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Jiddu Krishnamurti and His Insights Into Education

Scott H. Forbes explores Jiddu Krishnamurti‘s (1895-1986) emphasis on education as a religious activity. 

(From a presentation at the first Holistic Education Conference, Toronto, Canada, 1997) For most of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s life what he said and wrote sparked both interest and controversy. His observations on religion, nationalism, tradition, organizations, and relationships often ran counter to the convention of the day. If they are less startling today, it is either due to the effect his insights have had on common consciousness or an indication of the extent to which he was ahead of his time. But Krishnamurti’s insights on education are still radical and frequently misunderstood or dismissed as impractical. This is probably due largely to the fact that Krishnamurti presents education as a religious activity in an age when most people still see it as preparation for succeeding in a secular world.

Throughout the ages sages have warned us that we can’t see what is true even when it is presented to us because that which is true isn’t what we expect or want to hear. The traditional western symbol for this is choosing Barabbas; choosing what is familiar or most like us over what is true or sacred. This is as true in educational matters as it is in religious ones. Modern education is so obviously failing to solve the world’s problems, is so rightly criticised for not meeting societies’ aspirations, and is so clearly unable to prepare people for the fundamental challenges of living. To solve these problems, we seem to need educational insights that marry the most profound learning possible with the everyday; the subtle with the mundane; or to put it another way, the sacred with the secular. I feel Jiddu Krishnamurti’s insights into education are such a marriage. I feel they are radical, that they meet the challenges of living at a profound level, and they do so at a time when such insights are desperately needed. Of all the many subjects that Krishnamurti addressed in his more than seventy years of writing books and speaking in public, I believe it is Krishnamurti’s insights into education that most people will eventually feel has had the greatest effect on the world.

Jiddu Krishnamurti’s interest in education was long standing and always passionate. In what is perhaps his first book, “Education As Service” (1912), we see his concern for education and the introduction of a few themes that remain in his work. We hear the voice of the seventeen year old Krishnamurti writing from his heartfelt experiences when he says in the foreword,

Many of the suggestions made in this little book come from my own memories of early school life;…. I have myself experienced both the right way of teaching and the wrong way, and therefore I want to help others towards the right way. (Krishnamurti 1912)

And for the rest of his life he did try to help others towards a better form of education.

To address my present theme, which is that for Jiddu Krishnamurti education is a religious activity, I will need to say something about topics I would much prefer avoiding. Partly I would prefer avoiding them because in the space of this lecture I can say only too little to do them justice. I would also prefer avoiding them because any coverage of these topics, no matter what space was available, would probably be contentious because:

Krishnamurti’s work is large, subtle, and complex;

Krishnamurti did not explicitly define positions; instead, his understanding is interwoven through out his work. This is further complicated by the evolution in his manner of expression that occurred over his lifetime, so that two comments taken out of context and separated by decades seem to contradict each other (though, taken in context, they are not contradictory); and

He did not present his insights in traditional intellectual forms, which would have made summarisation easier. Consequently, we are left with a kind of translation – translating Krishnamurti’s work, which is partly apophatic, into an expository presentation. And, as with all processes of translation, something is lost, and those who know the original see the loss, and rightly complain.

The topics which I feel I can not avoid are: 1.) Jiddu Krishnamurti’s approach to what is religious or religiousness or religiosity, 2.) his approach to the nature of human beings, and 3.) his approach to the nature of education. Unfortunately, it would not be possible to address the topic of this paper, without making at least some attempt at explicating these aspects of Krishnamurti’s work, so I’m afraid this is very much a case of ‘a fool rushing in where wise men fear to tread’. 

Krishnamurti’s approach to the nature of the religious, religiosity, religiousness

It would be far easier to say what, for Jiddu Krishnamurti, the religious or religiousness or religiosity isn’t than to say what it is. One very specific thing that is isn’t is any part of any religion. Krishnamurti felt that what is sacred or truly religious could not be conditional, culture-bound or time-bound. Consequently, he felt that what is religious could not be contained by or subject to any dogma, belief, or authority. Krishnamurti’s approach to a religiousness that is free of religion would be an interesting subject for those concerned with the challenges of values, morals, or religious education in today’s pluralist world, but it is not a subject I can address here.

