Are we afraid to be nothing?

I’m breaking my promise again, because I think this is relevant at this point…

I think it is true that, for most of us at least, our minds - our mind being our thinking, our feeling, our emotions, our experiences and knowledge, our whole past memory of who we are and what we have done - are afraid of being nothing, of being empty.

We crave being and becoming, because this is the known world with which we are familiar. And so we resist exploring into the unknown, into the psychological or meditational space beyond or beneath our thoughts, feelings and emotions, etc. Simply put, we are afraid to be nothing.

But what is this ‘nothing’ we are projecting as something so horrible, to be feared? Is it actually something horrible? Or is it a space in which horror as such no longer exists?

Obviously we are afraid to die. We are afraid to contemplate the world without ‘me’, without the ego, without the self. We are identified with out thoughts, with our knowledge, with our experiences, with our emotional attachments and memories. And so we fear a state of being in which all this is absent, in which we have nothing left with which to feel identified. We fear a space with no known ‘things’. Emptiness. Nothingness. Death.

And yet spirituality (for want of a better world) is the business of dying psychologically before we die physically. To die before we die. Which means: to face our own nothingness, to no longer run away from our own emptiness, and to find out what this nothingness and emptiness really is first hand.

Is it something terrible, something ghastly? Is it a black abyss of total annihilation?

Or is it - compassion, intelligence… even the whole universe? (see the extract that follows)

Is it a genuine horror to be nothing? Or is the person who is nothing actually a happy person, in spite of what we have imagined?

K: If the structure of time and thought ends the now has totally a different meaning. The now then is nothing. I mean, when we use the word ‘nothing’, zero contains all the figures. Right? So nothing contains all. But we are afraid to be nothing.

PJ: When you say it contains the all, is it the essence of all human and racial and environmental, and nature and the cosmos, as such?

K: Yes. No, I would rather… You see, I am talking of the fact of a realisation that there is nothing. The psyche is a bundle of memories - right? - and those memories are dead. They operate, they function, but they are the outcome of past experience which has gone. I am a movement of memories. Right? Now if I have an insight into that, there is nothing. I don’t exist…

All one’s education, all one’s past experience and knowledge is a movement in becoming, both inwardly, psychologically as well as outwardly. Becoming is the accumulation of memory. Right? More and more and more memories, which is called knowledge. Right? Now, as long as that movement exists there is fear of being nothing. But when one really sees the fallacy, the illusion of becoming something - which is endless time-thought and conflict - therefore that very perception, that insight to see there is nothing, there is an ending of that. That is, the ending of the movement which is the psyche, which is time-thought. The ending of that is to be nothing.

Nothing then contains the whole universe - not my petty little fears and petty little anxieties and problems, and my sorrow with regard to, you know, a dozen things.

After all, Pupulji, ‘nothing’ means the entire world of compassion - compassion is nothing. And therefore that nothingness is supreme intelligence. That’s all there is. I don’t know if I am conveying this.

So why are human beings - just ordinary, intelligent - frightened of being nothing? If I see that I am really a verbal illusion, that I am nothing but dead memories, that’s a fact. But I don’t like to think I am just nothing but memories. But the truth is I am memories. If I had no memory either I am in a state of amnesia; or I understand the whole movement of memory, which is time-thought, and see the fact as long as there is this movement there must be endless conflict, struggle, pain. And when there is an insight into that, ‘nothing’ means something entirely different. And that nothing is the present…

You see, it is really quite interesting if one goes into this problem not theoretically but actually. The astrophysicists are trying to understand the universe. They can only understand in terms of gases; but [what is important is] the immensity of [the universe] as part of this human being: not out there, [but] here. Which means there must be no shadow of time and thought.

Pupul, after all that is real meditation, that’s what ‘sunya’ means in Sanskrit.

But we have interpreted it in a hundred different ways, commentaries, this and that; but the actual fact is we are nothing except words and opinions, judgements - that’s all petty affairs. And therefore our life becomes petty.

