Krishnamurti on Education
This week’s episode on Education has four sections.
The first extract (2:07) is from Krishnamurti’s discussion Ojai 1975, titled ‘Why are we educated?’
The second extract (12:29) is from the fifth question and answer meeting in Saanen 1980, titled ‘Education is cooperative’.
The third extract (18:23) is from the first question and answer meeting Madras 1981, titled ‘Teaching is the highest profession’.
The final extract this week (29:29) is from the second question and answer meeting in Saanen 1983, titled ‘What is right education?’
Why Are We Educated?
I wonder why we are educated at all, if we are, why we go to schools, colleges and universities. What does it mean to be educated? Why should one be educated? Is it to conform to the pattern of existing society, acquiring enough knowledge to act skilfully in that society to have a livelihood? To be educated, does it mean adjusting oneself to society and following all the dictates of that society? This has become a very serious problem right throughout the world, I am quite sure.
The ancients in Egypt and in India, and China of course, thought of education not in terms of society, nor in terms of merely conforming to the edicts of society but were concerned with the culture of the mind. That is, with the culture of a mind that is capable of intelligent action in society, not merely conforming to the pattern of society. But leaving the ancients aside, when one looks round at the world with all the awful mess that is going on, the butchery, the threatening wars, the tyranny, the lack of freedom and all the rest of it – and in every country there are highly educated people, highly technological entities, skilled in their action – what has education brought about? What has education in the orthodox sense of that word made man into? So that is the thing we ought to have a dialogue about.
Is it merely to cultivate one segment of the mind, which is, one part of the brain as memory, acquiring knowledge and therefore using that knowledge skilfully? That is what most of us are educated for. We are conditioned for that. The rest of the psychological or the wider entity of man is totally disregarded. And is it possible to educate – we use the word ‘educate’ in quotation marks – is it possible to educate the whole of man, including his brain, intellectually, that is, the capacity to think clearly, objectively, and act efficiently, non-personally, and also to enter into a field which is generally called spiritual? Again that is a rather doubtful word. Is this possible to do in a school, college and university, that is, to educate the totality of man instead of cultivating memory, as we do, and depending on that memory to act skilfully in our labours? And that cultivation and the dependence on that memory is part of this degeneration of man because then man becomes merely mechanical, always acting in the field of the known – the known being the accumulated experiences, the great deal of words put in books, the collection of centuries of knowledge, and always acting within that field as the known. Is that not a degenerating factor in our human life?
When you are acting in the field of the known all the time, which is in the field of knowledge, knowledge becomes traditional and you are then acting according to a past pattern set by various scientists, philosophers, psychologists, theologians and their persuasive methods, then the brain must be very conditioned, it has not the flexibility. And so gradually, as it is happening in the world, degeneration in art, literature and in our relationship with each other – must degenerate, must end up in war, in hatred, in antagonism. And that is what is going on actually, if you consider it impersonally, not as Americans and Europeans and the rest of it but actually as human beings confronted with this problem that is happening. One can see the destructive nature of always operating with or in the field of knowledge. And our schools, colleges and universities condition our mind to that. And seeing that, seeing the fact of that, what can we do?
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1975, Public Discussion
Education Is Cooperative
We have six schools in India. There is one at Brockwood, one in Canada, one in California, in Ojai. First of all, it is very difficult to get the right kind of teachers. When they come to teach, the difficulty is they have all kinds of opinions, how it should be done, how should not be done, the teaching, and so on – they project their own desires and volitions and their own prejudices. They may be very capable of transmitting information, knowledge, but they also project their own personalities, their own peculiar idiosyncrasies. So it is a constant trouble to get the right kind of teacher who is really interested in teaching not only the academic subjects but teaching something much more: teaching how to live a life as you go along, older, adolescent and so on, how to live a life rational, not superstitious, not confused, and so on. It is very difficult.
When we were in India with these six schools, we sent a letter to all the parents saying that these schools intend – and are doing, as much as possible – to free the mind of the child, the student, from fear, from confusion, and have integrity. But when the parents came, not many of them, they were really not interested in their children, except the mothers – the fathers wanted them to go on to earn a livelihood, you know, follow the usual old routine, but the mothers were a little bit concerned. But perhaps the parents and are really responsible. Perhaps they may destroy their children.
When one has a small child, how are you going to educate him? This is a great problem, and we are trying at Brockwood to answer this question. Perhaps we shall have young children, but we are going to go into it. The difficulty is society is so strong, the temptations of the young person who wants to be with other young children who are already corrupt, who have already, you know, accepted all the nonsense of society – it becomes extremely difficult to bring up a child who will not yield to the tremendous weight of society.
