Chapter 15: From zero learning to learning zero

Question 2



Energy Enhancement                Enlightened Texts                Kabir                The Guest



The second question:

Question 2



LEARNING, in the first place, is not knowledge. Let us start from negating, from eliminating; let us first say what learning is not.

Learning is not knowledge. Learning has become too much identified with knowledge. It is just the opposite of knowledge. The more knowledgeable a person is, the less he is capable of learning. Hence children are more capable of learning than grown-ups. And if the grown-ups also want to remain learners, they have to go on forgetting whatsoever they have learned. Whatsoever has become knowledge in them, they have to go on dying to it. If you collect your knowledge your inner space becomes too heavy with the past. You accumulate too much garbage.

Learning happens only when there is spaciousness. The child has that spaciousness, innocence. The beauty of the child is that he functions from the state of not-knowing, and that is the fundamental secret of learning: functioning from the state of not-knowing.

Watch, see, observe, but never form a conclusion. If you have already arrived at a conclusion, learning stops. If you already know, what is there to learn? Never function from the ready-made answer that you have arrived at from the scriptures, universities, teachers, parents, or maybe your own experience.

All that you have known has to be discarded in favor of learning. Then you will go on growing, then there is no end to growth. Then a person goes on remaining childlike, innocent, full of wonder and awe to the very end. Even when he is dying he continues learning. He learns life, he learns death. And the person who has learned life and learned death goes beyond both; he moves to the transcendental.

Learning is receptivity, learning is vulnerability. Learning is openness, open-endedness.

Learning can be divided into many categories. I would like to divide it into eight levels, eight planes.

The first level of learning is called by Gregory Bateson 'zero learning'. I love that denomination -- zero learning. It is only CALLED learning, it is not really learning. Zero learning means learning something mechanically, computerlike, parrot-like. You don't really learn anything at all; you only repeat, just like the parrot repeats. You can teach the parrot a prayer and he will repeat it, not knowing at all what he is doing. There is no meaning in it. You may think that there is meaning because those words carry meaning to

If you are a Hindu and you have taught the parrot'Hare Krishna, Hare Rama', he will repeat it, and listening to the parrot you will think there is meaning. That meaning is within you, not in the parrot. The parrot is simply repeating, not knowing what it is. It is purely a mechanical gesture.

It is very unfortunate that much of our so-called learning comes into this first category, zero learning. Our whole educational system is rooted in zero learning: we teach children just to repeat. The better they are in repeating certain things, the more intelligent they are thought to be. We don't teach them to discover, we don't teach them to be original, we don't teach them to invent. We simply teach them to repeat, and if they can repeat well they go on passing examinations.

This creates a very mechanical humanity. Robot-like, people live. They are just machines, because almost ninety percent of what they know belongs to this category: zero Learning. They have learned much and vet they have not learned a thing.

Beware of this first level of learning, avoid it. And if you are parents, help your children not to be repetitive but to be original. Sometimes it is better to be wrong and original than to be right and repetitive, because the original will bring intelligence to you. The repetitive, howsoever right, is not going to make you intelligent. And what kind of learning is learning if it doesn't create intelligence?

Look at the world, look at the whole situation of humanity: it is so unintelligent that it appears there is no learning happening at all. From the K.cT. to the university, the whole thing seems to be repetitive. The whole thing seems to be rooted in memory, not in consciousness. It does not help you to become more conscious, more alert. It does not help you to find new answers.

And life goes on changing, life is never the same. You have to respond freshly again and again, and your knowledge does not allow you to act freshly. You go on repeating old cliches, old routines. You go on repeating old answers, and life is asking new questions. Life never asks the same question again. Life is so original: each moment it is new, the situation is new, the challenge is new -- and you are old. That's the misery. You are always lagging behind, you are always missing the train! You reach the station only when the train has left, hence a great feeling of missing. You can look into anybody's eyes and you can sec it: everybody feels he is missing something.

What are you missing? You are missing life itself, because there is a gap between you and life. Life requires you to be original, and your educational system, your society, your culture, requires you to be repetitive. Your culture is more interested in efficiency than in intelligence, so you are efficient. You have ready-made answers for everything. Your mind is nothing but a filing system; your mind functions like a computer. You have not yet learned how to function like a man.

