Jiddu Krishnamurti on life and death
Question: What relation has death to life?
When we talk about life, we mean living as a process of continuity in which there is identification. Me and my house, me and my wife, me and my bank account, me and my past experiences - that is what we mean by life, is it not? Living is a process of continuity in memory, conscious as well as unconscious, with its various struggles, quarrels, incidents, experiences and so on. All that is what we call life; in opposition to that there is death, which is putting an end to all that.
Having created the opposite, which is death, and being afraid of it, we proceed to look for the relationship between life and death; if we can bridge the gap with some explanation, with belief in continuity, in the hereafter, we are satisfied. We believe in reincarnation or in some other form of continuity of thought and then we try to establish a relationship between the known and the unknown. We try to bridge the known and the unknown and thereby try to find the relationship between the past and the future. That is what we are doing, is it not?, when we inquire if there is any relationship between life and death. We want to know how to bridge the living and the ending - that is our fundamental desire.
Now, can the end, which is death, be known while living? If we can know what death is while we are living, then we shall have no problem. It is because we cannot experience the unknown while we are living that we are afraid of it. Our struggle is to establish a relationship between ourselves, which is the result of the known, and the unknown which we call death. Can there be a relationship between the past and something which the mind cannot conceive, which we call death?
Why do we separate the two? Is it not because our mind can function only within the field of the known, within the field of the continuous? One only knows oneself as a thinker, as an actor with certain memories of misery, of pleasure, of love, affection, of various kids of experience; one only knows oneself as being continuous - otherwise one would have no recollection of oneself as being something.
Now when that something comes to the end, which we call death, there is fear of the unknown; so we want to draw the unknown into the known and our whole effort is to give continuity to the unknown. That is, we do not want to know life, which includes death, but we want to know how to continue and not come to an end. We do not want to know life and death, we only want to know how to continue without ending.
That which continues has no renewal. There can be nothing new, there can be nothing creative, in that which has continuance - which is fairly obvious. It is only when continuity ends that there is a possibility of that which is ever new. But it is this ending that we dread and we don't see that only in ending can there be renewal, the creative, the unknown - not in carrying over from day to day our experiences, our memories and misfortunes. It is only when we die each day to all that is old that there can be the new.
The new cannot be where there is continuity - the new being the creative, the unknown, the eternal, God or what you will. The person, the continuous entity, who seeks the unknown, the real, the eternal, will never find it, because he can find only that which he projects out of himself and that which he projects is not the real. Only in ending, in dying, can the new be known; and the man who seeks to find a relationship between life and death, to bridge the continuous with that which he thinks is beyond, is living in a fictitious, unreal world, which is a projection of himself.
Now is it possible, while living, to die - which means
coming to an end, being as nothing? Is it possible, while living in this
world where everything is becoming more and more or becoming less and
less, where everything is a process of climbing, achieving, succeeding,
is it possible, in such a world, to know death? Is it possible to end
all memories - not the memory of facts, the way to your house and so on,
but the inward attachment through memory to psychological security, the
memories that one has accumulated, stored up, and in which one seeks
Source - J. Krishnamurti The First and Last Freedom