Overcoming Fear

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

How to conquer fear? Whenever a child is afraid of something, we first tell him that there is nothing to be feared, thus denying the object of fear. Denial is the first step in the procedure. Subsequently we explain to the child the actual thing, the truth. We thus convince him that it was only his fancy which created the sensation in him. We positively affirm and assert what is true. Similarly, even as we grow, we must constantly develop the knowledge that there is nothing in the universe to cause fear. The subconscious mind, which is first startled by an unusual sight or incoherent voice, should be kept assured that all such things are false, the truth behind them being well-acquainted with the normal sense and knowledge. When fear is completely removed, nothing can hurt us.

People in well-lit cities and urban areas are still afraid to move in darkness. They imagine something untoward will happen causing pain, injury or discomfort. At the same time, how many sages and sannyasins roam about in the dark over hills and dales in the dead of night and live in caves, the abode of beasts, insects and wasps. Dhruva Bhagat did penance in the midst of wild beasts. Dhruva, before he attained youth, entered the forest and performed great tapas while Bharata played with cubs.

Merely re-educating the mind will not strengthen courage. Putting the knowledge into practice on every occasion is essential. At every auditorium we find people explaining that what men are afraid of, mistaking them for snakes, are in fact only ropes, everyone fails to experience this truth for themselves. This is due to lack of training. A well-developed knowledge of what is real, coupled with practise can alone relieve man from fear.

Denying fear, one can overcome the object of fear itself. You should not have any dualism in mind. You must always develop cosmic love and universal brotherhood. When there is love and brotherhood, there is enmity. There is no superiority of power. There is no pleasure or pain. Ultimately there is no fear. Of course this comes about in stages. The final stage is feeling oneness with all: 'All is Brahman. All merge in Brahman. There is Brahman alone pervading the universe. There is no second thing of supremacy in the world. There is no second thing in His creation at all.' This knowledge entirely uproots fear and brings one into a state of eternal peace. Fear does not emanate from one's own self. This is the secret of it - knowledge of Brahman, the eternal Truth, totally annihilates fear.

The Truth is to be pronounced and meditated upon. Recitation of the Upanishads, Srutis, Vedas and hymns produce sattvic vibrations which remove all afflictions. Many incurable diseases causing fear of death in the minds of the sufferers are cured by these vibrations alone.

Drowning waves of fear may at times rush down upon us. We may lose mental balance for a while. We may become oversensitive and agitated. A chain of evil happenings appears before us one after another in quick succession. Memories of the past gallop by with winged speed. Imagination soars and we picture disaster after disaster awaiting us. Yet, under all these circumstances, we must lay our fullest faith in God, take refuge in Him and fully believe that He alone can deliver us.

This must be brought into practice. We must first face those things of which we are afraid. If a man is afraid of facing an audience, it must be the first and foremost duty he should do until he is free from stage fear and nervousness. If one trembles to approach his superior any other person who, he thinks, is endowed with superior powers, that must be taken up as his first duty everyday till he gains sufficient moral strength. If someone is horrified at a sight in the dark, instantaneously he must run over to the spot and realise that the object which caused him fear is nothing but one which is familiar to him in daylight.

Worse than in waking, many undergo drastic, alarming abnormality in sleep. This is all due to loading the mind with stray thoughts while retiring. One should never go to bed in a state of worry or fear, with a heavy heart, nor when one is brooding over impending evil. Before retiring, everyone must evacuate all such thoughts and meditate upon God till he is released from them. He must have perfect peace in mind and soul. If he is unable to meditate upon God, let him loudly recite some hymn or poem till he sinks in the bed. He is sure to have peaceful, deep sleep.