Some of the students’ questions relevant to this talk:
1. Isn’t the ego a necessary evil, for without the ego to make or pass judgments becomes impossible, because it is always from our own point of view that we make judgments? The ego that makes us brag or boast is clearly wrong, but the inner ego at times seems necessary.
2. From what I understand, Dharma is a set of unchangeable rules preset by people from different classes or sections of society. Does it not make more sense and is it not more true that each individual finds his own dharma according to his own philosophy. Is dharma unchangeable?
3. We were studying Descartes and he says: ‘I think therefore I am’. How did the Indians prove the existence of the individual?
4. If Auroville wants to be a different place why do some schools reproduce the European way of teaching? Is it because those teachers don’t agree with the idea of New Education? If they don't, why do they teach here? Why should some schools be materially privileged – grow bigger and bigger when others are still in their old buildings?
5. Why is it that society will respect those youth who have achieved exams more than those who haven’t. What should be the correct way for us in Auroville?
6. Do you think something important will happen in the year 2000?
7. Do you think we will need a certificate to find a work in life?
8. I am confused about the purpose of exams and I would like to know why in Auroville education exams are not so useful?
Let me first speak about Dharma which was my first promise to be fulfilled, and maybe many of the questions which have been raised may be covered.
Now the word Dharma being a Sanskrit word may pose a difficulty to many who do not know Sanskrit. So let me explain the word itself so that we can enter into the meaning. In Sanskrit, which is one of the most original languages of the world, there is a direct connection between sound and meaning. Just as a child makes sounds in order to convey something, similarly in the beginning, human beings make sounds to convey some meanings. And one of the sounds is "dha". We will see that the word, the letter "dha" or the sound "dha" has some kind of a force which makes you settled, it gives you a sense, even if you do not know the meaning of "dha", you just pronounce "dha" again and again, and every time "dha" is pronounced, you will feel as if it has an effect of settling down. That's why in many, many words, all over the world, in many languages, the endings are "dh". Even the article in the English language "the" has the same kind of a feeling— the thing, The universe it is also the definite article. This is a recognised thing in the English language. "a" is an indefinite article but "the" is a definite article. It makes you definite. So the word "dharma" is fundamentally "dha": something definite. Now that which is definite requires no support. What do we call definite? Definite is something that is not flowing out, it is settled and therefore it is – it does not need support, it is itself the support. Something else can be put into it, but it is itself the support. Therefore in Sanskrit language the word "dharma" means the support; that which holds; that which makes things definite; that which shapes with a definite form; that from which you cannot escape. You can see, all these are interrelated meanings—that from which you cannot escape.
Somebody said in the question: "Isn't Dharma unchangeable?" And the question grasps quite well that Dharma is something to do with making things permanent, solid, inescapable, unchangeable, which can give support, which can hold you. Even when there is too much of fluctuation, too much of dispersion, Dharma is that which brings together all dispersing forces. Therefore Dharma is also used as the force of unification that, which unites, brings together.
Now it is very important to remember that in human life or in any universal life, there are always two elements: one element is constant flow, which is very easy to see. You can see this young boy, he is constantly flowing, there is a force in him, it comes at the right moment, it flows. When I was trying to explain: it is very easy to see the flow. In fact this world can also be described as 'Time', and you will see that time is a constant flow. The past moves into the present, and before you catch the present, the future has already begun to be born. Such a tremendous flow is the nature of Time. And yet at the same time there is a tendency in every one of us to hold the flow. Now, this is very often not understood properly. Do we really need to hold the flow? The highest need of human beings, highest need... you will see in the human life as you proceed more and more, there will be a greater and greater need to hold.
