Our education fills us up with external knowledge, leaving us ignorant of ourselves

Question: Sir, what made you to leave your corporate job, and start this whole different line of work?  

Speaker: There was a lot that was asking to be changed. Leaving the corporate was not really an objective. I wanted to do something, and if it could have been nicely done from within a corporate, I would rather have done that. In fact Advait is still a private limited company. So, it is not that I opted out of corporate, but as far as the mission is concerned…

You know there are things that people are doing; there are things that I could have done, but a lot of people could have done them as well as me. There were things that I could have done and somebody else could have done them in a better way but there was something that I saw, that I was seeing and that cause was really crying out, it needed to be taken up, but very few people were attending to it. So, (Smilingly) just opportunism. It is something important and somebody needs to take it up, so I said, “Why not me?”

Listener 1: Sir, would you like to elaborate on this topic a bit more?

Speaker: You see, all of you sitting over here, are quite knowledgeable people. Right? Even the reference made to us is, ‘Knowledge workers’. Right? That’s how we are referred to. ‘White-collar jobs’. So we know a lot, or at least a little.

Our knowledge is, in some areas, pretty detailed as well and it’s quite amazing, the extent to which human intelligence has gone and created this knowledge and other human beings have absorbed it and are putting it to use. Now, having known this much, is it not strange, what you read in newspapers? “Man quarreling with man, nation quarreling with nation, husband quarreling with wife, neighbor quarreling with neighbor, man quarreling with himself!”

When we find nobody else to engage, we are busy fighting ourselves. And we know so much.

Anu_KnowWe know so much. Yet basics of life – jealousy, possessiveness, insecurity, small happenings in our environment seem to shake us up. Does that happen or not? One piece of news regarding the market, or regarding the changing company policies, or regarding the changing environment within the organization and suddenly we feel as if the ground under our feet is slipping. Is that not so? And we have so much of knowledge! All of us! And there are people who have much more knowledge than us. The thing is, their situation too is just the same.

So, this interested me. I asked, “Why is knowledge, why is all our progress not helping us lead more secure and composed inner lives?” You know, you look at a illiterate man, then you look at somebody who could not go beyond class tenth, then you look at somebody who has done his B.Tech, and then at a post doctorate, and tell me, are they really, internally, any different?

It is equally probable that all of them might be suspicious of their wife, authoritarian towards their kids, aggressive towards their neighbor, jealous of their colleague; is it not equally likely? By doing a PhD, does the probability that you will be worried, does this probability decrease?

Chances are, it increases. So why is our knowledge not helping us be…. Ultimately we have to live with ourselves. Right? Why is our knowledge, not helping us, simply be more centered?

So this brought me to the question of – What kind of knowledge do we have?

The knowledge that we have all pertains to something external. We know about this, we know about that, we know about cooling technologies, all kind of electronics, optics, the world, Mars, other galaxies, we have collected so much knowledge about them but our education, in schools and colleges, and our training, as professionals in corporate, simply does not touch upon ourselves.

Anu_WithinYou know, we have been educated probably from some of the premier institutions and then our training has continued in the places that we have worked in, but somehow, nowhere have we being sensitized towards our own mind. Our education and training is such that, it never asks us to turn within with the result that even the most knowledgeable man, is actually so infantile, and immature. He may be forty years of age, he might be earning a lot, but in his psyche, he is still a baby; somebody who can have a nervous breakdown any time. Somebody who just can’t get along with his wife. Somebody who just can’t stop himself from competing, he competes with everybody. And he says that he is in a leadership position! He says, he is leading X number of people.

The fault does not lie with this man, the fault lies with the way we have been brought up, educated, and continuously trained.

So, full of knowledge about this and that, but largely ignorant of the self. Unfortunately, nobody lives with his knowledge. You live with that feeling in your mind. Don’t we?  We all know that. We know what I am talking about. Right? You know when you are not alright. And I know that nobody wants to feel not alright. Anybody here, who is interested in feeling not alright? Anybody here who likes that feeling when your legs are unnecessary shivering? And we all have experienced that, have we not? You have just appeared for an interview, and you are awaiting that call from HR, and that call comes, you recall that experience? Some of us might be having it pretty frequently. There are professional job hoppers.

You recall that experience? That call comes and how your fingers simply can’t stop their SHM (Simple Harmonic Motion). Now, what is the worth of your knowledge? What is its worth?

Yes, others might think that you are somebody. Given your knowledge, your experience, your professional advancement and probably your bank balance. But is all of that, of use to you, beyond a point? These were the questions that I was struggling with. And I thought these are important questions. And I could see that these are important things that not many people are really prepared to attend to. So I thought, well, let’s go into it.

I have been lucky that I have had many other people who have seen the importance of this over the years, who came to me, who joined me, assisted me in this journey and are still coming. And you would understand that this is not something which is a main-stream career option. So only those who really see the worth of this work, they come and join. Thankfully there are a few such people. You too are welcome. Devesh ji knows the address and the rest of it.

Look at this for an example. Had I been sitting here to talk about some technology, give me the name of a latest technology that people here might be interested in?

Listener 1: Cloud.

