Shattering all Conditioning





A Conversation with Mary Zimbalist and Mary Cadogan (with others), published in the book Understanding Ourselves



Mary Cadogan: We thought perhaps to start this dialogue Mary and I would talk a little bit about the beginnings of the school, the history, the background. Some of you know this already but perhaps some of you don’t, and we hope you’ll forgive us any repetitions. We’re talking quite informally and taking up various aspects of Krishnaji’s approach to the schools. With this in mind we are going to go back quite a long way, and Mary will start.


Mary Zimbalist: It really goes back a very long way, as I discovered to my surprise in reading a little book by Krishnaji (as Alcyone) that was published in the early Theosophical days, called Education as Service. It’s in the distant past; the only reason I mention it is to show that in 1912 he was already concerned with education. And later on, in talks to some of us, he said that he had been especially and very deeply concerned with education from 1925 when he started thinking about having schools. So this involvement really goes back to 1912 when he was seventeen years old. This shows that schools were essential to him from a very early time.


MC: Perhaps we can consider that it goes back to his own schooling, for he had a far from ideal pattern of schooldays. For much of these, as he says himself, he was dreamy—he even used the word ‘vacant’, which I think in a sense must mean very open or empty—but obviously, as a very sensitive child, there were many things in his schooldays, which were pretty dreadful. I mean he was actually beaten.


MZ: Yes. It says in the foreword to this little book—it may have been altered, but the foreword was by him—that he had seen both the worst and the good in schools; and the worst for him was being beaten and put out on the porch where he was left for the rest of the day.


MC: And even forgotten.


MZ: Oh, yes.


MC: Although his brother remembered him and he took him home. So he did have a very unfortunate start with his own schooldays, and probably this led him to feel passionately about this. And certainly working with him, and knowing him, one felt that this concern with education in every aspect was always there. I think he started his first schools in India in the 1920s.

MZ: Well, I believe that he started a sort of a school, or maybe it was a study group, when he was still in his teens.


MC: I first got to know Krishnamurti in the early 1950s, and at that time there was some pressure for a school to begin in Europe, a Krishnamurti school. It was interesting to see how he responded to that. He listened very intently to the people who came forward with offers or wishes to start a school, parents, of course, and teachers. He seemed to take it all quite serenely but was not disposed to move quickly on it. He certainly seemed to feel it was terribly important to get the right people, the right place. And I felt he was also saying the right time, in the sense of the atmosphere being right. I remember something he said to me about the dancer Isadora Duncan. He knew I had an interest in her because I had taught a system of movement and dance which sprang partly from her work. Krishnaji said that she felt the greatest disaster in her life was starting a school! He actually quoted this to me and laughed. I read her autobiography later on, and indeed she does say this. But fortunately that was not the greatest disaster in Krishnamurti’s life, although he obviously realized that starting a school wasn’t something you jumped into without a great deal of care and looking into the situation. So for many years people talked about it and he listened, but didn’t seem to feel it was appropriate. I really have to say, and I think Mary would endorse this because we were both involved in it, that the great impetus for a European school came mainly through the focus of the Saanen Gatherings.


MZ: Yes, it was actually in 1966 that he started talking about a European school, to my knowledge. In the subsequent year, in 1967, when a group of people who were very eager about a Krishnamurti school wanted to discuss it, he held a meeting at Chalet Tannegg in Gstaad, and about fifty people came. He didn’t talk very much, he listened to what they had in mind. A lot of them were quite effusive and rather sentimental—‘Oh, we must have a Krishnamurti school’—and he didn’t comment. But about a week later he called in about a dozen people, whom he seemed to think were really serious. I don’t know why I was included because I had had nothing to do with schools at all, but I fortunately went, and he said to us, ‘Are you serious? Do you know what it takes to do a school?’ Out of that, after considerable discussion, came the fact that he wanted it to be an international school, preferably bilingual in French and English. And where to have it? Well, the candidate countries were Switzerland, England, Holland and France. And so he appointed one person or a small group from each country to go and explore the local situations, to find out what the circumstances of a school would be, the legalities and so forth, and report the following year.


So the following year, four reports came back. At that point in France de Gaulle was still in power, and one didn’t know what would happen if he died, when conditions might change and make it difficult for the kind of education Krishnaji had in mind. So France was out. In Holland, the laws then were, maybe still are, that a proportion of the courses had to be taught in Dutch, and that made the language problem complicated. He already knew that he would like Dorothy and Montague Simmons to run the school. Switzerland, by the way, had too many private schools and it was too expensive and we had no money. So by elimination it became England.

MC: Yes. When the decision was finally made, it was with complete agreement among the people from these other countries who had been exploring conditions. In England there were several of us looking; Dorothy and Montague, David and Saral Bohm and myself were exploring conditions here. One of the things that also seemed to affect Krishnaji quite deeply—and interestingly enough it came up this morning on that bit of the tape that we heard when he was talking about education and caring for our children—England, or Britain I should say, was one of the few European major states at that time which did not have military conscription. I was shocked this morning to hear that some countries in Europe still have it. That certainly seemed to predispose Krishnaji towards a school in England. And of course, the language; Krishnaji gave his talks in English and that obviously was a big factor.


When we were in Switzerland, and there was this enormous focus of interest, it was a very international gathering. In many ways it was a very young gathering, although people of all ages were there, and he was speaking to his new, if I may put it this way, post-war and also post-Theosophist audience. There were still people who had heard him speak at Ommen in Holland but there were many, many people who had come to it fresh without any of the Theosophical background. I think he felt the time was right for a school. There was something in the air in the mid-1960s.


Stephen Smith: It was the end of the 60s, wasn’t it?


