Krishnamurti Schools


Benefits Of A Holistic Education

By Geetha Waters

The junior school was shutting down for the morning. “Krishnaji” was giving a talk. Since the teachers wanted to be present, we were being ushered into a common room to play while they were away. Feeling at a loss, I stood by the door and watched as the others set about their games eagerly. The room was lined by shelves stacked high with toys, games, puzzles and storybooks. Because they lived here they were familiar with the place. I didn’t get to visit this room very much since I lived with my father at the far end of the estate. He had spent most of his adult life building up the estates and the dairy farm that supported the needs of the school. So when my teacher stuck her head in the door and asked if anyone wanted to attend the “Talk”, I put up my hand hopefully. Surprised, she took my hand and led me towards the open door. Stepping out under the flowering rain trees, I was thrilled to be walking by her side. “What is he talking about?” I asked, shyly. We all knew that he was a distant relative of hers. “He is a Great Teacher.” She replied happily. “He is going to teach us about Life.” Impressed I walked on, trying to match my steps with hers. We were heading towards the Auditorium.

The hall was filling up with people. They were all dressed in their very best. We sat down with a group of children on a carpet that had been especially laid out for the occasion. Suddenly the general hub of conversation ceased. People turned to watch a slight but elegant figure walking briskly around the turn of the road, past the high-school buildings. He was dressed formally in a flowing silk kurta, vest and white cotton pants. As he approached through the rose garden, I noticed how erect he was. He moved gracefully. There was nothing rushed about him. Slipping off his sandals amidst a mass of footwear lining the hall, he walked quietly to the platform that had been set up for him. Saluting as he sat down he leant a little forward and smiled. “What shall we talk about today?” he asked unassumingly. His face was bright, lined and beautiful. His hair was white and he had a deep resonant voice that carried through the hall. There was an immediate sense of rapport amongst all those present. The air was filled with the scent of roses from the garden. The great tamarind trees stood tall in the sunlight, spotting the grounds around the granite hall. After a moment’s complete silence, the talk began. I settled back to listen, resting in the crook of my teacher’s arm. I did not speak English very well. The fact that a lot of words did not make sense did not trouble me then!

From the moment I heard Krishnaji say, “The word is not the thing.” I sat up and took notice. Here at last was someone actually willing to admit the truth! I marvelled in admiration! The fact that the word is not the thing, explained why I was having difficulty learning a second language. I too could see the truth now, but I was mystified. Why I wondered, had it escaped my notice till then? By arousing our interest in words in this way, Krishnamurti made sure that we would not lose sight of this obvious fact. Each year he would do the rounds of the schools he helped to set up during his life and urge and encourage the children to observe the nature of our words, our thoughts and ask us to explore the impact of labels upon our minds. As far as he was concerned this was the vital part of our education. We grew up in the understanding that we were all participating in a process that would transform consciousness. Not transform the world, but our consciousness.

“Forget the world”, he would say with a sweeping gesture of his arm. “Find out for yourselves.” To find out, all we had to do was sit back and watch it all unfold. What could be easier than that? We set about this task readily!

Once the mind is involved in observing the impact of labels one begins to undergo a series of insights into the nature of thoughts in order to explain how they manage to abstract life. Shedding light upon the nature of thoughts alerts the mind to their limitations. One awakens to the fact that we are here to live, not just to make believe! Predictably, such insights begin to undermine a deep-seated attachment to knowledge liberating the mind from an insistence to ‘acquire’ it all! The mind regains the capacity to face the unknown without experiencing a sense of inadequacy or uncertainty. The opportunity to explore one’s views and concerns throughout childhood helps this capacity to unfold since it foregrounds the processes involved in creating conflict and confusion throughout life. Engaging in the dialogues with Krishnamurti was a necessary first step to awaken us to the inadequacies of words and images. From then it was simply a matter of time before we began to realize the implications of these upon our lives.

In this way education can provide free scope for self-inquiry to awaken the mind to the inadequacies of thoughts and images. During such an inquiry the mind invariably develops a keen sense of awareness of its’ capacity for fiction. This gives rise to a deeper understanding of the nature of self and assists in resolving the differences between the world within and the world we live in. Gradually the pressure to abstract life subsides as the mind matures to be psychologically free from fear and its self-imposed inhibitions. To realize this capacity of mind, it helps to have an education that considers intelligence as a whole, rather than intelligence as just knowledge to be acquired and taken away at the end of a course of study. Holistic education is involved in awakening intelligence from this limited approach. Here, the role of the teacher is that of a companion as well as a tutor. Not a leader, or mentor but primarily that of a companion, who can reflect the views and concerns that surface during the interaction. The desire for absolute truths and all encompassing answers can be probed extensively and explored in great depth by those present. Such interludes always left us feeling enriched and revitalised filled with the zest of living so tangible to children. During these interactions often there is a mutual meeting of minds where a new dimension is born that only the mind can fill!!

When education does not address the subject of self, alongside all the other subjects it develops; it is incomplete. In the twenty first century, every child has the right to a Holistic Education. It does not take additional resources to provide for such an education. All it takes is a willingness from the teacher to listen. To listen to everything that is being said as one would listen to one’s own children. Not to judge, counsel, construct or protect, but to listen. We need to be sensitive to the fact that in acquiring a language and learning to use words children undergo enormous psychological unrest. Unless they are free to express themselves without fear of reprisal, they will not mature to understand the nature of this unrest. They may not be able to explain the nature of this unrest lucidly. Nevertheless given scope, it does begin to unravel as they come to grips with the difficulties involved in approximating the actual to an idea of it! So just to listen out of care, provides sufficient forum for this process to unravel; shedding light upon the nature of thoughts and consequently, of oneself. The child responds to such an opportunity by taking care of the rest of learning! Being aware that one is fundamentally responsible for learning all there is to learn about oneself is possibly the most liberating aspect of Holistic Education! Once the inquiry into self is under way, intelligence begins to flower. One becomes more and more sensitive to the pressures imposed upon the psyche by ones’ thoughts and words. One begins to notice the problem of divided loyalties; of wanting to be good and not bad, tall and not short. All these divisions surface during dialogues and discussions with one’s peers. It is fascinating for children simply because it is directly relevant to them. It is all about their views, their ideas and I have yet to meet a child who is not interested in their own views and exploring what life is all about!!

Holistic education, to me is not an unachievable thing. It wraps the child in an inquiry that safely delivers intelligence through the realm of words! But it requires a community committed to provide education to raise human beings to be capable of understanding and resolving the confusions and conflicts of daily life that leave us all so divided and fragmented around the globe. The nature of confusion and conflict comes under constant scrutiny throughout such an education. By capturing our interest in this area while we were all at school, Krishnamurti made certain that we would spend at least twelve years of our lives seriously considering the nature of our own thoughts and attending to all the divisions in our midst. We had the freedom and the environment to explore our thoughts and views seriously in the company of our peers. What we gathered from these interludes was largely up to us, depending on how willingly we participated in the discussions. You can’t ask for more from your teacher. What he did, he did remarkably well. His dedication to his work with the children at his schools is a real gift that we carry with us to this very day. Some of us open this gift while others take our time over it. That makes all the difference to the very end!

Geetha Waters
Springbrook 2005

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