If that which is sacred cannot be related to dogma, ritual, buildings, authorities, or symbols, then what does man have that can make contact with the sacred? Krishnamurti felt that the bridge from the secular to the sacred is a particular consciousness. It is a consciousness that sees things as they are; one that is free of the distortions of conditioning and free of the limitations of thought (while still employing thought). It is a consciousness that has transcended the imperatives of the self or ego and so knows compassion or selfless love. It is a consciousness that knows silence and sees beauty and lives joy.

Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that the sacred is the foundation of all things, lies at the origin of all things, and so is that which is irreducible or can’t be broken into more fundamental elements. He felt that all things are part of a unity or integrated whole, and that that integrated whole is sacred. The word ‘integrated’ is used here as an adjective not a verb – it is not that things can be integrated or brought together, but rather that all things always are constituent or component parts that make up the whole in such a way that it is the whole is the sine quo non of the parts. The closest material analogy is perhaps a hologram – if a hologram is smashed, each fragment contains the whole hologram. Consequently, there can be no development of a part which does not affect the whole, and there can be benefit to a part this is detrimental to the whole.

As the integrated whole (or that which is religious or sacred) is always involved, it makes no sense to think of sequentially developing particulars first and the whole later (i.e. intellectual development first and a sense of the sacred later, etc.). The particulars are constituents of the whole and they must be dealt with together. 

Krishnamurti’s approach to the nature of human beings

Krishnamurti’s work on the nature of human beings is vast since he arguably spent more than seventy years writing and speaking about the human condition. I must again contain my comments to just those few which seem necessary for the theme of this paper.

Jiddu Krishnamurti saw human beings as having different facets (like intellects, emotions, appetites, bodies, etc.) but the whole of which the facets are aspects is more important. Humans have minds as well as brains (more will be said on this later), and it is the consciousness that minds are capable of that can perceive what is religious – the integrated whole (though this should not be confused with some notion of omniscience or seeing everything), and it is to the full flowering of the mind that Krishnamurti felt education should direct itself. The human brain, for reasons too complex to go into here, normally works by fragmenting the whole, and one very important task that the brain needs to learn is to stop this fragmenting process when it is not necessary. Consequently, as possessors of both brains and minds, humans have the capacity of participating in the universe at many different levels, from the particular to the general. Like a Buddhist, one might consider the most real to be that which is most general or generative. Or, like a hard scientist, one might consider most real that which is most particular. For Krishnamurti, human beings have the capacity to venture to both limits and to unite them.

Krishnamurti’s approach to the nature of education

As much will be said throughout this paper on Krishnamurti’s perspective on education, I can confine my summary comments here to saying simply that education was seen as towards the fullest development of the full human being. From the full body of his work, we can conclude that, for Krishnamurti, education is 1.) educating the whole person (all parts of the person), 2.) educating the person as a whole (not as an assemblage of parts), and 3.) educating the person within a whole (as part of society, humanity, nature, etc.) from which it is not meaningful to extract that person. From the above it probably goes without saying, though it can not be said often enough, education is not about preparation for only a part of life (like work) but is about preparation for the whole of life and the deepest aspects of living.

Now that some attempt has been made at summarising Jiddu Krishnamurti’s approach to the nature of religiousness/religiosity, the nature of human beings, and the nature of education, I will try to support the main theme of this paper by presenting what Krishnamurti said about 1.) the intentions of education, 2.) the physical nature of the places in which education occurs, and 3.) the participants in education – the students and staff. I use the expression ‘educational centres’ instead of ‘schools’ as this is often the expression that Krishnamurti used, and because the educational centres that he founded were also meant to be places for adults to learn. In English, or rather in the English of England, schools are specifically places for younger students. To support my theme I will show how Krishnamurti described the three elements mentioned above (the intentions, the places, and the participants) in religious terms, which has the added benefit of seeing the relationship they have with one another. I believe these three elements are the focus of much, if not most, of Krishnamurti’s work on education. 

1. The intentions of education

Krishnamurti repeatedly stated the intentions of the education centres he founded in very unequivocal terms, and in very religious ones.

