What is the fact of fear?
Knowledge is conditioning
2nd Dialogue, Brockwood Park
October 05, 1984
Mary Zimbalist: Sir, there is a subject you have talked about so many, many times but it keeps coming back and back in people's questions and pre-occupations, and that is the subject of fear. Do you want to talk about that?
Krishnamurti: It is a rather complicated subject. It really requires a great deal of enquiry because it is so subtle, so varied and so abstract. And also it is actual too, though we make it into an abstraction. The actuality of fear and the idea of fear, which is the abstraction of fear into an idea. So we must be very clear what we are talking about. The abstraction as an idea of fear, or the actuality of fear. You and I sitting, and all of us sitting here, at this present moment we are not afraid. There is no sense of apprehension, or danger. At this instant there is no fear.
So fear is both an abstraction, as an idea, as a word, and also the fact. First of all let's deal with these two. Why do we generally make an abstraction of things? Why do we see something actual and then turn it into an idea? Is it because the idea is easier to pursue? Or the ideal is our conditioning? Or we are educated to ideas, or in ideas, not educated to deal with facts? Why is this? Why is it that human beings throughout the world deal with abstractions - what should be, what must be, what will happen, and so on, the whole world of ideation and the ideologies, whether it be the communist ideology based on Marx and Lenin, or the capitalists ideas of so-called free enterprise and so on, or the whole world of religious concepts, beliefs, ideas, and the theologians working these ideas out. Why is it that ideas, ideals, have become so extraordinarily important? From the ancient Greeks, even before the Greeks and so on, ideas prevailed. And even now ideas, ideals, separate man and they bring wars, all kinds. Why do the brains of human beings operate this way? Is it because they cannot deal with facts directly and so escape subtly into ideations? If one sees ideas are really very divisive factors, they bring friction, they divide communities, nations, sects, religions, and so on, which is, ideas, beliefs, faith, all that is based on thought. And facts, what are facts? What exactly is a fact, not an opinion about fact, or opinion made into facts.
MZ: What is the fact of fear, sir?
K: I am coming to that. First we must establish the distinction between the idea of fear, the abstraction as the word fear, and the actual fear. The actual fear is the fact, not the abstraction of it. If one can move away from the abstraction then we can deal with fact. But if they are both running parallel all the time then there is a conflict between the two. That is, the idea, the ideology dominating the fact and the fact sometimes dominating the idea.
MZ: Most people would say that the fact of fear is the very painful emotion of fear.
K: Now let us look at that, not the idea of fear. So let us look at the fact - that is what I am coming to - the fact of actual fear, and to remain with that fact, which requires a great deal of inward discipline.
MZ: Can you describe what remaining with the fact of fear actually is?
K: It is like holding a jewel, an intricate pattern by an artist, who has brought this extraordinary jewel. You look at it, you don't condemn it, you don't say, 'How beautiful' and run away with words, but you are looking at this extraordinary thing put together by hand, by cunning fingers and the brain that has brought this. You are watching it, you are looking at it. Turn it round, look at the various sides, the back and the front and the side, and you never let it go.
MZ: Do you mean that you just feel it very acutely, very sensitively, with great care.
K: With care, that is what happens.
MZ: But you feel it because it is an emotion.
K: Of course. You have the feeling of beauty, the feeling of the intricate pattern, and the sparkle, the brightness, and the sparkle of the jewels and so on. So can we deal with the fact of fear and look at it that way, not escape, not say, 'Well I don't like fear', get nervous, apprehensive and suppress it, or control it, or deny it, or move it into another field. If we can do all that, just remain with that fear. So fear then becomes an actual fact, which is there, whether you are conscious of it or not, whether you have hidden it very, very deeply, it is still there.
So then we can ask very carefully and hesitantly, what is this fear? Why human beings, after this tremendous evolution, still live with fear? Is it something that can be, like a surgeon, operated upon and removed, like a disease, like cancer, or any other dreadful, painful disease? Is it something that can be operated upon? Which means there is an entity who can operate upon it, but that very entity is an abstraction of trying to do something about fear, that entity is unreal. What is factual is fear. And this requires very careful attention not to be caught in this abstraction of the one, who says, 'I am observing fear', or one who says, 'I must put away fear, or control fear', and so on. It is we are watching fear, not who is watching. The one who watches is also the outcome of fear. If this is clear, that the observer, to go back to our old saying, the observer is the observed, the thinker is the thought, the doer is the entity who is doing, there is no division. And so if there is no division, which is an extraordinary fact to realise, a fact, not an idea I must realise, it is an extraordinary fact that there is no division between the observer and the observed, and therefore there is no conflict. Conflict exists when there is the observer different from the observed, which is what most of us do and therefore live with perpetual conflict. That is another matter.
So can we look at that fear, and in the very act of looking, watching fear, one begins to discover the origin of fear, the beginning, what is the causation of fear. Because the very fact of looking at it is to see how it came about, not analyse fear because the analyser is the analysed. Not analyse, dissect fear but that very close, delicate watching reveals the content of fear, the content being the origin, the beginning, the causation because where there is a cause there is an end. Right? The cause can never be different from the result. So the discovery, or in the observation, in the watching, the causation is revealed.