It is said that Buddha... You know the story of the Buddha – You know who Buddha was? Have you heard of him? Yes! He was a great prince of Kapilavastu and he was living a life of happiness, plentitude. There was nothing that was not provided to him. In winter he had a winter palace, in summer he had a summer palace, in the monsoon he had a monsoon palace, so that he always felt comfort. And he grew up into adulthood, so to say, without realising the realities of life. And suddenly, one day, when he was taken out in a chariot, he saw four things, and his whole life was changed. You know what are the four things he saw? He saw a dead body being carried, and he asked his charioteer: "What is this?" And it came upon him that this happens to everybody. Today you are alive, breathing, doing, enjoying, but everybody comes to a point where there is a stoppage. Everybody passes into a state of death. And it shocked him and he asked: "I too will pass into this?" And the answer was "Yes!" The second thing he saw was an old man, and that sight also surprised him because death is one thing, but to see an old body is quite another; an old body which cannot sustain itself, which cannot hold itself, which has to take the help of a stick and move with difficulty. A youth does not recognize and does not even feel—when there is so much of energy, and so much flow of power and capacity—that a time may come when the capacity is diminished and when suddenly the old body becomes crippled. And to imagine you how to live a crippled life is a great shock. The fourth sight that he saw was that of a hermit, a man who had renounced and was in quest. He had already seen the third sight of a diseased body, and he contrasted all these four sights, and what was his basic question thereafter which arose in his mind? All of this is moving, changing; is there something permanent? That was his question. Is there something permanent? It was the greatest need of his being, to find out the permanent. Is there permanence? When we are young and are children, we still do not have that great urge to find out the permanent, because we are flowing in energy and we are growing, but a time comes in human life when you ask this question: "Can it be permanent?" And so the Buddha renounced the kind of life that he was living, overnight. He became extremely troubled, and he felt that unless he finds an answer to this question, he could not live anymore in the way in which he was living. So, imagine the kind of quest, and the force of the quest. I don't think many people have this kind of quest, so much so that they decide that henceforth they will not rest until they find an answer to the quest. This quest was to find out the permanent.
Now let us see another kind of search; for Permanence of another kind. You will have experienced sometimes what is called 'doubt'. Now, Descartes is very famous to underline the phenomenon of doubt. And he said that human beings cannot rest in the state of doubt. And this is a very important discovery he made. There is something in a human being, where the state of doubt always keeps you in a disbalance. This may be true, this may not be true. This may be true in one way; this may not be true in that way. Maybe neither is true—neither this is true, nor that is true. And when you go on in this fashion, you cannot rest; it makes you really in a state of disequilibrium. And if you examine human psychology you will find that human beings cannot rest in a state of doubt. You try your best, when there is a doubt in the mind, you will find you cannot rest. If you want to disbalance anybody, put a doubt in the mind, and you will find that the human consciousness will go on unbalancing itself. You may be sure about somebody, and just introduce the poison of a question mark, and say: maybe this is not true. You may be absolutely sure, but somebody just suggests: maybe it is not true, and this is enough to disbalance. And therefore Descartes said: "We must find the remedy of doubt." In other words, the remedy of disbalance, how to bring a complete balance? And he said it can come about only in a state of certitude. You must be absolutely certain. When there is certainty, then you are absolutely stable, then you can rest. And this is a great demand, in fact all the studies that you are making in the world is a search of Knowledge. And Knowledge is by definition that which cannot be doubted. This is the definition of Knowledge. Knowledge is always true knowledge and true knowledge is that which cannot be doubted. That, which is really true, undoubtedly true, is knowledge which cannot be questioned. Therefore, Descartes wanted to find out what is that about which we can be absolutely certain, about which there can be no doubt at all.
Now his conclusion was... It was after a lot of thinking. Actually he had written a big book called "Meditations", in which he has raised questions about everything that can be questioned, everything. That is a very big quest he made. What is it about which you can question? He even questioned that when I am sitting here, can it be questioned that I am sitting or not? It seems so certain that I am sitting, I am talking to you, you are looking at me. He asked this question: "Can I be absolutely certain?" He said: "Yes, it can be doubted. In my dreams very often I've found myself sitting, talking to somebody else, and suddenly I open my eyes and l find that I was not sitting." So, he felt that even this simple thing can be questioned, can be doubted. But he said: "One thing cannot be doubted: that I am doubting, cannot be doubted". The fact I am doubting, cannot be doubted. Because if I doubt, I am affirming that I am doubting. The very fact that I doubt, affirms doubt. So he arrived at certainty. He said: "I cannot doubt that I doubt." From there he came to the next proposition: "For doubting I must think. Without thinking you cannot doubt." So he said, "I cannot doubt that I am thinking." And then there was a step further: I cannot think if I am not. I think', therefore he came to a conclusion that there is absolutely certainty;I am'. So one thing he came to the conclusion is the certainty: I am. This cannot be doubted because even for doubting I must exist. If I doubt, I must doubt, and I must be, therefore he came to the conclusion, as Shakti said: "I think, therefore I am." That was his conclusion. One certainty, "I think, therefore I am." It is with this thing that he settled down, as it were, as if he had done a tremendous exercise and rested. This is the first resting point, he said. In the whole world there is one resting point: I am. "Cogito ergo sum". That is his famous expression. Cogito: I think, ergo means therefore, sum means I am. I think, therefore I am.
