Fear, sorrow, death and meditation
What is real freedom?
2nd Public Talk San Francisco, California
May 06, 1984
May we continue with what we were talking about yesterday morning? We were having a conversation between us, a conversation about the great problems of life, conversation about the society in which we live, and all the travail of human life - the pain, the fears, the anxieties, the pleasures and the sorrows, and the innumerable hurts, psychological wounds that we receive from childhood till we die. And we were also talking about together, as two friends walking along a road, where there is no traffic, along a lane perhaps in the woods, and generally, as friends do, talk about their own lives. And during the conversation between these two friends they talked about freedom, how little freedom man has, though he thinks he has, how actually freedom is denied to man throughout the world, how he is conditioned by various cultures, doctrines, faith, beliefs, and all the impressions that one receives from various media, and so on. One is saying to the other there is no actual freedom. Unless there is real deep psychological freedom man is going to destroy himself. And freedom means also love. The etymological meaning, amongst other meanings is to have great love - love. And also with that love goes passion. Not enthusiasm, not lust, not total expression of one's own desires, but that quality of passion that comes when one really understands the deep significance of living, and with the ending of sorrow. And out of this passion and freedom comes action. And the other man says to his friends, life is really very complex and we must surely approach it simply so that we really penetrate, not merely intellectually or emotionally, sentimentally, but penetrate very deeply, if it is possible, into the whole psychological world which very, very few people have gone into, or investigated or are concerned, or even moderately committed.
Unless one is really seriously concerned, human beings will always be in conflict with each other. We talked about it together yesterday morning, the ending of conflict. We said also that conflict cannot end through any kind of determination, any activity of thought or desire, but to observe what is the nature and the structure of conflict. The essence of conflict is, we said yesterday, these two friends were talking together, we said yesterday, wherever there is division, whether it is nationalistic, racial, class, or the division between man and woman - psychological division, though physiological division does exist, but the psychological division is the basic factor of conflict - whether that division can be totally, not bridged over, but end. And we also said together, that it can end completely if one observes the actual conflict one is in. Not direct that observation, not react to what one is observing, but actually observe without any psychological responses. And the other says it is very, very difficult to do that because all our conditioning both linguistically and generally is to immediately respond, react, verbally, emotionally or with some ideological concepts. So it becomes very difficult to observe the actual fact of conflict. It is like giving your whole attention to what is conflict and trying to penetrate it and end it. Attention is like a flame which burns away the actual fact, not the theoretical fact but the actuality of the fact. We talked over together yesterday morning about this.
And also we are saying to each other that one has to be very serious in life, and very few people are. They want to be entertained, they want to be cajoled, directed, influenced, told what to do and so on. It is very difficult to penetrate without all these pressures to understand oneself. The understanding of oneself is important, not according to some psychologists or philosophers, or the latest psychiatrist, but rather putting all the experts and authorities, from the ancient days to the present time - whether it is Zen, Buddhist or Hindu or Christian - putting all those various forms of authorities to look at ourselves, pay attention to every thought, not let one thought go by without understanding why it is there. All this requires a sense of deep psychological discipline. The word 'discipline', etymologically, comes from the word 'disciple'. The disciple is one who is willing to learn, not conform, not obey, not adjust himself to what is being said, not to accept, but to learn. And learning is not merely memorising, storing in the brain what you have heard and hold it as memory. Memory is very limited; you can expand memory, add to it through more knowledge and so on, which we talked about yesterday, but to learn is like a flow of a river that is constantly moving, running with great speed. And to observe - that very observation is discipline.
