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Chapter 8 - The Central Root of Fear - Discussion in New Delhi on 13 November 1972
Pupul Jayakar (PJ): Krishnaji, you said in your talk yesterday(1) that the greatest security in the facing of fear and in the dissolution of fear is intelligence. The problem really is that in a crisis, when fear from the unconscious floods you, where is intelligence, where is the place for intelligence? You have said that intelligence demands the negation of that which comes in its way, it demands listening and seeing. But when one's being is flooded by this uncontrollable fear which has no cause, or which probably has a cause but is not immediately discernible, where is the place for intelligence? How does one deal with those fears because they are the primeval, archetypal fears that lie at the very base of the human psyche? And one of these fears is the destruction of the self.
Questioner 1 (Q1): Or the meaninglessness of the self.
PJ: That we can deal with, but not with the fear of not being.
Krishnamurti (K): We said so yesterday, didn't we? Not being or not becoming.
PJ: And that really is the structure of fear.
K: What is it you are asking? What is it we are talking over or exploring together?
PJ: How does one deal with fear? You have still not answered it. You have talked of intelligence being the greatest security. It is so, but when fear floods you where is intelligence?
K: You are saying that at the moment of a great wave of fear, intelligence is not. How to deal with that wave of fear at that moment? Is that the question?
(1) The Second Public Talk in New Delhi on 12 November 1972
K: Discuss it.
Sunanda Patwardhan (SP): One understands that fear is like the branches of a tree. You know the various things that you are afraid of, and in dealing with them one by one you know why you are afraid, but you are not free from fear. So what is this quality of seeing fear without the branches?
K: Ah no. You're being clever, you are being too clever. He [K] asked, didn't he, do we trim the leaves, the branches, or do we go to the very root of it?
SP: The root of each single branch of fear?
K: No, of fear. Which puts out all these various little branches or the great branches, the trunk-the root, the whole base, the very depth of fear.
SP: You come to it through one, sometimes.
K: Let's find out.
PJ: You may come to it through one, and you may feel you are free, but there are so many fears which you are totally unconscious of.
K: I understand. So you are saying: there are unconscious and conscious fears, and the unconscious fears become extraordinarily strong at moments, and at those moments intelligence isn't in operation. How does one deal with those waves of unconscious, uncontrollable, frightening fears? Is that it?
PJ: Yes. It seems to take a material form. It is a physical thing which overpowers you.
K: Yes, it upsets you neurologically and biologically. I understand. Let's explore.. He said yesterday, didn't he, that fears, conscious or unconscious, deep fears, exist when there is insecurity, when there is deep uncertainty, when there is a sense of loneliness, when there is a feeling of complete abandonment by others, a sense of complete isolation, a sense of not being, a feeling of utter helplessness. These arouse a very deep fear, and at those moments when that deep fear arises, obviously intelligence is not. And we are asking: how do we deal with that uncontrollable, ungovernable, uninvited fear? Is that the question? That's it.
PJ: Of course, however much one might feel that one has faced the fears which are known, unconsciously one is just swamped.
K: I know, I know. That's what we are saying. We are asking, how do you deal with this? I think that consciously one can more or less deal with them. The physical, conscious, everyday fears one can deal with.
PJ: And leave them alone.
K: Leave them alone. Or you know what to do with them, that is, the outskirts of intelligence can deal with them. Yes, quite.
PJ: You can even allow them to flower.
K: To flower and then, in the very flowering of it, there is intelligence. Quite. Now, how do you deal with the other? Why does the unconscious-we will use that word for the time being-hold these fears? Or does the unconscious invite these fears? Does it hold them? Or do they exist in the traditional depths of the unconscious? Or, are they something that it gathers from the environment? There are three things, aren't there? Why does it hold them at all? And are they inherent? There is no such thing as inherent, but we'll use the word. Are the inherited fears part of the unconscious, racial, traditional history of man?
PJ: Inherited genes.
K: Yes. Now, how do you deal with them?
PJ: You spoke of the third one-those gathered from the environment.
K: First of all, let's deal with the first one. Why does the unconscious hold them at all? Why do we regard the unconscious, or the deeper layers of consciousness, as the storehouse of fear, as the residue of fear? Why? Why does the unconscious have these fears? Is it imposed by the culture in which we live? Does the conscious mind, not being able to deal with the fears, push them down, and therefore they remain there? Or is it that the mind with all its content hasn't resolved any of the problems and is frightened of not being able to resolve them? We are examining; I want to find out what is the significance of the unconscious at all. You said these waves of fear come; but they are always there, and in a crisis you become aware of them.
