J Krishnamurti created these schools intending them to become centres for excellence—places where students, parents and teachers would come together to discover the highest form of intelligence.
An organization is made up of its people; without the people the organization does not exist. So to keep the intent of the school alive I believe there must be deep interest in each one of us to discover what that excellence is. If I, as an individual, am really interested in understanding myself, then the very passion would also fuel the ‘fire’ of the school. So the primary responsibility of this lies with me and not with some abstract entity called ‘school’.
What do we mean by the word excellence? The word comes from its Latin root excellentia, which means ‘superior’. In colloquial usage the word usually implies a comparison. Excellence is generally ‘in comparison to’ something. However, I am quite certain that Krishnamurti did not use the word in that sense, for he totally denied all forms of measurement. His understanding of excellence was absolute and beyond all comparisons.
So what do we mean by excellence? I believe we cannot know its meaning through verbal definitions but must explore the essence of it for ourselves. Then our understanding of it would be authentic and not intellectual. We need to set aside all fixed ideas about it, for only then can I truly explore. If we already know what ‘excellence’ is, then our very knowledge of it would hinder our unravelling of the same. Excellence is not something that can be posited, for all that is posited is result of the categories of thinking. Our habitual pattern of thinking divides life into separate compartments—we speak of excellence in art, excellence in music, excellence in academics, and so on. However, the moment we fix, define, and thus fragment, something, it becomes an object to be pursued and not something to be discovered.
In our usage of the word this meaning has been completely reversed, for we are not speaking of excellence in relationship to something, but of excellence per se, the very essence of excellence. That excellence can never be an object of pursuit; for it is of the ‘whole’ and the ‘whole’ cannot be defined positively. The ‘whole’ is when the ‘fragment’ is not. So the very effort to seek excellence in a particular sphere is the denial of it, for the effort hinders the creative explosion of life. Thus, we find that the only way to discover it is to approach it through negation. It is not through the exercise of will, but through clearing up or negating the obstacles hindering excellence, that true excellence can flower.
Excellence to me lies in the very negation of life as we tend to live it—a dull, repetitive, conflicted existence that has very little semblance of joy or beauty in it. To seek comfort, to live in patterns, to be successful, is all part of mundane existence. The desire for security does not go together with excellence; for seeking comfort makes us dull, anxious, afraid and aggressive. It kills the feeling for beauty and passion. I feel that excellence can only come into being when the mind learns to live with the flow of uncertainty; for where there is uncertainty there is also attention. With comfort comes dullness, but with uncertainty comes alertness. So excellence to me is a state of being where the mind is totally alert.
To live with uncertainty entails hard work, but I feel that it is only in uncertainty can true excellence flower. When we are standing at the edge of the precipice all our senses come alive, for there one cannot afford to be inattentive. Similarly, living with psychological uncertainty demands total alertness of our being, as the mind then has no space to ‘settle down’. To sustain that level of attention one has to draw on capacities from the unknown. This ‘drawing out’ of capacity to me is excellence. Perhaps such is the link between excellence and psychological uncertainty.
From there perhaps we can go even further to uncover the highest form of excellence. Krishnamurti demanded of us nothing short of the highest intelligence. I believe that if each one of us is deeply earnest in finding that out, this would help sustain the environment of excellence in the school.