“Lessons were conducted mostly in English of which Krishna knew very little. So stupid did he appear that the teacher would frequently send him out on the verandah and forget all about him until he called some other boy stupid when he would be remembered and brought in again. He was caned almost every day for not learning his lessons. Sometimes he remained forgotten on the verandah until the end of the school day when Nitya would come out and find him standing there in tears and lead him home by the hand.”
– Mary Lutyens, The Boy, Krishna: The First Fourteen Years in the Life of J. Krishnamurti
“He must have loathed his school life, for he was always asking “Mother, I need not go to school today, need I? I’m awfully ill,” he would say, and when he thought she realized this to be an excuse he would say, “Mother let me stay with you, I’ll do anything you want, I’ll take castor oil if you like, but let me stay with you.” His dislike of the school was as great as his love of the temples.”
– Nitya’s account of K’s child-like persona during “the process”, from Lutyens.
It is not often considered that traumatic aspects of K’s childhood may have been glossed over or repressed by Krishnamurti himself. To the best of this reader’s recollection, Krishnamurti was usually quite vague when he was questioned about his childhood, often saying that he could remember very little about it. At the same time, he sometimes appeared engrossed in attempting to figure out the nature of “the boy”, the term K habitually used when referring to himself as a child. More specifically, K sometimes alluded to “”the boy” (himself) as a sieve that nothing could touch; as someone who did not really think, and so was unaffected by various traumatic events.
Interestingly, there is a pertinent account of certain incidents relived by Krishnamurti during his “process” because these were subsequently recorded by his brother, Nitya (who died tragically from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-seven). Nitya’s recollections were published in a small booklet compiled by Mary Lutyens and entitled: The Boy, Krishna: The First Fourteen Years in the Life of J. Krishnamurti (Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, 1996), and may be viewed as contradicting the notion that K was untouched by trauma during his childhood.
Nitya’s written account, which he must have recorded at the behest of the Theosophical Society, relates that Krishnamurti had an imaginary friend as a child, which was a fairy:
“….That night when he became a child, we learnt that he used to see fairies and that there was one particular fairy who used to be a special friend, and who came often to play with him. The fairy was apparently very beautiful in reality and had beautiful clothes, but in consideration for Krishna, when he came to play with him he made himself ugly, “just like me,” as Krishna put it. He talked a great deal of this fairy and the games they used to have together…” – From The Boy, Krishna: The First Fourteen Years in the Life of J. Krishnamurti (Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, 1996).
According to Nitya, Krishnamurti also relived the death of their Mother during “the process”:
“The last scene was the death of his mother. He could not understand what was happening; he thought she was ill, and when he saw the doctor giving her medicine, he became very indignant. He began begging her, “Don’t take it, it’s some beastly stuff and it won’t do you any good, please don’t take it, the doctor doesn’t know anything, he’s dirty man, please don’t take it mother.” And when eventually she did take it, he gave her up….A little later, in a tone of horror he said “Why are you so still, mother, what’s happened, and why does father cover his face with his dhoti, answer me mother.” – From The Boy, Krishna: The First Fourteen Years in the Life of J. Krishnamurti (Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, 1996).
These vignettes bring to light an apparent contradiction to what was said by K about “the boy” being “untouched.” Nitya’s account in the booklet is about childhood events which K talked about during “the process.” As such, they can be regarded as unconscious traumatic content that had been repressed. Later on, K seemingly idealized his childhood when claiming that he was untouched and “like a sieve” that everything passed through. It is possible that this re-working of the past was impressed upon Krishnamurti by the Theosophists as they worked to present him as the vehicle of the new World Teacher. According to their lore, the young Krishnamurti (as he was discovered) was a pure and unique being.
Of course, K was most probably unique or special in many respects. It is likely that rather than being retarded or “untouched” in a mystical sense, that he was a gifted child with a high IQ. This is borne out by his mechanical and observational abilities and also by his quick learning of spoken and written English once he was placed in a better environment with the Theosophists. But this “specialness” was born into an impoverished (though Brahmin) family where K was physically abused by his father and at school. In Nitya’s account, far from being “untouched” by his environment, K was afraid to go to school and deeply affected by the suffering of his mother (to whom he was very attached), traumatized by illness and regarded himself as being “ugly.”