Last year when the Journal was being brought out there was deluge in many parts of the country, Chennai being the worst hit. This year around as the next issue is being brought out, we are anxiously awaiting rains. Water, whether it ravages or impoverishes, is a sustainable source of life. However, for water to be a life giving force, it needs to move on without stagnating. The same is true of life and its movement, succinctly captured thus by Krishnamurti:
Have you not noticed that if you sit quietly on the banks of the river you hear its song—the lapping of the water, the sound of the current going by? There is always a sense of movement, an extraordinary movement towards the wider and the deeper. But in the little pool there is no movement at all, its water is stagnant. And if you observe you will see that this is what most of us want: little stagnant pools of existence away from life. We say that our pool-existence is right, and we have invented a philosophy to justify it; we have developed social, political, economic and religious theories in support of it, and we don’t want to be disturbed because, you see, what we are after is a sense of permanency...
This Matter of Culture, Chapter 17
The Journal in many ways keeps this movement alive by constantly raising questions, making connections and building relationships. The making of this Journal comes in the wake of the teacher’s conference held at The School, KFI, Chennai. Both the conference and the Journal seem to evoke a deep sense of interconnectedness not just with each other but with life as a whole. So whether one is looking at the earth as a mere third rock from the sun or a universe that is immensely old and vast as does Anand Mathew Kurien in his article, in ‘The Context of our Lives’, or at a beautiful pink flower on a touch-me-not plant as in Sunitha Mahesh’s ‘Learning with Wonder: Environmental Studies for the Young’, one is aware of the deep need to connect with nature, for when you connect to nature, you connect not only with yourself but also with the vast humanity. Both OR Rao and Simon Boxley mirror these reflections as they draw from the same words of Krishnamurti:
There is a tree and we have been watching it day after day for several days…If you establish a relationship with it then you have relationship with mankind. You are responsible then for that tree and for the trees of the world. But if you have no relationship with the living things on this earth you may lose whatever relationship you have with humanity.
OR Rao has an evocative subtitle for his article, ‘A Meditation on Science, Poetry and Spirituality’. The main title, ‘A Tree, A Flower, A Fly and a Centipede’ is even more intriguing. He draws from the work of Krishnamurti, Blake, Tennyson, Aristotle, Einstein amongst others as he ponders with an empathetic spirit on the commonality shared by all living forms. With tongue-in-cheek humour he comes up with pithy statements such as, “Moral: Philosophy and poetry do not mix well” or “Moral: Science and Poetry do not mix well”. Underlying this lightness and humour is a deeply touching moment, when he shows how in the death of the humblest of life-forms, we are all united by the realization of fragility and transience of life.
Equally moving is Sandilya Theuerkauf ’s article ‘Opening our Senses: Guided Exercises in Nature Awareness’. He examines how the separateness from the planet is causing a distortion in our relationship. He raises hard questions such as, “Can a farmer see more than his crops? Can a bird-watcher appreciate something other than birds? Can there be a relating where it does not matter who we are? We always perceive through ideas; is it possible to suspend what we know?” He also shows how when, “we are being aware of the body, the breeze, the temperature, the smells, the sounds, the colours and shapes around us, we are not so caught up with who we are.” The guided exercises do show how one can open one’s senses in order to become more aware of nature.
Written along similar lines is the article by Simon Boxley, titled ‘The Revolution Now’. As the title suggests there is a sense of immediacy and urgency as the author forces us to acknowledge that, as far as our future on the planet goes, “the future is now”. The irony is that “it is harder to feel the loss of biodiversity than it is to feel one’s own hair and nails grow; it is harder to feel the gradual death of one’s ecosystem than it is to feel one’s own slow dying”.
A different kind of interconnectedness is explored through the twin articles on teaching history by Indus Chadha and Krishna Menon. Both of them strongly articulate how “we are the rest of the humanity”. Aptly titled, ‘Self and the Other’ and ‘What do I Learn when I Teach History?’, these articles show how history could be used to dismantle prejudice and the hidden dangers of identity. They further point out how the study of history could pave way for self-knowledge. While Indus Chadha urges the readers to look at the study of humankind through pluralistic narratives, Krishna Menon uses Krishnamurti’s phrase of functioning “without a centre”. Both articles are written with a sensitivity to the human condition and with live examples that one can readily relate to.
If study of humanities in the shape of history can pave the way for a study of self, the reverse is also possible. In the oft repeated words of Krishnamurti:
There is a common relationship between us all. We are the world essentially, basically, fundamentally. The world is you, and you are the world. Realizing that fundamentally, deeply, not romantically, not intellectually but actually, then we see that our problem is a global problem. It is not my problem or your particular problem, it is a human problem.
