I told them, “I have no concern with the examination at all. Whether I fail or pass, that is not the point. To me, the point is whether I present myself sincerely, authentically.”
In my final MA examination, one of my professors was very much concerned because my paper was going to be examined by an old professor of Allahabad University who was world famous as a scholar on Indian philosophical thought – Dr. Ranade. And it was well-known that to get a passing mark from him was the most you could hope for. He has, all over the country, a name for that. Mostly, people failed; his criteria were not ordinarily fulfilled.
My paper was also going to be examined by him, so my teacher of Indian philosophy was very much concerned. I told him, “Relax, because it is my examination, not your examination!”
He could not sleep. He said, “I know you are going into a difficulty. That man is a little eccentric, and he is such an authority that nobody can challenge him.”
I said, “The need will not arise. Who knows, he may be waiting for me. I may be his criterion.”
He laughed; he said, “You don’t know him. He has failed so many people and he has not given a first class rating to anybody in his whole life. And now he is retired. But still because of his fame, universities go on sending him examination papers.”
It was almost as if he was going into the examination. I had to console him and tell him to relax and rest and not be worried.
And I did just what he was afraid of…I did exactly that because I could not do anything else. My answers to his paper, his question paper, became rather an argument, and that’s what my professor was worried about: “He is such an authority that nobody questions him. And you will create a situation in which he may feel offended. He may give you zero; he has given zero to many people.”
His first question was “What is Indian philosophy?” and I simply answered in one line: “There is no such thing in the world. The question is absurd and does not deserve any more wastage of time for the simple reason that philosophy cannot be divided by geography; you are putting geography on a higher scale than philosophy. Now, what has philosophy to do with geography? Thoughts have no geographical boundaries, they are universal. There is only one philosophy, and that is universal. So never again ask such a question.”
Certainly he must have been shocked because he was not expecting…and his whole life people have been polite to him. And now he was an ancient, wise man…but all his questions I answered in the same way. And when I told my teacher how I had answered his questions, tears came to his eyes.
I said, “You are mad! I am going to be given a mark of zero because he cannot give less than that. But why are you…?”