So we are going together this morning, being serious, not desiring to be entertained religiously, or emotionally, or intellectually, we are together, if you will, walking down that lane, discuss, talk over together amicably, with a sense of affection, to explore, to look at the many problems that we have psychologically, because if we understand psychologically first then we can shape the outer. But unfortunately more and more the outer is becoming so extraordinarily important because of organisations, institutions of thousands of kinds, hoping thereby to radically change the human nature. So we should really for the moment put aside the outer - institutions, impressions, foundations, and what the experts have said - and look very closely, because one must start very near, which is ourselves, to go very far. And that's what we are - you and the speaker are going together on this very complex journey. And that demands that we hear each other, listen to each other. Not only listen to the words but also the content of the words, the meaning of the words, and because they are friends - they have known each other for many years - go beyond the words, understand non-verbally also. And this requires a great deal of attentive hearing, not just pushing aside those things which are not pleasant and only looking at those things which are pleasant.
So having said all this let us look together, our fears. We have had fear of living and dying for many, many millennia, from the ancient man to the present time. Fear has been one of our great problems. And we have never apparently given attention to the nature of fear, what's the cause of it, why it arises, the background, the root of it. And the other friend says, are you saying that don't be concerned with the various forms of fear - fear of darkness, fear of public opinion, fear of what another might say, fear of one's own wife and husband and so on, fear of losing, fear of gaining, fear of tomorrow and of yesterday - we are not concerned with that kind of fear. It's like cutting off the branches of a tree but never understanding the root of that marvellous tree. So please, we are not concerned for the moment with the various aspects of fear. But only with what is the root of it. Most of us, perhaps one says to the other, never given thought to all this, never even concerned whether fear can ever end, or man must everlastingly till the day of his dying, carry, live with fear. Whatever other people have said - heaven and hell, do the right thing and you will go heaven, do the wrong thing - hell - believe in this, if you don't you are a heretic and there is fear in all that. Religions have also been responsible for fear and sustaining that fear, nourishing it. There is a temple in South India, very well known throughout that part of the country. There, every third day the priests, the authorities of the temple gather one million dollars every third day. And that's called religion. And that sustains fear because you pray, you make vows, you take vows hoping some good thing will happen to you. And so fear is bred, nourished, as all religions do. And we have never asked, questioned, enquired if fear can ever end. And we are going this morning to ask that very question. Not only the external fear but also deeper inward fears in the very deep recesses of one's own brain.
I hope one hopes that you are also willing to go into this matter deeply. Not merely listen and agree, or disagree - which will have no effect at all, whether you agree or disagree - but the fact is that one is afraid. And whether that fear can ever end. That's really one of the great problems of life. Because if fear ends completely there is great, tremendous energy which is wasted through all the travails of fear. And also there will be no need of churches, temples and mosques and gods. It is out of fear we have created heaven and hell, we have created all the mischief of religions. The speaker is not an atheist, he is a religious man but does not belong to any religion, because they're network of superstitions, beliefs, dogmas and rituals. So together we are going to look into this matter of ending fear.
What is the cause of it? Where there is a cause there is an end to that cause. If one has a particular disease and knows the cause of that disease then that disease can be cured, healed. So if we can together find out the cause of it, the root, not the branches of fear but the very root of it. That requires persistent intense investigation, committed to discover for oneself if fear can completely end, psychologically first. Fear of not having security psychologically and all the rest of it. So what is the causation of fear? Is it not time? And it is important to understand not only fear but time as the factor, or the root of fear. Time as yesterday, time as today, time as tomorrow - sun rising, sun setting, light and darkness - time. Not only by the watch, chronological time, but also time which thought has invented psychologically. That is that you will be tomorrow different from what you are today. If you are violent today pursue - the very idea of pursuit implies time - pursue, pursue the state in which violence doesn't exist. So in our life time is very important - from here to there, from point to point, externally from being ignorant to becoming knowledgeable, from being a little man to a well-known man, and all the rest of that business, outwardly. But also psychologically there is this time, which is the becoming: I am this, imperfect, violent, with all the travail of life, and one day I will be free of it all, that is tomorrow, or ten years later when I will understand more. So time both outwardly and inwardly is a factor of our life. Is that the major cause of fear? - time.
