LETTERS TO SCHOOLS VOLUME ONE 1ST DECEMBER, 1978
The whole movement of life is learning. There is never a time in which 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 and if you have observed the actual, the now is not memory. In observation memory has no place. The actual is what is actually happening. The second later is measurable and this is the way of memory.
To observe the movement of an insect needs attention - that is if you are interested in observing the insect or whatever interests you. This attention again is not measurable. It is the responsibility of the educator to understand the whole nature and structure of memory, to observe this 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 secondhand 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 which is the actual living, totally neglected.
To learn the art of living one must have leisure. The word leisure is greatly misunderstood, as we said in our third letter. Generally it means not to be occupied with the things we have to do such as earning a livelihood, going to the office, factory and so on, and only when that is over is there leisure.During that so-called leisure you want to be amused, you want to relax,you want to do the things which you really like or which demand your highest capacity. Your earning a livelihood, whatever you do,is in opposition to so-called leisure. So there is always the strain, the tension and the escape from that tension, and leisure is when you have no strain. During that leisure you 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.
So we come to the question - what is leisure? Leisure, as it is understood, is a respite from the pressure of livelihood. The pressure of earning a living or any pressure imposed on us we generally consider an absence of leisure, but there is a much greater pressure in us, conscious or unconscious, which is desire and we will go into that later.
School is a place of leisure. It is only when you have leisure that you can learn. That is: learning can only take place when there is no pressure of any kind. When a snake or a danger 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 becomes a mechanical response. Leisure implies a mind which 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 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 their life becomes mechanical, almost meaningless. So we must be very clear in the understanding of the word leisure - 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 which can observe. A 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 its fears and anxieties and the looking on tomorrow with dread? Because he himself has understood the nature of leisure and pure observation, so that earning a livelihood does not become a torture, a great travail throughout life, can the teacher help the student to have a non-mechanistic mind? 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.