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What does it mean to learn?

We know how to accumulate knowledge; and we know how to discard old knowledge when it gets superseded by some new discovery. But apart from this manipulation of what are essentially material components, do we ever actually learn anything as we go through the course of our lives?

In relationship with one another, for example, what place has learning? There may be a mechanical understanding of other people - their likes and dislikes, their opinions on this and that, their various idiosyncrasies - but do we ever really learn together about the whole significance of these relationships?

And is insight the same as learning? When we see something new and clear about ourselves and about the world, is there anything left over that can be stored away for the next time we meet?

Who is the learner in any relationship with another human being? Who is the one who is learning? Even now, as we settle in for yet another dialogue, is the desire to learn something new an evident and present factor in our conversation? If so, what is it we think we are trying to learn?

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I don’t know - the motive would seem to be an embrace : your words have been heard, they have touched me.

What does it mean to listen? : fearless embrace of the contents of consciousness?

Is learning more about accumulation? Or are you referring to learning as in being open to change?

Yes, that may be something to do with it: open to change. But it is not about changing the old for the new, which is no change at all. The universe is in a state of constant change, isn’t it? Yet historically our whole emphasis as scientists, philosophers, politicians, religious leaders and intellectuals, or even just as average psychological entities, has been to establish unchanging permanence in an idea or a belief. In other words, we have always tended to view change from a very fixed position, which doesn’t seem right.

When we see “something new and clear”, is there a next time? If we see anything new and clear, have we not seen what time is?

One way to look at it: The essence of learning is newness. New skill, new fact, new view, new interpretation, new understanding, new experience, new feeling. New mind and body, moment to moment. In this sense, learning is always taking place.

So are we seeing something new right now? Or are we waiting for time to show us?

Skills, views, interpretations, understandings, experiences and feelings are never new. They only appear to us as new because they are comparable to what came before; they are part of a chain, a product of the old. There is no such thing as a new fact. Our brains are conditioned to operate this way, looking from the perspective of a learner who believes he is free to discover the new amongst the old. All he is doing is adding to the old. There may be a fact and a perception of the fact, but the moment we think of it as new we have already brought it back into the realm of the old.

There may however be a different dimension where there is learning without a learner. This dimension may exist outside of time; and therefore the terms ‘new’ and ‘old’ don’t really have much significance.


Learning without comparison, identity, accumulation or fear.

Would it help to accept that there is no security nor truth in what I know? Even the stuff I think is true. Even that I am me and the sky is blue.

Who is accepting it? It is still me, isn’t it? So in the acceptance of these kinds of ideas there is still a game being played by a self projecting its own ideals of non-self. The learner lives through a process of acceptance and rejection, through a process of elimination, through comparing one piece of evidence against another. Is this learner totally aware of his limitation? While he is caught in any form of process, his learning is limited.

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Yes, all these examples of newness derive ultimately from the past. Some are obvious variations on what has come before, some break with (but still depend on) the past. Even things that seem unprecedented can usually be traced back to their sources.

This seems to be the nature of reality: The present is an extension of the past, nothing happens without causes. These causes might be obvious or might be subtle, but they are always there, somewhere, sometime in the past.

I ended your quote before you qualify it with talk of learner/learned, because that qualification skews the investigation:

Is there a dimension of learning that is not of time?

But the learner is time. He is the result of time past and the hope of time future. He has no meaning or existence outside of time.

Learner/learned is a conditioned response. Krishnamurti and his followers all know the observer/observed, learner/learned, thinker/thought drill by heart. This approach, this way of putting the problem is the past, nothing one could say about it would not be derivative of what has already been discussed up the wazoo.

So let’s look at newness … with newness.

But newness isn’t the problem. The problem is centred around our relationship to the old. This relationship keeps us tied to an idea or image of what the new must mean, of what it must bring with it, of how it must feel, etc. That’s why I am suspicious of any mention of the new or of newness. And the old itself is useless because it is limited. Without the new and the old, is there a learner present?

Just as you are suspicious of talking about the new, I am suspicious about talking about the learner. Both the term ‘newness’ and ‘learner’ arise from the past. And you consider the past to be a dead thing, not worth putting energy into. I’m willing to go with this approach, even though it is not my preferred approach, because it seems so important to you. BUT … if I do this, I need us to apply the approach all the way across the investigation, which means we don’t talk about newness or the learner/learned duality.

Are you willing to look at this tabula rasa, not to rely on any of our habits or formulas?

That is the point. That is learning. The looking is the learning. At what point does our looking cease to be learning?

You realize that this is a radically different understanding of what it means to learn than the conventional understanding, right? For most people, looking is just the first step.

So what happens after the first step?

Striving to understand, contemplating, comparing, reasoning out, looking for flaws, storing in memory, etc. I see these as complex and valuable parts of the process of learning, but if I understand you correctly, you see them as the past and dismiss them, because the past for you is dead and worthless.

You tend to see things out of time, I tend to see things in time. It’s a fundamental difference in perspective. Fortunately, both of us are able to see reasonably well through the other person’s eyes. There’s a lot of talk about love in this forum. Well, that’s love for me: the recognition of the shared source/being that stands behind whatever words we write here, seeing what we have in common.

You are talking about the striving to come to a conclusion, to reach a place of intellectual certainty and security. So you are seeking to go beyond learning into something else, which is the formation of knowledge and the use of knowledge in relationship to the world. While you are listening to a bird or looking at a tree, you are learning everything possible about the beauty of the world. At that moment of listening or looking, you are not there as a separate entity.

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Yes and no. Yes in that I want to end up with some sense of the essence of the thing. No in that I do not see the essence as a final hard conclusion, rather a temporary soft conclusion, a stepping stone in a perhaps endless set of stepping stones. The process of walking those stepping stones, that’s learning for me.

Here we part views again. For me, there is great beauty in the formations that arise in the mind, and I see the mind as part of the world. Listening or looking without thinking reveals beauty, so does listening/looking with thinking.

There definitely is a palpable difference between observing without thinking and observing with thinking. Both seem valuable, each provides its own spin on reality. But, for most of us, observing without thinking happens way more rarely than observing with thinking. Thought wants to be in on everything.