It's a winter afternoon, and the sun shines red through the trees as I walk through the woods. There is not a breeze, and the thick carpet of yellow ansd brown leaves rustles as I wade through it. It is the beginning of the winter holidays and I realize that this term, for various reasons, much attention has gone into thinking about and discussing the social reality we create at Brockwood: how to run the school and the adult study centre, the structure and processes of the organization, the way we relate to each other. Sorrow wells up inside me as I walk, perhaps born from a feeling of isolation. It strikes me that I really do not know myself and that many of my words and actions have come from unexamined fears and self-interest.
I walk past an old oak tree about which I've been wondering, for more than a year now, whether it was dead or dying. But late this spring it again produced numerous leaves in its crown and acquired a bit of lustre, even though the lower branches were falling off. Then a gentle breeze appears, stirring the few dry leaves still on the trees and shrubs. I sense the presence of an animal. For a moment my body is empty of the whirl of memories and the energy of the woods enters into it. Two deer emerge from the undergrowth some thirty feet away from me.
They have not noticed my presence and walk past in a leisurely way, ever alert, nibbling at ferns here and there, staying close together.
Brockwood is both my home and the place where I work. As a foreigner in England, I do not have many connections with the society around the school. There are quite a few people like me at Brockwood and probably all Kschools have at least a few such people. There is the danger of becoming too dependent on what happens in the school, and of wanting to mould the place to suit one's interests. There is also the wish to create a social reality, a mini-society, which is complete in itself and in which a religious life is possible.
Krishnamurti often referred to Brockwood as a community. I am also aware of him talking in those terms with the staff at RishiValley School, and undoubtedly many of the other schools see themselves as such. The school community he talked about is characterised by affection, seriousness and a sense of the sacred. Notions such as sensitivity, responsibility for the whole and a spirit of cooperation come up again and again, all with the specific and radical meaning Krishnamurti gave them.He does not appear to have said much about the specific structures and processes of those communities (except that he did not want them to be exclusive) - the chapter called 'The School, ' in Education and the Significance of Life, has the most comprehensive treatment of the day-to-day running of a school I am aware of. Krishnamurti's emphasis was on the inner, as the society we create is said to be the reflection of who we are inside.
Yet how we organize the schools matters. The fourth issue of this Journal carries an article entitled 'Creating an Atmosphere in School.' In it, G. Gautama goes into considerable detail about how The School, K.F.I. in Chennai is run, how decisions are taken and how they seek to create an atmosphere in the school 'for teachers who are learners.' In Brockwood some of the issues that have come up are the need to have fairness and transparency, strong staff involvement and the space for personal growth. There is a leaning toward democratic process, to the extent that this is practicable, and in times of disagreement people expect due process and a system of checks and balances. This discussion about the structure of the organization borrows heavily from the discourse of politics in liberal democracies.
But in looking at a community from the perspective of finding the right structure, we have arrived at a way of thinking and talking about the adult community that is very different from the one used by Krishnamurti. The underlying assumption in this way of thinking seems to be that self-interest drives us and that the collective social reality has to keep this self-interest within acceptable boundaries. Krishnamurti, on the other hand, maintained that it is this self-interest that keeps us from being in communion with each other, and that the structure we devise will only be as good as what we are inwardly.
Within myself, too, I find this division. One way of thinking seeks to influence the outer reality in order to ensure that my interests, my ideas of what is right, are represented. Another way of thinking seeks to live with others on the basis of connectedness, and it takes place when I find myself safe and unthreatened, when I have the space to question my own actions and motives. The first feels like a form of contraction, the second of relaxation. The first perceives others as selfish entities, the second embraces them as brothers andsisters.
As I walk there is a sense of physical discomfort in being mentally confused. All questioning seems to start with a feeling of unease and the hope for alleviation. The shrubs along the path and the field in the distance light up in great detail. A drop of moisture seems to glisten on each individual leaf as the mind leaps out of its dilemma by dropping past and future and devoting itself, for a split second, to the present, the walk, the landscape.
The social reality we create in the schools can be very helpful if it is based on a collective wisdom that is greater than our individual perspectives. After all, the fact is that we are often narrow and shortsighted in our actions. What is more, learning is not a one-way affair. We can learn about ourselves by finding different ways of doing something, as they bring us face to face with our resistance to it and allow us to explore the motives behind our actions, which may well have remained hidden otherwise. How we organize things also affects the atmosphere of the schools, which in turn affects what kind of learning takes place. Thus there is a dynamic relationship between the inner and the outer, in which they mutually influenceeach other.
To a greater or lesser extent all the Krishnamurti schools are mini-societies with our own social realities that we create to live and work in. This is potentially a great educational asset. There is immense social and economic injustice in the world and one would hope that at least some of the students coming out of the Krishnamurti schools will go on to address it in creative and practical ways. But will the students leaving these schools be able to say, 'I know a place where sanity prevails?' At Brockwood we have started including students in the running of the school. We hope to get them more and more involved, even in determining the future direction of the school. First-hand experience like this can teach a young person a lot, but the quality of that learning depends on the social reality they are invited to take part in, the social reality we as adults create.
So can we afford to say that for the sake of expediency we do not seek consensus among all involved, because large groups of people will never agree? This may be true, but can we give up on it? And what does it mean if we say that we are not going to be fully involved in the school community we live in, that part of ourselves wants to live a different life, separately? If the true test of our understanding is the way we live andwork together, what is our honest assessment of ourselves? We may be excellent, for all I know, o rwe may be deeply complacent and mediocre. The point is that it matters, to our own lives and to the education of our students.
As I almost reach the school, the sun has set and a watery red sky glows behind the trees. The profile of a large cedar and the round shape of a distant oak stand out prominently. Then that feeling comes back, that sense, going way back into childhood, that, despite all the suffering, a different life is possible, one of communion, timeless and beyond sorrow. The feeling is followed by the gently prodding thought that I may be telling myself comforting stories about a Utopian future state of affairs - but this thought does not interfere with the feeling, it is not in conflict with it, so they exist side by side for a moment. Behind me the sky is dark grey and a row of yellow-leafed treessoaks up the last daylight.
A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'Universe, ' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.