So it beholds not only on the part of the teachers but also on the part of the parents. It is a cooperative business, it isn’t just you send the child to the school and forget all about it. Here in these schools they are strict vegetarians, and when they go back they eat meat and so the conflict begins – you know all the rest of it. And this is a question that cannot be so easily answered because to run these schools you have to have plenty of money, and these schools survive just on a shoestring. And the parents are only too willing to send them there, and the responsibility, the work, the immense concern is there. We have been through it year after year. And this requires not only cooperation from the parents but also good teachers who are capable of understanding not only the academic subjects but also something much more serious.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 5
Teaching Is the Highest Profession
What is a teacher? What is a student? What is the relationship between teacher and student? What is education? You must take all these factors, look at it widely, not just say, ‘I am a teacher in a particular little school with poor children’ – we will come to that but first let’s look at what education is and what we mean by education.
Are we educated? You may have a degree, BA, MA, or FBA, or whatever it is (failed BA!) – you know all that kind of stuff. You might have those degrees but are you educated? You may be able to read and write, go to the office, have a job, earn a livelihood and so on, so on, but are you actually deeply educated, or you have only educated a very, very small part of the brain so that that training gives you a livelihood, a skill, and the rest you neglect totally. So are we educated? Answer this question, put to yourself these questions.
Then who is a teacher? The one who knows mathematics, who can help you to write a good essay, a biologist? So who is the educator? You see, what we are saying is we are being educated, and this education, which is conditioning us, is destroying us. You may not see it because you are only concerned with getting a degree, earning a livelihood, getting married, a good job, settle down and slowly die – going to the office from morning till evening, nine hours a day, or eight hours a day, that’s your life. And you are all very, very educated. Right? Face it. So you want to produce more such human beings, whether they are poor or well-to-do.
So what is education? Apart from this, which is necessary at certain times, for certain periods, and so on, what is real education? Education, the understanding of the whole psychological world which is you. You understand? That is totally neglected. It’s like developing one arm, getting it very, very, very, very strong, and the other almost paralysed, and you call this education. And there are all the teachers who are helping you to be educated. That is, to cultivate a very small part of the brain through information, knowledge, to have a livelihood. So education means the cultivation of the whole of the brain, the whole of one’s psychological structure.
You understand all this? I know you will shake or nod your head, agree, but you will do nothing. This is the calamity of this country; you are all so full of words and ideas but when it comes to action you do nothing.
And is there a teacher who has an actual relationship with the student? Which is, what is the relationship between the teacher and the student in a school? Whether it is poor or a well-to-do top school, what’s the relationship? Go on, these are your children. Is the teacher concerned with his behaviour, with his conduct, the words he uses, linguistically, whether he is aggressive, violent, brutal, a bully? Is he concerned with all that, or only teaching mathematics? So one has to, if one is a teacher, find out whether you are really a teacher – really a teacher or merely you have become a teacher because you haven’t got any other better job. Teaching, a teacher is the highest profession in the world. The highest profession – not the governors, not the prime ministers, not the engineers – because the teachers are responsible for the future generation. And we don’t respect them; they are the lowest paid, they are treated with disrespect. You respect the people above you in the ladder of success, and you despise all those below you. And one of those below you is like me, like the teacher.
So please, if you are an educator, and I hope you are – you are the educators, all of you are educators because you have children, you have family, yourself, your wife, your neighbour – if you are an educator, are you there merely as an informer giving information about biology, physics, or are you a teacher in the highest sense. Which means you care. You care how you and the student behave, you care to have good taste, cultivate aesthetics, that sense of beauty, which doesn’t exist in this country. And if you are a teacher of poor children in poverty, why does this poverty exist at all? What is the fault? Whose fault is it all? Is it the government, overpopulation, birth control, all the rest of it? Who is responsible for all this?
You see poverty around you all the time in this country. It is despairing; if you watch it you cry. And who is responsible for all this? And by educating the poor children, what are they going to become? Bureaucrats, lawyers, doctors – join the good old establishment? You understand all these questions? So it is not poor or the rich – they are children. Don’t put them as poor children or rich children – they are children. And if you have care, affection, love, then education becomes something entirely different. But you don’t care – that’s what is happening.
