Sadhguru and renowned film-maker, Shekhar Kapur, explore the role of education in raising children, and how inspiration is important in keeping the joy of learning alive. Towards the end, the video gives you a glimpse of the intense and exuberant life at the Isha Home School, where learning is fun!

Read the transcript of their talk below.

Shekhar Kapur: When my daughter was 4-5, she asked me, “Daddy, is the world that I live in, is it my dream or is it reality?” So I said, “You tell me.” So she said, “It’s both. It’s my imagination, and it’s reality, both.” But this question persists: “Am I living a dream, or is this reality?” And I’m actually very afraid, because it’s such a subtle question, that as she grows, they’ll take that question away from her, the way they educate her. So let’s talk about raising children and education and in the school, the Isha School, tell me, is that an issue, what you’re trying to do here?

Sadhguru: Essentially, education is basically about enlarging the horizons of human perception. But unfortunately today, slowly, education has shifted into a mode where people believe, is about enforcing information, heaps of information. Information is useful in a certain way, but it’s not going to make your life, it’ll earn your living. So, right now, most of the education on the planet has become, essentially, a means to earn a living, not to enlarge your horizons. So, here at Isha Home School, education is about enlarging your horizons. This is not about giving them ready-made answers as information. This is to have an active intelligence which constantly searches and seeks and looks at everything in every possible way. Above all, to know the joy of wondering about life, not having ready-made answers for everything. Ready-made answers are religion.

Is competition good?

Shekhar Kapur: And so, in this highly competitive world, are you saying that they’ll come out non-competitive, or they will have such awareness that their ability to deal with this world will be more precise?

Sadhguru: Suppose you and I are walking and you’re in competition with me. You will either get to walk slightly faster than me or probably less than me and feel depressed about it. If you walk little faster than me, you are going to be thinking you have reached the peak of your life; if you fall behind me, you’ll feel depressed that you can’t walk as fast as me. But if you’re not in competition with myself, you would explore the possibilities of what you could do and maybe, we don’t know… you could fly! I can walk fast, maybe you could fly. But you will miss out the possibility of flying because you’re in competition with me. All you want to do is take few steps more than me. So, the very human potential is distorted because people are in competition. Right now, people believe that you will not propel yourself to your fullest if you are not in competition, which is a very, very false idea. We have cultivated that in societies that you believe you will not reach your full potential unless you’re in competition, not at all true.

It’s all about getting two marks more than the one who is sitting next to you. In this mode of competition, only one can win. All others are losers, isn’t it? It’s a horrible way to create a society.

Actually, only when a human being is in a very extended periods of joyfulness, blissfulness, he will stretch himself to the limits and do what he could do to the fullest. When he’s in competition, when he’s in fear of failure, he will only do little better than somebody else. You’re destroying the human genius through the process of education, teaching competition. It’s all about getting two marks more than the one who is sitting next to you. In this mode of competition, only one can win. All others are losers, isn’t it? It’s a horrible way to create a society. What I’m saying is the gardener in this school is as important for us as the headmistress of the school. So, that’s what the children are constantly perceiving. We are not saying these things as philosophies, but that’s the atmosphere that is set. The one who cleans the place, one who cooks for us, is as important as the teacher who teaches you science or literature or runs the school or me who visits once in a way to give them a different perspective of the whole thing.

Once you put one above the other, you are not going to know anything in this world. Your whole perspective is distorted. So, that is the basis of competition, trying to put one above the other. Once you make one thing bigger than the other, one thing small, one thing big, one thing high, one thing low, one thing divine, another thing filthy then you miss the whole point of existence. So, the essence of education is to enhance your perception in such a way that you’re able to perceive a blade of grass being as important as the coconut tree. It’s not less important. It’s different, that’s all. Every difference that you find in the world, if you make it into a discriminatory process, that is what you’re suffering a prejudice world. Whether between races or nations or languages and cultures and even gender, every difference we have made it a discriminatory process. And that has been our mode of education also unfortunately.