… children… must be educated rightly… educated so that they become religious human beings. (Krishnamurti 1979)

Surely they must be centres of learning a way of life which is not based on pleasure, on self-centered activities, but on the understanding of correct action, the depth and beauty of relationship, and the sacredness of a religious life. (Krishnamurti 1981b) (Letter dated 15th October 1980)

These places exist for the enlightenment of man (Krishnamurti 1981b) (letter of 15th October 1979)

Part of what is religious (as stated previously) is having a consciousness that sees reality, that sees ‘what is’. The difference between understanding what one is and striving to become something that one isn’t is mirrored in the difference between wanting to discover ‘what is’ and striving to change ‘what is’. Jiddu Krishnamurti didn’t deny growth or change, in fact he applauded it. But meaningful growth and real material change without the all too frequent unfortunate side effects cannot be produced by just ensuring young people acquire knowledge and skills, and teaching them to conform to the strictures and demands of society in order to get on in life. In emphasising the latter, parents may comfort themselves that they are helping their children have material security, and schools may congratulate themselves on their examination results, but in Krishnamurti’s view they are only adding to the sorrows and violence of the world. He decries the fact that most education is to…

 …acquire a job or use that knowledge for self-satisfaction, for self-aggrandisement, to get on in the world.

Merely to cultivate technical capacity without understanding what is true freedom leads to destruction, to greater wars; and that is actually what is happening in the world. (Krishnamurti 1953a)

Merely to stuff the child with a lot of information, making him pass examinations, is the most unintelligent form of education. (Krishnamurti 1948)

Krishnamurti often stated that the purpose of education is to bring about freedom, love, “the flowering of goodness” and the complete transformation of society.  He specifically contrasts this to what he feels are the intentions of most schools which emphasise preparing young people to succeed materially in the society that exists (or a slightly altered one). Even though it is fashionable for schools to declare loftier goals, it is instructive to examine how much undivided attention is dedicated during the day to such lofty goals and how much time is given to preparation for earning a living. It is also instructive to examine what are felt to be the imperatives that shape the educational experience – things like the use of space, who and what determines pedagogic activities, the use of time, and what is assessed, by whom and for what.

As previously mentioned, a constant theme in Jiddu Krishnamurti’s declarations of the intentions of education is freedom, but freedom for Krishnamurti is more inner in character than political. Of course, there is a connection between  psychological freedom and outward compulsion – it is difficult to help a student find the former in a climate dominated by the latter – but it is not political freedom that interests Krishnamurti. Rather he is interested in the deeper freedom of the psyche and the spirit, the inner liberation that he felt was both the means and the ends of education.

Freedom is at the beginning, it is not something to be gained at the end. (Krishnamurti 1953c) (Chapter 6)

There is no freedom at the end of compulsion; the outcome of compulsion is compulsion. (Krishnamurti 1953b)

If you dominate a child, compel him to fit into a pattern, however idealistic, will he be free at the end of it? If we want to bring about a true revolution in education, there must obviously be freedom at the very beginning, which means that both the parent and the teacher must be concerned with freedom and not with how to help the child to become this or that. (Krishnamurti 1953b)

For Jiddu Krishnamurti, the intentions of education must be the inner transformation and liberation of the human being and, from that, society would be transformed. Education is intended to assist people to become truly religious. These intentions must not be just pleasant sounding ideals to which one pays lip service, and they are not to be arrived at by their opposites. And the religious intentions are not for some eventual goal, but for life in educational centres from moment to moment.  

2. The physical nature of the places of education

Krishnamurti felt that the physical nature of educational centres was very important. He maintained that we are affected or informed by and therefore educated by far more than we suspect, and this is especially true of young impressionable minds. I will focus on what I believe to be the three elements that Krishnamurti spoke of most concerning the physicality of educational centres – 1.) the aesthetics, which includes order, 2.) special areas that Jiddu Krishnamurti felt should exist in the centres he founded, and by extension we can assume he would feel should exist in all schools, and 3.) the atmosphere he felt should prevail and which he usually spoke of as part of the physical nature of the centres, though one can argue that they are material only in a very special sense. Again, in keeping with the theme of my paper, I will show that Krishnamurti spoke of these four elements in religious terms.

a) Aesthetics. The schools Krishnamurti founded are very beautiful places, and this is not by accident. Beauty is important, not just because it is pleasing, but because sensitivity to beauty is related to being religious and indispensable to the healthy growth of a child.

