by Reza Ganjavi
Recently I spent a few weeks in India. I typed some of these articles during the trip so please excuse the mix-up of grammatical tense. This was written in addition to my diary of significant inner and outer events, to share the trip with friends over the internet, etc... (Latest research shows computer users don't blink enough and so they develop dry eye syndrome, please take care of your eyes.)
A great event prior to coming to India was finding 2 long-lost friends from elementary school. Talked to one from Geneva airport after 22 years! Also spoke to another friend prior to the flight who had just lost an important thing. Minutes later I lost my wallet (It was found upon my return - money untouched!) The inattention had to do with hurrying and being tired from having played music in a crummy place the day before which had caused my energies to go out of balance, and therefore, perhaps, and as an Ayurvedic book put it, become "vulnerable to negative psychic or astral forces". I have learned not to get too upset at losing things when traveling - as long as I learn something from it - it is just part of the traveling overhead. What did I learn this time? I thought (maybe conditioned thinking): "Again and again, life tries to teach me not to rush.
Unlike some other people, I am not going to India to find truth or enlightenment or learn meditation - truth is under one's feet here and now, but for the fun of it, what would be the one thing I would like to get out of this trip in the area of personal development? Not to hurry." There is a place for being fast, but I feel there is something wrong about arbitrarily hurrying in order to find peace at a later point (e.g. on the airplane seat), which is "end-gaining" which incorrectly implies that the mean and the end are different. Many times when I am fast the brain is embedded in a quality of silence which is good, but other times my entire system is directionally end-gaining. Being results-oriented is a quality which is valuable - one has tremendous energy when there is clear perception - but it must not be at the price of present peace. When rushing, you are in the realm of the known because it is directed (sorry if this sounds abstract).
A woman from Hamburg was sitting next to me on the packed flight. She had just spent a month on a Greek island. There was only one blanket so we had to share it. I felt her "islandish" aura was helping mine heal from the saga I had been through. Later she said she was a Reiki healer. We spent a few hours together in Delhi, where I helped smoothen her culture shock (first time leaving Europe), and gave her lessons in negotiating with vicious vendors. That night I went to Jaipur and spent 2 nights there. Enjoyed the exposure to the Rajestani culture. I am constantly meeting new people from all over the world, and having some deep, lovely contact.
Getting train tickets here is a nightmare. Friendly Indians made room for me on an upper bunk of a packed train, where I was able to practice guitar the whole time. Spent 3 nights in Agra in a nice hotel with a big garden (for about $4 a night!). Met two German youngsters who were dying to hear The Beatles, which I played and they listened with a great quality of silence in the silence of the Indian garden night. Taj Mahal was fantastic. Saw it at sunset, sunrise, and full moon. Wrote: "Come to India, come to the land of love, where you learn gentleness from a peanut dealer..." It's a shame to see many foreign youngsters come to India/Nepal just to do drugs and party. Saw many hippie-looking foreigners whose auras were shot by drugs.
Finally got a train ticket to the "holy" city of Varanasi (Banaras) which they say is the oldest living city in the world. It is always interesting using public transport, especially in rural areas. Sometimes the villagers look at me like someone from Mars, but a smile is a universally recognized sign, and India is full of sweet smiles... Before catching the train, ate at a backstreet cafe in the little village with a medical student friend I had met - a 7-course vegetarian brunch for less than one dollar!
I thought I would die in the train, 10 people sitting in place of 6 with isles full of people. It was hot, stuffy, and sweaty. I managed to get myself an upper bunk which I shared with the friend until he got off. He brought cold water, bananas, and apples, and passed them through the window to save me from dying! Practiced guitar sitting up there, and amazingly, the simplest of villagers would dance their heads to the music of Bach, etc. A blind poor man sang as he was seated on the floor by the door; another old man with long white beard whose only possession was the dirty white cloth he was wearing accompanied him. The only unoccupied place was the toilet.
Late at night arrived at the J.Krishnamurti ("K") school & study center in Rajghat, just outside Banaras, on the banks of the Ganga river. Four Swedish young men with beautiful glow in their eyes were playing cards. They are studying to become teachers in Sweden, and have come here for a few weeks as part of a project to compare the Swedish educational system with K's approach to education. There are 350 students here, mostly from affluent families. The parents may not even be interested in K's work but they still send their children here because of the school's high quality of education and reputation as one of the best schools in India. In addition to the school, the K Foundation in Rajghat includes Vasanta College for girls with about 900 students, the K library and study center, guest house and cottages in a marvelously well-kept garden, and a rural center which includes dairy farming and agriculture. The foundation has about 300 acres of land here that was purchased by Annie Beast in the 1920's for K's work. Rajghat is an extremely well-run place.
The accommodation is excellent and the food is great. Most Indians, like Persians are hooked on "black tea" served here with milk as "Chai" which contains a stimulant drug, as most of the West is hooked on coffee or tea. An Indian friend said: “Indians can't work without tea.” I don't know why none of the K foundations/centers took on the challenge that he posed regarding living without chemical (as well as other forms of) dependence unless your body really needs it. As far as I am concerned, taking care of my body, is a religious matter. In the K center in England, coffee is provided in every room (which medically, in most people, causes stress). And drinking alcohol is also not that uncommon among the so-called K people in the West, which clearly leads to insensitivity and dullness especially as one is much older. If we have enough passion for life and we take care of our horse (the body), why would we need stimulants (e.g. caffeine), which usually leads to craving for depressants (e.g. alcohol)? A body/brain that is constantly upped and downed loses the acute sensitivity which is required to explore the dimension beyond the limited realm of thinking. (Later in the trip, a school principal told me that he feels much better after having given up tea, and a senior educator said that when K was around the schools used to only use whole-meal rice and bread. But now, for example, serving white toast bread - a western influence - is common at the schools. Is that a trend towards mediocrity?)
