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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

“We think experience is necessary. I wonder if it is. We've had 30 million years of experience. Have we learned anything? Is the mind chaste, virgin? Only a mind free from the known, dying every day, renewing itself, can see what is truth.”




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Editor’s prefatory comments:

Jiddu Krishnamurti has been an important teacher in my life. I began learning about the “true” and “false” selves about 15 years ago, and his insights served to inaugurate this vital area of enquiry.

He was the one to make clear that “guru” signifies merely “one who points,” not “infallible sage.” Pointing the way is what even the best teachers provide, but no more. One must walk the path of enlightenment alone, no one can do this for us.




Public Talk 2, Rome - 12 March 1968

The other day, when last we met, we were talking over together this problem of violence. We were saying that violence is not only the physical, but also the activity of a mind that is not anonymous; it is only the anonymous mind that is non-violent. We also said that actually we have "no time" to be free of violence; that is, violence must end immediately and we went into that question somewhat.

This afternoon perhaps we can go into the question of whether fear in any form is related to violence. We see that man throughout the world is afraid; this fear has been encouraged by the culture, by the society in which he lives. When we use the word 'society' we mean the religion, the economic conditions and all that. One observes right throughout the world that fear has been encouraged by religions; it has been in order to control man, to shape his mind because through belief and dogma the church can control the whole process of thinking.

If one observes, fear basically is related to authority; the word 'authority' is heavily loaded. There is the authority of law, the policeman, and the authority of tradition and the authority of experience; and that authority insists that we obey. Obeying is a form of violence because we obey out of fear; if man were not afraid there would be no need to obey at all, he would function sanely and rationally.


Editor's note: compare this idea of fear related to authority to reports from Summerland which indicate a way of life without any, or very few, ostensible signs of authority.


But human beings are so afraid that their whole activity is irrational, contradictory and imitative. So, to really understand and therefore be free of violence, one has to go very deeply into this question of fear.

Fear is not only a response of the adrenal glands but also a psychological process. To understand fear, not intellectually but actually to be free of it, one requires very keen observation, one has to look at it very closely. When the mind - which has been trained in a culture that accepts fear as part of life with all its violence - understands fear then perhaps we can be completely free not only consciously but also unconsciously.

To go into this question of fear one has to be aware, that is one has to watch one's own fear, not the fear that one is told about or the fear of the unknown, but the actual fear that one has. Fear does not exist by itself; it is not an isolated factor, it exists in relation to something. One is afraid of so many things: one is afraid of the dark, afraid of going wrong, afraid of not being traditional and of not being able to fit into the society in which one lives.

One is afraid of death, afraid of one's wife or husband and so on. And out of this fear arises violence. Please, as we said the other day, this is not a lecture; you are not just listening to a speaker, accepting or denying whatever he says, but rather we are investigating together this whole problem of violence and hence the problem of fear.

As we said in the previous talk every problem is related to all the problems that human beings have. If we can completely, totally understand one problem and therefore be free of it, then we shall see that it is related to all other problems, and so the mind is freed of all human problems. Freedom is necessary, freedom to investigate, to look, to observe; and we have not that freedom, we are not free. We may revolt against the established order, invent a new theory or dogma to which the mind is attached, but as human beings we object to being free. The more civilization advances, the more we abhor tyranny, any form of political dictatorship.

Dictatorship is a retrogression, but strangely enough we do not object to the religious dictatorship. We accept the priest, the dogma, the tradition, the saviours, the masters and all the rest of it; that is, we are frightened so we accept authority.


Editor's note: I find this a jarring statement by K. Over the years, I have noted the same anomalous dynamic. I can think of many people who consider themselves in-the-know, well informed, and jealously guard their political civil liberties. But then, within the religious context, their brains go to mush as they surrender autonomy to a Blackrobe Dear Leader. Why is this? The answer is simple - as K says: they are frightened, terrorized by death, and so they knuckle under to one claiming to know. What a farce and charade.