The second level of learning is learning one: it is purposive. The first learning has no purpose in it, because you function mechanically and machines cannot have purposes. The second learning has purpose: learning one. It has a sense of direction, although the sense of direction is unconscious. You are not clear about it, you are not conscious about it. You function like a plant, like a tree. I he tree has a certain sense of direction, it knows where the sun is, it moves, but the movement is instinctive.

In African jungles trees go very high. They have to go, because if they remain low they will die. They will never be able to absorb sunrays; they will miss Vitamin D. They have to struggle to go higher and higher and higher. You bring the same trees to India and they don't go that high. Give them good soil, good manure, water, everything, but they don't go. There is no need -- the sun is available so easily, why should they bother?

The second layer is like trees, the first is like machines; the second is far better. From the second you start becoming alive. Our bodies function in the second way, instinctively. The body has an instinctive wisdom, but there is no need to remain confined to it; it is a very low stage of Learning. Just to be a tree is not of much significance, it is not life; rather it is vegetating.

The second level of learning I call 'learning one', because learning starts from the second level.

And the third level of learning I call 'learning two'. With it you become a little bit conscious. You start functioning like animals, not like trees. You can move, the trees are rooted. They have a little freedom of going up, changing their direction, growing in certain directions, not growing in certain directions, but they are rooted. They don't have a will, they can't move.

The third level of learning -- that is learning two -- is a little bit conscious. Some intelligence has arisen. Animals start behaving in a more intelligent way: it is vaguely conscious of purpose. It is a twilight phenomenon. It is between consciousness and unconsciousness; you can call it 'subconscious'. It is the beginning of real intelligence, just the beginning.

Many people have remained with zero learning, very few move to learning one, an even lesser number move to learning two.

The fourth level of learning I call 'learning three 'conscious direction, meaningful existence. You don't simply go on drifting like wood. You are no more at the mercy of the winds and the waves. You have a goal, you know where you are going, you know why you are going -- a clearcut sense of direction. Life starts becoming more a discipline.

The word 'discipline' really means learning, hence the word 'disciple' -- one who is capable of Learning. REAL learning starts with learning three. Very rarely, very few people come to this point. Only very few fortunate people exist with a clearcut direction, move not accidentally. Ordinarily people are just moving accidentally.

Just a few days ago I was reading the autobiography of a Jewish poet. He begins his autobiography by saying, "My birth was an accident. My father was travelling in a train; the train was late. He arrived at the station, his destination, in the middle of the night. No taxis were available, all taxis had already left. Snow was falling." It was so cold and so dark and he was feeling so lonely. He looked around for somebody to talk to, to find a way to reach the hotel, or to see whether he could manage to stay the night at the station.

The woman who ran the cafe there was just closing it. He asked her for a cup of coffee, the woman gave him a cup of coffee. She was also alone. And then he said he was in a fix -- no taxis available. He would like to reach to some hotel to sleep, he was tired. The woman said, "Why don't you come with me in my car? I can take you to the hotel."

And he went in the car with the woman, and this is how their friendship started. When they reached the hotel, the hotel was closed, so the woman said, "You come and stay with me." So he stayed with the woman. fell in love with the woman. After a few days they got married, and this poet was born.

Now he says, "My birth was just an accident. If the train had not been late I would not have been born at all. If the train had been a little more late, just a few minutes, and if the woman had left, I would not have been born at all. If the hotel had still been open, I would Not be in the world at all."

This is how ordinary life goes on: just accidental, no definite goal, no definite direction, no star there far away calling you forth so that you can manage not to go zig-zag but straight.

The fifth level of learning I call 'learning four'. It is not only conscious of a direction, it is conscious of consciousness itself. It is learning four that becomes meditation. That's what we are doing here: it is learning four -- making you conscious of your consciousness.

To be conscious of a goal is one thing: you are objective. You are not conscious of your consciousness, you are simply conscious of the goal. That is the function of the ordinary school, college, university: to make you conscious of a goal-oriented life.

The function of a mystery school -- a mystery school just like this -- is higher than the function of a university. Its function is to make you conscious of your consciousness. To be conscious of one's consciousness is meditation; it is the first step to being really human.

