Jiddu Krishnamurti on Fear – What is Behind the Fear of the Unknown?

The First and Last Freedom is an odd book. Being a collection excerpts from Krishnamurti’s public talks and discussions, its conversational style of writing makes me read it hastily, inevitably returning to reread each paragraph.

Light on terminology, Krishnamurti tries to convey his message by direct examples and repetition of his key points. I must admit I find myself unable to understand entire paragraphs at times. The abstractions and claims are just not relatable, sometimes even sounding like pseudo-profound gibberish. But just as Orwell noticed that the best books are those that tell you what you know already, the relatable parts are so well put that they’re enough to keep me with the book.

Especially striking is the chapter on fear. Krishnamurti inverts the notion of it, stating namely that fear of the unknown is in fact always rooted in the fear of losing ties to the known, to the things that belong to you – your family, friends, your possessions, your status.

Going further, Krishnamurti finds a cause of fear of change in our desire to live according to a pattern, that we or others have prescribed to ourself.

Fear comes into being when I desire to be in a particular pattern. To live without fear means to live without a particular pattern. When I demand a particular way of living that in itself is a source of fear. My difficulty is my desire to live in a certain frame. Can I not break the frame? I can do so only when I see the truth: that the frame is causing fear and that this fear is strengthening the frame. If I say I must break the frame because I want to be free of fear, then I am merely following another pattern which will cause further fear. Any action on my part based on the desire to break the frame will only create another pattern, and therefore fear. How am I to break the frame without causing fear, that is without any conscious or unconscious action on my part with regard to it? This means that I must not act, I must make no movement to break the frame. What happens to me when I am simply looking at the frame without doing anything about it? I see that the mind itself is the frame, the pattern; it lives in the habitual pattern which it has created for itself. Therefore, the mind itself is fear. Whatever the mind does goes towards strengthening an old pattern or furthering a new one. This means that whatever the mind does to get rid of fear causes fear.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

To make a change is to break the frame, which comes with a perceived loss. Krishnamurti tells us that it will just lead into another frame and a different fear. I’d like to look at this a bit more shortsightedly but more optimistically. Being aware of the frame you’re in should help you overcome the fear of change. At least as a mere step to getting to know yourself it must be incredibly useful to be able to honestly think about the frame you’ve set upon yourself and what it is that you’re most afraid to lose.

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