A Vipassana Education

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.

Watching the sunrise over the Himalayas.
Watching the sunrise over the Himalayas.

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.
first month pics 003

My passions for education, rural livelihood, and meditation come from my experiences working in Kenya and Thailand. My time with the Maasai American Organization in Losho, Kenya, inspired me to dedicate myself to service and to work for educational opportunities in poor, marginalized communities. This commitment led me to Thailand on a Fulbright fellowship, where I taught English at a small government school in Chiang Mai province and worked with refugee and migrant women from Myanmar. I hope to use these past experiences this year to learn more about myself, holistic education in rural communities, and self-sufficient development. I come to AIF honored and excited for the chance to immerse myself in Garhwali culture, practice mindfulness and yoga, and make friendships with the people and community of Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya.

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2 thoughts on “A Vipassana Education

  1. Another beautiful post, Matt. I love your view on education as a path towards human happiness and fulfillment. I think perspective can get easily lost in the rush to get accepted to schools, get certain marks, get certain jobs. Thanks for reminding us in this post. Look forward to reading more.

  2. Excellent peace of writing on education. Being an education researcher, I strongly believe and agree what has been expressed here. Paulo Freire, an author of ‘Pedagogy of Oppressed’ and ‘Education for Critical Consciousness’ , mentioned about ‘Education as a practice of Freedom’ and in current context it should be read as ‘Education as a praxis of liberation’. Considering the current state of education, this notion of education is largely missing and thus the abysmal results and consequences follow not only in form of academic performance but also in distress and distrust in society and immoral values being valorized. Thanks Matt, for this wonderful insight. I am looking forward for such post.

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