Speaker: So let’s say I am an expert in Cloud Computing, and I have come here to talk. A lot of us would have a lot of questions to ask, especially if we had only ten or fifteen minutes. Right? But when it comes to speaking about ourselves, we are simply lost. We don’t know what to say. And I understand our predicament, what I am saying might sound interesting to you, but what do we talk about? Yes, nice, right, alright, but what is in it to talk about?

There is a lot, incidentally, but this is such an unknown territory, our own mind is such an unknown territory to us. And in spite of seeing, getting a hint, at least, that there is something in it.

That’s the story with every walk of life, you know, I am sure many of us are friends here, with each other. Right? We talk about so many things, don’t we? But do we really talk about the Real? Not that we want to hide this. But there has been something in the way we have come up that we have become experts in remaining engrossed in the trivial. But when it comes to the Real, we become a little tongue tied. Don’t we?

It’s not something that is happening only in your relationship with me. Parents and kids, how authentic is their conversation? I need not talk about bosses and subordinates; that is not even supposed to be authentic. But what if, even a husband-wife conversation is rarely genuine? Rarely Real? Yes, we can talk about the furniture, we can talk about what is happening in the neighbor’s house, we can talk about the new restaurant down the road but do we really talk about that which matters? That, which matters. That which really keeps us off-center. Do we ever talk about it? We have been trained to slip it under the carpet. I thought why not bring the few skeleton out of the cupboard, just for fun.

Think of all the people you have been in touch with since years, and think of whether you have had a single genuine conversation with them. It is amusing, and at the same time, horrifying. Even the ability to look at each other directly in the eye! Have you seen people, who just really don’t want to have any eye contact? And it’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault. But somebody needs to do something about it. It’s a worthy cause, right? A few people must take it up. Should they not? What do you say?

I invite people. I say, “Let’s look at facts, let’s not talk dream stuff.” I say, “Look at all the mails that you have written in the past six months. Not the strictly professional ones. All the mails that you have written, to your friends, relatives, acquaintances,” I say, “Now, read them again. And read them very directly, very objectively, very honestly, and then tell me, how much of it is Real?”

Of course, I am not talking of mails relating to a sales pitch, or such stuff; they are not suppose to be Real. Are they? But what about the mails written to your friends, to cousins, even to parents? What is happening? We are intelligent people all of us, at least to the extent that intelligence is synonym of knowledge. We are quite intelligent. So, what’s going on?

I still don’t know, what’s going on. I am exploring, I mean, I no wise in that sense.

Ok, try this, a small experiment. A small experiment. Just walk up to somebody, not causally, walk up to somebody as if you really mean it; looking straight in his eyes, take his name or her name, and say, “I want to talk to you.” Not so melodramatically, but with sincerity, just with sincerity and you will only see scare in his eyes. “Oh my God! Is something Real going to come up?” As long as you are casual, and you just walk past people, tapping them on their shoulders, “Hi John, what’s up? How’s the hotdog?” The Yankee thing, as long as that is happening, we are friends.

But if you give the slightest hint to the other person, that you mean to open your heart up, instead of feeling gratified, he will feel terrified. Try this, its fun. Good fun. And after you see him trembling, tell him, “No I don’t mean anything, it’s casual”.

We are afraid of everything that is not really false. For the years, I have been surprised to see how much we are really afraid of intimacy, I am surprised because ostensibly we all says that we want intimacy, we want closeness with somebody. But when intimacy really beckons or knocks on our door, we retract. We don’t have the guts to embrace it. You must have seen such people, they are so insecure they can’t let anybody come close. Because somebody coming close is a threat to their entire mental structure. They’ll have to accommodate him, their structure will need to change. That structure, by the way, is also called as ego.

We are young people here, and I am not talking of physical intimacy. We understand that, right? So that’s what the whole game is about. Complex, challenging, but fun!

~Excerpts from a guest talk. Edited for clarity.

View the session at: Our education fills us up with external knowledge, leaving us ignorant of ourselves

Read more on this topic:

Article 1: How important is education of the self?

Article 2: Why is education not helping the world?

Article 3: Solve your mind, all your problems will be solved

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2 thoughts on “Our education fills us up with external knowledge, leaving us ignorant of ourselves

    • There are various opportunities to connect to and meet Acharya Prashant. These are:

      1. Meet the Master:

      Meet the Master program is rare opportunity to meet Acharya Prashant personally, either physically or online. To meet the Master, send your application, write to requests@prashantadvait.com or contact: Ms. Anoushka Jain: +91-9818585917.

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      Advait Learning Camps are monthly retreats organized under Acharya Prashant’s guidance. These camps are about spending four days and three nights in the lap of nature, while reading, reflecting, learning and evolving. So far, scores of ALCs have been organised in places like Rishikesh, Mukteshwar, Jim Corbett National Park, Chopta, KainchiDham, etc.
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      Course in Realization, a classroom-based learning program led by Acharya Prashant, is an initiative towards disseminating clarity and intelligence in the world. In this course, a rigorous study of a scripture or a saint is undertaken each month.
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      Weekends with Acharya Prashant brings you the unique opportunity for a 2 day 2 night stay with the Master every month at Advait Ashram, Greater Noida. The getaway involves two mystical days of dynamic activities, explorations of the self, sports, meditative reading, deep reflections, midnight walks and more.
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