Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye
Do you know, what this Sanskrit quote mean ?? I don't know either. This was the famous tag-line for my college(some people may want to call it a school), where I completed my +2 education(In our state board, +2 was called as an intermediate program and I had opted for science discipline). We happened to realize this only when we came out of the college and that too by an outsider, Alas. A classic case of a diamond being discovered by outsiders after being ignored my its own people for years !!
It just so happened that on occasion of "Saraswati Pooja", we invited a celebrity to visit our college. Mind you, celebrity word is always relative. For Ambani brothers, Bachchans are just another family next door, but for an ordinary man, even a District Magistrate can be called as a celebrity. So we had an SDO(Sub Divisional Officer) joining us on the occasion as a chief guest.
We had a not-so-nice brick-coloured 6*5 gate, built during British Raaj, with these sanskrit-sholka in a not-so-large font-size inscribed onto it. This gate marked the entrance to our college main building, Oh by the way there was just one building in the entire college :-). As we made our way through the entry-gate, the gentleman asks the rickshaw-puller to stop. The rickshaw-puller immediately puts the brakes on and rickshaw comes to a griding halt. For a moment, we thought that he probably doesn't want to torture this poor fella, hand-pulling this rickshaw, anymore. The rickshaw-puller was looking exhausted, busy wiping out loads of perspiration accumulated over his forehead and other body-parts with his towel, waiting for the money from the gentleman. But when he got down, in stead of paying the rickshaw-puller his due, he requested all of us to stop. He stopped at the entrance, looked at the concrete-wall surrounding the gate. He notices that there are some scribblings written on those bricks in Sanskrit, which couldn't probably be read using naked eyes. The poor gentleman had forgotten to bring his specs, so he asked one of us to read out the sanskrit-shloka for him. I put my hands up for the same (I used to be a good student when it came to languages Hindi and Sanskrit, not any more though, English has taken over all my senses ;-)).
As I finished reciting those lines, the gentleman asked "Can any one of you explain the meaning of this great shloka from Vedas ?" All of us had no clue what those words meant. We tried our level best to decipher it. But we didn't succeed. Finally, we followed an incremental-approach and tried explaining the shloka, taking one word a time. Sa means She, Vidya means Knowledge, Ya means That and Vimuktaye means Freedom. So the team-work succeeded and we had a meaning. I was the one, who explained this to the gentleman. He was not entirely happy with the fact that we couldn't get the real meaning, rather stayed at the peripherals trying to explain every single word. Nevertheless, he was not too disappointed either, after all students had at least gave it an honest try, in fact they had tried hard, as hard as they could. So the gentleman went about explaining the underlying meaning of this shloka.
"It is the knowledge which enlighten us and education which liberates us from this materialistic world".
The moment, he finished explaining the shloka, one natural question arose as to what liberation and enlightenment meant ?? We were too naive and our knowledge was too shallow to understand those heavy words-of-wisdom. The gentleman replied back with a question "Forget about these words. Tell me what do you want to do after your I.Sc is over ??" We all replied in unison "We plan to appear for IIT entrance examination". To this, gentleman replied "The day, you get through India's most-difficult entrance exam, you should think you have achieved enlightenment and liberated yourself.
These words were etched into my memory, very much similar to these sanskrit-shlokas were on those age-old bricks. I gave IIT JEE my best shot and got through with a three digit rank. I opted to study B.Tech(H) in IIT Kharagpur with computer science as my specialization. While in campus, I came to know that the definition of liberation aka enlightenment had changed. Now its like "If you get through a high-paying job during placement season, you will attain nirvana.OK, point taken. I started preparing for the same. Although not in campus, I did finally manage to find a job at one of the highest paying MNCs in Bangalore. I started my exploration of software industry with a fortune 500 firm. But after spending three years in the organization, I realized that the meaning of liberation had again changed. Now it was getting an MBA in one of the ivy-league schools or IIMs.
Now I started questioning what the gentleman had said long ago. Does education really result into enlightenment and help us in achieving moksha ?? For a moment a weird thought crossed my mind - More education meant more ambition and greed, thereby ensuring that you are always chasing something or the other and making us more and more materialistic. May be education does bring prosperity and success, but not nirvana. But another school of thought suggested - Is that freedom still elusive, because I have run after degrees/qualifications, rather than educating my self. I don't know, may be , may be not. So my quest for attaining nirvana continues. The question is still wide-open and I am yet to get an answer to the same.