December 2019

The goal of teaching is to impart to the children the ability to make the right judgments. – Chinmaya

Why teaching is necessary?

The world is a mixture of good and bad, right and wrong. Hence to live in this world, the right knowledge is necessary. The goal of teaching is to impart the right knowledge.

Aparna’s mother one day sent her to the woods to look for mushrooms.

 “Mother,” cried the girl when she returned home, “Today I found some truly beautiful mushrooms! Look at them,” she said, opening her basket, “they are all shining red and purple colour as if embroidered with lovely pearls. There were also some plain mushrooms like the ones you brought home last time, but they seemed so ugly that I left them there.”

“My sweet little girl! Don’t you realize how silly you are?” exclaimed her mother. “The beautiful mushrooms that you brought home today, even if they do seem so brightly coloured and enchanting, are poisonous. The brown ones, instead, which you despised, because of their plain look, are edible and are the best kind. Such is also the case with the things of this world, my dear.”

The world is strange. What appears obvious is often erroneous. What is attractive is often destructive. What is pleasing to the senses is often harmful to the soul. What appears nectarine is often poisonous. Hence right teaching is necessary.

One can teach. But learning is possible only when we are available to learn. The one who is obstinate and stubborn and remains inside his own cocoon of inhibitions, superstitions, or belief-systems can never see the light of truth. 

When Galileo wrote that the sun does not go around the earth as it appears,

but in fact, it is the earth that goes around the sun, he was called by the Pope to his court. Galileo was then old, seventy-five years old, sick and almost on his deathbed.

The Pope asked, “You have to change your book because it goes against the Bible. In the Bible, the statement is that the sun goes around the earth, and we are not ready to listen to any argument. You simply change it; otherwise, death will be your punishment.”

Galileo said, “There is no need for you to take so much trouble to kill me. I am going to die anyway. As far as the book is concerned, I will change it, but I want you to remember that by my changing the book, neither is the earth going to change nor is the sun going to change. The earth will still go around the sun, because they don’t read my book and they don’t care what I write.”

So he cancelled the statement in his book. And in the footnote he wrote, “I am cancelling the statement, knowing perfectly well that it makes no difference. The reality remains the same.”

Our wrong knowledge doesn’t make any difference to the world. But it makes all the difference in our lives.

Nowadays, in schools and colleges, mechanical memorising of facts and figures is considered education. This ability to reproduce the text-book data from the memory to the answer-sheets, and to parrot-like repeat in the exam hall is no knowledge at all.

In the life of one of the British viceroys, Curzon, there is mention of an interesting incident. Curzon had heard that there was a man in Rajputana whose memory was just unbelievable. The man knew only his local dialect, Rajasthani, a dialect of Hindi; he did not know any other language.

He was called to the court of the Viceroy Curzon; a special meeting was arranged. Thirty scholars, knowing thirty languages, were to examine the man and his memory; and all those thirty languages were foreign languages for him.

The arrangement was such that each of those thirty scholars was to deliver one sentence in his own language to the poor villager from Rajasthan. But the sentence was not to be delivered to him in one piece. The villager would go to one person who would give him the first word of his sentence. Then a bell would be rung. Then the villager would move to the next person, who would give him his first word. In this way, he would go round and round. After thirty persons, he would come again to the first person to get the second word of his sentence; and after each word, a big bell would ring to confuse him.

The scholars were not certain that they would be able to remember their whole sentence for the whole time, because it was going to take so much time. They all had their sentences written in front of them, and they were marking off each word they had given. And this man went on and on, round and round, taking their words, and accumulating in his memory the sentences which were given to him in pieces.

After all the scholars had given their sentences, he repeated thirty statements in thirty languages, of which he knew nothing. He knew nothing about what they meant. He was so correct that all the intellectuals were puzzled. Curzon was amazed. He praised the man and rewarded him.

But it was found by talking with his fellow villagers that he was an idiot. Just as far as his memory was concerned, he was simply great, but he was incapable of handling even a simple situation in life. They said, “He is known in our village as `the great intellectual idiot’.”

True education must make us fit to face the world. It must make us capable of making the right decisions amidst problems and challenges.

A Guru and his disciple were travelling in a bullock cart loaded with household items. Before commencing the journey, the Guru, who was sitting in front, instructed the disciple, “Keep a watch on all the things in the cart.” The disciple nodded his head in humble obedience.

Journey started. Sometime later, the Guru, feeling thirsty, asked for the Kamandalu. The disciple replied, “Sir! It fell down on the way. Since you have asked me only to keep a watch on everything, I did not pick it up. I just looked at it!”

The frustrated Guru then said, “Idiot! Now listen. Whatever falls must be picked up irrespective of what it is.”

The journey continued. After some time, the bullocks defecated on the road. The alert obedient disciple immediately stopped the cart, got down, gathered the dung and came running back. He lovingly offered it to his Master. The Guru, looking at his disciple, let out a long sigh of despair. “How to put some sense into this foolish disciple?” He thought.

Soon he found out a solution. Writing a list containing all the items in the cart, the Guru then called the disciple and instructed, “Buddhu! Listen. Only those things which are present in this list should be picked up if it falls.”

The journey again continued. The rhythmic movement of the cart, hot sun, tiredness, long journey and old age – the occasion was conducive for the Guru to take a nap. No sooner did he doze off than he lost the balance and fell off from the moving cart.

The disciple checked the list. The Guru’s name was not there. The cart moved on leaving behind the Guru on the road!!

Educated literate people assuming high offices who ‘stick to the letter but not to the spirit’ have done more harm to the society than the ignorant, illiterate vagabonds!

Sometimes, half-knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge.

Pasha Bhai’s one leg had turned blue. He went to the doctor.

Doctor: “Poison has spread Pasha Bhai. The leg needs to be amputated.”

The operation took place and Pasha Bhai’s one leg was removed.

After a few days, another leg turned blue.

Doctor: “Poison has widely spread. We need to amputate this leg too.”

Now Pasha Bhai had two artificial legs fixed.

After a few days, the artificial leg turned blue too.

Doctor: “Now I understand your problem. Pasha Bhai, your Lungi is leaving colour.”

Sometimes, our likes and dislikes can hamper perfect decision-making.

One professor, seeing the growing habits of drinking among the youngsters, decided to instruct them on the harmful effects of drinking. He went to the classroom with a glass of alcohol, and in front of all the students, put a worm in the glass. In no time, the worm disappeared. Turning to the students, he asked, “What do you understand from this?” One youngster got up and replied, “Sir! If we drink, the stomach will become free of all worms!”

To summarise, education must give us not only the right knowledge but also make us capable of right thinking.

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