Jiddu Krishnamurti – On Education

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning

Jiddu Krishnamurti or J.Krishnamurti (May 11,1895–February 17, 1986),was born in Madanapalle,India and discovered, in 1909, as a teenager by C.W. Leadbeater on the private beach at the Theosophical headquarters at Adyar in Chennai, India. He was subsequently raised under the tutelage of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater within the worldwide organization of the Theosophical Society, who believed him to be a vehicle for a prophesied World Teacher. As a young man, he disavowed this destiny and also dissolved the Order established to support it, and eventually spent the rest of his life travelling the world as an individual speaker and educator with essentially the following message:”Truth is a pathless land”, humans cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. At age 90 he addressed the United Nations on the subject of peace and awareness, and was awarded the 1984 UN Peace Medal. He gave his last talk in India a month before his death, in 1986, in Ojai, California. His supporters, working through charitable trusts, founded several independent schools across the world—in India, England and the United States—and transcribed many of his thousands of talks, publishing them as educational philosophical books.

Jiddu Krishnamurti came from a family of Telugu speaking Brahmins. His father, Jiddu Narianiah, graduated from Madras University and then became an official in theRevenue Department of the British administration, rising by the end of his career to the position of rent collector and District Magistrate.  They were strict vegetarians, even shunning eggs, and throwing away any food that the “shadow of an Englishman crossed”.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in a small town about 150 miles (250 km) northof Madras, India. His birthdate has been also stated as May12, however Mary Lutyens, points out, that the Brahmin day is calculated from dawn and he was born at 12:30 AM, so therefore on May 11. It’s only the Western world who would state this was May 12. “As an eighth child, who happened to be a boy, he was, in accordance with Hindu orthodoxy, named after Sri Krishna who had himself been an eighth child.

“Narianiah, though an orthodox Brahmin, had been a member of the Theosophical Society since 1881 .This was whileHelena Blavatsky was still its head in India. Narianiah had retired at the end of 1907 and wrote to Annie Besant to recommend himself as a caretaker for the Theosophical estate at Adyar and  was accepted as an assistant to the Recording Secretary of the Esoteric Section.

It was a few months after this last move that Krishna was discovered by C.W. Leadbeater. One evening, C.W.Leadbeater went with his young assistants to the beach to bathe. On returning he told his assistant Ernest Wood that one of the boys on the beach had the most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle of selfishness in it. It could not be Krishna’s outward appearance that struck Leadbeater for apart from his wonderful aura, he was not at all impressive at that time. This is how Krishnamurti was discovered by the Theosophists in 1909.

Krishna (or Krishnaji as he was often called) and his younger brother Nitya were educated at the Theosophical compound and later taken to England to finish their education. His father, pushed into the background by the swirl of interest around Krishna, ended up in a lawsuit against the Society to try to protect his parental interests. As a result of this separation from his family and home, Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya became extremely close and in the following years they often traveled together.

Mary Lutyens states that there came a time when Krishnamurti fully believed that he was to become the World Teacher that he had been told, after correct guidance and education, he would become. However, the unexpected death of his brother Nitya on November 11, 1925 at age 27 from tuberculosis, fundamentally shook his belief and faith in the divine ‘Masters’, and the leaders of the Theosophical Society.

From 1925 onward things were to never be the same again. In 1925, he was expected by Theosophists to enter Sydney, Australia walking on water, but this did not eventuate and he visited Australia the following year by ship.

Krishnamurti’s new vision and consciousness continued to develop and reached a climax in 1929, when he rebuffed attempts by Leadbeater and Besant to continue with The Order of the Star the section of the Theosophical Society devoted to the coming of the World Teacher. Krishnamurti dramatically dissolved the Order on the opening day of the annual Star Camp at Ommen, Holland, August 2, 1929.

After disbanding the Order of the Star and drifting away from the Theosophical Society, its belief system and practices, Krishnamurti spent the rest of his life holding dialogues and giving public talks across the world on the nature of belief, truth, sorrow, freedom, death and the apparently eternal quest for a spiritually fulfilled life et cetera. Following on from the ‘pathless land’ notion,he accepted neither followers nor worshippers, seeing the relationship between disciple and guru as encouraging the antithesis of spiritual emancipation dependency and exploitation.

