Yam medham devaganah pitarashcopasate |Taya mamadya medhayagne medhavinam kuru svaha | | -Yajurveda 32/14
O Fire – God incarnate! Bestow on me the brilliance (of intellect), which is prayed for by the gods and the spirits of the ancestors through devout adoration. Everyone is interested to find some sure – shot formula to increase memory power. The student community, in particular, feels its need more acutely. How to memorize a lesson fast? How to retain and not forget what has been learnt? Such questions keep cropping up in the minds of students. In search of their answers, they indulge in all sorts of tactics, including recourse to some medicines/drugs.
The drug companies, too, on their part exploit this vulnerability of the students. Through attractive and high – power advertisements and false promises of miracles they are ever eager to make a fast buck. It is not known whether the really needy ever derive any benefit or not from the advertised drugs.
This much, however, is certain that the so-called recipe of strong memory remains a much sought after mirage. In this connection, we should know and for certain that such wishful miracles do not happen anywhere in the universe. Every action, every event is defined and regulated by set rules of cosmic order, be they in the realer of physical laws or the spiritual.
The same principle operates with respect to memory.
This has a science of its own, it own techniques. Those who know and understand it are able to derive benefit easily, while the ignorant ones waste their time in futile ventures and feel disappointed on crucial occasions. SO it is better that one should thoroughly understand the correct techniques of firmly committing some thing to memory and use them properly. Those who suffer from memory problems have some standard complaints: What can I do, I just cannot memorize; I had indeed memorized this, but forgot it; I can recollect but only piecemeal, and so on and so forth.
There are contrary claims too – of committing a thing to memory in just one reading, or recollecting exactly every detail of what had been read, or memories of long bygone times being still vivid in the mind etc. There is an instructive anecdote, which will help in understanding these diametrically opposite statements relating to memory function. This anecdote is from the life of Vivekanand. Those days Swami ji was in pravrajya (ascetical wanderings) within India. He had a gurubhai (brother disciple of a common teacher) as companion.
A continuous routine of swadhyaya (self-study), satsang (company of the truth seekers) and rigorous tapa (austerities) was being followed. Whenever he could lay his hand upon a good book, Vivekanand would not miss reading it. In every new place, his first search was a good library, and when he came across one he would make full utilization of its treasures. At one place, in course of this pravrajya, a library impressed him much and he decided to stay at the place for an extended period. His gurubhai would fetch for him a variety of books is Sanskrit and English, which the Swamiji would return the next day after reading them. This routine of issuing fresh books daily and quite voluminous ones at that- and receiving the same the very next day perplexed the librarian.
He enquired of the gurubhai: ” Do you take all these books daily only to took over them cursorily? If so, I will show them to you here itself, why carry so much weight all the way to your place of stay? Hearing this remark of the librarian, the gurubhai replied in all seriousness: “It is not as you think. My gurubhai does read these books seriously before returning them”. Surprised at this reply, the librarian said: “If it is so, I would very much like to meet the gentleman”. The next day, Swamiji met him and said: “Sir, do not be perplexed. I have not only gone through the books, but have also memorized their contents”. Having said so, he handed him back some previously issued books and repeated verbatim many important passages from them. For the librarian, this spectacle was nothing short of a miracle. Very humbly, he asked Swami ji the secret of his super-human memory. Swami ji laughed and said: “There is no miracle or mystery in this. It is simply a technique of mental concentration”.
This technique has certain stages. The first stage is that whatever is read or listened that should be with a calm, composed and concentrated mind. Indeed, the sense organs are mere doors through which messages are sent to the mind. It is the mind which is the real thing. The more the holding power or capability of the mind, the more the information which can be imprinted on it. In fact, memorizing something or recollecting it is but a mere process, which is called memory (smriti). But the storehouse of memory is talent or intelligence (medha). In each individual, this talent exists in direct proportion to his mental composure, tranquility and concentration. For this very reason, things read, heard or seen in a hurry, or in state of instability, or casually and perfunctorily do not register in the mind.
The more clearly and deeply a thing is imprinted on the substratum of mind, the more vivid and detailed its recollection will be. If for some reason, this imprint is not clear in one attempt, the process should be repeated. It will be helpful if the important points are jotted down, since the process of writing, by itself, generates steadiness and concentration.
The third important point in connection with memory power is that one should be conceptually clear about the subject or points which are sought to be memorized, because it is easy to retain in memory those facts or events which touch our inner chord. Interest in and aptitude for the subject matter is another important consideration; again concentration comes as a matter of course when the topic is of interest to us. In addition to all these, an essential requisite is that our nervous system be stable and strong.
Those who lead a regulated and disciplined life are found to have a sharp memory and they can also absorb information very fast. One cannot lay too much emphasize on the distinct correlation between an orderly and disciplined life style and highly developed and sharpened memory as well as creative abilities.