The only person I knew before coming here was Dr. P. Krishna ("Dr.K"), who was a physics professor before K begged him to manage the foundation in Rajghat. He oversees the entire operation here which is a huge responsibility. He is a brilliant, passionate man. We always have great, insightful discussions. He said the cast system was originally flexible. A businessman, could move up to an administrator or even a Brahmin level if he was a learned man. Power was always separated from respect. The kings were not exploiters. Now the politicians are mostly crooks. They move themselves up the political ladder through every form of cunning ugly exploitation. India is supposedly democratic, though the high level of corruption is thought to undermine the democracy.
The culture is fast losing its happiness and innocence. There is increasing violence, alcohol, drugs, etc., and the ill effects of the western culture can be felt. In a conversation, K asked if the real Brahmin has disappeared, and explained that being a Brahmin is NOT determined by birth but by character, and told the following story: “When Alexander The Great won the war and came to India he was very impressed by the excellent administration of the king and inquired how that had come about. He was told that the Prime Minister who was a Brahmin had put the administration together, and had returned to his village after the king's defeat. Alexander sent his men to bring the x-Prime Minister. The old man told the king's agents that a Brahmin does not go to anybody. So Alexander went to the village, found the Brahmin sitting under a tree teaching three children. He offered the Brahmin a great post and the best palace in Greece...but the Brahmin refused: "Sorry, I want to teach these children". You can't buy a true Brahmin - he does what he wants to.”
In a conversation with a group of the Rajghat college students they said they were not interested in K because he is too difficult to understand "his philosophy goes beyond our head, we want someone to explain it". I asked, "It is one thing to taste a fruit and say you don't like it, it's another thing to say you don't like without having tried it. Have you tried reading?..." I asked the two 14-year-olds who were also there the same question: "Have you read Krishnamurti?" They joyfully replied: "Yes, we read 2 books..." "Did you understand it?" They joyfully replied: "Yes, it is in simple language"! The older students admitted they have not had the patience to taste it for themselves. I see the same phenomena in other K schools. Somehow those who are closest to it sometimes take it for granted and don't give it any attention. In India, many of the K school teachers aren't even interested in his work and they are hired because of shortage of good teachers. The schools just count on students picking up on K's teachings obliquely, from the atmosphere, and the behavior of the teachers... People are so quick at discarding things. It is an important skill to be able to discard the unessential, like the mythical bird that separates water from milk. But impatience can lead to discarding the most essential too quickly.
I performed 2 concerts at Rajghat, one at the school for 350 people in the same hall where K spoke, and one for about 100 college girls (received a lovely bouquet). Classical music followed by The Beatles. The school's music teacher played drums in the singing section. The students clapped along, and moved to the last song that was a groovy Persian song which is also sung in Hindi. After the concert I was surrounded by young kids getting autographs, etc. At this concert and all my subsequent concerts in India I told them how precious K's teachings were and encouraged them to study it seriously as it opens many doors.
Being in Rajghat, I have realized, recognized, or rather rediscovered my passion for teaching, and for relating and discussing with young people. Conducted computer science classes and a culture class and participated in other classes, which I enjoyed very much. I was impressed to find out the students were learning leading-edge computer science. In the culture class the 11th graders raised great questions that we discussed such as meditation, the lifestyle in the west, culture and happiness, world religions, dangers of beliefs, fear of ghosts, role of music, and so on; we also sang. A group of 5th graders surrounded me today, complementing the concert, holding my hands, getting autographs, and asking all sorts of questions. Immeasurable love.
There is a very peculiar sensation at the point between my eyebrows - like a major sensor. It has been active since childhood. My sister and I used to play with it and get it activated by bringing e.g. a metal spoon close to it. It is mostly active when my brain/eyes are very quiet and still. Also it gets activated when an object/person of subtle/strong energy is near. This is the best I can explain it. A doctor said they think there are unknown glands in the brain, which only become active when the brain is quiet. The other day sitting in the garden it suddenly burst open, it also happened when in the presence of a quiet x-student of Rajghat.
I was told the word guru, which originally meant a teacher, is now used in everyday Hindi to mean a crook! And most gurus I've known eventually turned out to be crooks. Dr. K said that the Vedas say that the question IS the guru: the job of the real guru is only to create a question in your mind. Perhaps the West made the gurus into moneymaking machines, but even the East is full of gullible people who blindly follow a belief and a person.
In a conversation with Dr. K, we discussed the term "ego" to mean self-centered, divisive activity of thought which leads to conflict and a sense of "I" as divided and separate from the whole. I think the whole of the mind (sorry for being abstract), as the total consciousness, uses the individual brain as a node to determine and think about the practical aspects of one's direction (a distributed architecture!). (Still talking abstractly) there can be a balance between thinking and deciding course of action, and not knowing and being open to the unknown which opens the way for intuition.