So, here at Isha Home School, the most important part of education here is not taught. It is a constant demonstration. All the teachers are dedicated people. They’re all volunteers. Hugely educated, but they are all here to volunteer their full time. Their life they’re volunteering to make this happen for the children. So the key element of the school is, the way everybody moves, the way everybody sits and stands and eats and does everything. Education, you have to follow some system, we are following ICSE; but the most important thing is the atmosphere, the ambience, the way it is. One thing you will see is the strength of the children. The mental strength of the child here is phenomenal. Today, that is one thing that’s missing in the urban schools. They’re all becoming flaky. Competition will make them determined and focused in one way at the same time, make them fearful of failure, fearful of, you know, being less than somebody else. Here, you’ll see they don’t have that at all in them. Every one of them is a king by himself.

Learning is fun!

Shekhar Kapur: I noticed that. I’ve seen the children. What surprises me mostly is that there’s a certain sense of alertness in them. When I go back to urban areas anywhere in the world, you see children walking to school, and there’s a lack of purpose, I guess. I have to say, the kids from Isha Home School, wherever I’ve seen them, they’re completely alert. They seem to be going from one place to another with a sense of identity and sense of doing something. And with a lot of happiness! Obviously learning is fun for them.

Sadhguru: Getting to know something, moving into a new area of life, learning, it’s always a joyful process. But unfortunately, schooling is not a joyful process for most children.

Getting to know something, moving into a new area of life, learning, it’s always a joyful process. But unfortunately, schooling is not a joyful process for most children.

I must tell you this. When I was just in my 6th standard, the President of India died and we got two days’ leave. The school was closed for two days. We went to the school. Then we came to know he is dead, and they announced that it’s a holiday today and also tomorrow. So, all of us met, me and my friends. ‘Wow! The President died means we get two days.’ We didn’t know this until then. ‘Two days off. Suppose the Prime Minister dies, how many days? Chief Minister dies, how many days?’ In our minds, we’re just killing the whole cabinet, one by one, if they all die this year, how many days off will we get? Why is school such a horrible place? Because learning is always a joyful experience for any human being.

Shekhar Kapur: Or should be.

Sadhguru: It is, actually. When you get to know something new, there is a certain invigoration of energy within you. But that’s not happening in the school simply because of the way it is delivered. So, that’s the reason I started this school and I wanted that to be different that people must be excited about learning. You won’t believe it, at 11:00, 11:30 in the night, some children can’t sleep. They say, ‘Akka, akka, please, akka, open the library. I just want to see this one thing.’ You know, this is a regular thing. ‘I just want to spend five minutes, akka, I want to just see.’ He wants to know before he goes to bed. He can’t go to bed without knowing that now because it’s always like that. So, to keep that enthusiasm up, to keep that inquisitiveness up, longing to know, that is the job of the teacher. Knowing is the child’s job. Here, the teacher is just working to keep up the longing to know.

Shekhar Kapur: So, any special techniques you developed here so that learning is fun? I wish that I was taught mathematics differently. Now, at this age, I’m obsessed with mathematics. But I should have learnt it then. And all I can remember is the fear of maths.

Sadhguru: They’re employing nothing very special as such because what I see is, it is information versus inspiration. Here, they’re inspired. That’s why you see them moving about with such energy because they’re inspired. Information, if you have an alert mind, you can gather anytime. And today, the way the technology is developing, carrying all the information in your head is not anymore relevant, you know. It’s all there on the net. If you have an alert mind, when you want it, you have it. They’re doing very well academically also.

Shekhar Kapur: Are you planning to open more schools?

Sadhguru: I thought, because there’s so much demand, we thought we should open a maximum of four schools in India of this kind; this is the southern one, one in the western sector, northern sector and eastern sector. But a school like this will not happen because you build buildings. You have to get those kind of people who are committed to making it happen. That’s always a challenge because dedication is a scarce material in the world today… though we are enjoying that in Isha, still it’s a very scarce material in the world. Everybody is always doing something thinking, ‘Okay, what will I get?’ Not doing something simply because they love to do it; those people are very small number.