In his later years, J. Krishnamurti spoke at the United Nations in New York, on the 11th April 1985, where he was awarded the United Nations 1984 Peace medal.  In November of 1985, he revisited the places in which he had grown up in India, holding a last set of “farewell talks” between then and January 1986.

J. Krishnamurti passed away at the age of 90 from pancreatic cancer. His remains were cremated and scattered by friends and former associates in the three countries where he had spent most of his life, India, England and United States of America.

On Education

J. Krishnamurti is basically a philosopher who is also deeply concerned with right education. To him, there is no difference between philosophy and education. The aims of both are one and the same: to bring about a fundamental and instantaneous change in man and society by setting human mind absolutely and unconditionally free. What the philosopher teaches to the elderly, the educator teaches the same to the young. A true teacher is also a philosopher. He is not only knowledgeable but also wise. A philosopher loves truth and not ideas and theories. Philosophy is understanding life holistically, directly and instantaneously. It is living life not as conceived by thought but as it truly is. A true teacher or a philosopher ‘directs’ the student towards the true living, at the very beginning of life. He catches them young and teaches them the art of liv ing life unconditionally by keeping their minds free and fresh. Krishnamurti devoted his life to the task of keeping the young minds uncluttered by thought. He taught them to love truth or life without being caught in the network of thought.

Krishnamurti  was a writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual issues including psychological revolution, the nature of the mind, meditation, human relationships, and bringing about positive social change. Maintaining that society is ultimately the product of the interactions of individuals From this perspective, Krishnamurti stands out from among the galaxy of educational thinkers chronicled in history.

Concept of Truth

Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organisation be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.

Truth, is not a matter of logic. It is direct perception. It is seeing without conceptualization, without motive, choice or self-interest. It is ‘pure observation’ and ‘choiceless awareness’ where ‘the observer becomes the observed’. The conscious mind is totally conditioned; it is determined by thought, constant movement and desire. Psychologically, the individual human being, says Krishnamurti, is inseparable from the whole of mankind. His central concepts of ‘goodness’, ‘responsibility’, ‘relationship’ and ‘love’ are associated with life and humanity as a whole. “Being a representative of all mankind, you are responsible for the whole of mankind”. This total responsibility, absolute care and concern for the good of all, is love. And education is the cultivation of such responsibility in the student. Goodness, in essence, is the absence of self, the ‘me’.

A typical description of Krishnamurti’s good society is one ‘without violence, without the contradictions of various beliefs, dogmas, rituals, gods, without national and economic divisions.’   The term ‘goodness’ has a special meaning within Krishnamurti’s discourse, as does the word ‘human being’. One of the fundamental changes on the way to a good human being involves shedding special attachments that Krishnamurti considered divisive, and so facing life ‘as a human being without a label.’ Such a person would be free of anchorage, and thereby be well positioned to have ‘right’ values and ‘right’ relationships.

Sometimes Krishnamurti described the good human being in terms of character, and sometimes in terms of conduct. His moral thinking, however, did not consist of codes of conduct or moral rules; pointing rather to anger, envy, headlong ambition and the will to dominate as the proper subjects of moral inquiry. ‘Then you don’t have to search for the good Then the good flourishes. Then goodness flowers. The beauty of that is endless.’ Goodness and love in all our relationships can transform life. The flowering of goodness is possible only in freedom and in the choice less awareness of our daily existence and activity. It is the total unfolding and cultivation of our minds, hearts and our physical well-being. It is living in complete harmony in which there is clear, objective, non-personal perception unburdened by any kind of conditioning. It is the release of our total energy and its total freedom.

Concept of Beauty

Krishnamurti believes that beauty is important, not just because it is pleasing, but because sensitivity to beauty is related to being religious and indispensable to the healthy growth of a child.

“To be religious is to be sensitive to reality. Your total being – body, mind, and heart – is sensitive to beauty and ugliness, to the donkey tied to a post, to the poverty and filth in this town, to laughter and tears, to everything about you. From this sensitivity for the whole of existence springs goodness, love;

Nature is both beautiful and a demonstration of order. The educational centres Krishnamurti founded are invariably in parks or countryside. This was not just because he felt that nature was pleasing, but because he felt that a relationship with nature had important implications for living sanely and to a relationship with the sacred. He would not, however, condemn as hopeless, inner-city schools that don’t have such luxuries, because nature was wholly available in the smallest part; a blade of grass, a house plant, or a gold fish. “That healing [of the mind] gradually takes place if you are with nature, with that orange on the tree, and the blade of grass that pushes through the cement, and the hills covered, hidden, by the clouds.”