But afterwards he did not actually rest there. He went on the search of certainty. He said, after this can I make something more certain? I am not going to take you on the journey of Descartes. One day, when I have time, I shall take you on the journey of Descartes, as to what certainty he arrived at. But the certainty arrived at was something tremendous. Out of this simple thing he came to the certainty: God exists. Imagine how many steps he must have taken thereafter. He said: "I exist, that is certain." And then from there he derived a very big conclusion, with certainty. There was no question he said: "You can be absolutely certain that God exists." Therefore all those who question the existence of God, they need to read Descartes, because it is a great exercise in the mind. I always recommend to people, first, all those who question the existence of God, I say: you start with Descartes, because there was no doubter in the world as great as Descartes. All his Meditations are full of doubt, uncertainty, and then arriving at absolute certainty. You cannot question—in which you can rest, you can be absolutely certain. And this certainty from the proposition:' I think therefore I am; and from there he came to the conclusion: therefore, there is an absolute certainty that God exists. It is a tremendous proposition. I am not taking you now through the argument as to how he arrived to this conclusion. It is a very interesting argument that he develops, and he shows conclusively, after having passed through this exercise, you cannot intellectually ask the question at all whether God exists or not. There is absolutely certainty that God exists. And this is not an Indian mind which is very much accused that it believes in everything, very easily. No, this is a pure Western mind trying its hardest to doubt everything that is possible. It is that hardest mind which came to the conclusion: God exists. And when he came to this conclusion, he felt he had now arrived at something that holds. Otherwise everything was floating away, flying away. But once you have this certainty that God exists—he found that he arrived at something that holds. That gave him a tremendous satisfaction. Just as there is a search of; permanence, there is a search for certainty.
There is another search also, a similar search. There is one thing that human beings find most surprising and mysterious. There is nothing as mysterious as the fact that the living suddenly one day happens to be dead. In other words, the phenomenon of death is such a phenomenon – it is like doubt, it is like impermanence. Death also is a similar thing which gives you a sense of losing, something gone, and you cannot bear it. Some of the greatest stories of the world are woven around the phenomenon of death. It is a search as to why? Why something that is alive, something that is bubbling, pulsating, suddenly stops. There is no vibration at all, and this stoppage of vibration, if you are living a deep life, affects you tremendously. Those who have experienced deepest love in human life, and suddenly your best object of life dies; you feel yourself dissolved. When your object of love suddenly passes away, you immediately feel: oh! It ought not to be. This is something that is unbearable, it should not be, it should be, in any case, healed, thrown out, "I want it back". That is why the theme of love and death is one of the perennial themes of human life. Death gives you the greatest shock when you are in the deepest state of love. If there is something inconsistent with love, it is death.
You know the great story which Sri Aurobindo has written: Ruru and Priyamvada. I do not know if you have seen it, but one day you should read the poem that Sri Aurobindo has written, "Love and Death". Priyamvada suddenly dies and then Ruru cries, and makes his utmost effort to revive Priyamvada. She must come back. It is an opposition; it is a kind of revolt against death. Oh, death should not be. The great story that Sri Aurobindo has written and of which you know so well, called "Savitri", What is the main theme? It is Love and Death. Satyavan dies; this is the basic fact on which the whole of the poem, Savitri is written. Satyavan dies and Savitri rises in revolt against it, and says "Death ought not to be." If you read the whole of Savitri, what is the cry in Savitri? 'The whole of Savitri, the whole poem, the deepest cry is: "Oh, no, death ought not to be!" And she goes out... It is an epic. Why is it called an epic? Do you know the meaning of epic? Epic is always a great poem. Any great poem is not an epic. An epic is an account of one of the most difficult endeavours, most difficult of adventures, something in which you have to do something so marvellous, that ordinary humanity cannot do, and an account of death can be called an epic. And Savitri is called an epic because the question is: "Can death be conquered? Can death be illuminated?" This is the question. The whole of Savitri is this question: "Can death be conquered?" In other words, "Can you attain to immortality?"
