What an Extraordinary Part Belief Plays in Our Lives!

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE FIRST AND LAST FREEDOM

Belief and knowledge are intimately related to desire; and perhaps, if we can understand these two issues, we can see how desire works and understand its complexities.

One of the things, it seems to me, that most of us eagerly accept and take for granted is the question of beliefs. I am not attacking beliefs. What we are trying to do is to find out why we accept beliefs; and if we can understand the motives, the causation of acceptance, then perhaps we may be able not only to understand why we do it, but also be free of it. One can see how political and religious beliefs, national and various other types of beliefs, do separate people, do create conflict, confusion, and antagonism – which is an obvious fact; and yet we are unwilling to give them up. There is the Hindu belief the Christian belief, the Buddhist – innumerable sectarian and national beliefs, various political ideologies, all contending with each other, trying to convert each other.

One can see, obviously, that belief is separating people, creating intolerance; is it possible to live without belief? One can find that out only if one can study oneself in relationship to a belief. Is it possible to live in this world without a belief – not change beliefs, not substitute one belief for another, but be entirely free from all beliefs, so that one meets life anew each minute? This, after all, is the truth: to have the capacity to meet everything anew, from moment to moment, without the conditioning reaction of the past, so that there is not the cumulative effect which acts as a barrier between oneself and that which is.

If you consider, you will see that one of the reasons for the desire to accept a belief is fear. If we had no belief, what would happen to us? Shouldn’t we be very frightened of what might happen? If we had no pattern of action, based on a belief – either in God, or in communism, in socialism, in imperialism, or in some kind of religious formula, some dogma in which we are conditioned – we should feel utterly lost, shouldn’t we? And is not this acceptance of a belief the covering up of that fear – the fear of being really nothing, of being empty? After all, a cup is useful only when it is empty; and a mind that is filled with beliefs, with dogmas, with assertions, with quotations, is really an uncreative mind; it is merely a repetitive mind. To escape from that fear – that fear of emptiness, that fear of loneliness, that fear of stagnation, of not arriving, not succeeding, not achieving, not being something, not becoming something – is surely one of the reasons, is it not?, why we accept beliefs so eagerly and greedily. And, through acceptance of belief, do we understand ourselves? On the contrary. A belief, religious or political, obviously hinders the understanding of ourselves. It acts as a screen through which we are looking at ourselves. And can we look at ourselves without beliefs? If we remove those beliefs, the many beliefs that one has, is there anything left to look at? If we have no beliefs with which the mind has identified itself, then the mind, without identification, is capable of looking at itself as it is – and then, surely, there is the beginning of the understanding of oneself.

It is really a very interesting problem, this question of belief and knowledge. What an extraordinary part it plays in our life! How many beliefs we have! Surely the more intellectual, the more cultured, the more spiritual, if I can use that word, a person is, the less is his capacity to understand. The savages have innumerable superstitions, even in the modern world. The more thoughtful, the more awake, the more alert are perhaps the less believing. That is because belief binds, belief isolates; and we see that is so throughout the world, the economic and the political world, and also in the so-called spiritual world. You believe there is God, and perhaps I believe that there is no God; or you believe in the complete state control of everything and of every individual, and I believe in private enterprise and all the rest of it; you believe that there is only one Saviour and through him you can achieve your goal, and I don’t believe so. Thus you with your belief and I with mine are asserting ourselves. Yet we both talk of love, of peace, of unity of mankind, of one life – which means absolutely nothing; because actually the very belief is a process of isolation. You are a Brahmin, I a non-Brahmin; you are a Christian, I a Mussulman, and so on. You talk of brotherhood, and I also talk of the same brotherhood, love and peace; but in actuality we are separated, we are dividing ourselves. A man who wants peace and who wants to create a new world, a happy world, surely cannot isolate himself through any form of belief. Is that clear? It may be verbally, but, if you see the significance and validity and the truth of it, it will begin to act.

We see that where there is a process of desire at work there must be the process of isolation through belief because obviously you believe in order to be secure economically, spiritually, and also inwardly. I am not talking of those people who believe for economic reasons, because they are brought up to depend on their jobs and therefore will be Catholics, Hindus – it does not matter what – as long as there is a job for them. We are also not discussing those people who cling to a belief for the sake of convenience. Perhaps with most of us, it is equally so. For convenience, we believe in certain things. Brushing aside these economic reasons, we must go more deeply into it. Take the people who believe strongly in anything, economic, social or spiritual; the process behind it is the psychological desire to be secure, is it not? And then there is the desire to continue. We are not discussing here whether there is or there is not continuity; we are only discussing the urge, the constant impulse to believe.

