By Satish Kumar Menon
Esri Global UAE; Sharjah, E-mail: Satishkumar.email@example.com
Our scriptures (the Upanishads) tell us about the mental attitudes required for knowledge acquisition specifically with respect to obtaining Self Knowledge. Dispassion, Discrimination, Discipline and Desire are the four Ds that drive knowledge acquisition.
We are now living in the 21st century, where ‘knowledge is power’. Knowledge based economies drive the world. In the Bhagavad Gita, which is the essence of the Upanishads, there are further discussions on the process of knowledge acquisition and the mental traits that are needed. Modern studies of cognition, strategies for learning and studies on intelligence have also thrown light on many aspects of knowledge and knowledge gathering. This paper attempts to take a look at an integrated view of some of these concepts.
In the fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita named jnAna karma samnyAsa yOga verses 34 and 35 speak of the external and internal traits of the process of learning.
Acquire (this) knowledge from a Self realized person by humble reverence, by sincere inquiry, and by service. The wise ones who have realized the Truth will teach you. (BG 4.34)
Humble reverence: (PraNipAta):
Knowledge acquisition makes it mandatory that the student should be humble and without pride and prejudice. A seeker of knowledge should show utmost respect to all sources of knowledge, from teachers to the tools of knowledge like books etc.
Sincere Inquiry (Pariprasna):
Asking questions (inquiry) indicate an inquisitive mind. Doubts in the mind are indicative of cognitive tension and asking questions is the best way to reduce that. When confronted with obstacles in the thought process, inquiry helps to bridge the chasms in knowledge by connecting new knowledge with what we already know. This connection is the basis of learning!
Serving indicates love, respect and readiness to do what the knowledge conveys. Such service attunes the seekers’ mind to reciprocate to the knowledge that is imparted and understand exactly as given. Knowledge should not be put to selfish ends.
The three external traits described above could be faked for gaining selfish needs, but the following are fundamental internal traits that are required and which is difficult to fake.
One who has faith and is sincere in practices and has control over the senses, gains knowledge. Having gained knowledge, one at once attains supreme peace. (BG 4.39)
Shradha (Faith) = Belief + Understanding
One should have firm conviction on the efficacy and validity of the means of knowledge (pramANa), the existence of the object of knowledge (pramEya) and in the capability of the knower (pramAtA) or his self-confidence.
This simply means that the ‘learner’ should have confidence in his own capabilities, the reality of the knowledge that is being gained as well as be aware of its purpose and efficacy of the process of learning.
Readiness to Act (Tatparata):
One should be willing to listen, understand, reflect and contemplate on the Knowledge. Focussed listening (or reading), inquiring to connect to the knowledge and then to reflect and deeply contemplate on the concepts learnt are required to strengthen understanding and memory.
Finally, focus and determination are essential to escape the temptations of the senses and mind. Faith and readiness to act are essential to cultivate control of mind.
The internal and external traits are to be cultivated. When these are dovetailed with ‘values’ we have the right recipe for success in a wholesome manner. In this 21st century a whole set of themes assume importance in the quest for success. The four fundamental win-win themes for success can be summarized as below.
• Analytical skills
• People skills
Combining the quest for knowledge with these win-win themes throws up a list of desirable characteristics every youngster should imbibe as part of his or her character.
• Taking responsibility for actions (ownership)
• Being able to vocalize one’s thoughts (communication)
• Treating people with respect
• Analyzing a decision
• Empathizing with fellow beings
• Prioritizing actions based on goals
• Resolving conflicts maturely
• Planning (Plan what you do, do what you plan)
In summary we can summarise the quotients of education as knowledge, values and attitudes. The process of knowledge acquisition has to be dovetailed with the practise of higher-order value-systems. This is surely bound to set in place a strategic set of attitudes to life and work.
• Knowledge is the result of appropriately building up concepts in the mind. Proper concept formation leads to creative engagement in work
• Higher-order Value systems transform Knowledge to Wisdom. Exposure to Right values systems from childhood is essential to mold character
• Attitudes are shaped through knowledge infused with values. Right motivations help create right attitudes to life and work