Krishnamurti as an Educational Philosopher

As a philosopher, Krishnamurti, , has not engaged the attention of academia. The reasons for the apathy of universities towards Krishnamurti’s teachings could be their basically theoretical and intellectual orientation, or the uncritical celebration of thought that is characteristic of our times.

But it can not be denied that Krishnamurti is essentially a philosopher of education. His teachings with their core concern of education make him that. As a philosopher of education. This is significant considering that philosophy of education is far from being a vibrant field of academic activity in our country.

The educational issues raised by Krishnamurti—place of knowledge in education, freedom and discipline, learning from nature, role of sensory experience and observation, comparison and competition—are of such abiding concern that they have been discussed by several educational thinkers in the past. The greatness of Krishnamurti lies in the fact that he dealt with them not as educational problems  but in relation to their deeper philosophical ramifications. Also, he did not consider them as so many disparate issues but as comprising an integrated whole connected with the attainment of the summum bonum: absolute, pure perception of truth and goodness.

Krishnamurti’s teachings have begun to spawn publication of a variety of educational writings of a philosophical kind. These are in the form of reflections based on field experience and scholarly analyses of issues on various aspects of education, schooling, teaching and learning.

Krishnamurti stands out as an educational philosopher not so much for his ‘pure’ metaphysical beliefs, as for the veritable mine of precious insights he has left behind on schooling, teaching and learning. At a time when genuine educational values are being overrun by concerns of the market place, Krishnamurti’s teachings  acquire an added relevance and urgency.

The Basis of Education

The vision of a new kind of education that emerges through Krishnamurti’s writing sees traditional education as a servant of national, civic or economic interests, designed to produce efficient workers and patriotic citizens. He believed that education of this kind held the seeds of violence and chaos. By contrast, the kind of education he favoured was designed to help people ‘to understand the ways of authority and not be caught in its net.’ Education would prepare a child to live in a society that is in ‘economic and moral crisis’. Krishnamurti denies that a child can be removed from society and its influences; indeed, the child who comes to school ‘is the result of both the past and the present and is therefore already conditioned .

It is essentially as a philosopher of mind that Krishnamurti looks at education. He sees the ultimate basis of all learning in the innermost workings of the human mind. This is not psychoanalysis as it is commonly understood but a deep look, unburdened by any kind of conditioning, into one’s own person, into one’s innermost thoughts, feelings. ‘Mind’, ‘thought’, ‘intelligence’, ‘attention’, ‘perception’, ‘freedom’, ‘love’ and ‘self’ accordingly dominate his teachings. Understanding them for what they really are, says he, holds the key to the transformation of the individual and society.

Krishnamurti is truly an educational philosopher in that his thinking is centred on education, on understanding its fundamentals as well as pr-axis. There is no need for one to ‘draw educational implications’ from his general thinking or search for strands. His educational teachings do not hang loose but are integrally woven into his thinking on life, world and humanity.

Krishnamurti addressed educational problems, even the nitty-gritty’s of day-to-day classroom teaching, squarely and directly. He dealt with them by probing into their very roots with his penetrating insights. His educational concerns are strikingly contemporaneous and global. They include: freedom and discipline, comparison and competition, learning through the senses, scientific temper, joy and creativity. A primary audience of his has been the educational community–schools, teachers, students and parents. Krishnamurti’s educational teachings also encompass such broad, general concerns of mankind as freedom, fear, god, living and dying, love and loneliness, peace and the future of humanity. It is against this awesome sweep of ideas and his deep love of humanity that one has to understand his educational philosophy.

Education is usually taken to be an organized, purposive activity, with pre-established goals. Krishnamurti sees education not with the eyes of a reformer, as a means to serve this or that end, but as an intrinsic, self-fulfilling experience requiring no further justification. The function of education, he said, is “to bring about a mind that will not only act in the immediate but go beyond…a mind that is extraordinarily alive, not with knowledge, not with experience, but alive”.“More important than making the child technologically proficient is the creation of the right climate in the school for the child to develop fully as a complete human being”. This means giving him “the opportunity to flower in goodness, so that he is rightly related to people, things and ideas, to the whole of life”.