So to grasp, to understand that in the zero contains all the numbers, and that in nothing is all the world contained… Do you see the immensity of all this? …

Pupulji, especially in the Indian tradition, from the Buddha to Nagarjuna, and the ancient Hindus, have said there is that state of nothingness, which, they said, you must deny the whole thing. Nagarjuna says - he came to that point, as far as I understand, I may be mistaken, what I have been told - that he denied everything, every movement of the psyche… Why haven’t they pursued that? … Why haven’t they pursued, denying, not the world - you can’t deny the world (they have denied the world, and made a mess of their own lives!) - but the total negation of the 'me’?

(2nd Conversation between Krishnamurti and Pupul Jayakar, Brockwood Park, 1983)

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We should stay in touch regardless. Kindred spirits of this kind are rare to come by. All the dead ends may not have been for naught – I sense something rising from the ashes.

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Hi James and all. I don’t know if it’s fear. Maybe it is. It seems that “being nothing” goes against everything we’ve ever learned in our lives though. From a very early age, most of us want to be something, get somewhere in our lives. In industrialised societies, finding meaning in life is normally connected to being successful and “being someone”. I think this runs very deep in most of us and is not easily put aside. On this forum, being someone who has “got somewhere” with K’s teachings probably helps strengthen most of our egos.

Is it fear or a lifetime’s habit that makes us resistant to “being nothing”?

I would like to say that the “dead ends” have produced some mightily interesting contributions to the understanding of K’s teachings on the way! The “something rising from the ashes” rings true for me too.

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Absolutely. I don’t plan on disappearing. It’s just that I feel it’s healthy to take a bit of a step back after having posted so much over the last few months. As with any activity, one can find oneself becoming habitual, meaning that one’s own creative inputs are no longer as fresh or spontaneous as before. So stepping back is a way of gaining perspective and finding fresh impetus.

On the practical side, there are also some work-related challenges I have to navigate over the coming months which will likely take up a fair amount of time and energy. So I have to take this into consideration.

I still intend to post on and off - just not as frequently as I have been doing. Whatever happens I will keep in touch though. :+1::pray::slightly_smiling_face:


Yes. To paraphrase the Dao Te Ching:

In the pursuit of becoming something, every day something is acquired.

In the pursuit of truth, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is acquired

Until one has nothing at all.

When one has nothing and is nothing, nothing is left undone.


the mind is afraid to be nothing
actually, the mind is afraid to be a fact
nothing may be “the ultimate” fact
which makes me realize now that any fact, may be ultimately, nothing
(Nothing to/for the mind)

Isn’t a fact to the mind a source of “nothing” ?
Mind can’t “extract” anything from a fact.
That is “starvation” for the mind

Dear all,
Thank you James for the extracts that you send us in regarding to the subject.
I think that all of us here understand (at least verbally, what K is tryng to convey about nothingness.) But let us bear in mind that what he is saying is merely a discription and has,actually nothing to do with the fact itself.
But the question is : are we afraid of nothingness and does this fear impede us to come in contact with what we don’t know and probably will never know.
I remember him saying that fear is always related to the known. So, bearing this in mind, logically, we must have created this fear in and by ourselves. And this can only be the activity of thought itself. Creating images of what nothingness might be. Because thought has this habit to protect, to defend itself at all costs.
The question that comes in my mind, now is : is this fear at all? Interested to explore further?

To be as nothing is to have no objective.

It only takes a little honesty to see that our thoughts and emotions are driven by self-interest. Psychological security is the end-game that never arrives. Ironically, it may well be the the self at whose pleasure thought serves does not even exist, that the self itself a thought-fabricated entity, That thinking is just darting around like a headless chicken because if it were to stop, the thinker would cease to exist. Psychological fear of the revelation that the self is imaginary is what keeps thought and feeling moving incessantly. As long as thought is moving, I must exist because I (obviously) am doing the thinking (or feeling). Reverse engineered self-affirmation.

