environment is not easy and is often risky as long as we worship success. The urge to be successful, which is the pursuit of reward whether in the material or in the so-called spiritual sphere, the search for inward or outward security, the desire for comfort - this whole process smothers discontent, puts an end to spontaneity and breeds fear; and fear blocks the intelligent understanding of life. With increasing age, dullness of mind and heart sets in. In seeking comfort, we generally find a quiet corner in life where there is a minimum of conflict, and then we are afraid to step out of that seclusion. This fear of life, this fear of struggle and of new experience, kills in us the spirit of adventure; our whole upbringing and education have made us afraid to be different from our neighbour, afraid to think contrary to the established pattern of society, falsely respectful of authority and tradition.". (PAGE 9)  

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FROM CHAPTER 2 'THE RIGHT KIND OF EDUCATION' 

"THE ignorant man is not the unlearned, but he who does not know himself, and the learned man is stupid when he relies on books, on knowledge and on authority to give him understanding. Understanding comes only through self-knowledge, which is awareness of one's total psychological process. Thus education, in the true sense, is the understanding of oneself, for it is within each one of us that the whole of existence is gathered. What we now call education is a matter of accumulating information and knowledge from books, which anyone can do who can read. Such education offers a subtle form of escape from ourselves and, like all escapes, it inevitably creates increasing misery. Conflict and confusion result from our own wrong relationship with people, things and ideas, and until we understand that relationship and alter it, mere learning, the gathering of facts and the acquiring of various skills, can only lead us to engulfing chaos and destruction. As society is now organized, we send our children to school to learn some technique by which they can eventually earn a livelihood. We want to make the child first and foremost a specialist, hoping thus to give him a secure economic position. But does the cultivation of a technique enable us to understand ourselves? While it is obviously necessary to know how to read and write, and to learn engineering or some other profession, will technique give us the capacity to understand life? Surely, technique is secondary; and if technique is the only thing we are striving for, we are obviously denying what is by far the greater part of life. Life is pain, joy, beauty, ugliness, love, and when we understand it as a whole, at every level, that understanding creates its own technique. But the contrary is not true: technique can never bring about creative understanding. Present-day education is a complete failure because it has overemphasized technique. In overemphasizing technique we destroy man. To cultivate capacity and efficiency without understanding life, without having a comprehensive perception of the ways of thought and desire, will only make us increasingly ruthless, which is to engender wars and jeopardize our physical security. The exclusive cultivation of technique has produced scientists, mathematicians, bridge builders, space conquerors; but do they understand the total process of life? Can any specialist experience life as a whole? Only when he ceases to be a specialist". 

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FROM CHAPTER 3 'INTELLECT, AUTHORITY AND INTELLIGENCE' 

"MANY of us seem to think that by teaching every human being to read and write, we shall solve our human problems; but this idea has proved to be false. The so-called educated are not peace-loving, integrated people, and they too are responsible for the confusion and misery of the world. The right kind of education means the awakening of intelligence, the fostering of an integrated life, and only such education can create a new culture and a peaceful world; but to bring about this new kind of education, we must make a fresh start on an entirely different basis. With the world falling into ruin about us, we discuss theories and vain political questions, and play with superficial reforms. Does this not indicate utter thoughtlessness on our part? Some may agree that it does, but they will go on doing exactly as they have always done - and that is the sadness of existence. When we hear a truth and do not act upon it, it becomes a poison within ourselves, and that poison spreads, bringing psychological disturbances, unbalance and ill health. Only when creative intelligence is awakened in the individual is there a possibility of a peaceful and happy life". 

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