MC: Well, it was in the mid-60s that he seemed to begin to feel we could move towards a school. And, of course, Dorothy Simmons came on the scene around 66, 67, I think.


MZ: She was one of the group that he asked to come back after this big meeting of fifty people. Dorothy was in that, and he very quickly decided that she should be the principal of the school.


MC: And David Bohm was also very much in evidence in all this. He talked a great deal with Dorothy and Montague, of course, with Krishnaji and one or two people who were interested in possibly becoming staff at the school. I think Dorothy and Montague’s involvement considerably helped Krishnaji feel this was the time to do it. It might be interesting just to talk a bit about Dorothy and Montague’s rather interesting educational contribution before they came to Brockwood. Dorothy Simmons, the first principal of Brockwood, was not an academic. She was a sculptor, and she had this wonderful rapport with all people, but particularly with young people. Montague had been a headmaster; he had also been an inspector of schools, and his work had brought him into contact with intelligent delinquent boys who were at certain special schools in Britain. Montague made the point that these boys were sent to these corrective schools because they were delinquent, but they came out of them rather worse than when they went in, with their delinquency consolidated. He felt these schools were not really coping with them, and apparently the Home Office said: you feel this, so you start a school for delinquent boys with high IQs and see what you can do. And he and Dorothy actually ran such a school with, apparently, remarkable and very positive results. So that was Dorothy’s background; she wasn’t a teacher but she had been used to working with young people, and often young people with considerable problems. So the work of starting the school began. Once Krishnaji was sure we were going ahead, he seemed almost impatient to start.


MZ: Yes, he was pushing to find a place to start the school. And again we, as usual, had no money at all. A donor and admirer of Krishnaji wanted to give him a home to retire to in the south of France, a French farmhouse. But, in fact, he never really intended to retire. And so when the school idea was growing he asked this person, ‘Would it be possible to spend what it would cost to get the farmhouse on a school?’ The donor said, ‘Whatever you want, of course’. So that meant we had enough, not a lot in terms of today, but what turned out to be almost exactly the cost of this place. Other houses were looked at, and Krishnaji was pushing, pushing to get a place.


MC: Well, first we looked at a rather lovely place in Buckinghamshire which was charming, beautiful, but turned out to have all sorts of structural faults. And then we looked at the former home of the film-star Dirk Bogarde, a place called Nor, which was also charming but hardly big enough or suitable for a school. But Dorothy, of course, was enthusiastic and I said to her, ‘Well, where would you and Montague actually live, because it’s not very large?’ ‘Oh’, she said, ‘we’ll live in the garage’! But it would not have worked out. Krishnaji was then away, and this is when he sent that rather famous telegram, which said, ‘Buy it and plant a thousand daffodils’. Well, we didn’t actually buy Nor, but eventually we got this place where there were already perhaps a thousand daffodils, but we probably planted another thousand!


MZ: He wanted, I think, also a place either with a little house nearby or something suitable for him to live in. And we are now sitting in his end of the house [the west wing]. That’s one reason Brockwood was liked so much: Krishnaji could have his own quarters, and yet we’d all be in one place.


MC: I think another interesting thing was the way the school started. Once the decision had been made that we were going to have a school and it was a question of finding the premises, Krishnaji got so enthusiastic that he was partly instrumental in getting at least two students, one from India, one from America, two young boys, who came here. So Dorothy was actually carting these students around the country with her, looking for the premises. There used to be a well-known play called something like So many Characters in Search of an Author. I thought this was rather funny, two students in search of their school! Anyway, Brockwood Park School actually opened in 1969.


MZ: Yes. It opened with a few more students, but not many, in September ‘69. I’ve looked it up, so I can tell you. In December 1968 we signed the contract, and we took possession of the place in January ‘69, when Dorothy, Montague and Doris Pratt moved in.


MC: Doris was secretary of the old Krishnamurti Writings before me, and then she came here as Dorothy’s secretary.

MZ: They had to start repainting and refurbishing everything. Huge work went on here, done mostly by just those of us involved, not outside people.


MC: Dorothy had a wonderful capacity for organizing people into what she called work parties. And she used to have these weekends when helpers would come. Compared with now the place was, well I won’t say dilapidated, but it needed a great deal of attention, and she had them all beavering here, working and digging and painting and doing all sorts of jobs. It really was great, the effort and the cooperation that went into it. It was always a beautiful place, there was no question about that, but a lot had to be, and was, done.


Questioner: I remember that, because I was one of the early beavers in 1969.


MC: Well, you’ll remember how very hard everyone worked. I think Dorothy seemed to have some fund of people too, whom she knew from previous parts of her existence, who had been Gurdjieffians; I believe the people who are interested in Gurdjieff are usually terribly hard workers!


Krishnaji, of course, was very involved from the very beginning. Obviously he couldn’t be here all the time because he spent much of every year in India and in America, and at that time he was still giving talks in the capital cities of Europe—Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, London. But he did spend several months of every year at Brockwood, and it was then his home. And I think it’s true to say he was involved in relationship here with the staff and the students in a way which was perhaps different from any other school that he was associated with, partly because of the older age range of the students, and partly because he was talking all the time to the students and to the staff I feel he was absolutely at the heart of it, and the way it developed. Also, when he wasn’t here, he started to write the Letters to the Schools which were marvellous. These were shared with all the schools, so it was a way of linking them, and it was also a way of keeping a close contact with Krishnaji when he wasn’t here. If any of you don’t know about these Letters to the Schools, they are still available in two volumes, modest sized little books but with marvellous things that one can read and re-read [now published as The Whole Movement of Life is Learning].