For Jiddu Krishnamurti, education is a religious activity. Education was seen as towards the fullest development of the full human being. Krishnamurti, education is,  educating the whole person (all parts of the person), educating the person as a whole (not as an assemblage of parts), and educating the person within a whole (as part of society, humanity, nature, etc.) from which it is not meaningful to extract that person.

Education is not about preparation for only a part of life (like work) but is about preparation for the whole of life and the deepest aspects of living.

The Role of Education

The role of education in any society has been to transmit its culture: rituals, knowledge and values, to future generations and, in the process, to perpetuate traditions. Both primitive societies and traditional ones evolve methods for educating their young in a variety of ways: piety to their gods, reverence for their great men, imitation of heroic role models, implanting rational principles and rules for good government – these are considered well trodden paths to the good life. The knowledge that educational institutions have sought to transmit is, in some sense, embedded in the larger social fabric. Krishnamurti’s educational philosophy reaches beyond the particularities of culture, and locates it in a universal moral space. ‘The function of education,’ he said, ‘is not to help the young conform to this rotten society, but to be free of its influences so that they may create a new society, a different world.’ In his public talks, Krishnamurti was a withering critic of social conditions and the ways of life that support those conditions. He often began his talks with comments on the state of the world, followed by a call for change. He traced violence, wars and sorrow back to pre-historic times, as depicted symbolically in art. Then he sketched a way of life that might be possible if individuals would change their lives in certain fundamental ways.

Krishnamurti’s interest in education was revolution. The purpose, the aim and drive of education is to equip the child with the most excellent technological proficiency so that he may function with clarity and efficiency in the modern world, and, far more important is to create the right climate so that the child may develop fully as a complete human being.

Krishnamurti’s approach to the nature of education, is related to the three elements .  The intentions of education,  the physical nature of the places in which education occurs, and  the participants in education – the students and staff

Krishnamurti often stated that the purpose of education is to bring about freedom, love, “the flowering of goodness” and the complete transformation of society. He specifically contrasts this to what he feels are the intentions of most schools which emphasise preparing young people to succeed materially in the society that exists . Even though it is fashionable for schools to declare loftier goals, it is instructive to examine how much undivided attention is dedicated during the day to such lofty goals and how much time is given to preparation for earning a living. It is also instructive to examine what are felt to be the imperatives that shape the educational experience – things like the use of space, who and what determines pedagogic activities, the use of time, and what is assessed, by whom and for what.

For Jiddu Krishnamurti, the intentions of education must be the inner transformation and liberation of the human being and, from that, society would be transformed. Education is intended to assist people to become truly religious. These intentions must not be just pleasant sounding ideals to which one pays lip service, and they are not to be arrived at by their opposites. And the religious intentions are not for some eventual goal, but for life in educational centres from moment to moment.

The nature of human beings

Krishnamurti’s work on the nature of human beings is vast .He saw human beings as having different facets (like intellects, emotions, appetites, bodies, etc.) but the whole of which the facets are aspects is more important. Humans have minds as well as brains , and it is the consciousness that minds are capable of that can perceive what the integrated whole, and it is to the full flowering of the mind that Krishnamurti felt education should direct itself. The human brain, for reasons too complex to go into here, normally works by fragmenting the whole, and one very important task that the brain needs to learn is to stop this fragmenting process when it is not necessary. Consequently, as possessors of both brains and minds, humans have the capacity of participating in the universe at many different levels, from the particular to the generalFor Krishnamurti, human beings have the capacity to venture to both limits and to unite them.

Contrary to the perspective that has shaped much in conventional education, Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that each person needs to explore themselves and reveal themselves to themselves rather than be shaped into something by others. This is not a new perspective, and again has links to the educational theories of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Frobel, and Montessori.

Krishnamurti felt that not only was a person’s nature and deepest aspects to be uncovered, but each person also has a unique vocation that needs to be discovered; what he/she really loves to do has to be found and pursued, and to do anything else is a deprivation of the worst kind, especially if such deprivation is in order to pursue success or other such cultural aspirations.  It is an important part of understanding oneself and, consequently, of education.

“Modern education is making us into thoughtless entities; it does very little towards helping us to find our individual vocation.” “To find out what you really love to do is one of the most difficult things. That is part of education. Right education is to help you to find out for yourself what you really, with all your heart, love to do. It does not matter what it is, whether it is to cook, or to be a gardener, but is something in which you have put your mind, your heart.”

