“सा विद्या या विमुक्तये|” –

Most of us have heard this quote at some time or the other. This is the motto of quite a few educational institutions in India. The complete verse, which is from the Vishnu Puran, is as follows

तत् कर्म यत् न बन्धाय सा विद्या या विमुक्तये|

आयासाय अपरं कर्म विद्या अन्या शिल्पनैपुणम्||

That action [कर्म] which does not bind the soul is the true action. That knowledge [विद्या] which liberates is true knowledge.

All other actions are just hardships, and all other forms of knowledge are mere artistic skills or craftsmanship!

Liberation of the soul is considered to be the ultimate aim, and that action which does not bind the soul in the cycle of life and death is considered to be the truest action. And that knowledge which frees the soul from this cycle and helps an individual to attain Moksha is considered to be true knowledge.

But perhaps we could consider “सा विद्या या विमुक्तये|”  in a more down-to-earth, practical way too?

How ‘liberated’ or independent are the educated today? 

Education should enable individuals to think for themselves. Educated persons should be able to weigh the pro and cons of a situation, of an argument, and come to a decision. They should not be mere followers, but society should be able to expect leadership from them.

Unfortunately, we do not see this in society today. Many so-called knowledgeable people are afraid of thinking for themselves.

Even if they know what the reality is, they are often afraid to speak out the truth and run the risk of being considered politically incorrect. So they play safe and say what others say, and do what others do.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a story by Hans Christian Andersen. It is about an Emperor who had Royal robes stitched for himself out of special magical cloth woven by two weavers. The weavers declared that the cloth could not be seen by anyone who was incompetent for the position he held.

Emperor_Clothes_01

These weavers were, in fact, con men, who just pretended to weave some cloth and then pretended to stitch robes using that non-existent cloth, for the Emperor.  So in reality, no one could see the Emperor’s clothes, because there were, in fact, no clothes to see!

The weavers pretended to dress the Emperor in his new clothes. The emperor could not say that he was unable to see the clothes, for fear of being thought incompetent himself. He was therefore obliged to march down the street wearing no robes at all.

No one else- not his ministers, his advisors, or his courtiers-  dared to disclose the fact that they could not see the clothes, either. Those who believed the weavers’ tall tale kept silent, so did those who suspected the truth!

Finally, a small child – too young to understand why no one was telling the truth- cried out that the Emperor was wearing no clothes. Others took up the cry and the pretense was over!

Today we witness this story of  The Emperor’s New Clothes being played out in many variations.

Sometimes people are aware of the truth, but are reluctant to be the first to state it out loud. The possibility of being thought politically incorrect is a powerful deterrent to telling the truth.

We, most of us, prefer to go with the flow. We are afraid to be different.

Sometimes even educated people are too lazy to think for themselves, and content themselves with repeating the statements and actions of others.

Sometimes people agree insincerely with the popular view for personal gain. It is often necessary to agree with those in power, because to disagree would harm oneself professionally or monetarily. And it gradually becomes ‘second nature’ to agree with them.

But then, of what use is our education if it does not teach us to think for ourselves? Of what use are our educational institutions if they merely produce skilled craftspersons?

Can we truthfully say that students gain knowledge there?

Because knowledge is not merely assimilating information or skills. True knowledge is that which liberates!

“सा विद्या या विमुक्तये|”