Fear of Uncertainty


Krishnamurti: Fear is a complex problem and we have to enquire into it, not come with any preconceived ideas, but really penetrate into this whole question of fear. Now first of all, in enquiring into this problem, we are not trying to deal with it as collective fear, nor are we discussing it as group therapy to get rid of fear. We are going to find out what fear means and what are its nature and structure; whether the fear deep down at the very root of our being can be understood, and whether the mind can ever be free from fear. How do you approach this problem? Have you got any kind of fear – physical or psychological? If you have psychological fears – we shall come back to the physical fears a little later – how do you deal with them?

Suppose I am afraid that I shall lose my position, my prestige: I depend on an audience, on you, to bolster me up, I depend on you to give me vitality by talking. I am afraid, as I grow older, I may become senile. I will be faced with nothing and I am afraid. What is this fear? Or I am afraid that I depend on you – a man or a woman – and that dependency makes me attached to you, so I am afraid to lose you. Or I am afraid because I have done something in the past, which I regret or am ashamed of, and I don’t want you to know; so I am afraid of your knowing it and I feel guilty. Or I feel terribly anxious about death, about living, about what people say, or don’t say, how they look at me. I have a deep sense of foreboding, anxiety, a sense of inferiority. And in this anxiety about death, living a life that has no meaning, I seek assurance from somebody through human relationship. Or out of my anxiety I seek a sense of security in a certain belief, a certain ideology, in God, and so on.

Also I am afraid that I shan’t be able to do everything I want to do in this life. I have not the capacity nor the intelligence, but I am tremendously ambitious to achieve something; so I am frightened of that too. And of course I am afraid of death; and I am afraid of being lonely, of not being loved; so I want to establish a relationship with another in which this fear, this anxiety, this sense of loneliness, this separation, does not exist. Also I am afraid of the dark, of the elevator – innumerable neurotic fears!

What is this fear? Why are you, why is anybody, afraid? Is it based on not wanting to be hurt? Or is it that one wants complete security, and not being able to find it – this sense of complete safety, of protection, physically, emotionally, psychologically – one becomes terribly anxious about living! – so there is this sense of uncertainty. Now why is there fear? One of our major problems is fear, whether we are aware of it or not, whether we run away from it or try to overcome it, try to withstand it, develop courage and all the rest of it, there is still fear. I am asking myself, I am asking you, whether the mind is so delicate, so sensitive, that from childhood on it does not want to be hurt. And not wanting to be hurt one builds a wall. One is very shy, or aggressive; before you attack I am ready to attack you verbally, or with thought. I have been hurt so much in my life, everybody hurts me – everybody treads on one’s toes – and I don’t want to be hurt. Is that one of the reasons why fear exists?

You have been hurt, haven’t you? And out of that hurt you do all kinds of things. We resist a great deal, we don’t want to be disturbed; out of that feeling of hurt we cling to something which we hope will protect us. Therefore we become aggressive towards anything that attacks what we are holding on to for protection.

As a human being sitting here, wanting to resolve this problem of fear, what is it that you are frightened of? Is it physical fear – fear of physical pain? Or a psychological fear of danger, of uncertainty, of being hurt again? Or of not being able to find total, complete security? Is it fear of being dominated, and yet we are dominated? So what is it that you are frightened of? Are you aware of your fear?

Questioner: I fear the unknown.

Krishnamurti: Now listen to that question. Why should one be afraid of the unknown, when you know nothing about it? Please enquire into it.

Questioner: I have an image of what has happened to me and there is the fear that it might happen again.

Krishnamurti: But is it the fear of letting go the known? Or fear of the unknown? You understand? Fear of letting go the things I have gathered – my property, my wife, my name, my books, my furniture, my good looks, my capacities – to let go the things that I know, that I have experienced: is that the fear? Or is it fear of the future, the unknown?

Questioner: I find that my fear generally is of what will happen, not of what is happening.

Krishnamurti: Shall we go into that?

Questioner: It isn’t that one is frightened of what might happen tomorrow, but of losing one’s own recognitions, one’s satisfactions, today.

Krishnamurti: Look, the gentleman asked a question which was: ‘I am not frightened of yesterday or of today, but I am frightened of what might happen tomorrow, in the future.’ Tomorrow may be twenty-four hours away or a year, but I am frightened of that.