The Teacher and student

There are, generally speaking, two poles in educational centres: Teacher  and students.. There are, of course, differences between staff and students in their responsibilities and experience; but in all that is most important in education the teacher  and students are really in the same boat. Educators  may know more about academic subjects, or gardening, or administration and therefore have a certain authority in those areas, but these are not the central concerns of education. In the central concerns of education, which is to do with inner liberation, both the students and the teachers are learners and therefore equal, and this is untouched by functional authority.

Because the educator is religious; he is concerned first with ‘being’, and then right ‘doing’ will follow from it. Krishnamurti describes this relationship between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ frequently. For Jiddu Krishnamurti, ‘doing’ derived from ‘being’ rather than ‘being’ deriving from ‘doing’ – the reverse of convention.

When discussing the selection process for students and staff at his English educational centre, Krishnamurti always stressed the importance of the candidate’s ‘being’ – their deepest sensitivities, their goodness and intelligence (in his definitions of those words which had nothing to do with conventional morality or IQ), the depth of their questions about themselves and the world. Although he wanted both staff and students to be intellectually sound, he never stressed academic prowess, cultural abilities, or capacities as being more important than the willingness and ability to lead what he called a religious life’.

The role of the teacher is not to mould the child in accordance with some social ideal, but to free her from the imprisonment of existing influences: ‘in understanding the child as he is without imposing upon him an ideal of what we think he should be.’ Since Krishnamurti counted all ideals as subtly coercive, the teacher’s first task is to abandon these, along with his own will to power, in favour of giving her ‘full attention to each child, observing and helping him.’ ‘The moment we discard authority,’ he added, ‘we are in partnership, and only then is there cooperation and affection.’ The teacher who thus enters into a partnership with the student, who begins to understand ‘the inherited tendencies and environmental influences which condition the mind and heart and sustain fear,’ can help nurture awareness, which is the first step to freedom.

The concept of School

Krishnamurti felt that the physical nature of educational centres was very important. Krishnamurti frequently talked about the importance of generating an atmosphere that would itself have an effect on students the moment they arrived. Without that real religious atmosphere, he felt that a school was empty, or worse, it was a parody of itself, a kind of Disney esquire impression of something real but with no real substance.

Such an atmosphere, though distinct from the people in the schools, could not be separated from the people. A place may carry an atmosphere, but it is the people who create it or destroy it. To illustrate this he would cite places that at one time were known to have had very special and powerful atmospheres but which were destroyed through neglect, incompetence or corrupt behaviour. Examples of this are some of the great cathedrals or temples that have become tourist industries or money making enterprises, and so have lost any sense of religiousness. They became lifeless and without meaning even though they maintained all the physical appearance of their former selves.

Another physical aspect of the educational centres Jiddu Krishnamurti created, and another indication of the religiousness of education, was his insistence that the schools have special places for silence. He often spoke to the students of the importance of a quiet mind or silence so that they could observe their thoughts.“You see meditation means to have a very quiet, still mind, not a chattering mind; to have a really quiet body, quiet mind so that your mind becomes religious.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti usually asked that these special places not be on the periphery of the schools, but in the centre of the them. Like a sanctum sanctorum, they were to be the heart, the space that generated the rest of the school. Contrary to most conceptions of schools, Krishnamurti felt that action was to be on the periphery and the insight born of silence was to be at the centre.

Emphasizing the pluralistic nature of his schools, Krishnamurti maintained that ‘Each school must flower on its own, as one flower is unlike any another flower.’  The pluralism follows from the absence of any Utopian models in his thought. Life, as Krishnamurti insisted, is too varied, too vast, and too vital to be captured within the compass of any blueprint. And learning about life is central to his educational philosophy. Despite his total denunciation of society, Krishnamurti did not assert that his schools stood isolated from the social fabric. The schools did not represent an antithetical and perfect order. His schools,  represent the larger world in. The only difference between these schools and the world at large, he hoped, might be that teachers committed to examining their lives would teach from a ground of inquiry. This examination is a negative process; it is an unraveling of the conditioned self, a stripping of prejudices, false ideas and bad relationships.

