Shibumi, in Bangalore, is a small alternative centre started by a group which includes a trustee of the KFI and teachers who have worked and studied in various Krishnamurti schools in India.
The adults who came together in 2008 were very clear that the intent of Shibumi was drawn from the teachings of Krishnamurti. Therefore those who came to work as teachers would have to have a serious, sustained interest in the teachings. From that understanding of the intent, we decided that the school would start small and remain small.
The way we structured our educational programme would reflect our understanding of the teachings. There would be no classes, and each student would have the space to work at the level appropriate to him or her, and a pace that is right. Students would be encouraged to discover their own interests, and they would not write an examination unless they were completely ready and therefore able to approach it free of stress. We assumed that parents who understood and accepted such an approach would be right for the school and that we would be able to work with the students in freedom. So Shibumi was projected as a school interested in inquiring into Krishnamurti with an educational programme drawn from the teachings. There was an invitation to the parents to engage with this intent. Some took it up, many did not.
We soon discovered that this was not sufficient. For the intent to become actual, we needed parents who walked together with us all the way, and not merely parents who ‘agreed’ with the educational programme. To hold the students rightly through the whole period of their maturing (which may not end with school), the adults in the student’s life, the parents and teachers must have the same vision.
How does one do this? Is it at all possible? Will parents be open to such a demand? These were (and are) the questions that naturally came up. There was no way to find out except by trying.
One major step was to change the way we now projected the school (Shibumi) to people interested in our educational programme. We said we were a centre of adults interested in self-inquiry and the teachings, and that there was an educational programme available for the children of such interested adults. We emphasized the new approach on every Open Day, which happened once in two months, for groups of people who had inquired about the school. Fifteen to twenty people would attend. We did respond to functional queries of transport and fees, but the main purpose of Open Day was to convey the intent of the school. We started by emphasizing the importance of dialogue around the teachings of Krishnamurti with prospective parents; anyone interested in the educational programme would have to understand the necessity of coming for at least twelve to fifteen dialogue sessions spread over two to three months.
I remember that we came to the Open Day partly because we were curious to see the school, partly because we thought it would give us a better sense of how a Krishnamurti school functions. Shibumi was too far for us to even consider it an option at that point. Attending that Open Day was not planned. It happened by chance.
Afterwards we were clear that we would continue interactions with the school; attend dialogues because it impacted us in a much deeper way than we thought it could. And then there was no looking back, so to speak.
I think attending dialogues is really essential for parents to understand what the school is all about. It was very useful in our case. The dialogues helped us see what we were committing ourselves to, if we decided upon Shibumi for our children. The way I see it, initial dialogues are a start to a longer journey and if, as parents, we find that a hard thing to do, how would we be able to make that commitment to the school and to ourselves in the longer run?
These dialogues are held four times a week, three times at school and once in the city. Both current and prospective parents, and teachers in turn, come together.
The books we have used as a starting point for discussions have included Commentaries on Living, The Whole Movement of Life is Learning, as well as DVDs and audios of Krishnamurti’s discussions with David Bohm, Pupul Jayakar and Allan Anderson. As we read, we would pause for our own reflections, discussions and clarifications. With some newer parents who were quiet and hesitant, we learnt the importance of waiting and giving space for the inquiry.
Those who wish for a deeper and more intense engagement meet on Wednesday mornings, to read carefully the transcripts of The Limits of Thought. Two of the participants are a parent couple who have had to shift to Denmark for a year. They get up at four in the morning to participate in the dialogues on Skype.
Through dialogues we are able to see the construct of what is called the individual or the self and its actions that are rooted in the seeking of security, pleasure, gratification and in the avoiding of pain, fear, loss or failure. But right action is not an outcome of such a process. Right action is the ending of this kind of a movement. From time to time, over the last few years, we have had insights that have brought in its wake actions that seemed counter-intuitive to the intellect, but by leaving no residue these actions have enriched our lives. . .
