Learning is probably most seminal aspect of any life. If one believes in the evolution theory, you can attribute the emergence of Homo sapiens entirely largely to the process of learning. The question that one can ask is – if learning is built into our very genes, why this hullabaloo about education? As the most evolved being (even if by our own admission!) there is a need to bring the finer aspects of this process to the fore of our consciousness. One such aspect is the continuously evolving cycle of learning. To understand this an old Sanskrit subhashita (unconfirmed source: Udyoga Parva of Mahabharata) gives us a great insight into the process.
AchAryAt pAdamAdatte, pAdam shiShyaH swamedhayA |
sa-brahmachAribhyaH pAdam, pAdam kAlakrameNa cha ||
A quarter from the teacher, a quarter from learner’s own intelligence
A quarter from the co-learners, and a quarter from the passage of time…
To truly appreciate the value of this subhashita, one needs to delve a bit deeper and a more bit wider for a complete understanding, most critical of that being the cycle of learning.
A teacher being the initiator of learning is an indisputable truth, the first teachers could be one’s parents, siblings, social connects or the formal school teacher one had at the start our life. This also signifies that learning is first a process of absorbing. Science is just beginning to understand the impact of early learning in our build up to a mature adult. During this part of learning, we develop the medium, the context and the structure for learning. Bear that this goes on to provide the foundation of all learning in the future. If we were not fortunate enough to be born in an intellectually and economically endowed family, the chances are that our learning process is constantly playing a catching up game with those who had this fortune. One of the reason why we see the need to advocate for “affirmative action” or class based quota and offer a privilege of access to people who were not fortunate enough to compensate for the foundational learning component.
As one absorbs the foundation to learning the path for synthesizing future learning develops. The learner’s intelligence that evolves with the first quarter of learning is the backbone or the complete support mechanism for additional learning. It is built upon a learners’ foundations of context and structure intertwined with one’s awareness (to take notice of opportunities to learn), inquisitiveness (ask questions and fill our learning gaps) and ability to interconnect (linking them to the existing learning to make new learning relevant and accessible). This is what gives one the label of being an expert (master of a field) or a novice (a beginner).
As one matures, the learner begins to appreciate the pervasiveness of learning. She can learn from her peers who are all equally initiated into their own pursuit of knowledge. She would learn to respect this pursuit of others and learn to live in a society where multiple points of views co-exists. She gains respect and learns to respect others, their perspectives, likes & dislikes. The harmonious co-existence of differing (sometimes contrary) views builds the critical acceptance of plurality. This learning is also the layer of revalidation and acceptance.
However any learning can never be complete nor can it cease to evolve. In the cycle of time a learner begins to expand their knowledge, understands its relevance, general applicability and learns to question one’s own thinking. By definition learning is about changing and therefore a dynamic concept. The need to improve, pursue perfection and persevere the quest to challenge the unknown continuously keeps the learner involved in timeless pursuit of learning. This is the layer of continuous development of learning.
Once we go through this understanding we reach a deeper understanding of the virtuous cycle of learning. We become a teacher for the future generations. Most importantly we learn that we learn the most when we teach. It is then just a cycle that learning quarters are, probably the bases of the baseball where you play different roles depending on which base you are on. The critical realization hidden in this metaphor is the fact that soon enough the two players would be exchanging roles when the innings switches!
Thanks JK (Unimity) for reminding me of this timeless piece!