Questioner: But the future is the result of all the expectations one has because of the past.

Krishnamurti: I am frightened of the future, how shall I deal with this? Don’t explain it to me, I want to find out what to do with this fear. I am frightened what might happen: I might get ill, I might lose my job, a dozen things might happen to me, I may go insane, lose all the things which I have stored up. Now please enquire.

Questioner: I think perhaps it is not the future that we fear but rather the uncertainty of the future, new events which cannot be predicted. If the future were predictable there would be no fear, we should know what would happen. Fear is a sort of defence of the body against something completely new, against the whole uncertainty of what life is.

Krishnamurti: I am afraid of the future because the future is uncertain.’ I don’t know how to deal with this uncertainty, with my whole being, therefore I am afraid. Fear is an indication of this uncertainty of the future, is that it?

Questioner: That’s only a part of it. There are other fears too.

Krishnamurti: Sir, we are taking one fear; we will discuss various forms of fears presently. The gentleman says, ‘I am not really frightened of anything except of the future. The future is so uncertain, I don’t know how to meet it. I have the capacity to understand not only the present but also the future.’ So it is this sense of uncertainty that indicates fear.

Whatever the explanation be, the fact is I am frightened of tomorrow. Now how shall I deal with it? How shall I be free of that fear?

Questioner: Looking at one’s response to the uncertainty of the future it seems it might be inadequate.

Krishnamurti: I am frightened of tomorrow, of what might happen. The whole future is uncertain, there might be an atomic war, there might be an ice age – I am frightened of all that. How am I to deal with it? Help me, don’t theorize about it, don’t give me explanations!

Questioner: Need uncertainty breed fear?

Questioner: We are frightened because we are pretending, playing games, and we are afraid, of being exposed.

Krishnamurti: But you are not helping me! Aren’t you frightened of the future, Sir? – stick to this.

Questioner: Yes, perhaps.

Krishnamurti: Now, how are you going to deal with it?

Questioner: By living in the present.

Krishnamurti: I don t know what that means.

Questioner: For me it has been helpful to realize what I have been afraid of in the past, and why I have been afraid, and to submit this to examination. This helps me to face the future.

Questioner: First of all we have got to understand what we mean by the future.

Krishnamurti: That’s what I am trying to find out.

Questioner: The first thing we have to do is not to be afraid of being frightened.

Krishnamurti: Oh, that is a cliché, that doesn’t help me!

Questioner: One has to realize you can’t help me out: fear is always there. One has to understand fear is going to be a life companion.

Krishnamurti: Sir, you have not fed me. You have given me a lot of words, ashes. I am still frightened of tomorrow.

Questioner: That is just the problem. You can’t help anyone.

Questioner: Can’t you wait for tomorrow and let things come, see what happens?

Questioner: I know the necessity for physical security, but I want to understand my need for psychological security.

Krishnamurti: He means that, Sir. He probably has some security physically, but psychologically he is frightened of tomorrow. He has got a little bank account, a little house and all the rest of it, he is not frightened about that; he is frightened of what might happen in the future.

Questioner: Is it possible to live with your uncertainty?

Questioner: If we knew what was going to happen, we should not be afraid.

Questioner: Sitting here I am not afraid, but thinking about tomorrow I get frightened.

Krishnamurti: Thought does it.

Questioner: Thought does it. When we are frightened now, it is a fact. If we accept the fact and if we live totally in the present, we forget the future.

Krishnamurti: Right, let’s look. I want to find out what causes this fear of tomorrow. What is tomorrow? Why does tomorrow exist at all? You understand? I am going to answer it. I want to find out how thought arises, how fear arises. I think about tomorrow, and the past has given me a sense of security; though there may have been a great many uncertainties in the past, on the whole I have survived. Up to now I am fairly safe, but tomorrow is very uncertain and I am frightened. So I am going to find out what causes this fear of tomorrow. The response of my whole being to that insecurity of tomorrow being uncertain, is fear. So I want to find out why fear arises when I think about the future. Which mean the future may be all right, but my thinking about the uncertainty. I don’t know the future, it may be marvellous, or it may be deadly, it may be terrible, or most beautiful, I don’t know; thought is not certain about the future. So thought, which has always been seeking certainty, is suddenly faced with this uncertainty. So why does thought create fear? You follow?

Questioner: Because thought divides and creates a distance between past and future, and fear enters into this space.

