The World Is Built on Ideas

From Krishnamurti’s Book LIFE AHEAD

Perhaps we can approach the problem of fear from still another angle. Fear does extraordinary things to most of us. It creates all kinds of illusions and problems. Until we go into it very deeply and really understand it, fear will always distort our actions. Fear twists our ideas and makes crooked the way of our life; it creates barriers between people, and it certainly destroys love. So the more we go into fear, the more we understand and are really free of it, the greater will be our contact with all that is around us. At present our vital contacts with life are very few, are they not? But if we can free ourselves of fear we shall have wide contacts, deep understanding, real sympathy, loving consideration, and great will be the extension of our horizon. So let us see if we can talk about fear from a different point of view.

I wonder if you have noticed that most of us want some kind of psychological safety. We want security, somebody on whom to lean. As a small child holds on to the mother’s hand, so we want something to cling to; we want somebody to love us. Without a sense of security, without a mental safeguard, we feel lost, do we not? We are used to leaning on others, looking to others to guide and help us, and without this support we feel confused, afraid, we do not know what to think, how to act. The moment we are left to ourselves, we feel lonely, insecure, uncertain. From this arises fear, does it not?

So we want something to give us a sense of certainty and we have safeguards of many different kinds. We have inward as well as outward protection. When we close the windows and doors of our house and stay inside, we feel very secure, we feel safe, unmolested. But life is not like that. Life is constantly knocking at our door, trying to push open our windows so that we may see more; and if out of fear we lock the doors, bolt all the windows, the knocking only grows louder. The closer we cling to security in any form, the more life comes and pushes us. The more we are afraid and enclose ourselves, the greater is our suffering, because life won’t leave us alone. We want to be secure but life says we cannot be; and so our struggle begins. We seek security in society, in tradition, in our relationship with our fathers and mothers, with our wives or husbands; but life always breaks through the walls of our security.

We also seek security or comfort in ideas, do we not? Have you observed how ideas come into being and how the mind clings to them? You have an idea of something beautiful you saw when you were out for a walk, and your mind goes back to that idea, that memory. You read a book and you get an idea to which you cling. So you must see how ideas arise, and how they become a means of inward comfort, security, something to which the mind clings.

Have you ever thought about this question of ideas? If you have an idea and I have an idea, and each of us thinks that his own idea is better than the other’s, we struggle, don’t we? I try to convince you, and you try to convince me. The whole world is built on ideas and the conflict between them; and if you go into it, you will find that merely clinging to an idea has no meaning. But have you noticed how your father, your mother, your teachers, your aunts and uncles all cling hard to what they think?

Now, how does an idea come into being? How do you get an idea? When you have the idea of going out for a walk, for example, how does it arise? It is very interesting to find out. If you observe you will see how an idea of that kind arises, and how your mind clings to it, pushing everything else aside. The idea of going out for a walk is a response to a sensation, is it not? You have gone out for a walk before and it has left a pleasurable feeling or sensation; you want to do it again, so the idea is created and then put into action. When you see a beautiful car, there is a sensation, is there not? The sensation comes from the very looking at the car. The seeing creates the sensation. From the sensation there is born the idea, “I want that car, it is my car”, and the idea then becomes very dominant.

We seek security in outward possessions and relationships, and also in inward ideas or beliefs. I believe in God, in rituals, I believe that I should be married in a certain way, I believe in reincarnation, in life after death, and so on. These beliefs are all created by my desires, by my prejudices, and to these beliefs I cling. I have external securities, outside the skin as it were, and also inward securities; remove or question them, and I am afraid; I will push you away, I will battle with you if you threaten my security.