There is a broad framework, towards which all Krishnamurti’s schools do aim. Qualities of compassion and cooperation rather than of comparison and competition, a global outlook rather than a parochial one, right relationship to nature, to ideas, to the past and to other human beings count prominently among these basic aims. Within this normative framework, each school is free to define its own vision, based on the quality of the landscape, the water, the character of its neighbours and the traditions of the country in which it is located. Beyond this framework, Krishnamurti’s challenge encompasses the school’s relations with its surroundings; the teachers’ relationship with students and it raises questions about the relevance of the curriculum of study to the actual world. Educational institutions are required to redefine ethical goals for their time and place. This means charting an educational enterprise for a public school that is located in a degraded landscape, and surrounded by poverty and illiteracy; that is located in a country engaged in a struggle over its identity; at a time when the very existence of the human species and the planet on which species evolved is threatened. As early as 1924, Krishnamurti marked out a crossroads in human life: ‘There comes a time when a human being must choose on which of the rivers he shall sail. They look alike, but they lead to different places. If you establish a relationship with it [nature] then you have relationship with mankind… But if you have no relationship with the living things on this earth you may lose whatever relationship you have with humanity, with human beings.

Instructional methodology;

Education is essentially the art of learning, not only from books, but from the whole movement of life…learning about the nature of the intellect, its dominance, its activities, its vast capacities and its destructive power…learning it not from a book but from the observation of the world about you…without theories, prejudices and values .

It is rarely that a great philosopher is an engaging teacher too. Krishnamurti is one such. He employs talk and dialogue with great effect as didactic devices to communicate the most abstruse and complex ideas. His method is to unlock commonly held, pet beliefs through a form of Socratic dialogue – raising a question, assuming the role of a skeptic, testing received wisdom with reference to instances, counter instances, analogies and illustrations, ultimately leading the inquirer to light. It is tempting to see it as a kind of linguistic analysis  but it is anything but that– the aim is not mechanical, positivist search for conceptual clarity; it is a deeper search for inner meaning. Krishnamurti constantly cautioned against giving primacy to verbal clarity. “The word is never the thing…it prevents the actual perception of the thing…”

Through his talks, educator establishes a kind of communication that is at once intimate and person. He should take the student along with his thinking, step by step, all over the territory covering the issue, negotiating twists and turns, all the while increasing the subject’s anticipation of arriving at the ‘destination’. The  the denouement, however, should not come in the form of a crisp definition or a cut and dried answer to the question but in the form of a thorough mapping of the contours of the issue, laying bare its complexities. At the end the student is left alone to put together and make sense of all that the exploration has brought out.

The instructional methodology is characterized by cryptic aphorisms and maxims: The first step in freedom is the last step; The ending of the continuity– which is time – is the flowering of the timeless; To discover anything…your look must be silent; ‘Thought’, to Krishnamurti, for example, does not just mean logical, abstract, ideational thinking but refers to the entire content of consciousness — memories, emotions, impulses, fears, hopes, desires. Similarly, ‘insight’ is not just instantaneous perception of truth but also associated with love, intelligence, action and a host of other attributes like – believe it or not – it’s being absolute, accurate, final and true.

Learning is pure observation – observation which is not continuous and which then becomes memory, but observation from moment to moment – not only of the things outside you but also of that which is happening inwardly; to observe without the observer. Look not with your mind but with your eyes… Then you find out that the outside is the inside…that the observer is the observed .

Concept of mental discipline

Freedom for Krishnamurti is more inner in character than political. Of course, there is a connection between psychological freedom and outward compulsion – it is difficult to help a student find the former in a climate dominated by the latter – but it is not political freedom that interests Krishnamurti. Rather he is interested in the deeper freedom of the psyche and the spirit, the inner liberation that he felt was both the means and the ends of education.

“There is no freedom at the end of compulsion; the outcome of compulsion is compulsion. If you dominate a child, compel him to fit into a pattern, however idealistic, will he be free at the end of it? If we want to bring about a true revolution in education, there must obviously be freedom at the very beginning, which means that both the parent and the teacher must be concerned with freedom and not with how to help the child to become this or that.

For Krishnamurti the terms ‘freedom,’ with its sense of ‘liberation from inner and outer compulsions,’ is a necessary condition of goodness: ‘It is only in individual freedom that love and goodness can flower; and the right kind of education alone can offer this freedom. Neither conformity to the present society nor the promise of a future Utopia can ever give to the individual that insight without which he is constantly creating problems.’ Goodness is not the object of the teacher’s attention; it is not a distant goal to be reached through a variety of dos and don’ts, or systems and methods.

