Can we be free of fear?
The way of meditation
2nd Public Talk, New Delhi
November 01, 1981
We are going to talk this evening over many things. We are going to talk about fear basically, whether the mind, whether this life that we lead with a great deal of fear can ever be resolved. Whether man, who has carried this fear for millennia upon millennia, can ever be free fundamentally, deeply, of fear. That is what the subject of this evening is.
But before we go into that question we should consider together what is the quality of a mind that listens? How do you, if I may most politely and respectfully ask, how do you listen? Not only to what the speaker is saying, but also how do you listen to people, to your friends, to your wife, to your husband? Do you ever listen? Or it is merely a passing reaction, a partial listening? Do you ever listen to anybody totally, completely, with all your attention, giving your heart and your mind to what is being said? Or we listen very casually, partially. So first, if one may point out, there is an art of listening. Like a great many other arts in life, the art of listening is very important. If one could listen so completely, not partially, with all your mind, with your nerves, with your heart, with your brain, listen to what is being said, not interpreting it, what is being said, not translating according to what you would like to hear, or, as you are listening, compare to what you already know, then you actually are not listening, you are just wandering off in the side lines. So could we find out how we listen? How you actually listen. Because that may be the clue to great depth in understanding, not only what your wife, your husband, other people say, but also what the speaker is saying. The speaker is not saying anything extraordinary. All that he is pointing out is that in listening, not only with the hearing of the ear but at a greater depth, which is not merely an intellection. That is, trying to understand the words and arguing with those words, but listening without any reaction, just to listen as you listen to good music, as you listen to a bird of an evening before they go to bed.
So there is an art to listening. Are you listening now? Or trying to understand what is listening? That is, you say something to me and I listen so completely that there is communication between us totally. There is not only verbal communication but also non-verbal communication - either it is a gesture, a look, a wave of the hand and so on. There is verbal communication and non-verbal communication. In listening both are necessary. The understanding of the meaning of the words and also capturing the significance that lies beyond the word. Please, if you don't mind find out how you listen because that will show how your mind is operating, how you think, how you feel, to go into yourself and watch your own mind operating, functioning.
And also there is an art of seeing - to observe. To observe a tree, a person, to observe the movement of your own thinking; to observe your own reactions, your own loneliness, depression, sorrow, pain; to observe the quality of your mind, whether that quality is merely repetitive, whether having read a great many books it merely repeats what other people have said, or you have discovered it, that you are a second-hand human being - because that is how we live, on what other people have said, and discover whether you can find for yourself something original, something true. And so in observing it requires a great deal of honesty. Honesty, not to some ideal, or try to be honest, but to see, to observe, or be aware of the movement of your thought, the movement of your own feelings, whether you are lonely, as most of us are. And when that feeling arises what you do - to be aware in observation.
So there is the art of hearing, the art of listening, and there is the art of learning. It is not difficult, all this. If you go into it you will see it for yourself. When we learn, we learn to acquire knowledge, and according to that knowledge act skilfully. When you go to school, college, university, that is the whole process of learning - accumulating information, knowledge, and acting from that knowledge. That is what we are used to. That is, accumulate experience, knowledge, memory - act. And that is what we call learning, like learning a new language. You study it very carefully, listen to the intonation of the speaker and repeat after him, learn the words. So gradually through time you have acquired a great many words, how to use the verbs and make a sentence and so on. That is what we are accustomed to, that is what we call learning, so that we can have a good job to acquire security physically. But there is another kind of learning; because knowledge is never complete about any subject, so thought born of knowledge is always incomplete, because knowledge, being incomplete, lives in the shadow of ignorance. Please, you are listening. You are not repeating afterwards what I am saying. You are listening to what is being said. It is not whether you agree or disagree, but learning the art of listening.
So as we have said, there is a different kind of learning, not merely accumulating knowledge which is necessary at a certain level in our lives, but to learn clarity. Clarity cannot be learnt, but to observe clarity, what is implied in not having a good clear brain and see its incapacity, and see to what extent it is limited, and learn, watching without accumulation, the whole movement of our existence. I don't know if you understand all this.
So there are these three arts: the art of hearing, the art of seeing, the art of learning. That is, the art of learning is to perceive instantly what is being said, whether it is true or false. And to see in the false the truth. So to have a very quick mind, quick brain, a sensitive brain. But if it is loaded with information of what other people, philosophers, teachers, sacred books and your own gurus have said, then that brain is clogged. The speaker used to know a very well-known author. He could talk about any subject. He had read a vast amount through the years - he could talk about Vedanta, Indian philosophy, Zen, science, music, painting and the Christian mystics and so on and so on - full of knowledge. So one day on a walk he was saying, 'I wonder, as my brain is so full of knowledge, whether I can ever have an original experience, an original contact with something untouched by thought.'
