Krishnamurti on Fear
‘Most of us are concerned with trimming fear, like we trim branches of a tree. And we think this is good enough, but we don’t challenge ourselves whether it is possible to be completely free of fear.’
This week’s episode on Fear has five sections.
The first extract (2:24) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in San Francisco 1983, titled ‘We are two friends discussing fear’.
The second extract (9:34) is from the fifth talk in Saanen 1981, titled ‘What is fear?’
The third extract (23:52) is from Krishnamurti’s third question and answer meeting in Ojai 1981, titled ‘Observing fear’.
The fourth extract (47:56) is from the second question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1985, titled ‘Fear of change’.
The final extract (57:22) is from Krishnamurti’s sixth talk in Saanen 1981, titled ‘Fear of dying’.
We Are Two Friends Discussing Fear
We are walking down a lane in a wood, sitting down on the ground, looking at all the magnificent trees, and talking about serious matters, like two friends who are concerned with the world and with themselves. And in their conversation, this question of fear arises. They are asking themselves whether this fear can ever end completely. And one of the friends says it can, it is possible. One must understand, not intellectually, superficially but very deeply that time and thought are involved in the causation of fear. Now, the friend says, ‘I can’t stop time or thought, it is impossible to stop it.’ But the other friend says it is not a question of stopping it, it is not trying to exercise will in order to stop it, but to understand where time and thought are necessary and where they are not. So the friend says time and thought are necessary in the physical world – learning a language, a skill, and so on. To put together a computer requires time and thought and knowledge. There it is necessary, the friend says. And the other says, ‘Yes, I accept that. That is natural, it is inevitable, it is necessary. But in the psychological world the brain has been conditioned through time, through thought, so to understand the nature of fear one must understand why the brain’ – I hope you are following all this, we are two friends talking together – ‘is conditioned by knowledge, which is experience. And that experience and knowledge has been the process of evolution, both outwardly and inwardly. But you are suggesting that what we consider necessary psychologically is an illusion, not a fact.’
So they discuss the matter because they have plenty of time. It is a lovely morning; the birds are singing and there are shadows, numberless, of the trees on the ground. It is a pleasant, lovely morning, and the subject is not morbid, but they have to find out. And it is important to find out. So one of the friends says, ‘One can understand the necessity of time and thought, where it should be, but has it any place in the area of the psyche?’ That is, the psyche is put together by thought, and thought says, ‘I will become better.’ The ‘better’ is the movement of time. The ‘better’ is measurement. The ‘more’ is measurement, comparison.
Now, can one live without comparison whatsoever? Of course, you have to compare between two cars, two houses, two gardens, two machines and so on, but why should we live always comparing inwardly? Is it possible, he asks his friend, to live without comparison whatsoever? That is, never compare, never try to become something more, because the self, however evolved, however much it becomes better, will still be the self, will still be very, very refined selfishness. So, when one realises the fact, the truth that thought is necessary and time in the physical world, then thought and time have no place in the psychological world.
Krishnamurti in San Francisco 1983, Talk 2
What Is Fear?
The problem is fear. Again this is the common ground of all mankind whether you are living in a small house or in a palace, whether you have no work or have plenty of work, whether you have tremendous knowledge about everything on earth, whether you are a priest, whether you are the highest representative of God or whatever it is, there is still this deep-rooted fear in all mankind. That is a common ground on which all humanity stands. There is no question about it. That is an absolute, irrevocable fact. It cannot be contradicted; it is a fact. And as long as the brain is caught in this pattern of fear, its operation is limited, and therefore it can never function wholly. So it behoves us, it is necessary if humanity is to survive completely as human beings not as machines – one must find out for oneself whether it is possible to be totally free from this fear, not only physical fears of losing a job, of getting hurt, of having pain which has been experienced last week, and carry on with that remembrance of that pain, and therefore hoping that pain will not recur, and fear involved in it. There is biological fear and deep, psychological, rooted fears.
