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Life Ahead

Part 1

Life Ahead Part One Chapter 5

We have been talking the last three or four times about fear; and as it is one of the fundamental causes of our deterioration, I think we ought to look at it from a different angle, a different point of view.

You know, we are always told what to think and what not to think. Books, teachers, parents, the society around us, all tell us what to think, but they never help us to find out how to think. To know what to think is comparatively easy, because from early childhood our minds are conditioned by words, by phrases, by established attitudes and prejudices. I do not know if you have noticed how the minds of most older people are fixed; they are set like clay in a mould, and it is very difficult to break through this mould. This moulding of the mind is its conditioning.

Here in India you are conditioned to think in a certain way by centuries of tradition; your conditioning has economic, social and religious causes. In Europe the mind is conditioned in a somewhat different way; and in Russia, since the revolution, the political leaders have set about conditioning the mind in still another way. So, everywhere the mind is being conditioned, not only superficially, consciously, but also deeply. The hidden or unconscious mind is conditioned by the race, by the climate, by un-verbalized and un-uttered imitations.

Now, the mind cannot be free as long as it remains moulded or conditioned. And most people think that you can never free your mind from its conditioning that it must always be conditioned. They say that you cannot help having certain ways of thinking, certain prejudices, and that there can be no release, no freedom for the mind. Furthermore, the older the civilization, the greater the weight of tradition, of authority, of discipline which burdens the mind. People who belong to an old race, as in India, are more conditioned than those who live in America, for example, where there is more social and economic freedom, and where the people have fairly recently been pioneers.

A conditioned mind is not free because it can never go beyond its own borders, beyond the barriers it has built around itself; that is obvious. And it is very difficult for such a mind to free itself from its conditioning and go beyond, because this conditioning is imposed upon it, not only by society, but by itself. You like your conditioning because you dare not go beyond. You are frightened of what your father and mother would say, of what society and the priest would say; therefore you help to create the barriers which hold you. This is the prison in which most of us are caught, and that is why your parents are always telling you - as you in turn will tell your children - to do this and not do that.

What does generally happen in a school, especially if you like your teacher? If you like your teacher, you want to follow him, you want to imitate him; therefore the conditioning of your mind becomes more and more rigid, permanent. Say, for instance, you are in a hostel under a teacher who performs his daily religious ritual. You like the show of it, or the beauty of it, so you begin to do it too. In other words, you are being further conditioned; and such conditioning is very effective, because when one is young, one is eager, impressionable, imitative. I do not know if you are creative - probably not, because your parents will not allow you to go outside the wall, they do not want you to look beyond your conditioning. Then, you are married off and fitted into a mould, and there you are stuck for the rest of your life.

While you are young, you are easily conditioned, shaped, forced into a pattern. It is said that if a child - a good, intelligent, alert child - is trained by a priest for only seven years, the child will be so conditioned that for the rest of his life he will continue essentially in the same way. That can happen in a school of this kind, where the teachers themselves are not free of conditioning. They are just like everybody else. They do their rituals, they have their fears, their desire for a guru; and as you are taught by them - and also because you may like a particular teacher, or because you see a beautiful ritual and want to do it too - unconsciously you get caught in imitation.

Why do older people perform rituals? Because their fathers did it before them, and also because it gives them certain feelings, sensations, it makes them inwardly quiet. They chant some prayers, thinking that if they do not do so they might be lost. And the young people copy them, so your imitation begins.

If the teacher himself would question all this ritualism, if he would really think about it - which very few people ever do - , if he would use his intelligence to examine it without prejudice, he would soon find out that it has no meaning. But to investigate and discover the truth of the matter requires a great deal of freedom. If you are already prejudiced in favour of something and then proceed to investigate it, there can obviously be no investigation. You will only strengthen your bias, your prejudice.

So, it is very important for the teachers to set about unconditioning themselves, and also to help the children to be free of conditioning. Knowing the conditioning influence of parents, of tradition, of society, the teacher must encourage the children not thoughtlessly to accept, but to investigate, to question.

If you observe as you grow, you will begin to see how various influences are moulding you, how you are not helped to think, but are told what to think. Ultimately, if you do not revolt against this process, you become like an automatic machine, functioning without creativity, without much original thought.

