During meditation there comes a time when you encounter the so-called 'negative' states of mind- passion, fear, lust, anger, desire of all kinds, but especially fear. So many people ask me, 'Swamiji, during my meditation practice I feel so much fear that the whole process is blocked. How can I overcome this?' Well, frankly speaking, the answer is that you can't.
If you want to overcome this fear, or any other negative or undesirable experience during your meditation then you will not get any further. It happens to everybody. When you do puja with bhava, fear creeps in. So too, when you practise dhyana, fear is very natural, because you die there, and nobody likes to die. This death has nothing to do with physical death, but a different kind of awareness replaces the present awareness. It is like a person living in a flat going far away and another person coming in.
Although the chitta or chaitana is the same, its bhumika or stages are different. Therefore you sometimes find some other person has entered into you and you become a different person. You have the same body, the same karma, the same samskara and the same connection with destiny, but the awareness with which you are perceiving, thinking, and knowing, changes. Some times the change is very gradual so there is no fear.
When you take to spiritual life you begin to change but this is a very gradual transition in which you have no fear. However, later on when you go into spiritual life very deeply, it is not merely a change; it is a total replacement. Some say that the quality changes but I think it is not the quality but the whole unit that changes. You become a different person altogether.
Now, during puja and deep meditation, or when pranayama is effective, fear creeps in, in many ways. You begin to think that you are just being invaded! Then there is another fear- you feel that someone is behind you, that you are a different person or that your thinking has become different. The greatest fear comes when you are meditating. There is a point where you believe you are going to faint, to lose consciousness. You are just passing out and you believe you will nor be able to come back to the conscious state, that your consciousness has totally dissolved.
So all these fears come and you will have to understand the cause. While you are practising your japa, dhyana, pranayama, or any other sadhana, whatever experiences come to you, not on]y fear, please do not mind - I am telling you to do something very difficult, but any experience which you get during your spiritual practices should be ignored. That is a very important point, because they are temporary. There is only one experience which is permanent and imperishable - ayanashi anubhuti. That experience is the last and lasting. Experiences such as fear, light, asura, deva, voices, visions, revelations, prophecies, should be ignored if you wish to reach the highest.
When you are practising meditation yon must know on whom or what you are concentrating. If you are concentrating on the symbol 'Om' for instance, then you will have to ignore anything else no matter what it is. Fear is one experience which comes to everybody. When it creeps into your mind, immediately withdraw your mind back to its centre. It will come again. Withdraw your mind back to the centre again. If sadhaka are careful, if their spiritual base is perfect, systematic and methodical, then fear and other negative states will come at the end, not at the beginning when they are not ready to face it.
Buddha confronted that situation, Mahavira and everyone has done so. The preliminary sadhana has to be very methodical. Yama and niyama should not be ignored at any cost whether you believe in them or not, because their observance helps your emotional, psycho-emotional and deeper consciousness to have a free flow of experience. If the yama and niyama of raja yoga are ignored, then your consciousness will have mutilated experiences, fear being one.
When you are passing through concentration the first experience is vikshepa. This you can avert by willpower - 'No, I am not going to think; I will think only of 'Om'. Then you begin to think about your factory, shop or work - 'No, Om!' You can do this because your willpower is intact. You can use your willpower and avert the distractions, but when you enter into the realm of visions then there is no willpower, there is no ego that can say 'No, I don't want to have this experience'. You are totally helpless like a child who has been thrown into a flooded river. He does not know what lo do. You can avert distractions because you are aware of intellect and you know, but against these experiences, like fear etc., you are totally helpless and you will have to face them. If you do not want to face them then you will have to follow the path of karma yoga first.
I find that all sadhaka like raja yoga, kundalini yoga or gyana yoga but consider karma yoga as not being yoga at all. It is karma yoga which is the foundation of all the yogas! Raja yoga and gyana yuga are the superstructures. They are the towers that you see but you do not see the foundation. Incessant practice of karma yoga keeps the negative tendencies of the mind properly fixed. Karma yoga is not merely karma; it is karma yoga. You work in such a way that it does not affect the level, behaviour and pattern of consciousness. This philosophy can be understood from 'Gita':
It is your business to work; it is none of your business to think of other things.
It is none of your business to think about anything else but karma. When karma yoga is not practised, either in your family or in the ashram of your guru, and when the spirit of karma yoga is completely absent, then you cannot purify the chitta.
Just as the body has three dosha - kapha, vata and pitta, the mind also has three dosha. The three dosha of the mind are mala - impurity, vitshepa - distraction, and avarna - veil. These are the three faults of mind and they are inborn. With the mind which is evolving from the crude material of prakriti, composed of sattwaguna, rajoguna and tamoguna, these three faults come up.
What do we mean by impurity? I am not talking in a religions sense. These negative states of mind like fear, anxiety, doubt, neurosis and psychosis are expressions of the latent impurities which you have missed in your earlier sadhana. If you have done karma with detachment and dedication, you would rot have . to face them now. Again the 'Gita' explains it:
While eating. White sleeping, while smelling, while doing, you can practise the spirit of karma yoga where you can completely detach yourself from the consequences that are related to the karma you are performing.
Once there were two brothers each of whom planted about fifty mango seeds. One brother was thinking all night: 'The mangoes have been planted; they will grow; we will sell them; we will export and get a lot of money to put in the bank', and so on. In the morning when he came to the field he saw that in the night buffaloes had already crushed half of what he had planted the previous evening. He came back disappointed. At the door his wife asked him, 'Shall I make tea for you?'. He replied 'Keep quiet; don't talk to me!1 He was so angry. The other brother slept through the night soundly and in the morning he went and also faced the same problem. The buffaloes had destroyed half of what he had planted. So he went back home, got all his sons and servants and immediately made fences. This is the difference in attitude between a karma yogi and one who is simply going on making more karma for himself to get entangled in.
How do you develop the spirit of karma yoga? Say you have a maidservant. She serves you and your children day and night. When die children fall ill she looks after them; she does not even sleep. However, when she gets a telegram from her family saying that her son is sick, she just loses her mind because she has asakti to her children, while to your children she is only duty-bound, that is all.
You cannot eliminate mental distractions and negative elements in the mind by force or they will rebound on you. So go back and practise karma yoga, if yon want to practise properly go to one of the ashrams in India and work in the kitchen, cowshed, garden, printing press, hospital or anywhere else, just like a servant. That will purify you. Then go back to your meditation. If you cannot do this, face your mind; and face all the other negative manifestations of mind. It cannot be helped. Even your guru cannot help you.