Krishnamurti: The questioner says thought separates the future from the past and divides what might be. This separation of ‘what is’ and ‘what might be’ is part of this fear. If I did not think about tomorrow, there would be no fear, I would not know the future, I would not even care. Because I think about the future – the future which I don’t know, the future which is so uncertain – my whole response, psychologically as well as physically, is to say, ‘My God, what is going to happen?’ So thought breeds fear.

Questioner: Is thought the only psychological function that is able to bring about fear? There are some other irrational functions like feeling; that might bring about fear as well.

Krishnamurti: I am taking that one particular thing, there are other factors too.

Questioner: There is fear of the unknown, fear of tomorrow; it is based on attachment to a belief, or some formula. The fear can be understood if I see why I am attached to a particular convention or belief.

Questioner: What about fear of existence?

Krishnamurti: All these are involved, are they not? The attachment to a belief, to a formula, to a certain ideological concept which I have built for myself, all these are part of this fear. Now I want to find out by seeing what is fear. I said to you earlier I have done something in the past of which I am ashamed, or of which I am frightened: I don’t want it to recur. Thinking about what I have done in the past breeds fear, doesn’t it? Thinking about what might happen in the future also breeds fear. So I see – I may be wrong – that thought is responsible for the fear, both of the past and of the future. And thought is also responsible for fear by projecting an ideal, a belief, and holding on to that belief and wanting certainty out of that belief; it is all the operation of thought, isn’t it? So I have to understand why thought thinks about the future, why thought goes back to some event which has brought fear. Why does thought do this?

Questioner: Thought can help itself by imagining all the possibilities of terrible things that could happen in the future, so it can make some plans to prevent these things happening. It tries to protect itself by imagining.

Krishnamurti: Thought also helps you to protect yourself, through insurance, through building a house, avoiding wars; thought cultivates fear and also protects, doesn’t it? We are talking about thought creating fear, not how it protects. I am asking why thought breeds this fear; thought also breeds pleasure, doesn’t it? – sexual pleasure, the pleasure of the sunset which happened yesterday and so on. So thought gives a continuity to pleasure and also to fear.

Questioner: Man, seeking pleasure, follows the choice of his thoughts by discriminating. ‘ This would be good’ and ‘ That would be bad’. And fear seems to come directly from what man does to make the good things happen and to avoid the bad.

Krishnamurti: Surely the whole process is based on thought, isn’t it?

Questioner: Fear comes from the discriminating aspect of thought.

Krishnamurti: Yes, but it is still thought, saying, ‘This is good, this I will keep, this reject.’ The whole movement of thought is the demand for pleasure and discrimination in that, saying, ‘This will give me pleasure, that will not.’ So the whole movement of fear and pleasure, the demand, and the continuity of both, depends on thought, doesn’t it?

Questioner: But how can you be free from it?

Krishnamurti: Wait, first let’s get this thing going.

Questioner: Thought is fear.

Krishnamurti: We are going to find out. I am safe today. I know I am going to have my meals, there is a house, there is a room; but I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Yesterday I had a great deal of pleasure in various forms, and I want those pleasures repeated tomorrow. So thought both sustains fear and gives a continuity to the pleasure which I had yesterday.

Then my question is: how am I going to prevent the continuity of fear, but yet let pleasure continue? I want pleasure, want it as much as possible, all the time in the future; and also I have had fears, I want to get rid of them and I don’t want future fears. So thought is working in both directions. Sir, this is your job, not mine, look at it!

Questioner: This gives thought a kind of energy.

Krishnamurti: Thought is energy.

Questioner: This gives thought a different kind of energy.

Krishnamurti: Go into it, it is both.

Questioner: It is accumulating memories.

Krishnamurti: The memories that have been pleasurable I hold on to, and the memories that have been painful – which are fear – I want to throw out. But I don’t see the root of all this is thought.

Questioner: Thought seems to resist its termination – fear and pleasure seem to be somewhat similar – but that state where thought doesn’t exist eludes me.

Questioner: Do what you are doing so totally, that you think about the thing that is giving you pleasure while it is happening, and don’t think about the things which may not happen.

Krishnamurti: Don’t say: not to think about those things which might not happen. How am I to prevent myself from thinking about them?

Questioner: Think about what is happening, rejoice!

