Fear and Pleasure

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE IMPOSSIBLE QUESTION

The last time we met we were talking about the structure of thought and its activities, about how thought divides and thereby brings about great conflict in human relationship. I think this morning we should consider – not intellectually or verbally – the nature of pleasure and fear, and whether it is at all possible to be totally free of sorrow. Enquiring into that, we have to examine very carefully the whole question of time. It is one of the most difficult things to convey something, which not only demands the accurate use of words, but also an accuracy of perception that lies beyond those words, and a feeling, a sense, of intimate contact with a reality.

In listening to the speaker, if you merely interpret the words according to your personal like and dislike, without being aware of your own tendencies of interpretation, then the word becomes a prison in which most of us, unfortunately, are caught. But if one is aware of the meaning of the word and of what lies behind the word, then communication becomes possible. Communication implies not only a verbal comprehension, but also going together, examining together, sharing together, creating together. This is very important, especially when we are talking about sorrow, time, and the nature of pleasure and fear. These are very complex questions. Every human problem is quite complex and needs a certain austerity, a simplicity, for its perception. By the word ‘austere’ is not meant harshness, which is the usual meaning given to that word, not the sense of dryness of discipline and control. We mean the austere simplicity that there must be in the examination and in the understanding of what we are going to talk about. The mind must be really sensitive. Sensitivity implies intelligence which is beyond the interpretation of the intellect, beyond emotionalism and enthusiasm. In examining, in listening, in looking, in learning about time, pleasure, fear and sorrow, one has to have this quality of sensitivity which gives the immediate perception of something as true or false. That is not possible if the intellect, in its activity of thought, divides, interprets. I hope you understood, the last time we talked here, how thought, by its nature, divides human relationship – though thought is necessary, as reason, as sane, clear, objective thinking.

For most of us, fear is a constant companion; whether one is aware of it or not, it is there, hidden in some dark recess of one’s mind; and we are asking if it is at all possible for the mind to be completely and totally free of this burden. The speaker may suggest this question, but it is you who must answer it, it is your problem; therefore you have to be sufficiently persistent, and sufficiently subtle, to see what it is and to pursue it to the very end, so that the mind – when you leave this tent this morning is literally free of fear. Perhaps that is asking a great deal, but it can be done. For a mind that has been conditioned in the culture of fear, with all the neurotic, complicated consequences of its actions, to even put the question of the possibility of being completely, absolutely, free of fear, is in itself a problem. A problem exists only when it is not solvable, when you cannot go through with it and it keeps on recurring. You think you have solved this question of fear, but it keeps on repeating in different forms. If you say, ‘It is impossible’ you have already blocked yourself. One has to be very careful not to block oneself, not to prevent oneself from going into this question of fear and its complete resolution.

Any sense of fear generates all kinds of mischievous activity, not only psychologically and neurotically, but outwardly. The whole problem of security comes into being, both physical and psychological security. Do follow all this, because we are going to go into something which requires attention; not your agreement, not your interpretation, but your perception, your seeing the thing as it is. You do not need an interpreter; examine for yourself, find out for yourself.

Most of us have had physical fears, either fear of an illness, with all its anxiety and the boredom of pain, or when facing physical danger. When you face physical danger of any kind, is there fear? Walking in wild parts, of India or Africa or America, one may meet a bear, a snake or a tiger; then there is immediate action, not conscious deliberate action, but instinctive action. Now is that action from fear, or is that intelligence? We are trying to find an action that is intelligent, as compared with action which is born of fear. When you meet a snake, there is only instant physical response, you run away, you sweat, you try to do something about it; that is a conditioned response, because you have been told for generations to be careful of snakes, of wild animals. The brain, the nervous system, responds instinctively to protect itself; that is a natural intelligent response. To protect the physical organism is necessary; the snake is a danger and to respond to it in the sense of protection is an intelligent action.

