What is education about? In what general context does it find its meaning, its raison d'ĂȘtre? What is its essence? These are old questions that we must keep asking lest we fall into mechanical and mindless patterns of institutional operation. It may sound too much like a platitude to say that its broadest context is life itself and that its essence is learning. This may be obvious and acceptable to everyone but the meaning of living may not be so self-evident and, to judge by the way we live, the true nature of learning is escaping us as well. So in the end we cannot pretend to ourselves that we have answered the question and we must look more closely into it.

It would seem that in our modern sophisticated world and following on the footsteps of science, mainly biology and physics, we tend to view life as the product of chance, with no discernible deeper purpose. The overall decline of religion worldwide has added fuel to the gathering existentialist angst of man in the face of a seemingly indifferent universe. The attempted replacement of the theological outlook with a neo-Darwinian theory of evolution has reduced our greatest human aspirations to the level of pragmatism and survival. Materialism has become widespread as the natural extension of the technological successes of the scientific approach and our civilization has adopted competition and progress as its resulting dynamic principles. Psychologically this is translated as the search for pleasure, security and success, all of which is summed up in the dominant aim of personal fulfilment. And as our culture is, so is our education.

But is life a random phenomenon or is it endowed with a profound meaning? Is it a chance affair or an art? Art, as K often defined it, means to put everything in its right place so that each part fits into a harmonious whole. This essential meaning of art is the same as the meaning of order, but in the realm of art order is not mechanical but reaches into the ground of creation. So to talk about art implies a quality of creative order and when we apply that word art to life we mean that the whole of it moves in harmony with itself.

We do not have to go far to see that the life of the average human being, i.e. you and I, is not endowed with this creative quality of harmonious order. Our inner and outer worlds are permeated by a sense of pervasive contradiction, division and conflict. Our relationships are in trouble and inwardly we are all at sixes and sevens. There is confusion, friction, and an abiding sense of pain, loneliness and fear, with their corresponding escapes into pleasure, gregariousness and dream havens. The general sense is that we are failing to live properly, rightly, with a quality of integrity and responsibility in action. We are fragmented human beings, inwardly and outwardly, and as we are, so is the world. In short, we are not artists of living. This commonplace evidence from our daily lives and the wider world is what gives added importance and urgency to the exploration of the art of living, an art that is central to the whole educational project of the K schools.

In the context of these schools, the art of living, as K described it, is made up of four other principal arts, namely the art of seeing, the art of listening, the art of questioning and the art of learning. Though these arts in principle address different aspects of the art of living, through them runs a common thread: they are all concerned with perception, understanding and action, i.e. with sensitivity, intelligence and compassion, flowing in unison and as an unbroken whole.

The senses are involved in all these arts - not only the outer senses but also the inner. The arts of seeing and listening mean observing with the eye and hearing with the ear as well as capturing the meaning of what is seen and heard. The art of questioning or inquiring is concerned with the factuality of this understanding and the art of learning is the sense of comprehension itself. All of them necessitate a quality of undistorted perception, which is a direct contact with the facts, with what is actually taking place. And here is where the subtlety of the art of living comes in, for in the normal operation of our senses, of our hearts and minds there is a good deal of distortion and fragmentation. The point, therefore, is whether the senses and the mind can function as a whole and without contradiction between them - whether the whole can function totally.

One might very well conceive that left to themselves the senses might function in harmony and with total sensitivity, that the body might indeed be endowed with its own quality of native intelligence. However true that might be, the actuality is that one of the senses is generally dominant and that the sensitivity is reduced further by the subjugation of the senses to the overriding conditioned structures and purposes of thought, desire and will. Our inner sensitivity or intelligence is also fragmented by the mechanical responses of thought from its conditioned background and our learning is generally reduced to a process of memorization in which direct perception plays a very small part. This general sense of fragmentation prevents as well the wholeness of the heart, with its love and compassion. So we are only partially sensitive, partially intelligent and partially compassionate. The challenge, therefore, is to find out what is preventing this wholeness from operating.

The seeming difficulty in this inquiry is that finding out about fragmentation cannot be done by the fragments. And yet we cannot begin anywhere else, because that is what we have. The fact is fragmentation, disorder and conflict and we are going to learn about it. The art of living is to have no fragmentation, no fear, no conflict, no illusion; it is to function with total sensitivity and intelligence, with a full heart. So what will bridge this impossible gap between the chaotic actuality and the harmonious whole? We refuse to turn the art of living into an ideal, into the opposite of what actually is. Our daily lives are the only field in which to learn to live and we cannot learn it unless we stick with the facts.