Please, we are together investigating into this matter, not accepting. Questioning, doubting what the speaker is saying. One is afraid of tomorrow, you may lose the job, there is so much unemployment, outwardly. Inwardly one seeks security, some ground on which one can stand firmly, to be certain where there is confusion. And most of us are confused, uncertain psychologically. And through this confusion we try to establish either a concept which will give us security, or in our relationship with each other - all that process is becoming. Becoming, the very word becoming, implies time. Is time, we are asking, one of the major factors of fear? Obviously it is. I am afraid one is afraid of dying - perhaps when one is ninety or a hundred. Or something might happen to you, you might not succeed, you might be a failure and so on. So time essentially, deeply, is one of the factors of fear. And time is also, if you go into it rather deeply, if you will, what is time? Not by the watch or the time of becoming, what exactly is time?
The present, the now as you are sitting there, you are here, the present, in this hall, listening, in the now. What is that now? Doesn't the now, the present, contain the past - all the memories and so on - and also the future. I hope we are following each other. So the now contains all time - the past, the future and the present. And the now, if there is no fundamental psychological change or mutation, the future is what we are now. Surely that is clear. The word 'mutation' biologically is a rather difficult word but we will use it for convenience, which is really deep psychological change, radical psychological revolution.
Time we are used to as evolution. We have evolved from the past forty, fifty thousand years and we have arrived at this stage through a long distance of time. And we have changed very, very, very little psychologically. We are very primitive, barbarous. We are using the word 'barbarous' in its original sense. And time has not changed man. Biologically time has changed man from the ape to now, but time, which is evolution, has not brought in the psyche a total complete change, ending of all the pain, the anxiety, fears and sorrows and all that - time has not changed it.
(Baby cries) I am sorry! (Laughter) One agrees with that baby. (Laughter) It is rather bored.
Please, this is very important to understand, not just brush it off as some philosophical concept and push it aside, because the now contains all time. The now is all your memories that we have accumulated during the past fifty, eighty, ninety years. The now is also the future because you are going to continue with your memories, with your images, with your selfishness, with all that human beings have gathered.
So, time becomes the enemy of man if there is no radical change now - that is if you rely on time. And is not also time thought? Is not the root of fear also thought? I am this, I might be that. Or I might fail. We talked about it yesterday together about the beginning of thought, how it arises through memory, memory is the accumulated knowledge, knowledge is expansive and so on, and there can be no knowledge unless there is experience. So experience, knowledge is limited as experiences are, whether you have experience of god, or this or that, and knowledge so is limited, so thought is limited. And thought, as we said, is a material process, and so thought of losing something, gaining something, the thought of becoming something, so thought is a movement like time. So thought-time is the root of fear. That's a fact, an irrevocable fact, actuality. One sees that. And one asks is it possible to end all of them - fear, which is, uproot the nature of time, and so end time - please listen to it - and also end of thought. Because those two factors are one factor, which is time-thought is the root of fear. My friend asks, can thought-time end? That seems rather absurd. I have to go to the office tomorrow, being Monday, I have to think, I have to write a letter, and to do anything I have to think. How can thinking stop? Or time stop? Which are both the same. One says to the friend, you are putting a wrong question. Time and thought are necessary at a certain level. At the physical level time and thought are necessary - we have to go back from where we started. We have to accumulate knowledge in order to do anything skilfully. The accumulation of knowledge requires time, to learn a language requires time.
So time-thought are necessary at the physical level. But in the psychological area is time and thought necessary at all? Is there - put it differently - a becoming, psychological becoming at all? We have said there is. That is, we have evolved from the ape to now, biologically we have evolved. So there must be psychological evolution. I am this, I will be that. We are questioning that very thing. Is there psychological becoming at all? Which implies time. And time is the now in which the past, the present and the future is held, contains. Unless there is a radical change in the whole psychological content, which is the content of consciousness, you will be the same tomorrow. That again is a fact.
