Monday, August 27, 2012

On Education

Last week I was teaching my class at the Department of Business Management and during the process of coercing and cajoling them to express themselves I was becoming a bit exasperated. We were interacting for the first time and neither of us was too sure about the other. Therefore probably and understandably so, the young generation was holding back either out of non-confidence at best or indifference at worst. But I was seeking a battle from the very first day and it was not forthcoming.

I expect students to blurt out whatever comes to their mind; nonsense as well if worse comes to worst. Education is about the process of learning which is much more important than whatever subject matter which is easily available in the text books. By process of leaning, I mean the manner in which we learn. This is an essential life-saving tool and comes handy even in the future long after the student leaves the institution. The student life phase is the only time when mistakes and allowed, welcome and forgiven. The process of leaning is how we absorb our circumstance, how we react to it, and how we overcome or allow to be overcome by it. This is the real knowledge which a student is expected to pick up from school and college. Subject contents are tools for the student to use, and they are expected to carry them at the back of their mind. When the content becomes vast and unwieldy, the student can resort to reference books. These subject matters also change over time, become outdated and need to be refreshed. But all this is easily available in numerous forms and therefore cannot be the primary reason why students go to school and college. Unfortunately our education system is so skewed towards examination that the impression the youngsters carry is that education equates to getting more than passing marks.

In my opinion, for success in life (whatsoever definition of success that one may align with) the three essential factors are: Diligence, Confidence and Good Luck. Diligence means the discipline and the ability to delve into details. The more one goes into the depths of any subject and deciphers its basic strands with a clear understanding of its how and why; more is the chance of success. But like I said it requires great discipline and ability. Confidence is about being articulate about ones’ understanding of any subject matter, to be able to convince others or be convinced by others. This power of expression is a leap of faith, faith in ones’ own self. Therefore essentially it requires that the student should be aware of ones’ own self, own strengths and weaknesses. Good luck is of course simply good luck. A calm mind and an all accepting disposition helps because then the students learns to control the senses, think out solutions and not to over react to difficult situations. Student life is the best time to learn all these things.

Why to read Scriptures

There once lived in the mountains of the Himalayas, a family of a farmer his wife and son, who lived along with the farmers’ father who was a spiritual man.  The grandfather and grandson got along famously; they loved each other and spent a lot of time together. The grandfather taught a lot of things to the grandson about nature and human behavior from his own experience. The grandson wanted to be just like the grandfather and tried to imitate him in every way he could.

As was his routine, every morning the grandfather would get up early and read the Holy Scriptures. One day the grandson said to him, “Dadaji of what use is the reading of Holy scriptures? I tried to read but cannot understand it, and whatever I don’t understand I immediately forget the moment I close the book.” The grandfather smiled at the boy, slowly turned and emptied the charcoal from the bamboo coal basket into the fireplace. As soon as the coal caught fire he told his grandson, “Here take this basket down to the river and bring it to me filled with water.” The grandson didn’t question his Dadaji picked the basket and simply ran down to the river, filled it with water and ran back. But by the time he reached home, all the water had seeped out from the basket. The grandfather looked disappointedly at the basket and said, “You will have to run faster than this?” The boy once again picked up the basket and ran, this time faster, filled it with water and again ran fast back home, but still the water managed to seep out before it reached his grandfather. The grandfather said “Faster”. The next time the boy ran even faster but to no avail. There was hardly any water remaining in the basket. This exercise went on for a while and then the boy in exasperation cried out, “Dadaji, it is impossible to carry water in this bamboo basket, let me bring the water in a bucket”. The grandfather laughed and said that he wanted water only in the basket. The grandson was not the one to give up and he tried harder and harder but as always the result was the same. At long last he said, “Dadaji this is a useless exercise, why are you making me do it”.

The grandfather said, “So you think it is useless. Just look at the basket”. The boy now looked at the basket and for the first time realized that it had transformed from a dirty coal basket into a sparkling one, as good as new. “Son that is what happens when you read Holy Scriptures, you may not understand or even remember but inside-out you will become clean”.