Therefore in understanding fear, which is very complex, we shall then understand the nature and structure of authority and so become a light to ourselves, not depending on anybody to tell us what to do. This is very important especially as chaos, anarchy and violence are growing in the world. When the mind is confused, at a loss, not knowing what to do, then out of fear it turns to some kind of authority - the authority of a priest, or a new society, the authority of a new guru or a new theological concept. So it is absolutely imperative that one understands this whole complex problem of fear, because a mind that is afraid cannot think straight. When the mind is afraid, it is confused; it lives in darkness. And most of us are afraid, afraid of falling ill, afraid of old age and death, afraid of what people think and so on. So is it possible for a human being, living in this world, to be radically, totally free of fear, not as an idea, not as an intellectual concept but actually?

What is fear? One is afraid if there is no physical security; obviously there is fear if one's next meal is not guaranteed. So there is no fear physically in the economic sense when every human being is assured of food, clothing and shelter. That is a basic necessity for man, an absolute essential, but that physical security is denied by national and religious divisions, territorial boundaries with their governments and armies and so forth. So the very thing that is absolutely necessary for all human beings - food, clothing and shelter - is denied through these national and religious divisions. There must be fear as long as these ideological differences exist because they deny the very thing that is essential for man. When you call yourself an Italian, an Englishman, a Russian or an American, that very assertion denies your own security. Please do follow this because through this division you are going to create wars, produce more violence; and therefore you become insecure. When you see this as an actual fact, not as a theory or an intellectual concept, then you no longer belong to any country, any society, any culture, that's already a tremendous revolution.

Then there are the psychological fears, the outward fears, the fear of being made uncertain in a world that is becoming more and more anarchistic, violent, insecure. I wonder if you realize what is happening the world over; in this country you may be fairly secure economically, but there's a whole civilization like India whose people are poverty stricken, hungry, uncertain of the next meal. And there is bound to be a clash between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'. So the war that's going on in Vietnam is your responsibility and it is your responsibility to see that nationalistic divisions are broken down. The unity of man is the important thing not the nation or the family.

So the question then arises: is it possible for a human being living in this world to be totally free of fear? That's what we are going to examine. Freedom is not freedom from something; freedom from something is merely a reaction. If I am free from anger, it is not freedom. Freedom is a state of mind in which no problem - whether it be sexual, individual or collective - exists at all. And without that total freedom there must be violence because freedom implies the highest form of intelligence. Intelligence is not a mere concept, a formula of the intellect.

I do not know if you have ever observed that when animals are herded together in a small space they become very violent. It is because they are not properly orientated; in the same way human beings living together in a confined space are bound to be violent. So there must be freedom not only outwardly but inwardly as well, that is there must be freedom of space. We will go into that presently.

So, is it possible for man to be totally free of fear? And what is fear? Does fear exist in the past, the present or the future? Do I know I was afraid or do I know I am afraid or that I shall be afraid? Is there such a thing as immediate fear or when you know you are afraid, is it not already over?

Please follow this carefully step by step because to understand clearly time is involved, and without understanding the whole structure of time we will not be able to understand fear. Now how do I know that I am afraid? When I am face to face with danger, at the very moment of confrontation, am I conscious of fear or is the response to danger so immediate that fear does not exist at all? The response is immediate. When you know the danger of nationalism which is spreading more and more throughout the world, when you know it, not theoretically but actually, then there is an immediate response to that danger and therefore you are free from nationalism because you see very clearly it is a threat to the security of man.

