The first level of learning is called by Gregory Bateson “zero learning.” I love that denomination – zero learning. It is only called learning, it is not really learning. Zero learning means learning something mechanically, computerlike, parrotlike. You don’t really learn anything at all; you only repeat, just like the parrot repeats. You can teach the parrot a prayer and he will repeat it, not knowing at all what he is doing. There is no meaning in it. You may think that there is meaning because those words carry meaning to you.
If you are a Hindu and you have taught the parrot “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama,” he will repeat it, and listening to the parrot you will think there is meaning. That meaning is within you, not in the parrot. The parrot is simply repeating, not knowing what it is. It is purely a mechanical gesture.
It is very unfortunate that much of our so-called learning comes into this first category, zero learning. Our whole educational system is rooted in zero learning: we teach children just to repeat. The better they are in repeating certain things, the more intelligent they are thought to be. We don’t teach them to discover, we don’t teach them to be original, we don’t teach them to invent. We simply teach them to repeat, and if they can repeat well they go on passing examinations.
This creates a very mechanical humanity. Robotlike, people live. They are just machines, because almost ninety percent of what they know belongs to this category: zero learning. They have learned much and yet they have not learned a thing.
Beware of this first level of learning, avoid it. And if you are parents, help your children not to be repetitive but to be original. Sometimes it is better to be wrong and original than to be right and repetitive, because the original will bring intelligence to you. The repetitive, howsoever right, is not going to make you intelligent. And what kind of learning is learning if it doesn’t create intelligence?
Look at the world, look at the whole situation of humanity: it is so unintelligent that it appears there is no learning happening at all. From the K.G. to the university, the whole thing seems to be repetitive. The whole thing seems to be rooted in memory, not in consciousness. It does not help you to become more conscious, more alert. It does not help you to find new answers.
And life goes on changing, life is never the same. You have to respond freshly again and again, and your knowledge does not allow you to act freshly. You go on repeating old clichés, old routines. You go on repeating old answers, and life is asking new questions. Life never asks the same question again. Life is so original: each moment it is new, the situation is new, the challenge is new – and you are old. That’s the misery. You are always lagging behind, you are always missing the train. You reach the station only when the train has left, hence a great feeling of missing. You can look into anybody’s eyes and you can see it: everybody feels he is missing something.