India is about nice people. You meet the nicest and simplest people here, and most beautiful smiles, especially among the uneducated. It reminds me of many of the blacks in South Africa, who had the sweetest hearts and smiles of simplicity. But there is an ugly side to it too, among the so-called educated, or rather wrongly educated, in the big cities, and the crooks. In a group we discussed a question I raised about the role of religion in forming this culture and whether that role still exists today or has it merely become an "opium for the masses"? Maybe the vegetarian diet of the masses has something to do with their calmness?! I wonder what it is about the East that is being lost to/in the West? Does it have to do with dignity?
The more I see the less I seem to know. I find it ever more important not to make conclusions from my observation of this culture and religion, and for now, to stay with not-knowing. There is virtue in not-knowing, but to satisfy not-knowing with a belief seems vain. I do not understand the psychology of deity worship, which seems unnecessary. That is not to say a dimension which is beyond the limitations of thought does not exist. All the religious rituals, Pujas, seem to be rooted in reward and punishment. After all, who is offering to whom? Is the entity who is offering the incense or flower not merely the self whose very existence is rooted in the past? And if so, can the past have a relationship with the present which is where the otherness is? And if that movement of the past dies out in the silence of brain, is there an "I" left? Can love be found through seclusion and stringent practices as they do to develop Bhakti (devotion, love)? Is love something to be developed, cultivated, invited or is it rather something like the breeze, that comes effortlessly, like the tender smile of a child. All you can do is to prepare the ground, clean the room (/mind/relationship/body/heart), and leave the window open by discarding that which is not love. Life is full of love if lived fully.
Discussed with Dr. K the meaning of freedom. We see that contrary to the general understanding, freedom is not a one-time/final event. It is moment-to-moment (see "Is Freedom Final" which I wrote last year). He illustrated that mankind has the highest capacity of imagination among animals and therefore ability to make illusions (K points out that "image making" is a primary process in the mind). An animal can be miserable e.g. when hungry. But a human also becomes miserable at the "me" being miserable... The "me" only exists in animals enough for the survival of the body. Interestingly enough, perhaps a guerrilla has some capacity for making images and perpetuating pleasure; as a friend vet told me recently, a female guerrilla sexually exhausts all male guerrillas that are around. (K defined celibacy as "not making images" (not as generally known abstaining from sex) which I find tremendous.)
Had an excellent meal at the computer science teacher's home and befriended his wonderful little boy. He said I should come here for a year and teach, for example, computer science, culture, music... Also visited the home of the dance teacher and met his mother. The simplicity and happiness of the teachers' lives are refreshing. Met very fine people at Rajghat, including an 18-year veteran teacher whose wisdom and affection were beyond words.
Yesterday had a great meeting with a group of 11th graders, college students, and teachers who wanted to get together with me and talk and play music. It was nice to hear that they do not approve of the traditional inferior role of woman in India which is still very prevalent. We shared music and discussed. A student had tears in her eyes this morning when we said goodbye - We had a good talk about human feelings and how we touch each other’s lives.
Spoke to Dr. K about the Saanen gathering. It is a 3 week privately organized public summer K convention which is attended by a few hundred people. Every year, there are a lot of complaints, as well as complements - same complaints every year - and as in this year, the closing meeting turns out to be an enervating experience because some people criticize certain aspects of the gathering, and usually the organizers end up having to defend, and it turns into a tense situation. At this year's meeting I just had to watch this scene with awe. That is a pity, because otherwise the gathering is a good opportunity for people to meet in beautiful natural surroundings. Dr. K's attitude is that the gathering should provide a variety of choices and if someone doesn't like something, they don't have to go to it. It needs to be made clear that the ambiance is one of a conversation between friends and not a lecture. The size of the group is small enough that participatory conversation is possible.
Before leaving, walked on the path where the Buddha walked - knowing that pilgrimage can be a trap. Saying goodbyes to Dr. K we spoke about how K's teachings are presented to the students in an indirect manner. The effect of the teachings on the students here is visible. The campus lacks the fear and ugliness that is so common in the society - such as drinking, drugs, and group divisions. He reiterated that wonders happen when fear is removed from relationship. He said, "Come teach guitar here", and made an affectionate remark which in the past I have also made to some dear friends: "...don't let that smile go at any cost". I had an incredible week at Rajghat.
Traveling within India is really difficult on the body. Tired of train rides, flew from Varanasi to Delhi where I spent the night in the airport dormitory. People can be so inconsiderate, even the so-called religious ones. In my mind, a big part of the definition for religion is to be considerate to others. I also find it offensive when an outward symbol is used to illustrate belonging to a belief system. Such behavior is divisive, and has ultimately led to people killing each other in the name of god. Religiousness is not something to be declared outwardly. In almost every case, a Seek wears a turban, for example, because his father did, and never questions it for himself. In fact, unfortunately, some of the biggest crooks hide behind the mask of religion. But it has become an ultimate justification for any act of mischief and corruption.
One of the enervating things about being in Indian cities is that you constantly have to bargain. As much as I like negotiating, I find that this sort of street-level negotiation takes away from being a gentleman. Foreigners are often quoted double or triple price. I sometimes bargain them down to lower than what an Indian would pay, and sometimes feel sorry and make another deal to pay more. The cities are full of cheaters. I caught one in the "holy" city of Banaras. Talking about the cities, don't forget your earplugs else you can go deaf from the sound of the car horns. I have observed drivers who honk routinely when it is absolutely not necessary. On the back of most trucks it is written: "Please Horn". Air mask is also helpful, but I haven't got one. You often smell beautiful smell of incense in the streets.