So, knowing, observing all this very closely, attentively, with all your passion and energy, that very attention puts an end to that becoming. Then there is an ending. It is very important, if we have time, to understand the nature of ending. I do not know if you have ever asked yourself what is ending, coming to an end. Not a continuity after ending, because we are so concerned with continuity. That is the form of tradition, various forms of political structure, organisations and so on. It is really a very complex problem this, I don't know if we should go into it now, but you should, if one may suggest, ask yourself what is ending.
So if one is aware, attentive to this whole process of time-thought, which is the root of fear - observe it, don't run away from it, live with it, hold this thing in your hand, as it were. It's like a precious jewel which you hold and you are looking at it, observing it, which means giving your attention to it. As you observe with this attentive passion that very attention puts an end psychologically to this becoming, which is of time and thought.
We also, if we have time, should talk about suffering. Not about pleasure - that's fairly simple because every man throughout the world is pursuing pleasure - pleasure of possession, pleasure of power, pleasure of status, pleasure of ownership, pleasure of sex, pleasure of being somebody in this stupid world (laughter), this world which is becoming more and more insane because we have created this insanity with pleasure. And man has pursued that endlessly - endless pleasure, seeking god, illumination, enlightenment. That's the ultimate pleasure. There you completely hope you will be satisfied, gratified. Enlightenment is not of time. It isn't a process, it isn't something you achieve through meditation. Enlightenment is the ending of time - which we will go into if we have time when we talk about meditation.
So we must concern ourselves with sorrow and death. Sorry to talk about death on a lovely morning in a beastly hall, where the sea is shining and you can see the hills in the far distance, miles away, and the beauty of the earth. To talk about death seems rather morbid, but it is not. And so suffering is one of the factors, like pleasure and fear. And man has never ended sorrow. The sorrow of the whole of mankind. Not one's own particular sorrow but the sorrow of man, of human beings. Wherever you go on this earth from the most primitive little village to the highly sophisticated cities there is always behind the door, behind the curtains, this sorrow. Sorrow which has been brought about by slaughter of man through wars, the maimed, the tears, the appalling brutality of wars, of killing other human beings. People have demonstrated against a particular kind of war, demonstrated against the nuclear bombs, but human beings and religions have never said 'No more. Don't kill others.' We all talk about peace, churches and the religions talk about loving your neighbour, which all becomes such nonsense when religions support war. In these wars for the last five to six thousand years of historical wars man has suffered, ached, tears, and we are still carrying on with the same sorrow and brutality. Is there an end to sorrow? Or man must everlastingly carry on with sorrow because where there is sorrow there can be no love. Where there is sorrow there can be no compassion with its extraordinary intelligence. Where there is sorrow you cannot understand the nature of death. With the ending of sorrow there is passion. Passion isn't something to be cultivated. Passion isn't something that arises from fear, from pleasure. Only when sorrow ends there is that passion with its extraordinary action in daily life.
So one can see what is the cause of sorrow. There are many causes, but only one cause, which is, the 'me', the 'I', the persona, my consciousness; in that consciousness where there is a shock, where there is a great crisis which cannot be solved, in that consciousness there is felt the utter emptiness of life as lived by human beings, as now - the shallowness, the superficiality of all this. Those are the various causes of sorrow. Sorrow of losing one's son, the husband, the wife, the friend. Suddenly feeling the utter loneliness, the despair, the sense of utter insecurity. We all know this. And there is no ending of it. We have never said can it all end? And one says to the other, don't run away seeking comfort from sorrow, don't analyse it because the analyser is the analysed, the analyser himself is sorrow, and so he cannot understand sorrow. But hold that sorrow as you hold something precious in your hand and look at it. Give attention to it. Give all your being to live with sorrow and find out. Then you will see out of that observation, closely, attentively, with sense of freedom, there is the ending of complete sorrow. It is only then out of that there is love and compassion with its great intelligence.