So human beings, throughout the whole human history have made these three quests: The quest of Permanence, the quest of Certainty, and the quest of Immortality. In all the three you find you remain held up: stability. I dwelt upon these three words very deeply because the whole concept of Dharma is connected with these three ideas. Dharma is that which holds, but holds permanently, that which holds with certainty, that which holds immortally, which cannot perish. Even when there is flow, and that is very important, even when there is flow, even when there is development, when there is growth, even the impermanent is held by the permanent. Even the change is held by the changeless; even death is held by immortality. So the easiest definition of Dharma is: Permanence, Certainty, and Immortality. Because it is that which holds, and all human life is a search for it. Now we human beings gradually grow. In fact we do not know what we are looking for in this world, our quest is very—you might say, in the beginning,—flimsy, it is like a butterfly, we go from one point to the other point.
Even in studies you find, we go from one subject to the other, we get bored with one thing and we go to the other because our quest has not yet become ripe. When our quest becomes very ripe, then you can ultimately come to a rest in your quest only when you attain to these three things or one of these three. Why is it that these three are not immediately available to us? Permanence you hardly see anywhere, everything is floating. Certainty is very difficult to attain. Descartes had to spend years and years to arrive at Certainty. Why is it that it is so difficult to attain to Certainty? And Death: who has conquered Death? How to attain to Immortality?
In fact if you read the whole of the Veda – You have heard of the Veda, isn't it? Have you heard of the word 'Veda'? It is a huge, huge book. There are four Vedas. Rig Veda alone consists of ten thousand verses. I've got one edition of Rig Veda with translation into English of Rig Veda. Sanskrit and English, it consists of twelve big volumes, these ten thousand verses are printed, and without commentary, it is only the Sanskrit and the English translation. It is twelve volumes, Rig Veda alone. Then there is Yajur Veda, there is Atharva Veda, and there is Sama Veda. If you put all these together, it is a huge, huge composition. Just as Descartes wrote a book “Meditations", in search of certainty, you might say, Veda, such a huge thing, is an account of the search of Immortality. And the whole writing of the Buddha is a huge writing. In fact Buddha's writings—if you go to the Tibetan library in Sarnath, I have gone there once to see, in Sarnath the huge library of Tibetan literature—and if you see only what Buddha has said, it is a huge number of volumes. And what is the purpose of all this? To arrive at permanence. Now human beings—we are also human beings, so you have to see that human beings have striven in this world for three greatest things. Now, it is very easy to say what are these three things: Permanence, Certainty, Immortality.
These three things are not easily available, or even with difficulty not available. They can be available only with the greatest difficulty, with the greatest effort, and unless you have it, you cannot be 'held', you cannot rest. Therefore you might say Dharma is inevitable, because you can't rest otherwise. You will constantly go on and on and on, and you will not find any resting place unless you find these three things unless you find Dharma. That is why you can't escape Dharma. Dharma is inescapable whether you like it or not. Your whole human nature is such that you've got to seek after it. That is the speciality of the human being.
There is a very famous verse in Sanskrit which says: "What is the difference between a beast and man?" And the answer that is given is: "Both are almost equal". A beast and man both cat: as far as eating activity is concerned, both animal and man are equal. Both move about, there is no difference between a beast and human being, both move about, wander about, walk about. Both enjoy, both sleep: as far as sleeping is concerned both human beings and animals sleep. What is then the difference? What is it that makes man different from the beast? And the answer that is given is: "Quest for Dharma that is the only difference." Animals do not seek Dharma. Human beings seek Dharma. You know, sometimes it is said that the one difference between man and animal is that an animal does not think, a human being thinks. But now modern psychology has found out that it is not entirely true. Only animals cannot express their thoughts, but to think that they are not able to think is not true. Even animals can think, they can plan. If you see the monkeys, they wait for a moment when they can trap you; they know how to think quite well. The cats are very cunning. Many capacities of human beings of thinking exist in animals. So the basic difference between man and animal is only one: animals do not have the quest for Dharma, human beings have the quest for Dharma and Dharma is only threefold: Immortality, Certainty and Permanence.
This is the most part of what I want to tell you. The rest of the parts would take a long time, but I'll go rapidly over two or three important points. One day again I'll come to you to speak on this very great subject. What I wanted to do in this talk was just to give you the basic idea of what is Dharma.