We notice that the parents who have been explicitly told that Shibumi is a centre for adults interested in Krishnamurti’s teachings and self-inquiry are quite regular in their engagement with dialogues and the teachings. The parents of the older students who had joined in the first two years of the school and were not given such an explicit invitation continue to view the place primarily as a school for their children and only secondarily as a place of inquiry. Those who have moved from the latter to the former have said that the infrequency of the earlier dialogue sessions—once a month—had created a disconnect; if they couldn’t make it on a particular Sunday, there was a gap.
...I feel that if I am away from the dialogue meetings for a while, it is very easy to get used to the routine and dullness in the mind, and the mind gets caught up with the way the world functions. It is a wonder that a human mind needs dialogue to keep our minds alive and look at things!
It was an opportunity lost and we have, in different ways, communicated the shift in the intent of Shibumi and tried to persuade them to come for dialogues. Their children are older students, and we have our own relationship with them and regular dialogues in the school. If there are younger siblings who will be with us for a long time, we do persevere to ensure that these parents do come for the dialogues. All this may seem like coercion, and one may rightly wonder if the dialogues have any value unless conducted in an atmosphere of freedom. This is completely true. It is equally true that without such intense engagement, the intent gets diluted and the very image of the place as being a ‘school’ comes in the way of serious inquiry. It is commonsense to realize that if the adults have jointly and cooperatively taken responsibility for right education over a period of time stretching over years, such a dialogue about the whole of life becomes absolutely necessary.
I think I will talk about the dialogue because that has impacted me the most in the interactions with school. I look forward to them especially in the school environment—everything comes together there in that open space. I think these dialogues and Krishnamurti’s work have been great ways for me to connect with myself and see myself more clearly. And that I can see is reflecting in my relationship with myself and the world. It has given me a greater understanding of the work I do in terms of helping resolve conflicts so to speak, and insights into how it is not separate from who I am, which is the same as who we are.
One of the outcomes of such a serious engagement with parents has been that several of them have either joined the school as teachers or are in the process of doing so. These are serious, mature people, with an exposure to life and a commitment that goes beyond the education of their children. This parent body, deeply supportive of the intent of the centre, has raised almost all the funds necessary for the infrastructure of Shibumi.
I was part of the parent body which was entrusted with the task of deciding the salaries for the teachers (with absolutely no interference or coercion from the school), though I believe in several schools this may be considered a sensitive and ‘private’ matter. As a result, we even got Mediclaim insurance for all the students, non-teaching staff and teachers.
Deciding salaries raised several questions in our minds. Should we base it on present standards of living? Should we just decide on the basis of what other schools are paying? Should we look at tenure and experience before deciding? Should we look at what would ‘attract’ potential teachers if they were to take it up as a career? Should teachers look at it as a career? Shouldn’t we provide some sort of security for the teachers, where they need not be concerned with providing the basic necessities for themselves and their families, but give their energies to help nurture ‘good’ human beings in school? Some of these questions, I realized, need not apply to teachers as such, but it made me introspect on my own ‘needs’ and standards of living.
It goes without saying that if such a serious demand is made on the parents, then an even more serious and intense demand has to be made on those who wish to come in as teachers. For some parents the deepening interest in the larger questions moves them to take the next step. Discussions happen over a sufficient period of time so that there is clarity on all sides.
My involvement with Shibumi as a resource person started when I volunteered to tutor students in mathematics a year ago. Very quickly I realized that most students were independent and quite comfortable learning on their own. W hile I had always known this [theoretically], it was my first direct exposure to the Shibumi student body—they were not being fed fish, but being taught how to fish. Perhaps coming with a traditional teacher mindset, I did feel quite useless being there. But the space of doing [apparently] nothing helped me—in understanding the role of teacher with respect to the student, in understanding my children at home, and in taking a step in understanding myself.
The question for the teacher really is whether one is interested in working together with a group of people with a sense of responsibility for the whole of mankind, rather than the narrower question of whether one wants teaching as a career. It is most significant when a group of individuals come together to see if human consciousness can be transformed.
