Ideals and Values/Good Study Habits

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Vishal Agarwal

The Characteristics of a Good Student

In the Mahābhārata, a verse describes the following five habits of a good student:

A good student has these five traits – First, he keeps trying like a crow. Second, he is focused like an Indian egret bird. Third, he is attentive even in his sleep like a dog. Fourth, he is willing to go away from his home for the sake of his studies. And fifth, he eats little (i.e., a balanced diet, not a glutton).

We have already studied the virtues of a balanced diet earlier.

Focusing on Studies / Attentiveness

Story: Arjuna shoots the eye of the bird Droņāchārya was the teacher of both the five Pāṇdava brothers and the hundred Kaurava brothers. He taught the princes the military skill of archery. One day, Droņāchārya decided to find out who among his students was the best archer.

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He placed a wooden sparrow on the branch of the tree. The eye of the sparrow was made of a sparkling gem. He told the princes that First, he called Yudhisththira to take aim and asked him, “You have to shoot the eye of the bird. Take aim and tell me what you can see.” Yudhisththira replied, “Sir, I have taken aim and my arrow will hit its mark. I can see you, my brothers and cousins, the trees and the bird.” Droņāchārya was disappointed, “Step back, and let Duryodhana make an attempt.”

He asked the same question to Duryodhana, who replied, “I have taken aim dear teacher. I can see you all, the tree, and also our palace behind the tree. I can also see the grass, sky and the birds flying over us.” Droņāchārya replied, “Please step back, because you cannot hit the target.”

One by one, Droņāchārya called all the princess but asked them to step back without allowing them to shoot at the target. Then, he called Arjuna and said, “Take aim, and tell me what you see.” Arjuna replied, “I see only the eye of the parrot that I have to hit. I do not see anything else.”

Droņāchārya was very pleased. He said, “My child, you alone of all princes have one-pointed concentration. I am confident that you will hit your target successfully. Shoot!” Arjuna took aim, and his arrow pierced the eye of the wooden bird successfully. All the princes marveled at the marksmanship of Arjuna. In the course of time, as expected, Arjuna became the best archer of his times.


What are the things that distract you from focusing on your studies?

Persistent Efforts like a crow & Thoroughness

A crow keeps diving from the air till it is able to grab that morsel of food on the ground with its beak. In a similar way, a good student keeps trying to understand his lesson till he succeeds.

Story: How Varadarāja became a Scholar Several hundred years ago, there lived a child named Varadarāja. He was not a very intelligent child. He never understood anything that his teacher taught him. The other students in his class made fun of him and called him a dumb boy. One day, Varadarāja got so upset because of this constant teasing by his classmates that he decided to end his life. He wanted to drown himself in the well on the way to his home. Just as he was about to jump into the well, he noticed something. On the stone wall around the well, there was a deep, straight mark. The mark was caused by the rope that rubbed against the stone when buckets of water were drawn up from the well.

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Varadarāja thought to himself: “This stone is so hard and the rope is so soft. But, when this rope keeps rubbing against the stone, it causes a mark even on the hard material like the stone. Likewise, if I keep practicing my teacher’s school lessons at home, my dumb mind may also become intelligent and I will start understanding everything one day!”

Varadarāja became very happy as he thought this. He decided not to jump into the well and started studying hard at home every day after his school was over. Soon, Varadarāja became very intelligent and knowledgeable. In fact, after a few years, he became one of the greatest scholars of Sanskrit language and wrote a grammar called ‘Laghusiddhānta Kaumudi’ which is studied by Sanskrit scholars even today.

Not Addicted to Eating or Sleeping & Not Wasting Time

Story: Arjuna catches up with the missed lesson Once, all the Pāṇdava and Kauravas complained that their Guru favored Arjuna too much. Drona decided to test all of them. He sent Arjuna for an errand. As soon as he left, Drona started teaching the other princes how to take aim at the exact leaf and shoot it successfully with an arrow and bow. Then, all of them left that site even before Arjuna returned.

When Arjuna returned to that spot, he found a lot of split leaves and immediately realized that he must have missed that important lesson. So in his free time, he started practicing target practicing using the leaves as his target. In this way, Arjuna soon made up for the missed lesson. When the Princes learned how Arjuna worked hard to make up for the missed lesson, they realized why their teacher used to treat Arjuna as his favorite student.

Story: Arjuna learns how to shoot in the dark Once while Bheema, the glutton brother, was eating, the lamp blew out and it became dark. Bheema was of course still able to eat. So Arjuna thought – “If Bheema can eat in the dark, should I not be able to aim and hit my target by in the dark if the target makes a sound?” He immediately stopped eating and started practicing archery skills in the dark.

