An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Posts Tagged ‘krishnamurti’

Why I think J.Krishnamurti should be taught in mosques

In Religion on January 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Before I share my reflections, for any reader who isn’t’ familiar with Jiddu Kirshnamurti, I would like state at the very outset that he wasn’t affiliated with Hinduism nor did he belong to any religion or spiritual order. In fact, he doesn’t even present us with beliefs or concepts to agree or disagree with. Conceptualising his teaching would be missing the point because what he is directing us to is beyond it. So what was he pointing to and why should he be taught in mosques?

Some questions I would like to explore are ‘ Is Islam a belief system?’,  ‘has religion become a form of conditioning’? and ‘am I suggesting the teachings of J.Krishnamurti are Islamic?’ ‘being non-religious what did Kirshnamurti mean by cultivating the religious mind?’

My own spiritual journey started when I read J.Krishnamurti and began reflecting on why I am ‘Muslim’ (and not Zen Buddhist for example?). May be just a deep honest reflection to this question, which arises from within the questioner him/herself as a result of the self-awareness that often lay buried beneath our opinions, beliefs, emotions and education,  is enough to justify why Krishnamurti should be taught.  However, I later discovered parallels between Krishnamurti’s teaching and the higher congnitive faculties mentioned in the Quaranic which Jeremy HT reminds us are linked higher perception which may lead us to objective views of reality, free from the distorations created by our conditioning and ego: “The development of higher faculties of perception (albab), or ‘seeing with the heart’, is linked to higher cognitive faculties such as tadabbur (pondering), tafakkur (deep thinking, reflection, and contemplation), and tawassum (observation and understanding of the signs of nature). Unfortunately, these higher faculties are systematically neglected in most forms of education, including Western systems of schooling, as well as those forms of ‘Islamic’ education based on ta’lim + ta’dib.” While Krishnamurti’s teaching may not provide the path for those perusing the goal of spiritual tradition of a matured human being (insan e kamel), he certainly may just rock the boat of our conditioned mindsets to get us going.

Firstly, is Islam a belief system? A verse from the Quaran may answer this. “And whoever desires a deen other then Islam, it would not be accepted form him..” Quaran 3:85. Some will interpret the quoted verse of deen to mean religion (i.e set of beliefs and not in the original Latin sense of the word religio: respect for what is sacred or gathering all your energy to discover) and Islam as a form of cultural conditioning and religious prescriptions to be that religion. Another way to look at this verse is delve into the spiritual implications of the words deen (Arabic roots DYN- state of submissiveness) as Way and Islam (root SLM- surrender) as self surrender to Unity.

“Islam is a state of being, its a state when you in a sense, give up the false self
and come into a relationship, which we call submission or surrender to the divine reality,
not to a set of religious prescriptions or dogmas, but its an existential state,
a way of being. (Quran says) “Indeed with God the only true religion is self-surrender”.
Its not self-surrender if its mere rituals,
if its some kind of authoritarian structure,
if it is a set of irrational dogmas – its not religion in the sight of God.”
– Kabir Helminski, Guide of Mevlevi Sufi Order

If all the prophets were of the same deen as the Quaran suggests, the verse opens up Islam as a universal way or spiritual training system in harmony with our fitra (natural disposition to surrender to Unity). As the Prophet (pbuh) reminded us “All children are born on fitra it is their parents who make them Christian,Jewish or Magian…”. Sahih Muslim.

Given all the cultural and religious conditioning we face in society, are we aware of it and how does one free oneself from it or is that impossible and are we limited to our subjective views? An interesting discussion between Kirshnamurti and a student on conditioning may give us a glimpse of the type of dialogue which can create space for self-awareness.

“Student: Why are we conditioned?

Krishnamurti: Why do you think we are conditioned? It is very simple. You have asked the question. Now, exercise your brain. Find out why you are conditioned. You are born in this country, you live in an environment, in a culture, you grow into a young child, and then what takes place? Watch the babies around you. Watch the mothers, the fathers, if they are Hindus or Muslims or communists or capitalists; they say to the child, “Do this, do that”. The child sees the grandmother going to a temple, performing rituals, and the child gradually accepts all that. Or the parents may say “I don’t believe in rituals” and the child also accepts that. The simple fact is that the mind, the brain of the child is like putty or clay and on that putty, impressions are made, like the grooves in a record. Everything is registered. So in a child everything is registered consciously or unconsciously, until gradually he becomes a Hindu, Muslim, Catholic or a non-believer. He then makes divisions – as my belief, your belief, my god, your god, my country, your country. You have been conditioned to make tremendous effort; you have to make an effort to study, to pass an examination, you have to make an effort to be good.

