The Culture of Learning
One Must Be Humble Before Obtaining
Wisdom, and Humbler After Acquiring It
N. C. Ramanujachary
What Is Learning?
Acquirement of new knowledge, from time to time, is a basic urge with human beings. One is never satisfied with what is known; there is always an inner urge to know the unknown. While unknown factors are revealed in course of time, effort and exploration there develops a feeling, rightly, that the things not known as yet are knowable henceforward. To be informed and educated into this momentarily unknown matters goes by the name Learning.
Learning is a continuous process. It is also the culmination of one’s learning process, a knowledge one gets by reading and studying. Grammar says Learning is a noun made out of the verb ‘Learn’ which has various meanings:
1. To gain knowledge or skill by studying, from experience, from being taught etc.;
2. To become aware of a thing by hearing about it;
3. To study and repeat in order to be able to remember and memorize;
4. Gradually change one’s attitude towards someone or thing so that one behaves in a different way.
Learner becomes the Learned, at one stage, on a particular subject, as he absorbs what all that could be, into his being.
The learner is also a student. Student brings up a Master. Student-Master relationship is very peculiar and unique in matters of Study and Learning. Study cannot stop with the acquisition of a degree and an employment. Study needs observation, patience, ability to assimilate and similar traits if it has to be meaningful and purposeful.
Reading and studying are different phases of one exercise. Study involves deep reflection, contemplation, examination of ins and outs, inference, and ultimately adoption or absorption. Study includes all ramifications of Life and Living. It is not limited to book-study but is suggestive of all Nature around, Life patterns and Relationships. It is common knowledge today that mere book-knowledge is inadequate, and that what is needed is the application in the right way of what one studies and observes in total.
A Civilization Exercise
Learning is a civilizational exercise for humanity. The process of learning started long back, perhaps in the third root-race, in distinct form. From gestures and signs, humanity moved on to words, language, script and similar skills. These are brought forward race after race, as we know visibly generation after generation; and there is decided improvement towards perfection. This will go on till the targeted perfection is achieved conveniently and comfortably. We have accounts of Atlantic civilization which archeologists claim to be far advanced and commendable compared to the present state of being. We have scriptural texts of antiquity that are imprints of the earlier civilizations. Passing on this valuable and utilitarian information to the onward civilizations is what we call ‘Culture’.
Probing further into the process, we could infer the transference of civilization or culture could not be possible unless humanity has the inherent quality or capacity to culture the Learning. This is added on to the assimilated culture what is learned. We have the equipment for learning, assimilating and ultimately carrying on the culture to its logical ends. Culturing the learning means the meditation of the reflected factors of learning. The ultimate of all learning leads to the acquirement of knowledge which Helena Blavatsky expresses in the following terms:
“The radical unity of the ultimate essence of each constituent part of compounds in Nature - from Star to mineral Atom, from the highest Dhyan Chohan to the smallest infusoria, in the fullest acceptation of the term, and whether applied to the spiritual, intellectual or physical worlds - this is the one fundamental law in Occult Science.” (“The Secret Doctrine”, vol. I, p. 120)
We have presently a verbal understanding of this statement. We feel the inadequacy of this when we watch the many conflicts and confrontations in the inner world of enjoyment as too the outer world of experience. We gradually come to an awakening that unless this understanding rises to the level of ‘practical understanding’ and becomes a part of our ‘being’, the process of learning will have to continue unabated. The sooner we learn this, the better for humanity. The process moves on simultaneously at the individual and collective level.
An Organized Whole
An organization is an association of men and women who join together for a common purpose and aspiration; and they sometimes explicitly and many times implicitly agree to play their ‘individual role’ to the collective benefit of all. We can look at the Earth Globe we live in, as an organization where besides the humanity, many sub-human and super-human entities also exist. There is a long history of their origin, evolution and continuance. The organizational behavior must tune itself to this line and course. For purpose of administration the globe is subjected to divisions in many ways, but culturally, psychically and spiritually it is one organized whole. Here comes in an indication of meditative culture concerning the reflected factors of learning. This culture has to culminate in bringing to operation the sense of unity both in spirit and letter. A strong and irrevocable conviction has to be established in one’s being. There should be no wavering or hesitation whatsoever.