Since our reality feels as real to us as it does, while there is a sense ‘something’ behind the thinking and feeling, rather than nothing, we can’t but continue to acquire, to control, to impose our sense of reality on top of existence, to separate reality into the me and the not me. Unlike nothing which is indivisible everything,

So failing that total realization that our image-making brain is actually creating a master and then going about serving that self-created entity by the incessant movement of thought, where does that leave those of us who are beginning to feel the absurdity and meaningless of this whole affair of being human? Of our treadmill like existence?

To realize that we cannot do other that we are doing, to refrain from making any effor to change what is occurring, to see that thinking or feeling differently is not the solution but rather is the problem, may be the only intelligent recourse.

To fully appreciate the insatiable and painful quest we all have for psychological security may be the beginning of “acquiring less and less”, a slow movement in the immediate present toward ultimately being nothing, to dying, to living. Death is Life. Undivided. Non-cognizant.

We need to learn from the sorry state of our existence, confront the unbearable emptiness that lies at the heart of each and every human being no matter who they may be, rather than immediately rushing to stifle that feeling by finding security in something or the other.

The gods, in a final act of remorse, may have given us the ability to suffer, to feel total discontent.

If we’re learning from our mistakes, we’re finding out how to behave more effectually and efficiently, making progress, achieving, attaining, arriving, etc. But if we don’t realize what our fundamental mistake is, our progress is superficial and just covers up what really matters.

If our fundamental mistake is our failure to realize that our superficial problem-solving is not the solution, it’s because I is too superficial to see it.

I, psychological thought, has been operating continuously for so long, is so established, that it/I can’t stop without dissolving, thereby solving the problem.

Apologies if I have given the impression that by total discontent I mean anything to do with the stopping of thought. That was not my intention.

By total discontent, I mean discontent with every thought and feeling. The word discontent is a loaded one and easily misconstrued. But unfortunately, I can think of no other at the moment to better convey what I mean. I mean by total discontent, a quiet dissatisfaction. Not some rebellious state or some dramatic form of self-pity.

To reference Krishnamurti, to understand to the very depths of one’s being what he means by the phrase ‘thought is limited’ while fully realizing that one is bound to turn that feeling into another thought. That is the reason for the qualifier “total” in reference to discontent. Unless the understanding as to the limitation of thought turns on itself, it is not total.

To have come to a place for oneself and by oneself wherein one is able to be dissatisfied with any thought and feeling one is having. And by so doing, to have no agenda of any kind. The idea, right or wrong, that thought is the culprit that must stop for seeing to occur is one such agenda. Agenda is a sliver of self that has separated itself from the rest of thinking and from behind the curtain casts judgement. This then is a form of partial discontent not a total one. No one can help you feel this type of across-the-board discontent. It has a strong emotional content to it, one that can only come about by getting really, really close to the chaos that is actually going on in your own mind.

The kind of total discontent I am referring to is not something extraordinary, not some mystical experience. On the contrary, it is most ordinary. For someone who feels this way, for whom the normal escapes, societal conditioning and so on don’t work as intended, a vacant state of mind - that does not interfere with the comings and goings of its own mind - is a reflexive response rather than a declarative one.

An awareness that is choice-less, a state of mind that has no agenda, that just is, that does not oppose anything, especially perhaps the movement of its own thinking, can only come about in response to something deep inside one’s emotional being and not from the intellect.

For the totally discontented, these states of quiet, un-deliberate, non-acquisitve watchfulness do pop up from time to time, unbidden.

I don’t see how “discontent” is the word for feeling that thought is a runaway train, unstoppable, and a waste of energy that would otherwise be choiceless awareness and direct perception. And I don’t see how “agenda” is the word for feeling this way.

I don’t recall Krishnamurti using these two words or talking about “partial” and “total discontent” - only about partial and total insight. But I’ve never been as diligent a student of K’s words as you and others, so maybe you can refer me to where he talked about this.

Dear all,
I try to bring in some ideas about the topic nl. Fear of nothing, but nobody seems to be interested. Never mind, though.
I just wonder whether this forum has become a family chat, members only.
If that’s the case than i think you miss entirely the purpose of Kinfonet . No?