We also ought to talk over also death. Sorry! Again human beings throughout the world have never understood, or gone into the question of death. The Christians believed in a certain resurrection, and the Asiatic and India has spread, exploded over all Asia, at one time. And there they believe in reincarnation. I am this, my life has been painful, sorrowful, I have done things wrong, wicked and all the rest of it; give me another chance next life. When I die I will be reborn. But that belief, which is very comforting, becomes utterly meaningless if next life is what you are now, with certain modifications. What matters is what you are now. And those who believe in those theories, which is supported by various so-called experiences, they never give importance to the life which is now. If they really believed in reincarnation they would be totally concerned how they lived now, how they behaved, what is their morality, how they act, and all that. But they don't do that. It is a very comforting theory, and they play with it, like all illusions.
So, we are concerned with death. What is death? Old age, disease, accident, and the ending, both biologically, organically - the physical ending - and the ending of all the things which we are attached to. Ending our memories, our status, our power, money and so on - the ending. And that ending is also the ending of me, the self, the things that one has accumulated, the precious memories, the experience which one has enjoyed and has given power. All those come to an end, obviously - you cannot carry your money, however rich you are. So what is death? Is that ending? And no future? Please, give your attention to this, if you will, because we are all going to die, every one of us. That is inevitable, that is a fact. And we cling to our life, to our memories. Living is the complications and the various forms of memories. Living is also going to the office day after day for the next fifty years. Living is also having a relationship with others, intimate or otherwise, in which there is constant struggle, battle. Living is also achieving, becoming known and famous and all that rubbish. All this is considered living. The travail, the pain, the loneliness, the depression, the uncertainty, the wars, hatreds, wounds. This is called living. Which again is a fact. So we cling to the known. That's all we cling to, the known, clinging to all the knowledge that we have. And death is the unknown. So we are frightened, not only frightened of living but also frightened of dying. Aren't you frightened of living? That is, frightened you might lose your job, and so on and so on - fear, which we have gone into previously. So the living is the known and dying is the unknown, what happens after, or the ending of the known. The known is what we are attached to. Attached to your wife, to your husband, to your memories, to your books, to your knowledge, attached to the known. You are attached to your books, your desk, your old antique furniture - aren't you? What you are attached to, you are. Right? If you are attached to that marvellous old furniture of 15th century, you are that desk - the memory of ownership. So attachment is a fact. And death comes along and cuts it, wipes it away. And the question then is, can we live - please listen to this, if you will kindly, we are not advocating suicide, which is absurd, but to end attachment, which is the end of death. That is to live together, living and dying - day in and day out, night after night, night and day, living with death which is the ending of attachment. That requires tremendous attention, and great inward quality of discipline. Probably you have never asked this question. Living with death.
There are the philosophers both in the East and the West, who said: you know you are going to die, live with that knowledge. But we are saying quite the opposite. Because we are a bundle of memories and we are attached to those memories. Attachment. Can you voluntarily, easily, happily, without any causation end something which you hold most dear? Attachment. Because attachment breeds fear, uncertainty. Attachment breeds jealousy, antagonism, hatred. So to live with ending and living together. If you have done it, it's the most extraordinary thing. That is real freedom.
