Education for Life offers a constructive and brilliant alternative to what has been called the disaster of modern education. The need for a change is universally recognized. The statistics of illiteracy, drug abuse, and violence speak for themselves. In this book, Kriyananda traces the problems to an emphasis on technological competence at the expense of spiritual values, which alone can give higher meaning to life. Education for Life offers parents, educators, and concerned citizens everywhere techniques that are both compassionate and practical.

This revolutionary book is based on the pioneering work in India of Paramhansa Yogananda, in the early years of the twentieth century. The Education for Life system has been tested and proven for over three decades at the many Living Wisdom schools located throughout the United States.

This book is a workable combination of idealism and practicality telling educators what to teach, when to teach it, how to teach it, and why. Educators in both American and Europe have acclaimed the Living Wisdom schools as places where children are encouraged to grow toward full maturity as human beings, and where they learn not only facts, but also innovative principles for better living.

Swami Kriyananda

Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters, 1926–2013) was a direct disciple of the great spiritual master Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi), a bestselling author, and an internationally known lecturer and composer. Widely recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on meditation and yoga, he taught these principles and techniques to hundreds of thousands of students around the world.

In 1968 Kriyananda founded Ananda Village in Nevada City, California, dedicated to spreading the spirit of friendship, service, and community around the globe. Ananda is recognized as one of the most successful intentional communities in the world, and more than 1,000 people reside in Ananda communities in the US, India, and Italy. The European retreat and community located in Assisi, Italy, also serves Ananda meditation groups in Europe and Russia.

Ananda Village is home to The Expanding Light, a world-renowned guest retreat facility where thousands visit annually for renewal or instruction in many aspects of meditation, yoga, and the spiritual life. The nearby Ananda Meditation Retreat, located on Ananda's first property, functions both as a retreat and as the site for Ananda's Institute of Alternative Living.

An advocate of simple living and high thinking, Swami Kriyananda's more than 140 books cover a wide range of subjects emphasizing the need to live wisely by one's own experience of life, and not by abstract theories or dogmas.

A composer since 1964, Kriyananda wrote over 400 musical works. His music is inspiring, soothing, and uplifting. Many of his later albums are instrumental works with brief affirmations or visualizations. Chuck Dilberto of Awareness Magazine wrote, “[His] words and music are full of his life and light. His sole intention is to heal, something we could all use during these chaotic times.”

Through Crystal Clarity Publishers, his works have sold over 3 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 25 languages.

To learn more, visit the Swami Kriyananda website.



Chapter 1. Success Is Achieving What One REALLY Wants

Chapter 2. Education Should be Experiential, Not Merely Theoretical

Chapter 3. Reason Must be Balanced by Feeling

Chapter 4. How Progressive, Really, Is Progressive?

Chapter 5. Sartre vs. Jesus

Chapter 6. Punishment and Reward

Chapter 7. To What End?

Chapter 8. Humanizing the Process

Chapter 9. The Importance, to Understanding, of Experience

Chapter 10. True Education Is Self-Education

Chapter 11. Progressive Development

Chapter 12. Every Child an Einstein?

Chapter 13. The Case Against Atheism

Chapter 14. The Tools of Maturity

Chapter 15. The Stages of Maturity

Chapter 16. The Foundation Years

Chapter 17. The Feeling Years

Chapter 18. The Willful Years

Chapter 19. The Thoughtful Years

Chapter 20. The Curriculum

Chapter 21. Ananda Schools

Chapter 22. Making It Happen

by Jesse J. Casbon, Ph.D

For twenty years I have served in various roles as teacher, guidance counselor, principal, college instructor, and consultant in public education. During that time I have participated in experimental projects for educational change, seen theories of education come and go, and read most of the current books on educational reform.

Among all the books I have read, Education for Life stands out as that rare pedagogical phenomenon: a book both refreshingly original and wholly workable.

