Krishnamurti on Education

Personal Observations
Krishnamurti and Education
Differences in Form, Function and Significance

by
Michael Mendizza

Introduction:
In many ways Krishnamurti schools look and feel similar to other alternative educational environments. It is important therefore to define as simply as possible how Krishnamurti’s views in general and specifically his approach to education differs from other models. Comparison is challenging. Krishnamurti questions a number of basic assumptions that most other approaches do not consider and by doing so he creates a different context and therefore different meaning and value for the normal activities and relationships called education. The activities may look the same, going to classes, writing papers - it is this unique context and the way it expresses through relationship that alters the meaning of Krishnamurti and Education.

For example:
Nearly every approach to education serves to condition young people in ways that conform to society. Krishnamurti’s approach cultivates a silent state of acute awareness and attention that acts to free the mind from this conditioning and its implied authority.

He is much more concerned with the state of the heart and mind than their content. By optimizing the state of the learner in relationship, academics and meeting all other challenges are optimized as well.
Krishnamurti views intelligence not as content, not thought, memory or an idea, rather as a vital and universal force that expresses spontaneously when the human heart, mind and body is completely safe, coherent, free to observe, to act appropriately and learn. His approach to education awakens this intelligence and its quiet intensity.

He understood that the formation of a social self-image is the catalyst that gives cultural conditioning its immense power. His teachings and approach to education question the purpose, permanency, value and need of this image along with the self-centered thought, action and conflict it generates.

Not being an image the real goal of true education, ‘knowing one’s self,’ assumes a different meaning. Self refers to the moment by moment reactions one experiences spontaneously in the mirror created by relationships with others and the world. What one sees looking in this mirror at a Krishnamurti school is fundamentally different from the same mirror found in other environments.

What distinguishes Krishnamurti’s view of education from all others is the way these and other unique elements combine to create a different context for the normal activities we call parenting and education, and how this different context alters the meaning of each activity and therefore of education - its form, function and significance. This unique context redefines the meaning of education in the same way Krishnamurti’s teachings in general redefine the meaning of individual and collective human life.

Krishnamurti and Education
Differences in Form, Function and Significance

Krishnamurti’s views are unique, completely unified and whole as vision and in practice. By paraphrasing central themes found in The Core of the Teachings, drafted by Krishnamurti in 1980, differences between his approach to education and mainstream, including most alternative forms, can be explored through several lenses; the role of education as an agent of cultural conditioning, authority, attention, the silent mind, the nature of intelligence, self-as-image, state specific learning, and relationship.

Krishnamurti’s vision of education:

Each generation more or less conforms to the past generation; therefore no generation is ever a new generation. What we are trying to do here is to create a new generation… who won’t be afraid, who won’t conform.

To live in this insanity and yet be sane?

To live intelligently, with great love and affection and not be smothered, corrupted by society… So education becomes of the greatest importance. Education, not being merely the acquisition of technical knowledge, but understanding, with sensitivity and intelligence… the whole structure of human existence.

The above and following quotes are drawn from
conversations with students and staff at Brockwood Park
published in 1975 as Beginnings of Learning

Conditioning:

Don’t fool yourself, you have been conditioned by that insane world, shaped by past generations – including your parents.

Much of what takes place in mainstream, even alternative approaches to parenting and education is simple conditioning. The goal of this conditioning is to shape young minds in ways that conform to, support and perpetuate the values, beliefs and accepted behaviors of a given culture. Krishnamurti’s approach, in practice and in its relationship to academics, reverses this process, freeing the young heart and mind of this conditioning.

Conditioning takes place not only culturally, in the sense of religion, social morality and so on, but also through knowledge itself. Is it possible to teach students and ourselves to free the mind from [the conditioning imposed by] knowledge and yet use knowledge without causing the mind to function mechanically?

You have come here to uncondition yourself.

Authority:

The moment you follow somebody you are making yourself an idiot [dull] and the one you follow also an idiot - because they have [both] stopped learning.

Like a switch, authority in its various forms alters the free state of the mind essential for real learning. Authority implies coming to a conclusion, having a belief, treating words and mental images as facts, creating an image about one’s self or another, how the assumed authority of parents, teachers, priests or gurus, those who know, change the relationship with the child-student who does not.

Acute attention and awareness with its curiosity and inquiry ‘shut down’ and are replaced by reflexive habits. Krishnamurti warns of this ‘shutting down’ of energy and attention becoming the norm.

There is no authority here, therefore you are left to yourself and it is very difficult to keep oneself at the highest point of energy, drive, intelligence, and affection, and not just go off into some kind of day-dream, uselessly wasting time.

Are we using our minds to their highest capacity, or are we just slowing down?

Krishnamurti declared that there is ‘no path to truth,’ we must be responsible, be a light to yourself. He explored ideas about the world and relationship as propositions to be examined and verified by each individual listener. In this way he modeled the act of learning without creating authority.