A man of peace, a man who would really understand the whole process of human existence, cannot be bound by a belief, can he? He sees his desire at work as a means to being secure. Please do not go to the other side and say that I am preaching non-religion. That is not my point at all. My point is that as long as we do not understand the process of desire in the form of belief, there must be contention, there must be conflict, there must be sorrow, and man will be against man – which is seen every day. So if I perceive, if I am aware, that this process takes the form of belief, which is an expression of the craving for inward security, then my problem is not that I should believe this or that but that I should free myself from the desire to be secure. Can the mind be free from the desire for security? That is the problem – not what to believe and how much to believe. These are merely expressions of the inward craving to be secure psychologically, to be certain about something, when everything is so uncertain in the world.

Can a mind, can a conscious mind, can a personality be free from this desire to be secure? We want to be secure and therefore need the aid of our estates, our property and our family. We want to be secure inwardly and also spiritually by erecting walls of belief, which are an indication of this craving to be certain. Can you as an individual be free from this urge, this craving to be secure, which expresses itself in the desire to believe in something? If we are not free of all that, we are a source of contention; we are not peace-making; we have no love in our hearts. Belief destroys, and this is seen in our everyday life.

Can I see myself when I am caught in this process of desire, which expresses itself in clinging to a belief? Can the mind free itself from belief – not find a substitute for it but be entirely free from it? You cannot verbally answer yes or no to this, but you can definitely give an answer if your intention is to become free from belief. You then inevitably come to the point at which you are seeking the means to free yourself from the urge to be secure. Obviously, there is no security inwardly which, as you like to believe, will continue. You like to believe there is a God who is carefully looking after your petty little things, telling you whom you should see, what you should do and how you should do it. This is childish and immature thinking. You think the Great Father is watching every one of us. That is a mere projection of your own personal liking. It is obviously not true. Truth must be something entirely different.

Our next problem is that of knowledge. Is knowledge necessary to the understanding of truth? When I say ‘I know’, the implication is that there is knowledge. Can such a mind be capable of investigating and searching out what is reality? And besides, what is it we know, of which we are so proud? Actually what is it we know? We know information; we are full of information and experience based on our conditioning, our memory and our capacities. When you say, ‘I know,’ what do you mean? Either the acknowledgement that you know is the recognition of a fact, of certain information, or it is an experience that you have had. The constant accumulation of information, the acquisition of various forms of knowledge, all constitutes the assertion ‘I know’, and you start translating what you have read, according to your background, your desire, your experience. Your knowledge is a thing in which a process similar to the process of desire is at work. Instead of belief, we substitute knowledge. I know, I have had experience, it cannot be refuted; my experience is that, on that I completely rely; these are indications of that knowledge. But when you go behind it, analyse it, look at it more intelligently and carefully, you will find that the very assertion ‘I know’ is another wall separating you and me. Behind that wall you take refuge, seeking comfort, security. Therefore the more knowledge a mind is burdened with, the less capable it is of understanding.

I do not know if you have ever thought of this problem of acquiring knowledge – whether knowledge does ultimately help us to love, to be free from those qualities which produce conflict in ourselves and with our neighbours; whether knowledge ever frees the mind of ambition. Because ambition is, after all, one of the qualities that destroy relationship, that put man against man. If we would live at peace with each other surely ambition must completely come to an end – not only political, economic, social ambition, but also the more subtle and pernicious ambition, the spiritual ambition – to be something. Is it ever possible for the mind to be free from this accumulating process of knowledge, this desire to know?

It is a very interesting thing to watch how in our life these two, knowledge and belief, play an extraordinarily powerful part. Look how we worship those who have immense knowledge and erudition! Can you understand the meaning of it? If you would find something new, experience something which is not a projection of your imagination, your mind must be free, must it not? It must be capable of seeing something new. Unfortunately, every time you see something new you bring in all the information known to you already, all your knowledge, all your past memories; and obviously you become incapable of looking, incapable of receiving anything that is new, that is not of the old.

