LETTERS TO SCHOOLS VOLUME ONE 15TH JANUARY, 1979
It is important that the teacher should feel secure both economically and psychologically in these schools. Some teachers may be willing to teach without much concern for their economic position; they may have come for the teachings and for psychological reasons, but every teacher should feel secure in the sense of being at home, cared for, without financial worries. If the teacher himself does not feel secure and therefore not free to give attention to the student and his security, he will not be able to be totally responsible. If the teacher is not in himself happy, his attention will be divided and he will be incapable of exercising his entire capacity.
So it becomes important that we choose the right teachers, inviting each one to stay for some time at our schools to find out whether he or she can happily join in what is being done. This must be mutual. Then the teacher, being happy, secure, feeling that he is at home, can create in the student this quality of security, this feeling that the school is his home.
Feeling at home implies, that there is no sense of fear, that he is protected physically, cared for and free? Protection, though the student may object to the idea of being protected, guarded, does not mean that he is held in a prison, confined and critically watched. Freedom obviously does not mean to do what one likes and it is equally obvious that one can never totally do what one likes. The attempt to do what one likes - so called individual freedom, which is to choose a course of action according to one's desire - has brought about social and economic confusion in the world. The reaction to this confusion is totalitarianism.
Freedom is a very complex affair. One must approach it with utmost attention, for freedom is not the opposite of bondage or an escape from the circumstances in which one is caught. It is not from something, or avoidance of constraint. freedom has no opposite; it is of itself, per se. The very understanding of the nature of freedom is the awakening of intelligence. it is not an adjustment to what is, but the understanding of what is and so going beyond it. If the teacher does not understand the nature of freedom he will only impose his prejudices, his limitations, his conclusions on the student. Thus the student will naturally resist or accept through fear, becoming a conventional human being, whether timid or aggressive. It is only in the understanding of this freedom of living - not the idea of it or the verbal acceptance of it which becomes a slogan - that the mind is free to learn.
A school, after all, is a place where the student is basically happy, not bullied, not frightened by examinations, not compelled to act according to a pattern, a system. It is a place where the art of learning is being taught. If the student is not happy he is incapable of learning this art.
Memorizing, recording information, is considered learning. This brings about a mind that is limited and therefore heavily conditioned. The art of learning is to give the right place to information, to act skilfully according to what is learned, but at the same time not to be psychologically bound by the limitations of knowledge and the images or symbols that thought creates. Art implies putting everything in its right place, not according to some ideal. The understanding of the mechanism of ideals and conclusions is to learn the art of observation. A concept put together by thought, either in the future or according to the past, is an ideal - an idea projected or a remembrance.It is a shadow-play, making an abstraction of the actual. This abstraction is an avoidance of what is happening now. This escape from the fact is unhappiness. Now can we as teachers help the student to be happy in the real sense? Can we help him to be concerned with what is actually going on? This is attention. The student watching a leaf fluttering in the sun is being attentive. To force him back to the book at that moment is to discourage attention; whereas to help him to watch that leaf fully makes him aware of the depth of attention in which there is no distraction. In the same way, because he has just seen what attention implies, he will be able to turn to the book or whatever is being taught. In this attention there is no compulsion, no conformity. It is the freedom in which there is total observation. Can the teacher himself have this quality of attention? Then only can he help another.
For the most part we struggle against distractions. There are no distractions. Suppose you daydream or your mind is wandering; that is what is actually taking place. Observe that. That observation is attention. So there is no distraction.
Can this be taught to the students, can this art be learned? You are totally responsible for the student; you must create this atmosphere of learning, a seriousness in which there is a sense of freedom and happiness.