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But this was a difficult skill to master. So Arjuna even cut on his sleep time to practice even more. In the course of time, Arjuna learned to shoot in the dark by following the sound of his target! In fact, one of Arjuna’s names was ‘Gudakeśa’, which has several meanings one of which is “He who has mastered sleep.”

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This ability to shoot in the dark saved Arjuna’s life later, during the Mahābhārata war. He was able to shoot and kill the enemy Jayadratha during a solar eclipse by hearing his voice when everyone else would have been blinded.

Willing to leave Home for the Sake of Education

Story: Arjuna Leaves his family during their Exile to Acquire Divine Weapons When the Pāṇdavas had to live several years in the forest due to Duryodhana’s trickery, Arjuna decided to use his time constructively and learn some new skills and the science and art of using more advanced weapons. So he left his family for a year to go to learn weaponry from Bhagavān Śiva after an arduous journey away from his family. This knowledge and the possession of Divine weapons by Arjuna was one of the main reasons why the Pāṇdavas were able to defeat the Kauravas during the war. Arjuna could have just stayed with his family during the exile, but using an excuse, he left them for a year and used that time to learn special skills in the art of war.

Apply what has been Learned

According to Hindu scriptures, knowledge is mastered in four steps:

  1. The first 25% is mastered when we learn it from the teacher.
  2. The next 25% is mastered when we reflect upon what we have learned.
  3. The third 25% is mastered when we apply what we have learned.
  4. The last 25% is learned when we teach what we have learned to others.

Story: Yudhishthira does not Complete his Homework[1]

Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pāṇdavas, was born by the grace of Yamaraj. From young age he was a follower of dharma and so later in life was known as Dharmaraj. Yamaraj is the god of death but also known as lord of justice or dharma. Naturally Yudhishthira displayed these qualities.
When the Pāṇdavas were young, their Guru, Āchārya Drona, taught them their first lesson - Satyam Vada, Dharman Chara (Speak the truth, follow your dharma).

Yudhishthira asked his Guru, "What is Dharma?"

Āchārya Drona replied, "Dharma means, speaking the truth, living by loving others, being kind and merciful."

Yudhishthira then asked "What is Adharma?"

Guru replied "Speaking lies, showing anger and to hate others is Adharma."

Then next day Āchārya Drona began by revising the previous lesson on ‘satyam vada, dharman chara’ and one by one all the pupils stood up and repeated, “Satyam Vada, Dharman Chara". Yudhishthira did not stand up to repeat the lesson.

Āchārya Drona asked Yudhishthira if he had learnt the lesson and but he said that he had not learnt the lesson. So Drona asked Yudhishthira to learn the lesson for next day. Then the next day, all pupils remembered their lesson but Yudhishthira replied that he had not learnt the lesson. Eventually when Yudhishthira kept on repeating that he had not learnt the lesson, Āchārya Drona became angry and gave Yudhishthira a beating.

Yudhishthira calmly took the beating and Guru Drona then asked that have he still not learnt the lesson.
Yudhishthira replied "I have now learnt the lesson."

Guru Drona and all pupils looked surprised. Āchārya Drona asked, "How did you learn the lesson today?"

Yudhishthira replied, "Āchārya, you told us to speak the truth, and to love others is dharma; to speak a lie and to show anger is adharma. I used to lie in fun without meaning it. I used to become angry too. Therefore I used to say that I do not know the lesson. Today after my punishment, I am not angry with you and I love you just the same. Therefore I have learnt the lesson."

Punctuality, Time Management and Efficient Use of Time

Everyone has got only 24 hours in a day. No one gets 25 or more hours, and likewise gets less than 24. But some people succeed and life and others do not. One of the key reasons for this difference is the fact that successful people always spend their time wisely and do not waste it in trivial things like chatting away on the phone, texting uselessly to their friends, surfing the net or doing other things without any gain or purpose. Instead, they plan out their day and make a list of things that they’d like to do during that day. Then, they make a sincerely attempt to compete these tasks.

But in a given day, we can do only a limited number of tasks. Therefore, successful people make a list of everything that they’d like to do, and then prioritize their list. This means, this lists their tasks in the order of importance, so that they can get the most important tasks done first.

The third characteristic of successful people is that they are not procrastinators, ‘deerghasūtrī’ as the Bhagavad Gitā calls them and try to complete their task immediately without delay and postponement.

Notes & References