MZ: He dictated these, sometimes one or two a day. And then he would hold them and say, ‘Now send them out on the 1st and the 15th of the month’, or sometimes it was monthly, so they would reach all the schools at the same time. This is just to give you an indication. Although he wanted other schools to listen to what he was teaching, he felt responsible for only the schools which he could visit, and which therefore could bear his name. He didn’t want other schools to use his name because he said he couldn’t be responsible for what they did. If he couldn’t spend time in them he couldn’t be responsible. And obviously his time was full. So the Letters were a way of spreading to other schools what he was saying; he wanted them published, so we, of course, did publish them, for anyone who was interested.


MC: I think another thing, which Mary and I were reminding ourselves of, was that from the very early days Krishnaji really saw Brockwood as more than a school. Obviously, his concern was to establish here an atmosphere in which young minds could flower, be open. Also, of course, that there should be this quality of life here for everybody associated with the school, for the teachers and anyone else who was working here, and the people who were visiting and coming to the place. I think he felt that the people who were seriously interested in the teachings who would come to Brockwood, not necessarily as staff or students, would also have some input in this place. And that it would work both ways: the school would have an effect on them, they would have an effect on the school. He talked about this a great deal over the years.


At a certain point he really began to feel we should have an adult centre here, and the cloisters was built, originally as an adult centre. The cloister concept was very interesting with individual rooms, but a communal sitting room and the feeling of the cloister. Unfortunately, in a way, the school grew so rapidly that it began to take over the cloister accommodation so that it never quite fulfilled its role as an adult centre, although there was always some visitor accommodation. It is very interesting that some years after this, Krishnaji came up again very strongly and deeply with the idea, and felt the real imperative for an adult centre. And that, of course, was when the Krishnamurti Centre that you now know was envisaged and, soon after he died, was built.


SS: How was the name ‘cloisters’ come upon, because it seems incongruous in a sense?


MZ: The shape of it, I think.


SS: Just the shape?


MC: The architect designed it that way. First of all there was another design which was rather more conventional and I don’t think Krishnaji ever really liked that design. I remember we were talking about this; we hadn’t any money, the usual situation, so how could we build an adult centre? And several trustees talked about it, and after a great deal of cogitation, decided that we couldn’t possibly build as we hadn’t any money, but that we might have caravans or, you know, portacabins, and so have some sort of adult centre. And Krishnaji sat there very quietly while all this was going on and the decision was actually made that we couldn’t possibly build. A couple of people who were particularly worried about the finances left the room and Krishnaji turned to Dorothy Simmons and said, ‘Now, Mrs D, what sort of building shall we have?’ We somehow had moved from a building which was rather ordinary, which we couldn’t afford, to portacabins, which we possibly could afford, to this completely new concept, which became the cloisters. I think it was just that, that the architect saw it that way and it seemed, in a way, to fit the need. Do you feel it’s incongruous?


SS: Well, the name is strange.


Ray McCoy: It has something in common with mediaeval cloisters. You know, the covered walkway around, and it’s sort of closed off from everything.


MC: Well, Krishnaji did actually use that name, and he also used to talk of an ‘ashrama’ sometimes, although I know this has become rather a dirty word.


MZ: He spoke of an ashram but he thought it was too religious.


MC: So he dropped that.


MZ: The thing that was always very strong about this place, and the school, was atmosphere. Krishnaji felt that one of the essentials in a school was the atmosphere, which is brought about among all the people living there—the staff, teachers, the students. And I remember him saying, and rather terrorizing the staff by doing so, ‘Students who come here for the first time must feel the atmosphere, feel there is something different when they cross the cattle grid’. Now the cattle grid is right over by the end of those trees. And they should be seized by this extraordinary atmosphere. And everybody thought, ‘God, how can we bring that about?’ But the answer is, in a way, in his teachings, which say, and I think this is borne out, that there is an atmosphere when people together are seriously concerned with right relationship with each other, regardless of whatever job they are doing. They do create something—can we call it atmosphere?—which is very powerful and very real and very important. And I think this has been the basis for Brockwood and the other schools founded by Krishnaji. They have tried also to bring about a special relationship among all the people involved; in particular the staff are responsible to bring this about as much as possible with the students. There are wonderful quotations here. For instance, Krishnaji said, ‘It is very important that the child feels secure from the very first day. The first impression must give this. This allows the natural curiosity of the child to bring about a state of inquiring, and only then can there be learning’. But it was all from this almost subliminal sense that the child would have. And it was interesting to me this morning, when some of you talked to the students, that several of them when asked, ‘What did you feel when you came here?’, said immediately, ‘I’m at home’. It was, to me, very moving to hear that from nineteen-year-olds.


MC: Arising from what Mary has just said, the question has been asked over the years, why a school? Why not a community or a group? Because obviously people come here to work because they are attracted by the teachings, that is what their starting point is. Why a school? I think Krishnaji has answered this in his books and talks. I remember we were having a meeting, talking about Brockwood and wondering if we should think differently. Should we think, perhaps, of not having a school? Should we think of having Brockwood only as an adult centre, and so on. Then Stephen Smith said—if I can paraphrase you, Stephen—‘Well, you know there are lots of things we could do to live according to the teachings, but there is something about a school which has a sense of service’. I think the school at Brockwood has this service in the deep sense of the word that Krishnaji meant. To me this is the wonderful thing about Brockwood. With all the vicissitudes and all the difficulties, I feel that this has always been there.


MZ: To underline what you just said with a quote that I like: ‘The teacher who finds what existence means, who is really teaching, has a primary place in civilization’. A tremendous statement.

