Choiceless Awareness of the Tree of Fear

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Three Broad Paths for Facing Fear
  3. My Path for Facing Fear
  4. Simi’s Journal: Awareness and Problem Solving
  5. Dialogue on Choiceless Awareness of Fear

Introduction

We all face conflict in our life and relationships. The root of all conflicts is fear. One could say that the root is fear and desire, but one can easily see that fear is the opposite of desire. When we try to hold on to something we desire, it creates fear. Fear exists at different levels of our being. Since it is a primal emotion hard wired into our physical, emotional and intellectual being, the understanding of fear and freedom from it is an enormously complex journey. There are various paths to facing and ending fear. In this article, after giving a brief introduction on the three broad paths of facing fear, I present a dailogue between me and a student of my Facebook Psycho-Philosophy Inquiry group which I run, to teach self inquiry based on the teachings of J Krishnamurti (JK).

The method followed by JK is that of choiceless awareness of ‘what is’. According to his teachings, no amount of thinking and analysis can fundamentally solve the question of fear. All such attempts made by thought to solve fear are partial and breed further conflict because the very structure of psychological thought is the basis of fear. We cannot use the same instrument which causes the problem to solve the problem. So if thought cannot solve the problem, what can? The answer according to JK is choiceless awareness of thought from moment to moment is the only way in which the entire tree of fear can be discovered. This method is discussed in the dialogue presented here, which starts after Simi, a student in the group posts her journal. Her journal on how awareness of thought is different from problem solving, seeds the diaogue on what is choiceless awareness of ‘what is’, and how we can uncover all the layers of fears through it.

Three Broad Paths for Facing Fear

There are various paths, schools and religions that talk about freedom from fear. Each has their own methodology and consequently their own vocabulary to solve the problem of fear. However, broadly speaking there are

  1. Theistic paths: These are paths which posit a benevolent creator who is surrendered to or appealed to solve all the fears and problems that we face. They can be called paths of devotion or the path of the heart. For example Dvaita Vedanta, Tantra, Christianity, Islam etc.
  2. Atheist paths: are those which do not start with any belief in a Creator or God or a supernatural force whom we can appeal to or surrender to solve our problems. Instead they proceed through processes of mental observation, deconstruction and intellectual inquiry. These are called paths of the knowledge and mind/intellect. For example Advaita Vedanta, Jainism, Buddhism and Sankhya. (Though all three tend to include devotional elements for stability on the path based on the predilection of the seeker for)
  3. Theist cum Atheist paths: There are still other paths who use both the means, with the theistic path being an entry point into inquiry and which is later sublated by an atheist form of deconstructive knowledge based inquiry or the vice versa. For example Yoga, Tantra, Vishisthadvaita etc.

My Path for Facing Fear

I am a follower of Advaita, that too Shankara’s and Gaudapada’s radical Advaita, where, even in practice God is treated as a conditional concept to be negated. As an entry into Advaita I do not follow the more traditional paths of Karma, Bhakti and Raja Yoga, but the teachings of J Krishnamurti (JK) which are quite akin to Sankhya school; which, too, has no place for God in it’s system. I thought that this preface was necessary before proceeding further, so that people can appreciate that there are various ways to tackle fear and what I am sharing is the path that I followed.

However, at the cost of sounding vain or elitist, I venture to say that the problem of fear cannot be solved completely till any trace of duality remains. It’s only in the ultimate knowledge of a non-dual reality as taught in Advaita or similar non-dual paths that fear can end. As the Upanishad says,

“By mind alone could this (Brahman) be obtained (realized); then there is no difference here at all. He who sees any difference here, goes from death to death.” (Katha Up. II.iv.11)

The dialogue I am presenting here does not take one to the root of fear, which according to Advaita is ignorance about the true non-dual, formless nature of Reality. Choiceless Awareness of ‘what is’ is however a process through which one gets ready or qualified to enter the teachings of Jnana Yoga/Knowledge Yoga of Advaita and continues even after Sef Realization (but automatically). Readers who would like to know in detail about this path can read the page “Stages of Self Iquiry” and my article “Self inquiry and insight into one’s true nature/Self in Advaita”. Though I should hasten to add that this is entirely my application of Krishnamurti’s teachings. JK, on the other hand considered his teachings complete, not requiring any additional teachings to complment his own. In fact he quite fericuosly guarded any intrusions or representations of his teachings other than what were dispersed through his Krishnamurt Foundation.

I have a written an article outlining some differences between the path of Krishnamurti and Advaita: “Differences Between Advaita and J Krishnamurti : A Dialogue”. In my application of JK’s teachings I do not make a single alteration to what he taught. I really love his teachings and indebted to them for helping me in my spiritual journey. In terms of practice, there is almost no difference between the teachings of Advaita and the teachings of JK.

