Teacher and the taught

The Taittiriya Upanishad is one of the 10 principal Upanishads, primarily delineating the bliss that is obtained upon gaining the true knowledge of the supreme power (called Brahman) behind this creation, which is the means to attain freedom from the endless cycle of births and deaths.

In the course of this exposition, there is a lucid and meaningful description of the duties and qualities of a teacher or preceptor, as also the responsibilities of a student who has completed his course of study. This part is of special significance in the present day context of declining moral and ethical values.

Going deeper than the superficially apparent explanations of the original text and correlating the teachings to the present scenario yields valuable lessons to the teacher-student fraternity.

The section, aptly named the Siksha Valli, after the introductory verses, depicts a teacher praying to the gods for intellectual vigour. Not content with just accumulation of knowledge, he prays for cerebral enrichment and enthusiasm to gain further knowledge.
A healthy brain needs a healthy body. So, he prays for good health and a fit body.

He also prays for a sweet tongue that reflects his knowledge. There is also a prayer for hearing only auspicious and good matters. Next, the teacher prays for students with a thirst for knowledge, those who will protect and nourish what has been taught to them and who are disciplined and are of tranquil mind.

Then the teacher expresses a desire to always be in the presence of men of learning and repute. This expands his horizons and induces humility when he sees far more accomplished and learned persons. The teacher concludes with the all important appeal for blessings to always enshrine God in his heart and thus be  purified, for ‘HE’ is the ultimate refuge.

Now comes the all important final instruction to the students upon completion of their tenure under the master. This is similar to the Convocation Address of the present where the passing-out students are conferred degrees. First come the well-known lines ‘Speak the truth, practise virtue.’

‘Do not neglect that which has been studied. Let not this knowledge end with you. Propagate it. Never neglect truth, virtue and welfare of the less fortunate. At the same time, do not neglect your prosperity. Do not fail to acknowledge your debt to the gods and to your departed forefathers.’

Now, the famous oft-quoted lines: ‘ Treat your mother as God, your father as God, your teacher as God and your guest as God.’ Be devoted to virtuous, blameless deeds. Adopt all good customs.

‘Respect elders and men of learning. Never do charity with pride, vanity and arrogance, but give with faith, humility and sympathy. When in doubt regarding your conduct, follow the example of competent, virtuous and kind men. This is true worship.’  Indeed, a truly ennobling convocation address!

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