So knowledge is important at a certain level, otherwise I couldn't speak, we wouldn't be here; but there is an activity - or, one has to perceive something beyond knowledge, which we will go into when we talk about meditation and so on. So that is the first thing: please find out how your mind is working, how your brain is acting. Whether it is merely reacting or whether the brain which is always partial, it's - all right, I will go into it. Our brain is limited. That is, we are only using a very, very small part of the brain. We are never using the whole of the brain. And that little part of the brain is conditioned by knowledge, conditioned by the desire to be secure and so invent nationalism, which is tribalism and so on. Now to find out whether the whole of the brain can be active, not only just part of it, you have to enquire into the sensory responses. Do you follow all this? Can I go on? Yes, I can go on but are you listening to what is being said?
You see the brain is the centre of all our sensory responses - it's obvious, and that we are only using part of it. And we are asking whether the whole of the brain can operate. It functions only - please just listen, don't accept this, just listen to it, I may be wrong because we have discussed this question with scientists and so on, I may be wrong but find out for yourself that we are acting, thinking, our brain is limited, it is functioning partially and whether the whole of the brain can function fully. It is an important question to ask and to find an answer to it. It can operate only completely when all our senses are in full operation. You understand? That is, only our senses are partial, either we see things very clearly optically, hear clearly, feel very clearly, and so on but they are partial. One of the senses is not fully operating. Or the other sense is fully operating, the other is not. I don't know if you are following all this? Does all this interest you?
So to find out whether the brain can operate completely, wholly, all the senses must operate at the same moment, at the same level, with the same intensity. Then you will find when the total movement of all the senses are moving, there is no centre from which - there is no centre, let us put it that way. There is no centre. It is only when the partial sensory responses take place there is a centre. That is the beginning of the ego, the me, the self.
So, I hope you are listening to all this to find out for yourself how your brain works, whether it is partially operating and therefore being conditioned, and whether that conditioning can ever be free, totally free from all conditioning. And that can only take place when the whole of the senses are fully in operation.
So we are going to discuss fear. This is necessary to understand how one's brain, one's mind, one's feelings, are working. Before we discuss together - this is not a lecture as is generally understood; it is a conversation between us, two people, or half a dozen people talking over their problems, human problems. And so you are sharing, not just casually listening, you are sharing in what is being said. So you are observing your own responses, your own fears, your own desires. To understand fear, that is, the root of fear, one has to understand first, desire. What is desire? Most of us through religious training, or religious sanctions, or religiously inclined, suppress our desires. All the monks throughout the world try to suppress their desires, or identify themselves with something greater than desire and so hope to transmute desire; or run away from desire, never looking at a woman but always keeping their eyes closed, or on a book or something or other. You know all this.
So we are trying to understand what is desire, not the object of desire. Right? You may desire a better house, or a better government job, or desire for something or other. We are not discussing the objects of desire but together we are examining what is the root of desire, how does desire arise, what is its place, why human beings have always been driven by desire. So to understand or to comprehend fully the nature of fear we must understand also how desire arises. Now please listen to it so you are not listening to the speaker but you are listening to yourself, finding out for yourself how desire comes. You have a desire for a sari you see in the window, or a shirt, or a suit, or a car. Desire is very close to envy. You might envy another, you might envy the speaker - having a large audience, a reputation, all that nonsense. So it is very important to understand the source of desire; what tremendous part it plays in our life. Desire is part of ambition. Desire brings about this competitive state, the competition between two nations, competition between two people. Desire is at the root of that. And to go into it very deeply, though the speaker describes it verbally, you are actually observing your own desire, if you are at all aware of your desire. You want to be something - more beautiful, taller, shorter, curly hair, god knows what else.
So it is important to understand how desire arises. The speaker will explain it step by step but you are listening to your own desire, observing it, closely following the movement of that desire. First there is perception, the seeing of a suit or a shirt, or a sari in the window, then touching it, contact, then there is sensation. Right? The seeing, contact, then sensation. Right? This happens. You see a blue shirt in the window, you go inside, feel the texture of it, the sensation. Or you see a car, a beautiful car - I don't know if they have beautiful cars in India - then you touch the surface of it, from that touching you derive a sensation. Then what happens? Thought creates the image of you sitting in that car and driving off. Or seeing that blue shirt in the window, touching it, feeling the texture, the sensation, then thought says, 'How nice it would be on me.' So, please follow this carefully. Seeing, contact, sensation, then thought creating the image. When thought creates the image that is the moment of desire. Are you listening to this - not only listening to the speaker, you are discovering for yourself. You are observing this? That is, desire arises naturally when thought creates the image, not when there is sensation, but only when thought creates that image of you in the car, then the desire says, 'I must have that car', or 'I must have that shirt'.
