You know, I had an exam in my life. I was asked the question: “What is self–government?” when I was in college in the first year. And I must tell you that that was the one paper about which I had read least, and I was very hesitant – what will I do. In our examination system if you fail in one paper, you fail in all papers. It is a barbaric system. Therefore the examination system is not so good. If you fail in one paper, you fail completely. And this was the one subject about which I had not read much. And I was asked to write on self–government. There were five questions to be answered. I was still an innocent boy of fifteen years and I did not know so much of the regimentation of the examination system. I felt free to write on self–government and I took all the three hours in answering only one question instead of five questions.
And when I came out of the examination hall, somebody told me: “Did you attempt all the questions?” And then I remembered: “My Lord! I took only one question, I took all the three hours, and wrote only one”. So he said: “So you are bound to fail now”.
And I was so afraid. I said: “My Lord! I’ll fail now”. I did not write to my father as to how I had done in my examination. I waited till my examination results came, and lo and behold, I had got 98% marks in this paper. 98%! And what had I written, nothing from my text book. I had written, in answer to self–government, a dialogue between Soul and Nature. This was… you know – I felt so much inspired. At the age of fifteen, I was reading so much literature on soul and things of that kind. I had simply written a dialogue. It was not just an answer of the ordinary kind, in which you write the introduction, and then you development, and then the conclusion and a final résumé and all that. Nothing of the kind which all the teachers teach you – that if you want to have an examination, always start with the introduction, then develop your points, write the elucidation, then come to your conclusion, and in the end you write a résumé. This is called a very good classical answer to a question. I did nothing of the kind. I don’t know what had happened to me in these three hours. I rose completely in answer to self–government and I wrote a dialogue between Soul and Nature, in which Nature wants to bind the Soul, and the Soul wants to be liberated from Nature. And this movement of liberating from Nature is what I called the movement of self–governance. So I said, self–government is the movement of the Soul to liberate itself from Nature. This was my whole answer basically. But I had written it in the form of a dialogue where Nature is trying to capture the Soul and says: “You cannot come out of it” and the Soul says: “No, no, no! I want to come out of you!” It was a dialogue. And three hours I had taken to write this dialogue. And my examiner was like that good examiner. I got a prize in this actually, whereas I had complete diffidence that I would fail now! It is because of this high mark that I really got a very high percentage ultimately in the examination.
So I always feel that examinations by themselves are not bad. You should have examinations, everybody should have examinations. It is wrong to say “no exams”. Not at all, why should you not have examinations? But an examination should be of a different kind, not the present kind of examination. Once I asked this question to the Mother and she had said: “Examinations are and will be”. This was her answer. “Examinations are and will be”. But examinations should be real examinations. That is the first answer: examinations should be real examinations. What does it mean? And she said: “A silly mechanical mind passing examination and that too with flying colours is an absurdity.” And this is what happens at present. Our examinations are of such a nature that a silly mechanical mind writes an answer to an examination and gets flying marks. So Mother said in elucidation of it: “Examinations should be real examinations and should not allow any pretence”. This is the important point. It should really examine. If you really know – it is not a reproduction of memorised things that you write down and say: “Now I know”. Such a question should be put that your real knowledge can alone answer it. Mere memorising will not help you. So Mother said: “Examinations should be real examinations and should not allow pretence.”
Then, she said: “Examination should come to a student only when he is ready for it”. That is another condition, which is very important. At present, examinations are always announced. On such and such a date, examinations will take place, and everybody has to run up: “Prepare, prepare! Memorise, memorise! Read, mug up!” This is completely wrong. Every student should read calmly, quietly, with full understanding. Let him take his own time. When he is ready, he should say to the teacher: “I am now ready, ask me. “And you will find that when you are ready and questions are asked, you will be very happy. It should be a joyous exercise. It happens – when a teacher comes and asks a question, and if you know the answer – how readily you want to answer, you say: “Yes, yes, I want to answer!” So examinations should come to you only when you are ready for it.
Finally Mother said: “Examinations should be given to each individual according to his needs.” Now this is very important – “according to his needs”. And there are many kinds of needs, you know. Examination can be a matter of amusement that may be your need. You know, there are many kinds of games that you like to play, and there are also examination. Many games are only examinations. Even when you are asked to make words out of so many letters which are given to you saying – now fill up the blanks, it is an examination, it is a fun. So examination can be a game, and that may be your need; you may like to bubble with ideas, and you like to have amusement, and you should tell the teacher: “Give an examination: I want to play!” That may be your need. Examination may be also for your own self–knowledge, you want to be sure whether you understood, you may think that you have understood, but you want to be sure that you understood. It is not “pass” or “fail”, not at all. Usually examinations are only to declare whether you have passed or failed – it is barbaric. Not at all, examinations must only give self–assurance. You thought that you knew, now I examine you and now I give you certainty that you really know. And what a tremendous assurance it is! You go forward, immediately you jump into the next step. When you know that you have already learned, you have mastered and you can go forward.
Thirdly, examination may be a stimulation to move forward. Suddenly a teacher comes and says: “Give me the meaning of Dharma.” I am only giving you the example of the present day. It is not to examine you, I know that you do not know the meaning of Dharma, but I am just asking you the question: “Give me the meaning of Dharma.” It is to set you thinking; it is to stimulate; to put questions in your mind so as to incite you, so examination can be given also to stimulate you to learn further.