To be religious is to be sensitive to reality. Your total being – body, mind, and heart – is sensitive to beauty and ugliness, to the donkey tied to a post, to the poverty and filth in this town, to laughter and tears, to everything about you. From this sensitivity for the whole of existence springs goodness, love; …(Krishnamurti 1964) (chapter 23)

He himself  was extremely attentive to details and critical of things that were badly done. He was very understanding if things could not be better because of real constraints, and he never pushed the administrators of his schools to produce anything that was beyond their means. However, if things were not good through slipshod handling, neglect or lack of sensitivity, then he felt it ran counter to an essential element in education as it ran counter to the religious life that the staff are meant to be living. To expect sensitivity to develop in a child when the staff are insensitive, is to teach a very strong lesson in hypocrisy. Like several holistic educators before him (i.e. Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Fröbel) Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that some very important things could not be taught by proscription, these things need to be lived in the presence of the learner for them to be learned. And, like Keats, whose poetry he greatly admired, Krishnamurti felt that beauty was related to truth.

Perhaps we should include in this discussion on aesthetics what Krishnamurti felt about nature and education. This makes sense in that for Krishnamurti, nature was both beautiful and a demonstration of order. The educational centres Krishnamurti founded are invariably in parks or countryside. This was not just because he felt that nature was pleasing, but because he felt that a relationship with nature had important implications for living sanely and to a relationship with the sacred. He would not, however, condemn as hopeless, inner-city schools that don’t have such luxuries, because nature was wholly available in the smallest part; a blade of grass, a house plant, or a gold fish.

That healing [of the mind] gradually takes place if you are with nature, with that orange on the tree, and the blade of grass that pushes through the cement, and the hills covered, hidden, by the clouds.

This is not sentiment or romantic imagination but a reality of a relationship with everything that lives and moves on the earth. (Krishnamurti 1987) (entry dated 25th February 1983)

If you establish a relationship with it [nature] then you have relationship with mankind… But if you have no relationship with the living things on this earth you may lose whatever relationship you have with humanity, with human beings. (Krishnamurti 1987)

b) Special areas that should exist in educational centres. Another physical aspect of the educational centres Jiddu Krishnamurti created, and another indication of the religiousness of education, was his insistence that the schools have special places for silence. He often spoke to the students of the importance of a quiet mind or silence so that they could observe their thoughts.

You see meditation means to have a very quiet, still mind, not a chattering mind; to have a really quiet body, quiet mind so that your mind becomes religious. (Krishnamurti 1981a)

The mind of a religious man is very quiet, sane, rational, logical – and one needs such a mind… (Krishnamurti 1962)

Jiddu Krishnamurti usually asked that these special places not be on the periphery of the schools, but in the centre of the them. Like a sanctum sanctorum, they were to be the heart, the space that generated the rest of the school. Contrary to most conceptions of schools, Krishnamurti felt that action was to be on the periphery and the insight born of silence was to be at the centre.

c) Atmospheres. While atmospheres are generated by aesthetics, the setting, and the effect of special areas in educational centres, there are also atmospheres that are generated by the participants. At least part of the atmospheres generated by people can be deliberately generated. This atmosphere is another link in understanding the religiousness of education. At Brockwood (the school that Krishnamurti founded in England) Krishnamurti frequently talked about the importance of generating an atmosphere that would itself have an effect on students the moment they arrived. Long discussions were held with the staff at Brockwood about the nature of such an atmosphere and how it might come about. Jiddu Krishnamurti had no doubt that it was possible and necessary. It had more the ring of something religious than anything commonly associated with a school. It was something sacred that worked its own magic on people in a profound and transforming way. Without that real religious atmosphere, he felt that a school was empty, or worse, it was a parody of itself, a kind of Disneyesque impression of something real but with no real substance.

Such an atmosphere, though distinct from the people in the schools, could not be separated from the people. A place may carry an atmosphere, but it is the people who create it or destroy it. To illustrate this he would cite places that at one time were known to have had very special and powerful atmospheres but which were destroyed through neglect, incompetence or corrupt behaviour. Examples of this are some of the great cathedrals or temples that have become tourist industries or money making enterprises, and so have lost any sense of religiousness. They became lifeless and without meaning even though they maintained all the physical appearance of their former selves.