Attention:

The weight of authority, accumulated knowledge and cultural conditioning imposed on young minds through mainstream forms of parenting, education and other practices produce a steady stream of self-generative mental, emotional and physical reflexes (habits) in the developing body-mind, disturbing its natural order and preventing true intelligence from expressing in most human relationships and activities. Rather than accessing wider and deeper insights leading to appropriate, responsible action the conditioned-educated-mind grows increasing fragmented, confused and therefore dull and dangerous. Krishnamurti’s approach prevents this.

The key to prevention is a deep and pervasive awareness of this dulling activity which is easily seen directly - in contrast to the acute awareness and attention of a mind that is free of this conditioning, a mind that is therefore silent, able to see clearly and respond appropriately.

Quietness is necessary because a mind that is really very quiet, not distorted, understands something which is not distorted, which is really beyond the measure of thought. And that is the origin of everything.

Incorporating the acute attention and awareness of a silent mind in one’s daily-life affects everything, including the student’s and teacher’s ability to deal sanely, efficiently and completely with increasingly complex academic and worldly challenges.

You can do this not only when you are sitting in the room but all the time, when you are eating, talking, playing games; there is always this sense of attention… and as you do it, it penetrates more and more.

You are gathering that attention, intensifying it… and that goes on during the day even though you don’t pay attention to it.

Then… when you are teaching or when you are learning… there is this quietness going on all the time.

The meaning, value and purpose of academics along with social success, resting now on this deepened and expanded inner foundation, find a new balanced and appropriate place in the full spectrum of one’s life.

Will you be responsible to bring about this soil where you will respond to… everything that is happening around you completely, adequately?

Then this place will be marvelous and each of us will have a thousand-watt candle inside him.

Intelligence:

Traditional approaches to education assume that intelligence refers to clever or creative manipulation of accumulated knowledge, that intelligence equals a well developed intellect. Krishnamurti and longtime friend physicist David Bohm hold a different view. Bohm and Krishnamurti warn that intellect often operates mechanically and therefore with little or no real intelligence, and that such a mind, something traditional forms of education tend to reproduce, represents an increasingly dangerous force throughout the world.

Bohm describes intellect as experience dependent and personal. Intelligence is global, transpersonal, not contained in or defined by the body or personal experience. Intelligence therefore is not content, not thought, memory or an idea, rather it is a vital and universal force that expresses spontaneously when the human heart, mind and body is completely safe, coherent, free to observe, to act appropriately and learn.

Is education… helping you to be intelligent? I mean by that word to be very sensitive, not to your own desires, to your own demands, but to be sensitive to the world.

The active force of true intelligence, invited and revealed through the acute attention and awareness of a silent mind, acts in ways that prevent thought, knowledge and conditioning from becoming fixed reflexive dogma.

Habit is the continuation of action within the field of the known… like a machine. Now I am asking, can the mind…be free and move away from any borders of the known?... Is there a way of living… in which there is no habit at all?

In form and in its relationship to academic curriculum Krishnamurti’s approach to education awakens intelligence.

I feel you ought to leave this place highly intelligent, not just pass some exams, but be tremendously intelligent, aware, beautiful persons… Then your life will be sacred.

Self-as-Image:

One of the mysterious characteristics of conditioning observed and treated uniquely by Krishnamurti and his approach to education is the way it manifests in consciousness as an image-of-self.

An image isn’t merely a picture about something: a conclusion is an image, a conclusion that I am something, that I must be something – that is an image.

Almost every aspect of cultural conditioning is designed to maintain its conservative nature – and that critically depends on an image-as-self being active in everyone’s life. The praise, blame, grades, rewards, punishments and prohibitions found in most forms of parenting, social, religious training and education rely on, reinforce and strengthen this image-as-self phenomenon.

The world has created the culture in which you were born. That culture has conditioned you and that conditioning says: you must conform.

You have the image of yourself, which has been created by culture in which you live, and you [that image] says: ‘That image must conform to a pattern.’ But you may not conform, and you are frightened.

Fear of not belonging, of physical or psychological abandonment, is life threatening to young and old. This threat, introduced very early in life, induces conformity. This fear as a pattern becomes the primary hook that keeps individuals and humanity trapped in the past and represents a powerful force that prevents the opening and development of the rich, full spectrum of innate human capacities. Triggering this fear over and over again in almost every form of relationship causes the awakening and full expression of intelligence, in and throughout every human relationship and activity, to collapse again and again into reflexive conditioning. Challenge Christianity or the Republican Party, for example, and the image-as-self the conservative Christian holds feels personally assaulted - revealing that there is no basic difference between conditioning in general and its morphed expression as image-of-self.


Looking deeply it becomes clear that this image-of-self is the essential catalyst that gives cultural conditioning its immense power. Culture creates the image and through that image culture limits, constrains and controls individual behavior - generation after generation. Culture therefore maintains and conserves its integrity at the expense of true human development.

