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Paris 1961

Paris 5th Public Talk 14th September 1961

I think it would be good if we could actually experience that which I am going to talk about. For most of us experience is a very casual affair. We respond to any challenge half-heartedly, languidly; there is hesitation, fear of what the consequences will be. We never respond to a challenge completely, with all our being. So there is always a lack of total attention when there is a challenge, and therefore our responses are very limited, restricted; they are never free, complete. One must have noticed that. And I feel it is very important to consider this carefully because we have so many experiences all day long, so many influences pass through us, each leaving its mark. The casual word, a gesture, an idea, a passing phrase or glance - these all leave their imprint, and we never give our total attention to any of them. To experience anything completely there must be total attention; and we can see that attention is very different from concentration. Concentration is a process of exclusion, a narrowing down, a cutting out, whereas attention takes everything in.

As I am going to talk about something rather complex, I think one should be aware that experiencing demands total attention; not merely to listen to the words but also to actually experience the thing. Listening is quite difficult. We hardly ever really listen to anything, to a bird, to a voice, to the husband, wife or child; we just casually take a few words in and discard the rest, always interpreting, changing, condemning and choosing. Listening demands a certain quality of full attention where none of these happens, where you give your whole being to finding out.

So to find out about fear, which I am going to talk over with you now, to go into it rather deeply, demands sustained attention, not listening to a few phrases only and then going off thinking about your own ideas and problems, but actually going through the whole problem of fear to the very end. To be really serious is to have the capacity to go, to the very end of any issue, whatever the consequences, whatever the final result may be.

I want to talk about fear, because fear distorts all our feelings, our thoughts and our relationships. It is fear that makes most of us turn what is called spiritual; it is fear that drives us to the intellectual solutions offered by so many people; it is fear which makes us do all kinds of odd and peculiar things. And I wonder if we have ever experienced actual fear, not the feeling that arises before or after an event! Is there such a thing as fear, by itself? Or is there only fear when there is the thought of tomorrow or yesterday, of what has happened or what will happen? Is there ever fear in the living, active present? When you are confronted with the thing of which you say you are afraid, in that actual moment is there fear?

For me, it is very important, this question of fear. Because unless the mind is totally, completely, absolutely free of fear of every kind - fear of death, of public opinion, of separation, of not being loved; you know the many types and varieties of fear - unless the total consciousness is free of fear it is impossible to go very far. One may potter anxiously around in the enclosures of one's own brain; but to go very, very deeply into oneself and to see what there is and beyond, there must be no fear of any kind, neither the fear of death, nor of poverty, nor of not attaining something.

Fear, because of its very nature, inevitably prevents enquiry. And unless the mind, the whole being is free from fear, not only the conscious fears but the deep, secret, hidden fears of which one is hardly aware, there is no possibility of finding out what is actually there, what is true, what is factual, and if there actually is that sense of sublimity, of immensity which man has been talking about for centuries upon centuries.

I feel that it is possible to be totally free of fear, not during a period, not eventually, but literally to be free of it completely. The experience of that total state of non-fear is what I want to go into with you.

I want to make it clear that I am not talking from memory. I have not already thought out beforehand the question of fear and come here to repeat what I have rehearsed - that would be terribly boring, for me and for you. I also am enquiring. It must be new every time. And I hope you are taking the journey of enquiry with me and not merely being concerned with your own particular form of fear, whether it is of darkness, the doctor, hell, disease, God, what your parents will say, what the wife, the husband will say, or any of the dozens of forms of fear. We are enquiring into the nature of fear and not into any particular expression of fear.

Now, if you will examine, you will see that there is fear only when thought dwells on the yesterday or tomorrow, the past or the future. The active verb is never fearful, but in the past or the future of the verb there is always fear. There is no fear in the actual present; and that is an extraordinary thing to discover for oneself. There is no fear of any kind when there is the actual, living moment, the active present. So thought is the origin of fear, the thought of tomorrow or yesterday. Attention is in the active present. The thought of what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow is inattention, and inattention breeds fear. Is that not so? When I can give my whole attention to any issue, without withholding, without denying, without judging, evaluating in that state of attention there is no fear. But if there is inattention, that is, if I say, `What will happen tomorrow', or if I am caught up in what happened - ) yesterday, then that engenders fear. Attention is the active present. Fear is thought caught in time. When you are confronted with something real, actual, when there is danger, in that moment there is no thought, you act. And that action may be positive or negative.

