Who is a bad student of life?

The way you go about education could be one of two ways: First way is to gather knowledge, skill, ideas, concepts, thoughts, views, attitudes, and so on. The second way is to find something there that liberates you.

For instance, a high school student could go into Math, picking up the various concepts, ideas, theorems, principles, steps for proof, and so on. That is the first way. The usual way that each of us take. Such knowledge gathering empowers us to crack exams, tests, achieve grades, climb the social ladder—in short, prove to a society around you that you are capable or potent.

The second way is the way to discover whether a simple Pythagoras theorem liberates something within you. That indeed is cracking something. A haze within could fall, or you could discover a room within you, which you never knew existed. The liberating insight is as factual as the truth of the theorem in the practical world—do you see the way it works?

The best of teachers and educators push you to discover that sort of intimacy with the subject—whether music, dance, photography, math, science, medicine, engineering, or philosophy. Find that direct path with the subject, they would urge. You know what happens? You are not only liberated from ignorance—ignorance about something of you and the natural functioning of a chunk of this universe; you are simultaneously liberated from the teacher himself.

The first kind of student is a victim of influences life long. He has no independent entrance into anything. His intellect is constantly dependent on authority. So, you are dependent on the reputation of a saint more than what he teaches. For you, so many people must have accepted the saint as someone exalted—he must be a declared authority—and only then you start trusting him or her, or feebly attempt to follow his or her teachings.

If you have gone about math and science that way, with music that way, with relationship that way, with profession that way, you would take the same route in spirituality too, won’t you? Sincerity doesn’t really matter here; what matters is your approach to learning itself.

The Muṇḍaka Ṛṣi, Aṅgīrasa, points this out to his student, Śaunaka. In effect, he seems to ask, “Shall we begin from fractions, LCM, and basic History and Geography, from primary school, once again?”

सा विद्या या विमुक्तये
sā vidyā yā vimuktaye

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Sudheendra Chaitanya

Sudheendra Chaitanya is a Hindu monk based in Bangalore, India. After completing Engineering, he studied the scriptures at Chinmaya Mission in 1991, and continued with Mission work until 2005.

He now chooses to spend time with himself, observing life—people and happenings—keenly, and his insights flow out as writings. As a serious investigator into the core issues of life, Sudheendraji connects to people and subjects of life alike…with intimate directness. He has also authored several books. Notable among them are Blooming in the Open, The How, What and Why of I and God and Personal Worship. In a lucid narrative, his writings deliver fundamental insights, ruthlessly searing through conditioned thoughts and beliefs, but nourishing the soul with care.

Sometimes nourishing, sometimes revealing…