SP: Sir, they are in consciousness. Why do you say they are unconscious and conscious? In consciousness itself there is fear.
K: First of all, consciousness is made up of its content. Without its content there is no consciousness. One of the contents is this basic fear. And the conscious mind never tackles that; it is there, but it never says, 'I must deal with it.' And in moments of crisis, that part of consciousness wakes up and is frightened. Right? It is always there.
PJ: Yes, I would say so, but I don't think it is so simple.
K: No, no, please. I don't say it is so simple. Let's look.
PJ: It is both those: a gathering of the outer environment and the central fear...
K: ...of non-existence.
PJ: Of non-existence.
K: Quite, quite.
PJ: The other fears one has seen, but these get embodied.
K: It's always there.
PJ: Yes, it's always there.
K: Let's be clear on that point. Is it always there? Or is it a part of the cultural inheritance?
PJ: You separate the two, but I don't think it is valid. How do you separate the two? It is always there, and it is a part of the cultural inheritance.
K: I am asking, is it?
PJ: But is there a difference between the two?
K: Yes. One may be born in a culture that does not admit fear.
PJ: There is no such culture.
K: Of course there is no such culture. I am asking myself: is it part of the culture? Or is it inherent in man, as it exists in the animal, as it exists in every living thing-this sense of not being, of being destroyed?
PJ: It's the instinct of self-preservation that takes the form of fear.
K: I understand that.
PJ: But it is not the same as the body I know.
K: No, no. I understand. The whole structure of the self is frightened of not being. That exists in every living thing; even the little ant is afraid of not being. So it goes right through. So we say it is there, it is a part of human existence. And one becomes tremendously aware of it in a crisis. And we are asking, 'How do you deal with it at that moment when this surge of fear comes out?' Is that the question?
K: Why do we wait for the crisis? I'm just asking; I'm not saying we should or should not.
PJ: Because you cannot evoke it.
K: Wait. I'm not sure.
PJ: How does one evoke it? It's a very strong sensation.
K: We are trying to find out. We say it is always there, it's a part of our human structure-biological, psychological; the whole structure is frightened. It's there, as with the tiniest living thing, the minutest cell. Right? Why do we wait for a crisis to come and bring it out? That's a most irrational acceptance of it. I ask, why should I have a crisis to deal with that thing?
PJ: Because otherwise it is non-existent.
SP: How do you say it is non-existent?
PJ: Because it is not obvious.
SP: It comes to me when there is fear with reference to certain things.
PJ: I know how to deal with those.
SP: You only know. If you dealt with them, that is something different.
PJ: One knows how to deal with those. Take the fear of one's own death: one faces it. Look, sir, I am talking from...
K: ...from your own direct experience. Go on.
PJ: I say it is possible to face it with intelligence. It is possible to face other fears with intelligence.
K: Pupul, wait a minute, go slowly. You say you can face these fears intelligently.
K: That's what I am objecting to. I question whether you face them intelligently.
PJ: That's what I want to clarify. Probably what I call 'intelligently' is not...
K: I question whether you can have intelligence before you have resolved fear. You say you can deal intelligently with certain fears; I question it. Intelligence comes only when fear is not. Intelligence is light and fear is darkness. When darkness goes, there is light. You cannot deal with darkness with light. Light exists only when darkness is not.
SP: With light you can't deal with darkness?
PJ: Then there is no darkness to deal with.
K: Exactly! Be simple. So I am questioning it altogether when you say you can deal intelligently with these fears. I say you cannot. You may rationalize them, you may see their nature, avoid them, go beyond them, but that is not intelligence.
PJ: I would say intelligence lies in an awareness of fear arising, in the non-turning away from it, and the dissolution of it. But you say fear would not arise.
Nandini Mehta (NM): I think we never allow it to arise.
K: That's my point.
SP: No. Fear comes. We get knowledge of fear, but it comes again.
NM: It does, but we struggle with it. We don't allow it to flower, so it does not arise.
S. Balasundaram (SB): Would you say that the true dissolution of a fear is the dissolution of all fear?
K: No, sir, no. You see, I am questioning altogether the whole response to a crisis, the response being fear. A crisis is necessary, apparently, to arouse this fear, right? It is there. Then why do you have a crisis, why do you need a crisis if it is there? Why do you need a crisis to awaken it?
