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9 LESSON 9 EDUCATION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE

LESSON 9 

EDUCATION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE

J. Krishnamurti

-Satish Kumar

-Sonia Gandhi

Juddu Krishnamurti was an eloquent speaker and a great thinker and philosopher. He lectured in England, Holland, Australia, North and South America. People in India and abroad listened to him with great attention. He was deeply interested in education and in schools. He founded eight schools in different parts of the world. His views on education are contained in his book Education and the Significance of Life (1973).

Krishnamurti’s Message

            For the perturbed and wayward humanity, his message was “First understand the purpose of your life – the purpose of this individual existence. Understand what it is towards which you are thriving. Then utilize every emotion, every thought to strengthen you.” He observed that the man who can split the nation, but has no love in his heart, becomes a monster. The exclusive variation of technique has produced scientists, mathematicians and engineers, who have no understanding of the process of life. Emphasis on efficiency without understanding what life means, brings about misery and chaos in the world.

            According to him, “The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.” Education according to him was a transformation of human mind and creation of new culture. Education must free the mind and spirit of children. He remarked, “Without a change of heart, without goodwill, without the inward transformation which is born of awareness, there can be no peace, no happiness for mankind.” “Education should encourage self-observation and the experiencing of life as a whole, not ‘me’ and ‘mine’ but to go above and beyond to discover the real.” That was why education should be concerned with the totality of life and not with the immediate responses to immediate challenges. The task of education was showing the way to wisdom and to truth. Truth was within oneself. To find the truth, man must be free from all bondages. The function of education is to help each pupil to discover inner psychological resources and develop his own individual strengths, as well as to realize his weaknesses, without imposing upon him the teachers’ notion what he should be.

The Educator’s Role

            The teacher himself should be a properly integrated human being. The teacher has to be careful, thoughtful and affectionate in the creation of the right environment for the development of understanding to enable the child to deal intelligently with human problem. In order to achieve all this, the educator needs to understand himself. In order to deal with children, great deal of patience and understanding are needed. For a true teacher, teaching was not a technique but a way of life.

 Responsibility of the Parents

            Krishnamurti held the view that education was a dual responsibility of the parents and the teachers. He said, “The problem is not the child but the parent and the teacher, the problems is the educated and the educator.”

            “Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Conformity leads to mediocrity. To be different from the group or to resist environment is not easy and is often risky as long as we worship success. The urge to be successful, which is the pursuit of reward whether in the material or in the so-called spiritual sphere, the search for inward or outward security, the desire for comfort brings discontent, end to spontaneity and breeds fear; and fear block the intelligent understanding of life.”

            “In seeking comfort, we generally find quiet corner in life where there is a minimum of conflict, and then we are afraid to step out of that seclusion. This fear of life, this fear of struggle and of new experience, kills in us the spirit of adventure. Our whole upbringing and neighbour afraid to think contrary to the established pattern of society, false respect of authority and tradition leaves no real spirit of discontent, of revolt.”

            Krishnamurthi says that independent thinking in structured educational set up is not an easy task because going against the wave may not bring success in vocational or spiritual life. Out of fear of becoming unsuccessful, hence, prevent a person from independent thinking and taking initiatives in any walk of life. Thus, true experience and adventure of life do not find its meaning due to established pattern of life.

            “Revolt is of two kinds: there is violent revolt, which is mere reaction, without understanding, against the existing order; there is the deep psychological revolt of intelligence. What generally happens is that we break away from one group or set of ideals and join another group, take up other ideals, thus creating a new pattern of thought against which we would again have to revolt. Reaction only breeds opposition, and reform needs further reform. But there is an intelligent revolt which is not reaction, and which comes with self-knowledge through the awareness of one’s own thought and feeling. It is only when we face experience as it comes and do not avoid disturbance that we keep intelligence highly awakened; and intelligence highly awakened is intuition, which is the only true guide in life”.

            Krishnamurthi believes in filtering one’s own knowledge by introspection and developing insight into one’s own knowledge and feelings. The analysis of one’s own knowledge or reaction to one’s own understanding sharpens the experiences one gets in his/her life. Merely shifting from one ideology to another due to reaction or revolt does not bring actual reform and highly awakened intelligence.

            Now, what is the significance of life? What are we living and struggling for? If we are being educated merely to get a better job, to be more efficient, to have wider domination over others, then our lives will be shallow and empty. If we are being educated only to be scientists, be scholars wedded to books, or specialists addicted to knowledge, then we shall be contributing to the destruction and misery of the world.