So thought is time - not time by the watch, but the psychological time of thought. So time breeds fear: time as the distance from here to there, which is the process of becoming something; time as the things I have said and done yesterday, the hidden things which I do not want anyone to know; time as what will happen tomorrow, what becomes of me when I die.

So thought is time. And in the active present is there time and is there thought? One can see, can one not?, that fear only exists when thought projects itself forwards or backwards, and that thought is the result of time - time as becoming something or not becoming, time as fulfilment or frustration. We are not talking of chronological time; obviously to try to dispense with that would be lopsided and silly. We are talking of time as thought. If that is clear, then we must go into the question of what is thought, what is thinking. And I hope you are not merely listening to the words but actually listening to the challenge of what is being said, and responding for yourself. I am asking, `What is thinking?' Unless you know the mechanism of thinking and have gone into it very deeply you cannot answer, your response will be inadequate. And if your response is inadequate there will be conflict, and in trying to get away from the conflict there is the avoidance of the fact - the fact that you do not know. The moment you realize that you have no answer, that you do not know, there is fear. I wonder if you are following all this.

So, what is thinking? Obviously, thinking is the reaction between challenge and response, is it not? I ask you something and there is a time interval before you reply; in that interval thought is acting, searching for an answer. It is fairly simple to listen to this explanation; but to actually experience the process of thinking for yourself, to go into the question of how the brain responds to a challenge and what is the process of manufacturing the response, requires active attention, does it not? Please watch your response to the question: what is thinking? What is taking place? You cannot answer; you have never looked to find out; you are waiting for some response from your memory. And in that time-lag, in the interval between the question and the response there is the process of thinking; is that not so? If I ask you a question with which you are familiar, such as `What is your name?', you answer instantaneously, because after constant repetition you know the answer so well. If one asks something a little more serious, there is a time interval of several seconds, is there not?, during which the brain is set in motion and is looking into memory for the answer. If one asks a much more complex question, the time interval is greater but the process is the same - looking into memory, searching for the right words, finding them and then responding. Please follow this slowly, because it is really very amusing and interesting to watch this process taking place. It is all a part of self-knowing.

One can also ask a question, such as `What is the mileage between here and New York?', to which, after searching in memory you have to say, `I do not know, but I can find out'. This takes more time. And one can ask a question to which you have to say, `I do not know the answer; but at the same time you are waiting for an answer, waiting to be told the answer. So, there is the familiar question and the immediate response; the not-so-familiar question, taking a little time; there is something which you are not sure of but can find out, again taking time; and something you do not know but think that if you wait you will get an answer.

Now, if one asks the question, `Is there God, or not?', what happens? There is no answer to be found from memory, is there? Though you may like to believe, though you have been told, you have to brush all that nonsense aside. Investigation in memory does not help; waiting to be told is no good, for nobody can tell you; and the time interval is of no avail. There is only the fact in the active present, the absolute certainty that you do not know. This state of not-knowing is complete attention, is it not? And every other form of knowing or not-knowing comes from time and thought, and is inattention.

In following all this are you learning? Surely, learning implies not-knowing. Learning is not additive, you cannot gather it. In the process of gathering, accumulating, you are merely adding to knowledge, which is static. Whereas learning is constantly changing, moving living.

Therefore, what happens if you are learning about fear? You are pursuing fear, are you not? You are after fear, fear is not after you. And then you find that there is no such thing as `you and fear'. There is no such division. So attention is the active present in which the mind, the brain says, `I absolutely do not know'. And in that state there is no fear. But there is fear when you say, `I do not know, but I hope'. I think this is a very crucial point to understand. Let us look at it differently.

After all, fear arises when you are seeking security, outward or inward; when you want a state which is permanent, enduring, lasting, in relationship, in the things of this world, in the assurance that knowledge gives, in emotional experience. And ultimately we say there is God who is absolutely, everlastingly, permanent - where we can find a peace, a security, which can never be disturbed. Each one is seeking security in one form or another, and you know how one plays at it all - seeking security in love, in property, in virtue, vowing to oneself to be good, to be without sex. We all know the `horrors involved in openly or secretly seeking security. And that is fear, because you have never found out if there is security. You do not know. I am using those words in the sense that it is a fact that absolutely and completely you do not know. You do not know if there is God or not. You do not know whether there will be another war or not. You do not know what is going to take place tomorrow. You do not know if there is anything permanent inwardly. You do not know what is going to happen in your relationships, with your wife, your husband, your children. You do not know; but you have to find out, have you not? You have to find out for yourself that you do not know. And that state of not knowing, that state of complete uncertainty is not fear; it is full attention in which you can find out.