PJ: I don't need a crisis.
K: A crisis takes place and this wakes up. A crisis comes and this awakens.
NM: What do you call a crisis? A word, a thought can bring about a crisis.
K: That's what I mean-a word, a gesture, a movement, anything. That's a crisis, I mean that. Not the crisis when my son dies; I don't mean that. A word, a gesture, a look, a thought-those are challenges.
NM: You hear something...
K: Yes, that's implied. That, you say, brings it out. I am asking, why do we wait for it?
NM: Then what do we deal with?
K: We are investigating. You know what that word investigate means? 'To trace out'. Therefore you are tracing it; you are not saying why this, that, the other. You are following it out. I am asking, 'Why do I wait for a crisis-a gesture, a thought, a word, a look, a whisper?' Any of those is a challenge.
NM: No, I don't look for that. The only thing I am aware of is that I am paralysed.
K: Now, when that happens you get paralysed. Why? Therefore, to you, that is necessary.
NM: No, I don't say that. I only come into contact with that.
K: You're missing my point. Why don't you come into contact with it before the challenge?
PJ: We are asking: how to do it?
K: I am doing it, I am going into it. Listen to my question first; you are not listening to my question. You say a crisis awakens this, even a small crisis. A gesture, a word, a whisper, a look, a thought, a letter-we include all that. It's a challenge which awakens this. I say to myself, 'Why shouldn't this awaken without the challenge?' If it is there, it must be awake. It isn't dormant. Or is it dormant? And if it is dormant, why is it dormant? Is the conscious mind frightened of its awakening; therefore it has put it to sleep and refuses to look at it? (We are tracing it, go slowly. We are sending out a rocket, we are tracing a rocket.) Has the conscious mind done that? Is it frightened to look at it and therefore says, 'For God's sake, keep it quiet'? Or is it there, awake, and the conscious mind won't let it flower, come out? That is, if you admit that it is a part of human existence.
PJ: It has no independent existence apart from the stimuli of outer experiences.
K: So you are saying that without the stimuli this is not.
PJ: It is not, to me.
K: I question it. I don't accept the 'to me'. If it is so to you, it must be so to me because I am a human being.
PJ: Outer or inner stimuli-the inner being a thought and the outer being a happening.
K: I don't divide the outer and the inner; it's all one movement.
PJ: That's why I said it has no existence apart from that.
K: You are moving away, Pupul. Forgive me for saying so.
PJ: No, sir. Just look at it. You are asking, 'Why don't you look at it, why don't you face it?'
K: No, I am not saying any of that.
PJ: You did say. You asked, 'Why don't you deal with the crisis?'
SP: Why do you wait for a crisis?
K: That's quite a different matter. You are jumping to conclusions, I am not. Please let's begin again. I say to myself, 'Must I wait for a crisis for this fear to come out?' That's all my question. If it is there, it must come out. Or if it is dormant, why is it dormant? Who has put it to sleep?
NM: It's obvious who has put it to sleep.
K: Is it the conscious mind? Then why does it put it to sleep? Because it can't resolve it. The conscious mind is concerned with resolving it and, not being able to, puts it to sleep, squashes it, holds it down-use any word you like. And the conscious mind is shaken when the crisis takes place and this comes out. Right? So I ask myself, 'Why should the conscious mind suppress it, what right has it?' Why should it do it? Is it because it can't deal with it?
SP: The instrument of the conscious mind is analysis, recognition, which is inadequate to deal with it.
K: It can't deal with it. Because this requires real simplicity, not analysis. It can't deal with it; therefore it puts it to sleep and says, 'I want to avoid it, I won't look at it.'
NM: And in a crisis it bursts.
K: It bursts. But I say, 'Look what you are doing. You are waiting for a crisis to awaken it.' And the conscious mind is all the time avoiding crises. Very cunning it is. Watch it. It is very clever-avoiding, reasoning, rationalizing, running away. We are masters at this game. Therefore I say to myself, 'If it is there, it is awake.' Not that it has not been put to sleep. You can't put to sleep a thing that is inherent, that is a part of our inheritance. The conscious mind thinks it has put it to sleep; therefore the conscious mind is shaken when the crisis takes place. Therefore deal with it differently; that's all my point. Is this not true? My basic fear is of nonexistence, a sense of complete fear of uncertainty, of not being, of dying. Why doesn't the mind bring it out and move with it? Why has it to wait for a crisis?