My involvement with Shibumi started as a parent whose two children joined the school in 2010. Over the years it has blossomed into a deep and engaging relationship with different dimensions. From being a resource person who spends one to two days of the week in the school participating in different activities (computer science, maths, table tennis), to being a part of different parent groups for operational and financial guidance and upkeep of the school, participating in dialogues around Krishnamurti’s teachings and exploring how it reflects on my daily life, the engagement with the school has only deepened with time.
The dialogues, which I have been a part of with teachers, parents and students, provide a platform to inquire deeply into why our minds are caught in innumerable problems, fears and desires associated with daily living. The diverse nature of the groups and world views reflected against the mirror of Krishnamurti’s teachings also add multiple dimensions to understanding the fundamentals of human condition and, personally speaking, help in refining the act of listening. Overall, Shibumi plays a central role in our (my family and myself) lives. W e can see that one of the important functions in educating one’s child requires no separation between the ‘home’ and the ‘school’, and the involvement of parents in the daily functioning of the school is a way towards this.
The earliest interaction—other than dialogues—parents had with Shibumi was in the kitchen. While school meals were generally simple and nutritious, when the parents came in to cook they became rich with deepfries, carbohydrates and sugar! There was a great need to please the children. Meanwhile, the Shibumi kitchen was moving towards organic food; shopping was still the responsibility of a teacher.
My first interaction with the school started with the Sunday meetings in 2010. These were pretty formal. The dialogues were thought-provoking, but as the frequency wasn’t too often (once in a month) they did not have much impact on my life. I used to feel lost too, as I didn’t know most of the parents and some teachers as well. I did not understand the functioning of the school or really appreciate the deep purpose.
Over the years this has changed in many ways for me. My interactions increased especially via cooking and the kitchen. Initially, it was to make my child comfortable that I started volunteering. Today, I do it out of my own interest and a feeling of being part of the school. The school team and the invitation to be part of its various activities were probably always the same; my feelings and levels of interaction have changed slowly since the initiation to the present.
In the kitchen a sense of freedom and community exists. Discussions are open and communication too (thanks to WhatsApp!). Feedback is immediate and openness to ideas exists. An overall understanding of expectation and needs exists.
A major shift happened when we invited parents to the curriculum meetings last summer. While there was much discussion on what Shibumi could offer as healthy alternatives, it was also the moment to confront our deeply held need for comfort food!
This year we have made a conscious effort to focus on healthy and nutritious food at school. What this really means is a shift to complex carbs and whole grains; raw food and fruits daily and a shift away from fried snacks and store-bought juices.
I was always conscious about cooking healthy, so my food was never too spicy or greasy. But after joining the Shibumi kitchen, I noticed a significant difference in the way I was now cooking. . . .the millet workshop showed us how millet could be a replacement for rice and wheat which we use daily. At school, the kitchen team started exploring new dishes with millets which could be both healthy and tasty.
The kitchen is now totally managed by parents. They have taken over the entire shopping, which is now completely organic. The challenge for the parents is that they cannot come to school with a pre-decided menu. They have to use whatever is fresh and available on a particular day. Later, two parents attended on their own initiative a millets workshop organized by Bhoomi College. When they realized its value, a workshop was organized for other parent and teachers. Thirty people attended, many of them younger parents. It was noticed that those who came for dialogues also attended the millet workshop!
It is a fact that in our schools, even with the best and most sincere of intentions, parents and teachers inhabit separate, enclosed spaces. These spaces touch each other with meetings often arranged around cultural events, dialogues and report meetings. Such interactions are often bewildering, fraught with tension and frustrating, with the student in the spotlight in more ways than one. Surely, it must ensure a deep security for a child to watch the adults in her life being in contact, talking and working with each other, where the concern of the parents envelops all the children in the school and not painfully or selfishly focused on their own. Otherwise, how are we to nurture children in our care with ‘one mind’?
If the teacher takes a real interest in the child as an individual, the parents will have confidence in him. In this process, the teacher is educating the parents as well as himself, while learning from them in return. Right education is a mutual task demanding patience, consideration and affection.
J. Krishnamurti: Education and the Significance of Life, Chapter 6.