The object of the teacher’s attention is the child, in her total particularity. The child who is forced to conform, ‘like a cog in a cruel machine’, to the forces of society; the child who learns to imitate because she is afraid – it is this child who must receive the teacher’s undivided, dispassionate and silent attention. In that partnership of attention both teacher and child learn the ‘ways of fear’ and may learn to go beyond it. If Krishnamurti concentrated The ‘partnership,’ because it is no authoritarian, is egalitarian. on the so-called negative emotions, such as fear, in portraying children, it is because he considered fear as an ‘hindrance’ to freedom, and consequently to goodness. Fear, for instance, is an emotion that is all pervasive. It penetrates both the conscious and the unconscious mind of teachers and students. It dulls their minds and hearts. It is at the root of conformity and competition, both of which schools nourish. Fear, Krishnamurti insisted, cannot be eliminated through discipline. It can, however, dissolve when the mind is still, when it is aware ‘of its [fear's] darkening influence.’ The teacher’s responsibility is to help a child ‘to be fearless, which is to be free of all domination, whether by the teacher, the family or society, so that as an individual he can flower in love and goodness.’ For Krishnamurti, then, reflective understanding was the gateway to freedom. In other words, to understand the ways of fear is to be freed of it. ‘Self-knowledge is the beginning of freedom, and it is only when we know ourselves that we can bring about order and peace.’

Krishnamurti’s evocation of the ancient idea of the ethical life based on self-knowledge has to be seen in the context of his whole thought. For the ‘self’ here does not stand for some spiritual essence of traditional Indian thought, but to the everyday self, in its relationship ‘with people, with things, with ideas and with nature’. The teacher must ‘educate’ himself, find out his own attitudes through reflection, and understand, for instance, the ways of fear in his own life. If the teacher does not understand and ‘is himself confused and narrow, nationalistic and theory-ridden, then naturally his pupil will be what he is, and education becomes a source of further confusion and strife.’  The self, is constructed out of ‘a conglomeration’ of desires, through the psychological mechanism of identifications. Qualities, ideological beliefs, and possessions, are some of the objects that the self identifies with to position itself, and to gain security. Krishnamurti maintains that these identifications engender a sense of isolation from the not-self – from alien groups, distinct ideologies and other causes. Patriotism, assiduously cultivated by the state through racial or cultural propaganda, and religious fervor whipped up by organised religion ‘are all ways of the self, and therefore separative.’ Loneliness, reaction, competition and antagonism are intrinsic to the way human beings function in isolation, and these are in the personalities of both teachers and children alike . Nor does he distinguish between ‘true’ identity and ‘false’ identity, as choices along the path to goodness. Rather, he adopts the radical stance of neutralising the reactions or thought-feelings clustering around this basic phenomenon of identification.

Krishnamurti referred to this process of neutralising of thought content as ‘unconditionalthe mind’, which, as we have already noted, he puts at the centre of the partnership between student and teacher. The seemingly abstract imperatives of Education and the  interactions here are Socratic, in the sense that Krishnamurti is not interested in transferring knowledge to his students. Rather, we see him engaged in an ‘inquiry’ to heighten awareness of emotions and the thought processes they generate, so that the student is freed to learn about ‘life as a whole’. Pointing out to middle class students in the heartland of orthodoxy that fear is making them imitate their elders, and also making them hypocritical, he asks: ‘Why do you treat women contemptuously? . . . Why do you go to the temple, why do you perform rituals, why do you follow a guru?’ The moral truths that Krishnamurti attempted to uncover neither came packaged as true belief, nor as knowledge, nor theories but were intrinsic to a spontaneously born sensitivity to life. ‘Fear shuts out the understanding of life with all its extraordinary complications, with its struggles, its sorrows, its poverty, its riches and beauty – the beauty of the birds, and of the sunset on the water. When you are frightened, you are insensitive to all this.’ (LA, p. 30) ‘I think it is a curse to be ambitious,’ he tells the students, ‘Ambition is a form of self-interest, self-enclosure, and therefore it breeds mediocrity of mind.’In a similar spirit of unworldliness, he often asks them to find out if the pursuit of security, money, and reputation did not make them superficial.

Despite this rejection of worldly aims, the goal of Krishnamurti’s education was not to bring his students to a mystical union with some transcendent, otherworldly reality. Rather, his aim was to heighten students’ awareness of the reality of this world, of its fuller reality, which includes nature— ‘the flourishing trees, the heavens, the stars’; social reality – ‘the battle between groups, races and nations’; and reality of the psyche –’the envies, the ambitions, the passions, the fears, fulfillment and anxieties’. So that students, freed of these impediments, aware of the problems of the world, and grounded in a sense of reality, could grow up to create ‘a new world.’

