“A story that shows that learning happens not when we are worried about punishment or success, but when we are relaxed and focused.
Once, in Tibet, a young monk was studying with his teacher, who was very strict. The teacher had to go away on business, but before he went, he gave his pupil a long and difficult passage from the sacred teachings. “Learn this by heart before I return,” he said to the boy.
Nobody thought that it was possible that a boy of his age could learn such a long passage in so little time. But in spite of this, the boy spent his time playing and daydreaming. His friends and family warned hi, “If you don’t start learning, teacher will punish you when he gets back.” But the boy played on. The days passed and the boy’s family were frantic. The teacher was due back and the young monk hadn’t looked at the passage.
Then, with no hurry, the boy put down his toys and picked up the book. He opened it and read slowly through the words once. The next morning his teacher came and asked him if he had done his homework. To everyone’s amazement, the boy recited the text word for word with no hesitation.
The boy went on to become one of the greatest meditation masters of the 20th century. Of course, it would be foolish to try to emulate him; according to the Tibetans, he had actually been a great teacher in a former life, and had carried over his ability to learn the teachings into this life. But the story also shows that learning happens not when we’re worried about punishment or success, but when we are relaxed and focused.