So you see, if you have a son or daughter, all your concern is that they should have a good job, get married and settle down. That’s all you are concerned with. And that you call responsibility. You don’t call it love, you call it responsibility. And so what happens to those poor children of yours? They become like you, go to the office day after day, day after day, till you are 60, and then wither away and talk about God, rebirth, and lovely heaven. We are not being cynical, this is what is happening.
So the teacher is the highest profession in the world. The speaker says this in all the schools he goes to – Rishi Valley, Rajghat and here, all these places – ‘You are the highest profession because you are bringing about a new generation of people.’ Not the old, don’t turn them out like machines. But the parents are the trouble. You are the trouble, not the children. You want them all to be like the rest of the mediocre world.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 1
What Is Right Education?
Why are we being educated? What does education mean? The ordinary meaning is to draw out – educaré, to draw out. But that is just the dictionary meaning. Linguistically, it means to help the child to grow, to understand, to comprehend the whole process of living. And he goes to school. There he is taught; he learns to memorise, really. So he gradually builds up a whole structure of memories along a particular line: doctor, engineering, philosophy, psychology, physicist and so on. And computers are taking the place of teachers. A computer can teach far better than an ordinary local teacher. On the computer, you can have the top teachers in their special subject. So they can learn from computers, and the computer is becoming more and more superior to the human brain. Perhaps you know something of it. I have already talked about it, so we won’t go into that.
And why should he – please just listen first – why should he carry all the encyclopaedic knowledge about one subject or the other and retain all that in his brain? Is that education? You understand the question? We can look up a book, an encyclopaedia and work from that. If one is a surgeon, you naturally have to know a great deal of the human anatomy, you have to study and you have to go through all that; it may take ten to fifteen years, and technologically, to have extraordinary understanding of the whole world of technique. And that is what we are cultivating more and more and more.
And also we are neglecting totally the whole psychological world, the whole world of the psyche. This is what is happening. One side, you have an extraordinary development in technology – whether it is science, biochemistry or genetic engineering, or a top surgeon. You have that extraordinary field, highly cultivated, more and more. And the other side of the human being, which is far more important – far more important – is neglected, denied. You say that’s not important. The communist world, the ideological communist – not that I have read Lenin, Marx or any of that, but we have talked to a great many communists – are you frightened of that? (laughter) There are some friends of mine – you don’t mind? They say what matters is not the psyche but the environment. Change the environment fundamentally and then you will change man – which can never take place but they stick to that theory because Lenin had talked about it, and Marx – you follow? So they hold to that.
So both in the democratic world and the so-called totalitarian world, and the religious world obviously, education means academic training, academic excellence – to be able to argue, to learn a job, to become a professor and live in a world of your own in that particular discipline and so on. And the psyche, which always overcomes the outer – you may have a marvellous government, rules, laws and so on, but ambition, the drive for power, position, all that overcomes the other. You have seen this happening right in front of our eyes in the communist world.
So what is it to be educated? As a parent – I am not a parent, but if I was a parent that would be my tremendous concern: conscription on the one side, two years or four years in the army – in America there is no conscription, nor in England, nor in India because there are so many poor people who can join the army and get on with it – but what is one to do in a world like this? You understand my question?
So what is right education? Is it not both the cultivation of a brain that can function excellently in the world and also psychologically understand the whole meaning of existence – the self, the ‘I’, the psyche? Couldn’t these two go together, like two well trained horses trotting along harmoniously together? And apparently one horse is highly developed but the other is still a baby, a foal. And right education seems to be not only academic training because you have to have a job – you may have a job and work only for two hours. If the computers become more and more important, you will have more and more leisure. That is taking place already. And that leisure is going to be used, exploited by the entertainment structure, industry. More and more that is going to happen. Obviously – you can see it is happening now.
So how does one, apart from the academic affairs, how does one become a good human being? You are asking this question, I am not asking this question. I have no children but I meet hundreds of children all over the world as I go to various schools and so on. They are your children, not mine. You have to listen to this, find out, not just say some doctor tells me what to do, some psychologist says that I must treat my children that way and this way and so on – you know.
So how am I, having a few children, knowing they are going to be conditioned by other children, knowing that in school they are all going to be conditioned: the newspapers, the magazines, the books, the history books, my country opposed to your country, my kings are better than your kings – you know all that nonsense that goes on – how am I, as a parent, to bring about a good mind, a good brain, a good human being? The word ‘good’ has several meanings. It is an old-fashioned word. Even though it is old-fashioned I think it is a good word. How is one to bring about a good human being? My children, I would like them to be good, not sentimental, not romantic, not just having a sloppy brain – what am I to do? You have children, haven’t you? No? You mean to say you have no children? And isn’t this your problem?
