The Talents and Wisdom of The UnEducated

Everyday Ayurveda by Bhaswati Bhattacharya

Ask a talented carpenter who carves exquisite furniture, or a stone worker who chisels breathtaking pillars and reliefs, or a silk weaver who makes gorgeous textiles, and they will likely deny the ultimate value of a university education. Many famous businessmen, healers, and thought leaders are also without a university degree.

Immigrant parents are quick to affix value to a degree from a famous university, as they have found it to open doors to a stable career, a steady income, and a solid place in the new community. With a growing number of immigrant families around the world, universities take advantage of the soft power of brand-name education.

Today’s university is not Nalanda or Taxila. It is a money-making business propagated by those who profit handsomely from it. They care about students’ competence only to the level of getting additional students, or passing regulations to remain open. The leading universities such as Harvard and Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge, Delhi University, BHU, and Presidency College, and The University of California make more money on real estate, rentals and construction than on students. Most well-funded research-oriented universities receive most of their income from self-sustaining overhead charged to research funds and less than 10% from student tuition. The tuition is quietly kept hefty so that students feel greater gratitude for this education. We know things that are free are less valued in modern society.

The ideal bastion of truth that we were taught to believe as Good is not housed in universities any longer. If we gleefully give our loyalty to a top university as our alma mater, we participate in the same avenues of ambiguity toward justice and truth that drive the wealth creation and non-transparency of the system. Examples of corruption in American academia erupt every few years, and are gently beaten down, lest we discover that the messages taught to our young adults are in favor of a society that is Eurocentric, Christian, white-privileged and capitalistic. A PhD does not prevent the wise scholar from being a rapist, a thief or an exploiter. Modern education neither demands morality nor protection of the discipline as sacred.

Rebels are tolerated only to the degree that they shape the students to rise into power and ultimately conform to the powers in the society in which they live. Over millennia, influential voices are created by carefully educating them to echo the words of those in power to ensure messages are conveyed in the favor of the ruler.

The winners of the past 200 years are those who support the Industrial Revolution not Nature, the Technology Revolution not Intuition and Biology, and Capitalism not social equity. While the focus on scaling-up for faster profit has allowed a few companies and a few families to flourish greatly, it has forgotten to scale up on the percentage of people who live lives in safety.

Ask some of the best doctors in practice in the community, and they will admit that they learned more from the unfortunate chapter in their lives of taking care of an ill relative than from most of the pompous and unrealistic teachers in medical schools. Good teachers are rare, and good education is rarer. College remains an artificial stamp of competence, mainly because the best teachers and the most wise in any discipline are never allowed to become professors, as these true experts threaten the incompetence of the system.

Ultimately, we need to realize that true wisdom on the things that matter are kept out of the university system. Access to true healing modalities such as ayurveda, siddha, and healing water therapies are not taught in the university. The wisdom of the medicine in plants is not taught in the university. Music that heals the body, and how, known as raga-chikitsa, is not taught in the university. The relation of the 5000 dhatus that relate to fundamentals of sound in physics and connect to language and movement is not taught in the university. The methods and powers of intimacy and how to have meaningful sex with another human being is not taught in the university. The techniques for understanding one’s own finances are not taught in the university. The basics of understanding one’s home as an extension of one’s soul, mind and body are not taught in the university.

Where should we go to learn? Go to an elder black woman in America who is not formally educated and listen to her stories. Go to a young black man in America and listen to his logic. This will orient your education toward Truth, Justice, and the reason why America needs to even have a Black History Month.

The wiseman whispers that we go to university and collect a lot of junk along with a few good lessons, and then we spend the rest of our life undoing what we learned, and learning instead what life and real wisdom really are.

The South Asian Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2022 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. She holds too many Ivy-League degrees and is working to undo her miseducation. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House. 

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