"Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot the very notion of time." Does Pi learn anything from this?
Yes, Pi learns a great deal from his ordeal in the life boat with Richard Parker. One thing that he learns is that time is an illusion. It is next to meaningless, which sounds crazy to modern day people. For example, I have my alarm set to a specific time in the morning, so that I can be at work at a particular time. Each class that I teach is a set number of minutes. The work day ends at a particular time. Then I go home and go to bed at a particular time. What Pi's quote is telling readers is that type of life is a ridiculous "rat race." That's why time makes us "pant." People are running around all over the place in order to maintain a schedule that leaves them breathless and tired.
Pi says that he survived because he forgot the notion of time. Another way to think about that is by saying that in order to truly live a person shouldn't focus on time. A person should focus on "events and encounters."
What I remember are events and encounters and routines, markers that emerged here and there from the ocean of time and imprinted themselves on my memory. The smell of spent hand-flare shells, and prayers at dawn, and the killing of turtles, and the biology of algae, for example. And many more.
It's a great lesson that Pi learned. It's a great lesson that people (myself included) would benefit from learning. Pi is telling his readers that the most important parts of life are the things that you do and experience. It doesn't matter how much or how little time it takes. What matters is the act of doing. The romantic authors would be quite proud, because Pi's lesson is heavily emphasizing a carpe diem outlook on life.
Pi does learn - he learns as the quote says that time is an illusion; it is meaningless. He believes that time is something we create ourselves, but it doesn't add any significance to life. Significance comes from experiences - Pi says that is what he remembers.