Learning : The change in ourselves

18th February,1990

My dear Pranav,

I wrote two letters to you which were perhaps difficult in their arguments, but I could not help it. Now, I believe, this one will be pretty simple. Once you climb the hill top, the entire scene is beautiful and simple.

Vinoba has given us so many ideas about education. The first and the most important is an idea from the Upanishads. It is "Aum Purnat Purna Mudicyate." When you learn, you grow from fullness to fullness. It sounds silly. But that is the beauty of Hindu thought. If I tell you that you grow from the incomplete to the complete, you find it easy to understand, but you also grow from the complete to the complete (1 ).

Let us look at it this way. You are a young child. But are you not complete? Last year also you were complete. Your mother is also complete. Your grandfather is also complete. Next year you will be a taller or a bigger boy. Still, you are complete today and you will remain complete next year. But you will be more complete. Your growth will be from smaller complete to the larger complete, but you will be complete at both times. You will not grow from the incomplete to the complete, but from the complete to the complete.

Take another instance. Draw a small circle on a paper with your compass. Put it under a looking glass. It looks bigger, but it is the same circle. You see a bigger and clearer circle. But the circle remains the same. You only see it better.

Education or learning does the same trick. The world, things and people are the same around us. But we see them better, we look at them better. We know them better. The reality is the same but we become better. Learning changes us. It does not change things. That is what school should do to you. In fact, the English word educate comes from its root "educare", which means "to draw out". The school or a teacher draws out from you. The things are already in you. Education or learning draws more and more out of you.

That is what a good teacher does. In the Vedas, the teacher is called "gatu vit". He is the path finder, he shows you the way, he breaks the path and shows you the way, he cannot walk for you. You have to do the walking. Your mother can cook for you, she cannot eat for you. You yourself have to eat. If you want to be strong and healthy you have to eat good food, you have to eat regularly and you have to take exercise. By seeing TV or pictures or reading you cannot develop a good body. You have to do something for it.

The teacher is like a signpost or finger post which tells you where that road will take you. But it cannot do the walking for you. You have to do that yourself.

According to Vinoba, learning is a part of living. Learning is not different from living. When you eat, you are learning. When your mother cooks food she is using chemistry. How is water boiled? What happens when you boil water? How is the steam created? What happens if you touch a hot pot? How is dahi (curd) prepared? All this is called chemistry. Start looking at it that way, then it is not learning, it is no more trouble. It becomes fun. Vinoba's idea was that learning means living.

How about finding the meaning of the word sweet by eating some jilebi? That's it. Please keep some sweets for me to understand the meaning of the word "sweet".

With love,


L. N. Godbole