What exactly is his education?
The life and death of Krishnamurti by Mary Lutyens, pp230, 1990
This is a beautifully written book. On a man who is Indian and an international personality, a philosopher, a self-declared iconoclast and a believer and non-believer at the same time, a guru of all gurus and yet contradicted himself by always claiming to be no guru! He was adulated and even spoilt by vast heaps of money and his friendships, both famous and notorious, too many to narrate. There is a vast army of his admirers and secret critics. The books and casetes on this non-stop talker on many continents are too numerous!
As for me, let me declare my interest in the subject. The most surprising incident in my life happened on 4, January, 1986 when by chance I attended the lecture by Krishnamurti in Chennai at his place, Vasanta Vihar, Greenways Road. It is surprising it was the first and the last lecture for me of Krishnamurti. For Krishnamurti that was also to be the last lecture! Soon after he died at the age of 91. Before the date, I remember I visited the very place when I tried to meet and talk with K. I was writing a book at that time on a Santiniketan artist.
This artist was from my own district of Coimbatore. After his stay with Tagore and contributing to Tagore’s own Santiniketan style of modern dance, he came back and stayed for sometime in Adyar, during the Annie Beasant days. It was also the time when Tagore was also closely associated with Besant as readers should know , he was, for some years head of the “University” .Besant founded in Benares. There is so much to write about Besant and her activities but I here confine myself to Krishnamurti. He was “discovered” by Besant in his 15th year, declared as a “coming messiah” by Besant. She took him and his brother to England to educate him, he couldn’t get entry into Oxford and that was how he was left to learn from outside the university education process as such. That showed in Krishnamurti’s intellectual makeup and his exposition of his peculiar philosophy.
It was just a co-incidence that when I was reading through the book I also lay my hand on an antiquarian book I bought. “Charles Bradlaugh. A record of his life and work by his daughter Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner” (1908)
The book made a fascinating reading, Bradlaugh was courted by Annie Besant, soon after she left her husband and she turned an athiest and she and Bradlaugh became the most controversial figures of their time. In propagating athiesm, free thought. Anyway, my mind wandered to the life of Besant who transformed herself into many roles in her public life and career . But alas, she died a disillusioned person, without knowing what Theosophy led her to, with Krishnamurti deserting her and she in her last days was thoroughly confused where her loyalties lay, what her beliefs were ultimately (page 86)
First , about the book and the author. Mary Lutyens is the daughter of Edwin Lutyens, one of the two architects who built the New Delhi British buildings! Mary Lutyens had written three books on Krishnamurti, the last one is being reviewed here. She, though British-born, had known Krishnamurti since she was three, her mother became an ardent Theosophist and as such the book gives a sympathetic account of Krishnamurti as he grew into old age and died.
Whether she believes in Krishnamurti’s philosophy or ways of life is doubtful. One of the chief merits of the book is it gives fairly fair-minded account of what Krishnamurti did and accomplished. He accomplished quite a great deal, no doubt. Krishnamurti is known as philosopher, educator, spiritual man, godman, guru and a messiah. There is a book I saw recently with the title “J.K:A liberator or a failed messiah?”. This particular book, the latest one after his death is fairly sympathetic while not being excessively subjective and raises a number of reasonable questions as to his achievement and his legacy. Before I proceed further I should point out that I myself had seen Krishnamurti closely when I went to his Vasanta Vihar home, few days earlier to his last speech. There I met Mrs. Sunanda and Mr. Achyut Patwardhan, the socialist politician-turned follower of Krishnamurti.
When I was discussing with Mrs. Sunanda, Krishnamurti came into the room unexpectedly. He seemed to be quite aware of his uniqueness, there was this picture of giving the impression of a familiarity and giving the distinct impression of being a highly elevated personality. I don’t quite remember whether I was able to make any conversation with him, my purpose of the visit was to ascertain from him whether he knew the Santinikethan artist who lived at Adyar many years ago Mrs. Sunanda was perhaps ascertaining for herself whether I deserved a chance to converse with the “godman” but he impressed me by his gentleness, though I was not overawed in anyway. It was some time later I was to read a shockingly written expose about his life, this one was written by the daughter of Krishnamurti’s lifelong friend, one Rajagopal whose American wife Krishnamurti misbehaved with in some outrageous manner!