Now, if one is aware of this process, completely aware, not saying 'I must have that shirt' - or not - aware of the process of desire then at the moment when thought arises with its image, whether that image and thought can be postponed. Do you get it? Have you understood this? No, please, don't say, yes, this is tremendously important. That is, I am aware of that car, me sitting in that car. I have seen it, I have touched it, I have the feeling of the beauty of that car. Then thought arises, me sitting in the car, driving off. At that moment when thought creates the image, desire begins. So is my attention, or awareness, so clear to postpone or not allow thought to arise with its image? That requires a great deal of inward attention. That is the real discipline because I am learning. The word 'discipline' comes from the word 'disciple'. The disciple is learning from the master, from the teacher. But discipline generally is understood as imitation, conformity, enforcing, driving yourself to do something which you don't want to do - like a soldier drilling from morning till night till all his brains go out. So there is a kind of learning which in itself becomes order. When you perceive that thought creating the image is the moment of desire, then you have the whole thing in observation. Therefore it is never yielding or suppressing desire. You understand?
So that is the first thing about desire when you are examining fear because there is fear in our desires. One may not get it, one may not have it, one may not fulfil. And also when we are examining together fear we must understand a most fundamental thing which is time. May we go on? You are not tired?
What is time? We live by time. Get up in the morning. Go to the office for the next ten hours, or eight hours, come back - we live by time, that is by the watch, chronologically, by sunrise, sunset. And our brains have evolved through time. It is not your particular brain, it is the brain of humanity. I won't go into that for the moment. So time is part of our life: growing from childhood to adolescence, middle age and dying. All that involves time. Learning a language, learning a new skill, requires time. To go from here to your house requires time, that is, to cover the distance from one point to another point. So all that is time, which is according to sunrise, sunset, according to chronology, according to a watch. But also there is another kind of time, this inward time. That is, I hope to be; I hope to be happy. That is in the future. I hope to succeed; I am this, but I will be that. I am unhappy now, but give me time, I will get over it. So there is time by the watch, by the day, by the stars, and also there is psychological time. This is not complex, just pointing out, and please listen to it. So time yesterday, today and tomorrow. That is, the past modifying itself in the present and continuing in the future. Right? This is what we are doing all the time. This is called progress. This is called evolution. This is called ascent of man through knowledge. Right? I have learnt, or I have had pain yesterday, physical pain, it has been recorded and there is a fear that it might happen again, that is time. So there is yesterday's remembrance, modified by the present, continued into the future, psychologically. That is, I am violent today; I hope through time, through an ideal of non-violence, I will achieve non-violence - which is nonsense.
Now, let's take that one example and look at it: I am violent, all human beings have the seed of violence in them. And I don't know how to get over this violence because it is very disturbing. So I invent an idea of non-violence. The fact is I am violent. Right? The non-fact is non-violence. Right? It is a non-fact. So I am moving from the fact of violence to a non-fact, which is illusory. I hope through an idea of non-violence I will be free of violence. This is what you are preaching, all of you have been preached to, repeat over again the ideal of non-violence. But the fact is you are violent. It takes time to arrive at non-violence, in the meantime you are sowing violence. I don't know if you are following all this. Whereas if you face the fact without the idea of non-violence you can deal with it. But if you are all the time pretending to be non-violent, because you are trying to be non-violent, which is pretence, whereas actually you are violent. And if you can face that fact and deal with the fact it is much more easy than facing non-violence.
So time, desire and time are part of the fact of fear. That is, I have done something last week, I want to cover it up, it is not pleasant. I may have told a lie, I cover it up and I am afraid somebody is going to discover it. So I am afraid. I am afraid not to become a successful sannyasi. I am afraid of not achieving a position which I am craving for. So I have so many urges, so many fears: that I might die, that I am not beautiful, that I have to learn so much - you know, we have innumerable fears. So we are not discussing the branches of fear. You understand this? We are not discussing the various branches of fear but fear itself. Have you understood? Are you following this? Not what you are afraid of, but what is fear? You understand? So what is fear? Fear of the unknown, fear of something, fear from something. So there is a cause to fear. Right? The cause may be that I have done something wrong and I don't want you to discover it because I am pretending to myself I am a great man, and there is the fear of discovery. I am not talking of what I have done which causes fear but fear itself. You understand the difference? Fear in itself, fear about something. (Are you trying to hide behind the light?)
