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Questioner: I am one of those people who really believe in God. In India I followed one of the great modern saints who, because he believed in God, brought about great political changes there. In India the whole country throbs to the beat of God. I have heard you talk against belief so probably you don’t believe in God. But you are a religious person and therefore there must be in you some kind of feeling of the Supreme. I have been all over India and through many parts of Europe, visiting monasteries, churches and mosques, and everywhere I have found this very strong, compelling belief in God whom one hopes shapes one’s life. Now since you don’t believe in God, although you are a religious person, what exactly is your position with regard to this question? Why don’t you believe? Are you an atheist? As you know, in Hinduism you can be an atheist or a theist and yet be equally well a Hindu. Of course it’s different with the Christians. If you don’t believe in God you can’t be a Christian. But that’s beside the point. The point is that I have come to ask you to explain your position and demonstrate to me its validity. People follow you and therefore you have a responsibility, and therefore I am challenging you in this way.
Krishnamurti: Let us first of all clear up this last point. There are no followers, and I have no responsibility to you or to the people who listen to my talks. Also I am not a Hindu or anything else, for I don’t belong to any group, religious or otherwise. Each one must be a light to himself. Therefore there is no teacher, no disciple. This must be clearly understood from the very beginning otherwise one is influenced, one becomes a slave to propaganda and persuasions. Therefore anything that is being said now is not dogma or creed or persuasion: we either meet together in understanding or we don’t. Now, you said most emphatically that you believe in God and you probably want through that belief to experience what one might call the godhead. Belief involves many things. There is belief in facts that you may not have seen but can verify, like the existence of New York or the Eiffel Tower. Then you may believe that your wife is faithful though you don’t actually know it. She might be unfaithful in thought yet you believe she is faithful because you don’t actually see her going off with someone else; she may deceive you in daily thought, and you most certainly have done the same too. You believe in reincarnation, don’t you, though there is no certainty that there is any such thing? However, that belief has no validity in your life, has it? All Christians believe that they must love but they do not love – like everyone else they go about killing, physically or psychologically. There are those who do not believe in God and yet do good. There are those who believe in God and kill for that belief; those who prepare for war because they claim they want peace, and so on. So one has to ask oneself what need there is to believe at all in anything, though this doesn’t deny the extraordinary mystery of life. But belief is one thing and “what is” is another. Belief is a word, a thought, and this is not the thing, any more than your name is actually you.
Through experience you hope to touch the truth of your belief, to prove it to yourself, but this belief conditions your experience. It isn’t that the experience comes to prove the belief, but rather that the belief begets the experience. Your belief in God will give you the experience of what you call God. You will always experience what you believe and nothing else. And this invalidates your experience. The Christian will see virgins, angels and Christ, and the Hindu will see similar deities in extravagant plurality. The Muslim, the Buddhist, the Jew and the Communist are the same. Belief conditions its own supposed proof. What is important is not what you believe but only why you believe at all. Why do you believe? And what difference does it make to what actually is whether you believe one thing or another? Facts are not influenced by belief or disbelief. So one has to ask why one believes at all in anything; what is the basis of belief? Is it fear, is it the uncertainty of life – the fear of the unknown the lack of security in this ever-changing world? Is it the insecurity of relationship, or is it that faced with the immensity of life, and not understanding it, one encloses oneself in the refuge of belief? So, if I may ask you, if you had no fear at all, would you have any belief?
Questioner: I am not at all sure that I am afraid, but I love God, and it is this love that makes me believe in Him.
Krishnamurti: Do you mean to say you are devoid of fear? And therefore know what love is?
Questioner: I have replaced fear with love and so to me fear is non-existent, and therefore my belief is not based on fear.
Krishnamurti: Can you substitute love for fear? Is that not an act of thought which is afraid and therefore covers up the fear with the word called love, again a belief? You have covered up that fear with a word and you cling to the word, hoping to dissipate fear.
Questioner: What you are saying disturbs me greatly. I am not at all sure I want to go on with this, because my belief and my love have sustained me and helped me to lead a decent life. This questioning of my belief brings about a sense of disorder of which, quite frankly, I am afraid.
Krishnamurti: So there is fear, which you are beginning to discover for yourself. This disturbs you. Belief comes from fear and is the most destructive thing. One must be free of fear and of belief. Belief divides people, makes them hard, makes them hate each other and cultivate war. In a roundabout way, unwillingly, you are admitting that fear begets belief. Freedom from belief is necessary to face the fact of fear. Belief like any other ideal is an escape from “what is”. When there is no fear then the mind is in quite a different dimension. Only then can you ask the question whether there is a God or not. A mind clouded by fear or belief is incapable of any kind of understanding, any realization of what truth is. Such a mind lives in illusion and can obviously not come upon that which is Supreme. The Supreme has nothing to do with your or anybody else’s belief, opinion or conclusion.
Not knowing, you believe, but to know is not to know. To know is within the tiny field of time and the mind that says, “I know” is bound by time and so cannot possibly understand that which is. After all, when you say, “I know my wife and my friend”, you know only the image or the memory, and this is the past. Therefore you can never actually know anybody or anything. You cannot know a living thing, only a dead thing. When you see this you will no longer think of relationship in terms of knowing. So one can never say, “There is no God”, or “I know God”. Both these are a blasphemy. To understand that which is there must be freedom, not only from the known but also from the fear of the known and from the fear of the unknown.
Questioner: You speak of understanding that which “is” and yet you deny the validity of knowing. What is this understanding if it is not knowing?
Krishnamurti: The two are quite different. Knowing is always related to the past and therefore it binds you to the past. Unlike knowing understanding is not a conclusion, not accumulation. If you have listened you have understood. Understanding is attention. When you attend completely you understand. So the understanding of fear is the ending of fear. Your belief can therefore no longer be the predominant factor; the understanding of fear is predominant. When there is no fear there is freedom. It is only then that one can find what is true. When that which “is” is not distorted by fear then that which “is” is true. It is not the word. You cannot measure truth with words. Love is not a word nor a belief nor something that you can capture and say, “It is mine”. Without love and beauty, that which you call God is nothing at all.