Now look at physical pain. You have had pain previously and you are afraid that it might return. The fear is caused by thought, by thinking about something which happened a year ago, or yesterday, and which might happen again tomorrow. Go into it, watch your own responses and what your own activities have been. There, fear is the product of conscious or unconscious thought – thought as time, not chronological time, but thought as time thinking about what has happened and generating the fear of it happening again in the future. So thought is time. And thought produces fear: ‘I might die tomorrow’, ‘I might be exposed about something I have done in the past; the thinking about that breeds fear. You have done something which you do not want exposed, or you want to do something which you do not want exposed, or you want to do something in the future which you will not be able to do; all that is the product of thought as time.

Can this movement of thought, which breeds fear in time, and as time, come to an end? Have you understood my question? There is the intelligent action of protection, of self-preservation, the physical necessity to survive, which is a natural, intelligent, response. There is the other: thought, thinking about something and projecting the possibility of it occurring, or not occurring in the future, and so breeding fear. So, the question is: can this movement of thought, so immediate, so insistent, so persuasive, naturally come to an end? Not through opposition; if you oppose it, it is still the product of thought. If you exercise your will to stop it, it is still the product of thought. If you say, ‘I will not allow myself to think that way’, who is the entity who says, ‘I will not’? It is still thought hoping by stopping that movement, to achieve something else, which is still the product of thought. Thought may project it and may not be able to achieve it; therefore again there is fear involved.

So we are asking whether the whole activity of thought, which has produced psychological fear not just one fear, but many, many fears can it come to an end naturally, easily, without effort. If you make any effort it is still thought and therefore productive of fear and it is still of time. One has to find a way in which thought will naturally come to an end and so no longer create fear.

Are we communicating with each other, not merely verbally? Perhaps you have seen the idea clearly, but we are not concerned with verbally understanding the idea, but with your involvement in fear in your daily life. We are not concerned with the description of your life; that which is described is not the actual, the explanation is not that which is explained, the word is not the thing. Your life, your fear, is not exposed by the speaker’s words; but in listening, it is you who have to expose that which is fear, and see how thought creates that fear.

We are asking whether the activity of thought – which engenders, breeds, sustains and nourishes fear – can come to an end naturally without any resistance. Before we can discover the true answer, we have also to enquire into the pursuit of pleasure; because again it is thought that sustains pleasure. You may have had a lovely moment, as when you looked at the marvellous sunset yesterday, you took a great delight in it; then thought steps in and says, ‘how beautiful it was, I would like to have that experience repeated again tomorrow’. It is the same whether it is a sunset, or whether somebody flatters you, whether it is a sexual experience, or if you have achieved something which you must maintain, which gives you pleasure. There is a pleasure which you derive through achievement, through being a success, the pleasure in the anticipation of what you are going to do tomorrow, from the repetition of something which you have experienced, sexually, or artistically.

Social morality is based on pleasure and therefore it is no morality at all: social morality is immorality. One finds that out; but it does not mean that by revolting against the social morality, one is going to become moral – doing what one likes, sleeping with whom one likes. If one is going to understand and be free of fear, one should also understand pleasure; they are interrelated. Which does not mean that one must give up pleasure. All the organized religions – and they have been the bane of civilisation – have said, one must have no pleasure, no sex, one must approach God as a tortured human being. They have said one must not look at a woman, or anything which might remind one of sex and so on. Saying that one must not have pleasure, means one must not have desire. So one picks up the Bible when desire arises and loses it in that; or one repeats some words from the Gita – which is nonsense.

Fear and pleasure are the two sides of a coin: you cannot be free of one without being free of the other also. You want to have pleasure all your life and yet be free of fear – that is all you are concerned about. But you do not see that you feel frustrated if tomorrow’s pleasure is denied, you feel unfulfilled, angry, anxious and guilty, and all the psychological miseries arise. So you have to look at fear and pleasure together. In understanding pleasure you also have to understand what joy is. Is pleasure joy? Is not the delight of existence something totally different from pleasure?

