ON EXAMINATIONS AND CERTIFICATES
(This is extracted from a talk ON DHARMA given in two parts on the request of the students of Last School. At the conclusion of the first session some time was spent in answering a few of the students’ questions specifically on the subject of certificate education. These questions are listed at the end of this transcript).
There is a question here: “Do you think we need a certificate to find a work in life?”
If you ask the question whether you need to have a certificate to find a work in the life of Auroville, the answer is: “No”. If you are only looking for work in life and you want work in Auroville, Auroville has been created specially, where you can get work without having a certificate. Now, but supposing somebody says, “I do not want to live in Auroville” – it is a matter of choice! – And you ask a question, “Do you need a certificate to live, to find work, in the outside world”, my answer is: unfortunately – and I use the word “unfortunately”– it is most often required, if not always.
There are many people who do not have certificates and they rise to the highest positions. I do not think that Mr. J.R.D. Tata had a certificate. You know Mr. J.R.D. Tata? He was one of the greatest men of India, of the world perhaps. Ms. Indira Gandhi had no certificate and she became the Prime Minister of India. I had one certificate myself called IAS. I renounced; I gave up that certificate. And, when I was again called back in the government, they did not ask me whether I had the certificate of IAS. Simply because I was privileged to work in a system of education which did not give certificates, therefore I was given the highest position of education in the country – only because of that reason. Therefore you might say that it is not inevitable that you should have a certificate to find a work even in the outside life. But unfortunately most often it is needed.
Now, why do I say unfortunately? It is unfortunate because certificate system is joined up with the system of examinations. There is one question here which says: “I am confused about the purpose of examinations, and I would like to know why in Auroville education, exams are not so useful?” Now, this is a very difficult question, but I shall make it as simple as possible. Certificates are unfortunately tied up with examinations. Examinations by themselves are not unfortunate; it is the connection of examination with certificate that is unfortunate. Examinations of a certain kinds alone are tied up with certificates, not all kinds of examinations.
Examination is a constant phenomenon of life. When I came to talk to you, I was under examination. You had put a question to me: “What is Dharma?” And I had to sit in examination by sitting here. I had to find an answer to that question and give you the answer. So, examination basically means, very simple, a situation in which a question is put to you and you are required to answer, that is called examination. Now, such situations exist throughout life. Life is nothing but a series of examinations, and you cannot eliminate them. The only point is what kind of examinations? What situations of examinations, purposes of examinations, the manner of examinations, the contents of examinations? We must ask these questions.
The present examination system is bad because you are asked to sit down for three hours and a question paper comes to you, and you have to answer it as fast as possible because everything has to be done in three hours time. And it only examines your power of memory. How much you have thought, how much you have contemplated… You might have contemplated only for one minute, or you might have contemplated for one full year… People, who examine your papers, only want to see how much you have memorised.
But supposing there is a different kind of examination and a different kind of examiner... You know the famous story of Byron: there was a competition, and the competition was to write about Christ – Jesus Christ. And people were writing papers after papers on Christ within three hours, and Byron, a very great thinker (he was a young man at that time), was thinking, and thinking and thinking and he could not write one sentence. Three hours were about to finish, and the examiner came to take the paper from his hands, saying that now the time is over. And he said: “Wait, wait, just one second”. At the last moment,then he wrote only one line: “Water saw its master and it blushed”. He only wrote one line: “Water saw its master and it blushed”. What a beautiful sentence? You know this is the highest poetry – last time I spoke to you about poetry – poetry gives you the deepest experience, and the most beautiful expression; that is called poetry. Deepest experience expressed in the most beautiful terms is poetry. Beautiful words, rhythmic words. And here was a young man, penning down only one sentence, and imagine the power of the sentence: “Water saw its master and it blushed”. Here was a master; Christ is a master who makes inanimate things animate. Not only animate, makes it blush! Blush means... ‘blush’ is the one experience of the soul. You know, the experience of ‘blush’ is a very important experience of life. When you blush…. Many of us have blushed in our life. When you meet something wonderful and you feel so shy! And you feel thrilled, absolutely thrilled, and you fall in love with so much of intensity, and yet you hide… no? This is the experience when you blush! It is an experience of your deepest soul, when the soul meets another great soul in which you find utter fulfilment; you want to completely merge into it. You find utmost satisfaction, fulfilment, and you feel a little hesitation, because it is so great, so majestic: “I am so little, how can I?” This is what creates a blush! So, he wrote: even water saw the master and it blushed. He is such a Majestic Existence that an inanimate thing became not only animate but became pulsating with the soul. The whole of Christ is given there. What is Christ? This is Christ! He had not read any book in which this was written; there was no memory here.
And the examiner was so good, he was a ‘right’ examiner, he did not look whether he had read the life of Christ, whether he was born in Bethlehem, whether he went here and there, and then ultimately was crucified, nothing of the kind at all. The examiner was so good he did not look for this at all. He only saw that here was a young man, who had grasped Christ as God himself, he had seen God in Christ, because only God can make you blush, really speaking. Even when you see your beloved and you blush, it is because you feel the beloved to be your god, then you blush. And here was a man who wrote in one line, and he got the first prize. Now, such an examination is perfectly good! One should not be confused about examinations, it is good to have examinations, and you should meet examinations with the kind of the spirit with which Byron confronted his examination. But also there must be an examiner like Deepti, who can understand. I know, your teachers are very good teachers, and I know they have got the capacity to examine you properly.