Whether within an educational institution or outside it, Krishnamurti wanted to bring about “a new human being” with a “revolutionary mind”. Revolt, according to K, is of two kinds. There is violent revolt, which is mere reaction, and there is “intelligent revolt”, which is not reaction and arises through self-knowledge.
The function of education is to create “human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent”. Great intelligence is required to discover what is true. “Intelligence...is not book knowledge...You may read many philosophies and yet not know the bliss of thinking that can exist only when the mind and heart begin to free themselves from conflict through constant awareness. Then only is there the ecstasy of that which is true.”
It is sometimes presumed that Krishna was totally against the acquisition of knowledge. This is not entirely true – what he wanted was that knowledge should have a place in life but should not dominate it. He wanted every child to be academically and technologically proficient and, simultaneously, to develop other aspects of humanity and goodness.
At the same time, Krishna did speak against knowledge. At Rajghat, he talks about fear and says, “Is not fear also responsible for the accumulation of knowledge?” He says that by building up knowledge, we take refuge in it and feel that without it we would be lost. He says that knowledge is essential to earn a livelihood, but it is not necessary to find god or to know oneself.
Knowledge nourishes the ego, “for the ego cannot be without some form of parasitical dependence. The scientist uses his knowledge to feed his vanity, to feel that he is somebody; so does the pundit; so does the teacher; so do the parents; so do the gurus – they all want to be somebody in this world.” He adds that knowledge without love is destructive.
The primary aim of a school therefore would seem to be to create a good human being. Knowledge may be required to function in the world, but this was a secondary aim.
At a meeting in 1932, Krishna resigned from the presidentship of the RVT as he “did not want to be connected with any organisation”. At the same meeting, a statement was made that, “Krishnamurti is as keenly interested in all the educational experiments and will do all he can to assist with suggestions, advice and sympathy.”
C Jinarajadasa reflected the feelings of other members when he said that Krishnamurti was introducing a new policy to develop the character of children, but it was still not clearly formulated. In a book on Krishnamurti’s message, he added that while Theosophists accepted the new aspects of Krishnamurti’s teachings, the old need not be entirely given up.
Krishna’s two early schools at Rishi Valley and Rajghat did not teach religion. They did, however, imbibe the Theosophical approach of the equality of all religions.
Following Annie Besant, most Indian Theosophists were nationalists when the British ruled India. Krishna, however, spoke against both nationalism and religion; in fact, he connected the two. His choice of words indicates that in these early days, he was also influenced by Marxist ideas.
He said, “As beliefs grow into religions, so possessions grow into the expression of nationality. As beliefs separate people, condition people, keep them apart, so possessiveness expressing itself as class consciousness and growing into nationality, keeps people apart. That is all nationality is based on the exploitation of the majority by the few for their own benefit, through the means of production. That nationality, through the instrument of patriotism, is a means of war.” Despite this, elements of nationalism did exist in the pre-independence phase of the two schools in India.
Though perhaps unformulated, K spoke a lot about education, even in the 1930s. Speaking at Adyar in 1933, he said, “Suppose for instance that I am a teacher in a school. If I try to mould the pupil’s intelligence towards a particular intelligence, then it is no longer intelligence. How the pupil shall employ his intelligence is his own affair. If he is intelligent, he will act truly, because he is not acting from motives of gain, of reward, of enticement, of power.”
But could this be conveyed to a young child? One could ask at what age this intelligence could be awakened.
There were some areas, though, which were more feasible to put into practice. Firstly, there was the choice of land which K wanted should be one of great natural beauty, away from the town area. The lands chosen and bought for both Rishi Valley and Rajghat had this quality. However, as his ideas on education were not yet clear up to the 1940s, these two, his only existing schools at the time, functioned in their own way.
