The Road that Lead to SatVan

A Centre for Nature and Harmony

The Valley School Campus Bangalore India

The Road that Lead to SatVan: A Centre for Nature and Harmony

by Skanda Subramanya

“Integrated life and action is education” –  J Krishnamurthi

My journey as a teacher of biology and environmental sciences for nine years at The Valley School, Krishnamurthi Foundation India, Bangalore has been a very fulfilling one. This journey has been filled with multiple moments of epiphany and insight where I think I saw some critical connections between the crisis in the environment and a crisis within human society. I could also witness the potential of an educator and an educational space in addressing both these crises in an integrated manner. 

Experiential Education

Radical Change of Perspective

One of the most significant potential within education is its ability to create an atmosphere for a radical change in perspective. A meaningful engagement with the crisis in the society goes hand in hand with consistent radical changes in the perspective of an individual. An atmosphere that provides a space for individuals to challenge dogma becomes very essential in this respect. 

Coltan and cassiterite are minerals used in almost all the contemporary electronic devices. I have used the case study of the mining of these minerals in Africa as a part of our Environmental science course. The case study is a hard hitting one where we come to see the violent consequences of the demand that the world has created for these minerals due to the modern lifestyles. There has been an extreme amount of violence in the countries where these mines exist on the people who live in those regions. Everytime we have done this module, I have observed my students being deeply moved by it. They are able to see the dark side of commerce and globalization and how each one of us are contributing to this violence. Anyone who is concerned about Nature and the environmental crisis arrives at a point like this during their exploration. As a teacher I have had the good fortune of being in the company of many young minds that arrive at such points of contemplation. Very often this contemplation triggers deep and uncomfortable questions in the students about themselves, the world around them and the society. I noticed that our educational systems are designed in a way that it is not able to provide space and time for us to pay attention to this discomfort. The pressure is always to move on and abandon introspection. The questions that are encouraged by the system are the ones that have some academic potential in them. This might be the case because deep introspection often results in a radical change of perspective. It often leads to a critical examination of education and the education system itself.  This is often looked at as an undesirable consequence. Students have been able to recognise and point out this limitation within this system in many explicit and subtle ways. One very common feeling expressed by them is how society around them has made certain patterns look inevitable. Patterns such as going to college, choice of certain subjects and careers based on how they are an assured route to economic success and respectability. There are many examples of violence and stress experienced by students who have attempted to question these patterns.

There is a famous quote by J Krishnamurthi which says “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” I feel that the Krishnamurthi schools like The Valley School have had a great degree of freedom built into their educational system to encourage students to question dogma and the authority of established patterns. However these institutions are under constant pressure from the larger society to conform to a certain pattern and design. Krishnamurthi’s work and its influence on the people has always kept the negotiations alive and has so far never let the schools to completely conform to a prescribed  design. 

SatVan as a space can be considered as an attempt to add strength to their ongoing negotiations with the larger society. A collaborative educational space without the general limitations imposed on a school. 

A Class in progress
Classroom being built by students using locally available materials

The Dangers of Unconsciousness and Immediate Gratification

Questioning modern lifestyles and life choices has not often been an active part of the school curriculum. Human society today is plagued by a desire for lifestyles that are tilted towards unconscious and immediate gratification. My decisions are often made on the basis of short term gains. I can do this because I remain unconscious about its long term consequences. I feel that immediate gratification has found its validation and justification through a sense of arrogant and narrow rationalism. The gradual build up to this kind of narrow rationalism has happened with the emergence of a culture that has an unreasonable amount of belief in the ability of modern science and technology to solve any crisis. Our obsession with modern science and technology has resulted in a narrow and arrogant rationalism which refuses to look at the long term consequences of our actions. A few of us who are inclined to look at it are often faced by challenges within our circles. 

The Willingness to Take Consequences of What is True

Truth is timeless. A pursuit of truth accounts for both long term and short term consequences of our choices. If we are only concerned about our own narrow benefits, we might be away from the truth. We as a society seem to be mostly indulging in our own short term gains and refusing to look at the long term consequences of it. A compassionate, non judgemental space is very essential for us to acknowledge and accept our tendency to live lives driven by the fear, lust and greed of our narrow self. A compassionate space is a space that allows for multiple perspectives to co-exist with each other in a constant dialogue. Dialogue is when multiple perspectives are shared and understood without any sense of competition. Satvan as a space wishes to create an atmosphere for such a dialogue. An atmosphere for an honest acknowledgement of the state of our relationship with nature. I feel that the movement that follows this acknowledgement is a genuine self motivated movement. It is not driven by a trend, pressure or any kind of self fulfilling desire. 

The difference in our lifestyle and life choices are not necessarily an indicator of the difference in our intelligence. Our upbringing, circumstances, life experiences and narratives play a vital role in determining them. Satvan is imagined as a space where we could look at our own narratives with compassion and attention. I believe that a movement towards right action and right relationships can emerge from this kind of an observation. 

The word SatVan is derived from sanskrit words ‘Sat’ which is a common prefix that means ‘the true essence’ and ‘Van’ means ‘forest’.

The Intent

  • Satvan is a centre dedicated towards facilitating a free, self motivated and voluntary exploration of different aspects of human life and their relationship with the environment.
    • An exploration that helps in the movement towards reconnecting with the natural world. 
    • Facilitating a  journey towards greater harmony with nature. 

The intent of Satvan as a centre is to create opportunities and space for such an exploration through collaborative initiatives, research projects, workshops, long term and short term courses, online content, community engagement, festivals and retreats. 

Themes

SatVan wishes to create an atmosphere for people to undertake a self driven inquiry. To complement this journey the space will have a few themes as a starting point. The approach to these different themes would be with an intent of integration and collaboration rather than fragmentation. 

  • The relationship of human beings with their environment in the past and the consequences of this relationship on humans and their environment. Observing and appreciating the interconnectedness in nature – History and Natural History
  • Human lifestyle is a result of human behaviour. An understanding of human behaviour is necessary to understand the complexity of human lifestyle. The influence of History on Culture – Psychology and Sociology
  • The relationship between arts,culture and environment. How art can influence human behaviour? – Craft, Fine Arts, Performing Arts and literature
  • The relationship of Arts, Sciences, Culture and Human Lifestyle with Economics – Economics, Entrepreneurship and Self Reliance
  • Role of Science, technology and research in creating harmony between human beings and Nature – Science, Research and Innovation
  • Understanding the value of manual work and working with the body – Working with the land and Manual work
  • Role of Philosophy, Spirituality and Self inquiry in understanding the complexity of human behaviour and its relationship with the environment – Philosophy and Spirituality

SatVan is a Space for:

  • Any individual who would like to explore the above mentioned themes and any other themes that complement them.
  • People from the neighbourhood.
  • Students who would like to do projects that are related to these themes.
  • Teachers
  • Mature Students
  • Students taking a gap year

Please write to us at satvan@thevalleyschool.info and share your thoughts and feelings. We would be happy and excited to collaborate with you. 

Sincerely

Skanda Subramanya, Coordinator – SatVan