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Chapter 7 - The whole movement of life is learning
The whole movement of life is learning. There is never a time when there is no learning. Every action is a movement of learning, and every relationship is learning. The accumulation of knowledge, which is called learning and to which we are so accustomed, is necessary to a limited extent, but that limitation prevents us from comprehending ourselves. Knowledge is measurable, more or less, but in learning there is no measure. This is really very important to understand, especially if you are to grasp the full meaning of a religious life. Knowledge is memory, but-if you have observed-the actual, the now is not memory. In observation, memory has no place. The actual is what is actually happening now; the second later is measurable and is the way of memory.
If you are interested in observing the movement of an insect or whatever interests you, attention is needed. This attention also is not measurable. It is the responsibility of the educator to understand the whole nature and structure of memory, to observe its limitation, and to help the student to see this. We learn from books or from a teacher who has a great deal of information about a subject, and our brains are filled with this information. This information is about things, about nature, about everything outside of us; and when we want to learn about ourselves we turn to books that tell about ourselves. So this process goes on endlessly, and gradually we become second-hand human beings. This is an observable fact throughout the world. And this is our modern education.
The act of learning, as we have pointed out, is the act of pure observation, and this observation is not held within the limitation of memory. We learn to earn a living but we never live. The capacity to earn a living takes most of our life; we have hardly any time for other things. We find time for gossip, to be entertained, to play, but all this is not living. There is a whole field that is actual living which is totally neglected.
To learn the art of living one must have leisure. The word leisure is greatly misunderstood. Generally, it means not to be occupied with the usual things we have to do, such as earning a livelihood, going to the office or factory and so on. Then, only when that is over is there leisure. During that so-called leisure, we want to be amused, we want to relax, we want to do the things that we really like or that demand our highest capacity. Earning a livelihood at whatever we do is in opposition to so-called leisure. So there is always strain, tension and the effort to escape from that tension. Then, leisure is when you we have no strain. During that leisure we pick up a newspaper, open a novel, chatter, play, and so on. This is the actual fact. This is what is going on everywhere. Earning a livelihood is the denial of living. Leisure, as it is understood, is a respite from the pressure of livelihood. We generally consider the pressure of earning a living or any pressure imposed on us to be an absence of leisure. There is a much greater pressure in us, conscious or unconscious, which is desire.
School is a place of leisure. It is only when you have leisure that you can learn. That is, learning can take place only when there is no pressure of any kind. When a danger, like a snake, confronts you, there is a kind of learning from the pressure of the fact of that danger. The learning under that pressure is the cultivation of memory, which will help you to recognise future danger, and so it becomes a mechanical response.
Leisure implies that a mind is not occupied. It is only then that there is a state of learning. School is a place of learning, and not merely a place for accumulating knowledge. This is really important to understand. As we said, knowledge is necessary and has its own limited place in life. Unfortunately, this limitation has devoured all our lives, and we have no space for learning. We are so occupied with earning our livelihood that it takes all the energy of the mechanism of thought, so that we are exhausted at the end of the day and need to be stimulated. We recover from this exhaustion through entertainment-religious or otherwise. This is the life of human beings. Human beings have created a society which demands all their time, all their energies, all their life. There is no leisure to learn, and so life becomes mechanical, almost meaningless. So we must be very clear in the understanding of the word leisure: it is a time, a period when the mind is not occupied with anything whatsoever. It is the time of observation. It is only the unoccupied mind that can observe. Free observation is the movement of learning. This frees the mind from being mechanical.
So can the teacher, the educator help the student to understand this whole business of earning a livelihood with all its pressure, the learning that helps you to acquire a job with all the accompanying fears and anxieties and looking on tomorrow with dread? Because the teacher has understood the nature of leisure and pure observation, can the teacher help the student to have a non-mechanical mind, so that earning a livelihood does not become a torture, a great travail throughout life?
It is the absolute responsibility of the teacher to cultivate the flowering of goodness in leisure. For this reason the schools exist. It is the responsibility of the teacher to create a new generation, to change the social structure from its total preoccupation with earning a livelihood. Then teaching becomes a holy act.