There was a very memorable discussion with Jiddu Krishnamurti at the end of his life when several representatives of different schools he founded in India, America, and England went for a walk with him. He asked us all what would be left in his schools to indicate that they were Krishnamurti schools if the name Krishnamurti was removed and if all his books, audio tapes and video tapes were gone; and if something was still there, what would sustain it. It was a question about the all important ineffable qualities, the atmospheres of the educational centres, and it was a question about what we were generating; and it was a question answered by a very uncomfortable and telling silence.

3. The participants in education

There are, generally speaking, two kinds of participants in educational centres: staff and students. Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that any adult that was regularly in one of the centres was a staff member (regardless of function) and because of their regular contact with at least the educational environment if not the students, then they were in the position of educators. Everyone, staff and students, had something religious about their natures just by virtue of being human, but they had something more than that by virtue of their being in education. Krishnamurti didn’t speak of them as religious figures (such as priests or accolades) but one thing that distinguishes participants in education from participants in some other social organizations (i.e. police officers, nurses, bankers, etc.) is that people in education must have religiousness central to their overall intention and central to the nature of the life they lived on a daily basis. As this is equally necessary to both staff and students, there can be no real hierarchy between them. There are, of course, differences between staff and students in their responsibilities and experience; but in all that is most important in education the staff and students are really in the same boat. Staff members may know more about academic subjects, or gardening, or administration and therefore have a certain authority in those areas, but these are not the central concerns of education. In the central concerns of education, which is to do with inner liberation, both the students and the teachers are learners and therefore equal, and this is untouched by functional authority.

Therefore I say, authority has its place as knowledge, but there is no spiritual authority under any circumstances… That is, authority destroys freedom, but the authority of a doctor, mathematics teacher and how he teaches, that doesn’t destroy freedom. (Krishnamurti 1975)

In thus helping the student towards freedom, the educator is changing his own values also; he too is beginning to be rid of the “me” and the “mine”, he too is flowering in love and goodness. This process of mutual education creates an altogether different relationship between the teacher and the student. (Krishnamurti 1953c) (Chapter 6)

Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that the over-riding quality of an educator should be religiosity.

Because he is devoted solely to the freedom and integration of the individual, the right kind of educator is deeply and truly religious. He does not belong to any sect, to any organised religion; is free of beliefs and rituals… (Krishnamurti 1953c) (Chapter 6)

Because the educator is religious; he is concerned first with ‘being’, and then right ‘doing’ will follow from it. Krishnamurti describes this relationship between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ frequently, but perhaps nowhere more succinctly than in one of his talks in Bombay,

… it is not ‘doing is being’ but ‘being is doing’ (Krishnamurti 1956).

For Jiddu Krishnamurti, ‘doing’ derived from ‘being’ rather than ‘being’ deriving from ‘doing’ – the reverse of convention. Much more needs to be said than this paper permits about the consequences of reversing the roles of ‘being’ and ‘doing’, or even worse, of confusing them. Note the modern convention of a question like, “Who are you?” (a question about being) which is answered by, “I’m a lawyer, engineer, etc.” (a statement about doing). Suffice it to say that this reversal or confusion usually leads to a highly developed ‘doing’ (which is easier to accomplish) with impoverished ‘being,’ and Krishnamurti felt that dysfunction was the usual consequence of such imbalance.

When discussing the selection process for students and staff at his English educational centre, Krishnamurti always stressed the importance of the candidate’s ‘being’ – their deepest sensitivities, their goodness and intelligence (in his definitions of those words which had nothing to do with conventional morality or IQ), the depth of their questions about themselves and the world. Although he wanted both staff and students to be intellectually sound, he never stressed academic prowess, cultural abilities, or capacities as being more important than the willingness and ability to lead what he called a religious life’. In one memorable discussion, Jiddu Krishnamurti questioned the staff about all the qualities they looked for in prospective students (as it was all the staff together who chose new students and staff members). Krishnamurti then described himself as a boy. He said he had been vague, shy, dreamy and bad at all academics, but sensitive, full of wonder, trusting, and affectionate; and Krishnamurti asked if, according to the criteria the staff had just enunciated, they would have accepted him as a child. Again, a painful silence.

