An Indian Winter

As the winter term came to a close, four Brockwood Staff members – Mina, Thomas, Kate and Tom – boarded a plane for India to visit a number of our sister schools. We were there to meet the wider Krishnamurti community, to learn how different schools and teachers cultivate and nourish the next generation in the light of Krishnamurti’s teachings, and to learn more about the work of the Krishnamurti Foundation in India. We were also lucky enough to have some time for personal retreat and to meet with Dr Parchure, Krishnamurti’s personal physician, who has such care and enthusiasm for Krishnamurti’s work and teachings.

Visit 1: The Valley School, Bangalore
Our first stop was in a beautiful forested valley, which is home to The Valley School, populated with monkeys, birds, lakes and even leopards on rare occasions. We were staying at the Study Centre, which is run enthusiastically by Murali. We attended dialogues, met a number of times with the management team, and enjoyed the wonderful end of term mela. We also met with a number of staff members to discuss the challenges and new horizons possible as we bring Krishnamurti’s teachings to bear on our classroom practice and inquire into the place of education in our lives and the world.

Visit 2: Rishi Valley School
After an early start to beat the infamous Bangalore traffic, we arrived at Rishi Valley School in time for some of the best breakfast dosas of the trip! Rishi Valley feels like a university campus nestled at the base of a beautiful wooded valley – the result of an inspiring rewilding project which took place from the early days of the school. A collaborative approach was taken by the students and staff of the school to bring wildlife back to the valley, whilst respecting the needs of the local rural communities.

Rishi Valley offers spectacular walks, especially in the winter evenings. Brockwood trustee, Derek, visits for a regular retreat each December and January. We were delighted to be able to join Derek on these walks during our stay. He also treated us to an evening of story-telling, accompanied by guitar-playing.

Whilst staying at Rishi, we observed some lessons and shared some powerful questions about education, in discussion with staff and with Minakshi, Radhika, Jothi and Tenooj, who treated us with such warmth and kindness, as well as inviting us to a delicious feast one evening.

The school is known for its outreach work. During our visit, we spent a day visiting and discussing the work at the local health clinic and at the junior and middle school program, known across the world as ‘The School in a Box’. We met the founders of this program, Mr Rao and Mrs Rama, who gave generously of their time. Over steaming cups of delicious chai, we heard about the origins of the idea and about the project’s journey from concept to worldwide and UN-supported educational program, transforming the lives of children and teachers across India and the world.

Visit 3: Chennai the Vasanta Vijara and The School
With the sun rising on our last morning in Rishi Valley – our last rural location of the trip – we weaved our way across the Deccan highland plateau, around children and cows, through villages and towns, until, with the afternoon heat building, we entered the hustle and bustle of Chennai for the final days of 2019.

As a boy, Krishnamurti was discovered on a beach here by the Theosophists. They still maintain a large plot of land and buildings in the heart of eastern Chennai, adjacent to the beach. Later, Krishnaji was given the land and buildings of Vasanta Vijara, a little to the south. It is here that he gave his Madras public talks. The building and grounds now house the Krishnamurti Foundation of India offices, under the kind and loving care of Mr Kandaswami. We arrived in time for the Winter Chennai Music Festival, an annual event where some of the nation’s most accomplished musicians perform for a small fee, in celebration of music and the arts. Mr Kandaswami was a generous host. We were treated to a performance of traditional southern Indian dance, as well as an evening of violin music.

The School used to be on the site of the Theosophical Society grounds. A recent move has given current principal Ms Jayashri, as well as the KFI more generally, a chance to build on a new site from scratch. We visited for a day. The ‘new’ school has been designed sympathetically in a contemporary way; it curves around some of the old teak and mango trees. It has been built with water-recapture and solar energy harvesting integral to the buildings. This has lead to a feeling of respect and balance within the site, which is reflected in the way The School is run. Ms Jayashri seems experienced, competent and committed to the school and the students. At the same time, she is authentically interested and flexible, looking at what is going on in the classrooms, and adapting where necessary.

Visit 4: Pune and Dr Parchure
It was with a little sadness that we said goodbye to Chennai and headed to the airport for an internal flight up to Pune. We were to meet with Dr Parchure, Krishnamurti’s personal physician and long-time chronicler and supporter of the teachings. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Janhavee, a current Brockwood student, who was such a kind and generous host. She showed huge patience in the face of our endless questions about the history of Pune!

At 90, Dr Parchure has a sharpness and a seriousness which brings one straight to the point. He had prepared for our arrival. He clearly feels immense care for what we are building and nourishing at Brockwood. We spent time together with him in the mornings, discussing various aspects of the teachings. In the afternoons, he set aside time for each of us to meet with him personally, when we could go more deeply into the various nuances and characteristics that cultivate the sense of the individual. Our group discussions focused on the importance of educating the educator, on the processes of inherited and environmental conditioning, and on the investigation of basic human temperaments. Often, we continued these conversations as we wandered back to our hotel through the busy streets of Pune, via a spectacular chai vendor!

From the 7th floor of our hotel, we watched the first and last fireworks of a changing year. It was a quick visit, but immensely valuable to see the range of different schools and teachers which have been inspired by the teachings, how the living teachings continue to challenge the certainty of the known. There were many schools that we didn’t manage to visit – Centre for Learning, Shibumi, Pathashaala, Sahyadri and the school at Rajghat – but to sense the warmth and friendship of our sister schools and begin a dialogue together has deepened the love for Brockwood.

To all those who made this trip possible, to those who so generously hosted us and gave us their time, energy and loving guidance, we are hugely grateful.