India is very bureaucratic. Maybe because I used to be a professional systems analyst, many times I see and get through them without going through the process. The system is so lax that even passport control can be optional. You can just walk through while the agents are sitting, waiting for the next life!! Airport security is dangerously lax. In many ways the chaotic systems resembles the bureaucracy in many other 'developing' countries: often it is hard to get a straight answer, and passing the buck; shirking responsibility, procrastination, laziness, and a can't-do attitude are very common. Indians have this head movement which means different things in North and South, but generally is an ambiguous movement. It's much easier to be ambiguous than to be clear which is responsibility. As part of my education in America, both at university and on the job, I learned to take ownership and responsibility of a problem, even if it wasn't my problem. Plenty of red tape still exists in European countries such as France and England. America has the most efficient systems I have ever seen. The rest of the world is far behind America when it comes to, for example, customer service. This must be one factor why America is the economic leader of the world. Another important factor in the American work culture is the emphasis on quality, which I will not go into now.
The Upanishads: "Holding the body steady with the three (upper parts, chest, back, and neck) erect, causing the senses and the mind to enter into the heart, the wise man should cross by the boat of Brahman all the streams which cause fear." The villagers who use their bodies the whole day have a very beautiful posture - as F.M.Alexander would put it - "use of the self". City-people who spend much of their time on chairs and car seats develop many problems such as humped backs - which can be corrected through various body works.
In a talk given by K at a San Diego university in 1970 he talked about "rejecting psychologically everything that thought has put together". Once he reportedly said he can be (only/easily) understood by those who have a background in Buddhism/Hinduism (/oriental philosophy). I don't have the exact quote, but I think there is something to that statement, because somehow in the West - and I could be wrong - it appears as though people who have not been exposed to Eastern religious traditions have a more difficult time understanding K (by understanding I mean both intellectually and existentially: living it, testing it in daily life). And when he is not understood he is either 1) made into a god, an idle, which the petty-little-self compares itself with as something he can never be like, or 2) he is discarded altogether. (Of course it is not as cut-and-dried as I put it here).
Flew to the Madras (South India) and spent 2 nights in The School of Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI). Most teachers were gone to a conference. Met the principal, an old friend, Gautama just as they were leaving for the conference. I think both he and his wife do yoga and you can see that in their great quality of energy, well-being, and vitality. He kindly teaches me breathing exercises. It was nice acquainting the 11th and 12th graders and staff. I did a well-received guitar performance. Madras was very humid and uncomfortable, as November is the rainiest month. There were large numbers of big, well-fed mosquito. I am gathering that mosquito is common throughout India and don't like the fact that I have been turned into a mosquito murderer! The staff and school were very hospitable and kind. It is amazing how I immediately feel at home when I go to these schools. The students were sophisticated and from high-class families. Made many deep contacts. In Madras, visited the beach in Adyar where K was discovered at age 14, by the psychic leaders of the Theosophical society who spotted him as a boy with an aura without any selfishness - to embody the world teacher - all of which he discarded later and broke away from all organizations and gave back all the donated money and properties. Southern cows look different than Northern ones.
Took the train to Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley. There are many beautiful faces here - a reflection of an old culture. Got to the Valley School of KFI, 20 kilometers outside Bangalore in the boondocks, directed by a great friend, and one of the most beautiful and passionate persons on this earth, Dr. Satish Inamdar. The air is pleasant and the accommodation is very good: I am not too tall for the bed, there are window screens, there is hot water, the flush works, and there is non-florescent lighting. It is absolutely heavenly here: a huge nature resort, almost a jungle, with panthers and monkeys, magnificent birds, groups of dancing butterflies, and a lake. There is a primary and a secondary school, an art village, student hostels, the K study center (which includes a comprehensive library of Eastern and Western books) and guesthouses.
As in the rest of India, rice and beans are the most common way of obtaining complete protein (the 8 essential amino acids). Other popular food items in India are bananas and potatoes. They also have my favorite fruit, cherimoyas, though smaller than the ones grown in Spain. Most students commute by bus from Bangalore every day. I've quickly found friends. It is really refreshing being here among the lovely students, staff and trees. There is a very special quality of freshness and joy among the people here. Have had deep discussions. Worked with some students on structured programming, which reminded me of my interest for programming which I would not want to do as a profession again. (I used to be considered a hot-shot programmer "when I was younger so much younger than today". To excel in anything you must love it.)
The teachers are called "uncle" or "aunt", with the exception of Mr. Jayaram, who is also called "Jazz". He is a well-loved hard-working biology and computer science teacher, a real 'pal' of the students, and a veteran teacher of several K schools. It was a delight to see uncle Satish sitting on the floor with a noisy group of small children around him, talking about restlessness and boredom. Over a meal he told us that the warning theme of K's talks in Europe was racism, in America, materialism, and in India, tradition.
Met a Chinese lady at the study center who is considering sending her son to a K school. It is generally believed that it is best for children to live at home for as long as possible. She had done TM (Transcendental Meditation), and she saw that the TM teachers were frequently fighting among themselves! Meditation is not separate from daily life. Without order in one's life, understanding relationship and the mechanism of thinking, there is no meditation. Meditation is not control.