We will now talk about religion and meditation. The speaker puts religion and meditation at the end of the talks because to find out what is most sacred in life, and what is meditation - to find that out there must be no fear. There cannot possibly be any selfish motive of achievement, of gaining, of becoming. So he puts meditation and religion at the end of it, end of the talks. So let us enquire together - we have a little time still - what is religion? Why man throughout the ages from the most ancient of days to the present time, he is wanting, searching, longing to find out if there is something more than this physical existence, beyond all the misery, confusion, uncertainty, depression and sorrow, is there something beyond and above all this? That has been his eternal search. And from the ancient days the man, the clever man says - in those days only the few wrote and studied, they became the priests - they said, 'We will tell you, we will lead you, we will help you to find that.' And so they invented rituals, dogmas, faith, their peculiar dresses, their tremendous power over man. I don't know if you are aware of it - tremendous power. And their thoughts have invented all the business of religious structure, with their wealth, with their property, with all their emotional, sentimental, romantic superstitions right through the world, whether they be Christians or Hindus or Buddhists, or the Tibetans, or the Islamic world. This is what is called religion - faith, obey, follow, believe. And in the ancient India they said to find that which is truth, which is not invented by thought there must be scepticism, there must be doubt, there must be enquiry, not belief. Belief is an impediment, faith is an impediment. We are saying this.
So all the things that thought has put together, which is called religion, is a material process, there is nothing whatsoever sacred about it. So there must be freedom from the organised, structured believing world of religion to find out or come upon that state which is timeless. That means also: what is meditation? Not how to meditate. The gurus from various sects and religions and priests have laid down certain systems of meditation, practices. One wonders if you have noticed every system - political, religious, economic - every kind of system has inherently the seed of decay - every system. This seed of decay is re-organised - politically, religiously, adjusting itself, but the seed is always there in any system, in any practice.
So, what is meditation? If you put aside all the nonsense that is going on in this word brought by Asiatics or others, if you put aside all that, doubt all that, question, tear it to pieces to find out, then you ask: what is meditation? Is it necessary? Conscious meditation, a deliberate process of it - sitting cross legged, repeating various mantras, going into contemplation, giving certain time to it - is a deliberate activity of thought. Thought says if I meditate I will be happy, or I will become calm to do more mischief! (Laughter) Deliberate action of meditation - (Baby cries) (Laughter) I am sorry for the people who have to leave with the child. Any form of deliberate meditative practice is like any other form of desire. Desire is a very complex problem, which we have not time into it - briefly: desire, the origin of desire, the beginning of desire, is when sensation, physical sensation, which is reaction, that sensation is shaped by thought. Then at that second desire begins. You understand this? Probably you don't - it needs explanation. I hope we have time. Can you give more time, you don't mind if we sit a little longer?
Krishnamurti: You see we have to understand desire. We are driven by desire - desire for so many things. It is one of our most powerful urges. What is desire? Desire is - I can't go into it very deeply because we have to talk about other things - is, sensation is normal - you feel, touch, taste, after that there is sensation. You see something beautiful in the window and you go inside, look at it more closely. That is sensation. Then thought comes along and says, 'If I had that picture, that painting on my wall, how marvellous it would be.' So when thought takes possession of sensation through creating an image then desire is born. Leave it at that because it is complex. So, when you meditate consciously, it is another form of desire to achieve some end. The end is silence, quietness. And the end is to have more energy, tremendous energy. The Zen practices, which is to have such tremendous attention out of which is born energy, and you practice, practice, practice, pay attention for years, and you have that - which is another form of desire. And also you want a quiet mind, a quiet brain so that you can be more peaceful, quiet, still. This is another form of desire. And they have said that if you are very still and very quiet you might find something. So you practice twenty minutes or thirty minutes a day, in the afternoon, morning, evening. It's like taking a drug, a drink, or having a siesta when you are quiet, but all that is not meditation. Obviously it is the activity of thought.
So is there - please ask this question of yourself - is there meditation which is not conscious, which is not deliberate? Then only when it is not deliberate, when it is part of your daily life - attentive, attention to everything that you are doing in daily life, attention to every thought, not letting one thought to escape without understanding it, going into it, so that the brain becomes extraordinarily active, not mechanical as it is now - extraordinarily alive, full of energy. And where there is highest form of energy there is silence. That energy is not yours or mine, it is this tremendous energy which is nameless, which is timeless. And in that energy - or that very energy is the supreme thing that man has sought, which is the most sacred. And when that sacredness is, then we behave righteously in our daily life. This is meditation.