Unity and its reality is the beginning and ending of all manifestation: the numerous phases of modifications in human behavior, impelled and compelled by passions, wants of the lower mind, characteristics of nature and suggestions from the awakening intelligence.
Meditation which is a replica of Wisdom is the process where the Truth of this Unity is first established in the mind, then the mind’s ramifications are ‘let off’ and a vacant mind becomes available. This now receives the blessings of Enlightenment, ultimately to rest in Truth, without any equivocation or mental reservation.
Light on the Path
The Path of one’s choice and the light focused over that, which is this enlightenment, is explained, annotated in classical texts of theosophical literature. We may look to the small treatise under the name and style of “Light on the Path”, and to the document “Diagram of Meditation” provided by Helena Blavatsky.
“Light on the Path” gives certain dos and don’ts in the conduct of human behavior. It uses strong phrases such as ‘kill out’ and ‘desire’ in emphasizing the focus needed. Knowledge of what is to be avoided is given out first. Without going into the reasoning and illustrated arguments, let us look at these things:
Desire of life
Desire of comfort
Sense of separation
Desire for sensation
Hunger for growth.
Prima facie, this appears to be propagating a pessimistic view of life. It is decidedly not so when a meditative reflection on the comments provided there under is seen.
On ‘killing out’ the above, or even concurrently, the following ‘Desires’ are advocated for acquirement:
Which is within you
Which is beyond you
Which is unattainable
Possessions (above all) of the pure soul.
This places before the seeker or the aspirant an Impossible question to be answered, again through reflective meditation.
Ambition is the key word here which has to be very carefully pondered over. Prima facie we feel one should be ambitious in life and without ambition the life is not worth living at all. The quest for basic needs of life is not ambition, as far as the means adopted are honest and in consonance with moral and social laws. Competition and Comparing oneself with others, and the spirit to unduly excel others is ambition. The modern age has given a sort of acceptance to this type of behavior, but considering from the humanistic point of view and a concern for the sustenance of the planet, Globe we inhabit, this is decidedly an avoidable course in life.
Ambition brings restlessness to the person while the natural state of being is equilibrium or serenity. It makes life tensional besides increasing the ‘self-importance’ or ego which traits are extraneous to human character. It shifts the focus from ‘here’ to an ‘uncertain future’. A civilized person has always aims that are laudable and noble.
Ambition is the root that generates the other desires listed above. Without giving span further on this, let us move to what Helena Blavatsky provides in her Diagram.
Diagram of Meditation
A close look at HPB’s Diagram of Meditation suggests the same ideas and concepts, of course, in a different terminology. She points the qualities that are to be discarded and those to be earned if the sense of Unity, which happens to be the key-note or central focus of living, is to be cultivated and absorbed.
She names the groups as ‘Acquisitions’ and ‘Deprivations’.
First let us look at deprivations:
Separations and Meetings.
Senses are the primary organs of perception. One has to be very discriminative in using the knowledge provided by them. Each of the sense organs has its own pit fall. One must be careful in avoiding them. Gluttony, lust etc. are the sensations provided as illustrations. Personality and Possessions yield to characteristics such as Vanity, Remorse, Greed, Selfishness and Ambition. The set of these three make the content of physical and astral part of ‘lower self’, while Distinction, Friend and Foe have a tinge of emotion and the lower mental stature. Separations and Meetings, Association with Form. Time and Name create Futile longings, Expectations, Sad memories, Broken heartedness are still the segment of the lower nature. The note provided under the section of deprivations indicates that all these traits create ‘bondage’ and are results of ‘ambition’. The personality is to be deliberately and totally forgotten and all self-delusion will die thereon. All these are qualities of the lower personality or lower nature which are to be replaced or sublimated. Understanding each of them and gradually depriving oneself of the traces of their existence in his nature - is what is suggested for practice. In other words, this is a way of cleansing oneself on the path of physical and psychic (ethical) evolution.