So fear is the product of thought. Right? Otherwise there is no fear. Fear is related to pleasure and pleasure is the product of thought as fear. I wonder if you are following this? You know, this is not an analytical talk. Analysis, however deep or clever, however true does not solve any problems. Analysis is merely a description of what is, and we are not analysing but just observing. It is very important to understand this, the art of looking, the art of seeing. We are seeing fear, listening to fear, to all its murmurs, not theoretically but actually. If we could see fear with eyes that are very clear then fear would completely come to an end. And that's what we are doing. Fear, as we said, is the result of thought. Yesterday I was healthy and enjoyed walking through the woods, but today or tomorrow I am afraid that I may fall ill. Do go into this with me! Please, if I may suggest, don't just listen but observe this thing operating in yourself. Yesterday there was a beautiful sunset and I enjoyed it tremendously. There is the memory of it and I want that pleasure repeated and when it is not repeated then I am afraid, which is all part of thinking. I am afraid of death, the tomorrow and the many tomorrows; thought is observing the fact of living - what it calls living - and also the fact that it is going to end, so thought is afraid of the thing it calls death. Therefore it puts death far away in the distance. This is very clear isn't it? Thought creates distance as well as time, so thought breeds fear.

After all, there is in the Christian world original sin, whatever that may mean, and Christians everywhere have been conditioned through propaganda to believe in this original sin. And, of course, that has bred a great deal of fear. That original sin is the invention of thought, so thought is responsible for fear. The ending of fear therefore is the understanding of the whole structure and mechanism of thought. No doubt you will say that if fear is to end, thought must also stop; we are not saying thought must stop, but that thought is responsible for fear. That is obvious.

Then one begins to enquire what is the nature of thought. To understand the structure of thought, not intellectually, you must see it as you would see a sensuous thing, feel it and then you will realize - if you go into it very deeply - that thought begins to understand itself as the origin of fear and it will act upon itself. You will see this for yourself if you go into it very deeply with the speaker. Thought is the product of time, time being memory, the accumulated knowledge of the many days, the many yesterdays, the many experiences. From that accumulated knowledge, experience, memory, there is a response which is thought and thought is matter. A mind that is concerned with going beyond the sensual, beyond matter, must understand thought; thought breeds sorrow as well as fear and pleasure. Yesterday you had an experience - sensual, sexual, or otherwise - and that experience leaves an imprint on the mind, on the brain. We mean by that word 'mind' not only the whole nervous organism, the brain cells, but the totality of all human intelligence, its activity, fears, thoughts, despairs and anxieties. All that is included when we use the word 'mind'.

As long as thought is seeking pleasure, there must be fear because pleasure means pain. We will go into that a little bit and you will see it for yourself. Please follow this carefully because it is your life, not mine! You and I together are making this terrible world; we are causing so much destruction, so much misery and we are responsible. And without understanding the nature of this thought with its pleasure and pain, its fear and its sorrow, we shall continue to bring about tremendous chaos in the world through our actions, our selfishness and our violence. As we said, thought breeds pleasure. Yesterday you had an experience which gave you pleasure and thought wants that pleasure repeated, so it thinks about it. The more it thinks about it, the greater the pleasure it derives from that experience. Thought also thinks about pain and it doesn't want that pain; so thought creates both pleasure and pain and gives them continuity. Right? And fear is also bred by thought. I am afraid of tomorrow; I don't know what is going to happen, I may lose my job, I may fall ill and I haven't fulfilled myself and I may die. I haven't understood this monstrous life and there's nobody to tell me; I am lost and afraid, I seek somebody, an authority to tell me what to do.

So thought creates fear of tomorrow, tomorrow being death. Actually if you observe, there is no tomorrow at all; if you really faced that fact psychologically you would no doubt be terribly afraid because tomorrow matters very much - psychologically. Tomorrow is going to give you a great deal of pleasure, you are going to paint a better picture or compose with greater feeling, you'll make it up with your wife or husband. So for you tomorrow is extraordinarily important. And is there tomorrow psychologically or has thought invented it? And if there is no fear, there is no tomorrow; then one lives with that complete sense of wholeness, always in the present.


Editor's note: This is another profound concept by K. What does it mean “there is no tomorrow at all”? Some years ago now, when I first learned of Summerland, I found myself uneasy with the prospect of the endless perfect summer day; there is no day-and-night there (however, you can go to areas to experience what you like, including, not just eventide but, rain, snow, etc.). This concept of unending day and “no tomorrow” still bothers me at times.

