What is right relationship between a teacher and student, or between a teacher and a colleague? What element must it have so that it is vital and happy and free? What is the art of relationship which Krishnaji so often talked about, and how does it operate in our schools? It has been said that a school must be a place of leisure and space: space within which to observe and relate to one another and within which to grow and learn about oneself and about life. Without such space, learning in any deep sense is not possible. Do our schools offer such wide expansive spaces for the teacher and student?
One of the attractive things about a residential school is the opportunity it offers to someone who wishes to tread upon the path of self-knowledge.' The smallness of the community¹ ensures that one is constantly being thrown together with other human beings; and the nature of the challenge - the joint responsibility of taking care of young children — ensures that the encounters are intense enough to reveal quite a bit about the actors directly involved: the inner tendencies, the prejudices, the accumulated hurts. Clearly, if one wishes to explore the ways of the self, here is as good an environment as one is likely to encounter anywhere! Of course, this is true of any enterprise involving human beings working together, but when one is living in a distant and secluded place, the opportunity is greatly enhanced. Work pressures are high in a residential school. In addition, there is the tricky issue of authority, about which so many adults have such ambivalent feelings. For those responsible for setting the tone of the school and providing direction and focus to its policies, the work one does virtually has an inbuilt mechanism for bringing one into conflict with others. As a result, the human relationship skills that one needs to possess in order to live and function sanely in such a context are enormous. I recall a discussion which Krishnaji had had with the teachers at Rishi Valley in 1983, in which a related issue came up. Krishnaji suggested that when extreme resistance is encountered, one must 'light a fire' [under the teacher]. I suppose that he himself was perfectly capable of doing this - indeed, he did do so on numerous occasions - but for me personally, the possibility seems remote. The human conflicts that would inevitably follow would, I think, be too much for me to take.
All this may seem contrary to the 'expansive spaces' requirement mentioned above, but this is not so. After all, as Krishnaji pointed out so often, relationship is a mirror in which one can find reflected all the hidden ways of the self; and there is astonishing clarity in what the mirror shows, if only one cares to look. My observation, however, is that in the rather intense 'pressure-cooker' atmosphere of a residential school, the self-revelation that relationship engenders can be rather hurtful, and unless one is serious about self-inquiry, quite destructive.
The great tragedy of man is that he cannot live alone, nor together in a community; or so it would appear.
Krishnaji has often written that to live alone is extremely difficult;to live alone and yet remain pliable and sensitive, and not get fixed in certain ways of functioning. It is easy to see how this observation extends to life in a residential school. To live sanely in a small community and not get identified with a small group, not carry around hurt and resentment in one's heart all the time, seems to be an extremely difficult thing to do [if one extrapolates from actual observation]. Why should this be so? Perhaps it is because in some curious manner, we do not regard a hurt or mis-understanding as a challenge that requires intelligence to respond to correctly; that is, with accuracy and sensitivity. We accept the hurt, we tolerate it, and so it lives. We do not ask ourselves, 'Can I wipe out the hurt or misunderstanding right now — in the present? The next time I meet the other person, can I see to it that I do so with no image at all?' Perhaps this tells us something of what relationship is all about.
The great tragedy of man is that he cannot live alone, nor together in a community; or so it would appear. Why do human beings find it so hard to live with one another? Is it our inability to drop our hurts, to 'die to the past'? What does this mean in everyday life? Can one learn the art of dying and so learn the art of living? Would not dying to the past —at the 'local' level, in small everyday events, in forgotten insignificant ways - be the greatest offering one can make to life?
What is the feeling one needs to have in one's heart if one is to have the energy and strength to do this? Perhaps it comes from a sense of the sacred - a sense of the immensity of life, of the mystery that surrounds us. In some ways, the truest expression of the religious impulse when one is young is the sense of awe and immensity and wonder at the universe, and the sure intuition that intellect and technology do not cover all of life; it is the sense of others, the sense of detachment from oneself. 'Happy is the man who is nothing.. ..', as Krishnaji once wrote. Can we keep this sense alive as the child grows? It seems to me that it is only on such a canvas that relationship can flower, and with it beauty and goodness.
¹ I use the world 'community' with care, as it can easily convey the wrong connotation. Krishnaji often used to caution us about the essentially aggressive nature of a community which defines itself according to an ideology. There is no such connotation in the use of the term here-it merely refers to the people who live on a campus.