For years I kept notes of things that Krishnaji would say, not in public talks but in conversations. And the night before last I was rustling through these and I came upon something that I really would like to read to you. This was dated July 30th 1975, which means it would have been in Switzerland. He was talking about responsibility and he said:


Responsibility is not to the students but to “the other”, [MZ: “the other” is in quotes, and I think most of you will know what he meant by that] and that responsibility will translate itself into daily life. There is a need at Brockwood to move to a dimension where a flame of energy is always abundant. I am responsible to that, I am totally committed to that, not to tradition. Traditional energy is a total wastage of energy but in “the other” there is more and more and more. So we need leisure, space to find out how to convey that in education. How is a student to have that dimension, that flame? How do we bring this about? That is education, not by authority, compulsion, imitation, reward and punishment. I abandon all those ways. I want the child to have no problems. Is there some catalyst that will shatter all his conditioning and when he comes to Brockwood the thing is broken? In one week to uncondition the student. How? By bringing about an atmosphere, a seriousness, real affection in the air, disturbing but interesting, a sense of stability, abiding reverence in that immutable truth, unchangeable reality.


One sees what he really wanted in education. I find such an eloquence in that.

MC: I think it’s interesting how the age group evolved at Brockwood. Obviously a school can be of small children; it can be a middle school, junior school, secondary school and so on. Somehow it seemed quickly to fall into place that Brockwood would be a school for older students. This was something different from what Krishnaji had done before. It was a new approach. Krishnaji seemed very much to feel this was something we could do here. Over the years there has been a lot of discussion about extending the age group range to include younger children. We actually extended it upwards. We have students here who are, of course, much older than students in many schools.

There was one remarkable day when Krishnaji came back from India. The pattern often was that he would talk in India, come back to Brockwood for a few days, then go on to America before coming back again to Brockwood and to Saanen later in the year. I know that Dorothy Simmons would often rather dread his return from India. She would say, ‘Every time Krishnaji comes back from India, he comes full of all these new feelings and passion’. She always felt that everything was going to be turned upside down from top to tail, which it often was. Some of the greatest challenges he seemed to present us with were when he came back from India. And on one occasion he came back and the trustees and some staff members spent a whole, and a really rather trying day talking about Brockwood. Krishnamurti seemed most passionate that we should extend the age range downwards. Not only that, but we should open our doors to babies! And of course this was open to interesting interpretation among some of the staff! But suddenly, I don’t know how it happened, the whole feeling changed, and by the end of the day Krishnaji and everyone was saying, ‘Well, we should really have students who are older than those we have already’. You know, we went through this extraordinary process, and actually then agreed that we were going to have students a little bit older, starting around 14 or 15, and not have the 12- or 13-year-olds. Of course this was the extraordinary thing about Krishnaji, this openness; it was also very challenging to be with. Mary, I’m sure you have some thoughts on that in the Ojai school.


MZ: Yes. The Ojai school, which is called the Oak Grove School, which was talked about in the Krishnamurti Foundation of America in the mid-70s, finally began in 1977. Krishnaji had said about the school, ‘Let us try with younger students up to the age of entry to Brockwood. Let’s see if we can get younger children, because then they would be less conditioned’. So the decision was made to start with kindergarten. Of course, at that point a residential school was not considered because the children were too young. But in an extraordinary way families who heard about Krishnamurti’s teachings, picked up their lives, gave up their jobs, sometimes their houses, and moved to Ojai to put their children in a Krishnamurti school. We started out with just a handful, and it now is much bigger, about 125 students at the moment. When those children had to decide what to do when they reached high school age, there was a tremendous push among the parents. They didn’t want to send their children, who had been at Oak Grove, out of a Krishnamurti school and education to go to the local high school. So there was a campaign, and finally Krishnaji and the trustees agreed that we would have a high school. It didn’t have to be residential, but we do have residential places. We can take about 40 students. So it now covers kindergarten right up through high school. And that all started in 1977.

As mentioned earlier, after leaving India, Krishnaji would come here briefly and then go on to Ojai with similar challenges; only at Oak Grove School he stressed the importance of parental participation. With Brockwood, of course, the parents are so all over the world, in different countries, but in Ojai the parents largely live in the Ojai Valley, so they play a tremendous part in the school, and he would talk to them. I remember one winter in Ojai when he held forty different discussions, two or three hour discussions, with parents and staff, and worked very, very hard. So the difference in the Ojai school is that it is only partly residential, and it does take a lot of children, and the parents are extremely involved. It is quite different, but they are trying to do exactly what Brockwood is trying to do in the sense of communicating at all levels what Krishnaji wanted and had in mind.


MC: Perhaps I should say here too that with Krishnaji nothing was ever set in concrete, and this place has evolved during his time, and of course since. There has been an initiative recently, of which some of you may be aware. Some of the staff who live and work here have started a preschool group for their own very young children, and it is in a separate building down the road. They are also opening this a little bit to the children from the village here. This is a fresh development, and some of us hope it might eventually become a junior school, but we have to see how that will go.

Krishnamurti never really made rules at Brockwood, and rules are still kept to the minimum. However, he did have a profound effect on the whole ethos. Mary mentioned earlier that many students who come here get the feeling that this is home. Krishnaji often talked with the staff too about it being their home, but equally he would say that it should be possible for them to be able to walk away without dependence on or attachment to it, which was extremely interesting. I do not live here, but I can see that it must be difficult sometimes for people who have lived and worked here to walk away. That’s something that people who live here would be able to talk about.

