You are here

Chapter 70 - Learning is discipline

Chapter 70 - Learning is discipline

Facebook iconTwitter icon
The Whole Movement of Life is Learning

When you look around you, not so much in the human world as in nature, in the heavens, you see an extraordinary sense of order, balance and harmony. Every tree and flower has its own order, its own beauty; every hilltop and every valley has a sense of its own rhythm and stability. Though man tries to control the rivers and pollutes their waters, they have their own flow, their own far-reaching movement. Apart from man, in the seas, in the air and the vast expanse of the heavens there is an extraordinary sense of purity and orderly existence. Though the fox kills the chicken, and the bigger animals live on the little animals, what appears to be cruelty is a design of order in this universe, except for man. When man doesn't interfere, there is great beauty of balance and harmony. This harmony can exist only in freedom, not in restriction and not in conflict.

Everything in nature has its season, its dying and rebirth. It is only man that lives in confusion, in conflict, in disorder. If you have watched in a wood, all the living things have their instinctual ways, their own pattern of life which is immemorial and endless. But man is shaped by his selfishness, and his so- called spontaneity is within the field of his self-interest. He is shaped and controlled by the culture, the environment in which he lives. Society tells him what to do; the elders try to shape the minds of the young to conform, to obey and to live in a very small space both outwardly and inwardly. reform is the breaking of one pattern only to conform to another. We live a very short life, in conflict, in fear and sorrow. Only when we are very young do we seem to be utterly happy and unconcerned. All this soon fades, and then begins the weary conflict of existence.

In all this turmoil there is neither freedom nor the order of spontaneity, for freedom is a great sense of spontaneity. In society, in the family, in a school, if there is no order there is no relationship. And yet we want a relationship which is really an attachment to another without an inward sense of harmony, wholeness, integrity. If you walk past a parade ground you see the poor soldier being drilled day after day by the beat of the drum and the voice of the sergeant to obey, to conform and to follow. He is made into a machine to kill and to protect himself. In similar ways from childhood we are drilled to protect ourselves by conforming to the old or to the new. This drilling goes on in the office, in the workshop, in the church, in the school. This is called order, and this is what concerns most parents. This has been going on for generation after generation, and the gap between two generations is only an interval in which a new pattern takes shape.

Is it not possible to have order without effort, without the strife between those who see that order is necessary and those who rebel against any form of compulsion? Is there an order without conformity? Is there an action that does not lead to routine and boredom? This is one of the problems in our world of relationship. Every intelligent person, whether old or young, sees that order is necessary: getting up, learning, playing, and so on. If you want to be a good golfer, you must swing the club in a certain way; if you want to be a good swimmer you must learn the strokes. Learning to be a good golfer or tennis player brings its own natural movement of control. This control is not imposed by anyone but the very movement of the hand and arm, of the body is infinitely orderly and subtle. Each trade has its own discipline and learning is the discipline.

Discipline is an unfortunate word. In it are implied drill, practice, conformity, subjugation, restraint, and the conflict of indolence. The dictionary meaning of the word discipline is to learn-only to learn and nothing else. If you do not want to learn, then parents, the school, society force you to conform whether you like it or not. However new the society may be, it forces you to fit in. The religious have thrived on this through fear and reward. Either you learn through spontaneous interest or you are driven, compelled to learn. When you are compelled to learn, then your knowledge is mechanical and you use that knowledge mechanically. Then you complain that life has no meaning, and you try to escape through various illusions, through daydreaming or fanciful words. Night-clubs, the weekend recreation, the holidays are the trivia of escape. You have narrowed down your life to the family and the responsibility it brings, to endless work and to the inevitable.

Learning without reward or punishment is quite another matter. If you understand and see this very clearly, when you play football, cricket, or when you are studying a subject, you will find that learning frees the mind rather than shapes it. Knowledge by itself shapes the mind, and so the mind becomes old. The schools and universities are making minds old. They condition conformity, for knowledge has become all-important-not learning but acquiring knowledge. It is an old mind that conforms, not the mind that is always learning. In this learning there is freedom in which knowledge can be used when it is needed. There are encyclopaedias, there are computers, so do not make your mind merely the storehouse of the past. This is order.

Questioner: Do you mean to say that I don't have to acquire knowledge of any subject, that I don't have to study?

Krishnamurti: Not at all. When you put that question, what is behind it? Is it that you don't want to study because it bores you? Or are you asking how to learn, that is, how to pay attention? When you don't want to pay attention, don't pay attention. What is important is to have a mind that has never been shaped in conflict, in wanting and not-wanting to pay attention. In that there is conflict. If you want to look out of the window, look out of the window completely without the conflict of saying you must look at the book. Look out of the window with your eyes, your ears, your mind and heart. Then when you look at the book in front of you, whatever the subject may be, look at it in the same way that you looked out of the window. You will if you have no conflict. This is the primary thing to learn-never under any circumstances to have a conflict. Because you have learned to look out of the window freely, without any restraint or compulsion, you will look at the book in the same manner, because this is learning. Both are learning-looking out of the window and looking at the book. Learning to be free from conflict is not indifference or allowing yourself to do nothing.

Q: If I get rid of conflict I will then do just what I enjoy.

K: Can you really do what you want? Isn't what you want a reaction to what you have been told to do? Is what you want free of the structure of the society in which you live? What you want is the pursuit of your particular pleasure. Then you will develop a double standard of life. Secretly you will pursue pleasure and openly you will be forced by the culture in which you live to conform to the respectable. So you are developing conflict, wanting your pleasures and not being able to have them, or having them and paying for it. All this obviously maintains conflict. Learning about conflict is the understanding of this whole pattern of the behaviour of pleasure.

Q: Are you denying me pleasure?

K: On the contrary. If I were to deny you pleasure, you would fight, you would become violent. You would find a means to fulfil your pleasure, and so again you would be caught in conflict. We are always caught between punishment and reward, which is fear; to learn about it is freedom from conflict.

Q: Are you saying that discipline is wrong?

K: No we are not saying that.

Q: Then why do we have rules?

K: Have you listened to what has been said about this question of discipline? Or have you only listened to the part that pleases you? If you have only half-listened, you have drawn a conclusion or an idea, and from that you are going to act or not act according to what pleasure dictates. We said that order is necessary. The whole universe functions in order except man. Man has allowed himself to live in this contradictory condition and from this arises all his misery. Do look at it all in a different way, not in terms of pleasure and punishment, but seeing a way of living in which every form of conflict comes to an end. You have to learn about this and the very learning creates its own order.