Learning is a remarkable process, one that we are learning more and more about as we and our society change and evolve. Learning involves the broadening of our understanding and requires a balance between the theoretical and practical, thought and experience. Memory, discrimination, perception, imagination, visualization, and concentration, are all part of our basic intelligence and the ability to flow smoothly and constructively through the perpetual bombardment of external stimuli which constitute growth and evolution.
There are two basic categories of learning as we know it today. The first involves purely intellectual knowledge. We go to school or university to prepare for some trade or profession in the outside world. The second involves our own individual evolution as we delve into the life process and learn the lessons of life.
These two facets of learning, the intellectual and intuitive, are interrelated. As we evolve internally, we change our external environment to suit our internal needs and desires. We evolve the material world to suit and harmonize with our internal realizations. So yogic education comes first, and then intellectual learning can develop according to the demands of society.
But how do we learn? What special faculty has man acquired that allows him to stand above any other creature on this planet in terms of his ability to think, perceive, understand, and change the world? Scientists have been asking these questions for centuries, but recently they discovered a valuable clue.
In 1953, on the Japanese island of Koshima, a female Makaque monkey called Imo invented a method for cleaning unpalatable sand from sweet potatoes. Before long, 90% of the monkeys - except for the young infants and a few old 'diehards' who refused to change - had copied and learned her method for cleaning sand. Imo was the creative genius whose internal realization led to the evolution and reorganization of her society at a more efficient level.
However, something else quite amazing happened. Monkeys on two islands fifteen miles away picked up the same procedure. They did not see or copy the technique, but intuitively or telepathically evolved in step with all the other monkeys sharing the same moment of time and the same approximate space. Lyall Watson, author of 'Supernature', told this story at the 1979 Conference for Co-evolution of Science and Spirit in New York. He stated that when a certain number share a common idea, a point is reached when vast numbers will also accept the idea by some telepathic transfer.
From this observation of a group of monkeys comes the realization that there are three important components in learning of which modern science and education is, as yet, unaware. These three components are the knower (the self), the organ of knowing (the mind), and the knowledge contained in some external objects. Most of us become immersed in the external knowledge and forget about the knower. When Imo created an original idea, it was an expression of her inner nature, not the result of external knowledge. Yogic science states that we must, therefore, first adjust the mind, the organ of perception and experience, so as to be able to create better and higher forms of external knowledge. When we have learned how to learn, how to adjust the organs of learning, perception and experience to a more efficient level, and have evolved the mind to a higher point of understanding, then the learning of external knowledge becomes simple.
According to yoga, learning is not just an individual process, for we are all little cogs in the universal mind. We are all sharing in the evolution of matter into spirit, and the higher realizations we each achieve are pooled and made accessible to others. This is visibly demonstrated by the example of Imo and her monkeys. It is on this basis that yoga is also to be learned.
Apart from the normal routine of asanas and pranayama that we all do, the coming together of people on the yogic path, is also a valuable and easy method of learning and sharing knowledge. Just being in the company of yogis, saints and sages teaches us at many levels, conscious and subconscious, things that we could never gain elsewhere. It changes the very fibre of our being and tunes the inner strings of our personality, so we are more in harmony with the cosmos and the processes of learning and evolution going on around us. As we evolve ourselves through yoga, we spread our new energies and vibrations to influence those in our environment beneficially. Then they raise themselves and in turn influence us. As Buddha once said:
"A man that stands alone, having decided to obey the truth, may be weak and slip back into his old ways. Therefore, stand together, and strengthen one another."
When large numbers of people gather to learn yoga and to evolve themselves, they generate a huge amount of energy. This affects every individual in the environment, whether he is doing actual practice or not. The supply spills over into the global pool. We learn not only a few simple practices for ourselves and others, but we are gaining an in-depth experience of life, energy, mind and yoga.
Open yourself to this experience and you will tap the same creative energies that Imo used to help evolve her tribe. In this way we become creative, productive and contributing members of society. Through our own spiritual evolution, we contribute to the evolution of society as a whole.