NM: I do it, I do it little by little.
K: No, I'm not talking of 'little by little'. That's too silly, all that kind of stuff; that's all playing games. Are you lazy, therefore you haven't got the energy to go to the root of it? Am I talking irrationally? Is this irrational?
PJ: It is not irrational, but I am trying to see whether it is valid.
K: I am trying to see if it is valid, too. We say that every living thing is frightened of not being, of not surviving. That is part of our blood, our cells. Our whole being is that-frightened of not being, frightened of dying, frightened of being killed; it's there. So it is a part of us, part of our whole psychological as well as biological structure. And I ask myself, 'Why is any kind of crisis, whether the tiniest challenge or the great challenge, necessary? Why should that become important?' I object to any challenge. I want to be ahead of the challenge, not behind the challenge.
PJ: I am just listening because I cannot participate in what you are saying.
K: What are you talking about? Why can't you? I am going to die, and I am ahead of death when I know I am going to die.
K: Go slowly. I am going to die, and I am now ahead of it intellectually, rationally. I have rationalized, I have intellectualized, all the rest of it; therefore I treat it as if I am ahead, my mind is far ahead of my death. But it is not far ahead; it is far ahead only in thought.
SP: Yes, in thought.
K: Which is not being far ahead.
PJ: Let's take the actuality of this.
K: I am taking the actuality.
PJ: One faces death, and one is a step ahead, and one moves on. Suddenly, at a time not connected with that crisis, this thing uncoils like a snake, and then one suddenly realizes that one was not ahead of it.
K: I understand that. But it is all the result of a challenge, whether it took place yesterday or a year ago or now.
PJ: So the question is: with what instrument, with what energy, from what dimension does one see, and what does one see?
K: I want to be clear about two things: that it is a part of our structure, our inheritance.
PJ: It's the brain cells...
K: Of course. The brain cell, every little thing, the minutest thing, biologically, psychologically, is frightened of not being. And thought says, 'I am not going to look at this thing.' And when the challenge takes place, thought is absent.
PJ: What do you mean 'Thought says it is not going to look at it'?
K: Because I cannot look at it. Thought can rationalize it, it can say yes, it can project, it can reason, it can cunningly analyse it, but...
PJ: How can this very instrument which is brewing it itself realize this?
K: I am coming to it. I am asking you, 'Why does the mind wait for a challenge? Is it necessary?' If you say it is necessary, then you are waiting for it.
PJ: If I say it is not necessary...
K: No, I don't say it's not. I am asking you. You have stated it.
PJ: I say I don't know. I only know that a challenge arises and fear arises.
K: No, no. Challenge awakens the fear. Let's stick to that. And I ask, 'Why do you wait for a challenge for this to awaken?'
PJ: Your question is a paradox.
K: No, it's not.
PJ: Because then you would ask, 'If you do not wait for the challenge, do you evoke the challenge?'
K: No. I am opposed to challenge altogether. You are missing my point.
PJ: But then how do you contact fear?
K: I'm going to show it to you. My mind will not accept challenge at any time. Which means challenge is necessary to awaken, right? I am asleep, and challenge is necessary to wake me up; that's implied. And I say that's a wrong statement.
PJ: But why do you use the word necessary?
K: Otherwise you will be asleep.
PJ: No, sir. I don't say challenge is necessary to wake me up.
K: Therefore you reject challenge.
PJ: That is also not so.
K: So it is awake.
PJ: It is awake and asleep, it is both.
K: What is asleep? The conscious mind? The unconscious? Are the various parts asleep and only some awake?
PJ: When I am awake, I am awake.
K: That's all. If you are awake, no challenge is necessary. Now wait a minute. As we said, it's part of life-that which shouldn't die. That's awake all the time. Right? Is it awake all the time?
PJ: No, not all the time.
K: What do you mean? You are not conscious of it, you don't trace it. You are not aware, but it is there under the carpet all the time. But you don't look at it. It is there!
PJ: Look at what?
K: I said it is under the carpet; lift the carpet and look. And then that simile doesn't hold. It is there; that's all my point. It is there and awake. So, that does not need a challenge to make it awake. Look at it. I am frightened all the time of not being, of dying, of not achieving; you know all that. That is the basic fear of our life, and it is there, awake, always watching, guarding, protecting itself. It's very much awake. It is never a moment asleep.
