In this culture, much emphasis is placed on the importance of education. While it is true that an education can go a long way to help an individual learn skills that can be quite useful, we are missing an important element in our education: Wisdom and its application. Just because we know how to do something, does it mean that we should do it? If we know how to build an atomic bomb, should we build one?
This importance of education, a mental process, is born out of a culture that values rationality and the mind. Wisdom, on the other hand, transcends the mind and the individual. It involves a different kind of “thinking” from rational thought. It is sometimes described as “opening one’s heart”. It is accessible to everyone from the day they are born and requires no formal credentials. While our culture is not oblivious to wisdom, I have noticed that we do have a tendency to ignore it a lot. Why is this?
It seems to me that when one is born, he loses his sense of oneness with his mother and begins a process of learning how he is a separate being from other parts of the Universe. He learns about limitation and boundaries. He learns that sometimes his desires and intentions are not fulfilled and eventually that he is mortal. No wonder why people might believe that the world is a hostile place! Hence, it is, perhaps, unavoidable that we are full of fear.
Education, then, in addition to quenching one’s curiosity (another result of the human experience of separateness), can be used to deal with this seemingly hostile world. We can learn how to maintain our existence by manipulating Nature to do our bidding (e.g., science, engineering and medicine). Within a society, education can also be used to manipulate its members in order to help preserve the existing social order (e.g., history, law, and religious doctrine).
In the examples I gave above, I see an absence of wisdom in the educational process, in general. Even though wisdom is always available to each of us, humanity on a large scale has been ignoring this access, given the incredible problems we face. While each individual is ultimately responsible for remembering to access wisdom, teachers can be of great service to students by shifting their curriculum from an emphasis on facts to an emphasis on wisdom. I am sure that students will be more successful in a wisdom-based education than a fact-based education because in large part, a wisdom-based education is a reminding of what one already knows at a deep level, whereas a fact-base education is more of a presentation of material that is relatively alien to a generic human being. Note that I am not condemning the learning of facts. I am merely saying that the learning of facts would best serve us when they are subordinate to wisdom.
So, for example, instead of teaching the “letter of the law”, emphasize timeless principles of social justice and how a region’s laws may or may not fit into supporting these principles. Instead of memorizing scripture for the sake of justifying one’s actions, seek out its deeper meaning with others in order to transform your actions for the betterment of all. Instead of learning about what an organ does physically in order to determine if one can live without it if it “misbehaves”, observe how it behaves with relation to a person’s whole being–physical, emotional and mental. Instead of studying how to manipulate a crop’s genes in order to make it invulnerable to “forces of nature” that would destroy it, study how the crop interacts with its surroundings and how it is affected by the presence of other organisms in order to work with Nature, instead of against it.
This reminds me of a truth that I have learned (or rather, remembered) in life. It is certainly relevant to education, but it could also apply to daily life, in general. If I encounter resistance to my intention, I am at that moment working against Nature. So, the choice at that moment becomes: Do I become arrogant and angrily attempt to force my way through the situation or do I humble myself and open myself to the truth that the Universe is demonstrating to me. Choosing the latter represents the essence of what I mean by a “wisdom-based education” and can also represent the first stage of a “wisdom-based scientific method” that is not just concerned with physical phenomena but also subtler phenomena.
Instead of seeing education as a means to better compete with others economically, treat it as an opportunity to learn to live in harmony with others and Nature as we each contribute to the good life of all. Remembering our innate wisdom brings us a sense of peace when dealing with life’s challenges and fortunately, it is contagious when we share it with others!