Last minute cramming, sleepless nights, sweaty palms… exams seem to come way too often for students. Here’s Sadhguru’s answer to a student’s question about “exam-phobia.”
Isha Vidhya Kid: Namaskaram Sadhguru. Can you tell us what a… what are the measures to adapt (adopt?) to improve our memory power and how can we overcome from our exam fear?
Sadhguru: Exam fear, oh (Laughter)! You’re asking the right one (Laughter). Straight from the horse’s mouth, somebody who had no fear of examination ever (Laughter/Applause). That was my father’s greatest concern that I had no fear of examination (Laughter). He’d say, “Oh, this boy has no fear, what to do” (Laughter/Applause)? This is the whole thing. You are asking this question, it’s good, but you must first understand somewhere it’s spread around in this world, in the society that fear is some kind of a virtue. Fear is not a virtue, fear makes you into the ugliest possible creature. Most unpleasant experience in your life is probably fear. That one thing not being there has made my life totally, absolutely pleasant (Laughs) because fear is about something that is yet to be.
Fear is about something that does not exist right now. What will happen is the thing. What will happen, you do not know. When you do not know what you will write on the damn paper, something that you’ve learnt a whole year, you still do not know what you will write. When this is the thing what will happen in your life, you for sure do not know, isn’t it? Yes? But you’re imagining all the horrible things that will happen post examination. No, post examination there’s a wonderful vacation. Yes (Laughs). Then there’s… one day, they’ll announce result.
My tenth standard exam results I did not go to see. My twelfth standard examination results I did not go to see. Somebody later on one of ma… my… my family is boiling, “Today is results what are you doing, what are you doing” (Laughter)? “What am I supposed to do” (Laughter)? Then they will tell somebody that they know, they will send word, they must have gone seen what has happened to his result. Tch. Well, somehow passed (Laughs). Now the thing is just this – are you going to school to learn something or are you going to school to prove something? This is the thing that you have to decide, everybody must decide. Have you come to the ashram to know something or to prove something, you must decide this.
Once you go to any place to prove something about yourself, sickness will set in – sickness of failure and success will set in. For one who wants to learn there is no sa… such thing as failure, there is no such thing as success, just a question of striving. Somebody may get it in one day, I may get it in ten days, somebody may get it in hundred days, it’s just a question of striving. If your interest is to learn, striving itself is a learning. To be able to strive relentlessly itself is a huge learning, isn’t it? So don’t try to prove anything. You want to be number one? Hmm?
Isha Vidya Kid: Yes.
Sadhguru: Yes. What about all these guys (Laughter)? Anyway the girls are going to be number one anyway (Laughter/Applause). It’s so happened in all these tenth standard exams usually it’s the girls – one, two, three (Laughter), because boys have better things to do (Laughter/Applause). There are lot more interesting things around than a textbook. See I’m a bad advice… the teachers are… the teachers are all horrified, “Sadhguru, what are you doing to our students” (Laughter/Applause)? What I am doing is just this – if they’ve not learnt anything this whole damn year, being fearful now, it will not even let them enjoy their examination. I thoroughly enjoyed the examination time (Laughs). I shouldn’t be telling you all this, you’re just going into the examination but anyway.
I… I want you to tell you this. Later on I spent a… a certain amount of time, a year and a half or two, part-time in a… a pharmacy, you know a medical store. Examination time this anti-diarrheal tablets in India are sold in millions (Laughter). Really! You won’t believe it, anti-diarrheal – chi… children are shit scared (Laughter). Everybody popping anti-diarrheal tablets before the examination because in the examination if they see a question that they do not know how to answer (Laughter), they will shit (Laughs). You also (Laughter)?
Don’t try to improve your memory, please. You went to school not to remember some rubbish – to learn something, to enhance the horizons of your life you had to know and understand something about this existence around you. This is what is science, this is what is mathematics, this is what everything is, what you are studying is not some subject, it’s… it’s different pieces of life may be presented in a most unde… uninteresting way but still it’s life, yes? Whether you study phasi… physics or chemistry or biology or social sciences or geography – you’re learning something that could enhance the scope and play of your life. So you have to learn it. If you remember it, it will not transform your life in anyway. So you went there to learn. If you have learnt, what’s the problem – what you know you write, what you don’t know you want to copy from that guy next (Laughter)? I will not talk about all those things because many times teachers it seems are encouraging these things.