A group of Rajghat teachers were visiting here. I was again, kindly asked to go teach at Rajghat. An Arts teacher, a really funny man, recited poems in Chinese without speaking a word of Chinese, sang a Chinese tune using funny tones, and did a face dance to 'A Hard Day’s Night'. He had us almost rolling on the floor from laughter. He was so good that the Chinese lady asked him where he had learned the song!
Played guitar for the entire school - over 300 people - classical followed by singing. The 6-7 year olds in the front rows were so funny. They had so much energy, and were really moving to the music. When I asked if a few wanted to come on stage, they all ran up, and danced to the last 2 songs. It was so funny and so much fun. As in the Rajghat concerts the most favorite song was the danceable Persian medley. Had never received so many positive comments for a single performance. Saying goodbyes, the principal, and some others asked me to come again and stay longer.
Whenever religion becomes a public affair it turns into a dominating factor. There are two villages nearby which are now observing some sort of a religious festival, so every morning, sometime between 3 and 5:30 they blast the loud obnoxious sound system with music through cheap, distorted, loudspeakers, and wake up every light sleeper. I think there is a competition between the two villages as to who's got the loudest sound system and we are caught in between. (Funny enough, I saw workers putting together monster speakers at Valley School in preparation for a party at the Arts Village). At night an all-men-sounding choir chants highly emotional hymns which remind me of political riots. There are many festivals like this throughout the year. For this particular one, men abstain from sex for 40 days.
I sometimes wonder why this kind of so-called public religiousness, which is not what religion means in my mind, is so popular among the poor, or the uneducated, or people who have exhausted every form of worldliness and are old and close to death, or people who have some kind of monetary profit in religion / those who wear a false mask of being religious only to exploit others. Personal, private religion is another matter. Much of the religious rituals I observe here only seem like forms of entertainment. Frequent power outages in the valley give our ears a break. After all the song and dance is over, silence fills the starry night and the sound of the night creatures is the only sound of silence. Perhaps the mind can only perceive a quality if it has/is that quality - e.g. of stillness.
RISHI VALLEY (RV)
Catching a bus from Bangalore to the RV School of KFI was an absolute nightmare. Nobody knew what was going on at the bus station: total chaos. Not a single English sign, but it wouldn't have made a difference anyway. I got wrong information repeatedly from the authorities. Kept waiting for the bus that would come in "a half-hour" - one false promise after another. Frustrated as hell, ready to fly back to Europe, I asked, "Who runs this place?" "God" said a cool driver. Finally found the supervisor and begged him (rather demanded) that he helped me. He: "no problem, I'll send my assistant to personally show you the bus. Guess what. The assistant showed me the bloody wrong bus... I was completely fed up with lies. At the office the supervisor told me to wait 2 hours... I had no choice but to skeptically believe him.
Went to the bank to cash a traveler’s check. Got stuck in bureaucracy again and got fed lies again - not by uneducated people, but by a banker, whose words were approximate, not precise, because of the culture of sloppy thinking, and shirking responsibility. Some people do not have the integrity to say, "I don't know". In a situation like this, you also ask yourself what role religion plays here. It seems that there is a general lack of practicality and being out of touch with the material world here - which is irreligious, because order in "this world" is important for any possibility of "otherness". But perhaps an aspect of the religion here, which is the belief in reincarnation, has something to do with this procrastinating attitude: I'll do it tomorrow, next life, it'll be more orderly then. I am reminded of what my father says: "don't leave today's work for tomorrow".
I caught a cold on my last day in Bangalore, and the bus station incident and all has made me generally tired and has reduced my tolerance for things which in the beginning of the trip I used to laugh off saying, "This is India", and even enjoy it. Finally made my way to RV. It was funny that as soon as the bus hit the road, almost everybody immediately fell sleep. I am amazed at the coolness, peace, and simplicity of the masses in India. It is wonderful being in RV. I was quickly welcomed by lovely people, and old friends, and a 4-year-old boy, who in a conversation said, "I wish I could be a fire fly". I heard that even some Indians had the same difficulty catching a bus from Bangalore to here. It's good to be able to quickly shed-off frustration so it doesn't leave a residue. Bodywork also helps.
My first impression was an aura of mediocrity - not in everyone. On the first day, gave a guitar workshop to a group of 7 guitarists. They are very talented, but have no guitar teacher, and no method books. Also, gave a talk at a computer class after the teacher obtained two levels of permission! I got the feedback that the teaching and presentation skills I had gained professionally applied in this classroom too. It is lovely attending the morning assemblies at these schools where beautiful songs are sang. It was nice to see that the principal read passages from K during the morning assembly and discussed them. I got introduced to a few girls who called themselves “Beatlemaniacs”. Two of them will accompany me on the second half of the concert tomorrow. In order to bring out their best I told them the concert is very serious, and we will have some serious fun. They promised the rehearsal would not affect their studies.
RV is a bird sanctuary. K was born near here. One day on the airplane after someone kept trying to guess where he was from, "Persian or Turkish...?", K said he was from the valley of Rishis. I am staying at the study center in a beautiful cottage built by Mr. F. Grohe, a K scholar, and the financial arm behind many K related projects around the world. RV is the most remote of the Indian K schools and (therefore, perhaps) appears as the most conservative. It also appears somewhat bureaucratic. A teacher had a helpless look on his face as he was told he had to wait 24 hours for a photocopy to be made while the copy machine was sitting idle. People have been extremely friendly and nice. As in other K schools there is a deep sense of dignity and love here, but somehow magic, enthusiasm, and sense of freedom only appeared partially.
