March 2010 enewsletter - India more details
Being Alive to Responsible Citizenship
Report from India by R.E. Mark Lee
For the first time a major world university hosted a non-academic conference on the education work of Oak Grove School founder J. Krishnamurti. Delhi University, with 190,000 students and 70 colleges, sponsored a symposium titled “Being Alive to Responsible Citizenship: J. Krishnamurti and the Challenge for Education” from February 4th to 6th on its campus in Old Delhi.
The conference was opened by Chief Guest Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan People in Exile and Chairman of the Kashag. He was followed by the film, “The Mind of Krishnamurti” which I introduced and followed up co-facilitating a discussion afterwards with former Rishi Valley Principal Shailesh Shirali. For three days there were papers read, power point presentations, and dialogues on Krishnamurti education including reports on Oak Grove School, Brockwood Park, The School in Chennai, Rajghat Besant School, and Rishi Valley School.
Of particular interest were several papers that plumbed the depths of education: Dr. Josip Pasic, former President of the American Psychiatry Association, spoke on “Interrupted or False Perception” which had significant implications for educators who as they awaken a child’s intelligence have to be sensitive to how the child’s mind opens and develops through listening and looking. Professor Hillary Rodrigues of University of Lethbridge, Canada spoke on “Valorizing Insight: Krishnamurti’s Educational Priority”. Dr. E.S. Krishnamoorthy, Director of Neurosciences India Group, Chennai spoke on “The Mystic Mind” and gave an astonishing analysis of the qualities of a mystic’s mind and in particular the ‘process’ Krishnamurti went through from 1923 to 1986.
On the day when the several Krishnamurti founded schools were featured I spoke on the history of Oak Grove, its unusual founding in 1975, and the essential arts of listening, looking, and learning which distinguish our school. I said in part, “Psychological security is a fundamental prerequisite for a school, allowing for care and respect for each other to flower. Krishnamurti told the parents how whales and dolphins raise their young in total security and went on to equate the awakening of intelligence with unequivocal security of the brain which is essential to learning. How did the practical and penetrating ten winters of Krishnamurti’s counsel reach the children? A palpable atmosphere was created on the campus of real physical and psychological security which supports open and free relationships between children and teachers, and which leads to serious inquiry, self-revealing investigation, with no question being off limits.”
A Krishnamurti school’s alumni and Ojai’s own Gopal Krishnamurthy spoke on the Oak Grove Teaching Academy and its innovative work on the last day on a panel chaired by Dr. T.N. Madan a most distinguished professor affiliated with the Institute of Economic Growth. Preceding him was Dr. Kiran Bedi, former Head of Indian Police Service who regaled the 150 attendees with her Krishnamurti-inspired work remodeling the Indian Police Force and more famously totally renovating and redirecting the Tihar Jail in Delhi, the largest in the world with 17,000 prisoners. Her life and work are captured in the documentary film “Yes Madam, Sir”.
Delhi University faculty and students attended the symposium and spoke, some of them, as Krishnamurti school alumni of their amazing years going through the unique education their schools offered.
The symposium, organized by Professor Meenakshi Thapan, of the Department of Sociology in the Centre of Advanced Study, and Dean of Planning Professor Vivek Suneja deserve profound congratulations for planning and organizing this ground-breaking event in such a quality and fine manner. The major implication out of this conference is that other universities world-wide will be more inclined to agree to and host similar academic and non-academic conferences on Krishnamurti because of this ground-breaking event at Delhi University. It was so successful there is talk of organizing a similar event in Beijing, China at Peking University in 2012. Links of the papers and extracts from the film of the conference will be posted on the KFA website in the near future.
(Click here for the event’s program.)
For three days following the conference I took classes in the departments of education, sociology, and advanced studies and was quite impressed with the students, their questions, their openness, and fearlessness in challenging social norms. Expectantly Krishnamurti books will be on the reading lists of more classes in the university as the relevance of the teachings in all academic fields becomes apparent.
Pathashaala – a new KFI school
Pathashaala is being created on a large campus, about 80km from Chennai. It is envisaged as a residential wing of The School in Chennai fostering individual autonomy and encouraging intelligence and coexistence with nature. Both campuses will function together enriching and strengthening each other organically.
Pathashaala draws on the thirty-six years of experience of The School KFI in the beautiful campus provided by the Theosophical society in Adyar, Chennai. The educational work at The School has provided many insights into education, administration of a school, the relationship between the learner and educator, the educator and parent and most importantly relationship among educators. The collaboration amongst educators has led to many structural and pedagogic changes.
Pathashaala will commence its first academic year in 2010-11 with a middle school class of 30 students – boys and girls – 10 each in classes 5,6 and 7. The school will grow in a phased manner to about 120 students between the ages of 9½ to 16½ with a teacher-student ratio of 1:6.
In the tranquil atmosphere with distant hills and fresh breezes the staff and students will learn an environmentally sustainable way of living. The campus is designed to use alternative energy – solar energy, windmills and biogas. It will be sensitive to the use and pollution of water and be committed to ecological sanitation. The campus will have only dry composting toilets for use by all residents. There is adequate vegetation with careful planted trees, herbs and grasses.
You can get more information here.