            Though there is a higher and wider significance to life. Of what value is our education, if we never discover it? We may be highly educated, but if we are without deep integration of thought and feeling, our lives are  incomplete, contradictory and torn with many fears; and as long as education does not cultivate an integrated outlook on life, it has very little significance.

            The aims of education according to krishnamurthy are to understand the life and constant searching of the mystery of life. The materialistic achievements can only be a source and not the aim of life. He says that a person looses his/her beauty when he/she grows up and in the wake of growing and developing a person becomes materialistic, greedy, opportunist and selfish.  The role of education should not be making people materialistic.   

            In our present civilization education has very little meaning, except in learning a particular technique or profession. Instead of awakening the integrated intelligence of the individual, education is encouraging him to conform to a pattern and so is hindering his comprehension of himself as a total process. To attempt to solve the many problems of existence at their respective levels, separated as they are into various categories, indicates an utter lack of comprehension. Education should bring about the integration of these separate entities – for without integration, life becomes a series of conflicts and sorrows. Of what value is it to be trained as lawyers if we perpetuate litigation? Of what value us knowledge if we continue in our confusion? What significance has technical and industrial capacity if we use it to destroy one another? What is the point of our existence if it leads to violence and utter misery?

            Education does not mean only acquiring the knowledge of subjects but to develop complete and responsible human being. By complete education he means love and compassions, which can transform the present situation in its totality.

            We must distinguish between the personal and the individual. The personal in the accidental; and by the accidental I mean the circumstances of birth, the environment in which we happen to have been brought up, with its nationalism, superstitions, class distinctions and prejudices. The present system of education is based on the personal, the accidental, and the momentary; which leads to perversion of thought and the inculcation of self-defensive fears.

            All of us have been trained by education and environment to seek personal gain and security, and to fight for ourselves. Education is not merely a matter of training the mind. Training makes for efficiency, but is does not bring about completeness. That is why, to find out what is right education, we will have to inquire into the whole significance of living.

            To most of us, the meaning of life as a whole is not of primary importance, and our education emphasizes secondary values, merely making us proficient in some branch of knowledge. Though knowledge and efficiency are necessary, to lay chief emphasis on them only leads to conflict and confusion.

            There is an efficiency inspired by love which goes far beyond and on much greater than the efficiency of ambition; and without love, which brings an integrated understanding of life, efficiency breeds ruthlessness.  Our present education is geared to industrialization and war, its principal aim being to develop efficiency; and we are caught in this machine or ruthless competition and mutual destruction. If education leads to war, if it teaches us to destroy or be destroyed, has it not utterly failed?

            To bring about right education, we must obviously understand the meaning of life as a whole, and for that we have to be able to think, not consistently, but directly and truly. To understand life is to understand ourselves and that is both the beginning and the end of education.

            Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole. But the whole cannot be approached through the part, which is what government, organized religions and authoritarian parties are attempting to do.

            The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent. Intelligence is not mere information; it is not derived from books, nor does it consist of clever self-defensive responses and aggressive assertions. One who has not studied may be more intelligent that the learned. Intelligence is the capacity to perceive the essential and to awaken this capacity, in oneself and in others, is education.

            Krishnamurthy rejects any type of pressure and pre-assumptions. He considers that pre-assumptions stop a person from learning because the mind of the person is already filled with particular ideas, which is not easy to erase. He takes learning as a process of thinking and also calls it observation by which a person gains experiences. He distinguishes between information, knowledge and intelligence.

            Education should help us to discover lasting values so that we do not merely cling to formulas or repeat slogans; it should help us to break down our national and social barriers, instead of emphasizing them for they breed antagonism between human beings.

            The purpose of education is not to produce mere scholars, technicians, and job hunters, but integrated men and women who are free of fear; for only between such human beings can there be enduring peace.

            Education should not encourage the individual to conform to society or to be negatively harmonious with it, but help him to discover the true values, which come with unbiased investigation and self-awareness. When there is no self-knowledge, self-expression becomes self-assertion, with all its aggressive and ambitious conflicts. Education, in the true sense, is the understanding of oneself, for it is within each one of us that the whole of existence is gathered.