The truth of these words are beautifully brought out in three articles which, in exploring the vicissitudes of childhood, show how care and consideration coupled with sensitive handling can be life lessons for students, teachers and parents. Bina Shivram takes us through the innerscapes of children and tries to look at things through their eyes in her article, ‘Vignettes of Conversations’. It deals with the travails we are all familiar with, such as hurt, embarrassment, wanting to belong, wanting to be cared for. Jayashree Nambiar’s ‘Examining Fear: The Daily Life of School’ too looks at slices of life taken from everyday happenings at school. She not only looks at the fears of children, but also draws attention to the fears of teachers and parents. What is remarkable about the article is the direction it gives to a school concerned with the issue of fear, in the form of some workable solutions. Aarti Kawlra in ‘Approaching Adulthood’ draws special attention to the angst of the contemporary teenage identity with a humorous sobriquet, the ‘me-myself-and-I generation’. She rightly points out that the struggle with relationships that this generation faces is a work-in-progress and the learning that is to be gained from being relationship-minded rather than being image-oriented.
There are other types of internal landscapes too—three short but deeply reflective pieces on ‘beauty’, ‘pressure’ and ‘meditation’ are portrayed by Vaishnavi, Arvind Ranganathan and Venkatesh Onkar. These articles persuade us to believe that tending to our own inner spaces becomes our responsibility, and might be our most significant contribution to the world around us. Venkatesh has an interesting take on meditation, which one needs to discover for oneself without any preamble. In this context the editors’ jointly formulated contribution on the theme of ‘confidence’ carries valuable insights that are relevant to the current day scenario of education. A companion piece to this is the frontispiece quote by Krishnamurti on the same topic.
On a different note, what does Krishnamurti mean by stating that “religion is at the core of education”? Mary Kelly explores this question in ‘On the Religious in Education’. Despite the gravity of the topic, she is able to carry the reader through effortlessly. Of special interest are some of the questions she uses in dialogues with her students such as, “What are my fears and how do they keep me from seeing the truth? How am I violent in my daily life? Can I watch my thoughts as I watch a cloud pass by in the sky?” The importance of dialogue is well-valued and is a gateway to serious contemplation and discussion. Geetha Waters in her article calls it ‘The Vital Learning Ground’. She suggests that Krishnamurti, often beginning his talks to students with “What shall we talk about today?” left the whole of life open for consideration. She shares how our intimate connection with the wider context of life is a gift that Krishnamurti has bestowed upon his listeners. But it is not always easy to have a dialogue. Having a dialogue is not just exchange of opinions. Gurvinder Singh in his article ‘What Prevents Dialogue’ explores the nature of the challenge and what prevents dialogue from ‘flowing like a river’ between friends.
What is described above is a specific kind of dialogue. What also happens in many of the schools is an on-going dialogue between varying partners—school and parents; school and community; school and educators. Highlighting some of these specific partnerships are some articles written with much clarity and insight. Willem Zwart in ‘ Partners in Self-Understanding’ and Meredy Benson Rice in ‘It Takes a Village: Shining a Light on the School-Home Partnership’, draw attention to the parent-school partnership. While the former article articulates some broad principles, the latter outlines some best practices of this partnership and should serve as a beacon of light to all schools which desire such partnership. Prema Rangachari’s ‘The Vidya Vanam Story’ is a heartwarming account of how a school attempts to meet a community’s unique needs for education. This is the story of a school set up in a tribal community, which is committed to giving the tribal child a tremendous sense of empowerment. Its unique methodology is a two-way lane, in which both the community and the school mutually learn to respect each other. Another unique methodology is explored by Carole Sylvester Gray in her article, ‘The Montessori Approach and a Krishnamurti School’. This article highlights the importance of learning by receiving sensorially from the environment. It also shows how Krishnamurti schools are well placed to follow this methodology.
Finally, there are twin articles which, though they lie on opposite sides of the spectrum, seem to be addressing similar issues. One talks about tradition and the other about technology and they explore the place of these in schools. Jaai Deolalkar’s article, ‘ Aadona Kallaatta (Tossing Five Stones) Traditional Games at the Valley’ translates the excitement of a week-long celebration of these games. It seems to have brought the entire school under its spell, transgressing the boundaries between different generations and subject disciplines. On the other hand, Ashwin Prabhu and Arvind Ranganathan throw up an altogether different kind of challenge in their article, ‘Examining Adoption of Technology in Schools’. What is interesting about the article is that they do not provide definite answers to the issue of technology in schools, but provide a framework for anybody interested to examine this for themselves. The outcomes can be different for different schools, depending on what constitutes its idea of education. In their words, ‘The application of the framework may even lead to a clarification of the school’s educational aims and throw up questions that have hitherto been unexamined’.
As you can see, the journal has a rich variety of articles; and it promises an engrossing read for anyone who cares to dip into this moving stream and partake of the diverse fare on offer.
D Anantha Jyothi