Need for Spirituality in the midst of Modern Education’s Promise and Betrayal

Across the length and breadth of India, millions of parents encourage their children to strive for better education and studying diligently, telling their wards that education is capable of solving problems that they will face in life. Many children inculcate this belief from their parents and look forward to modern education as a means of resolving all their problems and achieving happiness. As we grow older, education do help us in obtaining jobs and increasing our competitiveness, but it does not provide answers to all of the questions about life, wisdom, truth, relationships, and interconnectedness of everything. When education fails to provide an answer, many of us become perplexed and discouraged. In such situations, we seek solace in alcohol, drugs, sex, winning competition, indulging in increased consumption and hoardings. However, we quickly come to realize the futility of all of these actions as well, as the more of them we engage in, the further removed we are from the answers we seek.

Modern education fails to provide an answer for the following reasons:

1. Modern education is based on verification via logic, rationality, tangibility, and observation. Numerous answers are difficult to verify, and thus we substitute “winning the competition” for “the correct answer.” We view competition success as confirmation that we have discovered the correct answers.   

2. The answer to the question “what is right and wrong” cannot be determined by logic or verification, but only by the heart. What is known through heart cannot be arrived at through verification.  

The two reasons outlined above can be classified as means (verification) and ends (what is right/hear). While modern education can assist us in developing the “means,” it frequently does so at the expense of the “ends.” In other words, it confuses means and ends, or, fails to distinguish the two. It is important to differentiate the two as they require different kind of “knowing”. Education and knowledge of the “end” (heart) are completely ignored by modern education because they are deemed “soft,” “intangible,” and “unverifiable.” If you cannot give me the proof then it does not exist. The type of knowledge gained through verification can be referred to as “indirect knowledge,” whereas the type of knowledge gained from the heart is referred to as “direct knowledge.” “Indirect knowledge” is gained through verification (what is distance between two cities?) requires verification but “direct knowledge” does not need verification(Is my action right?). Only spirituality enables us to access direct knowledge that is immediate and instantaneous and enables us to provide answers to “ends” questions.

Does this mean that modern education is inefficient at providing answers to most critical questions of life? My response will be a mixture of “yes” and “no.” It can be beneficial in conjunction with direct knowledge as it can complement direct knowledge. It can assist us in determining “what is not the correct answer” (“Neti”.. “Neti” in the Vedas) through refutation or in continuing to seek and not settle. Many scientists have come to conclusion through “Neti” approach. But, the final answer can only be discovered through direct knowing. Modern education can also assist in verifying “what is directly known,” as what is directly known cannot be refuted. Paradoxically, what can be refuted cannot satisfy our cravings or provide us with critical or final answers. Alcohol, power, consumption, competition, lust can easily be refuted as not providing the answers after we have experienced these. So, indirect knowledge without direct knowing is crippling at best, only direct knowledge through spirituality can help us find the” final answers”.

by Munish Thakur

Professor of Strategy, XLRI