A few days ago as I was about to begin an activity with our 4th and 5th graders, I looked up from where we were sitting and gazed at how the mountains here touch the sky. The sky seemed so blue, the green of the leaves on the trees was the sunlight itself. The birds in the distance were singing along to the bells chiming on the necks of buffalos grazing in the jungle.
Suddenly what I had planned to do lost all meaning and a feeling of wonderment overwhelmed me. There is so much life we do not know of, so much beauty we chose not to see every second, pouring forth from and in all things. I was struck by how unaware I was, how much of this consciousness I did not feel.
I asked the students to look at and follow the movements of a butterfly that was flying around us. They observed it for a few minutes until it went out of sight. I then asked them what the butterfly was doing, where it was going, why it moved the way it did. One of the students, a ten year old girl named Swathi, told us that it was flying to the fragrance of flowers.
When was the last time you were happy, genuinely happy? The last time you were bursting with so much joy you felt that however large this universe is, it could not contain just one ounce of your being?
That’s not something we can teach. Yet what is the purpose of education if it does not help us see more clearly by removing all that sleep in our eye and lead us in the direction of that “pathless land,” called truth? Why bother with school if it does not help us be happy, be free, and thus human?
The way of education is the way of religion. I’m not talking about being a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim, or whatever else, but to see and experience for yourself that “knowledge which liberates.” To feel in every cell of your body what these great teachings have called the Dharma, the Tao, fana and baqa, and yoga. It is to open ourselves to that conscious energy, one might call it love, moksha, or God, that is all around us—everywhere everywhere everywhere—that is who we are as humans. To know and express that is our sole responsibility in life, and the only purpose of education.
However much we see it as a way to acquire the knowledge, skills, and prestige for earning a higher salary and securing a better job, education is not about passing exams or getting the degrees necessary for us to be highly conformed, technocratic professionals. It is just as Swathi saw the butterfly that day. Education is our movement within to taste the fragrance of who we are; maybe that is why Buddha once gave a sermon by simply holding up a flower and remaining silent.