We were asking whether thought, with all its activities which breed and sustain fear and pleasure, can come naturally to an end, without effort. There are the unconscious fears which play a much greater part in one’s life than the fears of which one is aware. How are you going to uncover these unconscious fears expose them to the light? By analysis? If you say, ‘I will analyse my fears,’ then who is the analyser? Is he not a part, a fragment of fear? His analysis of his own fears will therefore have no value at all. Or if you go to an analyst he, like you, is also conditioned, by Freud, Jung or Adler: he analyses according to his conditioning, therefore he does not help you to be free of fear. As we said previously, analysis is a negation of action.

Knowing analysis has no value, how are you going to uncover the unconscious fear? If you say, ‘I will examine my dreams’, again the same problem arises. Who is the entity that is going to examine the dreams – one fragment of the many fragments? So you must ask a quite different question which is: ‘why do I dream at all’? Dreams are merely the continuation of the daily activity; there is always action going on, of some kind or another. How can that activity be understood and come to an end? That is, can the mind during the daytime be so alert as to watch all its motivations, all its urges, all its complexities, its prides, its ambitions and frustrations, its demand to fulfil, to be somebody, and so on? Can all that movement of thought during the day be watched without ‘the observer’? Because if there is ‘the observer’ who is watching, that observer is part of thought, which has separated itself from the rest and assumed the authority to observe.

If you observe during the day the whole movement of your activities, your thoughts and feelings without interpretation, then you will see that dreams have very little meaning. Then you will hardly ever dream. If you are awake during the daytime, and not half asleep, if you are not caught in your beliefs, your prejudices, your absurd little vanities, in your petty knowledge, you will see that there will not only be the end to dreams, but also that thought itself begins to subside.

Thought is always seeking, or sustaining, or avoiding fear; it is also producing pleasure, continuing to nourish that which has been pleasurable. Being caught in fear and pleasure – which produce sorrow – how can it all come to an end? How can the machinery of thought – which produces all this movement of pleasure and fear – naturally come to an end? That is the problem. What will one do with it? Give it up, or go on as one has been, living in pleasure and pain – which is the very nature of the bourgeois mind – though you may have long hair, sleep on the bridge, revolt, throw bombs, cry ‘peace’ yet fight your favourite war? Do what you will, it is of the very nature of the bourgeois mind to be caught in fear and pleasure. Face it! How will you resolve this problem? You must resolve it if you want a totally different kind of life, a different kind of society, a different kind of morality; you must solve this problem. If you are young, you may say, ‘It is not important’, ‘I will have ‘instant’ pleasure, ‘instant’ fear.’ But all the same, it builds up and then one fine day you find yourself caught. It is your problem, and no authority can solve it for you. You have had authorities – -the priests and the psychological authorities and they have not been able to solve it; they have given you escapes, like drugs, beliefs, rituals and all the circus that goes on in the name of religion; they have offered all this to you but the basic question of fear and pleasure they have never solved. You have got to solve it. How? What are you going to do? put your mind to this – knowing that nobody is going to solve it for you. In the realization that nobody is going to solve it for you, you are already beginning to be free of the bourgeois world.

Unless you solve this problem of fear and pleasure, sorrow is inevitable – not only your personal sorrows, but the sorrow of the world. Do you know what the sorrow of the world is? Do you know what is happening in the world? Not outwardly – all the wars, all the mischief of the politicians and so on – but inwardly, the enormous loneliness of man, the deep frustrations, the utter lack of love in this vast, uncompassionate, callous world. Unless you resolve this problem, sorrow is inevitable. And time will not solve it. You cannot say, ‘I will think about it tomorrow’ ‘I will have my ‘instant’ pleasure and all the fear that comes out of it,’ ‘I will put up with it.’ Who is going to answer you? After raising this question, seeing all the complexity of it, seeing that nobody on earth, or any divine force such as we have relied on before, is going to resolve this essential problem, how do you respond to it? What do you say, Sirs? You have no answer, have you? If you are really honest, not playing the hypocrite, or trying to avoid it, not trying to side-step when you are faced with this problem, which is the crucial problem, you have no answer. So, how are you going to find out how it can naturally come to an end? – without method, for obviously method implies time. If somebody gives you a method, a system, and you practice it, it will make your mind more and more mechanical, bring more and more conflict between ‘what is’ and that system. The system promises something, but the fact is you have fear; by practising the system you are moving further and further away from ‘what is; and so conflict increases, consciously or unconsciously. So what will you do?

