In most movies and TV serials’ portrayal of life in college, the students are shown to have a lot of free time, very little work and most of the time is spent partying, having fun with friends, going to the movies, enjoying different varieties of food, all kinds of entertainment and pleasures. But is this even remotely realistic? Watching these movies makes youth fantasize about college life, and creates an impression in their minds that an institute for higher education is a place for fun and entertainment. With this expectation in mind many students join college and it is then that the reality crashes imagination: fully-packed timetables with almost no free periods, tons of assignments, projects, laboratory experiments, examinations, seminars, etc. Students get frustrated with life because this was not at all the way they had expected it to be, and hence they seek fun and entertainment at every possible opportunity. It is not wrong to want entertainment and fun, rather, let us see what the idea of fun is from the Indian perspective of a student’s life.
Our great Vedas, the priceless treasures that have been handed down to us by the great rishis, contain immense knowledge, and include vast branches of learning. In the olden times, a student who wished to gain Vedic knowledge had to take up brahmacharya diksha (vow of celibacy), study under a Guru and it was rigorous study! Not everybody needed to undergo this mode of rigorous diksha(initiation). Only the ones who wanted to know the Vedas had to take up this diksha. They had to spend many years in the ashrama and live on very simple means. There are many anecdotes to show how very austere it was. Everyday, food would be served by the Guru’s patni, wife, to all the inmates of the ashrama. One day, a student, after putting the food in his mouth said, “Yech! What is this? This food tastes bitter!” And he was graduated! The Guru said, “ Son, your time in the ashrama is over. You can go on to the next ashrama. You are free to leave.” Why? Because, it is said in many of our shastras (Scriptures and ancient texts) that if one has a taste for anything other than knowledge, knowledge simply cannot happen. This is the simple definition that is stated. Even Thiruvalluvar states it. This rasana, taste, was actually cultivated. The society’s role was in cultivating each student’s taste towards knowledge. It is remarkable to see the importance given to this! It was not automatic. It was cultivated.
Even today, when you look at the lives of Nobel laureates, it is not just after 10 years of effort that they receive a Nobel Prize. They would have put in 40 to 50 years of effort, before they get the Nobel Prize. Sometimes, it is awarded posthumously, after they are gone! It is serious effort. This kind of serious involvement is very important. And you don’t even know whether you will get a Nobel prize for your work or not. So you are dedicated to knowledge, and it is your sole pursuit, regardless of reward and recognition, so much so that it becomes your Swadharma (one’s own duty in accordance with one’s nature). As simple as that. We have seen a Nobel laureate doing his research at a prestigious Physics institute in Italy. He comes in at 8’0 clock in the morning after his breakfast, and gets up from his desk only at 8’0 clock in the evening. He does not have lunch. He has his dinner at night and he is back at work in the morning. He follows this routine day in and day out, throughout the year. That’s an awesome life actually! For many youth it might seem boring, but if you have a little bit of insight you will see that it’s a very enjoyable life. You will really have a great time with what you do.
Food and sleep is what we set. If we set our mind that we need to sleep for 8 hours and eat 4 times a day, then we cannot do anything of significance. Our whole life will be spent in that alone! That’s for children. What is your Dharma? This is what you need to be focussed on. However, you need to be observant of what food you eat, and see what works for your body, and avoid what does not. Eat and rest the body so that you can focus on your Dharma and perform it well. What must be done, must be done. If your thought and attention is always on food and sleep then what can else can you do? You will not gain traction in anything. The mind will only be seeking entertainment : Which restaurant shall I go and eat? Which movie shall I watch? Is my hair grown? Should I cut it? If you keep thinking only about this, you cannot gain traction. You may get a job and earn some money. That is fine. But if you wish to do some real work with real intensity, it just cannot be done in a piecemeal way. When doing your Swadharma, you are really on.
All this may sound too extreme! But no, basically it is about intensity and focus. It is called mano nigraha- conscious channelization of the mind in the direction that you set for it. The mind may run here and there but you persevere and direct it again and again to focus on studying. Needless to say! it requires great patience, consistent effort and certainly takes time, and there is no shortcut to it. Such a mind, which has been reined in, does not wander about aimlessly. That sort of a mind works wonders. That sort of an intellect works wonders. And with such a mind and intellect, life becomes exciting and our experience becomes awesome! Then you will see, to use Tamil slang, everything else such as pleasure and entertainment becomes ‘mokkai’!