Education for Life expands the current definition of schooling; it offers parents, educators, and concerned citizens everywhere techniques for transforming education into an integral process—one which harmonizes book learning with direct life experience.

This book recommends an already tested and proven system of education, one which emphasizes relevancy when teaching the “basics,” and instructs children also in the art of living. As Kriyananda states, this book has the further goal of helping people to “. . . see the whole of life, beyond the years that one spends in school, as education.”

The unique perspective offered by the author will, I think, give his readers a sense of discovery. Kriyananda has taken seemingly difficult concepts, and offered simple definitions for them that are as convincing as they are unexpected. For example, he defines that seemingly vague word, maturity, as “the ability to relate appropriately to other realities than one’s own.” Immaturity he defines as “a little child throwing a tantrum on the floor because he can’t get what he wants.” Definitions like these stand out both for their simple clarity, and because they are exceptionally helpful. Parents and teachers will readily recognize them as being right on target!

Another thing I liked about this book: While profound, it is at the same time enjoyable to read!

Education for Life deserves to be read by dreamers and doers alike. Perhaps even dreamers, after reading it, will put it to use! For it offers direction for those people who feel that education should mean more than an acquisition of facts, more than intellectual exposure to a vast number of untested concepts, and more than a pragmatic preparation for employment. It is an exalted call for change, based on deep insight into the potentials of every human being. It tells us how to nurture creativity, wisdom, and intuition in each child, and how to tap his unexplored capabilities.

Jesse J. Casbon, Ph.D, Dean
Graduate School for Professional Studies
Lewis & Clark College
Portland, Oregon

Chapter 1—Success Is Achieving What One REALLY Wants

Have you a growing child? If not, suppose you had one: What would you like him or her to become? A doctor? lawyer? scientist? business executive? or, if a girl who hopes for marriage instead of a career, the wife of one of these?

Most people want their children to have certain basic advantages: prosperity, a good job, the respect of their fellow human beings. Too often, unfortunately, their ambitions stop there. They are centered in materialistic, not in spiritual, values.

Systems of education are directed largely by what parents want for their children. Because most parents want material advantages for them, the modern system of education was developed primarily with this goal in mind. Little attention, if any, has been paid to helping students to become successful human beings.

How far might the present philosophy of education be carried?

I once read about a Mafia capo who was kissed worshipfully on the back of his hand by a poor peasant woman in Sicily—not, it seems, for any favor he had done her, and certainly not in admiration for his character. Why, then, would she demonstrate such adulation? One can only assume it was because his thefts and murders had brought him great material power. And what mattered the sick conscience which must have been his own constant companion? That, apparently, in the woman’s eyes, was his problem.

To her, anyway, and probably to many others, the man deserved admiration because he had achieved worldly power.

We’ve all heard of, and perhaps also met, wealthy people of dubious character who were more or less excused their “eccentricities” solely on account of their wealth.

But do riches really constitute success? Surely not, and especially not if, in the process, the admiration they attract is mingled with general dislike. What is it, to succeed at the cost of one’s own happiness and peace of mind, and at the cost of other people’s sincere respect and good will?

Success means much more than money and power. Of what good are millions of dollars, if their attainment deprives one of all that makes life truly worth living? Many people have learned this lesson too late in life to have any time left to improve matters. Why then—they may have wondered belatedly—were they encouraged in the first place so to distort their values?

For, of course, they were encouraged. Everything they ever learned at home, in school, and from their peers, persuaded them that success lies in things tangible, not in seemingly insubstantial, more spiritual gains.

It comes down to what people really want from life. Doesn’t the object of this desire lie beyond such tangible acquisitions as money, prestige, and power? They want these for the inner satisfaction, the happiness, they expect to gain through them. It is self-evident, then, that what people really want from life is not the mere symbols of happiness, but happiness itself.