A parent who has been deeply interested in K's work since the 1950's and whose children attend RV later told me: "The school makes no effort to expose the child to K's ideas or provoke the child. Few people can understand K, live it, and take it to the classroom. Many of the staff are there for the wrong reason: it is an escapist situation - very few are there due to a genuine interest in K, but to many who cannot find a place elsewhere, it is merely a refuge." Basically, there is a lack of resource problem. The parent's suggestion went as far as this "Half-way measures of implementations are dangerous. "Take all the teachers who are genuinely interested in K and put them in one school, call that a K school and close the rest!"
Yesterday played a standing-room-only concert for over 400 people at RV in the same auditorium where K spoke. Before sound-check I was greeted by a family of four monkeys. The father loved the Japati (bread) I threw at him but was too afraid to come close. I was asked to introduce myself. My voice came out in a low, musical tone which reminded me of my biggest influences: John Lennon and Jiddu Krishnamurti. At some point I said what I have been saying at all these concerts that I've done at the K schools: encouraging them to study K, which is easily taken for granted by people at the schools because they are so close to it. I demonstrated that the guitar is more than just Jimmy Hendrix by playing pieces from 5 centuries. A few bats entered the auditorium during the classical section and maneuvered the wall-less auditorium. One bat kept circling around as I was playing the mesmerizing-sounding first section to Isaac Albeniz's Asturias!
The two teenage girls accompanied me on The Beatles songs. One from Parsi origins (Persian Zoroastrians who immigrated to India from Iran), warm-blooded, with a great musical sense, courage, spontaneity, and energy, and the other, a gentle, shy Indian who used to live in Irvine, California, which is where I went to university. It was a lot of fun singing together, e.g., with the harmonies to Nowhere Man. The conservatism of the school was relayed to me before the concert by the head-mistress, but after seeing the principal quietly clap to Yellow Submarine, I told the rest "if the principal can clap, the rest may be allowed too", and they all clapped along and sang along and requested songs, and had fun participating in the creative process. At the end of the concert I was surrounded by people of all ages making many positive comments such as "I like your enthusiasm". They talked me into delaying my departure.
So I am staying another 2 days. This morning, complements poured in, which are unnecessary, but it's nice to hear that people had enjoyed it and were made happy. A television producer parent visitor who was singing along last night said that he told his daughter who is studying music: "You should learn how to make people happy as Uncle made all of us happy". I remembered a great violinist who said "God did not grant musical talent to everyone, and those who have it, should use it to make others happy".
Had dinner at the grade school headmaster's with whom I was a roommate in Saanen. His 4-year-old daughter made drawings of imaginary animals. He is as pure and beautiful as the children he teaches. Did more singing with the students during their games hour, and shared laughter and serious conversations over meals. Embraced by a deep feeling of love.
In a dialogue with the school's doctor, 2 teachers, and a lady who had gone to K schools all her life, we explored the following questions: 1) At what point do arts become a means of disintegration and decadence? 2) Living in a community and aloneness. 3) Are K schools doing what he had intended?
A teacher pointed out that the priority for these children is becoming something, and if there are no marks they don't do the work properly, and none of them studies because of a real interest in the subject. A teacher said (paraphrasing): "A K school starts with me. If I am not living K, K school hasn't come into being. Economically, the school is dependent on the tuition paid by parents, and 90% of parents aren't interested in K. It is difficult to attract good teachers because of the inability to pay high salaries and remoteness from big cities...
The special thing about this place is the lovely unspoiled landscape, away from the cities' corruption and the influence of television, etc., and the quality that the teacher brings to the classroom. The students immediately detect any form of compulsion and close off to a predictable behavior." The x-student said what is special about these schools is the spirit of inquiry. The senior boys used to laugh and make noise when K was talking to the student and he would tell the youngsters, "don't grow up to become like them". Some of them wrote back years later saying we have come to realize the profoundness and that at some point it made all the difference.
As a passer-by, made a simple comment that I don't think it is fair to keep a tabloidish gossipy book about K in the study center library (which was his own bedroom). Can we just hear a comment and take it for what it's worth? Is it our personal reactions that complicate issues? The response I got sounded like I was getting interrogated to determine whether I was as close as her to K, that "K is dead and finished; what difference does a little book make? People bad mouth K here anyway; Visant Vihar has it too (untrue)". The person started to defend the book off the bat without having even read it. I was expected to know the exact page numbers of a book I read 2 years ago! I guess she had quickly made an image of me which had blocked her perception of what I was saying; we are so quick in judging.
She pulled me into 2 conversations which I wasn't interested in having. I asked: "Why are we having this conversation"? I just couldn't get it across that I had no quarrels with her. For all I could hear, she was trying to convince me of something irrelevant and trying to edify me, or rather, just to react, maybe because the issue pressed a hot spot in her which made her listen through the ears of the past. After someone else woke her up I was thanked for providing the opportunity to hear a comment and not react (followed by a "But"). Unnecessary discussion about something we know - e.g. that another's sex life is a private matter - like unnecessary thinking, is enervating and is a waste of time. We managed to end on a good note.