His involvement with the school was tremendously deep. We have, of course, a lot of his dialogues with staff and students on tapes, some of them in books. As well as Letters to the Schools, there is a book called The Beginnings of Learning, which many of you will know. Much of that comprises Krishnaji’s discussions with students from various Krishnamurti schools, and with parents and teachers. I find his dialogues with the schools truly remarkable. At one level these were so down to earth, dealing with what we call the nitty-gritty of running a school, but in other ways they would touch on something which seemed limitless. One is struck by the fact that his definitions of things like discipline, order, concentration or attention always had extraordinary freshness and aptness.

I wonder if I could share one of them with you? This is from The Beginnings of Learning. I’m not going to read the whole dialogue, obviously, but it has been a discussion about concentration and attention, and this is how he brings it to an end. Having been talking very specifically about all this, he says:


Concentration is a form of resistance, it’s a form of exclusion, a shutting out, a retreat, but attention is something quite different. In concentration there is a centre from which the action of observation takes place. Where there is a centre, the radius of its observation is very limited. Where there is no centre observation is vast, clear. This is attention.


Now someone says, ‘I’m afraid we don’t understand this at all, sir’. Krishnamurti goes on—this discussion took place in India:


Look out at those hills, see the light on them, see those trees, hear the bullock carts going by, see the yellow leaves, the dry riverbed and that crow sitting on the branch. Look at all of this. If you look from a centre with its prejudice, with its fear, with its like and dislike, then you don’t see the vast expanse of this earth. Then your eyes are clouded, then you become myopic and your eyesight becomes twisted. Can you look at all this, the beauty of the valley, the sky, without a centre? Then that is attention. Then listen with attention and without the centre to another’s criticism, insult, anger, prejudice. Because there is no centre in that attention there is no possibility of being hurt. But when there is a centre there is inevitable hurt. Then life becomes one scream of fear.


I thought you would find it interesting to see just how he talked with the staff and students about these things, which are so near to home and yet take in so much.


MZ: I have also a quotation from Krishnaji, something I found. This not in a book but in my notes, but I’d like to read it because it struck me so tremendously. And again, it’s in conversation. He said:


There are two fields, goodness and hate. There is also another field, which goes beyond the two. Man spends most of his capacity in hate and not in goodness. There is an energy which does not belong to either. Both these belong to man. War creates an atmosphere, so does goodness. Both are within man’s capacity. To move within these is still tradition. There is another area which, if we can touch it, gives an energy which doesn’t belong to either. I believe we can touch it, and when we do, that will transform what we are doing. If we can open the door to it, it will operate. There is an energy which is not manmade. You can’t get to it by manmade ways, by vows, chastity, poverty. Man has asked if there is an area where manmade things do not exist. Can we as a group discern that, recognizing that what is manmade is incomplete? Is there something that is totally complete and can my mind capture it, an area where miracles happen, where something new exists, a state from which all life flows, the beginning of everything? Can we come to that? Otherwise we are treading in this field, tradition. It is my responsibility to come to that. I will not have my roots in these. I may have no roots and therefore be open to the width of the heavens.

MC: I think the intensity of the dialogues he had with the staff, the students and everyone involved in the schools was remarkable and sustained over a long period. We know how hard he worked for the schools. When Dorothy was principal, he spent a great deal of time talking with her, walking with her, going into every aspect of the school, of the students and their needs and so on. When Dorothy became ill and a group was formed of four and then five, I know that he gave a great deal of energy to being with them, and then, when Scott was the principal, with Scott. He did this also with “the fourteen”, a group of people who had then been here for some time. Towards the end of Krishnaji’s life, he regarded them as a kind of nucleus group. I think he felt that here we had a group of people who would create what we talked about earlier, this atmosphere, this right atmosphere, and this would then go on from that nucleus group to the new staff, and so on, and extend. There are several people in this room, I think, who were part of that group who could talk about it better than I can.


MZ: Krishnaji was very concerned about what would happen to all this when he was gone. He often used to say to us in meetings, ‘I’m gone, I’m dead, what are you going to do now?’ He was in a way preparing us for the responsibility, which was on him. People worked extraordinarily hard, but still he did carry the schools, or at least the one here at Brockwood. I can’t speak for India, but he had tremendous influence there. He wanted people to come to a realization of the things that he talked about, so that it would be a living thing in them. He said, ‘Books don’t matter, it must be a living thing’, and he was trying to bring that about in all of us, staff, students, teachers, audiences, everybody who came anywhere near his teachings. From this particularly intensive contact with him one felt that, when he was gone, there would be a continuity that wouldn’t flag or wouldn’t go downhill, as it were. It was to me almost a sacred responsibility that he was putting to us.


Do you want to ask questions? I think that is enough of us.


MC: I wonder whether I could just mention one other aspect of his deep and consistent involvement with the work of the schools. He talked a great deal also with the trustees of the school here and also with some of the staff, and I remember one memorable occasion when we were going to write something about Brockwood for the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Bulletin. This was probably when it had been in existence for ten years or so and we wanted to give a picture through the bulletin of what was going on. It is actually very difficult to write about what is really happening in a place like Brockwood, especially when one wants to do it with absolute honesty. The discussion didn’t take off very creatively, and then Krishnamurti said to every person in the room, ‘What are we doing at Brockwood?’ He made everyone individually answer this question, which was really very difficult, because first of all people would say, ‘We are trying to...’ and of course he wouldn’t allow the word ‘trying’, or ‘we think’. ‘What are we actually doing at Brockwood?’ was his question. And, whatever anyone said, he didn’t seem to feel that the answers were adequate. Indeed, sometimes he would sort of wince and turn away, as if some terrible thing had been said. And one really hoped by the time he came to oneself that the floor would open up before one had to answer the question, but it wasn’t so! At the end, when we had all had our say, Krishnamurti just sat there very, very quietly and apparently not offering any help at all, but with that tremendous inward look that he had when his eyelids would come down and you felt you were in the presence of something remarkable, some sort of powerhouse of inner energy, and you hardly dared to speak. However, I did take courage and say, ‘Krishnaji, can we ask you this question, what are we doing at Brockwood?’ This seemed the obvious thing to do, to ask him. And he said, ‘Oh, it’s quite simple. We are making new human beings’. Well, it may be simple, but so much was involved in this. Then after some pause for reflection I said to him, ‘Can we put this in the bulletin?’ Because, you know, we were writing this article for the bulletin. And he said, ‘Yes, of course’. Anyway, two days later I had a telephone call from him and he said, ‘I think perhaps we should not put that in’. I don’t know exactly what it did mean, but in his heart that was what we were doing: making new human beings at Brockwood Park—a tremendous challenge to everybody who is here, who is involved with that.


