Human birth is rare indeed!
Adi Sankara says: ‘jantu nAm nara janma durlabham!’ (of all births it is human birth that is the rarest).
‘aridu aridu mAnidarAi pirathal aridu’ (rare indeed it is to be born as a human), says Avvaiyaar, a saint and Tamil poet.
There are innumerable creatures on this earth but we have all been blessed with human birth. There are creatures like invisible bacteria, earthworms, rabbits, goats, cows, horses, lions, tigers, elephants that are below the level of man; and beings like pitrus, yakshas, kinnaras, devas and deities, who are above man. Human birth is in the center of creation. Only in this birth has been bestowed for the ‘Realization’ of Bhagavan.
Men and animals carry on similar kinds of activities, i.e. eating, sleeping, fighting, playing, etc. But only man has been blessed with an extra sense that is used to acquire knowledge. It is only humans who go to school to learn; who have the ability to learn new skills, arts and subjects. If it were mere teaching that could instill knowledge, then even cows and buffaloes could be brought to school and taught. But it is not so. We possess the extra sense to learn.
But it is not enough if we learn only what is being taught in textbooks. We should widen our knowledge by reading other books too.
In today’s world education has lost its real value and is aimed only at producing money-spinners. Everyone aims at doing well at school and college only to earn a lot of money. The country and the society have lost their moral and ethical values. People, despite their high educational qualifications, have no moral values. We find a doctor – who is in a highly respected profession – treating patients with utmost callousness. He is highly qualified, no doubt, but possesses no human values, that are in fact the priority of his profession. This is true not only with this profession but in all other fields too. Moral values should, therefore, be taught to children.
Discipline, self-restraint and all good things should be instilled in one’s childhood. Only then will it come to stay. Children are like soft clay. They can be molded easily the way we wish. Therefore, schools should take utmost care to instill desa bhakti (devotion to the country) and Guru bhakti (devotion the Guru) in children. Schools should teach them to lead an honest, truthful, dharmic life so that they offer their best to the country and the society. There is no doubt that one needs to be well educated and secure a good job. But it does not stop there. Education should be ethics-based so that children who come out of school are of utmost use to the society, in general, and the country, at large.
All of you must be aiming at scoring high grades to secure admissions for higher studies. For this, you should develop concentration. Only if you have a one-pointed mind can you achieve anything either in worldly or spiritual life. Great scientists like Einstein, Newton had a one-pointed mind. They channelized all their energy in one direction and that is the reason for their success in their field. You should listen attentively to what is being taught in class. Swami Vivekananda used to say that it is better to play football than practice meditation, for, while at play your whole mind is diverted to the movement of the ball. This deepens your concentration.
There is a time for learning. Only at this young age can you study. ‘iLamayil kal’(Learn while young), says Avvaiyaar. After you are 25 years old, you will not be able to concentrate in studies as well as you do at this age. Hence make the best use of the time that you have at hand.
Have desa bhakti and Guru bhakti. Respect and love your teachers. Without this, education will be of no use to you. However brilliant you are, education will be a waste on you if you do not respect and love your Guru at school. Lord Krishna, who was Bhagavan Himself, learnt under the tutorship of Guru Sandeepani. Lord Rama received lessons from Sage Vasishta. Even Bhagavan learnt from a Guru in his avatars (incarnations) and had utmost reverence to His Guru. Sant Ekanath was a saint who served his Guru with unflinching faith. He expected nothing in return for the services that he rendered his Guru. Drawn by Ekanath’s Guru Bhakti, Bhagavan Himself, in the form of a young boy, came to Ekanath and served him for 12 long years!
Education should bring about overall development. Children should, therefore, be taught to lead an honest, virtuous and dharmic life. This must be the lakshya (aim) and it is also the right lakshana (good quality). In ancient days students stayed in the Guru’s home all through their period of education. Thus they learnt humility, reverence, patience, and other virtues in a practical way, during the course of their daily life.
One may say, “I am leading an honest, dharmic life but undergoing untold miseries, whereas the man who cheats, robs, troubles others is doing very well in life. He is wealthy and is leading a very comfortable and happy life.” We do see such situations around us.
But the fruit of leading a dharmic, honest life is not wealth and external comforts. It is inner clarity. It is inner excellence.
You may feel that the other man who leads an undisciplined, immoral life is comfortable and happy. But it is not so in reality. The truth is that he does not enjoy inner clarity and excellence. He is unable to sleep peacefully despite his air-conditioned room and silken bed.
On the other hand, even though you may have to face lots of trials and tribulations while leading your life in a dharmic way, you will still enjoy inner peace and clarity. This is the truth and it cannot be denied at all.
Everyone desires peace. But it does not come by easily. Neither the rich nor the poor enjoy peace. The poor man on the platform envies the rich as he feels that wealth gives happiness. But the rich man envies the poor man on the platform thinking that he is happy as he does not face the hassles attached with wealth! Each feels the other is happy while the fact is that neither one enjoys peace.
Srimad Bhagavatam says: ‘gurOr anugrahEnaiva pumAn pUrnah prashAntaye!” (It is one who has the blessings of the Guru who enjoys peace).
Krishna and Sudama studied together as children in Sage Sandeepani’s Gurukulam. Later, Krishna became the ruler of Dwaraka while Sudama led a life of poverty. Under the insistence of his wife, Sudama went to meet his beloved friend Krishna. Krishna and Sudama relived their wonderful school days. Krishna then said to Sudama, “Sudama! I am the king of Dwaraka; while you live in utter poverty. But both of us enjoy peace in our lives. Do you know the reason for this? This is because when we prostrated to our Guru, at the time of taking leave of him, he blessed us with the words, ‘May you be blessed with peace always!’”
I pray to Bhagavan to bless all of you to come out in flying colors, become good citizens and be of great service to the society and Nation.
Excerpted from HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji’s address to students of a school in Chennai, India in 2001