At lunch with teachers one asked me if I felt K's teachings in the atmosphere of the school. "I am too new to tell". One of them said 90% of the teachers are not interested in K. Simply having been personally close to K doesn't mean one is immune from human weaknesses of comparison, image making, judgment, etc. A life-long student of K schools said: "only weird people surrounded him - to worship him - anyone who understood him just vanished." She also said: "I went to K schools all my life but I only began to understand him when I doubted him. It took me great courage to think maybe he was wrong. For many years I struggled to understand him because I believed he was speaking the truth". I also know some fine, beautiful, clear, happy people who worked with him for many years. They have the spark and enthusiasm of having found something for themselves. Merely repeating another, making him into an idle, a god, and cherishing knowledge can make a person dull and hinder understanding. A long-term associate of K said: "Many people who were close to K would only understand him after his death. The man was too overwhelming to absorb what he was saying, and it is not part of Indian culture to doubt."
There has been conflict between people who were close to him, which in itself reminds me of two of his statements that 1) no one had understood him (no one he knew?) and 2) "Do not follow me" - which I understand it to mean: do not believe what I say or take what I say as absolute truth - examine it, find out for yourself. Otherwise it becomes very dangerous - we have seen great men's legacy get destroyed by their "followers" which K wanted to have none. As I understood it, intellectually and existentially, his attitude was: Sir, I am a passer-by, a nobody, who says something which may challenge you: can we live without fear, without stimulation, without conflict, without images of myself or another, and so on - how do you meet that challenge? Do you make me into a god because I have pointed something out, or you resent me? Or do you leave me out of it, and live with the challenge and find out if what I said was true, and if you find that out, it is not my truth or your truth then I am out of the picture, unimportant.
I have observed a tendency of some people, including some who are interested in K, to ramble on: too much talk without much substance or insight. That is certainly different than talking with passion about something that is vital to you. And a speaker must be sensitive about the listener to determine, e.g. if he needs to repeat the message. Communication is an art.
More greetings poured in today from concert attendees. Befriended the kitchen crew. Saying goodbyes, got invitation to come back from some teachers and students. One of the youngsters got my autograph and said, "Why don't you try to become a pop star?" My singer friend said: "Thanks for coming and giving us the opportunity". They got permission to circulate my address to their friends. Generally, children are psychologically whole. They are not fragmented by inward conflict and personality and identity and image problems that older teenagers and adults have, and because they are whole, they have a lot of energy - no energy is wasted in conflict. Obviously adults can have such a state of mind/body too. Some kids said they want to come see me again in the morning before the 6:30 am bus. Kitchen crew made us a lovely meal for the road wrapped in large leaves.
MADRAS - AGAIN
Took a 7-hour bus ride to Madras with the Australian family I met at RV. Arrived at Visant Vihar, the headquarters of KFI where K used to speak between two trees as in Ojai. I was welcomed to the guest house warmly upon the recommendation of my dearest loveliest friend Ms. Ahalya Chari, a trustee of KFI and a senior K educator. The room was clean and nice. They knock on your door at *7 am* to ask if you want to have your rooms cleaned and if you want water!!! I was told this is an Indian tradition. Smoking and drinking are not allowed on these grounds, but the cook was smoking in the kitchen! The TV was cranking until past 10 p.m. but the quietness of the study center was emphasized. Went totally against my diet by having white bread and jam for breakfast. Even K's home was not immune from passing-the-buck, procrastination, etc. - not necessarily a management issue but a deep-rooted cultural problem which you see all over. Madras was very humid. It had rained for 5 days and there were floods. But now the sun was out, only to rain later. Gautamaji greeted me warmly at The School, and I was lent a bicycle.
Attended a culture class. The students said they'd like to sing. So they chanted, and Gautamji beautifully turned it into a series of questions which engaged us in a lively debate. Did a small concert at the school. Gautam said it would be good for the students to see someone serious about K who plays guitar, etc. One of the staff members called it "pure magic". As maestro Angelo Gilardino, the great guitar composer and teacher, who is one of the most sensitive and beautiful people I've known put it: music is a cycle that starts with the composer, goes to the interpreter, and ends with the listener. Thus the quality of listening is a vital factor in the quality of the produced music. Gautama told the story of a great Indian music master Bade Ghulam Ali Khan who said toward the end of his life: "I am a worshiper/disciple of the note and the rhythm. If they accept my worship it is the blessing of Allah, then something beautiful/magical happens. Otherwise it is simply playing with the wind." The School really listened.
I went to see a yoga master. I am only interested in the physical and breathing exercises of yoga. The rest is blind belief as far as I am concerned. His assistant told me: be here at 6 p.m. sharp. Make sure you are here at 6; you may have to wait 10 minutes. I made it there by 6 in the rain, ended up waiting till 7:30, and finally I was told they will call me to see him another time, but by then I had lost all interest in talking to him.
A new rich and famous Indian fat woman guru was in Madras. She has captivated hearts of gullible people here and abroad. I was asked if I'd like to see her. "What's special about her? What does she say? ..." I asked. "She emanates love". "If I want to get love emanation, I'll go to a kindergarten, or a garden!" Why are people so gullible? Is it because they suffer so much that they fall for anything that promises some sort of comfort? I remembered the song John Lennon wrote for Maharishi, the founder of TM: "Sexy Sadie, what have you done, you've made a fool of everyone". Heard about the tricks that another very famous guru plays, pulling ash from the air (by hiding powder between his fingers), etc., and thousands of gullible devotees and dollars that come to him. A group of Indian rationalists have proved his work is merely trickery.