Q: Has he ever talked about new schools after his death, starting new schools without his help?


MC: He did talk about this because this question frequently came up. As Mary said, he was wondering and talking about what would happen after he died.


MZ: He wanted new schools, obviously, but felt that he could only be responsible for schools that bore his name if he personally visited them, and was concerned with them. He felt that otherwise he couldn’t be responsible, but that didn’t mean there shouldn’t be schools. And I believe in India a couple of new schools have started.


Kabir Jaithira: The point is that when Krishnaji was alive he was very concerned with having schools and having people who were deeply responsible for bringing about a new quality in education. And in fact the Krishnamurti Foundation in India have started new schools in Poona. It’s part of the Krishnamurti Foundation. And in some sense it seems to me that if we don’t do it, if we don’t do it in the right way and if we don’t do it taking the full responsibility, we are merely transferring the responsibility to him and saying that as long as he was alive we could do something and now we can’t do anything more. It was not just his responsibility for the teachings but in some sense we are all responsible.


MC: This point did come up, Kabir. And I think the point you make is a very profound one. We can’t leave the responsibility with Krishnamurti only, obviously. In Saanen once, when the international committees were discussing this very question of starting new schools, he made the point again that he felt it was better not to associate his name with schools that he hadn’t actually worked in or been in some way responsible for. But we did discuss the question of new schools. New schools would start inevitably, and one would want schools to be inspired by Krishnamurti. And he went so far then as to say, ‘Well, this is up to the Foundations’. Also, of course, existing Krishnamurti schools will probably open out and expand. If it is felt that a new school that begins somewhere is sympathetic with the whole ethos of the Krishnamurti schools, then that school could perhaps be brought into this network, although not necessarily be an official school of the Foundation. This expression was used, ‘to become part of this network’, which I think is a very good way of looking at it.


MZ: There’s a slight offshoot of this question. The American Foundation early on started so-called Krishnamurti Centres around the country where people would show tapes, hold meetings and provide books and so forth. And they were called Krishnamurti Centres. Well, we came to realize that, in effect, we could never visit them because America was too big and we didn’t have people to do it, we had to trust people. But some of the centres were functioning inappropriately, and they were using Krishnamurti’s name, while whoever was running things would become the local guru and hold forth. And so we withdrew the use of the Krishnamurti Foundation’s name. In other words, people in their own houses can show tapes—we can’t prevent it—but they can’t be listed in the Krishnamurti Foundation of America Bulletin as Krishnamurti Centres as before. This doesn’t mean that lots of people aren’t indeed showing tapes and providing a very useful service, but the responsibility for using Krishnamurti’s name was felt strongly, and we must protect that.


Now, of course, with the internet, things are burgeoning all over the place. Anybody can start anything they want, including a Krishnamurti page. It is something that has to be treated with responsibility and sensitivity because, above all, Krishnaji used to say, ‘Don’t let people interpret’. And of course there is often the temptation to interpret, to explain what Krishnamurti really meant, to someone, and that was what was happening in some of these centres. People were saying, ‘Well, I’ll explain it to you’. That is precisely what he asked all of us who had anything to do with his work not to let happen, and certainly not to do it ourselves. You can’t police people but at least you can try to keep it clear. Nobody has a right to interpret. He said very clearly, ‘Nobody has ever spoken for me, nobody speaks for me today, and nobody speaks for me in the future with regard to the teachings’. He had that published, because someone was already claiming to succeed him when he died. So this is a question to be treated with great sensitivity and respect.


MC: We are a very small group of people really, and the same applies in all the different countries. But there will be schools, and one knows that there will be the inspiration of Krishnaji as an educator.


MZ: Any questions?


MC: Or comments? People who work here in the school might like to add something to what we’ve said.


Q: I’d like to hear the two of you carry on talking for days! Is there any possibility, Mary, that you might consider having some of these wonderful quotations published?


MZ: Well, I am supposed to—supposed underlined. Krishnaji asked me on several occasions, and Mary Lutyens regrettably mentioned it in her book that he had asked me, to write ‘what it is like to be with that man’, as he put it. In the beginning, I felt it impossible to express adequately what this man was like, but eventually I came to feel that anything in history, whether an event, a person, a discovery or anything else is conveyed through the testimony of people who were witnesses. That seems to be the way life works. So I feel there is a responsibility for those who have known Krishnaji to leave some record. Those pieces become what I think of as a mosaic. As I happened to have the extraordinary privilege to be somewhat involved in the last twenty years of his life, and as he asked me to write about it, I am doing so using the notes I kept for many years. But whatever results, there will always be for me the sense that beyond any words lies something vast, untouchable and unknowable that is the reality of Krishnamurti’s life.