But why should this be so? As I examine my subliminal fear associated with this I begin to see. “Tomorrow,” apart from the ready definition of future duration of time, is actually a psychological construct. The ego, ever judging itself to be needy, sees the future as a refuge, a place of salvation, as it wants more time to enhance itself: “I might not have it all together right now, but my ship will come in – tomorrow.”

What a great insight by K! If we learn to become present to the “inner riches” and therefore live in the present moment, a sense of “tomorrow” disappears. In order to properly deal with the “terror of living forever,” we must learn to “live as the gods.” Simply importing one’s old mortal mindset into Summerland is not going to cut it for us. 


To understand the present you have to understand the nature of time which is yesterday with all its memories, the culture and the tradition, today and tomorrow. You cannot live totally, completely in the present when there is the image of the past or the concept of the future. To live in the present is only possible when there is love, and love has no tomorrow. But love is not pleasure nor desire; pleasure and desire have a tomorrow, have a future - I am going to be happy tomorrow.

So thought creates fear, thought gives continuity to desire as pleasure. Thought puts together yesterday, today and tomorrow as time; that's how we live. And beyond this we are seeking immortality through the son, through the family, through ideas. Fear breeds authority and obedience; and that obedience - whether of the son to the father or the wife to the husband - is violence because in it fear and dependence are involved.

One of the major factors of fear is death; the older one grows, the more one is afraid of death. You know what is happening in the world; the older people are pretending to be very young because they are afraid of old age, disease and death, so to be free of fear one must understand death. And if you don't understand death, you can't possibly know what love and beauty are. We don't know love; we only know jealousy and pleasure and the beauty that's put together by man.

We are talking of beauty in a totally different sense of that word. And therefore we must understand, not intellectually but actually, what it means to die. You know, it's only when a thing ends that there is a new beginning; whatever has continuity, goes on day after day, week after week, the same old repetition becomes tiresome and rather boring. It's only the thing which comes to an end that has a possibility of newness. After all, innocency is not a symbol - it is a fact. It is only the innocent mind that can see clearly, that can see something new. You may have looked at that flower by the roadside a hundred times, but if the mind and the eye of the mind are not innocent, you can't see the total beauty and the newness of that flower. That which has continuity cannot possibly be innocent.

Therefore belief - please follow this - destroys innocency. Belief is the result of fear. Whether you believe in God or don't believe in God, there's very little difference; they are both the result of your conditioning. You are conditioned to believe in God and the Communist is conditioned not to believe. But the believer and the non-believer has his own continuity and therefore there is no innocency to find what truth is. There is only innocency when every psychological memory comes to an end and out of that comes a totally new dimension. Death is after all a fact; we are all going to die whether we like it or not, through disease, through an accident or naturally, that is inevitable. Some scientist perhaps may discover a drug that will keep us alive fifty years longer, but it will be the same chaos. Death then is inevitable; through usage, through conflict, through constant struggle the physical organism wears itself out. Emotional stress and strain wear out the heart more quickly than actual physical activity. So there is physical death.

And is there any other form of death? We shall see. You are brought up, as most of the world, to believe in a soul, in a spiritual entity which is constant; that is, you will be resurrected. And in Asia they believe in reincarnation; that is, the believer is born over and over again until in time he becomes perfect. And when he has reached perfection - through being born over and over again and passing through these thousands of experiences - he is at one with whatever it is. That's the whole concept of reincarnation; you also have a similar concept only you put it a different way. Now fear is at the bottom of these concepts otherwise how do you know that there is anything permanent, like a soul or the atman, as the Hindus call it, within you? How do you know there's anything permanent in you? Is there anything permanent? Do please examine it, forgetting your belief! Is your relationship with anybody permanent? Aren't your thoughts changing every day, either being modified or added to? And isn't your physical organism undergoing tremendous changes all the time? So one has to ask if there is anything permanent at all? And yet that's what the mind is seeking because it says: 'If I die tomorrow what have I lived for? There must he something permanent, lasting, enduring!'

