Saturday, January 22, 2022
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Education is Freedom from Conditioning

Those who are being educated have rather a difficult time with their parents, their Educators and their fellow students: already the tide of struggle, anxiety, fear and competition has swept in. They have to face a world that is overpopulated, with undernourished people, a world of war, increasing terrorism, inefficient governments, corruption and the threat of poverty. This threat is less evident in affluent and fairly well-organised societies, but it is felt in those parts of the world where there is tremendous poverty, overpopulation and the indifference of inefficient rulers. This is the world the young people have to face, and naturally they are really frightened. They have an idea that they should be free, independent of routine, should not be dominated by their elders; and they shy away from all authority. Freedom to them means to choose what they want to do; but they are confused, uncertain and want to be shown what they should do. The student is caught between his own desire for freedom to do what he wants and society’s demands for conformity to its own necessities, that people become engineers, scientists, soldiers or specialists of some kind. This is the world students have to face and become a part of through their education. It is a frightening world. We all want security physically as well as emotionally, and having this is becoming more and more difficult and painful.
The student is caught between his own desire for freedom to do what he wants and society’s demands for conformity.
So we of the older generation, if we at all care for our children, must ask what education is. If education, as it is now, is to prepare children to live in perpetual striving, conflict and fear, we must ask what the meaning of it all is. Is life a movement, a flow of pain and anxiety and the shedding of unshed tears, with occasional flares of joy and happiness? Unfortunately we, the older generation, do not ask these questions, and neither does the Educator. So education, as it is now, is a process of facing a dreary, narrow and meaningless existence. But we want to give a meaning to life. Life appears to have no meaning in itself but we want to give it meaning, so we invent gods, various forms of religion and other entertainments, including nationalism and ways to kill each other, in order to escape from our monotonous life. This is the life of the older generation and will be the life of the young.
We the Parents and Educators have to face this fact and not escape into theories, seeking further forms of education and structures. If our minds are not clear about what we are facing, we shall inevitably, consciously or unconsciously, slip into the inaction of wondering what to do about it. There are a thousand people who will tell us what to do: the specialists and the cranks. Before we understand the vast complexity of the problem, we want to operate upon it. We are more concerned to act than to see the whole issue.
The real issue is the quality of our mind; not its knowledge but the depth of the mind that meets knowledge. Mind is infinite, is the nature of the Universe, which has its own order, has its own immense energy. It is everlastingly free. The brain, as it is now, is the slave of knowledge and so is limited, finite and fragmentary. When the brain frees itself from its conditioning, the brain is infinite. Then only is there no division between the mind and the brain. Education then is freedom from conditioning, from the vast accumulated knowledge of tradition. This does not deny the value of academic disciplines, which have their own proper place in life.
You come to these schools with your own background, traditional or free, with discipline or without discipline, obeying or reluctant and disobeying, in revolt or conforming. Your parents are either negligent or very diligent about you. Some may feel very responsible, others may not. You come with all this trouble, with broken families, uncertain or assertive, wanting your way or shyly acquiescing but inwardly rebelling.
In these schools you are free, and all the disturbances of your young lives come into play. You want your own way and no one in the world can have his or her own way. You have to understand this very seriously; you cannot have your own way. Either you learn to adjust with understanding, with reason, or you are broken by the new environment you have entered. It is very important to understand this. The essence of learning is constant movement without a fixed point.
In these schools the Educators explain things carefully and you can discuss with them, have a dialogue and see why certain things have to be done. When one lives in a small community of teachers and students it is necessary that they have a good relationship with each other that is friendly, affectionate and has a certain quality of attentive comprehension. No one, especially nowadays living in a free society, likes rules, but rules become totally unnecessary when you and the grown-up Educator understand, not only verbally and intellectually but with your heart, that certain disciplines are necessary. The word discipline has been ruined by the authoritarians. Each craft has its own discipline, its own skill. The word discipline comes from the word disciple which means to learn: to learn, not to conform, not to rebel, but to learn about your own reactions and your own background and how those limit you, and to go beyond them.
The essence of learning is constant movement without a fixed point. If its point becomes your prejudice, your opinions and conclusions, and you start from this handicap, then you cease to learn. Learning is infinite. The mind that is constantly learning is beyond all knowledge. So you are here to learn as well as to communicate.
Communication is not only the exchange of words, however articulate and clear those words may be; it is much deeper than that. Communication is learning from each other, understanding each other; and this comes to an end when you have taken a definite stand about some trivial or not fully thought-out act.
When one is young, there is an urge to conform, not to feel out of things. To learn the nature and implications of conformity brings its own peculiar discipline. Please always bear in mind when we use that word discipline that both the Student and the Educator are in a relationship of learning, not assertion and acceptance. When this is clearly understood, rules become unnecessary. When this is not clear, then rules have to be made. You may revolt against rules, against being told what to do or not to do, but when you quickly understand the nature of learning, rules will disappear altogether. It is only the obstinate, the self-assertive, who bring about rules – thou shalt and thou shalt not.
A mind that is learning is a free mind, and freedom demands the responsibility of learning.
Learning is not born out of curiosity. You may be curious about sex. That curiosity is based on pleasure, on some kind of excitement, on the attitudes of others. The same applies to drinking, drugs and smoking. Learning is far deeper and more extensive. You learn about the Universe not out of pleasure or curiosity, but out of your relationship to the world. We have divided learning into separate categories depending on the demands of society or your own personal inclination. We are not talking of learning about something, but the quality of the mind that is willing to learn. You can learn how to become a good carpenter or a gardener or an engineer. When you have acquired skill in these, you have narrowed down your mind into a tool that can function perhaps skillfully in a certain pattern. This is what is called learning. This gives a certain security financially, and perhaps that is all one wants, so we create a society which provides what we have asked of it. But when there is this extra quality of learning that is not about something, then you have a mind and, of course, a heart that are timelessly alive.
Discipline is not control or subjugation. Learning implies attention; that is, to be diligent. It is only the negligent mind that is never learning. It is forcing itself to accept when it is shallow, careless and indifferent. A diligent mind is actively watching, observing, never sinking into second-hand values and beliefs. A mind that is learning is a free mind, and freedom demands the responsibility of learning. The mind that is caught in its own opinions, that is entrenched in some knowledge, may demand freedom, but what it means by freedom is the expression of its own personal attitudes and conclusions – and when this is thwarted it cries for self-fulfillment. Freedom has no sense of fulfillment. It is free.
So when you come to these schools or to any school in fact, there must be this gentle quality of learning, and with it goes a great sense of affection. When you are really, deeply affectionate you are learning.

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