You understand the difference? Fear about something, or fear in itself. You can understand fear about something. That is fairly simple. I am frightened of you - you are taller, bigger, more powerful, I am frightened of you. Or I am examining fear itself, not about something, or away from something. You get this? So I am asking: what is fear? Has it something to do with time? Has it something to do with the future? Again about the future: I may not get what I want. Or I am lonely, as most of us know the terrible burden of loneliness. You may have many friends, you may have a name, you may have a good position, but there is always the shadow of loneliness with its despair, and one is frightened of that loneliness. The fear of loneliness prevents us from looking into the depth of that loneliness, what is the reason of that loneliness. You are following? Are we meeting each other? Communicating with each other?
So we are trying to find out together the root of fear. Is it thought? Is it thought that creates fear? I am but I am not. I am not good but I will be good. Which is again the movement of thought in time. You are following all this? So is thought the origin of fear? That is, I think I am quite secure in whatever I am doing. I think I am quite secure but there is always the shadow lurking that something might happen and I will be insecure. Which is, I am secure financially, or in different ways, or there is a shadow saying 'Look, something might happen to you tomorrow.' So thought may be the origin of fear. Right? Which is thought is time. That is, please follow this - how one demands explanations! One doesn't see instantly the truth of this. You want explanation, you want to be convinced, you want to be told over and over again, then you say, 'I have got it'. That is, what is the root of fear? Is it thought? Obviously it is. I might die tomorrow. Thinking about death causes fear. So thought is the origin of fear. And thought is time. That is, I am all right today but tomorrow there might be danger, I might die with a heart attack. So time, which is future, and thought which says, 'I might die.' So time and thought are the same. Time is a movement. Thought is a movement. So time and thought are the beginning of fear.
Please sirs, for God's sake, this is too serious to take photographs, please! Sir, this requires your attention if you want to understand fear and whether the mind can ever be free from fear. So this is very serious because fear is a dreadful thing for all of us. It darkens our lives. It shrivels us. It makes us so shallow, petty, little, living in darkness. So it is a very serious question whether the human mind can ever be free from fear. Man has lived with fear; we are accustomed to fear; we put up with anything: lack of water, lack of electricity, dirt, squalor. We accept everything, we don't rebel. And we have lived with fear. We have never said, is it possible to be totally, completely free from fear. And the speaker says it is. That is, fear is thought and time.
Now, wait a minute: then you might ask a question: how am I to stop thinking? Because realising that thinking causes fear, thinking is time, then the natural question is: tell me how to stop thinking. You ask that question naturally. Is that the right question? You may ask a question, it may be a wrong question and therefore you will get the wrong answer. But is that the right question? You are following this? You are watching your own mind, not listening to me only. You are watching your mind, seeing that time, the future, and thought thinking about the future, gets frightened. I might die with a heart attack tomorrow - I get frightened. So fear comes about through time and thought. Time is thought.
So you ask that question: please explain how to stop thinking so that I will have no fear? I am asking: is that the right question? Or you see for yourself the nature of thought, and the movement of time. You see it for yourself. There is nobody to tell you how to stop thinking. But you discover for yourself the movement of thought, thought being, as we explained yesterday, experience, knowledge, memory, action, and from that action learn more which becomes knowledge, so we keep in that cycle. That cycle is fear. You understand this? No, you don't, lady, don't agree, this is much too serious.
So, are you listening to your own fear, seeing that fear is time and thought, see the truth of it. You understand? See the truth of it not your idea about it. That is, sir, you have explained to me very carefully the nature of desire, the nature of time and you are saying, after explaining a great deal, that thought is the root of fear. And thought is also time. So time, thought, is the root of fear. You have told me that. I have listened to you very carefully, I have paid great attention to what you have told me. It is no longer yours, it is mine. I have seen thought is the real root of fear. Do I actually see the fact of it, or the idea? You understand the difference? I hear you say this to me. I generally form an abstract of it, which becomes the idea. Right? So either I form an idea which is an abstraction, from what I have heard, or I actually see in myself the nature of fear, how fear arises when thought is in operation, which is time. So - please listen to it - I remain with that fact, I don't move away from that fact. I don't try to stop fear. I remain with that, with that truth. Are you doing that? You understand? I have put away the abstraction altogether because ideas don't clear up fear, beliefs don't clear up fear. I can go to the temple day after day, it won't clear. Those are all abstractions. But the fact is I am frightened. I am frightened because of thought, which is time. That is the truth and I remain there. My mind refuses to move away from that fact, which is the truth.