In the later years, he spoke in Rishi Valley about the importance of appreciating the beauty of the valley. He seemed to believe that if they could actually look at and feel this beauty, they would have a different approach to life outside. He said, “If you now begin to think, to observe, to learn for yourself by watching, listening to everything that is happening around you, you will grow up to be a different human being – one who cares, who has affection, who loves people...So look at nature, at the tamarind tree, the mango tree in bloom, and listen to the birds early in the morning and late in the evening. See the clear sky, the stars, how marvellously the sun sets behind those hills. See all the colours, the light on the leaves, the beauty of the land, the rich earth. Then having seen that and seen also what the world is, with all its brutality, violence, ugliness, what are you going to do?”
One may again question what age the child should be to understand the brutality and ugliness of the world. He or she could still be living in innocence of it, particularly in those times.
Next, Krishna wanted his schools to be small. Only a small school could help in bringing about an integrated person. If the school was worthwhile, somehow finances and help would be found to sustain it. A school successful in a worldly sense was likely to be a failure as an educational centre.
Here again, there was an idealism that did not work in practice. Finances often could not be found for worthwhile schools, which even contributed to their closure. At the same time, Krishna warned against living in a kind of cocoon, unaware of the outer world. Even while living in this small school in beautiful surroundings, one should be aware of “the ever-increasing conflict, destruction and misery. The world is not separate from us.”
In some schools, K also commented on the design and structure of buildings. He wanted these to be pleasing and aesthetic, but he did not have much say in the design of the early schools.
The teacher obviously had the greatest role in the school. He wrote, “Teachers in a school of this kind should come together voluntarily without being persuaded or chosen; for voluntary freedom from worldliness is the only right foundation for a true educational centre.” If it was not possible for all, there should at least be a core group of teachers of this kind, a nucleus.
A school should not be run with authority, and the teachers should not be dominated by the principal. “In a group of true educators, the problem of authority will never arise.”
This is because those dedicated to education in the true sense would not need to be told anything. They would see for themselves what was required and make necessary adjustments. But the teacher should be sure of his vocation, or it would not work out. Also, he felt, the teacher should not regard teaching as a source of livelihood, or that would be an exploitation of the children. The true teacher, in fact, had to have extraordinary and exceptional qualities, nothing less than a guru in the real sense.
He said, “An educator is not merely a giver of information, he is one who points the way to wisdom, to truth.” With such an educator, who was inwardly rich and asked nothing for himself, authority would not be required and the right kind of education would flow naturally. K also did not want a professional teacher, a specialist, or acquiring and imparting knowledge would replace love.
The teacher should study and understand each student, using love and patience. First, of course, the teacher should have understood his/her conditioning and be free from it. Love and goodness could flower only in individual freedom, hence the teacher should be able to help each individual to observe and understand his own self-projected values, to understand himself in relation to all things, and to realise that it was his craving for self-fulfilment that brought conflict and sorrow.
But the teacher should not neglect academics or technical education; there should be excellence in all spheres. At the same time, the child should be aware of the whole, to be integrated, to have love and right relationships. Obviously, there could not be any fixed method followed, nor any ideology.
Such teachers were certainly difficult to find. A lot of literature already existed on schools and education. Conventional schools helped students to conform, fit into society, get a good job and follow conventional lives. On the other side, there were progressive and experimental schools that embodied ideas closer to Krishna’s thinking. However, perhaps even they did not seek to transform the whole world by transforming the individual.
Krishna believed there was no method to awaken “intelligence” in the child, but with the right atmosphere, through observation of the self and of the world, the child could reach an understanding of the whole. Then there would be order, through freedom from the self, not from any outwardly imposed discipline. It would come through the understanding of true values. Discovering its true vocation, every activity the child undertook would be self-fulfilling, performed out of a love for it, not out of any compulsion. The child would have love, intelligence and creativity and “that state of happiness which comes when there is an absence of the self”.
Excerpted with permission from J Krishnamurti: A Life of Compassion Beyond Boundaries, Roshen Dalal, Macmillan.