MC: It’s very important. I am writing something too, which is a sort of history of working with him over many years. I have written several books on different subjects—but writing about this is very, very different and very, very challenging, because it would be so easy to embroider, to add to the myths. One doesn’t want to do that. One is not concerned with myth-making when one is writing about Krishnamurti or his work. One has to watch scrupulously how one puts things, what one says. Like Mary, I have written certain things down over the years, but of course one is often relying on memory, and to some extent it is personal interpretation of situations. If you took, for instance, any situation in which Krishnamurti is talking with six people, if they all went away and wrote it up afterwards it would be most interesting to see how they did so. And I think we would find that there might be six different versions. You know, the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or whatever it is. And one does have to be so careful, because with Krishnamurti one is in the presence of something quite indefinable, and also, in a way quite, extremely vivid. It would be so easy to put the emphasis on the wrong words or even the wrong inflections—you know what it is like when you are talking with someone—it’s the way he would speak, or the way he would stress things. So it is not easy. That’s why this kind of memoir, or writing or history is very slow. But I think it has to be done, because the more people who do it, the more multifaceted the reporting is.


MZ: That way the mosaic has more pieces and there is more likelihood of something emerging that may make a clearer picture of this man who seems so impossible to explain.


MC: But the teachings are there and one then trusts to the intelligence of whoever reads it all to make their own response.


MZ: I don’t know if I can finish it and if it ever will be published, but finished or unfinished, I would leave it in the archives so it would be a source for future people who are doing research. Because to me it’s reporting; it’s a memoir, if you like, but I look at it as a reporter because already a great deal of untruth has been said about Krishnamurti and so I feel that there must be a true record. And to the best of my knowledge, that’s what I am writing.


MC: I think you were going to say something.


Q: You said Krishnamurti spoke of making new human beings, but still in a school somewhere else he mentioned that one should function in the chronological world. What happens with certificates, licenses, qualifications? I believe Krishnaji himself never obtained such things, diplomas or degrees. But the students who come here, how much effort is spent in that area? Or is the assumption that a new human being would be able to tackle also this, certificates, examination, the diploma? When you get out of Brockwood Park School you may be over and above these papers. Does the school consider that these papers are essential and try to provide the students with them?


MC: Well, this is a big question. Are you talking about the whole period, or now?


MZ: We don’t give diplomas, but who from the school would know? Ray, you would know.


Ray McCoy: It’s a question that’s often asked: how do we deal with academics here? You’ll see, when you read Letters to the Schools that Krishnamurti stressed that if we are to do academics then, like everything else, they must be done excellently. That’s fine for him to say. So all we have to do is to find teachers who can teach their subjects excellently and who want to be here and who also have some interest in Krishnamurti. Well, all of our teachers are here out of an interest in Krishnamurti; and all the students who want to study academics and to do exams are encouraged to do so. The emphasis is on something else though. The emphasis is on learning to be a whole human being. But of course being a whole human being also includes, can include, academics. However, you don’t need academics to live a good life, so all of these things are put before the students and it’s up to them. Of course, most of the pressure for them to do academics comes from their parents. So we do teach as many of the academic subjects here as we can, and students do take exams. And many, many students go on to university and do extremely well.


Q: Do you mean to say that you teach and give grades? Say on a subject like biology or physics, how do you go about it?


RMc: We don’t give grades, but we give reports to the parents twice a year on what the student has been doing in the classes, and how they are doing also as human beings.


Q: Work on the student himself to assess how his progress is.


RMc: Always, yes. This is very important.


Q: I don’t think you have to rely completely on the student. With small numbers you have a very close contact with the student: what he knows, what he doesn’t know, what his difficulties are, where one should strengthen something. So one can do all that assessment for oneself without necessarily having to give a test to find out. I think with a small number of students that is possible. Day to day the teachers know where the student is.


Q: May I say something? My daughter who went to Oak Grove School, and then came here before she graduated, needed transcripts in order to get into university. She had been accepted at Berkeley, but they put a hold on her registration because they didn’t have the right kind of transcripts. And Colin Foster very kindly translated her reports into grades, and put it in the form they wanted to see. It was honest but in a different form. They accepted her at Berkeley and accepted the Brockwood grades as a transcript. We didn’t know if it would translate back to America, but it did.


Q: I think they are doing international exams at Brockwood now.


Q: Yes, we have so many students, mainly from other European countries that recognize the baccalaureate and not necessarily the British A level.


MZ: There was a time when some of the eastern United States colleges would accept students on Brockwood’s word. Scott used to visit most of them, and our students who went there did so well that it became accepted that, if Brockwood said a student was at a certain level academically, they accepted it.


SS: I think the point there is that the students are very self-motivated. They need to be self-motivated when they are here, and therefore when they go to university, the university will see a self-motivated student who will be able to work on his or her own. That’s the advantage of a free-style education; the students are able to work off their own bat, with a minimum of guidance and instruction.


Q: It must have made an enormous difference to the whole atmosphere of the school when Krishnamurti died, and yet there is still a very powerful atmosphere here. As you say, as soon as you step across the threshold it is there.


MZ: As soon as you come across the cattle-grid!


Q: Is there anything that one can do to make sure that this not only stays but continues to grow and expand, because it seems to me that this is the core of it?


MC: I think it depends upon every person who lives here that there is constant alertness to this from the new people, and the people who have been here some time. I remember that just after Krishnaji died I had come back from America, and I visited Brockwood. As I walked into this place, there was something tremendous here. Krishnaji had died, but it was as if everybody in the school (I’m talking about the staff perhaps more than the students) had suddenly grown up. Perhaps, in a way, when Krishnaji was alive he was a father to us all, and to some extent I think we did depend on him to do certain things. As someone just said, we mustn’t keep going backwards and always depending on him.


