Knowledge, skills and values: modern education theory fits within Vedic viewpoint

The Vedic literature describes three phases of education in spiritual knowledge. They are:

sambandha or knowledge of the relationship between things, especially between the Supreme Lord and His various energies; abhidheya, or the process of attainment and skills required; and prayojana, or the ultimate goal or value to be obtained.

These three principles of Vedic education can be seen throughout the writings of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas:

The original and primeval spiritual preceptor of the universe, Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, has declared that Vaiñëava theology has three fundamental principles: sambandha, relationships; abhidheya, the means of attainment; and prayojana, the prime necessity and goal.

The Vedas stand as the authoritative guide and reference (pramäëa) and they prove nine different topics, which may be classified into sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana.

Krishna explains in the Bhagavad gita that all souls are on His path.

mama vartmänuvartante

manuñyäù pärtha sarvaçaù

Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Påthä.”

Thus there is actually only one path of education or upliftment, with Godhead at one end and hellish life at the other; and all living beings are following this path laid out by the Lord.

So if the one path of devotional service can be described by sambandha, abhideya and prayojana, and everyone and everything is on the path described by Krishna, we should also see these three principles in all aspects of the world.

And actually it is a fact: we can see these three principles working throughout the Lord’s creation.

For example, when we meet a new person, we first need to know something about them before we can act in any relationship with them. Srila Prabhupada also gives this example:

Sambandha means we have to understand our relationship with Kåñëa. Just like if we want to make some relationship with a friend, then we must know about him, what he is.

Another example would be a sports team. At the start of the game the relationships are first setup: players on the same team wear the same colour shirt, and different players take different positions in the team. Once these relationships (sambandha) are set up, then only can the actual activity (abhideya) of the game take place within these relationships, to attain the goal (prayojana) of scoring a goal and winning the game.

In discussion of group dynamics, the common aphorism ‘storming, norming and performing’ is used to describe the process of first establishing relationships within the groups (storming and norming – sambandha), before productive activity can occur (performing – abhideya), to achieve the group’s goals (prayojana).

In basic education theory also, these principles can be seen in the concepts of education as being in three phases of knowledge, skills and values.

Sambandha Abhideya Prayojana
Knowledge Skills Values
What How Why

The sambandha principle is then the basic knowledge of a situation, and WHAT are the relationships between the different elements.

Abhideya is the application of that knowledge into action. It is the skills needed, it is the HOW something is done.

Prayojana is then the WHY we act: what is our ultimate motivation, what do we value about the situation.

The whole Vedas are divided into three states. Sambandha, what is our connection God. That is called sambandha. And then abhidheya. According to that relationship we have to act. That is called abhidheya. And why do we act? Because we have got the goal of life, to achieve the goal of life.

So one might ask what is the value in seeing in this way? Why would we want to see the mundane world, modern educational philosophies etc. in terms of the Vedic guidelines of sambandha, abhideya and prayojana?

Firstly, because it is our duty to try and see everything through the eyes of sastra, which gives us practical realization of how everything is actually the Lord’s energy, and is working under his direction, mayädhyakñeëa prakåtiù. If see everything in the way Krishna and the acharyas describe we see things we are always with Krishna.

In fact, we can describe the benefits of seeing in this way by using the principles of sambhanda, abhideya and prayojana themselves.

For example, if we are studying education and we are looking at things in terms of knowledge, skills and values, our sambandha or relationship we are setting up is that we are a disciple of modern educational theory. Acting in that relationship (abhideya), we will be moving towareds the ultimate goal (prayojana) of modern education, which is atheistic, moralistic sense gratification.

On the other hand, if we use the same principles of education given by the modern theorists, and frame them in our own Vedic perspectives, we are setting up the sambandha of being disciples of the Vedas, who simply use the tools of modern theories to further the ends of the Vedas.

This isn’t to say to say that any devotee who uses modern theories is being certainly degraded, because one can still use these theories, or anything in the world for that matter, in Krishna’s service. But it is just to make the point that we should, wherever possible, see the overarching principles of what we are working with in terms of the Vedic conception, or at least use the modern and Vedic terms interchangeably in our teachings. This will keep us focussed in sastra-caksusa, or seeing the world through the eyes of scriptures, and be an example to our students of how one can see everything as working under the laws of God, as described through His most perfect scriptures, the Vedic literature.

If our sambandha is always fixed as a follower of the Vedas, then our path to the ultimate prayojana of the Vedas, loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna, is always kept clear.


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