THIRTY YEARS OF LEARNING


Ray McCoy

Ray McCoy is one of the few people remaining on staff today who was working at Brockwood in 1986 when Krishnamurti died. Here he reflects on key changes at Brockwood since that time and lessons learned along the way.



Krishnaji had died. We heard the sad news before breakfast on that morning of 17th February 1986.

The world didn't end. We had known since early January that he was seriously ill, so it was not a shock. But breakfast in the dining hall was quieter that morning. Still, there were dishes to wash, floors to sweep, the house and classrooms needed to be put in order. Tutors made sure that the children were well and ready for the day ahead. So, we got on with it; and we continued to do so in the weeks and months and years to come.

Some staff members, those who had been at Brockwood since the mid-'70s, were remarkable. They had come because they had heard or read Krishnamurti and been deeply affected by what he said. At Brockwood, when Krishnaji came to stay from time to time, they listened and learned, and, with his guidance set a tone which can still be sensed here today, even though standards of behaviour and relationship in the greater world around us often seem to have lost all sense of order. In the days after his death, calmly and quietly these people got on with what needed to be done. Indeed, as a group of staff, they seemed stronger than ever, realizing that, as he had often said, it was up to them and that they were not, and never had been, responsible to him. 'You are responsible to that', he had said to them and to the trustees as he pointed upwards. We didn't know what 'that' is, but we knew what Krishnaji meant.

In the next few years, there were many significant changes. In 1987, the Centre welcomed its first guests. They marvelled at its unique design and appropriateness for quiet study in a beautiful setting. There were questions of course, about how long guests should stay, what kind of meals there should be, whether groups would be welcomed, and whether discussions would be organized. The first guests were those who had attended talks at Saanen and Brockwood, some for many years. Soon younger people came as word spread about the Centre. Discussions at mealtimes and eventually during theme weekends were challenging; Centre staff learned the subtleties of facilitating the discussions.

The Centre building also houses offices for the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, which moved from Beckenham. This made space for the expanding archives of Krishnamurti's works—manuscripts, transcripts and thousands of reels of audio and video master tapes—to be properly stored. Many of the tapes were in fragile condition and great care went into preserving and reproducing them. As new technology became available, recordings had to be copied to the latest and safest forms for storage and to be made available to the public. Thanks to meticulous and creative work and at great expense a compact disc was developed to make hundreds of Krishnamurti's talks and discussions available as texts for the many people eager to have this searchable record to study. As we entered a new century, technology was changing at remarkable speed. With improvements in computers and the rapid development of the internet, Krishnamurti's words became accessible to more people than ever before. It had been said that, because he had travelled since 1925 to most countries of the world where he addressed large audiences, he had probably spoken directly to more people than any other teacher. With the arrival of the internet, the 'teachings' were on hand for millions at the push of a button. As work continues on compiling the 'Complete Teachings', they will gradually appear on the J Krishnamurti Online website so that, in time, Krishnamurti's entire oeuvre will be available to all the world.

After much work amongst friends and colleagues in 1996, a space was created close to Brockwood as a meeting place for the young children of Brockwood Staff. This quickly attracted local attention and the numbers grew, but for some years it was unclear whether or not this fledgling project would continue. The space began to become known for providing a thoughtful alternative to conventional education and parents wanted their children to be able to continue there, so with the support of families, friends, teachers and the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, Inwoods Small School was born. Volunteers provided much of the labour that went into converting barns, building a straw-bale classroom and improving the grounds. The latter, set in beautiful woodlands, are now home to a playing field, pond, climbing frames, a sand-pit, bread-oven, vegetable garden and fruit trees. The generous work of the parents and staff continues to this day and 30 children aged 5 to 11 are now enrolled and enjoying the special beauty and care of the Small School.

Sadly, a few years after Krishnamurti's death, some of the staff who had been at Brockwood longest began to feel uncomfortable with changes in the administration so much that they decided to leave. They did not abandon their interest in Krishnamurti or education, but continued to work in other areas of the 'K world'. Not too quickly, the trustees, some of whom had formed the Foundation Trust in 1968/9, acted to restore the sense of cooperative relationship and care in the School. They made changes in the administration to prevent any recurrence of a similar situation. Some of those who had left, in later years returned to Brockwood as trustees or to assist in the Centre, School and Foundation.

At the time of Krishnamurti's death there were several older students who decided to continue to study through the Open University degree. In return for food and lodging and a few hours of work a week, they were encouraged to pursue their studies at Brockwood. Besides their studious example, they contributed to the life of the place, actively engaging with the younger students and the staff members. They all went on to complete higher education at other universities. From this beginning developed a Mature Student Programme, as more older young people, usually between the ages of 25 and 35, found Brockwood through word of mouth and their interest in Krishnamurti's work. This has grown into a major aspect of Brockwood's background, with about 15 student-helpers. The first of these received room and board in return for 20 hours work in the gardens and grounds, in the kitchens or helping in the Centre or Foundation. They pursued their own, usually non-academic studies, in their own time and met with various staff members to discuss their lives and thoughts. This programme has now initiated apprentice-teacher training with qualified young people working with the teaching staff. The energy and enthusiasm of the mature students have a significant effect on the atmosphere that invigorates the place.

What is it that has kept Brockwood flourishing, now for almost 50 years, in the face of squabbles, ever-increasing government bureaucratic demands, rising costs, uncertainty about donations and numbers of students? To use a word that is now given little significance in society, it may be goodness—the sheer unselfish goodness of those staff members, volunteers, trustees, Centre guests, donors, mature students, parents and children who have given their energy and care. Krishnamurti once said, casually, making a wide sweeping gesture, 'After all, goodness is there; it must manifest'.

Krishnamurti has gone, but the goodness has not.