You are looking at yourself, not at the speaker. The speaker is not important. What is important is to look at the content of our consciousness with its fear. We are not talking about the various forms of fear – fear of old age, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of anxiety, fear which breeds hate, fear of not arriving, not achieving, not fulfilling, not reaching nirvana, or whatever you want to reach spiritually. We are not talking about the objects of fear but fear itself. See the difference. We are afraid about something, or fear of something. Fear of yesterday, or fear of tomorrow, which is fear of time. I am going to go into that a little bit. So we are talking about fear itself, not the expressions of fear.
What is fear? When there is fear, at that very moment is there a recognition, as fear? There is fear in me, suppose. Is that fear describable at the moment it is taking place – the reaction – or after? The after is time. I wonder if you see this. Are we meeting together in this?
I am afraid. Suppose I am afraid. Either I am afraid about something, or I am afraid of something that I have done in the past that I don’t want you to realise or know. Or something has happened in the past, which again awakens that fear. Or is there a fear by itself without the object? When there is fear, at that second do I call it fear, or only after it has come? It is surely after it has happened. Which means what? The memory of other incidents of fear has been held in the brain, and the moment that reaction takes place, the memory says, ‘That is fear.’
Are we together in this? I will explain again. How we depend on explanations – how terrible!
I recognise that with the immediacy of that feeling, I don’t call it fear. It is only after it has happened that I name it as fear. The naming of it as fear is the remembrance of other incidents that have arisen which have caused fear. I remember those fears of the past, and the new feeling arises and I immediately identify it with the word ‘fear’. That is simple enough. So there is always the memory operating on the present.
So we are inquiring: what is fear? Is fear time? Fear of that something which happened a week ago, which has caused that feeling which I have named as fear, and the future implications that it must not happen again. And it might happen, therefore I am afraid of it. So I am asking myself, and you are asking yourself: is it time that is the root of fear?
So what is time? Time by the watch is very simple. There is sunrise at a certain time, and the sun sets at a certain time. And yesterday, today, tomorrow – that is a natural sequence of time. There is also psychological time in us. That is, the incident which happened last week, which has given pleasure or which has awakened the sense of fear, and the remembrance of that projecting not only in the present being modified, but the future. I may not have a job, I may lose my position, I may lose my money, I may lose my wife – time. So is fear part of time? It looks like it. And what is psychological time?
There is time by the clock, obviously. If one has to catch a train, it is fixed; there is time. To go from here to there requires time, and so on. Time implies space, not only physical time which needs space; there is also psychological time which needs space – yesterday, last week, modified today, and tomorrow. There is space and time. That is simple. So is fear the movement of time? And is not the movement of time psychologically the movement of thought?
You are following all this? Please, this is very good education for each one of us.
So thought is time. Time is fear, obviously. I have had pain sitting with the dentist. I remember it, stored, projected; I hope not to have that pain again. Thought is moving, which is, time of yesterday’s pain, held, and not wanting it again. So fear is a movement in space and time which is thought. If one sees that not as an idea but an actuality, which means one has to pay attention to that pain, that fear which happened last week, to give to that fear complete attention at the moment it arises, then it is not registered. Do try, do this and you will find out for yourself.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Talk 5
Can we, each one of us, consciously, sensitively, be aware of one’s own fear? Do we know our own fear? Doesn’t matter what – it may be losing a job, not having money, death and so on – can we look at it first, not try to dissolve it or conquer it, or go beyond it, but observe it, consciously observe, sensitively, the fears, or one fear that one has, a dominant fear. And there are dormant fears that are asleep, deep-rooted, unconscious, way down in the recesses of one’s own mind. Can those dormant fears, which lie deeply within one, be awakened and looked at now? Or must those dormant fears appear only in a crisis, in a shock, in certain strong challenges? Or can one awaken the whole structure of fear? Not only the conscious fears but also the deep unconscious, the shadowy recesses of one’s brain which has collected fears. Can we do that? Can we look at our fear? And how do we look at it? How do we face it?