What makes a child a child

Shekhar Kapur: So, we’re talking about childhood, innocence and its relevance to us as adults.

Sadhguru: I don’t think a child is innocent. Oh, he can be very mean, okay? If he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll get very mean. The beauty of the child is he’s flexible. That’s all that needs to happen to the adult also. Not that he’s innocent, ignorant, this, that; that’s not the point, the point is that he’s flexible. That’s the most important aspect of the child. The same thing comes to the adult, he’s also fine. Generally, it’s become fashionable for people to say, ‘Like a child.’ Somewhere, they’re thinking adulthood is evil, childhood is a good thing… No. A child is just in the making. Adulthood is the real thing. Even so-called spiritual people go about saying, ‘I’m like a child.’ So I keep asking people, ‘Do you really want to be a child? Suppose, at the age of 6, your body and your mind stopped growing and you remained a child; is that a great thing? We’ll call you a retard. Isn’t it good you’ve grown out of your childhood? Because you made a mess out of your adulthood, you’re aspiring for your childhood. I think adulthood is great.

The beauty of the child is he’s flexible. That’s all that needs to happen to the adult also.

Shekhar Kapur: Do you think the children have that kind of perception that we then have to work towards? Do you think we need to uneducate ourselves? Do you think the normal processes of raising children that we go through in modern day life is actually lessening our ability to become greater human beings or more perceptive?

Sadhguru: No, Shekhar, the thing is, what you know is not the problem in your life. The more you know, the better it is, okay? That’s why you’re trying to know. But now you’re complaining knowing is a problem; I have to unlearn. No, I wouldn’t say that. Knowledge is not causing problem. You’re identified with what you know, that is what is causing the problem. If you learn to be not identified with what you know, all that you know, whether it is considered great knowledge or it’s considered filth on the street, both are useful actually to live a life, isn’t it? So, knowledge is not the problem. You get identified with every bit of information that you gather; that is the problem. Identity is the problem; knowledge is not the problem. So, somewhere when you say, ‘I want to be like a child,’ you are celebrating ignorance. And I am singing, ‘Asathoma Sadhgamaya’ and you are saying… No, knowledge is not the problem; knowledge is not the burden. Your identity is the burden. You get identified with limited things that you know. That is the problem.

I remember when I had a farm in Karnataka: at that time, in a village, there would be only one person who could read. Everybody would get their personal letters for him to read, you know. A wife wants to read a letter that her husband has written. A postcard comes. She goes to this man, and he has to read. So he reads and interprets it in a million ways that he knows. So, just literacy was a rare thing because the necessary infrastructure was not there. And it looked like a strange mystical thing, that somebody is able to look at the postcard and say all these things…it looked like a great, mystical thing.

Infrastructure for spirituality

It’s not difficult. Because we did not maintain that infrastructure of inward-looking in society, you did not cultivate that right from your childhood, now it looks like a faraway thing. Suppose you did not know how to read and write, if you look at a book and somebody looks at a book and saying all these things, would look like a mystical process, isn’t it?

We haven’t invested in that direction, so that’s exactly what we’re trying to build now –  to a build an infrastructure of the spiritual process in the world; to give the necessary infrastructure because no society has invested enough towards the inner wellbeing of a human being. We have hospitals, we have schools, we have toilets, we have this, we have that, but we don’t have enough infrastructure for the actual wellbeing, the inner wellbeing of a human being. Because your wellbeing and whatever else you go through, your joy and misery happens within you, your pain and pleasure happens within you, agony and ecstasy happens within you. Everything that happens to a human being happens within you. So we have to create that infrastructure.

Editor’s Note: Download the ebook “Inspire Your Child, Inspire the World” for more parenting advice from Sadhguru. The book is available as “Pay As You Like.” (Set 0 for free)