First of all, ‘good’ means not only in action, correct action – not righteous action but correct action. See the difference between righteous action and correct action? Precise action, talking precisely, clearly, communicating to another what you want to say, not mumble – all the rest of it. And also good means whole and if I may use that well-worn-out word, holistic. I would like my children, daughter and son to have a view of the world as a whole. The view of humanity, not from a narrow point of view but of humanity, the whole of the human world. And also to have a good relationship with nature, not to destroy things: the birds, the animals, the whales – not to destroy. And to have a great sense of beauty. Not the appreciation of art but to have the feeling of beauty. And to have that great sense of affection, love and compassion. These are all just words.
Now how am I as a parent and therefore a teacher – a teacher is not merely in the school but also being a parent I am a teacher also – how am I to help him to have this? You understand my question? Please answer this question: how are you, if you see this is the way to live, this is the way to act in relationship and so on, how are you going to bring this about in a student, in your child? If you are an example as a parent, an example, he will turn his back onto you. He won’t listen to you. So not to be an example. That is, if you smoke, don’t tell the child not to smoke because he will say, ‘Well, you smoke, why shouldn’t I?’ – and then the whole argument goes on. If you are an example at all, see the implications of being an example. You want him to conform, you want him to copy what you are, and so you deny him freedom to work, think, act. Right? You understand all this? Is this getting too complicated?
And he is conditioned, not only by you, by the language you have used, the climate, the food, the social environment, the other boys. His grandmother says, ‘Believe in God’, or ‘Don’t believe in this new guru’ – or whatever the parents tell the child. So the child is being gradually conditioned, narrowed down. How am I as a parent to prevent that? You understand? Is it possible? Is it possible for me? In talking with my son, I realise I am conditioned and I realise also that he is being conditioned. So I tell him, ‘Look, I am conditioned and you are being conditioned. Let us talk about it. Let us see if we can be free of it.’ You understand? It is not, ‘I am the parent, I know far more than you do,’ but rather in this relationship there is no superior and inferior. In this relationship, I talk to him. I say, ‘I also am conditioned. I have been brought up as a Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, whatever the nonsense is, and you are being conditioned. Let’s see what it does in the world.’ I will go into it with him. I keep on at it, day after day, in different ways, not to bore him. But the pressure from the outside is much stronger – you understand all this? – tremendously strong, and probably he will succumb to it, as most children do. There are very, very, very few exceptions. And I hope my son will be an exception but I jolly well also know that he is not going to be.
So it is a constant observation, constant helping, guiding, not guiding – you follow? That can only happen if there is love between us, if he respects me and I respect him. Respect. So I am asking you: do you respect anybody? And if you don’t, what is the good of saying to a child, your son, to have respect?
What does that word mean? The meaning is to look back. I won’t go into the meaning of that word for the moment. Is respect part of love? Or if there is love, nothing else matters. In love there is generosity. There is sympathy and pity, but pity is not love; sympathy is not love. So have I love in my being when I talk of love to him, or is it just a word?
You understand what I am saying? Are you interested in this? Or you want to reach Nirvana? (Laughter) Don’t you see, please, unless we lay the foundation in our lives, we can’t go very far. You may sit endlessly in a certain posture, meditate. There used to be a man in India who meditated for twenty-five years, day after day, day after day. He came to see us one day and you couldn’t talk to him sanely about anything because he was still meditating. (Laughter)
So do we love anything at all? Do you love your wife or husband, or your girlfriend or whatever it is? Please, do you? If you loved your children you would stop all wars. If every parent in the world loved their children, do you know what would happen naturally? You wouldn’t allow anybody to kill him or him to kill others. But our governments all over the world are based on power, position and status, and therefore to protect all that, guns. You know all the rest, I don’t have to go into all that.
So right education seems to be – I am not saying this, it is for you to find out – right education seems to be not only to have an academic training so it will be excellent in that direction, but also to be a good whole human being, unfragmented, not broken-up and contradictory, living in a battle with himself and with others. That requires a great deal of inquiry into the psyche, not according to Jung or Freud, or somebody including that of the speaker, but to watch one’s own responses, one’s own actions, one’s own behaviour. And out of that comes an extraordinary sense of freedom. And freedom, that word, has its root meaning in love.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1983, Question and Answer Meeting 2