Sweet Mother, when we learn something by heart to recite it, what is the true way of learning, so that it remains?
The true way so that it remains is to understand, it is not to learn by heart. You learn something by heart, it is mechanical, you see; but after some time it will be effaced, unless you make use of it constantly. For example, you are made to learn by heart the multiplication tables; if you constantly use them, you will remember them, but if by chance for years you remain without using them, you will forget them completely. But if you understand the principle, you will be able to remember them. You see, the principle of multiplication, if you understand it with a mathematical sense, you will no longer need to learn it by heart, the operation will be done quite naturally in your brain; and for everything it is the same.
If you understand the thing, if you have the sense of the principle which is behind, you can remember it indefinitely, for hundreds of years if you live for hundreds of years; whereas something you have learnt by heart… after some time the brain-cells multiply, are replaced, and some things are wiped out. You are still too small for experiences of this kind, but later one realises that in one’s life there are things which remain like landmarks, there are others which are totally effaced to the extent that one doesn’t remember them at all, they are gone. But there are things like that, truly like milestones, like landmarks in life. Well, these things were conscious experiences, that is, they were understood; so the experience remains indefinitely, and with just a tiny movement of the consciousness you can bring it forward. But something that is learnt mechanically—unless, I tell you, you make use of it daily, it is effaced.
Ref : Questions and Answers 1955