Please don’t immediately translate this into detail. If I do not know how to get back to my house, I shall be lost; if I do not know how to run a machine, I shall be of little use. That is quite a different thing. We are not discussing that here. We are discussing knowledge that is used as a means to security, the psychological and inward desire to be something. What do you get through knowledge? The authority of knowledge, the weight of knowledge, the sense of importance, dignity, the sense of vitality and what-not? A man who says ‘I know’, ‘There is’ or ‘There is not’ surely has stopped thinking, stopped pursuing this whole process of desire.

Our problem then, as I see it, is that we are bound, weighed down by belief, by knowledge; and is it possible for a mind to be free from yesterday and from the beliefs that have been acquired through the process of yesterday? Do you understand the question? Is it possible for me as an individual and you as an individual to live in this society and yet be free from the belief in which we have been brought up? Is it possible for the mind to be free of all that knowledge, all that authority? We read the various scriptures, religious books. There they have very carefully described what to do, what not to do, how to attain the goal, what the goal is and what God is. You all know that by heart and you have pursued that. That is your knowledge, that is what you have acquired, that is what you have learnt; along that path you pursue. Obviously what you pursue and seek, you will find. But is it reality? is it not the projection of your own knowledge? It is not reality. Is it possible to realize that now – not tomorrow but now – and say, ‘I see the truth of it,’ and let it go, so that your mind is not crippled by this process of imagination, of projection?

Is the mind capable of freedom from belief? You can only be free from it when you understand the inward nature of the causes that make you hold on to it, not only the conscious but the unconscious motives as well, that make you believe. After all, we are not merely a superficial entity functioning on the conscious level. We can find out the deeper conscious and unconscious activities if we give the unconscious mind a chance, because it is much quicker in response than the conscious mind. While your conscious mind is quietly thinking, listening and watching, the unconscious mind is much more active, much more alert and much more receptive; it can, therefore, have an answer. Can the mind which has been subjugated, intimidated, forced, compelled to believe, can such a mind be free to think? Can it look anew and remove the process of isolation between you and another?

Please do not say that belief brings people together. It does not. That is obvious. No organized religion has ever done that. Look at yourselves in your own country. You are all believers, but are you all together? Are you all united? You yourselves know you are not. You are divided into so many petty little parties, castes; you know the innumerable divisions. The process is the same right through the world – whether in the east or in the west – Christians destroying Christians, murdering each other for petty little things, driving people into camps and so on, the whole horror of war. Therefore belief does not unite people. That is so clear. If that is clear and that is true, and if you see it, then it must be followed. But the difficulty is that most of us do not see, because we are not capable of facing that inward insecurity, that inward sense of being alone. We want something to lean on, whether it is the State, whether it is the caste, whether it is nationalism, whether it is a master or a saviour or anything else. And when we see the falseness of all this, the mind then is capable – it may be temporally for a second – of seeing the truth of it; even though when it is too much for it, it goes back. But to see temporarily is sufficient; if you can see it for a fleeting second, it is enough; because you will then see an extraordinary thing taking place. The unconscious is at work, though the conscious may reject. It is not a progressive second; but that second is the only thing, and it will have its own results, even in spite of the conscious mind struggling against it.

So our question is: Is it possible for the mind to be free from knowledge and belief? Is not the mind made up of knowledge and belief? Is not the structure of the mind belief and knowledge? Belief and knowledge are the processes of recognition, the centre of the mind. The process is enclosing, the process is conscious as well as unconscious. Can the mind be free of its own structure? Can the mind cease to be? That is the problem. Mind, as we know it, has belief behind it, has desire, the urge to be secure, knowledge, and accumulation of strength. If, with all its power and superiority, one cannot think for oneself there can be no peace in the world.

You may talk about peace, you may organize political parties, you may shout from the housetops; but you cannot have peace; because in the mind is the very basis which creates contradiction, which isolates and separates. A man of peace, a man of earnestness, cannot isolate himself and yet talk of brotherhood and peace. It is just a game, political or religious, a sense of achievement and ambition. A man who is really earnest about this, who wants to discover, has to face the problem of knowledge and belief; he has to go behind it, to discover the whole process of desire at work, the desire to be secure, the desire to be certain.

A mind that would be in a state in which the new can take place – whether it be the truth, whether it be God, or what you will – must surely cease to acquire, to gather; it must put aside all knowledge. A mind burdened with knowledge cannot possibly understand, surely, that which is real, which is not measurable.