Consistently, there is a line repeated by parents around the world: “Your studies come first.” Education is touted almost universally by global society as the fastest, surest means for self-advancement and -improvement. Want to make more money? Education. Want a better job? Education. Want to feel better about yourself? Education.
But let us consider what education is being referred to. Obviously, graduating from basic K-12 school is important, but a high school diploma isn’t going to turn that many heads. No, the lofty parental dreams demand what is called ‘higher’ education, where degrees of associates, bachelors, and masters may be conferred. Schools with names like Dartmouth, Stanford, Kansas State, Georgia Tech. These are the places, we think, where children go and truly learn.
Yes, these are places where people go to become great and powerful leaders in business, IT, architecture, and a thousand other fields. They are also places where the average tuition rate is almost thirty thousand dollars. Schools with big classes make it easy to get lost in the crowd, where a lecture taught by a famous professor will have more faces than he can remember, more eager minds than he can connect with. A college campus with wonderful, new academic buildings feeds its students like livestock, overburdened with calories, carbohydrates, and caffeine.
It is, of course, unfair to reduce any institution of higher learning down to these base statistics. Many schools, private or public, have wonderful facilities for any student’s use. The Obama administration has provided funding for college students like never before, opening doors for many that would otherwise be closed. Professors are finding it increasingly beneficial to connect with students, collaborating with them on engineering projects, research topics, and environmental studies. In a few short years, the American workplace will find itself flooded by people with such a breadth of intelligence, they simply won’t know where to turn.
However, this question still remains: what is actually being learned? In the acquisition of a degree, certainly some basic, elementary facts are retained, absorbed into reflex and memory. Specialized knowledge serves very well in a demand-driven market. But it doesn’t matter if you have a degree in poetry and a degree in mathematics, the majority of what you learned is theoretical. There are very few practical applications for a BS in Psychology. It will not help you cook food, change the oil in your car, or file a lawsuit. The piece of paper with your name on it will not serve to make you an authority in a room full of practicing therapists. Without the experiential, firsthand, practicality of your education, it can dwindle rapidly into uselessness.
Our devotion functions in a similar manner. It only does some good to listen to scriptural discourse and learn about chanting, religious history, and the importance of finding God in this lifetime. If you don’t practice your spirituality, though, if you don’t actively carry the knowledge with you in your daily life, then what is it doing? You do not advance spiritually if you do not make the decision to do so.
Therefore, it is important to practice, to put into action, whatever knowledge you have — be it material or devotional. For example, if you have a specific kirtan you enjoy, use it! Meditate on the words, feel them, sing them again and again. Learn it, word for word, and keep it close to your heart . If there is a favorite picture of Radha Krishn you’ve seen, start materializing God in that image, Bring them with you wherever you are going and feel their presence in your life. Hold onto whatever philosophy you can. Practice it in your daily life situations; use the philosophy to solve your daily life problems. Whatever you have learned, make it what you value, so that you can grow.