Fear and Fearlessness

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Fear is a great enemy of every individual. It is the enemy of his progress. It disturbs his peace and harmony, sucks or saps his vitality and drains the nervous system of its reserve of energy. Fear produces weakness.

Fear is of two kinds. Natural or rational fear appears when there is a threatening situation to endanger life. Unnatural or unusual fear has no objective reality. The origin of most neurotic fears can be traced to childhood where they may lie dormant in the subconscious mind. At a later stage in life, they sprout forth during periods of crisis or stress.

Panicky fear is more contagious than typhoid or cholera. Atom bombs cause terrible panicky fear, so much so that people will leave their houses and move to villages. Anxiety and worry are the effects of fear. Some sort of fear remains buried in the subconscious mind. When people worry themselves silly, there will be continued strain and tension in the mind. If the fear is released or dispelled, they will have peace of mind.

Normal fear is healthy. It paves the way for one’s progress. It preserves life. A headmaster is afraid of the inspector of schools. As a result, he takes a keen interest in training the boys, and then the boys are successful in their examination. An engine driver of the railways is afraid of his superior officer. Therefore, he is very careful in the discharge of his duties, and no collision occurs. A physician is afraid of a bad reputation, so he takes great care of his patients, does research, saves many lives, and becomes a famous physician.

Psychologists are of the opinion that there cannot be total fearlessness, suggesting that one can only make a determined effort to conquer fear. This is incorrect. Psychologists have not had transcendental experiences. A perfect sage who has knowledge of Brahman is absolutely fearless. The Upanishads declare in a thundering voice, “The knower of the fearless Brahman becomes himself absolutely fearless.”

There can be fear only in duality. How can there be fear for one who experiences non-duality? Such a person is the most courageous of men. The courage of a soldier in the battlefield or of a dacoit is only tamasic courage. It is not courage at all, but mere brutal ferocity born of hatred or jealousy. Sattwic courage born of wisdom of the Self is real courage. As a matter of fact, fear exists to glorify courage. A timid person exists to glorify a courageous person. Good has no value if bad does not exist. One side of a thing cannot have significance without the other side. Everything in this world has two sides. Dvandvas, pairs of opposites, exist to maintain the flow of the world.

Pratipaksha bhavana method

As you think, so you become, and as you think, so you develop. Gradually your life becomes your ideal because there is a great transformational power in thought. Take the life of perfect men like Bhishma and think of their deeds and ideals. Your life can be filled with purity and courage. You can become a noble, perfect being. Thought transforms you into its own likeness. You become what you worship, you become what you think.

Sit with closed eyes in the early morning and meditate on courage, the opposite of fear, for half an hour. Think of the advantages of courage and the disadvantages of fear. Practise courage during the day. Feel that you actually possess courage to an enormous degree and manifest it in your daily life. In some weeks or months fear will be replaced by courage.

It is difficult to attack fear directly. It is very strong, and you are a victim of this negative trait during hundreds of lives. It has taken deep root, therefore, put the seeds of courage in your heart and allow it to grow. Fear will die by itself. The positive always overcomes the negative. This is an immutable psychological law. This is the pratipaksha bhavana method of raja yogins. Try this method again and again. You are bound to succeed.

Feeling the presence of God

God is all-pervading. He is always with you, in you and around you. He is not far to seek. He cannot be perceived through the physical eye, and the sense of touch cannot help you. He has to be realized through the inner eye of wisdom.

Modern civilization is enslaving people to such an extent that they are becoming incapable of any original expression, thought or deed. They do not care to think of their routine actions – how their activities progress, what they are running after or what goal they are marching towards. Inventions, innovations and contrivances are easing people from their labour and human skill.

The conservation of energy in this direction is only creating laziness in them. More sensual desires and perceptions have begun to sway them. Lost in the ever increasing luxuries of life, their true mission is forgotten. People do not think where their daily requirements come from, who the unfailing and non-stopping supplier is, where His abode rests, how to have His Darshan, and how to worship Him.

No amount of study and research in physical geography, the vegetable kingdom, industrial technology, physiology and other sciences solve these problems nor give clues towards the solutions. Scientific knowledge is subject to various hypotheses, axioms and data which tend to be controversial. This knowledge helps no one to arrive at the source. The source is really beyond these conceptions and cannot be located by running the finger over a coloured map. God can be seen only through the inner eye and right understanding. Concentration, meditation and sublime thoughts are the pathways to God.