Suppose I am frightened – I am not – that I cannot be saved except by some divine person. There is a deep-rooted fear of two thousand years. I am not even observing that fear; it is part of my tradition, part of my conditioning that there is only… I can’t do anything but somebody else, an outside agency is going to help me, save me. Save me I don’t know from what, but it doesn’t matter. And that is part of one’s fear. And of course, there is the fear of death; that is the ultimate fear, and so on. Can one, can I observe a particular fear I have and not guide it, shape it, overcome it or try to rationalise it? It is there – can I look at it? And how do I observe it? Perhaps this may be rather important. Do I observe it as an outsider looking in, or do I observe it as part of me?
Fear is not separate from my consciousness. Fear is not separate, something outside of me. Fear is part of me, obviously. So can I observe that fear without the division of the observer and the observed? Can I observe that fear without the division that thought has created between the entity that says, ‘I must face fear’ – just to observe fear without that division, is that possible?
You see, our conditioning, our training, our education, our religious ambitions all point out that the two are separate – the ‘me’ is different from that which is not me. You see, we never recognise or accept the fact that violence is not separate from me. I think that may be one of the factors why we are not able to be free of fear, because we are always operating on fear. We are always saying to ourselves: I must get rid of it, what am I to do with it, is there a way? All the rationalisation, inquiry, as though fear is something separate from the inquirer, from the person who inquires into fear.
So can we observe fear without that division? That is, the word ‘fear’ is not fear. And also see whether the word creates fear – like the word ‘communist’, for many people it is a frightening word. So can we look at that thing called fear without the word, and also find out if the word is creating the fear.
Then is there another factor which is not mere observation but bringing or having energy which will dissipate that fear, having such tremendous energy that fear doesn’t exist? Is fear a matter of lack of energy, lack of attention? And if it is a lack of energy, how does one come about naturally to have this tremendous vitality, energy that pushes everything, fear away altogether? So that may be the factor that will dissipate, or that energy will have no sense of fear.
You see, most of us dissipate our energy in constant occupation with something or other: constant occupation if you are a housewife or if you are a businessman, if you are a scientist, it doesn’t matter, a careerist – you are always occupied. And such occupation maybe, and is, I think, a dissipation of energy. Like the man who is perpetually occupied about meditation, perpetually occupied with the concern about whether there is God – or, you know, various forms of occupation. Is not such occupation, which is, constantly thinking about it, worrying about it, concerned about it, is that not a waste of energy? If one is afraid and you say, ‘I must not be afraid, what am I to do?’ and so on, which is another kind of occupation, that may be one of the factors of the lack of energy. It is only a mind that is free from occupation of any kind that has tremendous energy. That may be one of the factors that may dissipate fear.
Another factor is time. Time is fear. Time, which is an interval between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’, time between now and the end. We explained that the other day so I don’t want to go into it too much, but we can see what a great part time plays in our life. The learning of a language requires time; learning about any technical subject requires time, and we also accept time in the psychological world, in the area where the psyche functions. That is, the area where thought is constructing, building, changing, operating, reasoning, doubting – all that is the area of time also. When one says, ‘I am afraid, but I will not be afraid,’ the future is time. So, ‘I will be. I am not but I will be’, may the root of fear.
Or is there a totally different factor at all? That is, we have inquired, facing fear, actually observing it consciously, sensitively aware without any choice, without any direction, just to watch it. And we also said watching is important. How you watch, how you observe; if you are an outsider observing then you maintain the duality, and then conflict arises. And the other is: time is a factor of fear. And is there an energy that has no fear whatsoever? Or is there an energy that sees fear and is completely free of it immediately?
Also there are the unconscious fears, the racial fears that one has inherited from time beyond time, the fears of our past generations one has inherited, which are dormant. Can all these dormant, silent, hidden fears be revealed completely, not go step by step, one fear after the other? It is possible to reveal all the dormant fears, fears that have never been observed, never even come to the surface, can all that be totally awakened, and in the very awakening of it is the ending of it?
I wonder if you follow all this. Are we moving together, or am I walking a lonely path?