Over and over again, as the distinction between what is artificial or socially constructed and what is natural, became more explicitly articulated in his philosophy, Krishnamurti directed students to nature; the senses then become tools for cleansing the mind: ‘Just look at the stars, the clear sky, the birds, the shape of the leaves. Watch the shadow. Watch the bird across the sky. By being with yourself, sitting quietly under a tree, you begin to understand the workings of your own mind and that is as important as going to class.’ Self-knowledge as the ground of freedom emphasised in ESL was gradually replaced by the term ‘learning,’ as ‘watching,’ and ‘listening’. Unlike self-knowledge, learning is not individuated; unlike knowledge it is neither static nor complete nor touched by the past as memory. Nor is it centred on the self as object. Learning is continuous, a lifelong process, one in which the outer and inner flow together. Learning forges a new partnership between the teacher and the student, a partnership unmediated by barriers of personality, for learning bonds teacher and student in freedom. An insistence on autonomy was perhaps among the deepest of Krishnamurti’s moral concerns. He pointedly returned teachers back to their own psychological resources; statements of the form, ‘I have nothing to give you;’ ‘You are on your own;’ ‘No one can help you;’ ‘It is your problem;’ abound in his writing. With students the perspective was drawn more gently: ‘ . . .you cannot depend on others; you cannot expect somebody to give you freedom and order – whether it is your father, your mother, your husband, your teacher. You have to bring it about in yourself.’ And it is a given condition for participating in dialogue that, ‘You have to learn never to accept anything which you yourself do not see clearly, never to repeat what another has said.’ He told even very young students not to be ‘second hand human beings,’ to live and act autonomously rather than be pushed around by violent, irrational forces. Freedom and responsibility together form the paired centres of Krishnamurti’s thought, and highlight its practical nature.

What drives responsibility in these teachings is not the sanction of society, religion or conscience, but the impulse of goodness. At Brockwood,’ he says, ‘we are responsible for creating this soil in which there is freedom, which is non-dependency. In that freedom, in this energy we can flower in goodness.’ During the last years of his life responsibility became an overwhelming concern for Krishnamurti. Intertwined with freedom, and learning, responsibility embraced a whole spectrum, ranging from the personal to the global. At the personal end, human beings are responsible for their own resentments, fears, greed and vanity; at the other end, they are responsible for the chaos in the world.

While conceding that there should be a highest level of academic excellence in his schools, he did not venture further into this area, which he left to teachers in his schools to map out. His chief concern was to help teachers realise that knowledge has limits: it is not the way to an ordered or sane life, or even to intelligence; knowledge must be imbued with values and embraced by wisdom if it is not to become destructive. In his earliest book on education he points out that ‘The man who knows how to split the atom but has no love in his heart becomes a monster.’

Even though he shared with traditional Indian thought the concept of liberation as the primary goal of human life, Krishnamurti borrowed neither his vocabulary nor his exposition from India’s rich treasure house of sacred literature but, embracing modernity’s iconoclastic spirit, worked out his own powerful discourse. It could justly be said that Krishnamurti introduced a new postulate into education. The moral disposition that educators seek to inculcate through education, he contended, is neither innate nor God given, nor is it brought about through behavioural modifications; rather, it is nourished through the arts of listening and looking — at the outward world of nature and the inner worlds of desire and thought.

Krishnamurti’s view that a human has both a brain and a mind “The real issue is the quality of our mind: not its knowledge but the depth of the mind that meets knowledge. Mind is infinite, is the nature of the universe which has its own order, has its own immense energy. It is everlastingly free. The brain, as it is now, is the slave of knowledge and so is limited, finite, fragmentary. When the brain frees itself from its conditioning, then the brain is infinite, then only there is no division between the mind and the brain. Education then is freedom from conditioning, from its vast accumulated knowledge as tradition. This does not deny the academic disciplines which have their own proper place in life.

The function of education, then, is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time. So freedom lies…in understanding what you are from moment to moment. You see, you are not [normally] educated for this; your education encourages you to become something or other… To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education. “

“Live not by intellect alone; for that way leads to perversion, the mechanization of life. It is hard, cruel and denies the beauty of life”.

J. Krishnamurti



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