PJ: Yes, I would accept that.
K: Therefore challenge isn't necessary. What to do, how to do-that comes later. Right? Don't agree, for God's sake.
PJ: That is the fact.
K: Therefore it is awake.
Achyut Patwardhan (AP): In all this you don't accept the factor of inattention?
K: I am not talking of attention. I said it is awake. It's like a snake in the room: it's always there. I may look somewhere, but it's there. So the conscious mind is concerned with how to deal with it, and as it cannot deal with it, it moves away. The conscious mind then gets a challenge to face it, face a living thing. That doesn't need a challenge.
Questioner 2 (Q2): Consciousness will see it.
K: That's it. At last! You're getting this? A conscious mind that has never moved away from it doesn't need a challenge. But the conscious mind that says, 'I can't look; I will read the Gita or the Upanishads, I will go to the office, I will do this, I will do that' has blinded itself against it. So the challenge is necessary there, not to this. Right? I'll be logical. Let's see if it is right.
NM: Really, when you think of it, it is just a thought; we're just caught in that thing. Still we cannot examine that thought. That shadow is in the mind.
K: Go into it, go into it, trace it out, trace it out; don't jump to conclusions. You have jumped to a conclusion. So the mind refuses challenge. The conscious mind says, 'I see this, how absurd. I won't allow challenges to wake me up, I am awake.' You admit challenge, I don't admit challenge. It is not my experience; it is yours if you say 'I will not'-not in an authoritative, affirmative sense. Then the next question is: the conscious mind is awake to it, it is not inviting it, it is there. You can't invite something; it is there. Go step by step, don't conclude at any second. So the conscious mind knows it is there, fully awake. Then what are we going to do next?
PJ: There lies the inadequacy.
K: Ah no, no! You are missing the whole point. It's the conscious mind that is frightened of this.
PJ: But this is the conscious mind.
K: No, no. Just see this. It's the conscious mind that is frightened of this. In itself it is not frightened. The ant is not frightened; if it's squashed, it's squashed. It's the conscious mind that says, 'I am frightened of this, of not being.' I die, I meet with an accident, the aeroplane crashes, then I face the thing. At the moment of death I say, 'Yes, I know now what it means to die.' Therefore there is no fear. It is the conscious mind with all its thoughts that says, 'My God, I am going to die, I will not die, I must not die, I will protect myself, I'll run to Jesus, to somebody; the Gita says that.' That is the thing that is frightened, not this. Look at the ant: it's never frightened. Have you ever watched an ant? It is never frightened because there is nothing to be frightened of. If somebody kills it, it dies.
NM: But, sir, have you ever seen how an ant, when you put a piece of paper in front of it, dodges it?
K: Of course. It wants to survive, but it isn't thinking of surviving. So we come back to that thing: thought creates fear about something which is not afraid, which doesn't know fear. If it is a part of my very living, what is there to be afraid of? It is only thought that says, 'I might die, I am lonely, I am not fulfilled', etc., etc. That means living with death all the time, therefore no fear. Die, die-that is timeless eternity, that is real eternity. It is extraordinary how this fits in, this is right. [Pause] Look, why should I be frightened if it is a part of me, like my nose? Why should I be frightened? If it is a part of me, like my arm, my eyes, my mouth, anything, why should I be frightened? It's only thought that says, 'The nose must be different.' By Jove, how cunning we are! To be completely motionless when that thing comes. When that thing is awake, when the central root of fear is awake, for the mind to be completely still. Any movement is the movement of thought.
PJ: Has it ever happened to you, sir?
K: Many times, several times. Completely still, without any recoil, either accepting or denying it, rationalizing it, escaping from it, belief, reincarnation-nothing, no movement of any kind. Try it. [Pause] We have solved it, got at the root of it, haven't we?
PJ: After this there is nothing more to be said, sir. When the Buddha goes and faces the ultimate fears in the garden, he describes it as: 'Then fear arose and the Buddha kept on, kept on, kept on.'
AP: But the point Krishnaji made today is that in a state of attention you are always ahead of anything becoming a challenge because you are the challenge.
PJ: When the mind is totally still, the challenge is not. Then that thing arrives.
K: Yes, sir!