Every student wants to study and get expertise in the field of a subject which he or she is studying. Unfortunately only one or two students get to become masters in the said subject but rest would only get to become a mediocre. So it is obvious that even though a student is interested in the subject but fail to become expert, then the problem would lie in the student himself and not with the subject or the teacher. To enhance the learning and retention abilities in a student and acquire excellent knowledge in the subject, our scriptures have prescribed five criteria:
Belief in self and self effort
Knowledge is highly dependent on self effort. Hence one should have belief in self effort as nothing other than self effort is required to obtain knowledge. Similarly self confidence is a must for the student. If the student lacks confidence and looses faith in self, then no amount of teaching by a guru would be beneficial. So the student has to pray god for a blessing with self effort and self confidence to obtain knowledge.
Medha shakti or absorbing power
Receiving, absorbing or grasping and retaining power of mind is Medha shakti. One who has this faculty is called Medhavi. Memory power or Medha shakti can be improved only by serious and sincere study of the subject, similar to increasing running or swimming power by repeated practice. So a student has to be an active participant in class and try to assimilate the knowledge. No amount of teacher’s efficiency would work, if the student has no absorbing power. To enhance the Medha shakti in students our scriptures have prescribed Sammidhadanam in Sandhyavandana, where he prays lord to bless him with Medha shakti. A special sooktam called Medha sooktham is also presribed, where in Goddess Saraswati is invoked to bless with Medha shakti.
Healthy relationship with guru
Relationship of a student and guru should be specially marked with shraddha and bhakti as well as Love and respect- Love on the part of teacher and respect on the part of student. If a student cannot understand the teaching, it is because the student does not have the capacity to understand. It is the deficiency in student’s grasping power and not the guru’s incapability of teaching. So a student has to come back and repeat the study.
Gnanam or Knowledge
Finally all the above points culminate in knowledge, provided the student has sincerely studied the subject following the above criteria.
Gnana Phalam or Benefit of knowledge
Benefit of knowledge should bring transformation in life but not mere acquisition of qualifications. Between Gnanam and Gnana phalam, there are many obstacles, so a student has to pray god to relieve him of obstacles. They are in the form of emotional handicaps which are called Asuri sampatthi- kaama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and maathsarya. In the presence of asuri sampatahi, though knowledge is present in the intellect, it is not available when needed. This is because of the presence of subtle Raga and Dwesha (also known as kashayam). A well known example is of Karna from the epic Mahabharatha. Karna forgot the specific knowledge of combat, because he used his knowledge with Dwesha and Mathsarya (hatred and jealousy), which are asuri sampatti, although there is a story that he had a curse from his guru. So when a student cleanses asuri sampatti from his mind, he can enjoy the benefit of knowledge when he calls for. After all, what is the use of a knowledge which does not benefit a student when it is needed!
Anyone who studies a subject by adhering to the above criteria, he is sure to acquire the desired knowledge
The above ideology is from the most popular Shanthi paata of Krishna Yajurveda:
Saha naavavatu saha nau bhunakthu saha veeryam karavaavahai
Tejasvi naavadheethamastu maa vidvishaavahai
Om shanthihi shanthihi shanthihi
In the above shanthi paata, a seeker/student prays for 5 important requirements for obtaining knowledge. They are swaprayatna- self effort, mananam- retention or memory power, gnanam or knowledge, gnanaphalam or benefit from knowledge and a healthy relationship with the guru.
Shanthi is chanted thrice. First shanthi denotes peace within the mind of the student, second shanthi denotes peace external or surrounding environment and the third shanthi denote peace from divine forces like storms, earth quakes etc. Chanting of shanthi three times is important because even if one of them is missing, then learning becomes impossible.
(Extract from the talks on Shanthi paata of Krishna Yajurveda by HH Swami Paramarthananda)