Interview with Vishwanath Alluri, Secretary of J Krishnamurti Foundation, India by Ankush Bharti

 Understanding J Krishnamurti

An Interview with Vishwanath Alluri, Secretary of J Krishnamurti Foundation, India by Ankush Bharti

1. J Krishnamurti was a global figure. What made him so popular across the world?

J Krishnamurti, when he was 14, was adopted by Annie Besant, President of the International Theosophical Society as the vehicle of the World Teacher, which was prophesied by them. He disassociated with Theosophy when he was 34 and went on his own “to set man totally and unconditionally free.” He had given talks the world over (except in the USSR and Africa). His schedule during the last three decades of his life had him travel to the US, Europe and India for three to four months in each place where he gave talks to large audiences and held discussions and dialogues with a wide spectrum of people including scientists, doctors, religious scholars of multiple religions. Besides giving talks in these places there was also the publication of his books (some written by him and mostly books which had transcriptions of his talks and discussions) which were widely read the world over. 


2. When did J Krishnamurti decide to start his educational institutions, especially schools? 

Krishnji’s teachings are vast and cover the whole field of existence. He could be considered an educator of life. The education of children is an important part of his vision as children are going to be the next generation. So, if there has to be order in the world, it is important that children are rightly educated to bring order to the world. He also emphasised that this requires educating the educators and parents as well.


3. Where did he first establish his schools? What was his priority while establishing the schools?

There are two schools which were set up in the early part of Krishnamurti’s life. The first school to be established is Rishi Valley School in 1931 followed by Rajghat Besant School in Varanasi in 1934. These schools were set up in beautiful and natural environments with the objective of enabling children to establish the right relationship with nature.


4. How many schools are there?

Currently, there are six schools in India, one in the UK and one in the USA. Besides Rishi Valley School and Rajghat Besant School, the other schools in India are The School -KFI, Chennai; The Valley School, Bengaluru; Sahyadri School, Sahyadri Hills; Pathashaala, near Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu.


5. What’s the difference in the curriculum from other schools in India? 

Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) schools are affiliated with various Boards of education like ICSCE, CBSC, and IGCSE. They follow the curriculum as prescribed by these Boards. In this sense, the curricula of KFI Schools are not different from those of other schools. But KFI schools lay equal emphasis on nurturing a wholesome human being. This emphasis on the life side of a child is perhaps the key difference.


6. How are the schools founded by J Krishnamurti different from schools in India during that time? 


7. What is the relevance of his teachings to the contemporary generation?


8. How did J Krishnamurti's idea of education disrupt the existing model of education when the schools were started?

The following is the response to the three questions above (6,7 & 8):

The fundamental difference of KFI schools is the emphasis they lay upon understanding the whole of life besides academic learning. All these schools are set up in beautiful and natural surroundings. The classrooms have a compact number of students which is around 30 students. This enables teachers to pay attention to individual students. It also implies the teacher-student ratios are at a healthy level of around 7 students per teacher. All the schools are grounded in Krishnaji’s vision of education. This is described briefly below.

Knowledge, especially technical skills, are the most valued in our society, and so education, as we know it today, is built on the transfer of knowledge into the brain of the child. The focus of many educators, therefore, is to find ways to do this ‘creatively’ so that concepts are grasped well. The contemporary generation which is of digital times has access to plentiful information, and all sorts of digital learning tools including 'tuition classes' in a new avatar are available to enable this knowledge transfer. From very early on, children are taught to create an identity for themselves starting with their names. Most of our lives, then, are lived in relationships with people, with ideas and with things as a means of enhancing this identity. We are taught to project a future and then do what we can to achieve it. Making our dreams a reality is considered integral to the way our society functions. Of course, Life has its rhythms, and such dreams rarely fructify, leaving the child frustrated, fearful, and anxious. Our society is built on this and education is meant for the child to fit into this unhealthy environment. So education is nothing but a system for the continuity of our society. More than eighty years ago, Krishnaji, foresaw the chaos and deepening crisis that societies the world over are in and how education contributed to it. Based on this insight, he asked: “Are we prepared, as parents and teachers, to bring about a new generation of people, for that is what is implied—a totally different generation of people with totally different minds and hearts? Are we prepared for that?” Krishnaji had raised fundamental questions for educators to ponder over: Is School Only for Learning for a Livelihood? Is the Practice of a Profession the Fulfilment of Life? (It is to be noted that the art of questioning is one of the important aspects of Krishnaji’s Teachings).

In Krishnaji’s words “The right kind of education, while encouraging the learning of a technique, should accomplish something which is of far greater importance: it should help man to experience the integrated process of life. It is this experience that will put capacity and technique in the right place. If one really has something to say, the very saying of it creates its own style; but learning a style without inward experience can only lead to superficiality.

“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. To enclose him in the framework of an ideal is to encourage him to conform, which breeds fear and produces in him a constant conflict between what he is and what he should be; and all inward conflicts have their outward manifestations in society. Ideals are an actual hindrance to our understanding of the child and to the child's understanding of himself.”


9. What are the future goals of the foundation? 

The main objectives of the Foundation are: to ensure that the schools are nurtured in the spirit of Krishnamurti’s teachings; to gather all his talks, tapes, and publish them. Today, the six schools of KFI together run an online course, ‘Role of a Teacher in School’ for teacher education which has found many takers in India.


10. What is the message of the J Krishnamurti Foundation for the new generation of teachers? 

11. For students, what is the message of the foundation?

Response to 10 and 11: 

The Foundation is responsible for the six schools and their extension activities. It needs to be emphasised that each school is part of an Education Centre which has additional units. Some of the Centres are involved in extensive outreach activities including educating children from rural backgrounds, providing healthcare, extensive reforestation of surroundings, and conservation of natural resources such as native seeds. A detailed note on the work of the Foundation is attached here.


12. Has the education sector in India changed in the 21st century, according to you? 

According to us, in the 21st-century, the education sector has only proceeded along the same path the sector had taken over the past couple of centuries, i.e., undue emphasis on academic learning (rote learning, especially in this country), encouraging competition and comparison. All at the cost of developing good human beings.