The daughter, with the fidelity to her mother’s own intergrity thought fit to put in print so much that was not showing Krishnamurti in good light. But my respect for the Rajagopal family went up, poor people caught up in the vicious circle of Theosophy, Annie Besant and her own mysterious circle of genuine and fake characters who, did so much in the name of Theosophy but at the same time ended up as cranks and useless people. There was so much money that brought many of these people plainly into tight situations, men and women mingled and entered into wedlocks, some holy, some unholy and all in the name of building a new religion and using plainmortals as messiahs and god men and women! The subject is no nauseating I leave the matter here!
There are some plainly unsupported claims and assertions in this very book.
One was claims made on behalf of his friendship or his influence on Jawaharlal Nehru who it is claimed here was a friend of Krishnamurti. So too the claimed friendship with Indira Gandhi. Mrs. Pupil Jayakar, a friend of both Krishnamurti and Mrs. G. once brought the two together. It is narrated here in some detail, as also by Jayakar. But I knew well that Mrs. G. was too shrewd and she didn’t cultivate Krishnamurti, beyond a point. It is also a fact that when Mrs. Gandhi declared Emergency Krishnamurti went off to USA and he never came back to India as long as the Emergency lasted ! Nor he said a word on Emergency! This is just an aside! But it shows the early attachment of god men who pretend to speak of man’s freedom. Freedom under distatoriships or freedom under democratic conditions. Or freedom without any reference to our earthly existence? No answers! We, poor souls, have to curse our fate within ourselves! Krishnamurti is the eighth child of the ten children born to his father. Born in 1895 he lived to 1986.
It is to the credit of the author, she is rather very outspoken about Krishnamurti’s many aspects, public and private. In fact, Mary Lutyens says that Krishnamurti was attracted to many women, he was a handsome young man and many engagements were reported at many times! Mary herself was once at the point of getting her engagement with Krishnamurti and that was stopped at her father’s behest. (page 78)
There were so many scandals surrounding so many of the Theosophists!, Besant herself was subjected to so many scandals, so too Krishnamurti and others. Krishnamurti nearly broke Besant’s heart and the poor old lady in her Eighties, had to abandon many of her pet doctrines, like esoteric society, occultism, god manifesting in so many forms including in Krishnamurti himself. It is nearly impossible at this point of time, to stomach all Mary Lutyens says, so sincerely and so candidly too!
The very language she employs is ‘meaningless’ in strictly rational terms. The whole of Theosophy and much of Krishnamurti’s ” teachings” can be dismissed as simply unsustainable in more plain language. He was obviously very successful in his persuasive talks, but then we can see even now that the spiritual leaders from the East manage to draw crowds in the USA. Krishnamurti’s formal education is near zero and so his capacity to take on the formal systems of philosophy or religion. He of course claimed, was a different godman, different guru, though he had the knack of denying himself the role. But his followers took him very seriously.
He had access to unlimited resources, owned big properties and lived in considerable luxury. He was everything that was an antithesis to spiritual men, ascetics and there is no standard that is accepted by common humanity by which he can be judged. He could be also be rated a charlatan. Only time can tell.
“Education was one of Krishnamurti’s most passionate concerns throughout his life” (page 87), Yes, that is what concerns us here. It is narrated here in some detail. ” He always loved children and felt that if they could be brought up to flower fully without prejudices, religion, traditional ideologies, nationalism and competitiveness, there might be peace in the world.” The narration further continues. Where to find the teachers? For an adult to uncondition himself was obviously much harder than for a child. To remain unconditioned would mean a complete transformation. To give up one’s prejudices was to virtually to give up one’s personality. Bearing in mind that to K. ideals such as patriotism and religious faith were all prejudices. In this field of education there was an anomaly in K. He expected the schools he founded to achieve ‘academic excellence’ without competition. This might have been possible if parents had not insisted on their children taking university degrees; in India, particularly, a degree was essential for getting a good job”.