Krishnamurti: So I force myself to think about things that are happening and not about things that don’t happen?

Questioner: Think about what is happening.

Krishnamurti: But my mind is always watching what might happen. Doesn’t this happen to you? Let’s be quite simple and honest. We want to think about the things that are happening but thought also keeps an eye on what might happen. And when I am not thinking about this, that pops up!

Questioner: Sir, the feeling ‘I am’ has nothing to do with pleasure and nothing to do with fear and thought. I think only ‘I am’. I don’t have fear. This feeling ‘I am’ has nothing at all to do with thought.

Krishnamurti: When you say ‘I am’ – what do you mean by those words?

Questioner: The feeling to be present, to be sitting here, and there is no fear in it.

Krishnamurti: That is not the problem, Sir.

Questioner: First of all we must find out if certainty exists, then there won’t be fear.

Krishnamurti: How shall I find out?

Questioner: I see the whole process of thought as a trap.

Krishnamurti: Go into it; each person pursues something else. Let me state what I feel the problem is. I am frightened of tomorrow because tomorrow is uncertain. So far I have been fairly certain in my life; though there have been occasions on which I have been frightened, somehow I have got over them. But the sense of fear of tomorrow, which is so uncertain – atomic war, the casual wars that might explode into all kinds of horrors, losing money – I am in a state of convulsion about the future. Now what am I to do? I want to be free, if I can, of the fear both of the past and the future, of the fears deep down and the superficial fears.

Don’t give me explanations, ‘Do this’, ‘Don’t do that.’ I want to find out what fear is; whether it is fear of darkness, of uncertainty, whether it is the fear of attachment, holding on to something, or to some person or idea. I want to find out what is the root of it, how to escape from it, not how to smother it. I want to see the structure of fear. If I can understand that, then something else can take place. So I am going to investigate what fear is. Let me go on a little while, may I?

Fear exists for me because I am thinking about tomorrow; despite your assurance that tomorrow is perfectly all right, I still feel fear. Now why am I thinking about tomorrow? Is it because the past has been so good, has given me a great deal of knowledge and this has become my security, and I have no knowledge about the future? If I could understand the future and reduce that to my knowledge, then I would not be frightened. Can I understand the future as knowledge, as experience, so that it becomes part of my knowledge, of which I shan’t be frightened?

I see also, that I want a great deal of pleasure, sexual pleasure, the pleasure of achieving, fulfilling, of being somebody. I want those pleasures, which I have had, repeated. And when I get bored with them I want wider, deeper pleasures. My principle drive is pleasure – in every direction. So I want to avoid fear and I want more pleasure. This is what we all, pleasure separate from fear? Or are they the two sides of the same coin? I must find out, not say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, I must put my teeth into it and find out whether pleasure does breed fear and whether fear is the result of my demand for pleasure. You have understood my question?

Questioner: But pleasure could be something else, a learning process.

Krishnamurti: No, that pleasure is also painful; but I will overcome that in order to have more pleasure. Haven’t you noticed this in your life, how we want pleasure?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: That’s all I am talking of. We are demanding, pursuing, pleasure; everything is based on this. And when that is not fulfilled, I become uncertain. So I am asking myself whether pleasure and fear don’t go together. I never question pleasure, I never say, ‘Should I have so much pleasure?’ ‘Where does it lead?’ but I want more of it, in heaven, on earth, in my family, in sex – it is driving me in everything. And fear is there also. Look at it please, don’t slick to your particular opinion, for God’s sake move from it! Find out!

So follow this: I want certainty of tomorrow, and certainty can only exist where there is knowledge, when I say, ‘I know’. Can I know anything except the past? The moment I say ‘I know’ it is already the past. When I say ‘I know my wife’, I know her in terms of the past. In the past there is certainty and in the future there is uncertainty. So I want to draw the future into the past so that I will be completely safe. I see fear arises where thought is operating; if I did not think about tomorrow there would be no fear.

Questioner: Fear seems to me to be something instinctive. I feel that fear is an energy, that some force is there.

