Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Recently, Andrew Cohen hosted a teleseminar entitled Awakening to Your Highest Self, in which various spiritual teachers reflected on their memories and experiences of their own teachers. I listened to part of it, but didn't get to hear the one I was waiting for, which was Rajesh Dalal's discussion of J Krishnamurti. But the talks have been archived, so I will post a link here to it.
And if you click here, you will be taken to the main archive, where other teachers, including Michael Lerner (whom we've been discussing here recently) reflect on their own teachers and influences. As many of you know, I'm not really a fan of Andrew Cohen, but I thought this was timely to share, with our recent listing of our own teachers and influences on the Watkins Review thread.
Neither I, Balder, not Cohen
but I was a real fan of Jiddu.
I especially enjoyed his book "the wholeness of life".
Yes, I liked Wholeness of Life. The first book by him I read was Think On These Things; I saw his name on the book and remembered Thomas Merton had mentioned his name, so I just picked the book up on a whim and it changed the whole direction of my spiritual thinking and practice. I also liked The Awakening of Intelligence, The Flight of the Eagle, Freedom from the Known, and several of his journals and the "Commentaries" series. Heck, I read everything he wrote that had been published up till the mid-90s, and ended up transcribing more of his talks when I worked at his school in Rajghat, India.
I also have a couple letters in my folders from Rajesh Dalal. He corresponded with me several times when I was writing to schools in India and inquiring about teaching at a K school there. I met him once or twice at Krishnamurti study groups in India. At the time, he was raising two of the most remarkable young kids I've ever met -- two boys he'd adopted from Bhutan, I believe.
OK so you have visited these Jiddu school in India?
Can you tell anything about your observations there?
Amazingly I am in some european education research project at the moment in Sweden, designing measurement tools for the concept "lifelong learning" in several dimensions, but alas not yet using the magic word "AQAL"
Yes, I worked for a year at one of his schools (the one located near Varanasi), and I also visited several other of his schools around the country (in Madras and Mumbai). At the end of my time there, I stopped by the Brockwood Park Krishnamurti School in England on my way home to the US, where I was able to meet with Mary Zimbalist and several other "K people."
The school where I worked was a residential one, and the students, teachers, and staff had a warm, almost familial relationship with each other. But there was also an odd tension in the school, between those teachers and students who were there primarily because it was a Krishnamurti school, and those teachers and students who were there mostly because it had a reputation as a "good school." The former tried to live, teach, and study in accord with K's educational vision, whereas the latter were not very much interested in that. There was sometimes considerable pressure from wealthy parents on the school, who were generally impatient with and not very understanding of K's notions of an education founded on inquiry (individual and shared), questioning of conventions, shared construction of meaning (between teachers and students), teachers who live as much "in learning" as the students, dissolution of conditioning and cultivation of a "silent mind," lack of competitiveness or academic aggressiveness, individualized guidance to students instead of standardized testing and grading, etc. They were primarily concerned with the college and career paths of students after they got out of the K school, and so wanted the students to be doing everything students in other schools were doing (much more mechanized, rote learning environments). Overall, I think K's spirit and educational vision prevailed at this school, but not without significant tension at times -- especially when the wealthy parents threatened to withdraw their students and their money!
THX Balder for these interesting obeservations.
I am not surprised at all by that.
I think those wealthy parents may consider these schools as remnants of prestigious Eton like schools of ancient colonial India. They place their kids just because of the social prestige they expected gaining out of it. Unfortunately, we have a classical post-colonial problem here superimposed on the issue "renewing school" and it is a very difficult one to resolve. Jiddu is still perceived in india as some kind of old fashion Indian-brittish overclass member bringing some touch of modernity to the country. This is very disappointing but there is a logic behind that.