I am afraid the author is wrong here on many of the points, in making claims on grounds of educational values as well as on interpeting
K. ’s ideas of education. Let me make myself quite clear. I have read K’s passages long time ago. But I know very well, very closely some of the original band of K’s teachers and devotees of G.V. Subba Rao of the Rishi Valley school. Subba Rao was an outstanding Headmaster and he drew many devoted teachers around him. One was the brother-sister duo, the late Vaitheeswaran and his sister of Pollachi. Another was a dance teacher, the late L. Rajaram of Coimbatore. I also knew some of the old students of Rao’s later-day Balabharati school in Chennai. There are so many inaccuracies in Ms. Lutyens’ account of K’s schools at Mandanapalle and Raj Ghat. Was Madnapalle school founded by K? Or, an earlier school taken over by M Besant? Or founded by Besant? No way to verify these facts! So too are the roles of individuals, both K.and his brothers, friends like Rajagopal and also Beasant, Arundale and others. There were so many mysteries, esoteric conduct by some of these eminent personalities. The “process” often referred to by Ms. Lutyens are subjects for detailed objective study and evaluation by critical educationists and others. The way K. conducted himself in weaning away respectable women from their family lives and also conducting himself in his relationships with other women,, including Lutyens, senior and the junior, the author of this volume, also more seriously Rosalin, wife of the friend Rajgopal the mother of Radha whose detailed book exposes K.’s many unacceptable conduct would throw overboard his many pet ideas. I say pet ideas. Yes, many of his much repeated “pathless way to truth” is simple “non-sense”, in the sense in which the Oxford philosophy dismissed metaphysical statements. Yes, anything, any statement that has no literal meaning is not conveying any literal sense. Hence, such statements are “non-sensical”, without meaning any personal offence to any invidiual personality.
He never seemed to have read serious literature. No word on Plato or Aristotle. He loved reading thrillers, seeing Hollywood films.
Much more questionable is the Krishnamurti education ideas, as put down by Lutyens. How can we equate prejudices with nationalism? How can we deny education’s role to cultivate nationalism, partriotism etc?
Yes, religion has been a problem now, in education or outside. But you can’t run away from explaining and articulating some solutions to the vexed issues of religious and secular education, right?
How a child should grow up? A tough question or questions for which there could be as many answers. Rousseau or other educators became universally admired because their perceptions, their visions are couched in rational language. Ideas must evolve in accordance with the growth in civilisation, our understanding of science etc.
Nor K.’s understanding or his views on politics, the world are in accordance with a responsible citizen, that too an international citizen he very much was. K. took himself too seriously! A dose of scepticism about himself must have been good for himself, for the society around.
There are many such unsustainable claims or interpretation of K.’s ideas. Certainly he was a great man in his own right . That much we can concede. But what we can’t concede is his claims to speak the truth or his comments on life and purpose of life. He was so much pampered, he lost all his sense of perspective or his plain commonsense! We have to watch his schools and what they actually do in the actual world for further learning and their pupils getting engaged in the actual world. It can’t be denied that given Indian middle class mindset, no family would send their children to K’s schools just for the sake of knowledge!
Such types of schools are there like Tagore’s Santiniket an but then it would be too much to equate other educators with K. who was plainly not strictly an educator in the sense we understand the term.
As I was writing these lines there was this Asia Pacific meet on education in Bangalore in which eminent scientists were debating about the decline in the study of sciences and the quality in science education. In the meet one participant from UK, British Nobel Laureate Harold W. Kroto (he won the Prize in 1996) warned : “it is extremely dangerous” that mystical and religious groups are becoming dominant in politics across the world which would eventually harm the scientific spirit of questioning in people “On the other hand science allows you to question, experiment, theorise and eventually develop technology which is beneficial to people. In the last 20 years it is becoming less accepted if we question beliefs” . I thought it was a fitting reflection on what I was also contemplating. Our beliefs have to be tempered somewhat by a touch of positive scepticism. More so for education!