You are all afraid that if you do not fit into society, you will be unable to earn a livelihood. If your father is a lawyer, you think that you also must be a lawyer. If you are a girl, you submit to being married off. So what happens? You start out as a young person with lots of vitality, and enthusiasm, but all this is gradually destroyed by the conditioning influence of your parents and teachers with their prejudices, fears and superstitions. You leave school and go out into the world filled with information, but you have lost the vitality to inquire, the vitality to revolt against the traditional stupidities of society. You sit here listening to all this - and what is going to happen when you have finally passed your B.A. or M.A. examinations? you know very well what is going to happen. Unless you are in revolt, you will be just like the rest of the world because you dare not be otherwise. You will be so conditioned, so moulded, that you will be afraid to strike out on your own. Your husband will control you, or your wife will control you, and society will tell you what you must do; so, generation after generation, imitation goes on. There is no real initiative, there is no freedom, there is no happiness; there is nothing but slow death. What is the point of being educated, of learning to read and write, if you are just going to carry on like a machine? But that is what your parents want, and it is what the world wants. The world does not want you to think, it does not want you to be free to find out, because then you would be a dangerous citizen, you would not fit into the established pattern. A free human being can never feel that he belongs to any particular country, class, or type of thinking. Freedom means freedom at every level, right through, and to think only along a particular line is not freedom.

So while you are young it is very important to be free, not only at the conscious level, but also deep inside. This means that you must be watchful of yourself, more and more aware of the influences which seek to control or dominate you; it means that you must never thoughtlessly accept, but always question, investigate and be in revolt.

Questioner: How can we make our minds free when we live in a society full of tradition?

Krishnamurti: First you must have the urge, the demand to be free. It is like the longing of the bird to fly, or of the waters of the river to flow. Have you this urge to be free? If you have, then what will happen? Your parents and society try to force you into a mould. Can you resist them? You will find it difficult, because you are afraid. You are afraid of not getting a job, of not finding the right husband or the right wife; you are afraid you will starve, or that people will talk about you. Though you want to be free, you are afraid, so you are not going to resist. Your fear of what people may say, or of what your parents may do, blocks you, and so you are forced into the mould.

Now, can you say, "I want to know, and I do not mind standing. Whatever happens, I am going to battle against the barriers of this rotten society, because I want to be free to find out." Can you say that? When you are frightened, can you withstand all these barriers, all these impositions?

So, it is very important from the tenderest age to help the child to see the implications of fear, and be free of it. The moment you are frightened, there is an end to freedom.

Questioner: Since we have been brought up in a society based on fear, how is it possible for us to be free of fear?

Krishnamurti: Are you aware that you are frightened? If you are, how are you going to be free of fear? You and I have to find out, so do think it out with me.

When you are conscious that you are frightened, what do you actually do? You run away from it, don't you? You pick up a book, or go out for a walk; you try to forget it. You are afraid of your parents, of society; you are conscious of that fear, and you do not know how to resolve it. You are really frightened even to look at it, so you run away from it in various directions. That is why you keep on studying and passing examinations till the last moment, when you have to face the inevitable and act. You continually try to escape from your problem, but that will not help you to resolve it. You have to face it.

Now, can you look at your fear? If you want to examine a bird, observe the shape of its wings, its legs, its beak, you must go very close to it, must you not? Similarly, if you are afraid, you must look very closely at your fear. When you run away from it you only increase fear.

Say, for instance, you want to give your life to something which you really love, but your parents tell you that you must not do it and threaten you with something terrible if you do. They say they will not give you any money, and you are frightened. You are so frightened that you dare not even look at your fear. So you give way, and fear continues. Questioner: What is real freedom, and how is one to acquire it?

Krishnamurti: Real freedom is not something to be acquired, it is the outcome of intelligence. You cannot go out and buy freedom in the market. You cannot get it by reading a book, or by listening to someone talk. Freedom comes with intelligence.

But what is intelligence? Can there be intelligence when there is fear, or when the mind is conditioned? When your mind is prejudiced, or when you think you are a marvellous human being, or when you are very ambitious and want to climb the ladder of success, wordily or spiritual, can there be intelligence? When you are concerned about yourself, when you follow or worship somebody, can there be intelligence? Surely, intelligence comes when you understand and break away from all this stupidity. So you have to set about it; and the first thing is to be aware that your mind is not free. You have to observe how your mind is bound by all these things, and then there is the beginning of intelligence, which brings freedom. You have to find the answer for yourself. What is the use of someone else being free when you are not, or of someone else having food when you are hungry?

To be creative, which is to have real initiative, there must be freedom; and for freedom there must be intelligence. So you have to inquire and find out what is preventing intelligence. You have to investigate life, you have to question social values, everything, and not accept anything because you are frightened.

Life Ahead

Part 1

Life Ahead Part One Chapter 5

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