Sreedhar (S): Rajesh, for over two decades, you have been associated with the schools Krishnamurti founded in India. What impact have they made on education in the country?
Rajesh Dalal (RD): Firstly, they have created a definite challenge to the existing educational values and practices, both conventional and modern. Then they have opened new possibilities and new directions for educators. I wonder how one measures the impact these schools have made on a land like India that is so vast and complex and with such diverse challenges and responses. And also what parameters one would use even if with great difficulty one could measure the impact at the macro level? Moreover, the process of diffusion of knowledge and information itself is slow, leave alone the communication of new possibilities, new challenges. The actualization of these is even further removed. So to expect any educational work to make a significant difference at the manifest level may perhaps be asking for too much.
And yet there are signs that schools like those of Krishnamurti, Tagore, Aurobindo and of other visionaries have definitely affected the country's thinking and continue to do so. These names are well known and so are their schools. So many people from all walks of life have established close links with these schools and some of them are leading artists, scientists, industrialists, environmentalists, educators, political and social workers. Their views influence people and this has naturally brought about an increasing realization of the value of small schools in spacious and natural surroundings, where there is an attempt to create close, affectionate relationships not only between students and teachers but also with nature. The idea that learning should be joyous and participatory rather than merely through rote memory and competition is also finding more acceptance. The disproportionate importance given to academics and examination results is now being questioned even by government-approved educational councils and boards; and development of the total human being is seen as important. Attempts to promote this perspective are made in small ways, despite the enormity of the scale and the magnitude of the task. However, it may not be right to emphasize anyone factor as responsible for the qualitative shifts that appear to be slowly taking place. There are hundred causes and at times they act together, at times at cross purposes. One crucial factor in sustaining the vision may however, be the capacity of individuals and small schools to stand alone, despite difficulties arising from indifference, the paucity of interested parents and teachers and insufficient funds.
S: Don't you feel that Krishnamurti's vision if education can't be confined tojust a few schools? Would it not be if great value to teachers in other private and Government schools too? What in your view could be done about that?
RD: I have been asking this question of myself for a long time. We even initiated the Forum for New Education to create novel programmes for schools and colleges to explore important educational issues in the light of K's teachings. For instance, issues such as competition, reward and punishment, freedom, responsibility and discipline, learning, religion and values have been discussed in meetings with a cross section of teachers and students. I believe that K's perceptions have fundamental implications for the whole of life and it is a pity that they are not known and studied as widely as they deserve to be. Krishnaji's books on education too, need to be translated in different languages and made widely available. Though whatever you do is like a drop in the ocean, one hopes that more people who are concerned with these issues that K raised will talk, discuss, write - not as experts, but as experimenters, as learners.
One must also not lose sight of the importance of a few schools that are really vibrant where goodness, care and intelligence are much more than good ideas to be talked about, where relationship between teachers and students and the creation of a new mind is central. The small size of the school should not deter us, for a school is a microcosm of society. It is a laboratory where a new mind can come into being, which then may initiate a cascading effect on other educators and schools and eventually on society at large. Undoubtedly the challenge is vast.
S: What according to you is the essence of the challenge?
RD: I see today, more than before, that the outward movement of sharing and the inward movement of learning are like an ebb and tide of the same flow. The crucial question is, 'Am I doing it and at my highest or am I complacent or worse, standing outside and judging, complaining?' It is so easy to slip into subtle positions which corrupt the intention and dilute the effort! The name Krishnamurti can become more important than the actual living quality. One may get influenced by the appreciation one receives for one's work, one's so called 'success' at creating 'a different kind of learning'. One needs to realize that when one is attached to any capacity, to any kind of success or achievement, especially in educational or spiritual ventures one not only limits oneself, but one may create an ambience where rivalry and pettiness exist. Is it possible to be free of this and other deep-seated human frailties? That is where the real difficulty and challenge lies.
S: Your own understanding of the challenge of education must have changed over the years. Can you describe that?
RD: Well, earlier I had read and thought a lot on different educators and their views, both from the west and the east, and I was naturally full of interesting ideas, projects. Enthusiastically, I attempted to translate them into action. On hindsight I see there was a misplaced and overrated faith in thought - in new ideas, new curricula, new projects, new structures etc., although these are necessary in a school context. There was a tendency to get absorbed in working these out. It was exciting for the student and for me. One identified with that and, of course, there were certain visible results - happiness and growth of children, appreciation from parents, colleagues etc. There were also problems, heartburns and so on, but they were part of the game.
Krishnamurti would each year point out the limitation inherent in this attachment to thought and to measurement and to seeking results. One's tendency was to attempt the tangible, the measurable, the possible. He was showing the limitation of that way of functioning and was asking us to begin from the other end and attempt the impossible. To see the logic of what he was saying was easy but to perceive the truth of it and act from that was an entirely different matter. I found myself more and more intrigued and drawn to the second approach.
Let me explain this with an example. K said, 'Can you see that comparison creates hurt and fear and hence teach without comparison?' The first way would be to see the reasoning behind the statement, sense that it is true in a certain manner and experiment with it. This could take the form of not comparing the students in class, stop giving grades etc. This would protect children from many harsh aspects of psychological comparisons and create a certain security which is necessary for their growth. But then it could also blunt a certain tough quality required to face hard facts. It would be worse if the educator made 'no comparison' into a rigid conclusion and activeely forbade or discouraged children from comparing. Since comparison is deep-seated in human beings, this could create a reaction or guilt in the child depending on its age and mental make-up. So one notices that understanding a statement conceptually and acting out that concept can have limitations. Of course, if one is studying and watching, gathering evidence and experimenting, one grows in one's understanding and action. In the process one can become a more effective teacher. The question is: Is there also something else one can do? Is there a different approach?
To understand the nuances and implications of the second approach, let us listen to K's question once again: 'Can you see that comparison creates hurt and fear and hence teach without comparison?' This time too you see the reasoning behind the statement, but you are not contented. You honestly ask of yourself, 'Do I compare myself with another and does it create hurt and fear in me?' You then discover that it is so. This is not an idea now. You realize that you do compare and it does create hurt and fear in you. But instead of feeling bad or condemning one's need or tendency to compare, one 'stays' with that fact and faces that one does not know why one compares. This too is an actuality. Depending on the intensity of the questioning and perceiving, the roots of comparison loosen in you. Certain things get dropped. You discover that something different which is not easy to verbalize or describe is happening to you.
This is different from the first approach, where over time, through experience and observation, through evidence and experimentation your ideas mature. In the second approach, if one can call it so, you honestly observe and move from one existential fact to another. There is nothing you are trying to do to another. A certain perceptive quality enters into one's life. Can one be grounded in this perceptive quality and act from that? Krishnaji once described it saying: 'the more you eat the more the hunger grows'. However, if you are still honest and discontented you may realize that you still compare. Till that is so, you can't say you know what it means to teach without comparison. So however deep you may have probed, you do not know, and there is stil something to learn. All of K's teachings lead us to that. Unless we can bring about in ourselves, a truly religious mind - capable of love, free from all dependence, all comparison and competition, our work will tend to get entangled in the web of the self, and in the ultimate analysis, it only brings limitation and strife to us and to others. However I can't wait for a total transformation, because life demands action and we have to respond all the time. So I act from where I am, realizing that it is limited. If one sees this fairly clearly, then the first and the second approach can and must go side by side. Logic and insight are not against each other, but attachment to either of them may cause divisiveness.
How is one to be established in all this? This challenge I find most significant.