You see, one of our misfortunes is that we are so clever in investigating, analysing, we never see things immediately as a whole, a holistic perception of all fear. That is, can we see psychologically the whole operation of fear in which in the very observation of that, observing wholly, completely, absolutely, the dormant fears must – will – inevitably come out, and observe. You see, most of us are concerned with trimming fear; like you trim trees, branches, so most of us want to trim fears. And we think that is good enough. But we never challenge ourselves whether it is possible to be completely free of fear. One may have done things wrong in the past – that also brings fear. Look at it, face it.
You see, most of us do not demand of ourselves to be free; to be free of these burdens which we have inherited from time past, fear and so on, to say: can my brain ever be free of fear? And questioning it, asking, demanding it, needs a certain persistency, a certain sense of immediacy, but we are not like that at all.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 3
Fear of Change
Question: I am afraid to change. If I change, what will happen afterwards? I am paralysed by this. Can you talk about this problem?
I am afraid to change. If I change what will happen afterwards? I am paralysed by this. Can you talk about this problem?
Why is one afraid of change? What do you mean by that word ‘change’? One has lived in this house across the lawn for about nearly twenty years. One becomes attached to that particular room, to the nice furniture up there. One becomes attached. That means what you are attached to is what you are. If one is attached to that good old furniture, you are that furniture. So we are afraid to change. I am attached to that room. Fortunately the speaker travels a great deal – that is only an excuse.
So what does that word imply? Change from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’. That is one change. Or change according to my old pattern but remain within the pattern. Going across one corner of the field, I say I have moved, I’ve changed, but it is still within the same field, barricaded, barb wired. Going north, east, west, south is change. Why do we use that word?
Biologically one is told there is constant change in the blood, constant movement, change – one cell dies another cell takes its place, or a series of molecules and so on. There is this constant change going on physically. And we are afraid to change. Could we drop that word ‘change’? Change implies time, doesn’t it? I am this; I will change to that. Or I have been that, and some event will come along, take place, and that event will change me and so on. Change implies a movement in time. We went into the question of time the other day. Should I repeat? Should the speaker go into it again? Time. It is a very complex thing time. Very. I won’t go into it; this is not the occasion.
So if you could drop that word ‘change’, or ‘revolution’, or ‘mutation’ – the speaker has used all these words – if you could drop all those words then we are only faced with ‘what is’, not ‘what it should be’, but only face ‘what is’. I am angry. That is ‘what is’. I am violent. That is ‘what is’. But to become politically or religiously non-violent is a change. To become non-violent when I am violent takes time. In that interval, I am sowing the seeds of violence. That is all so simple. So I remain with violence, not try to change it.
I am angry. That is a fact. There are no excuses for anger. I can find a dozen excuses for hate and anger but those inquiries into why I get angry are another escape from anger because I have moved away. So the brain remains with ‘what is’ then see what happens. That is, I am jealous of you – not me – I am jealous of you because you look so much nicer, cleaner, good taste, you have got good brains, and I am envious of you. Out of that envy comes hate. Envy is part of hate. Envy is part of comparison. I would like to be like you but I can’t. So I become rather antagonised; I feel violent about you. So I remain with ‘what is’. That is, I see I am envious. There it is: I am envious. That envy is not different from me. Envy is me. So I can’t do anything about it. I hold it. I stay with it. Will you stay with it? Not escape, not to find out the cause or the reason, or go beyond it. I am envy. See what takes place. First, there is no conflict, obviously. If I am envious, I am envious. Conflict only exists when I don’t want to be envious. So if I stay with it, I have got tremendous energy. Energy is like light throwing on something – focused light on something, which then becomes very clear. And that which is very clear you are not afraid of, paralysed by. It is so.