I did… never had enough interest. I remember those days people would come up with ingenious ways to copy (Laughter), you know. Somebody has written inside their sleeve, girls are more ingenious (Laughter) because there is a certain limitation to what extent the teacher can check them. All kinds of things, micro written papers stuck here, there, inside their pen cap (Laughter), all kinds of things. I never was concerned about the examination to that extent, to write down anything and go because I don’t know what to write down, first of all (Laughter).
I don’t want you to get my attitude towards the examination because just my twelfth standard examinations were coming and we went to collect my hall ticket which was a big thing. And then we are in the bicycle stand and you know it’s… it’s a beginning of April, the examinations. I… I… I have… I have (Laughs)… I have explored the whole surroundings of Mysore city and I know every kind of tree, every mango tree in the season. And I know how each mango… because I have been raiding these mango trees for fifteen years and no… if not fifteen years at least for ten years and I know which mango tree how it tastes, which season everything.
So I am encouraging some of the… my friends who have examination fear, I say, “Let’s… Let’s spend the day with the mangoes, tomorrow you can study (Laughter).” There are still fifteen days, I have still not acquired my textbooks (Laughter). So the principal of the school overheard this, his room is right there on the first floor. He quickly came down and he yelled with his loud voice, “What, there’s an exam two weeks away and you’re going and encouraging people to go and pluck mangoes?” I said, “Sir, the examination comes twice a year, mangoes come only once a year” (Laughter/Applause). It’s… It’s a fact (Laughter). So I don’t want you to go with that kind of attitude because I was decided in my mind – I’ll never qualify for anything nor will I er… ever seek a job in my life. That I had decided when I was thirteen, fourteen years of age. I’ll never ever seek a job anywhere.
My father used to say, “What will you do?” I don’t know, something I’ll do. I can’t do anything, I’ll go back to the jungle, I know how to live in a forest. So you don’t have to take that attitude but I want you to understand you went to school to learn. What you have learnt you have learnt, what you have not you have not. Still there is time, little more time to study and learn something. Don’t try desperately to remember. Getting a few marks more or less in tenth standard is not going to make so much of a difference. How much you learn will make a world of a difference, how many things you grasped right now fundamentals will make a big difference. Right now focus on that. Maybe the damn twelfth standard tch, because today in India if you want to go to medical sciences you must have… people from outside the country cannot believe this – you must get ninety-eight. Ninety-seven percent you have nowhere to go.
In Delhi university hundred percent – students have been rejected because there are too many hundred percent’s, because they all eat the book and vomit it (Laughter), straight. After the examination is over they are clean of education (Laughter), unsullied by education, completely clean. This is good for the exam maybe, not good for you, not good for the society, not good for the nation, not good for the world – that young people are coming up who vomited everything that they picked up a whole year and now they are clean, their stomach is cleaned up. Because it never went into their brains, it only went into their belly. Don’t do that to yourself. I hope our teachers are not pushing you in that direction. I am sure your parents particularly being from rural areas they think marks, marks, it doesn’t matter what they think. I want to make sure by the time you get (get out?) of Isha Vidya schools you have grasped as much as possible, I don’t care a damn how many marks you got. I want to see that you are knowledgeable, you’re capable and competent, tomorrow you step out into the world you can do something sensible with your lives. That’s more important for me than how many marks you get (Applause).
How sensibly, how wonderfully, with how much competence you live your life is important, how much you remember is not important. I don’t remember a damn thing. That’s why I can sit here and gossip with you simply (Laughs) about anything because there’s no burden of remembering anything. So no anti-diarrheal tablets and don’t worry about your memory – what you know you will do, what you do not know anyway you cannot do but if you know how to copy (Laughter) it’s up to you (Laughter). I wouldn’t do it and I’m sure our teachers will not allow it because at this stage in your life you don’t start your life with deception. Don’t… At least be… I’m not talking about honesty, I’m talking about learning to be straight with life so that tomorrow you don’t get all twisted out for small things. But you are okay, this is how I am. Okay I am get… I get only thirty-five, it’s okay, this is how I am. This will not determine the quality of my life. I want you to understand this. What marks you get will not determine the quality of your life but with how much integrity you exist will definitely determine the quality of your life. So, no copying, all right? Suppose you don’t know anything, it’s all right, happily sit there and come out (Laughter). Tell everybody I… I did not get it, you do some yoga, life will become long, so you can take one more year (Laughter/Applause). One more year to learn – no copying because don’t lose your integrity for small things, petty things these are. Don’t lose your integrity for such small things, tomorrow when big things come you will not be able to stand up to them (Applause).
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