            From the above excerpts of Krishnamurthy, it is evident that he believes education as a continuous learning of the activities of life. He takes learning as a pure observation, which is not only limited to external world but also introspection within. In fact he utilizes learning synonimically with self-analysis and criticism of one’s own ideas without being biased. Because learning is directly related to independence and a person can not introspect one self without being free from external control, therefore the first and foremost condition for learning is determination and freedom from external conditioning. He questions that if a person lives with preconceived ideas and ideology then what knowledge is he searching for?

            What we now call education is a matter of accumulating information and knowledge from books, which anyone can do who can read conflict and confusion result from our own wrong relationship with relationship and alter it, mere learning, the gathering of facts and the acquiring of various skills, can only lead us to engulfing chaos and destruction.

            As society is now organized, we send our children to school to learn some technique by which they can eventually earn a livelihood. We want to make the child first and foremost a specialist, hoping thus to give him a secure economic position. But does the cultivation of a technique enable us to understand ourselves? 

            Will technique give us the capacity to understand life? Surely, technique is secondary; and if technique is the only thing we are striving for, obviously denying what is by far the greater part of life.

            Life is pain, joy, beauty, ugliness, love, and when we understand it as a whole, at every level, that understanding creates its own technique. But the contrary is not true; technique can never bring about creative understanding.

            Present-day education is a complete failure because it has over-emphasized technique. In over-emphasizing technique we destroy man. The exclusive cultivation of technique has produced scientist, mathematicians, bridge builders, space conquerors; but do they understand the total process of life? Can any specialist experience life as a whole? Only when he ceases to be a specialist. Technological progress does solve certain kinds of problems for some people at one level, but it introduces wider and deeper issues too. Technical knowledge, however necessary, will in no way resolve our inner, psychological pressures and conflicts; and it is because we have acquired technical knowledge without understanding the total process of life that technology has become a means of destroying ourselves.

            Criticizing education given by schools in a formal setup, which is evident from the above-mentioned paragraph, Krishnamurthy says that schooling has diverted from the meaning of education where they prepare the children to learn particular techniques to meet particular aims of life. In achieving particular aims the true meaning of education is lost somewhere because the students after completing formal education lost themselves in the materialistic world to fulfill their materialistic wants. Hence the meaning of life itself gets lost which cannot be considered education. The current education has divided the person into parts and hence life has become scattered where as Krishnamurthy advocates integrated and associated life through education.

            Some form of technical training seems necessary; but when we have become engineers, physicians, accountants- then what? Is the practice of a profession the fulfillment of life? Apparently with most of us it is. Our various professions may keep us busy for the greater duce and are so entranced with are causing destruction and misery. Our attitudes and values make of things and occupations the instrument of envy, bitterness and hate.

            Without understanding ourselves, mere occupation leads to frustration, with its inevitable escapes through all kinds of mischievous activities. Technique without understanding leads to enmity and ruthlessness, our technical progress is fantastic, but it has only increased our powers of destroying one another, and there is starvation and misery in every land. We are not peaceful and happy people.

            The accumulation of facts and the development of capacity, which we call education, have deprived us of the fullness of integrated life and action. It is because we do not understand the total process of life that we cling to capacity and efficiency, it can be understood only through action and experience.

            “The right kind of education, it should help man to experience the integrated process of life. The right kind of education is not concerned with any ideology, however much it may promise a future Utopia: it is not based on any system, however carefully thought out; nor is it a means of conditioning the individual in some special manner. Education in the true sense is helping the individual to be mature and free, to flower greatly in love and goodness. That is what we should be interested in and not in shaping the child according to some idealistic pattern.

            Only love can bring about the understanding of another. Where there is love there is instantaneous communion with the other, on the same level and at the same time. But governments want efficient technicians, not human beings, because human beings become dangerous to governments and to organized religions as well. That is why governments and religious organizations seek to control education.

            The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole. Another function of education is to create new values. Merely to implant existing values in the mind of the child, Let us not think in terms of principles and ideals, but be concerned with things as they are; for it is the consideration of what is that awakens intelligence, and the intelligence of the educator is far more important than his knowledge of a new method of education.

             The right kind of education consists in understanding the child as he is without imposing upon him an ideal of what we think he should be. If the teacher is of the right kind, he will not depend on a method, but will study each individual pupil.

            In all Krishnamurthy speaks education is a realization of love, passion and humanity. School education Krishnamurthy criticizes but says that it is necessary for development and achievement of particular aspect of life and not life as a whole. Human out-look can only be developed through education when the basis of education should tend to understand the life in its entirely.