Most people feel they are unable to fix their mind upon God and meditate upon divine thoughts. This is due to want of training. Realization always comes through practice, and practice comes out of proper training. Proper training requires the consultation of learned men.

In all ages people meet with such great personalities who are always ready to help though they may not advertise themselves as such. It is left to each person to seek such men, to choose their guru, to obey him implicitly, to serve him with sincerity and earnestness and to express their thirst for knowledge. Vain discussions and intentional testing questions must be strictly avoided.

There are people who say that they are unable to find even a single man of such qualities who can be their guru. This is no reason to cast off concentration and meditation. Though no perfection can be attained in any line of activity without a guru, it may well be asserted that God is as near and dear as He is to everybody.

Right training

A sincere and earnest attempt has its fruits. A person who does not understand the language of the film does not refrain from visiting films. He makes use of every opportunity to accompany a friend who is able to interpret the language. If that is not possible, he makes a fresh acquaintance while in the queue for tickets. If he is unable to do this, he tries his best to decipher the whole film by racking his brain.

He makes an earnest effort to improve his knowledge of the world of cinema by purchasing magazines. He is restless and does not stop this quest for knowledge. In the course of time, every actor or actress lives at the tip of his tongue. He speaks for hours and hours about the talents of various film stars.

What is this due to? He has been training himself honestly, sincerely and virtuously in that particular field of interest. Did he wait for a guru? What a pity if a person indulges in trivial matters and discards the vital mission of life.

It is quite common for people to complain that when they begin to think of God, their mind wanders here and there and their thoughts dwell on mundane affairs. This is due to lack of training and willpower. It is extremely difficult to fix the mind on God. An entirely different, superior and higher mind is needed for this practice. This mind has to be well developed.

Discovering God

The mind is full of passion and restlessness. It traverses through all spheres, good and bad, and must be kept under control with the triple cord of devotion, concentration and meditation.

There are two distinctive ways to worship God. One is as the ‘All-pervading Nature’ and the other as being ‘Here and here alone’. If a person is to sit down and contemplate the omnipresence of God, His presence in the sun, the moon, the stars, in anything and everything, he may get lost in the immensity. On the other hand, he may localize the presence of God and later expand his awareness of God’s omnipresent nature.

Having steadied the mind either by gazing at a particular spot, or at the picture of any form of God or guru, you may slowly utter in a low tone the statement, ‘God is now here’ or ‘God is in this room’. Repeat in a deep meditative way, relax for a while and repeat the statement. Do this untiringly until you are immersed in the statement, and you will realize the presence of God.

After experiencing ‘God is now here’ repeat ‘His presence fills me from head to foot’. By repeating these sentences realize His existence in you. In the same way practise repeating ‘His presence is joy, His presence is love, His presence is peace’. Whenever your mind attempts to wander, repeat these statements loudly. This practice frees you from fear and fills you with courage, joy and peace. This is an easy way to realize God!

Devotion to God

God bestows perfect security on His devotees and removes all sorts of fears. He transforms insecurity and fear into confidence and faith. He saves them from panic and despair.

Mira was tormented by her husband in a variety of ways but Lord Krishna protected her and removed all of her fears. The cup of poison was changed into nectar and the cobra was changed into a garland of flowers. She was shut in a cage with a hungry tiger, but the tiger did not eat her, instead it kissed the feet of Mira. This was all due to the grace of Lord Krishna.

Lord Hari removed Prahlada’s fears. Prahlada was tormented by his cruel father, he was hurled into the sea, trampled under the feet of an elephant, cast down from the top of a hill and thrown into a fire but Prahlada was saved by Lord Hari. Lord Vishnu constantly removed his fears.

A devotee sees the Lord in all names and forms. He beholds Lord Hari everywhere. So, how can there be fear? When one takes refuge in the Lord, His name and grace, then all fears vanish completely. God will bestow strength, fortitude, courage and presence of mind.

Meditation on atman

The method of jnanis is meditation on the fearless atman. A sage beholds the immortal fearless Self everywhere. There is fear only where there is duality. If one feels that there is a second object besides oneself, at once fear is generated. One is afraid of the other person. Separation, duality, perception of objects are due to avidya or ignorance.

Start the anti-current from today. Deny the body and identify yourself with the all-pervading, immortal, fearless atman. Denial of the body cannot come in a day or a week. Therefore, think constantly of the atman. Gradually you become fearless. The more you think of the atman, the more courageous you become. Only constant hammering will drive the nail into the wall.