Simi’s Journal: Awareness and Problem Solving

Today as I woke up, I got fresh and I saw it was raining outside, so I couldn’t go to the terrace. I did my meditation downstairs. I started watching my thoughts. Now I can watch them as they are, without modifying.

After meditating and having breakfast I prepared for making the marketing phone calls. While doing phone calls, I was getting a kind of feeling, I don’t know what it was, but I was aware of it.

Then today I read the chapter “awareness”. In this, I learnt how eagerly we try to find solutions to our problems. We don’t try to look into, understand the problem, rather find an answer to it. The solution is not separate from the problem, it is in the problem. The search for the answer is to avoid the problem. It is very easy to come to a conclusion, but understanding the problem is very difficult. To understand the problem, one must be free from the desire for an answer. Also, a right relationship must be established with the problem, for understanding it deeply. How can there be the right relationship with the problem, when we are only concerned with getting rid of it, that is finding a solution to it. The approach to the problem is more important than the problem. Therefore, I also learnt that awareness is not the outcome of practice, it is the understanding of the whole content. Awareness is the silent and choiceless observation of “what is”.

Dialogue on Choiceless Awareness of Fear

Anurag: So, Simi, you have kept asking, what is choiceless awareness of ‘what is’. If you remember I told you that you cannot define it in positive terms.[1] You cannot define what it is, but you can tell what it is not. In this journal, you are talking of another way of ‘what it is not’. It is not a means for problem-solving. We do problem-solving for technical things like repairing a gadget or doing some maths or planning a journey. In all these situations we use our past knowledge or try to experiment and create new knowledge. But psychological problems cannot be solved by past psychological knowledge. In fact, past psychological knowledge is the reason for our problems. So when we see that no thinking can solve psychological problems, then how do we ‘solve’ the problem?

The first thing to understand is what you have written – the solution is not away from the problem. It is in the problem itself. Only in looking at the complex web of the problem will it end completely. You don’t try to think and come up with some solution. You keep watching the problem over several days, months, years. It depends upon the depth of the problem. The problem keeps revealing newer and newer facets and fears.

The difficulty in staying with a problem is that we have a resistance to any movement which is giving us pain or not giving us pleasure. There is an unconscious built-in body mechanism that wants to avoid looking at painful and fearful feelings. So problem-solving, as K rightly mentions and which you have written is not actually any problem-solving. It is a means to escape the pain of looking at the problem. To escape the pain, we take up partial solutions which create further problems. It’s like to escape coronavirus we wear masks and then these masks pollute the environment. (just taking a technical example for simplicity). So the only way of solving a problem is not by finding a solution to the problem but by ending the problem. How does the problem end? It ends on its own when we watch it through and through. Krishnamurti also used to say, “If we have a problem A, and we want to solve it, we create another problem B. So instead of creating two problems now – A and B, just stay with A’ 🙂

Simi : Yes sir I was asking continuously that what is choiceless awareness, but after you explained and reading this chapter. I found that, I have urge to find answer to this question. And I also got to know that awareness is , staying with this question, not finding the answer. So, I was not looking into the question, rather trying to find the answer.

Anurag: Simi, you real question is not what is “choiceless awareness of what is’. Your real question is something else. You are trying to use choiceless awareness as a solution to solve that problem. That is why you are trying to find what is choiceless awareness. You are wanting to use it as a tool to take you to some state.

Most of the time, what we are wanting is a state of experience of some kind – peace, bliss, beauty or ecstasy. The desire for experience is tremendous. In order to reach such an experience, we think Choiceless Awareness is a way, a means or a tool. This is when you are no longer Choicelessly Aware 🙂

Simi: May be sir, it is what you are saying, I will look into it. But how will I know that I’m using it as a tool?

Anurag: Simi, why are you interested in asking what is choiceless awareness of what is?

Simi: Because I want to be choicelessly aware.

Anurag: Why do you want to be choicelessly aware?

Simi: I want to know each and every thought, feeling, desire and fears which I have.

Anurag: So how do you know a fear?

Simi: Sir, I get to know about a fear, when I get some kind of uncomfortable feeling and a sense of danger or insecurity.

Anurag: And then what do you do?

Simi: Then I try to look into it, why I am fearing, what is the reason behind it.

Anurag: Yes. So you try to think about. Analyse it. Find a reason for it. Right?

Simi: Yes sir I try to find out.

Anurag: Great. Now what will happen if you don’t try to find out the reason?

Simi: Then I will be with the fear, just doing nothing but being with it.

Anurag: What do you mean ‘being with it’?

Simi: It will be there and I will be aware of it too, but not trying to find the reason for it.

Anurag: So this is what is called choiceless awareness of ‘what is’ 🙂

Simi: Not trying to find reason for the cause of the feeling.

Anurag: Yes. When you try to find the cause, you have gone into thinking rather than being aware of ‘what is’ from moment to moment.

Simi: So here I was struck thinking about the cause, rather being aware.