Our description of the students we were seeking for a Krishnamurti school seemed not to include the young Krishnamurti. How was this possible? It was because we as staff members were thinking too conventionally and traditionally, we were more interested in ‘doing’ than ‘being’, more interested in the measurable than the immeasurable; we were choosing what was most like us, we were again choosing Barabbas.

The consequences of Krishnamurti’s view of humanity for education

Earlier on in this paper, I tried to give a summary of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s view of the nature of a human being. It now remains to say just a few things about the relation of this view to what he felt were the consequences for education. I will concentrate on only two elements as they most directly support my contention that for Krishnamurti education was a religious activity. These two elements are: 1.) the distinction between mind and brain, and 2.) people need to be revealed to themselves not shaped by others.

Krishnamurti’s view that a human has both a brain and a mind puts him at odds with most modern perspectives and most learning theory. Although this article is too short to do justice to this topic, we can simplify the difference as follows: the brain is the material centre of the nervous system and the organ of cognition. It is therefore responsible for co-ordination of the senses, memory, rationality, intellectual knowledge, etc. The mind, which is not material, is related to insight (non-visual perception), compassion, and the profound intelligence that Jiddu Krishnamurti held as the real goal of life and therefore of education. Obviously one needs a brain that functions well (like one needs a heart or a liver that functions well) but the real source of acting rightly, of goodness, and of a religious life is the mind. In this unequal relationship between the two, a good brain can not ameliorate a mind, but a good mind does ameliorate the brain. The brain has an important role to play with the mind, and that role is freeing itself from its conditioning and from activities that inhibit the mind’s healthy functioning (i.e. hate, fear, pride, etc.); and helping the brain do this is one of the main functions of education (not accumulating knowledge).

The real issue is the quality of our mind: not its knowledge but the depth of the mind that meets knowledge. Mind is infinite, is the nature of the universe which has its own order, has its own immense energy. It is everlastingly free. The brain, as it is now, is the slave of knowledge and so is limited, finite, fragmentary. When the brain frees itself from its conditioning, then the brain is infinite, then only there is no division between the mind and the brain. Education then is freedom from conditioning, from its vast accumulated knowledge as tradition. This does not deny the academic disciplines which have their own proper place in life. (Krishnamurti 1985) (Letter dated 1st October 1982)

Contrary to the perspective that has shaped much in conventional education, Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that each person needs to explore themselves and reveal themselves to themselves rather than be shaped into something by others. This is not a new perspective, and again has links to the educational theories of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Fröbel, and Montessori.

The function of education, then, is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time. So freedom lies…in understanding what you are from moment to moment. You see, you are not [normally] educated for this; your education encourages you to become something or other… (Krishnamurti 1964) (Chapter 3)

To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education. (Krishnamurti 1953c) (Chapter 1)

Krishnamurti felt that not only was a person’s nature and deepest aspects to be uncovered, but each person also has a unique vocation that needs to be discovered; what he/she really loves to do has to be found and pursued, and to do anything else is a deprivation of the worst kind, especially if such deprivation is in order to pursue success or other such cultural aspirations. The discovery of the natural vocation for an individual student and the student’s understanding what he really loves to do may not fit into the plans of the parents or society, but it is an important part of understanding oneself and, consequently, of education.

Modern education is making us into thoughtless entities; it does very little towards helping us to find our individual vocation. (Krishnamurti 1964) (Chapter 3)

To find out what you really love to do is one of the most difficult things. That is part of education. (Krishnamurti 1974) (Part 1, Chapter 8)

Right education is to help you to find out for yourself what you really, with all your heart, love to do. It does not matter what it is, whether it is to cook, or to be a gardener, but is something in which you have put your mind, your heart. (Krishnamurti 1974) (Part 1, Chapter 8)

I realize I have not said anything about how Jiddu Krishnamurti felt that any of the above could be put into practice. The theme of this paper is too small to attempt that, and yet still I feel I have bitten off more than I can chew – or perhaps it is just more than I could present in a digestible form. I have wanted to show that for Krishnamurti education was first and foremost a religious activity. In 1929 he stated what he felt was the central intention in his life,