The deprivation of the qualities or traits of lower nature creates a ‘void’ and this is to be filled in almost simultaneously with the positive attributes, which she mentions as ‘acquisitions’, again categorized in three segments.
1. Perception in all beings of their inherent ‘limitation’, and so not giving scope either for criticism or praise or both.
2. Continued attempt at mind to all existing things, which is neither love, hate nor indifference. Different in external activity to each, because in each the capacity alters. Mentally, the same to all. Equilibrium and constant care. Greater ease in practicing the virtues which are really the outcome of wisdom, for benevolence, sympathy, justice etc. also from the intuitive identification of the individual with others, although unknown to the personality.
3. Perpetual presence in imagination in all space and time, from this imagination a substratum of memory which does not cause in dreaming or waking, its manifestation is courage. With memory of universality all dread vanishes during the dangers and trials of life. The note under acquisitions says: “Acquisition is completed by the conception ‘I am all Space and Time’.”
The exercise deals with the contact of the different states of consciousness. This has to be dispassionate (without any passion) and Constant in practice. Abhyasa and Vairagya are indicated here. They are the primary requisites for awakening the Intelligence and approaching the arena of Intuition. A statement coming from a Master of the Wisdom: “Leave your world and come to ours” can be remembered here. Compare it with the elements suggested under “Desire” in the “Light on the Path”. You will see the perfect identity. The ‘killing out’ and ‘desire’ are replaced here with the terms ‘deprivation’ and ‘acquisition’. The mental drill or exercise is the same.
The “Being of Human” is entirely “Divine” in its pure and pristine nature (suddha satwa). That was the stature at the point of emanation and, in the course of manifestation and sequential evolution it had gathered round itself all sorts of extraneous things.
These are to be got ridden of so that he successfully moves on to Perfection. Caught up in various non-essentials, habituated and conditioned by them, one has to liberate oneself from the seeming clutches. This is the process for the end result, which is termed as Liberation, Mukti, Freedom or Perfection.
The terms employed were to suit the level of understanding and expression of the times, but they indicate the same total state of Being. It was also poetically illustrated as the ‘Paradise lost and regained’. This can also be equated to the state of Remembrance (Plato) and srmitih labdha (Bhagavad-gita). We knew everything in the beginning but lost touch with that in the course of our travel in the world, which is therefore termed Illusory or Maya, and eventually regain that. In the Vedantic terminology it is indicated as Pravritti (marga) and Nivritti (marga) but the point to be reckoned is that the two ways are not one after the other, they are rather concurrent. We cast off certain things and add on certain other things in our layers of Being. Trans-form-action means the same thing, going beyond the name and form and attempting to catch the ‘permanent’ and the ‘eternal’.
These are the psychological factors incidental to the philosophic thought. The mental structure or set-up is not a matter ‘settled once for all’. It can be structured and restructures every time a serious thinking, reflective contemplation is undertaken. The effort is to terminate the excretions that are needlessly added and the restoration of the original, pure and pristine nature.
Learning is stored in the manifestation itself. It is not separate from that.
Universe/Cosmos is a vast storehouse of Wisdom, as also the Energy, Power, Motion, and so on. All these names are used as synonymous to the Ultimate or Absolute Reality. The storehouse has, naturally, some custodians. It shall be their endeavor to see that those eligible all the time receive the knowledge for their further advancement. They seek to give and do take certain risks too in doing so.