MZ: Sir, the causation that you are speaking of is presumably not an individual fear, a particular fear? You are speaking of the causation of fear itself.
K: Fear itself, not the various forms of fear. See how we break up fear.
K: That's part of our tradition, to bring about a fragmentation of fear, therefore be concerned only with one type of fear, not the whole tree of fear; not a particular branch, or a particular leaf of fear but the whole nature, the structure, the quality of fear. And in observing that very closely, watching it, in the very watching there is the revelation of the causation - not you analyse to find out the cause but the very watching is showing the causation, which is time and thought. Of course. That is simple when you put it that way. Everybody would accept it is time and thought. If there was no time and thought there would be no fear.
MZ: Well, could you enlarge a little bit on that because most people think that there is something. That there is - how can I put it - they don't see that there is no future, they think 'I am afraid now' from a cause, they don't see the factor of time involved.
K: I think it is fairly simple. If there was no time, or if there was no saying, 'I am afraid because I have done something in the past,' or I have had pain in the past, or somebody has hurt me, and I don't want to be hurt anymore - all that is the past, the background, which is time. And the future, that is, I am this now, I will die. Or I might lose my job, or my wife will be angry with me and so on. So there is this past and the future, and we are caught in between the two. That is, the past has its relationship with the future, the future is not something separate from the past, it is a movement of modification of the past to the future, to tomorrow. So that is time: this movement of the past, which is the past as I have been, and the future, I will be, which is this constant becoming. And that too is another complex problem which we won't touch for the moment. That may be the causation of fear, the becoming.
So time is a factor, is a basic factor of fear. There is no question about it. I have a job now, I have money now, I have a shelter over my head, but tomorrow or many hundred tomorrows might deprive me of all that, some accident, some fire, some lack of insurance and so on, as it has happened in this house. All that is a time factor. Not the ending of time, but see the factor that fear is part of time, not say, 'Can I end time?' - that would be a silly question. Sorry to use the word 'silly'. And also thought is a factor of fear. Thought. I have been, I am but I may not. The factor of thought, thought is limited, which is another matter. Thought is limited because it is based on knowledge, knowledge is always accumulative and that which is being added to is always limited, so knowledge is limited, so thought is limited, because thought is based on knowledge, memory and so on.
So thought and time are the central factors of fear. Thought is not separate from time. They are one, they are not divorced, they are not separate. So these are the facts. This is the causation of fear. Now that is a fact, not an idea, not an abstraction, that thought and time is the cause of fear, not are. It is singular.
So a man then asks: how do I stop time and thought? Because his intention, his desire, his longing, is to be free from fear. And so he is caught in his own desire to be free but he is not watching very carefully the causation. When you are watching very carefully without any movement watching implies a state of the brain in which there is no movement, it is like watching a bird. And if you watch the bird very closely as we watched this morning that dove on the window sill, you watched all the feathers, the red eyes, the sparkle in the eyes, the beak, the shape of its head, the wings and so on, you watched very carefully, and that which you watch very carefully reveals not only the causation but the ending of the thing that you are watching. So this watching is really most extraordinarily important, not how to end thought, or can I be free from fear, or what do you mean by time, and all the complications of it, which is complex, But when we are watching fear without any abstraction, which is the actual now, and in that quality of the now, because the now contains all time, which is the present holds the past, the future and the present. So if we can listen to this very carefully, not only with the hearing of the ear, but listen to the word and go beyond the word, and see the actual nature of fear, not read about fear, but how watching becomes so extraordinarily beautiful, sensitive, alive.
All this requires an extraordinary quality of attention, because in attention there is no activity of the self. The self-interest in our life is the cause of fear. The sense of me and my concern, my happiness, my success, my failure, my achievement, I am this, I am not: this whole self-centred observation with all its expressions of fear, agonies, depression, pain, anxiety, aspiration and sorrow, all that is self-interest, whether in the name of god, in the name of prayer, in the name of faith, is self-interest. Where there is self-interest there must be fear, and all the consequences of fear. Then one asks again: is it possible to live in this world where self-interest is predominant, whether it is in the totalitarian world, with its search for power, and holding power, the capitalist world with its own power, self-interest is dominant, whether it is in the religious hierarchical catholic world or in every religious world self-interest is dominant and therefore they are perpetuating fear, though they talk about living with pacem in terris, which is peace on earth, they really don't mean it because self-interest with the desire for power, position, for its fulfilment and so on, is the factor that is destroying not only the world but destroying our own extraordinary capacity of the brain. The brain has extraordinary capacity, as is shown in the technological world, the extraordinary things they are doing. And we never apply that same immense capacity inwardly to be free of fear, to end sorrow, to know what love is, and compassion with its intelligence. We never search, explore that field, we are caught by the world with all its misery.