I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing; to set man free. (Krishnamurti 1929)

For this Krishnamurti started schools, and for this reason only. We read the words of the young seventeen year old Krishnamurti who wrote,

If the unity of life and the oneness of its purpose could be clearly taught to the young in schools, how much brighter would be our hopes for the future! (Krishnamurti 1912) (Foreword)

Forty one years later he wrote,

If one becomes aware that there can be peace and harmony for man only through right education, then one will naturally give one’s whole life and interest to it. (Krishnamurti 1953c) (Chapter 6)

And that is exactly what he did.


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. (1965). Education 1864. In Selected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: New American Library.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1912) Education As Service. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing Society.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1929) The Dissolution of the Order of the Star, 3rd August, at Ommen, Holland.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1948) 5th Public Talk, 26th September, at Poona.

Krishnamurti,, Jiddu (1953a) 3rd Public Talk, 31st January, at Poona.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1953b) 6th Public Talk, 5th July, at Ojai, CA.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1953c) Education And The Significance Of Life, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1956) 5th Public Talk, 18th March, at Bombay.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1962) 2nd Public Talk, 7th June, at London.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1964)  This Matter of Culture, London: Victor Gollancz.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1974) On Education, Pondicherry, India: All India Press.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1975) Dialogue on Education, at Ojai.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1979) 2nd Public Talk, 26 August, at Brockwood Park.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1981a) 2nd talk to students, 19th November, at Rajghat.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1981b)  Letters To The Schools: Volume One. Den Haag, Holland: Mirananda.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1985) Letters To The Schools: Volume Two. Den Haag, Holland: Mirananda.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1987) Krishnamurti To Himself, London: Victor Gollancz.

Montessori, M. (1973) The Absorbant Mind, Madras: Kalakshetra Publications.

Sells, M. A. (1994) Mystical Languages of Unsaying, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

For an introduction to his work:

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1970) The Krishnamurti Reader (edited by M. Lutyens), London: Penguin/Arkana. Incorporates two of Krishnamurti’s books: The Urgency of Change andThe Only Revolution.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1978) Beginnings of Learning, London: Penguin/Arkana.

Links to other resources on Krishnamurti and education

For a collection of other resources about Jiddu Krishnamurti and education, please visit the Paths of Learning Resource Center ArchivesKrishnamurti Education.

In addition, you may also want to read the article by James Peterson entitled “Krishnamurti’s Methodless Method” in Paths of Learning magazine, Issue #5 (summer 2000).

For an update listing of schools and education centers currently using Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophies as their foundation, please visit:

Brief details of life

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986): born on 11 May, 1895, at Madanapalle, a small village in south India, Jiddu Krishnamurti was brought to England by Annie Besant (President of the Theosophist Society) and educated by her. She proclaimed him the Messiah and set up an organization (The Order of the Star in the East) to promote his teaching. In 1929, after experiencing considerable doubts about the role allotted to him, Jiddu Krishnamurti disbanded the organisation saying:

Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organisation be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. (from The Krishnamurti Foundation Trust)

From then until his death in February 1986, he travelled round the world speaking as a private person, teaching – giving talks and having discussions.

About the Author: Dr. Scott H. Forbes is the executive director of Holistic Education, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon. He guides the development of the Holistic Education Elementary School, directs the Teacher Development Program and heads the Holistic Education Research Unit. Scott’s intellectual work is being published under the title “Holistic Education: An Analysis of Its Ideas and Nature” (July 2003, Foundation for Educational Renewal). Previous to his doctoral work at The University of Oxford, Scott taught for 20 years (10 as Principal) at the Brockwood Park Krishnamurti Educational Centre in England.

Additional writings by Scott concerning Krishnamurti and education can be found in articles on freedom and values at:

the main article © Scott Forbes 1997

The picture of Jiddu Krishnamurti (believed to have been taken during the 1920s) is reproduced here in the belief that it is in the public domain. Sourced from Wikipedia Commons, it is a press photograph from the George Grantham Bain collection, which was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948. According to the library, there are no known restrictions on the use of these photos.

First published in this form May 30, 2000.


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