Knowledge or Mere Information – What Are We Passing On To Our Children?

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I have always believed that the stories and incidents from our mythology – the Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads, all have a deeper meaning – a lesson to impart. Each of these stories tries to bring out a message that gives us a better understanding into how we should live our life. I also believe, that education has a lot to learn from these stories and if only, we could go back to these storehouses of wisdom, we can change the way our world looks today.

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Lord Ganesha – the mighty, big bellied, elephant headed god, the wisest of all, remover of all obstacles, one who was created out of dirt from Goddess Parvati’s body, who got into a fight with his father Lord Shiva for not letting him pass, while he was guarding the entrance of the cave where his mother Goddess Parvati had asked him to and as a result was beheaded by Lord Shiva, who was unknown to the fact that Ganesha was his son, and later replaced his head with that of an elephant’s. The story of his birth and him getting an elephant head is a rather famous one.

I once witnessed a teacher telling this story to the kids in her class and the questions that she asked after finishing the story went like –

  • Who was Ganesh?
  • Why did Lord Shiva chop off his head?
  • How did Ganesh get an elephant’s head?, etc.

These questions made me wonder, what was it that the teacher was trying to teach her students? What was the message that she wanted to convey? Why was she asking mere factual questions, the answers to which she had already told her class through the story? Was she merely passing on the information about the birth and rebirth of Lord Ganesha or was there more to it that she could have imparted? Where was the knowledge – the Gyan in her story?

If we were to breed a generation that was capable of higher order thinking, the teacher would have had to answer questions like –

  • How can someone make a baby from dust?
  • If Lord Shiva was a Tapasvi, how should his behavior have been? Shouldn’t be have been calm and not angered by Ganesha?
  • If Lord Shiva could replace an elephant’s head on Ganesha’s body, why couldn’t he use his own head that he had chopped off?

Each of these stories from our holy books have a relevance in today’s world. The concept that we are all made of dust gives rise to the belief that Goddess Parvati made Ganesha out of dirt from her body. Inspite of being a Tapasvi, Lord Shiva was angered because he is the destroyer, the fighter of all evil. Lord Ganesha, in his effort to obey his mother, became a victim of his own ego, which made him believe that he was invincible, which Lord Shiva fought to destroy and since ego is believed to reside in one’s head, Ganesha’s head was chopped off, thus chopping off his ego.

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Also, the significance of using an elephant’s head, instead of Ganesha’s own, comes from the fact that an elephant’s head is symbolic of all the traits humans must possess. The big ears are symbolic of being a good listener, the small eyes that symbolize focus, the small mouth that suggests one should talk less and the long trunk, which is capable of picking up the tiniest object and yet bring down the mightiest of trees, symbolizes that we too must develop our intellect and powers of discrimination in a similar way.

The story has a very meaningful lesson to give, which sadly the Gurus of today do not even bother to talk about. Their role is limited to imparting information, which the kids gulp and mug and make every possible effort to reproduce in their examinations in the same way as their teacher tells them, thus killing the cognition, the thinking abilities of the children and keeping them away from the essence of these stories, which have the capacity to mold a child’s personality.

I ask again, what do our children need – mere information or pure knowledge – I leave it for you to decide!

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Knowledge or Mere Information – What Are We Passing On To Our Children?