MZ: He was pushing us not to. Dependence was an anathema to him.


MC: When he had gone, when I walked in the door, I felt as if this place was humming with something. And I think it is. Every person has to keep that flame alive. I don’t think there is any more that one can do. But it’s wonderful that you feel it is still here. And it’s in the Krishnamurti Centre, which, of course, hadn’t been built then. Krishnaji was very much a part of it, planning it and talking about it, but it was actually built after he died.


MZ: He talked about the feeling of security being a primary need in children: ‘Security is not dependency’. He talked a great deal about this, especially toward the end of his life, and whether we were dependent on him. Dependency overwhelms the human psyche.


MC: I think it is interesting that a lot of people who come to the centre now, and the students who come to the school, have never actually heard Krishnamurti speak. Of course, you could say that there might still be dependency, because you could be dependent upon somebody from reading a book or from watching a video. I think it is very encouraging that it is by no means only people who heard him speak, who knew him, who come to the school and the centre, as there could possibly be the danger of looking back and trying to re-create something.


There is always this awful feeling of responsibility working in this. I feel that we are not doing enough. We all know that we have to try to make this much more widely known, and to increase the awareness of what is going on in our schools and in the work generally. And it is hard to do it.


MZ: There is no such thing as enough! I have been asked by people if Krishnamurti was ever satisfied. He wanted it to be better, more. The idea of being satisfied wouldn’t occur to him.


Q: When he asked what you are doing in this school, you explained so well the feeling of people not knowing exactly what words to use. It is a difficulty everybody experiences. At one meeting at Ojai I remember one of the teachers said, ‘What do you sense there?’ He said, ‘Why do you ask me?’ And the teacher said, ‘Because of your integrity’. So that’s why we do get tongue-tied. It’s a difficulty for anybody.


MC: There was such an intensity, such a passion with Krishnaji on certain occasions that it was very hard to be with that. And I think to the people who worked here, who were involved constantly with this, it must have been tremendously inspiring, but also a gigantic challenge. There was no resting place, it seems to me. I think of the schools as an energy source for the whole of the work, because I feel that from the schools so much has happened, does happen and will happen. We are already getting some people who were students coming back as teachers, or helping with the work of the Foundation. There is one person in this room who has been a student here, a teacher and is now a trustee of one of the Foundations. The schools are providing a tremendous sense of energy and, because we are involved with young people, there is a feeling that this is how the work might continue and be spread, which is very good.


We had meetings in Saanen for twenty-five years and there was something very right about the atmosphere there. The climate, of course, as in England, could never be relied upon to be dry and we had to have some covering, but we never had a building. We always had this rather beautiful tent or marquee in which Krishnamurti spoke. And there seemed to be something very appropriate about the fact that he would speak over a period of several weeks, thousands of people would come from all over the world and listen to him and, at the end of it the tent came down and we all went away. There was a beauty about that, about not having a structure or a centre. It seemed right also for what Krishnamurti said. Yet, at the same time, there is a beauty about this place, or any of the places that he has worked in, and it seems that it is necessary always to have some organization, but to keep this simple.


Q: It seems one doesn’t want it to be asphyxiating.


MZ: He made it very clear that the organizations were only to get the work done. Nobody involved in the organization had any status of any kind. You were just there to wash the dishes or teach algebra or clean the floor or be responsible for something, but it’s entirely functional.


Q: What am I doing here? I’m washing the floor. Full stop!


KJ: I’ve always felt somehow that for a teaching that says no authority, no method, no technique, no time, schools are a natural. I think it was a stroke of genius that he did not create a church but schools.


Q: There is another asphyxiating factor: finances, money. How do the schools stand?


Q: A great problem!


Q: You rely on donations—rely is not good enough.


MZ: What else is there?


Q: You live with the uncertainty. Brockwood or Krishnamurti says you live with the uncertainty.


MC: We are quite good at doing that, actually. The difficulty, of course, with the uncertainty is that when you are undertaking to educate young people you do have the sense of responsibility to exist at least for the natural term of their educational needs. It is always a problem, this question of money. And one doesn’t like to keep talking about it, yet one has to because the need is always there. Brockwood runs with a staff who take very small remuneration for the work they do. So you can see how dedicated people are who choose to come and work here, especially if it is over a long period. Also, of course, as far as the students are concerned, we do award a lot of scholarships, and we have to raise money for these. Another thing we should say here, which people aren’t always aware of, is that Brockwood has made no compromises in its syllabus or its approach to education in order to obtain finance from certain other more conventional sources. We feel that it has been important to be true to the essence of the teachings as far as this is possible. At Brockwood we have always tried to put the teachings at the centre of things without really thinking too much about the financial ramifications. But the financial need is quite urgent at the moment and there are many areas in which we do need monetary assistance to maintain things here.


MZ: Krishnaji had a way, and said it many times to us. There was always something urgently needed and he would say very serenely, ‘If what we are doing is right, the money will turn up’. It has, notably for instance in the Krishnamurti Centre, which you have seen is a very beautiful, expensive building. We didn’t have any money at all when that idea came about. And extraordinarily we were given a tremendously generous donation. The centre was built. But when the money came, inflation came too, so we had the money to start it but not enough to finish it. And about six months into the building an elderly lady from another country, whom we had never met before, came to look at the school for, I think, a grandchild. She saw the building going up and said, ‘What is that?’ She was told what it was and said, ‘What a good idea. Have you plenty of money?’ Well, the end of the story is that she gave us what was needed. But we actually started building the centre without having enough money but remembering his saying that magic thing, and it magically happened again. This doesn’t give us any undue sense of security today, but it has happened.


Brockwood Park, 16 August 1997