What happens then? Find out! I have very carefully explained the nature of time, the nature of desire and examining the root of fear. The root of fear is thought, not how to stop thought. That is a silly question. But to remain without any movement with that absolute fact. Are you doing this? You understand my question? Are you, if you are serious, are you doing this? That is, you have watched your fear arising and you realise it is thought, and thought has said, tomorrow I might die, and fear arises from that thought. And not how to stop thought, this movement is you. You understand? This movement of time, thought, desire, fear, is you. But if you try to go beyond yourself you are escaping from the truth, from the fact. So give all your attention to the fact. Then you will see fear completely disappears. I have not told you what to do - that is such a cheap escape. But together we have observed the whole movement of fear. And together we have watched our fears, how they arise, thought, time and I remain totally with that fact, which is you.
So you learn - not learn - you are watching the operation of your own brain, the operation of your own mind. You are discovering for yourself the way you think, the way you feel, your fears, of which you may be totally unaware. And in discussing fear we must also consider together pleasure. Because they are the two sides of the same coin.
We said this whole movement of fear, desire, time and so on is you, that is what your consciousness is. You can't escape from your consciousness, you are that. So remain with that. When you remain with it give all your attention to it, like bringing a strong light upon something which is dark; attention is that, that dispels the whole pattern of fear. And also in considering fear we ought also to consider pleasure, because pleasure brings also pain, fear. Most of us through past millennia have sought pleasure - sexually or pleasure of the intellect, or the pleasure of devotion, which is romanticism, or the pleasure of popularity and all that business. We are always seeking pleasure, ultimate pleasure is of course Brahman, or your invented god. I do not know if you have realised thought has created god. Right? God hasn't created you to live a miserable life but we have created god; thought has created it and we worship that which thought has created, which becomes rather silly.
So we have to examine pleasure. The pleasure of ambition, the pleasure of possession, the pleasure of being an ascetic, the pleasure of sex. What is pleasure? Why has man pursued pleasure? What is the movement of pleasure? You see a beautiful sunset, with the light and the glory of a setting sun, great light across the heavens, the beauty, the delight of something incredible. If you have ever looked at a sunset with all your heart and brain and mind, it is an extraordinary sight, as the sight of an early morning. The other day coming from Germany we saw the sun rise, there was this waning moon and the morning star, clear light on the waters, and the snow-covered hills, and there was great beauty which no painter, no poet, nobody could describe. There was a delight in that. That delight is recorded in the brain. Then that pleasure is remembered and you want that pleasure to be repeated. The repetition is no longer pleasure, it becomes memory as pleasure. It is not the original perception of that waning moon, the clear sky with that low single star and the beauty of that light on the water. That remembrance is pleasure, not at the moment of perception. You are following this? At the moment of seeing there was no pleasure, there was that. But it has been recorded, then there is the remembrance of that and that pleasure is the remembrance. And the demand for that pleasure to be repeated. Sexually this is what we do.
And therefore pleasure is remembrance. I don't know if you follow all this? At the moment when you see the beauty of a hill, with the snow, with the clear blue sky, at that moment there is no pleasure, there is only that immensity, that grandeur, that majesty; later on pleasure begins when you want it to be repeated, which means the remembrance, thought, time; the same thing as fear. These two sides of the same me, me that has fear and has lived with fear, and I have seen from your explanation the whole movement of it, and also I see thought, remembrance of that thing which has happened yesterday morning, I want it again. It is exactly the same movement as fear and pleasure. So our minds, our existence is caught between these two, reward and punishment. That is our life. That is me, you, the self, that lives, has its root in this time, thought, pleasure, fear, reward and punishment. Heaven is there if you do the right thing, if you don't you go to Hell! The same thing repeated over and over again.
So is what has been said an abstraction as an idea? Or you yourself see how your mind is working, your brain is operating, that you yourself see the truth that thought, time, is the root of fear.
As time and thought is the root of pleasure. So they are both the same. You discover fear is pleasure. Have you seen the truth of this so that when you walk out of this shamiana you are free of fear? Then there is freedom, then you have strength, vitality to fight all this ugliness in the world
Right sirs. Don't clap, sirs. You are clapping for yourself.