This sacrament is the eleventh sacrament out of the sixteen sacraments. The word “ Vedarambha” is made of two words, ‘Ved’ and ‘Arambh’. ‘Ved’ means knowledge and ‘Arambh’ means to begin i.e. to begin studies. Boys and girls now go to school to receive education. In Vedic philosophy the education of a child has such an important place that there are sixteen sacraments formulated to uplift his or her life. The Vedic seers state that the following three factors have an effect on the child and it is the responsibility of the education system to take care of them:-
(1) Effects of the last lives.
(2) Qualities acquired from parents.
(3) The effects of the environment in the present life.
The education of a child can be said to be continuity of the sacraments. For the future development of a child the Vedic philosophers have given consideration to the following five factors:-
(2) Student (celibate)
(3) Preceptor (teacher)
(4) Subject of study
(5) Achieving the goals of life.
(1) Child’s Study Environment
The Vedic viewpoint states that those who are in-charge of educational institutions should ensure that educational institutions are maintained in very pure environment, only then it is possible to develop the minds of the students in the pure form. Today educational institutions are built in polluted town and city areas, where instead of producing noble human beings, large sums of money are spent on constructing buildings only, for higher education.
Accepting the student for the purpose of education, the teacher takes such a good care of him or her as a mother takes care of the child in her womb. Can there be any other better example than this regarding student-teacher relationship? The child stays in the mother’s womb. The mother breathes, not the foetus, mother eats the food, not the foetus, mother drinks water, not the foetus. The child’s breath is through the mother’s breath, the child’s food is through the mother’s food and the child’s fluid is through the mother’s fluid. Can there be any other example better than mother and foetus relationship regarding the teacher and the student?
(2) The Student /Celibate
Students entering the educational institutions should follow three rules.
(a) The student should work hard continuously, in which there is no room for laziness, has to be alert at all times, in which there is only devotion and effort. In Vedic terms it is called ‘Tapasya’ meaning a life of hardship and sacrifice. The student should be told to spend a life of regular hard work, never to be idle, to sleep during night , day time is not for sleeping but for working, never to loose temper, never to tell a lie and to spend a life of hardship and sacrifice.
(b) The teacher gives an undertaking and assures the student that he accepts him / her within his own heart. The teacher and the student try to come so close to each other, that their minds become one.
Such a heavy responsibility is laid upon the shoulders of a teacher. The teacher gives an assurance to the student that he / she is taking the responsibility of him / her in his / her own hands and will direct the heart and the mind of the student in the right direction in the coming future.
Initially the child takes birth from the mother and the father, which is the birth of a physical body. Second birth takes place when the child enters the school, accepts the teacher as the mother and the father and learns from the teacher. This is the birth of the mind. In other words after gaining knowledge the child has the second birth.
(c) Oath of celibacy – the word celibacy means a student with a high desire in the mind and heart of becoming great. Celibacy also means not wasting semen, maintaining pure character and spending a good moral life. This is the second aim of the Vedic education.
(3) Preceptor (the teacher)
In Vedic philosophy the educator or teacher is called the preceptor. In this philosophy while the student is called celibate, the teacher is called a preceptor (Acharya). The word ‘Acharya’ means one who is of righteous conduct and transforms the life of the students in the similar manner. In Vedas the student and the teacher are two focal points in education. Righteous conduct is the line that connects the two. If one does not have good character then one is not a teacher, similarly without good character one is not a student and education is not proper. What use is there for education in which only fees is collected from students for the sake of passing exams and nothing is done about character building. Such educational institutions are not educational institutions but profit making business ventures. Today educational institutions have become business centres. Character building is not even regarded as part of education. A new philosophy has taken birth which states that, private life is separate matter from public life.
The teacher also claims that no one has the right to interfere with his / her private life at home, be it gambling, drinking liquor or doing anything, since it is his / her private life. If the character of the teacher is such then why would not the student’s character be the same? If a teacher himself / herself is like burnt out firewood, has no heat in it, behaves differently in public and in private lives, then how can he or she enlighten a student. A diya (clay lamp) that is already lit up can light an unlit diya.
“Character is not so much taught as caught.” The problems caused in the educational world today by students are not that severe compared to the problems caused by the teachers.
The Subject of Study
The aim of the Vedic education system is not confined to the study of academic books alone, but together with this the aim is to present the spiritual viewpoint, concerning the soul and God. In life, there is not only our physical body and material world, within this body there is a soul. Behind the material world there is spiritual world. The Yajurveda states that due to the influence of worldly pleasures, the spiritual truth is disappearing from our sight. After lifting this curtain one is able to see the spiritual side of which we are unaware. True knowledge is one in which there is the blending of both material and spiritual education. Only after knowing both spiritual and material sciences one is able to see the whole spectrum of life. Life is incomplete by the knowledge of one only. There is a place for both, in respective areas, in life.
(4) Attaining the Goal of life
After completing the studies at the educational institution and when returning home, the teacher advises the student that whatever he/she has learnt while in the teacher’s company, it is expected that you will follow a life of truth and religion, will take care of your parents and will pay due respect to the elders. Today it is repeatedly emphasized to the youngsters that the aim of education is to become capable of earning a living. Becoming a bread and butter earner is good, but the main aim of education is to produce good human beings. During the 14-16 years of study we do not tell students what is life, what is truth, what is righteous and what is the objective of life. The words of the teacher should be that you will definitely earn bread and butter, will fill your stomach but do remember, whatever you do, remain a good moral human being, in other words never ever forget whatever you learnt about qualities of humanity.