The World Within: You Are the Story of Humanity (2014)
Krishnamurti Foundation America and Krishnamurti Foundation India
It is curious that so few of the books by J Krishnamurti are reviewed in the press and by the major book review magazines like the New York Review of Books. I asked the editor of Leading Edge Reviews why that was so and her answer pointed to one reason for the evasion of Krishnamurti by the popular press—Krishnamurti was difficult to understand and more difficult to categorize in a genre.
This new title, The World Within, brought out simultaneously this year by the Krishnamurti Foundation of America and the Krishnamurti Foundation India will surely be seen as an exception to that reasoning. It is a compilation of interviews that ordinary people had with Krishnamurti in the 1940s in Ojai, California, at a time when he was not giving public talks.
From the very first interview, only one page long, through to the last of the ninety interviews, the reader will be struck by the utter simplicity of the process, the logic, and the exposition of common human questions and problems. Krishnamurti handles the obvious issues like suffering, fear, conflict, and death directly, with refreshing candour and non-analytical compassion. He avoids the artifice of a psychiatrist or psychotherapist as he turns the questions back on the questioner so that revelation and understanding emerge effortlessly from the questioner. It is Krishnamurti’s adroit opening up of a question to its larger human dimension that reveals the interconnectedness and co-origination of our fears, our loneliness, and little things like our unfinished thoughts. More than half of the interviews end with Krishnamurti calling on the benediction of “the tranquillity of the eternal”, “the extinction of all desire”, and “In this stillness the timeless is realized”.
Educators and parents will find much to ponder in The World Within, because though Krishnamurti is in dialogue with adults here, teachers and parents face similar questioning from children at home and in school. If the adults there could similarly open up questions and problems without blame and guilt, then children could learn how to dialogue, explore, and enquire into real-life thought-feelings. It is worth a try. As is pointed out in the Foreword, “…readers in any era or on any continent can find themselves clearly and compassionately made plain”. Krishnamurti says, “If you know how to read that book which is yourself, then you know all the activities and brutalities and stupidities of mankind because you are the rest of the world.”
Curriculum As Meditative Inquiry (2013)
Curriculum as Meditative Inquiry by Ashwani Kumar is a startling and novel book. In this world where curricula on fundamental issues in education change at a glacial pace and where the fundamentals of human psychology for educators are opaque in practical terms, Kumar’s book brings important and long overdue insight into education for transforming human consciousness. For eons ‘Know Thyself ’ and ‘Who Am I?’ have been the exclusive province of philosophers, while confounding educators worldwide. Kumar draws inspiration from educator, author, and educational psychologist J Krishnamurti, who addresses these perennial issues in his major books on education and through the schools inspired by his teachings—six in India, one in England, and one in America. J Krishnamurti’s books on education include Krishnamurti on Education, The Beginnings of Learning, Letters to the Schools and Education and the Significance of Life.
In the Foreword, Dr Meenakshi Thapan (University of Delhi) states, “Through processes of self-reflection and self-inquiry, based on constant awareness and observation, it is possible to bring about a change in consciousness and thereby in human relationships.” Kumar carefully sets the stage for change in educational curriculum by pointing to the obvious, “Our world is in crisis. Our ecology, the foundation of life on planet earth, is in danger due to our lack of concern for the impact of our actions on the fragile ecosystem. Peace on earth is also denied because of antagonistic nationalistic, religious, ideological, racial, and economic groups. What is it that lies at the root of this crisis? … It is my understanding that most of our problems—psychological and collective—have their source in our consciousness, our very psychological nature.” That diagnosis could have been written a hundred or two hundred years ago, but as it pertains to the modern world, it is profoundly important. The consciousness of humankind is in serious peril of self-destruction. Kumar draws on the eloquent remedial work of Krishnamurti as also that of American educator James B. Macdonald, who lay out in detail what is needed to affect the consciousness of children in any kind of education setting, such that there will be a radical and systemic shift in perception and action in the next generation.
What Kumar discusses, with empirical rigour, in his new approach to curriculum are the themes of ‘consciousness’, ‘education’, ‘meditative inquiry’, and ‘on the nature of curriculum as meditative inquiry’. The Introduction to the last chapter summarizes the essence of his study.
I argued that human conflicts—individual and social—are deeply connected to the nature of human consciousness characterized by fear and insecurity, conditioning and image-making, becoming and psychological time, and fragmentation and conflict; and second, I discussed how contemporary educational institutions, being part and parcel of human consciousness, reflect and perpetuate the latter’s characteristic features. In this chapter I discuss the third principle: meditative inquiry. First, I analyze the limitations of thinking, analysis, systems, and authority in understanding and changing human consciousness. Then, I explain the meaning of meditative inquiry and its significance for psychological and social transformation.
Where in education psychology, school curricula studies, and academic
literature do you find an approach to learning and education that covers the whole of human consciousness? For that matter, Kumar’s approach addresses the modern human learner regardless of nationality, race and sex, who is growing up in an environment characterized by disrespect,
school violence, apathy, drugs, and peer-pressure? His is a defining treatise on what curricula for learning should be, could be, and must be, to save the youth of today from being just anothergeneration of selfish, confused, ignorant and prematurely aged young adults.
The whole of Kumar’s book is a challenge to the putative, traditional educational approach that put knowledge systems and the authority of the known at the core of all curricula. Karen Meyer, of the University of BC, Canada finishes her Afterword with, “…I am also grateful that such a provocative text now exists in educational research and inspires teachers and students to work together and imagine the world otherwise.”
This book should be on the mandatory reading list of every teachertraining programme, every education psychology degree course, and for all secondary-school sociology classes. Perhaps if Palgrave (Macmillan) brings out Curriculum as Meditative Inquiry as a paperback it will have a wider reach and purchase. It certainly deserves that if it is to be taken seriously by policy makers and people who decide on curricular issues at all levels.
I would recommend this book to all who are serious about the learning process and are concerned with why most education institutions generally are failing to bring out integrated, sane, healthy student graduates capable of leading meaningful lives and caring for and loving others and the Earth.