Krishnamurti: You see, each of us has an opinion. Each of us is quite sure we know how to deal with fear. We explain it, we give causes, we think we understand it, and yet at the end of it we are frightened. I want to go behind all that and find out why fear exists at all. Is it the result of thought thinking about the future? Because the future is very uncertain and thought is based on the memory of the past. Thought is the response of memory, accumulated as knowledge, as centuries of experience, and out of that comes thought. Thought says, ‘Knowledge is my security’. And now you are telling me to be free of tomorrow, which is uncertain; if I know what tomorrow is, there will be no fear. What I am craving for is certainty of knowledge. I know my past, I know what I did ten years or two days ago. I can analyse it, understand it, live with it; but I don’t know tomorrow and therefore not knowing it makes me afraid. Not knowing means: not having knowledge of. Now can thought have knowledge about something which it does not know?

So there is fear. Thought trying to find out the future, and not knowing what its content is, it is afraid. Why is thought thinking of tomorrow, about which it knows nothing? It wants certainty, but there may be no certainty. Please answer my question, not your question.

Questioner: The living system needs to think about tomorrow, this is a fundamental rule of life: it needs some sort of prediction.

Krishnamurti: I said that, Sir.

Questioner: We must follow this rule of life. There are psychological disturbances due to imagination which project awful fears, as you say, but it is impossible to prevent human beings from thinking in a logical fashion.

Krishnamurti: If I may say so, we did say thought is necessary to protect physical survival. That is part of our life, that is what we are doing all the time.

Questioner: I don’t agree, I think thought is not necessary for survival. Animals have the instinct for survival without the fear which is our trouble.

Krishnamurti: Madam, we are mixing up two things. Please, we tried to explain this at the beginning.

Questioner: She’s right; human thought replaces instinct.

Krishnamurti: I agree with you. One must know that tomorrow the house will be there. Physical survival and planning for the future are essential, aren’t they? Without that we can’t survive.

Questioner: When you see it all so clearly, fear has no time.

Questioner: Thought thinks of living in the present, and must also think of tomorrow.

Krishnamurti: The weather is hot, I must plan to buy some trousers that will be cool. That means planning for tomorrow. I have to go to India in the winter. I shall plan, which is the future. We are not denying that, on the contrary. What we are talking about is the fear of uncertainty.

Questioner: We have no confidence in ourselves.

Krishnamurti: That I really don’t understand. Who is ‘yourself’ for you to have confidence in? Are you such a marvellous human being to have confidence in yourself?

Questioner: Why not?

Krishnamurti: What is yourself?

Questioner: Humanity.

Krishnamurti: What is humanity? The good and the bad, the wars – we have been through all that. We are concerned with fear. We must use thought to survive. But to survive, thought has divided the world as my country, your country, my government, your government, my God, your God, my guru and your guru: thought has created this. Though it wants to plan to survive, thought has divided the world which destroys itself, of which I am part. So I have to understand the nature of thought, where it is necessary, and where it is diabolical, where it is destructive and where it creates fear – that is my problem.

I said thought must function, otherwise you can’t survive; but in the desire to survive it has divided and is therefore destructive. I see thought must function clearly, objectively, without any distortion. So my question is: why does thought think about tomorrow? It has to think about tomorrow in one direction, but why does thought think about the future and breed fear?

Questioner: To be safe.

Krishnamurti: You see, thought must think about tomorrow in order to be safe, that is clear. And also you see that thought, thinking about tomorrow, creates fear. Now why?

Questioner: Because we want to continue.

Questioner: Because we are tied to pleasure.

Krishnamurti: We haven’t solved this problem because we refuse to leave our particular little opinions, judgments and conclusions. Let’s abolish them and think anew. For me it is very simple. Thought must create fear because thought cannot ever find security in the future. Thought has security in time; tomorrow has no time. Tomorrow exists in the mind as time, but tomorrow may not exist at all, psychologically. And because of that uncertainty, thought projects what it wants for tomorrow: safety, what I have acquired, what I have achieved, what I possess, all that. And that too is completely uncertain. So can thought be quiet about the future? That’s my point. Can thought be quiet, which means function where it is necessary for physical protection; and therefore no divisions into nationalities, no separate Gods, no warmongers. Let thought be quiet so that time as tomorrow does not exist.

Therefore I have to understand what it is to live now. I don’t understand what it is to live now, nor have I understood what it is to live in the past, therefore I want to live in the future, which I don’t know, as I don’t know what the present is. So I am asking, can I live completely, wholly, today? I can only do that when I have understood the whole machinery and the functioning of thought, and in the very understanding of the reality of thought there is silence. And where the mind is quiet there is no future, no time.