Now, what has happened to the mind, to the brain, that has listened to all this – not merely heard a few words, but actually listened, shared, communicated, learnt? What has happened to your mind that has listened with tremendous attention to the complexity of the problem, with awareness of its own fears, and has seen how thought breeds and sustains fear as well as pleasure? What has happened to the quality of the mind that has so listened? Is the quality of this mind entirely different from the moment when we began this morning, or is it the same repetitive mind, caught in pleasure and fear? Is there a new quality? Is it a mind that is not saying, ‘One must put an end to fear or pleasure’, but a mind that is learning by observing? Has your mind not become a little more sensitive? Before, you were just carrying this burden of fear and pleasure. By learning about the weight of the burden, have you not slightly put it aside? Have you not dropped it – and therefore you are now walking very carefully?

If you have really followed this merely by observing – not through determination or effort – your mind has become sensitive and therefore very intelligent. Next time fear arises – as it will intelligence will respond to it, but not in terms of pleasure, of suppressing or escaping. This intelligence and sensitivity has come about by looking at this burden and putting it aside. It has become astonishingly alive; it can ask quite a different question, which is: if pleasure is not the way of life, as it has been for most of us, then is life barren? Does it mean I can never enjoy life?

Is there not a difference between pleasure and joy? You lived before in terms of pleasure and fear – the ‘instant’ pleasure of sex, drink, killing an animal and stuffing yourself with its meat, and all the rest of that ‘pleasure’. That has been your way of life and you suddenly discover, by examining, that pleasure is not the way at all, because it leads to fear, to frustration, to misery, to sorrow, to sociological and personal disturbances and so on. So you ask quite a different question now: ‘Is there joy which is untouched by thought and pleasure?’ For if it is touched by thought, it again becomes pleasure and therefore fear. So having understood pleasure and fear, is there a way of daily living which is joyous – not the carrying over of pleasure and fear from day to day? To look at those mountains, the beauty of the valley, the light on the hills, the trees and the flowing river and to enjoy them! But not when you say, ‘How marvellous it is,’ not when thought is using it as a means of pleasure.

You can look at that mountain, the movement of a tree, or the face of a woman, or a man, and take tremendous delight in it. When you have done that, it is finished. But if you carry it over in thought, then pain and pleasure begin. Can you so look and finish with it? Be very careful, watchful, of this. Can you look at that mountain and the delight in it is enough? Not carry it over in thought to tomorrow; which means you see the danger of that. You may have some great pleasure and say, ‘It is over; yet, is it over? Is not the mind, consciously or unconsciously, thinking about it, wishing it to happen again?

So one sees that thought has nothing whatsoever to do with joy. This is a tremendous discovery for yourself not something you have been told, not something to write about, interpreting it for somebody to read. There is a vast difference between delight, joy and bliss, on the one hand, and pleasure on the other.

I do not know if you have noticed, that the early religious pictures in the Western world avoid any kind of sensuous pleasure; there is no scenery at all, only the human body being tortured, or the Virgin Mary and so on. There is no landscape because that was pleasure, and might distract you from being concerned with the figure and its symbolism. Only much later was there the introduction of scenery, which in China and India was always part of life.

You can observe all this and find the beauty of living in which there is no effort, of living with great ecstasy, in which pleasure and thought and fear do not enter at all.