Krishnamurti pointed out that there are three great arts in education. They are listening, looking and learning. When you listen, you can either listen partially because you are preoccupied or because you carry certain prejudices which prevent you from listening completely. When you do listen completely, without any resistance, any prejudices, that is a complete act of learning. You listen to a sound; to silence. One day, years ago, I was walking along with Krishnamurti on Elliot's Beach and he told me that music is the silence between two notes. Then he said, 'This morning some of them were chanting. That chanting was held in silence because there was no pause in between.' To be able to listen is a great human faculty. If you do not listen without resistance, you miss a great deal.
The second great art is looking. You can look at a whole congregation and then at a particular individual. You can look extensively, then at a certain detail. If you look at the whole, then at the parts, you see a relationship between the two. However, most of us bring to it our previous images of thought and of desire. And we always mistake what we see, for the naming process comes in very quickly. But when there is observation without naming, that observation is full and rich. If you observe that way, that which you observe tells you its story. There is an unfolding of what is, because you are looking without the word, without the previous image held in thought.
The third is learning itself. What is learning? Generally, in most schools and colleges learning is associated with memory cultivation, knowledge, information (information is inferior knowledge). To all these, today we add skills. Teachers talk of skills in music, in language, and in computing. Learning is generally acquisition of skills, knowledge and memory. Memory can be cultivated through rote methods. Increasingly, many educators have discovered that rote learning and memory cultivation have a place, however minor it may be. It comes through in mathematics, poetry, singing and so on. But the cultivation of memory itself is limited. Is learning confined to memory cultivation? Or is there something more than that? Memory cultivation can also be done through more interesting methods, such as cross-reference, emotional association, etc.
Whatever the methods, memory, knowledge and skills are the basis of education. Krishnamurti frequently said that the cultivation of memory, however important, is very limited and will become very mechanical soon. So what is the area where there is learning, but where mere memory cultivation will not reach? There are one or two clues which can throw light on this. If you are walking along the seashore and you see a beautiful sunset, having been taken 'unawares, you see the full beauty and grandeur of it and are struck by it for a moment. Then after a few seconds, the memory, the 'me', says, 'Let me grasp the experience again'. But memory, by its very nature, limits the original experience.
So all aesthetic experience is not confined to memory, but has something which is precluded by it. All those who learn music, who are artists, know that there is beauty in learning which cannot be captured by memory, but which can only be interpreted by it. On that level, where memory is not able to have an impact, is insight. Insight is very different from the additive process of memory cultivation where blocks of memory are added on to each other. Is there learning through insight where it is not possible to carry information, knowledge or even skill in memory?
It is very difficult to go into the nature of insight. The first aspect of insight which would interest anybody in teaching or learning is relationship between the whole and the parts. The whole contains the parts, but all the parts do not make up the whole. If you try to analyze the whole and break it up into parts, it only leads to dissection, not learning. The whole, by containing the parts, is more than a summation of the parts; it has something more - the design function and the arrangement of space. This is so whether you take a simple cycle wheel or human nature. The whole contains more than the parts put together. If you laboriously put together all the parts, you may miss the whole. But if you see the whole first, and then see the parts, that is a kind of learning which is very different from memory cultivation.
In the ending of sorrow there is wisdom. You can analyze this sentence, but if you do not see the beauty, the truth of it, you will end up by reducing it to words. That is what happens in many situations. There is a learning which is an immediate perception of the whole, and in that the learning is the doing. There is no division between the two. This is the most interesting aspect of learning and listening.
The second aspect is the ability to see the false as false. Negative comprehension is the highest form of thinking. If you see the false as false, it is like taking off a big load you have been carrying all the time, and you feel free. But if you say, 'I see the false as false and nothing happens to me', then you have not seen it. The perception of the false as false is an integral aspect of insight. And to deny that which is false is an act of intelligence. The third aspect is the extraordinary pliability of renewal, the ability to renew oneself at any moment, without the previous accumulation of memory, prejudice and experience. (I am classifying these into aspects for convenience, not that if you put these three aspects together, there is insight.)
Krishnamurti once asked a student, 'Can you live four seasons in one day?' A child does not need rest; he can play for a long time. There is tremendous activity in spring and summer - flowers, fruits, greenery everywhere. Then there is the setting in of autumn where, especially in temperate climates, the leaves change colour and there is great beauty, softness and mellowness which affect your consciousness if you are alert. Autumn is like the evening, when you are relaxing, folding up. There is great beauty in the evening. Then there is winter and the trees stand naked to the sky. Winter and its fallowness is like dying so that you come back to spring afresh with renewed vitality and vigour. I believe that all great artists, scientists, religious thinkers, have this tremendous sensitivity of renewal, of coming to the present without any aspect of the past.
Krishnamurti was not an educational philosopher like Piaget and others. He was essentially a religious philosopher like the Buddha, and his educational philosophy is the outcome of his religious outlook. So when he talked about silence or listening, he went into poetic rapture. To quote a passage where he was talking about listening and silence from Letters to the Schools, Vol 1, he says:
Attention involves seeing and hearing. We hear not only with our ears, but also we are sensitive to the tones, the voice, the implication of the words. To hear without interference is to capture instantly the depth of a sound. Sound plays an extraordinary part in our lives - the sound of thunder, the sound of a flute playing, the unheard sound of the universe, the sound of silence, the sound of one's heart beating, the sound of a bird, the sound of a man walking on the pavement, the waterfall. The universe is filled with sounds. This sound has its own silence. All living things are involved in this sound of silence. To be attentive is to hear this silence and to move with it.
This obviously implies that in silence and in listening to silence, there is something happening which cannot be put into words. An excerpt from a talk delivered at the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society, Madras 1986.