“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man” — this is a very famous quotation of Swami Vivekananda.
This quotation was originally part of a letter written to Singaravelu Mudaliyar (Kidi) from Chicago, United States, dated 3 March 1894. The letter was later published as a prose in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda and was named What we believe in.
First let’s quote the relevant portion from the prose What we believe in. Swami Vivekananda wrote in that letter—[Source]
Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.
Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man.
Therefore the only duty of the teacher in both cases is to remove all obstructions from the way. Hands off! as I always say, and everything will be right. That is, our duty is to clear the way. The Lord does the rest.
[Full text of this prose inducing PDF download option is given at the bottom of this page.]
Section 01: Current education system
In another article, we have discussed that Viekananda was not satisfied with India’s education system. He called the education system “a clerk-making machine”. He told, this education system does not teach one to “stand on his own feet”. He also told, this education system does not produce “man of originality”. More than that this education system destroys one’s faith and self-confidence.
Quoting Swamiji’s own words—[Source]
The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless. And the result is that fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three Presidencies.
Section 02: Actual education – Man-making education
So, according to Swami Vivekananda, what is the definition and scope of “actual education”?
Swamiji wanted to see “man-making education. In a lecture delivered at Madras (currently known as Chennai), he clearly told—[Source]
We have wept long enough. No more weeping, but stand on your feet and be men. It is a man-making religion that we want. It is man-making theories that we want. It is man-making education all roundthat we want.
In his The Future of India, the prose we have already mentioned in this article, he wrote—[Source]
In the first place it is not a man-making education, it is merely and entirely a negative education. A negative education or any training that is based on negation, is worse than death.
He wanted to see “man-making” education. This is how he defined education and its scope—[Source]
What is education? Is it book-learning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education. Now consider, is that education as a result of which the will, being continuously choked by force through generations, is well-nigh killed out; is that education under whose sway even the old ideas, let alone the new ones, are disappearing one by one; is that education which is slowly making man a machine? It is more blessed, in my opinion, even to go wrong, impelled by one’s free will and intelligence than to be good as an automaton. Again, can that be called society which is formed by an aggregate of men who are like lumps of clay, like lifeless machines, like heaped up pebbles? How can such society fare well? Were good possible, then instead of being slaves for hundreds of years, we would have been the greatest nation on earth, and this soil of India, instead of being a mine of stupidity, would have been the eternal fountain-head of learning.
Section 03: Perfection in man
In the section one above we have discussed Swami Vivekananda’s views on current education system. In the section two above, we have shown, according to Swamiji, the main objective of education is “man-making”. Now in this third section we’ll discuss why and how did he conclude that “education is the manifestation of perfection already in man”?
All perfection is there already in the soul. But this perfection has been covered up by nature; layer after layer of nature is covering this purity of the soul.
He also told—[Source]
Every individual has in himself perfection. It lies within the dark recesses of his physical being.
Remembering Shvetashvatara Upanishad‘s verse शृण्वन्तु बिश्वे अमृतस्य पुत्रा (Shrinwantu Vishwe Amritasya Putra), his reaction was—[Source]
“Children of immortal bliss” — what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name — heirs of immortal bliss — yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth — sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter.
According to Swami Vivekananda, “here”, “exactly here”, education should work. Human soul is already perfect. Perfection is its nature. In Swamiji’s words—[Source]
Perfection is man’s nature, only it is barred in and prevented from taking its proper course.
Exactly here education should work to remove the barrier, the obstacle, the cloud, so that one becomes able to realise his perfect real nature.
In other words, the tool or the system or the process that helps someone to realise his inherent perfection, his real nature, that is education.
And that is, in Swami Vivekananda’s words—
“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man“
O. P. Dhiman in his book Foundation of Education wrote—[Source]
Swami Vivekananda’s educational philosophy is a reflection of his general philosophy of life. His main contention is that education is the manifestation of divinity already existing in man. He believes that knowledge resides within the individual himself. He simply discovers or realises it. “Perfection is already inherent in man, and education is the manifestation of the same.” In fact, his educational philosophy is built upon the bed-rocks of Vedanta. He was revolutionary in the field of education and touched every aspect of it. Vikekananda criticised the existing system of education.
As we have already noted above, Vivekananda believes that education is the manifestation of the perfection already existing in man. To him, education is not the amount of information, put into one’s brain, which may be there undigested all one’s life. It is, rather a life-building assimilation of ideas. He says, “If you have assimilated five ideas and made them ,as your character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart the whole library. If education were identical with information, the libraries would be the greatest sages in the world and encyclopaedias, the greatest Rishis.”
Ravi S. Samuel wrote in his book A Comprehensive Study of Education—[Source]
Swami Vivekananda has defined education thus, “It is the manifestation of divine perfection already reached in man”. He further observes, “The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philosophy and the courage of a lion—is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs”. These words of Swami Vivekananda give a very practical concept of education. In other words, real education is meant for character formation, and intellectual and vocational development in the child.
Author Rajni Joshi observed—[Source]
It is very interesting to note here that a self realised personality is automatically and constantly established in a positive state of mind. We often have a very superficial meaning of self-realisation. For majority of people “self-realisation” means development of all cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains with which a child is born. But perhaps very few of us realise that every normal human being has the capacity of attaining the ‘perfection’, as Swami Vivekanand has said, “education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.” “Now question arises what does perfection mean?” Attaining perfection is to know about the divinity of one’s own “self”. Swami Vivekanand has said, “one who does not have faith in himself (his divine nature) is an atheist.” Thus education has the responsibility to introduce man/child with his divinity.
- What we believe in — original prose, you may read online here, or download PDF copy from here (150 kilobytes, click on File menu and then click on “save/download”)
- Education is The Manifestation of The Perfection Already in Man – Swami Vivekananda at Ankur Learning Solutions (a well-written article)