“If, for generations we have ‘shut out the world from the Knowledge of our Knowledge’, it is on account of its absolute unfitness; and if, notwithstanding proofs given, it still refuses yielding to evidence, then will we at the End of this cycle retire into solitude and our kingdom of silence once more… We have offered to exhume the primeval strata of man’s being, his basic nature, and lay bare the wonderful complications of his inner Self - something never to be achieved by physiology or even psychology in its ultimate expression - and demonstrate it scientifically. It matters not to them, if the excavations be so deep, the rocks so rough and sharp, that in diving into that, to them, fathomless ocean, most of us perish in the dangerous exploration; for it is we who were the divers and the pioneers, and the men of science have but to reap what we have sown. It is our mission to plunge and bring the pearls of Truth to the surface; theirs - to clean and set them into scientific jewels. And, if they refuse to touch the ill-shapen oyster-shell, insisting that there is [not], nor cannot be any precious pearl inside it, then shall we once more wash our hands of any responsibility before human-kind. For countless generations hath the adept builded a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant’s Tower of INFINITE THOUGHT, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be , dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate with him and helping his turn enlighten superstitious man. And we will go on in our periodical work of ours; we will not allow ourselves to be baffled in our philanthropic attempts until that day when the foundations of new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail.” [“The Mahatma Letters”, TPH Chronological edition, p. 68; TUP edition, pp. 50-51.]
A seeker is encouraged to the study of Comparative religion, Science and Philosophy, not one against the other. These three happen to be the distinct categorizations into which all human knowledge would ultimately fall and fit in. The experts of these branches have to work together to bring about the needed enlightenment or regeneration to the classes of humanity. The same truths are given out couched in the language of the categorization.
We may touch upon the ‘focal point’ of eligibility here. There is that injunction given by a Master of the Wisdom to a student, and which we have seen above: “Leave your world and come to our world.” This statement can be well or ill understood. It may not mean abandoning the domestic environ, leaving the world and proceeding to a forest or a riverbank. One can be in the world, but ‘not of the world’. Human being has a duty to the world, the country he lives in and the family that has nurtured. So also a duty towards the nature and divine. Both are to be well balanced and brought into operation.
“The Voice of the Silence” states in other words:
“Be humble if you are to acquire Wisdom,
and Be humblest after having acquired it.” 
The humblest is the Wisest, according to what the history of Socrates depicts.
All this goes to say that the sages and the custodians of Knowledge are ever ready to impart any knowledge only to those who become eligible to receive that, by making the needed amendments to their mode of living and being. The process of ‘deprivations’ and ‘acquisitions’ as indicated in the Diagram of Meditation (HPB) are to be digested here.
The acquisition of knowledge is empowerment. It has to be for its own sake, for the fulfillment of the needs of manifestation and its evolution. The ethical base must totally eradicate the ‘selfish’ needs and motives. Altruism must be the first and last lesson of an aspirant and this is the Secret of Learning.
These factors are too often repeated to humanity in consonance with the time, space and state of mental capacity in understanding. Repetition is not redundant because of the ever-forgetfulness of the human being, his capacity for retention of the immemorial things being short. The same idea or concept is drilled into the human mind, so that it broods over that in application in daily life and regenerates itself, paving the way for a new kind of mind and eventually a New Humanity to emerge on earth.
This is brought to our attention, in these professed modern times, through the theosophical literature. On and on, we are encouraged to give attention to that and render proper concern too. That is what the second explicit object of the Theosophical Movement stands for, viz., “To encourage the Study of Comparative religion, Science and Philosophy”; for the reason, as already mentioned earlier, that is leads us together to the Truth and the Ultimate Reality, the Unity.
There is no mystification or occultism involved in this, but mere common sense, which unfortunately has become uncommon because we have not given due attention to that. The ground reality explored to its logical end leads us to that Ultimate Reality which is again simplified in the term Unity. The Learning can be cultured thus. That is the consummation of Learning.
 “The Voice of the Silence”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, Fragment II, p. 41. The exact wording in the classical English of “The Voice” is: “Be humble, if thou would’st attain to Wisdom. Be humbler still, when Wisdom thou hast mastered.”
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.
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The Culture of Learning