But if you observe very deeply, psychologically you will find there is nothing permanent, nothing! Whatever it is - your thoughts, your relationships, your ideas and ideals, your gods - nothing is permanent. We know this very deeply and we are frightened of it, so we invent another god and say I cannot live without hope, but actually all we know is despair. Out of that despair we become cynical, bitter, hard, brutal and violent. Then one sees that the thing one imagined to be permanent is thought itself. It is thought which has said there is a permanent soul, a permanent entity that eventually will evolve, become more beautiful till it reaches perfection. So the soul, the atman is the result of thought but the fact is, there is nothing permanent. When you face it as a fact it doesn't create despair; on the contrary, it is only when you do not face the fact that there is hope, fear and despair. So thought creates the fear of death because you think the little property in your name is permanent. You are afraid to let go and die every day to your house, your home, your wife, your children, your relationship with your husband, everything that thought clings to as me and mine. And to die to all that every day is a total renewal.

Last time we met we were saying that the relationship of human beings is based on images; the husband has an image about the wife and the wife has an image about the husband. These two images - which are memories and have no reality whatsoever except as memories - are related, they have a relationship, but if one dies to all images then relationship has quite a different meaning, then there is a direct, living relationship which is constantly changing. It does not mean that I pursue another man or a woman. Relationship means movement; it is not a static state as my wife, my husband, my family which is all based on an image. When the relationship is between two images then it becomes destructive and full of conflict. So we have an image about death; the thing known and the thing not known. We are really afraid of letting go of the known, not of facing the unknown; you cannot be afraid of the unknown because you don't know what it is. You can only know the unknown when there is freedom from the known, so you have to die to everything you have built up psychologically, inwardly, inside the skin as it were, this whole structure of experience to which the mind desperately clings. That is real death not the physical organism coming to an end, but to die psychologically to everything you have known. I wonder if you have ever tried it? Of course not. To die to a single pleasure, an enchanting remembrance, without argument, without a motive, just to drop it. Do it some time and you will see what is involved, how frightened you are to have a mind that is constantly renewing itself. What is this thing called life to which you cling so desperately? Look at it factually, not imaginatively or intellectually, this thing you call living!

Have you ever examined it? If you have, you will see that from the moment you are born until you die life is a battlefield with the occasional joy and flutter of happiness. It is a long battle full of ambition, competition, comparison, envy and jealousy, the struggle for power, prestige, position, making a name for oneself; and that's what you call living. And you are afraid to let all that go; you would rather cling to this ugly, violent, confusing existence instead of trying to find out for yourself whether it is possible to be free from the known. You know, it is only the innocent mind, the new mind that can be free from the known, not the old mind with its thousands of experiences which are pouring in consciously or unconsciously all the time. When you are outside, waiting for a bus, seeing people, looking at the sky or a beautiful sunset, or when you see a bird on the wing, a passing cloud, all these leave an imprint on the mind. And only a mind that is free from experience can be innocent.

We think experience is necessary. I wonder if it is. As human beings we have had twenty-five or thirty million years of experience. Historically during the last five thousand years there have been twelve thousand wars; that means two and a half wars every year. We have experienced sorrow, disease, confusion, misery, aching loneliness, separation, guilt and agony. After so many experiences, have we learnt anything? Is the mind chaste, virgin? Technologically, scientifically, we may learn from experience, but psychologically it doesn't teach us a thing.

So only a mind which is free from the known, dying every day and therefore renewing itself, can possibly understand this whole business of time, fear, pleasure and sorrow. And it is only such a mind that can see what is truth. Truth is not a word, it is not a concept; it isn't your truth and my truth, the Christian truth and the Muslim truth. Truth, like love, has no nationality, but to love and to see truth there must be no hate, no jealousy, no division and no anger. So one has to die to all that, to all the things which we call living and only then is there a possibility of that dimension in which time does not exist.



Editor's last word: