Revolution in Education

Revolution in Education

I grew up in Rishi Valley.  It was the first school founded by Jiddu Krishnamurti.  It is nestled in the Deccan Plateau in Andhra Pradesh a state in the south of India.  When I first arrived, my parents told me that the school was set up to find out if we could liberate intelligence and thereby create a revolution in education. Some years later, I overheard a conversation between Mark Lee, my Junior School Teacher and Achyut Patawardhan a friend of Jiddu Krishnamurti.  They were in deep conversation after an intense Staff Meeting where Krishnamurti had spoken insistently to the teachers about ‘preparing the ground to liberate intelligence from the authority of the known’.  So strange, I thought, what a task, but I resolved to watch my mind and report back to the community in case I came across anything interesting. 

 The school estate had been laid out according to a precise plan, my father said, with the playing fields at the heart of the compound.  The valley was surrounded by ancient blue hills resplendent in the sun and sprawling with massive granite boulders weathered by wind and water for millions of years.  The scene was beyond my powers of description.

 I lived with my father on the outskirts of the estate where the property spread out over acres of vegetable gardens, fields of lucerne, pastures for the cattle, orchards, mango groves, tamarinds and the casuarinas trees which had been planted as a wind-break along a ridge of land beyond our back yard.  At nights I could hear the wind whistling through these trees seemingly in tune with the great band of stars in the Milky Way streaming light from the vast depths of the sky.

 The accommodation blocks for boarders and the teaching staff were built around the playing fields.  There were cricket grounds, tennis courts, football yards, courts for playing hockey, hand ball and numerous other sports.  The school buildings were built amidst green lawns and flowering shrubs.  Tall trees lined the roads which criss-crossed through the whole compound.  So most of the children lived within a tight knit community and few of them had the freedom to range across the valley as I did.

 Our house was at the end of a long track that ran past the Old and New Guest House.  It was an ancient track covered in soft fine dust.  It wound through the valley and on towards a settlement called Thettu at the base of the western hills.  On this track I met many visitors from around the world who came to the talks with Jiddu Krishnamurti.  I often walked with them to and from school and listened to their wonderings about his philosophy and his radical approach to education. I also walked with the local people whose ancestors had lived in the valley for centuries. I played with their children since many of the farm hands came from the surrounding villages. 

My Ayah was a widow.  She had two children.  They kept me company while she cleaned the house, washed clothes, swept the yard and took care of the garden.  My father was away most of the time working at the farm seven days a week, tending to his ‘beloved’ herd of cows.  He had over fourteen people working at the dairy helping him feed and clean the cows before milking them daily.  They started at 4 am and finished at 6 pm.  His cows were the most beautiful herd I had ever seen.  Their large placid eyes serenely reflected the universe and were surrounded by dense long lashes.

 So in the midst of this ancient landscape I found myself on intimate terms with people from diverse backgrounds.  There were many guests at the school.  Some stayed at the Guest House for weeks, others for a few days.  They came from Hollywood, from the Himalayas, from Europe and far flung places like Canada and Australia. I heard about their ventures, passions and their transitions through life. 

 They spoke to me about establishing a Kibbutz in Israel.  They spoke of Malaysia and modern cities like Singapore.  They agonized about the poverty in third world countries like India.  They talked about the politics and covert operations between Russia and America.  They spoke of apartheid in Africa and the agonizing war in Vietnam.  No matter where they came from though, they were concerned about the world of man.  They were looking for answers to the problem of human existence.  They were looking to see if education in an idyllic setting like ours, removed from the grip of modern civilization would provide useful answers. 

 It was intriguing to walk beside a bullock cart with an engineer who built jet planes and listen to him musing about the craftsmanship that went into hand-carving wheels out of local blocks of wood.  It was strange to hear about Piaget and Pavlov, Einstein and radical scientists like David Bohm.  The tug of war between the East and the West, the war in Vietnam, the tainted politics of apartheid in South Africa and the Chinese communist encroachment over the Himalayas infused my mind as I walked back and forth from school.

 Other than watching the movement of thought from an early age and observing the impact of labels upon my mind, I had no idea that I would someday walk free from the cloud of illusion that was slowly gathering in my mind.  I could see that reflecting on the movement of thought helped me clarify my mind.  So I kept up with the inquiry.  I could see that my sequence of thoughts stirred a sense of anticipation, expectation, fear and desire. 

 I was so enamored by my own imagination. It was such an absorbing past-time, such entertainment. Seeing how easily I could dwell on fantasy, speculate and draw on it struck a note of caution at the time.  However, I had no idea that I would rely upon my early impressions of thought throughout my life, or that our vigilance would free my mind from the stifling grip of conditioning.  Years later, I realized that this was exactly what Jiddu Krishnamurti intended for us when he set about engaging us in dialogue into the nature of thoughts during his annual visits to our school.

 Geetha Waters

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