And now if I want to tell you, in very short substance, the difference between animal and man, it is this. Even in our language you will find out: there is one word which human beings use and that is what makes human beings quite distinctive. That word is "ought". All of you know the English language, in the English language there is a word called "ought". Do you know the meaning of ought? I ought to do, you ought to do, you must do, you are obliged to do. You know this meaning, isn't it, "Ought". If you examine this question, from where does the word "ought" come from? The easiest word to find in this world is the word "is". Because "is" is all that is here already present before you. So, normally human beings can think of what exists, what is, but human beings are such entities; something is in human beings which create,—in the human being the concept, the idea of "ought".
There is a very short story written by one Englishman A very charitable woman, who has no children of her own, finds that one girl, a small girl of about twelve years, eleven years, is in a street, without being looked after, almost sick, destitute, and she feels a great compassion for her and she brings that child into her house. And she gives a bath to her, and gives good rest to her, feeds her. And next morning she is very fresh, she looks very nice. And suddenly one hefty lady comes to visit this charitable woman in her house and then, to her surprise, she sees this girl and suddenly she cries and says: "What have you done?" She tells the charitable woman. "What have you done, this little creature in your house, with spots on her face, how horrible she is!" These are the remarks which go straight into the heart of this girl. And then this girl—she is very innocent, she is so spontaneous. I am only trying to show you how spontaneously it occurs to her—she says to that lady: "If I were to tell you these very words: ' How horrible you are', how would you feel?" That is the question she asked: “How would you feel? I feel a great pain when you say that I am a horrible creature". And then she says automatically: "You ought not to say to me what you would not like me to tell you. You ought not". Now you understand the word "ought" comes automatically in the consciousness. Human beings are the only creatures who, when something happens, there is something that touches very painfully, and they say: this ought not to be. “Ought not to be" is something that is not there and yet you think of that: ought not to be; or, ought to be. So ought is a concept which takes you away from what is, and makes you aware of something that has to be brought into existence, which would really give you the resting place, which really gives you happiness, which really gives you great relief. So there is something which is not there and which ought to be brought into the picture, into your life, is another definition of Dharma. Dharma is not; Dharma is that which ought to be. That is why human beings are told that you have to be different from what you are. Pursuit of Dharma is what? You become different from what you are. You become what you ought to become. This pursuit of what you ought to become is the movement of Dharma.
And now the final point for today: that which ought to be must somewhere exist. There is nothing which can come into existence as if from nothing. Even that which ought to be, must be existing somewhere. If it does not exist here, it must be existing somewhere. So Dharma is that which exists somewhere, but which does not exist here. That is the third definition of Dharma. Dharma is that which exists somewhere but does not exist here, but which needs to be brought here, which needs to be brought down. In the Veda, there is a word called ‘Rita' This is one of the words which you will come across in your adult life very often. So I tell you this word, it is Rita. It is a Sanskrit word 'Rita'. This was the discovery of the Vedic Rishis, Vedic seers. They discovered that there is something which is not here but which exists elsewhere. If that comes here, if that, which is there, if it is brought here, then human life becomes what it ought to become. So the discovery that there is something, somewhere else, not here, discovery of somewhere else, and discovery of what is there and the possibility of bringing it down, where we are, that is the whole pursuit of Dharma.
So I told you first the meaning of Dharma, and gave you three words to always keep in mind: Dharma refers to Certainty, Permanence, and Immortality. Secondly I told you that Dharma is connected with what ought to be, and thirdly I told you Dharma is a pursuit in which that which ought to be, which exists somewhere but not here; It is a pursuit of that which exists somewhere but not here. And a pursuit of bringing it down here is called the pursuit of Dharma. Rita exists somewhere. If it is brought down, our life becomes—our life is an ordinary life, a mortal life, a life of suffering, when Rita is brought down, it becomes a life Divine. So to turn the life, as it is now, to turn it into the divine life is the pursuit of Dharma.
(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 work in life?”
If you ask the question whether you need to have a certificate to find 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, suppose 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 work even in the outside life. But unfortunately most often it is needed.
Now, why do I say unfortunately? It is unfortunate because the 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 kind 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 the examination by sitting here. I had to find an answer to that question and give you the answer. So, examination basically means, very simply, 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 suppose 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.
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 textbook. 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 develop, 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 examinations. 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, examinations 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.