So, the question is how is the mind, which is conditioned, to unravel itself, to get out of conditioning? How do you propose to get out of it? Now exercise your intelligence to find out. Do not follow somebody who says, “Do this and you will get unconditioned; find out how you will uncondition yourself. Come on, answer me, tell me, discuss with me.

Student: Can you tell us how to uncondition ourselves?

Krishnamurti: To fall into the trap of another conditioning, is that it? First of all, do you know that you are conditioned? How do you know? Is it only because somebody has told you that you are conditioned that you know? Do you see the difference? That is, somebody tells you that you are hungry, that is one thing, and to know for yourself that you are hungry is altogether different. These two statements are different, aren’t they? In the same way, do you know for yourself without somebody telling you that you are conditioned, as a Hindu, a Muslim? Do you know it for yourself?

Now I will ask you a question and see whether there is a gap before you answer it. Right? Now observe, think very clearly, unemotionally, without any prejudice. My question is, are you aware that you are conditioned without being told? Are you aware? It is not so very difficult.

Do you know what it means to be aware? When there is a pain in the thumb, you are aware there is pain, nobody tells you there is pain. You know it. Now, in the same way do you know that you are conditioned, conditioned into thinking that you are a Hindu, that you believe in this, that you do not believe in that, that you must go to a temple, that you must not go to a temple? Are you aware of it?”

Different spiritual traditions and masters have their own way of dealing with the conditioning of a student. Some methods may not always involve such a dialogue and could end up pushing our buttons. Once a student walked into the breakfast room and addressed everybody with ‘Assalamualaykum’ peace be upon you. To which an elder in the group replied ‘Hello’. The next morning the student walked in and said ‘Hello,good morning’. to which the same elder replied ‘Assalamualaykum’. I can assure you the student wasn’t very happy.

In the Quaranic world view, the outward and inward realms are composed of signs. The Quaran continuously invites us to reflect and ponder over the the ayaats (signs) and to live by them. “and he has made subservient for you the night and the day and the sun and the moon, and the stars are made subservient by his commandment; most surely there are signs in this for a people who ponder.  (Quaran 16:12). In another verse on bees ‘then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your lord submissively. there comes forth from within it a beverage of many colors, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this (life of bees)  for a people who reflect. (Quaran 16:69). May be a good way to teach the Quaran, along side grammar and vocabulary,  would be to encourage reflection by asking students to go out for a walk in nature as one Islamic scholar I am told suggested. How aware are we, as people of prayer, of the moon phases during the month or beauty in the sky during sunrise, sunset and indeed throughout the day.  

Krishnamurti also relates our awareness of beauty and our connection with nature with education. “Education is not only learning from books, memorizing some facts, but also learning how to look, how to listen to what the books are saying, whether they are saying something true or false. All that is part of education. Education is not just to pass examinations, take a degree and a job, get married and settle down, but also to be able to listen to the birds, to see the sky, to see the extraordinary beauty of a tree, and the shape of the hills, and to feel with them, to be really, directly in touch with them. As you grow older, that sense of listening, seeing, unfortunately disappears because you have worries, you want more money, a better car, more children or less children. You become jealous, ambitious, greedy, envious; so you lose the sense of the beauty of the earth.

Reading and reflecting on Krishnamurti can serve is a bifocal lens to understand and see our own tradition more clearly and see what response one’s path or tradition has to some fundamental questions raised by him. The least it can do is to develop critical thinking. In discussing religion and a religious mind for example, he suggests “A religious mind is a creative mind. It has not only to finish with the past but also to explode in the present. And this mind – not the interpreting mind of books, of the Gita, the Upanishads, the Bible – which is capable of investigating, is also capable of creating an explosive reality. There is no interpretation here nor dogma. It is extraordinarily difficult to be religious and to have a clear and precise, scientific mind, to have a mind that is not afraid, that is unconcerned with its own security, its own fears. You cannot have a religious mind without knowing yourself, without knowing all about yourself – your body, your mind, your emotions, how the mind works, how thought functions. And to go beyond all that, to uncover all that, you must approach it with a scientific mind which is precise, clear, un-prejudiced, which does not condemn, which observes, which sees. When you have such a mind you are really a cultured human being, a human being who knows compassion. Such a human being knows what it is to be alive.”

