Learning To Be

"Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run." --Mark Twain.

If you were to sit down quietly one day and think of the reasons as to why you are getting educated, you would perhaps be surprised.  The most obvious answers are likely to be that your parents want you to be educated (and therefore they sent you to the college, or all your friends joined college and so did you, or you are studying to get a job or even to acquire knowledge.  Your responses are not totally wrong.  We always have a motive behind everything, we do.  Though, sometimes, we have to do things which we really do not like.  For example, some of us may be attending college because our parents have forced us to do so.  We can only hope, in this case, that with the passage of time, the parents will learn to give more freedom to their children to do their own thing.  For now, let us return to the original point of our discussion, 'Why am I receiving education ?' 

At this point, some of you may have already guessed where I am leading you.  And you are right ! The important question that needs to be answered by every student is, 'What is the real purpose of education?' You will agree with me that none of the responses we have come up with in the preceding paragraph provides an appropriate answer to the question.  Unfortunately, being a student or receiving education, these days, has become like everything else, a highly commercial proposition proposition.  No doubt, many institutions of higher learning have' therefore, become, instead of the transforming agents that they should be, more teaching shops.  But we need not be discouraged by all this.

I sincerely believe that if any student seriously wishes to receive education and is ready to work for it, he can get what he wants under the worst circumstances.  Form don't we have the examples of Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, Ramanujan and many others like them before us ?  Moreover, in our country, most teachers are Eveready to help a needy student.  Infect, it has to be like this, and not vice-versa.  It is the student who should come to the teacher to receive education.  There must be a thirst before learning can actually take place.

Whereas thirst for knowledge may in itself constitute a worthwhile goal, we shall do well to understand the role of education as a transforming agent.  Education must not begin with words.  It must be capable of exerting that influence upon our lives which will help us to become well- equipped, self directed and useful human beings.  To produce people with mere degrees does not help, as we have seen from experience.

Infect, the aim of education needs to be closely related to the purpose of one's life itself.  Come to think of it, what is the purpose of your life ? Unfortunately most people today are not very clear in their perception of even the purpose of their lives.  Most human existence today, like the animal one, in concerned with being born, getting married and dying.  In other words, life of most people is just confined to eating, drinking and sleeping.  However, we are human beings and capable of achieving much more than a mere animal existence.  Important as it is, that every one must be trained to earn a living, it should not be seen as the end goal of one's life.

As human beings, we are perhaps the only ones in the whole universe, who are capable of producing an ever-advancing civilization.  We not only learn what our forefathers have taught  us, but are capable of discovering new and beautiful things.  Education enables us to discover our hidden talents and use them in the service of society.  Therefore, while at school or college, we must become aware of our innate qualities and develop them.  Similarly, we might have inherited some extraordinary gifts.  We should become conscious of those too and cultivate them further.  Thus education should help us to turn inward and learn more about ourselves.  By the time, we finish college, we should be more well acquainted with all our talents and even areas of improvement.  This is perhaps what we mean when we say that one of the important functions of education is to form 'character'.  Though let me add character-building does involve strengthening human virtues and qualities like honesty, truthfulness, sincerity, loyalty, service and kindness -- qualities that are so hard to find these days.

Here, I believe, some bit of clarification is required,  Whenever I have tried to stress upon the importance of these human virtues, I have had the experience of being treated as a mere preacher.  That is, the students would, think every teacher is supposed to say these things.  Some even said that in the modern world, it is almost impossible to practice them.   I agree,  my friends, it may be difficult to some extent, but it is not absolutely impossible.  Moreover, if we are convinced of the truth of a cause, why worry for hardships and difficulties ?  All great men had to endure suffering.  And moreover, we are not doing it for others, rather for the improvement of our own lives.  What greater reason is necessary ?

So them, we have come a long way.  We have learnt that our time at college should not be spent to merely gain bookish knowledge, rather we should endeavourer to receive complete and total education.  For these we have the whole campus available to us and not merely the class room.  We can go to the library and seek answers to our questions or simply learn by observing and interacting with our colleagues.  We may even take the help of our parents at home to develop ourselves as better human beings.

Now if we were to sum up, we have been talking of three kinds of education-material, human and spiritual.  Material education pertains to the care and upkeep of body and is common to man and animals.  Human education is related to civilization and man's progress to government, administration, charitable works, trade, arts, handicrafts, sciences and great inventions etc.  This education distinguished man from animals.  The third and perhaps the most important kind of education has been available to us in our country form ancient times. Briefly speaking, the spiritual education relates to the kingdom of God and consists in acquiring divine realization.

Thus in order to be a complete man, we must receive the three kinds of education detailed  above in full measure.  Mere knowledge of sciences or arts will not help.  It is reported that Maxim Gorky was once speaking to a rally of peasants about what science has done.  He told them that science had enabled man to fly like a fish.  An uneducated peasant in the crowd stood up and made the observation that is so well remembered till today, "what science has not taught us is how to live among men with amity and concord'.

If, instead of aiming to merely receive a degree to a job, our aim during the college days becomes to evolve a complete man, we would have achieved a lot by the time we complete our college education.  Our time would have been well spent and later we would be able to look back at our college days with pride and satisfaction More importantly, we would have started the process of learning to be "in our own lives and this would hopefully lead us on to the path of life long education.  From being, we shall have begun to travel on the road to becoming. ◙