Now, is there any such thing as security? Do you understand? We have ideas about security. We may feel safe with our parents, or in a particular job. The way we think, the way of our life, the way we look at things – with all this we may feel satisfied. Most of us are very content to be enclosed in safe ideas. But can we ever be safe, can we ever be secure, however many outward or inward safeguards we may have? Outwardly, one’s bank may fail tomorrow, one’s father or mother may die, there may be a revolution. But is there any safety in ideas? We like to think we are safe in our ideas, in our beliefs, in our prejudices; but are we? They are walls which are not real; they are merely our conceptions, our sensations. We like to believe there is a God who is looking after us, or that we are going to be reborn richer, more noble than we are now. That may be, or it may not be. So we can see for ourselves, if we look into both the outward and the inward securities, that there is no safety in life at all.

If you ask the refugees from Pakistan or from Eastern Europe, they will certainly tell you that there is no outward security. But they feel there is security inwardly, and they cling to that idea. You may lose your outward security, but you are then all the more eager to build your security inwardly, and you do not want to let it go. This implies greater fear.

If tomorrow, or in a few years’ time, your parents tell you whom they want you to marry, will you be frightened? Of course not, because you have been brought up to do exactly as you are told; you have been taught by your parents, by the guru, by the priest to think along certain lines, to act in a certain manner, to hold certain beliefs. But if you were asked to decide for yourself, would you not be completely at a loss? If your parents told you to marry whom you like, you would shiver, wouldn’t you? Having been thoroughly conditioned by tradition, by fears, you don’t want to be left to decide things for yourself. In being left alone there is danger, and you never want to be left alone. You never want to think out anything for yourself. You never want to go out for a walk by yourself. You all want to be doing something like active ants. You are afraid to think out any problem, to face any of life’s demands; and being frightened, you do chaotic and absurd things. Like a man with a begging bowl, you thoughtlessly accept whatever is offered.

Seeing all this, a really thoughtful person begins to free himself from every kind of security, inward or outward. This is extremely difficult, because it means that you are alone – alone in the sense that you are not dependent. The moment you depend, there is fear; and where there is fear, there is no love. When you love, you are not lonely. The sense of loneliness arises only when you are frightened of being alone and of not knowing what to do. When you are controlled by ideas, isolated by beliefs, then fear is inevitable; and when you are afraid, you are completely blind.

So, the teachers and the parents together have to solve this problem of fear. But unfortunately your parents are afraid of what you might do if you don’t get married, or if you don’t get a job. They are afraid of your going wrong, or of what people might say, and because of this fear they want to make you do certain things. Their fear is clothed in what they call love. They want to look after you, therefore you must do this or that. But if you go behind the wall of their so-called affection and consideration, you will find there is fear for your safety, for your respectability; and you also are afraid because you have depended on other people for so long.

That is why it is very important that you should, from the tenderest age, begin to question and break down these feelings of fear so that you are not isolated by them, and are not enclosed in ideas, in traditions, in habits, but are a free human being with creative vitality.

Questioner: Why are we afraid, even though we know that God protects us?

Krishnamurti: That is what you have been told. Your father, your mother, your older brother have all told you that God protects you; it is an idea, to which you cling, and still there is fear. Though you have this idea, this thought, this feeling that God protects you, the fact is that you are afraid. Your fear is the real thing, not your idea that you are going to be protected by God because your parents and your tradition assert that you will be.

Now, what is actually happening? Are you being protected? Look at the millions of people who are not protected, who are starving. Look at the villagers who carry heavy burdens, who are hungry, dirty, with torn clothes. Are they protected by God?

Because you have more money than others, because you have a certain social position, because your father is an official, or a collector, or a merchant who has cleverly cheated somebody, should you be protected while millions in the world are going without sufficient food, without proper clothing and shelter. You hope that the poor and the starving are going to be protected by the State, by their employers, by society, by God; but they are not going to be protected. Really there is no protection, even though you like to feel that God will protect you. It is just a nice idea to pacify your fear; so you do not question anything, but just believe in God. To start with the idea that you are going to be protected by God, has no meaning. But if you really go into this whole problem of fear, then you will find out whether God will protect you or not.

When there is the feeling of affection, there is no fear, no exploitation, and then there is no problem.