These facts are a result. Fragmentation is a fact, something made, therefore the outcome of a process. So what is behind the fragmentation? As K examines this question, the central factor of fragmentation is the self-centred movement of thought. Self-interest, that fundamental principle of modern bourgeois democracy, is here viewed as the quintessential principle of fragmentation. The fixing of a central psychological identity centres perception, understanding and action and gives it a narrow radius. This small circle of self creates its own self-protective border in whose defence it must be constantly ready to do battle. Thus this egocentric consciousness is an obvious factor in the creation of division and conflict in the world.

Krishnamurti points out that not only is the self divisive but that thought in its very nature is fragmentary. If we take it that the self is a creation of thought, this observation concerning the intrinsic fragmentary nature of thought is still a deeper cause. Fragmentation is intrinsic to thought because it is the response of memory, which is the past. The past is necessarily limited and incomplete and its response must, as a result, be partial. This partiality and incompleteness of the response is itself a cause of disorder, as it does not meet the challenge fully. The very partial nature of the response of memory makes for a division between that response and the actuality. Thus our perception, understanding and action is incomplete and the resulting interaction is one of fragmentation.

Because our consciousness as it now exists is essentially the self-centred movement of thought, its roots are therefore in the past, a past that constitutes itself into the very heart of living, as that is what our consciousness is. But such living, by implication, is intrinsically flawed, as the past is already dead. That's why 'dying to the past', which is to oneself as a psychological identity, is an essential part of the art of living. The art of living goes together with the art of dying. They are the two sides of the same coin.

In this context, dying takes on a new and profoundly significant meaning. Dying to the past is the same as living fully in the now. The ending of the conditioned structures of memory, such as attachment to name, form and content, is brought about by the same quality of total attention needed to meet the present fully or see anything as a whole. This total attention necessitates a quality of inner emptiness and silence of the self-centred movement of thought. Most thought is not about practical things but about ourselves, our pleasures and pains, our hopes and fears, out hurts and happiness, etc. Psychologically, we are busy with ourselves day and night. Self-interest is at the centre of our activities, whether these concern our professional occupations, our place in society or our intimate relationships. Such a dynamic movement in contradiction and conflict cannot be observed unless there is a quality of undivided attention brought to bear on it. That means an observation without the past as the observer, an observation without naming and recognition. This necessary element of pure perception not only introduces a sense of quietness into one's life but implicitly points to the nameless as the active principle of order.

This may be one of the aspects that is most commonly missed in our approach, namely the implicitly wholesome and healing quality of emptiness, of the non-manifest. Emptiness is the real meaning of capacity, not only in material terms but, more importantly, psychologically. The psyche is at its highest capacity in the fullness of space and this space, viewed negatively, is the absence of self-occupation, with its common worries and concerns and its deeper stream of continuity as time and measure.

Such an approximate description of some of the implications of the art of living is of course not the described. Words are one thing and things are another. But the challenge cannot be ignored. We are all challenged by our own lives to master this quintessential art of living and what K has done is point the way of this greatest of all arts. The challenge is to find out for ourselves whether this art really exists and the K schools exist for this purpose.

In this writer's view, the Krishnamurti schools are placed in a unique position because they are faced with this total demand for creative order stemming from the nature of living and its underlying universal stream of consciousness. This implies a change of emphasis from the outer to the inner, from thought to intelligence, from the self to relationship, from the manifest to the unmanifest, from the known to the unknown, from time to the timeless. Part of the art is to see these aspects not as opposites but as complementarities. Thus thought, knowledge and time have their right place, as does the whole manifest world, which is our existence. But their wholeness is not in them and the point of education is to bring this wholeness about in the total freedom from fragmentation. The emphasis on perception and inner space is particularly central and it is a question whether this is given due importance in these schools. Placing the art of living as described at the centre of the educational process challenges not only the traditional way of teaching and learning but the whole cultural stream of society which, unfortunately, is informing and controlling the educational process at almost every level. But space is always possible in the midst of occupation, just as silence is always possible in the midst of noise. The important thing is to realize that occupation only finds its meaning in compassion and that noise only finds its harmony in total silence and that both necessitate the ending of self and time.

An education that can bring this about is a true education and the greatest possible service to mankind.