Spending 5 minutes with Ahalyaji made my whole 5 week trip worth-while! She is like my grandma (though much younger): loving and wise, open and brilliant, beautiful and radiant. Ahalyaji said: "all K places would like to have you." Speaking about a certain project she said: "Come...turn it upside down". When K heard that she was going to Rajghat to head a school said: "Go set the Ganga on fire". He had reportedly told another: "go put ginger in people's minds" (throw challenges at them). It is worth noting here that K said that talking about truth without living it is worthless. K was very interested in thriller and adventure books. One day he asked her if they have Ninja in Banaras. In Delhi she managed to find a Ninja book. The shop owner was amazed at why a mature woman would want Ninja. "I didn't tell him it was for J. Krishnamurti!". "We used to say K made minced mint out of you". "To many teachers all this is new. K held the schools together when he was alive. Now we go visit and tell them it's one school, one spirit." They recently held a teachers conference. She was "delighted to hear 60 teachers talk this language and be tentative about their understanding of the teachings." She said K's vision was that all teachers and parents should be interested in the teachings "only then you can create this thing". If we use that as a benchmark, K education is very rare.
Raised a question that had come up in a discussion with a Ph.D. student who was visiting the Valley School "What distinguishes K schools from other alternative, progressive schools?" Gautama found the question interesting and carried on (paraphrasing): "Inquiring together is the primary movement here...new teachers soon become interested in our ways...parents become interested in K's vision..." and beautifully what emerged in this dialogue was the fact that K education is about educating teachers, parents, as well as students. He said the challenge is how to keep the right fire burning. "As though we are sitting around the fire, adding wood to it, we go off and do our teaching, and always come back to the fire (e.g. the 'fantastic' bi-weekly 4-hour staff meeting)". "You live such that you set an example for the student". There was something magical and fresh about the school in Madras. Humbly, I felt it came closest you could get to K education. Gautamji is very very kind and large-hearted. Saying goodbyes he said: "Come again... come teach here..." Leaving Madras, ran into a teacher, a total stranger, in the petrol station who told me the essence of K's teachings has to do with silence...
The flight to Geneva was canceled due to bad weather in Delhi. With a bit of luck and guitar they found a good connection to Zurich instead. "Plants grow better if you play music for them. Computer gives confirmation if you play guitar for it!" Stayed at a 5-star hotel in Bombay, on Air India. The room had no hot water, and pest control was suffocating.
It was nice getting a Western style vegetarian meal after 5 weeks of my beloved Indian food. I wonder if Indian's diet provides all necessary nutrients. Generally they eat very few fruits and salads, too much spice, tea, and sugar. Met a Swiss who spent 3 weeks in Calcutta washing poor children. "I didn't give them anything, they gave me love". It's great being back in Europe. My first impression was a lady who had an appreciative smile when she saw me playing guitar on the train from the airport. I don't feel like a foreigner here: I respect and adhere and contribute to the order of this society. My pal and his wife in California are taking Alexander lessons and are loving it "my neck is so much more relaxed" he said. It snowed a bit. Christmas fever is here. An ancient ritual is being performed in Baden. There is a great sense of inward quietness.
* Fear of people's opinion can make a person not think for himself. Fear of oppression is a strong conditioning which shapes many people's lives.
* Freedom is to be free from images and memories. Freedom is an empty mind - empty from the residue of the past. Does freedom from, e.g. anger, mean not carrying it in time and ending it? That is different than not getting angry and frustrated which is a human response which can get transmuted...
* There is always the danger of changing a great man's work into a personality cult, by thinking, for example: "Those who were touched by him should behave a certain way". K was against organizations but it was necessary to have minimal organizations to carry on his publications, etc., but he made it very clear that no one should set themselves up as authorities on his teachings. He almost dissolved the Indian foundation at some point - he also called the American foundation "idiotic".
* In western movies the main actor usually doesn't die because then the movie has to end. In Indian films that's not a problem because the actor is reincarnated with the same face!
* There is much cultural and linguistic resemblance between Persians and Indians. An Indian said Persians are an even older culture. Another Indian said the first academies of the world were Persian. Crime rate in India is very low, though, I believe, not as low as in Iran....
* On the plane, a Swiss mountain girl with broken English asked: “What do you think of life?” "Life is great, beautiful, fantastic...it's an art to live intelligently, to find what happiness is, and to uproot sorrow...if you are happy, you are a totally different human being because most people suffer...we must find the cause of unhappiness, psychosomatically. That requires understanding our bodies and being aware of our thoughts and feelings..."
* What Americans call "tattletales" are everywhere. They want to spice up their boring, dull, monotonous lives with stabbing others in the back. It's rooted in jealousy and vanity. You find this mostly in competitive office situations, but elsewhere too.
* Some of K's last remarks: "Be absolutely alert and make no effort..." "Don't let anyone spoil the teachings (which I believe means teachings can get spoiled, though they don't need protection)" "If you have touched the other and are not anchored in it, you'll go to pieces".
Hi, I just read about your trip to India. I stay in Bangalore & am the father of a 3-yr-old child. Was searching for more info on KFI & stumbled on your page. Great writing. As you have said "complements" are not required, but nevertheless... Do let me know when you are in India again ... Peaceful new year!
Reza Ganjavi… was in Rishi Valley as part of a tour to the KFI Schools, which he has been visiting because of his interest in Krishnaji's teachings and his love for children. He has been trained on the classical guitar, and he played several pieces for us. He followed this with some energetically sung Beatles' songs. He was accompanied on stage by Arzanne and Vandana