Anurag: Absolutely. Now do you understand? You are not looking at the problem. You were trying to solve the problem.

Simi: Yes sir I was just trying to solve the problem. As when the problem comes, without understanding, what the problem is, I try to find answer for it.

Simi: And this happens in a few moments and unconsciously.

Anurag: Good. What will you do from now on?

Simi: So from now I won’t try to find answer for it. I will stay with it, try to understand it, but also at the same time not finding the cause for it.

Anurag: What do you mean by staying with fear and understanding it? Don’t tell me, “I will not try to find a solution.” Tell me what will happen when you stay with fear.

Simi: When I will stay with the fear, it will reveal itself. I will get to know about it more deeply.

Anurag: How?

Simi: I don’t know sir.

Anurag: Good. It’s good to say “I don’t know”

Anurag: What will happen to a feeling of fear if you are not trying to end it by some thought out solution? Will it move, just stay fixed or just drop down that instant?

Simi: It will move sir.

Anurag: Very good Simi. But let’s say that while watching it move you reach some conclusion. Then what will happen?

Simi: Then the reason of the fear will come by its own.

Anurag: Ha ! Ha! Ha! See, see the tendency of the mind Simi. It is so hell bent on finding the reason for fear. Read carefully, what I have stated. While watching you have reached a CONCLUSION.

Anurag: Is reaching a conclusion the ending of fear?

Simi: Yes sir it is the ending of it.

Anurag: Not at all Simi. The conclusion was nothing but thought…..the cunningness of mind trying to find some solution to escape the pain of facing fear.

Anurag: The fear did not end. You ended it with your thought conclusion.

Simi: But then it has not ended, it will be just my conclusion.

Anurag: Yes but that is what I am saying. You said that reaching a conclusion is the ending of fear. Didn’t you?

Simi: Yes

Anurag: Good! So now how do you watch fear completely?

Simi: Without reaching any conclusions.

Anurag: Yes Simi. When you are watching something, the watching happens from moment to moment only till you not reach any conclusion at any moment. The moment you reach a conclusion, the watching stops and you have gone into a cycle of thinking. Do you see this clearly?

Simi: Yes sir I can see this.

Anurag: So now do you understand what is choiceless awareness of ‘what is’?

Simi: Yes sir, watching from moment to moment, without reaching to any conclusion.

Anurag: Great. So do you end fear or fear ends itself?

Simi: Fear ends itself, when seen as it is.

Anurag: Yes. So I hope it is clear to you that any attempt to end fear by thinking (modifying, distracting, finding a cause for it or finding a solution for it) is the movement of fear itself. Thought cannot end fear because thought and thinking is fear itself.

Simi: That means we don’t have to do anything neither making conclusions, just watching it’s movements.

Anurag: Absolutely Simi !

Simi: Yes sir now it is clear.

Anurag: Great ! Now do it and see 🙂 It will be an explosion.

Simi: Yes sir I will do 🙂

Simi: And thank you sir for helping me come out from this confusion. This dialogue really helped me alot.

Anurag: Thanks Simi. This should be a gamechanger for you 🙂

Simi: Yes sir

Anurag: Also Simi, you have now gained some understanding of the power of dialogue. You must do this often with me to understand subtler and subtler aspects of mind.

Simi: Yes sir I got to know some of it. And now onwards I will be having dialogue with you.

Anurag: Simi, there is an entire tree of fear. When you begin watching it, your mind will move into different dimensions. Your spiritual growth will begin.

Anurag: There are small fears which are like twigs and branches and then they shall lead you gradually to the trunk and then to the root of all fear.

Simi: Yes sir I want to know the root of all fear.

Anurag: That cannot happen through thinking Simi. It can only happen when you understand the fact that no thinking can take you to the root, except choiceless awareness of ‘what is’ from moment to moment.

Simi: Yes, before that I must start with the choiceless awareness.

Anurag: There is no starting and ending of choiceless awareness Simi. It is new all the time.

Simi: Yes sir.

Notes

[1]

Simi: So, sir how can we be aware of “what is” ?

Anurag: There is no “how” Simi. The only answer is don’t judge, don’t control and don’t modify. Because if you do these, the ‘what is’ is converted to an idea which you cling to. ‘what is’ can never become a formulaic kind of activity. It is always new, always revealing

Simi : One must see “what is” as it is, according to its flow.

Anurag: Yes Simi. ‘What is’ is not a state of mind. It is about seeing how the mind flows from moment to moment. There is no practising of that state. It can never be old. Evertyime you start it is new. K calls it living and dying from moment to moment.

Simi: Yes sir, I have a question here, how one becomes aware from moment to moment ?

Anurag: I have given you the answer. It is not in the form of a postive method. A positive method is only a formula, a practice. So one cannot say how it is to be done. One can only speak about it in terms of what does not need to be done.

Simi: Ok sir.

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