In Islamic terminology such a mind may arise when the heart (qalb) is polished and is able to reflect light from Spirit (ruh) on the ego (nafs) and in the process transform it.  It is one thing to read about it or understand it through concepts and another to taste through direct experience. I asked myself what would happen if a religious imam was to sit down and converse with Kirshnamurti?In my spiritual search, I felt the only people in the Islamic tradition who posses the level of Self discovery and embody a spiritual knowledge adequate enough to engage at such discussion, were the mystics  and saints such Junaid Baghdadi, Rabia al Basri, Bayazid Bistami, al Ghazali, Ibn Arabi, Shams of Tabriz, Rumi, Hafiz, Sinai, Saadi, Bulleh Shah, Iqbal…  – and the Islamic tradition is rich with their contribution to sacred art, poetry and literature.

God knows best.


Teaching: the art of mutual investigation

In Education, Mevlevi Tradition, Spirit, heart & soul on January 3, 2012 at 10:22 pm

When Rumi met Shams of Tabriz, they say two oceans met. What took place was a sort of mirroring process in which both helped each other to deeper realms of the soul.  Does this historical meeting hold any significance for us? An interesting quote from J.Krishnamurti may throw some light here

How can the educator help the student to understand the story of himself, which is the story of the past, of which he is the result? That is the problem. If you are the educator and I am the young student, how would you help me to understand the whole nature and structure of myself – myself being the whole of humanity, my brain the result of many million years? it is all in me, the violence, the competition, the aggressiveness, the brutality, the cruelty, the fear, the pleasure and occasional joy and that slight perfume of love.

How will you help me to understand all this? it means that the educator must also understand himself and so help me, the student, to understand myself. So it is a communication between the teacher and myself; and in that process of communication he is understanding himself and helping me to understand myself.

It is not that the teacher or the educator must first understand himself and then teach – that would take the rest of his life, perhaps – but that in the relationship between the educator and the person to be educated, there is a relationship of mutual investigation. Can this be done with the young child, or with the young student? in what manner would you set about it? That is the question.”

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed working in education is I get to learn. I see the education process as much about the teacher learning about him/herself as it is about the student’s development. Children are amazing beings and such clean mirrors. They can push our buttons, make us laugh, make us cry, help us pray, give us hope, remind us of the Divine, fill our hearts with gratitude, help us extend our boundaries and maybe most importantly give us a taste of love.

I have met some extraordinary students over the years. Some very talented others extremely diligent. Some very happy others with many personal problems. All have helped me as a teacher in some way. As a teacher, I feel, its very easy to lose the ‘beginners mind’ in the identity of the one who is more learned. That isn’t to say one doesn’t instruct, direct, guide or facilitate as a teacher. But in the process one is always alert, attentive and receptive to both what arises outwardly and inwardly in the teaching-learning dynamic. If I am not too tiered, one way that helps me to be open and centered is to be present in the present moment. One way to define presence, I was taught, is ‘the awareness of awareness’. Other than my own children, who catch me off center every time, one student who would easily stop the teacher monologue was an autistic student who I will not name. He was very bright and had scored an A* for his GCSE. His writing was all over the place. He would often irritate many of his teachers by repeatedly asking a simple question ‘why?’ He seemed to have little self awareness and wasn’t bothered by what others thought of him. Much like Socrates, he would take those who thought they knew to a point where they didn’t know.

The mirroring process in a spiritual context is a little different. I experienced this with a Dervesh I met in Istanbul. I had been with him on a 11 day journey. On the 10th day, something opened up inwardly. There was a moment in which our eyes touched and our hearts knew that which the tongue could never express. There was only deep silence and knowing. We helped each other see that which is both beyond us and in us, yet could not have known on our own.