Why, then, don’t our schools teach students not only how to be successful materially, but successful also as people? I’m not saying that dusty facts such as the dates of trade embargoes and ententes may not serve a useful purpose also. But why don’t our schools teach, in addition to those facts, skills more clearly focused on human needs and interests, such as how to get along well with others, and, even more importantly, how to get along with oneself? how to live healthfully? how to concentrate? how to develop one’s latent abilities? how to be a good employee, or a good boss? how to find a suitable mate? how to have a harmonious home life? how to acquire balance in one’s life?

Few mathematics teachers try to show their students how the principles of mathematics might help them in the exercise of everyday logic, and of common sense.

Few English teachers try to instill in their students a respect for grammar as a gateway to clear thinking.

Few science teachers bother to show their students how they might apply what they learn in the classroom to creative problem-solving in daily life.

Facts—give them facts! that is the cry. Cram as much data as possible into their perspiring heads in the hope that, if the student has any common sense left in him by the time he graduates, he’ll know what to do with that mountain of information he’s been forced to ingest during his undergraduate years.

This tendency to confuse knowledge with wisdom becomes a habit for the rest of most people’s lives. Seldom has there been a more fact-gathering society than ours is today. And seldom has simple, down-to-earth wisdom been held in lower esteem. One’s most casual utterances must be backed by a wealth of statistics, and supported by as many quotations as possible from the words and opinions of others, for one’s own utterances to receive even a hearing.

Because our society equates education and wisdom itself with mere knowledge, and because we see this accumulation of knowledge as the be-all and end-all of education, we fail to recognize life for the opportunity, the very adventure, that it is: the opportunity to develop ourselves to our full potential as human beings; and the adventure of discovering hitherto unknown facets of our own selves.

A school was already in existence at Ananda Village when I wrote this book. My thought in writing it was to crystallize concepts I had heard from my Guru by putting them in a form that would assist the guidance of schools along similar lines.

Pat Kirby, a lady who now lives at Ananda Village, wrote to me years earlier that she’d been assigned the job of researching the concept of “education for life” in history. She’d researched the educational systems of ancient China, India, Greece, and Egypt before going on to the better-known Montessori and Waldorf systems of modern times. At the end of her research, she wrote, she’d discovered my book. This one turned out to be, in her opinion, the best and most complete system she’d encountered.

Needless to say, on receiving her e-mailed letter I responded gratefully. From that initial contact has evolved a sincere friendship.

“Kriyananda believes that the major weakness of contemporary schooling is its failure to teach basic human skills like getting along with others and oneself, living healthfully, developing latent talents, and acquiring the tools of self-education. His curricular program, tested at the Living Wisdom Schools, stresses the importance of experience, physical well-being, the emotions, will power, and the intellect. He recommends organizing all subjects under five categories: Our Earth-Our Universe, Personal Development, Self-Expression and Communication, Understanding People, and Cooperation. While many of the ideas are familiar, his approach is innovative and his presentation effective. Parents, as well as educators, will be interested.”

Library Journal

“Timely work for parents and teachers without introducing sectarianism nor overwhelming you with facts, but rather showing you how to pay attention to [childrens’] development into successful/happy persons.”

The C.S.P. World News

Education for Life, is a . . . philosophical view of education as it is now and as it could be improved. Interesting reading for those who enjoy studying a variety of suggestions for improvement in education.”

Creative Learning magazine

“In Education for Life, Kriyananda presents his philosophy of educating the whole human being. He states that life is the opportunity to develop to our full potential as human beings. In the introduction to the book, Jesse J. Casbon says, ‘Education for Life expands the current definition of schooling; it offers parents, educators, and concerned citizens everywhere techniques for transforming education into an integral process—one which harmonizes book learning with direct life experience.’ Kriyananda has founded several institutions based on this belief. Education for Life is enjoyable reading for those who wish to banter philosophies or present an innovative system to their school districts.”

Family Learning Exchange (FLEX)

“The 176 pages are filled with common sense of an educated author, telling teachers and parents values to be taught to children.”

