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Krishnamurti’s perspective on education

by Crystal - Monday 6 June 2011 - 1930 letture

Education was seen as towards the fullest development of the full human being.

For Krishnamurti, education is:

1.) educating the whole person (all parts of the person)

2.) educating the person as a whole (not as an assemblage of parts), and

3.) educating the person within a whole (as part of society, humanity, nature, etc.) from which it is not meaningful to extract that person. From the above it probably goes without saying, though it can not be said often enough, 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.

What was important and genius for him were:

1.) the intentions of education,

2.) the physical nature of the places in which education occurs, and

3.) the participants in education - the students and staff.

I use the expression ‘educational centers’ instead of ‘schools’ as this is often the expression that Krishnamurti used, and because the educational centers that he founded were also meant to be places for adults to learn.

1. The intentions of education

Krishnamurti repeatedly stated the intentions of the education centers he founded in very unequivocal terms, and in very religious ones.

... children... must be educated rightly... educated so that they become religious human beings. (Krishnamurti 1979)

Surely they must be centers of learning a way of life which is not based on pleasure, on self-centered activities, but on the understanding of correct action, the depth and beauty of relationship, and the sacredness of a religious life. (Krishnamurti 1981b) (Letter dated 15th October 1980)

These places exist for the enlightenment of man (Krishnamurti 1981b) (letter of 15th October 1979)

...acquire a job or use that knowledge for self-satisfaction, for self-aggrandizement, to get on in the world.

Merely to cultivate technical capacity without understanding what is true freedom leads to destruction, to greater wars; and that is actually what is happening in the world. (Krishnamurti 1953)

Merely to stuff the child with a lot of information, making him pass examinations, is the most unintelligent form of education. (Krishnamurti 1948)

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 emphasize preparing young people to succeed materially in the society that exists (or a slightly altered one). 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.

As previously mentioned, a constant theme in Jiddu Krishnamurti’s declarations of the intentions of education is freedom, but 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.

Freedom is at the beginning, it is not something to be gained at the end. (Krishnamurti 1953).

There is no freedom at the end of compulsion; the outcome of compulsion is compulsion. (Krishnamurti 1953).

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 centers from moment to moment.

2. The physical nature of the places of education

Krishnamurti felt that the physical nature of educational centers was very important. He maintained that we are affected or informed by and therefore educated by far more than we suspect, and this is especially true of young impressionable minds. I will focus on what I believe to be the three elements that Krishnamurti spoke of most concerning the physicality of educational centers :

1.) the aesthetics, which includes order,

2.) special areas that Jiddu Krishnamurti felt should exist in the centers he founded, and by extension we can assume he would feel should exist in all schools, and

3.) the atmosphere he felt should prevail and which he usually spoke of as part of the physical nature of the centers, though one can argue that they are material only in a very special sense.

Again, in keeping with the theme of my paper, I will show that Krishnamurti spoke of these four elements in religious terms.

3. The participants in education

There are, generally speaking, two kinds of participants in educational centers: staff and students. Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that any adult that was regularly in one of the centers was a staff member (regardless of function) and because of their regular contact with at least the educational environment if not the students, then they were in the position of educators. Everyone, staff and students, had something religious about their natures just by virtue of being human, but they had something more than that by virtue of their being in education. Krishnamurti didn’t speak of them as religious figures (such as priests or accolades) but one thing that distinguishes participants in education from participants in some other social organizations (i.e. police officers, nurses, bankers, etc.) is that people in education must have religiousness central to their overall intention and central to the nature of the life they lived on a daily basis. As this is equally necessary to both staff and students, there can be no real hierarchy between them. There are, of course, differences between staff and students in their responsibilities and experience; but in all that is most important in education the staff and students are really in the same boat. Staff members 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.

For Jiddu Krishnamurti, ‘doing’ derived from ‘being’ rather than ‘being’ deriving from ‘doing’ - the reverse of convention. Much more needs to be said than this paper permits about the consequences of reversing the roles of ‘being’ and ‘doing’, or even worse, of confusing them. Note the modern convention of a question like, "Who are you?" (a question about being) which is answered by, "I’m a lawyer, engineer, etc." (a statement about doing). Suffice it to say that this reversal or confusion usually leads to a highly developed ’doing’ (which is easier to accomplish) with impoverished ’being,’ and Krishnamurti felt that dysfunction was the usual consequence of such imbalance.

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. (Krishnamurti 1985) (Letter dated 1st October 1982)

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, Fröbel, and Montessori.

The function of education, then, is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time. So freedom 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... (Krishnamurti 1964)

To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education. (Krishnamurti 1953)

For Krishnamurti education was first and foremost a religious activity. In 1929 he stated what he felt was the central intention in his life: I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing; to set man free. (Krishnamurti 1929)

For this Krishnamurti started schools, and for this reason only. We read the words of the young seventeen year old Krishnamurti: If the unity of life and the oneness of its purpose could be clearly taught to the young in schools, how much brighter would be our hopes for the future! (Krishnamurti 1912)

Forty one years later he wrote: If one becomes aware that there can be peace and harmony for man only through right education, then one will naturally give one’s whole life and interest to it. (Krishnamurti 1953). And that is exactly what he did.

During Krishnamurti’s lifetime, Foundations in the USA, England, India, and Latin America came into being to arrange his travel and organize his public talks, publish his books, and run the institutions founded by him. Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) was set up in 1928 as a charitable institution by Krishnamurti under the name of The Rishi Valley Trust. The name was changed to the Foundation for New Education in 1953 and then to the Krishnamurti Foundation India in 1970. The activities of the Foundation include the preservation and dissemination of his teachings, the running of schools, environmental conservation, rural education and health care.

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