Krishnamurti did not accept the conventional meaning of religion prevalent in society. He said that temples, mosques and churches are not religious places as no learning takes place there. To him the real purpose of religion is to come upon virtue, which is not a set of prescribed actions but a state of being in which there is complete order in consciousness. To arrive at such a state one has to observe the causes of disorder in our consciousness by watching it in the ‘mirror of relationship’. Disorder in our consciousness in the form of conflict, anger, jealousy, enmity, hatred, fear, sorrow, guilt and frustration arises due to various forms of illusions in our mind. It can be ended by discerning for oneself what is true and what is false. Illusion is something imaginary and has no real existence but is accepted as fact by the individual. This is a process of unlearning the false and such learning may be termed as self-knowledge. This is totally different from the other kind of learning which is the accumulation of knowledge and techniques. Self-knowledge is so-called because it cannot be obtained from books or teachers; it has to be learnt by oneself.
Krishnamurti emphasized that a school must provide the ground for both kinds of learning and help the student to excel in both, namely the understanding of the external world around us as well as the understanding of the inner world of our consciousness. The true function of religion is to liberate our consciousness from the disorders it is prone to. Self-knowledge, he suggested, is the key to wisdom as it ends the disorder in consciousness. Such a learning mind is the true religious mind and not one which is burdened with only knowledge or techniques. If a school imparts knowledge that empowers the individual to act in the world, then it must also accept the responsibility to enable the student to come upon wisdom through self-knowledge. Krishnamurti called this the ‘awakening of intelligence’. Without wisdom, the power of knowledge becomes dangerous since it can be used to dominate, exploit or destroy others. He said there is no intelligence without compassion and one is not truly educated if one does not have love and goodness, which flower through the understanding of oneself.
Hence, the aim of a Krishnamurti school is to nurture in the child excellence in knowledge and skills, and self-awareness in consciousness and relationship. This he referred to as ‘the art of living’. This requires tremendous sensitivity, the perception of beauty in every aspect of life and the capacity for love and compassion. A school that enables this is a religious space. Such a place nourishes a learning mind interested in discerning what is true and what is false; it attracts the true pilgrim; and it is a sanctuary for all life. Such a vision requires a completely different approach to education.
Such schools must be located in a place of great natural beauty, with trees, birds and animals coexisting with human beings. Such an atmosphere is conducive to sensitivity which is essential for a religious mind. Sensitivity develops through quietness and attention, and it cannot be obtained through books or thinking alone.
The student-teacher ratio must be small so that personal attention and care can be accorded to every student in all aspects of life—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The physical aspect requires right diet, adequate sleep, various forms of sports and games, dances and exercises including yoga. The intellectual aspect requires an introduction to good literature, languages, poetry, art, science, mathematics, logic and reason, and knowledge of the external world. The emotional aspect demands sensitivity, self-knowledge, friendship, cooperation with respect, and affection. The spiritual aspect demands enquiry, self-understanding, freedom from self-centred activity, awareness, sense of responsibility, care and compassion. All of these are a part of flowering in goodness. The school must provide activities and opportunities for the development of all these aspects in the child.
The relationship between the teacher and student needs to be free from fear. One establishes a relationship of friendship, affection and mutual respect and not of control through fear and authority. The teacher encourages enquiry and a learning mind, not only in the academic curriculum but also about society, about life, about rules and structures and right conduct. A learning mind is different from a knowing mind or an intellectual mind. It is a mind that senses and learns through watching, listening, awareness and enquiry. It has a harmonious blend of reason and love. The teacher learns along with the student. The teacher may know more about a subject than the student, but he may not know what right living is. There have to be forums where all questions of life can be discussed in a spirit of dialogue without anyone dictating to anyone else. The state of our society reveals that we have yet to discover what right living is. A Krishnamurti school can be regarded as an experiment in right living in which all of us, students and teachers, are learning the art of living.
It follows that the school must be free from comparisons, judgements, punishments and rewards. The purpose of evaluation is not to compare and classify students as intelligent or dull but to become aware of their actual strengths and weaknesses, so that one can accordingly help them to grow. There is no such thing as an unintelligent child. Intelligence manifests itself differently in each child and we need to watch and help the child in every direction. We are all different from each other but no one is superior or inferior to anyone else. When we do not compare, there is true equality and mutual respect. The role of a teacher is thus not to judge and criticize a student but to investigate together with the child every aspect of life in a spirit of friendship, and discover the beauty therein. There is great beauty in nature, in games and sports, in literature, in music and the arts, in science and mathematics too. It is that beauty which produces joy when we engage in that activity. If one can feel that beauty one is not bored and there is no need to pursue pleasure as an escape from boredom. Learning all this is to come upon sensitivity which is the main aim of both religion and of education.
It may appear that this is an impossible task. But a religious mind does not assess what is possible or impossible. The political and business mind does that. The religious mind is concerned with right action, irrespective of whether it succeeds or fails. It asks the ‘impossible’ question. In doing so one may not attain the full vision, but it does not thereby diminish the vision, which organized religions have done, thus betraying the teachings that lie at their core. Let us not make the same mistake.