The Murray Hill News

“This is a splendid book: readable, important, timely. I learned a great deal from this book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I will be recommending it from now on.”

Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of Magical Child

“A new book on alternative education, Education for Life gives clear and penetrating insights into the nature of education and its goals. Equally applicable for home-schoolers, educators, or parents, Education for Life not only explains why school systems fail to produce whole human beings but also gives many examples of specific curriculum and learning experiences that can be added to basic school subjects to dramatically affect this outcome. Kriyananda asks and answers many fundamental questions about the stages of human development. Along the way he takes what are often vague and confused concepts and offers simple definitions for them. For example, he defines maturity as ‘an ability to relate to other people’s realities, and not only one’s own.’ Immaturity he defines as ‘a little child throwing a tantrum on the floor because he can’t get what he wants.’

“The emphasis of the book is on the practical teaching of human values and the acquisition of morality as a stage of developing maturity. Education for Life transcends dogma and yet manages to impart the essence of religious teachings in a commonsense manner. Kriyananda sees spirituality in universal terms and argues that these concepts must be used to counter the prevalent notion (traceable to Darwin and Freud, for example) that humanity is its lower nature. Modern education, consciously or unconsciously, is founded on the bottom-upward view of things. And the churches have made the worst possible case for their own higher view, both by losing their tempers and hurling perpetual anathemas, and by insisting on substituting definitions—that is to say, dogmas—for reality. They’ve given the educators the best imaginable excuse for not including God in the classroom. (But) moral and spiritual values need not be confined to the many sectarian teachings regarding them. Humility, for example, is quite unnecessarily called Christian humility; it is humility, simply, and only limited by the additional label, ‘Christian.’ And why can’t we do the same thing with the concept of God? Why not consider the possibility that there might even be an ‘atheists’ God? For though the atheist claims to reject God altogether, all he really rejects is other people’s definitions. For himself, he must be motivated by some ideal, some goal, some principle, or else abandon his very humanity. And that principle, for him, is what we call God, for it is the highest point towards which he himself presently aspires.’

Education for Life has given rise to the Education for Life Foundation which coordinates outreach functions to the educational community. It has developed seminars and consulting services and includes workbooks for both parents and teachers in the Education for Life principles.”


“Long interested in the education of children and young adults, Kriyananda here shares his views on that theme. He writes, ‘If conventional teaching sparks few creative references to their own lives in the students’ minds, it is because facts, by themselves, are static and immutable. Too much devotion to committing facts to memory actually discourages the fluidity and dynamism of creative thought. Teachers themselves, if they teach by this method, tend to sink into a rut from which they end up resenting any effort to dislodge them.’ Again, ‘Much can be accomplished toward giving children an Education for Life, even during the process of teaching standard classroom subjects. Special classes, however, in the art of living need to be taught also, filled with narrative examples, practical illustrations, and useful techniques that the children themselves can practice both in the classroom and at home.’ In twenty-two concise and readable chapters, the author sets forth his practical views on education and supports his thesis with well-reasoned examples.

TRUTH Journal

“Living Wisdom Schools . . . have set as their goal teaching children the art of living, in addition to a conventional education. Recognized nationally for their contributions to educational understanding, Living Wisdom Schools stand as excellent examples of what concerned educators and parents can achieve. In this book, Education for Life, Kriyananda explains the philosophy behind the Living Wisdom Schools. The modern education system has failed, he states, because it overwhelms children with facts while paying little or no attention to their development into happy, successful people. Kriyananda claims that true maturity should be the goal of education—not simply an ability to function competently in this technological society. Education for Life offers a workable combination of idealism and practicality: a visionary overview brought into focus with specific directions for what to teach, when to teach it, how to teach it, and why.”