So one sees that the totality of consciousness, the whole of it - which includes the superficial, the conscious, the hidden, and the utmost depths of the racial residue, the motives, all that which is thought - is essentially fear. Though it may have certain forms of pleasure, pain, amusement, joy and all the rest of it, you will see that it is the result of time. Consciousness is time, it is the result of many days, months, years and centuries. Your consciousness as a Frenchman, historically, has taken many generations of propaganda. The fact that you are a Christian, a Catholic, or whatever it may be, has taken two thousand years of propaganda during which you have been made to believe, to think, to function and act in a certain pattern which you call Christian. And not to have any belief, to be as nothing seems very fearful. So the total consciousness is fear. That is a fact, and you cannot merely agree or disagree with a fact.

Now, what happens when you are confronted with a fact? Either you have opinions about the fact, or you merely observe the fact. If you have opinions, judgments, evaluations of the fact then you are not seeing. Then time comes in, because your opinion is of time, of yesterday, what you have known previously. The actual seeing is the active present, and in that seeing there is no fear. I am not mesmerizing you by saying there is no fear. This is an actual fact. It is the experiencing of an actual fact which frees the total consciousness from fear. I hope you are not too tired and are experiencing this; because you cannot take it home and think it over. Then it has no value. What has value is directly to face it and go into it. Then you will see that the whole of our thinking mechanism with its knowledge, its subtleties, its defences and denials - the whole of that is thought and the actual cause of fear. And we see also that when there is total attention, there is no thought; there is merely perception, seeing.

When there is attention there is complete stillness; for in that attention there is no exclusion. When the brain can be completely still, not asleep but active, sensitive, alive, in that state of attentive stillness there is no fear. Then there is a quality of movement which is not thought at all, nor is it feeling, emotion or sentiment. It is not a vision, not a delusion; it is a totally different kind of movement which leads to the Unnameable, the Immeasurable, the Truth.

But unfortunately you are not really listening, experiencing, because you have not actually gone into it, you have not enquired that far. Therefore before long, fear will surge over you again and overwhelm you. So you have to go into it; and as you go into it, it is being resolved. That is the foundation; and when you have laid the foundation, you will never seek, because all search after reality is based on fear. When the mind, the brain, is free of fear, then you will find out.

Question: I have read a book by you on Education. Could we not found a school of that kind while you are here in Paris?

Krishnamurti: First of all, sir, we have been talking of fear, not of founding schools. If you want to found a school of that sort, it is up to you, not to me, because I am going at the end of next week. And schools are not so easily founded. There must be fire behind it. This question is right in its own place; but perhaps we can ask more relevant questions.

Question: Why do children have fear?

Krishnamurti: Is not the question: why do you have fear? It is fairly obvious why children have fear. They are surrounded by a society which is based on fear. The parents are afraid; and the child needs security essentially, and when he is deprived of security he is afraid. You see, you are not facing the fact that you are afraid.

Question: Is it possible to be always in the state of full attention which excludes fear?

Krishnamurti: In attention there is no exclusion; it is not a process of resistance. We went into the question of fear and we saw that there is no fear when you are attending. In attention there is not an exclusive process of thought. You can use thought, but there is no exclusiveness. I do not know if you see the point. I am attending; at the moment I am completely there. But I am using words to communicate. The use of words is limited to that only, to the communication, not to the experiencing of the actual fact. And then there is the question as to whether one can maintain full attention. To `maintain' implies time, and therefore you have already destroyed attention. If there is the cessation of attention, leave it, and let it arise. Do not say, `I must maintain it; for that means effort, time, thought and all the rest of it.

Question: Is all memory connected with knowledge, or is that silence a memory of a different kind?

Krishnamurti: The whole process of knowing, gathering experience, results in memory, which is time. We know the mechanical process of accumulating memory. Every experience not understood, incomplete, leaves its mark which we call memory.

And is that stillness a memory of a different quality? It has nothing whatsoever to do with memory. Memory implies, does it not?, continuity: the past, the present and the future. Stillness has no continuity, and this is important to understand. One can induce, discipline the brain to be still, and that disciplining has a continuity; but the stillness which is a result of discipline, of memory, is not stillness at all.

We are talking of a stillness which comes without invitation when there is no fear of any kind, open or secret. And when there is that stillness, which is an absolute necessity and which is not of memory, then there is a totally different type of movement.

September 14, 1961


Paris 1961

Paris 5th Public Talk 14th September 1961

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