So what is important in this question is not to escape, not to make an effort, just to remain with ‘what is’. If I am British, I remain with that. See what happens, how narrow it becomes. Sorry if you are British, sorry, forgive me – or French or Russian, or whatever it is. The thing itself begins to show its whole content.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1985, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Fear of Dying
Is the organism coming to an end? Either through some disease, old age or an accident, it will come to an end. And is that what we are concerned about, death? Is it that thought identifies itself with the body, with the name, with the form, with all the memories, and says, ‘Death must be avoided’? So is that what we are afraid of, the coming to an end of a body that has been looked after, cared for – if you care for it? I don’t think we are afraid of that especially. We are a little bit slyly anxious about it, but that is not of great importance. What is far more important for us is to end the relationships that we have had, the pleasures that we have had, the memories, pleasant and unpleasant, the thing that we call living, the daily living, going to the office, factory, doing some skilful job, having a family, being attached to the family, with all the memories of that family: my son, my daughter, my wife, my husband, that unit which is fast disappearing, but there is that feeling of being related to somebody. Though in that relationship there is great pain, anxiety and all the rest of it, it is there. I am at home with somebody – or you are not at home with anybody. If you are not at home with anybody, then that has its own sorrow.
So is that what we are afraid of, the ending of my relationship, my attachments, the ending of something I have known, something to which I have clung, something in which I have specialised all my life? I am afraid of ending it. That is, the ending of all that is me. All that: the family, the name, the form, the tradition, the inheritance, cultural education, the racial inheritance – you know, all that is ‘me’; ‘me’ that is struggling, ‘me’ that is happy – is that what we are afraid of, the ending of ‘me’, which is all that? Which is, the ending psychologically of the life which I am leading, the life which I know psychologically, with its pain, sorrow, all that – is that what we are afraid of? If we are afraid of that, and have not resolved that fear, death inevitably comes, and what happens to your consciousness? What happens to that consciousness? Which is not your consciousness – which we went into pretty thoroughly. It is the consciousness of mankind, consciousness of the vast humanity, not my consciousness – we went into that very carefully; I won’t go into it now, I haven’t time.
So please see that as long as I am afraid as an individual with my limited consciousness, it is that I am afraid of. It is that which I am scared of. And to avoid that, I go through all kinds of nonsense – Gabriel and, you know, all that stuff. One realises that is not a fact. It is not a fact that my consciousness is totally separate from everybody else. It is an illusion; it is an absurdity, illogical; it is unsanitary, if I can use that word, unhealthy. So – follow this carefully – I realise this, perhaps in my heart. In my feeling, I realise that I am the whole of mankind, not an individual consciousness – that is too silly, illogical; it has no meaning. And I, who have lived this kind of life, which is pain, which is sorrow, which is anxiety, all that, if my brain has not transformed, the sum of all that I am merely, then my life is only adding further confusion to the wholeness. But if I, living it, realise that my consciousness is the consciousness of mankind, and for the human consciousness I am totally responsible, then freedom from the limitation of that consciousness becomes extraordinarily important because then I am contributing or I am breaking down the limitation of that consciousness. So death has a totally different meaning.
I have lived the so-called individual life, concerned about myself, my problems. And those problems never end; they are increasing. I live that kind of life. I have been brought up, educated, conditioned to that kind of life. You come along and tell me pleasantly, as a friend, or you like me, or you love me, you tell me: your consciousness is not yours. You suffer, so do other people suffer, and so on. I have gone into this. So you tell me all that. I listen to it, and it makes sense to me. I won’t reject what you say because it makes logical sense, sanity, and I see in what you have told me perhaps there can be peace in the world. So I have listened to you and I say to myself, now, can I be free from fear? Because I am responsible totally for the whole of consciousness. So when I am investigating fear and the moving away from fear, I am helping the total human consciousness to lessen fear. Then death has a totally different meaning. Not that I am going to sit next to God or I am going to heaven through some peculiar nebulae, but I am living a life which is not my particular life. I am living a life of the whole of humanity. And if I understand death, if I end grief, I am cleansing the whole of the consciousness of mankind. That is why it is important to understand the meaning of death.
And perhaps death has great significance, great relationship with love because where you end something, love is. When you end completely attachment, then love is.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Talk 6