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Excerpts from "Life Ahead"

We have been considering the problem of fear. We saw that most of us are afraid, and that fear prevents initiative because it makes us cling to people and to things as a creeper clings to a tree. We cling to our parents, our husbands, our sons, our daughters, our wives, and to our possessions. That is the outward form of fear. Being inwardly afraid, we dread to stand alone. We may have a great many [clothes] jewels or other property; but inwardly, psychologically, we are very poor. The poorer we are inwardly, the more we try to enrich ourselves outwardly by clinging to people, to position, to property.

     When we are afraid, we cling not only to outward things, but also to inward things such as tradition. To most old people, and to people who are inwardly insufficient and empty, tradition matters a great deal. Have you noticed this amongst your fiends, parents and teachers? Have you noticed it in yourself? The moment there is fear, inward fear, you try to cover it up with respectability, by following a tradition; and so you lose initiative. Because you have no initiative and are just following, tradition becomes very important - the tradition of what people say, the tradition that has been handed down from the past, the tradition that has no vitality, no zest in life because it is a mere repetition without any meaning.

     When one is afraid, there is always a tendency to imitate. Have you noticed that? People who are afraid imitate others; they cling to tradition, to their parents, to their wives, to their brothers, to their husbands. And imitation destroys initiative. You know, when you draw or paint a tree, you do not imitate the tree, you do not copy it exactly as it is, which would be mere photography. To be free to paint a tree, or a flower, or a sunset, you have to feel what it conveys to you, the significance, the meaning of it. This is very important - to try to convey the significance of what you see and not merely copy it, for then you begin to awaken the creative process. And for this there must be a free mind, a mind that is not burdened with tradition, with imitation. But look at your own lives and the lives about you, how traditional, how imitative they are!

     You are obliged in some matters to be imitative; as in the clothes you put on, in the books you read, in the language you speak. These are all forms of imitation. But it is necessary to go beyond this level and feel free to think things out for yourself so that you do not thoughtlessly accept what somebody else says, it does not matter who it is - a teacher in the school, a parent, or one of the great religious teachers. To think out things for yourself, and not follow, is very important; because following indicates fear, does it not? The moment somebody offers you something you want - paradise, heaven, or a better job - there is fear of not getting it; therefore you begin to accept, to follow. So long as you want something, there is bound to be fear; and fear cripples the mind so that you cannot be free.

     Do you know what a free mind is? Have you ever observed your own mind? It is not free, is it? You are always watching to see what your friends say about you. Your mind is like a house enclosed by a fence or by barbed wire. In that state no new thing can take place. A new thing can happen only when there is no fear. And it is extremely difficult for the mind to be free of fear, because that implies being really free of the desire to imitate, to follow, free of the desire to amass wealth or to conform to a tradition - which does not mean that you do something outrageous.

     Freedom of mind comes into being when there is no fear, when the mind has no desire to show off and is not intriguing for position or prestige. Then it has no sense of imitation. And it is important to have such a mind - a mind really free of tradition, which is the habit-forming mechanism of the mind.

     Is this all too difficult? I don't think it is as difficult as your geography or mathematics. It is much easier, only you have never thought about it. You spend perhaps ten or fifteen years of your life in school acquiring information, yet you never take time - not a week, not even a day - to think fully, completely about any of these things. That is why it all seems so difficult; but it is not really difficult at all. On the contrary, if you give time to it you can see for yourself how your mind works, how it operates, responds. And it is very important to begin to understand your own mind while you are young, otherwise you will grow up following some tradition which has very little meaning. you will imitate, which is to keep on cultivating fear, and so you will never be free.

     Have you noticed here in India how tradition-bound you are? You must marry in a certain way, your parents choose the husband or the wife. You must perform certain rituals; they may have no meaning, but you must perform them. You have leaders whom you must follow. Everything about you if you have observed it, reflects a way of life in which authority is very well established. There is the authority of the guru, the authority of the political group, the authority of parents and of public opinion. The older the civilization, the greater the weight of tradition with its series of imitations; and being burdened with this weight, your mind is never free. You may talk about political or any other kind of freedom, but you as an individual are never really free to find out for yourself; you are always following - following an ideal, following some guru or teacher, or some absurd superstition.

     So, your whole life is hedged in, limited, confined to certain ideas; and deep down within yourself there is fear. How can you think freely if there is fear? That is why it is so important to be conscious of all these things. If you see a snake and know it is venomous you move away, you don't go near it. But you do not know that you are caught in a series of imitations which prevent initiative; you are caught in them unconsciously. But if you begin to be conscious of them, and of how they hold you; if you are aware of the fact that you want to imitate because you are afraid of what people may say, afraid of your parents or your teachers, then you can look at these imitations in which you are caught, you can examine them, you can study them as you study mathematics or any other subject.

     Are you conscious, for example, why you treat women differently from men? Why do you treat women contemptuously? At least men often do. Why do you go to a temple, why do you perform rituals, why do you follow a guru?

     You see, first you have to be aware of all these things, and then you can go into them, you can question, study them; but if you blindly accept everything because for the last thirty centuries it has been so, then it has no meaning, has it? Surely, what we need in the world is not more imitators, not more leaders and more followers. What we need now are individuals like you and me who are beginning to examine all these problems, not superficially or casually, but more and more deeply so that the mind is free to be creative, free to think, free to love. Education is a way of discovering our true relationship to things, to other human beings, and to nature. But the mind creates ideas, and these ideas become so strong, so dominant, that they prevent us from looking beyond. As long as there is fear, there is the following of tradition; as long as there is fear, there is imitation. A mind that merely imitates is mechanical, is it not. It is like a machine in its functioning; it is not creative, it does not think out problems. It may bring about certain actions, produce certain results, but it is not creative.

     Now, what we all should do - you and I as well as the teachers, the managers and the authorities - is to go into all these problems together, so that when you leave here you will be mature individuals, capable of thinking things out for yourselves, and will not be dependent on some traditional stupidity. Then you will have the dignity of a human being who is really free. That is the whole intent of education - not merely to prepare you to pass certain examinations and then be shunted for the rest of your life into something which you do not love to do, like becoming a lawyer, or a clerk, or a housewife, or a breeding machine. You should insist on having the kind of education that encourages you to think freely without fear, that helps you to inquire, to understand; you should demand it of your teachers. Otherwise life is a waste, is it not? You are `educated', you pass the B.A. or the M.A. examinations, you get a job which you dislike but because you have to earn money; you are married and have children - and there you are, stuck for the rest of your life. You are miserable, unhappy, quarrelsome; you have nothing to look forward to except more babies, more hunger, more misery. Do you call this the purpose of education? Surely, education should help you to be so keenly intelligent that you do what you love to do, and not get stuck in something stupid which makes you miserable for the rest of your life.

     So, while you are young you should awaken within yourself the flame of discontent; you should be in a state of revolution. This is the time to inquire, to discover, to grow; therefore insist that your parents and your teachers educate you properly. Do not be satisfied merely to sit in a classroom and absorb information about this king or that war. Be discontented, go to your teachers and inquire, find out. If they are not intelligent, by inquiring you will help them to be intelligent; and when you leave the school you will be growing into maturity, into real freedom. Then you will continue to learn right through life till you die, and you will be a happy, intelligent human being.