Home Education Magazine

“Before I read this book, I regretted promising to write a review of it, but it turned out to be such an interesting, creative, thought-provoking work, that I did, after all, make the right decision. It has opened up a wider and more stimulating vision of education. It is well beyond the image of our traditional school systems. The author makes clear that ‘education for life’ begins in the home. The moment people become parents, they become the primary teachers. Through reading this book, parents will be learning more simple and effective methods of leading their children into becoming happier and more successful human beings. They will also be learning from their off-spring. The author’s techniques will help produce a much less stressful home-life for all. Consequently there is much better preparation for the future school environment and life outside the home. If the principles of education explained in this book become more widely practiced, I feel sure neighborhoods and even our world would become a more positive enjoyable place. As children growing up in such an environment enter our schools, the potential for more effective learning and teaching will quickly be evident. The teachers as well as the pupils will find their academic lives much more interesting, productive, and satisfying. Learning is fun: non-learning is not fun! Kriyananda paints a very different picture of what the four 6-year periods of formal educational life can be. These periods are zero to six, seven to twelve, thirteen to eighteen, and nineteen to twenty-four years of age. His re-organization and expansion of the curriculum may well stimulate our imaginations. This is especially true of his analysis of the thought processing and behavioral patterns of the above age groups. In summary, the author is saying, ‘Science had taught us to learn from nature. It is time now that we addressed ourselves to seeing what we can learn from human nature.'”

Jim Doran, Education Consultant, Joyful Child Journal

“With ‘values education’ at the forefront of the nation’s attention, Education for Life is very timely. In this book for teachers and parents, Kriyananda, an internationally known author and lecturer, explains not only why values should be taught, but how to do it without introducing sectarianism. The modern education system has failed, he asserts, because while it overwhelms youngsters with facts, little or no attention is paid to their development into happy, successful human beings. Merely learning to function competently in this technological society is not sufficient, Kriyananda claims, the real goal should be to attain true maturity. ‘Maturity,’ he states, ‘is the ability to relate to others’ realities, and not only to one’s own.’ With these goals in mind, the ‘education for life’ system has been developed and refined.

“Unlike modern education’s teacher-oriented system, this new system is child-oriented, having been designed to meet shifting needs of students with varying ability levels. Education for Life is very specific about the system, detailing what to teach, how to teach it, and when to teach it. The curriculum offers traditional subjects as well as innovative ones. For example, the ‘personal development’ area includes not only physical education, but also special classes to develop students’ abilities to absorb and understand. Concentration, memory, and self-discipline are taught. Youngsters also learn by experience to appreciate the value of attitudes such as willingness, servicefulness, and humility. Even traditional subjects are taught in different contexts designed to facilitate understanding. For example, economics, political science, and foreign languages are in a curriculum area called ‘cooperation,’ and they are taught from that perspective. In this way, students learn to understand and appreciate the higher roles of these and other subjects.

“The ‘education for life’ system cultivates maturity by developing and refining what Kriyananda calls the ‘tools of maturity’—the physical body, emotions, will, and intellect. According to the author, each tool has its own season—a proper time for youngsters to focus on developing skills in that area. He proceeds to give parents and teachers specific instructions for helping develop those skills. The efficacy of the ‘education for life'” system is attested to by the successes of the Living Wisdom Schools. Not only are its students well rounded academically (scoring an average of two years ahead of their age levels on nationwide exams), but they exhibit an ability to approach all of life in a mature, joyful manner. Kriyananda’s lifetime of practical experience has gone into the writing of this book—beginning with his own education in a variety of schools in four countries, and extending into nearly 60 years of teaching, lecturing, and leadership around the world.”

The Advocate Entertainer

“Mr. Walters’ recommendations for educating youth are sound and solid. His ‘tools of maturity’ provide an excellent basis for a curriculum that prepares children for dealing with life’s challenges. . . . I enjoyed reading the book and will certainly recommend it.”

Dr. Y.J. Mulkey, President, American Institute for Character Education, author of The History of Character Education