Learning three is the beginning of being human. Learning four is attaining humanity, is attaining manhood; it is attaining maturity. But this is not the end.

The sixth level of learning, learning five, gives you glimpses of the divine, SATORI. That is the purpose of meditation, of DHYANA: to bring you to the glimpses of the beyond... because man is not the end. Man himself is only a means, a passage, a bridge -- don't make your house on the bridge. The bridge is not for the house to be made on; it has to be passed. Man has to be surpassed.

Friedrich Nietzsche is reported to have said: The greatest day in humanity's life will be when man becomes absolutely aware of surpassing himself. And the worst day, the greatest calamity, will be the day when man forgets how to surpass himself.

Man is an arrow on the bow. It should not remain there on the bow; it has to leave the bow, it has to move. Man is a pilgrimage.

First become conscious of your consciousness. And in that very becoming, in that very silence -- when you are only conscious of your consciousness and not of any other content -- no thought, no desire, no dream -- -you are just conscious of your being conscious, the mirror is reflecting itself and nothing else... in that moment, something IMMENSELY miraculous happens. You become aware of the divine, you become aware of the essential core of your being.

That is learning five, the sixth level of learning. It gives you glimpses of no-self. It gives you glimpses of the beyond. It makes you aware that man is not the end, that man is only a step. You become aware of the temple. You become aware of the mystery of existence, of the eternity of life, of deathlessness, of timelessness. This is the point where one starts feeling that God is.

The seventh level of learning,'learning six', Patanjali calls SAVIKALPA SAMADHI. YOU have attained to the glimpse of the ultimate; not only is it a glimpse, now it is settling, crystallizing, becoming substantial, not only a shadow -- but there is still a possibility of losing it. He calls it SAVIKALPA SAMADHI. SAVIKALPA means still there is some lingering thought; not ordinary thoughts, but a new kind of thought, that "I have arrived," that "I have attained," that I am fulfilled" -- a very purified ego, a very pious ego, very subtle. Like the fragrance of a flower, you cannot catch hold of it.

One has to be very, very careful. Otherwise the seeker stops at learning six, and one thinks one has come home... because one feels God's presence, one is tremendously happy, as one has never been. One knows there is no death, all fear disappears -- but one is still there!

A disciple of a Zen Master was meditating for twenty years. Again and again he would bring his experiences, and the Master would throw him out saying, "This is all rubbish! Go again and meditate! Unless you can come with the experience of nothing, don't come to me."

And one day it happened; the experience of nothing happened. He felt no-being, a deep nothingness, nobody inside. He was tremendously happy. He went running to the Master, fell at his feet, and said, "It has happened -- I have seen nothingness!"

The Master said, "Get out! Get out immediately! because if you have seen nothingness, you are still there. This is not true nothingness -- something of you still has roots. Only come to me when there is nobody even to say that 'I have known nothingness'."


And then years passed, and the disciple didn't turn up. Then one day the Master had to go to the disciple. The disciple was sitting underneath a tree, playing on his flute. The Master went close. The disciple continued playing on the flute as if nobody had come. The Master blessed him and said, "NOW it has happened! Now you are utterly unconcerned. Now you don't claim. Now it has become so natural that there is no idea of 'I'."

At the seventh level of learning, learning six, you feel nothingness, but you feel it. That is the last barrier: the 'I'.

The eighth level of learning I call 'learning zero'. The first I called 'zero learning' the last I call 'learning zero'. Patanjali calls it NIRVIKALPA SAMADHI, NIRBEEJ SAMADHI, seedless SAMADHI. Now even the seed is burnt, nothing is left. You are gone forever. You are no more, only God is. Not that you know God is; you are not separate to know. There is no duality, there is no l-thou, there is only God. This is the moment of primal silence.

These are the eight levels of learning. Move from zero learning to learning zero, and the circle is complete. People are encaged in the first, zero learning, and they have to be freed from there. And the ultimate is learning zero. Hence Buddha called the ultimate SHUNYA, zero.

Vedant, you ask me, " WHAT IS LEARNING?"

Learning is the movement from zero learning to learning zero.


Next: Chapter 15: From zero learning to learning zero, Question 3


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Chapter 15






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