Krishnamurti’s teachings and approach to education question the purpose, permanency, value and need of this image along with the self-centered thought, action and conflict it generates.

If you don’t conform the world is against you.

Fear is engendered, is bred, when you have an image about yourself; and you have that image to conform.

If you have fear you cannot have that intelligence.

The root of that hurt [the fear] is an image… and that image doesn’t want to get hurt.

I want to live freely; I want to have no walls around me… How do you prevent this image from being formed?

Having an insight, not only into the ephemeral nature and structure of our personal self-image, that it is - after all - just an image, but even more deeply, seeing how, once created, this image-of-self causes its own and other induced images to dominate the content of consciousness of humanity, preventing the activity of true intelligence from manifesting spontaneously and universally in every human activity and relationship - having this insight strips away the controlling power culture gains through the misuse of the brain’s natural capacity to generate ‘resonant representations’ or images of physical, emotional and mental experiences.

Do you know what it means not to have any image about yourself?... what it means to co-operate when there is no ‘me’?

Abstracting an ‘image-as-self’ from the continual stream of naturally occurring images, then tacitly assuming and behaving as if this abstracted image-of-self is of supreme importance, is a profound misuse of the brain’s natural capacity, resulting in a self-generative and near permanent personal and collective delusion. Once created, and nearly every aspect of language and cultural conditioning demands and reinforces this, it is extremely difficult for a brain generating this delusion to be aware of the delusion it is creating and therefore caught in.

Having an insight into this misuse of memory, as Krishnamurti described in 1929, sets humanity absolutely, unconditionally free from the limitations and constraints imposed by cultural conditioning in all its forms.

Self-knowledge:

Not being an image ‘knowing one’s self’ assumes a completely different meaning. Self refers to the moment by moment reactions one experiences spontaneously in the mirror created by relationships with others and the world.

You see your reflection in the mirror, exactly what you look like, unless the mirror is crooked or cracked. Can you look at yourself in the same way…without any distortion, without any twists, without any deviation, just to see exactly as you see in a mirror?

The same action acute attention and awareness has on knowledge, preventing it from becoming fixed and reflexive dogma, is turned inward preventing images-of-self and of others from forming and dissolving those that have been formed. This insight, seeing that the image, the word or symbol is not what is being described, instantly transforms the state of the human mind, what that mind perceives and interprets as reality, its activity and relationships in every conceivable way. By questioning the image-as-self Krishnamurti invites this insight.

State Specific Learning and Performance:

The above and what follows can be distilled further by realizing that Krishnamurti is interested much more in the ‘state’ of the heart and mind than its content, more simply, that the state of the heart-mind is its content, a perspective shared by learning and performance specialists in other fields including the arts, psychology and athletics.

Bohm described research showing that the physical and emotional state of the heart-mind-body, its ease or disease as each new experience is unfolding, is woven into the memory of that experience. Thought and memory trigger a re-membering of the original physical, emotional and mental ‘pattern’ or ‘state’.

States of being therefore provide the context out of which the content of our consciousness, what we experience as learning and performance, the goal of education, grows. This research revolutionized sport psychology in the 1980s. Optimize the context, the state or ‘inner game’ of the player, and what emerges, the score (learning and performance) is simultaneously optimized.

Fragmentation is eliminated by eliminating the distortion caused by self-induced effort, giving attention to anticipated outcomes for example. The heart-mind-body regains it natural coherence with its complete attention. The challenge of the moment is met completely drawing upon the full spectrum of one’s capacity and intelligence. Krishnamurti’s teachings, including his approach to education, apply the principle of ‘state specific learning and performance’ to every aspect of our lives.

To see something very clearly I must have a very quiet mind [give complete attention].

When you control or force the mind you are distorting it… If I force myself to be extremely polite to you that is not politeness… There is quietness, stillness without any effort… When you understand what effort, control, suppression is – in that very perception the mind becomes quiet.

Relationship:

First it’s the feeling…When we are really friends, when I love you and you love me – not sex and all that – but really feeling together, then we are safe, aren’t we? You will protect me and I will protect you in the sense of working together… Can we create that feeling here? Otherwise, what’s the point of all this? Can’t we have a sense of wellbeing, a sense of caring, of affection, love? Surely then, we shall create something totally new.

But if you don’t know what the feeling is now, when you are young, and don’t create it, then later on it is too late.

What distinguishes Krishnamurti’s view of education from all others is the way these and other unique elements combine to create a fundamentally different context for the normal activities we call parenting and education, and how this profoundly different context alters the meaning of each activity and therefore of education, its form, function and significance. This unique context redefines the meaning of education in precisely the same way Krishnamurti’s teachings in general redefine the meaning of individual and collective human life.

Michael Mendizza
michael@ttfuture.org