Why is the mind based on fear and can fear be eradicated?

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

There are the four basic instincts in human life. Fear, bhaya, is an instinct like ahara, craving, nidra, sleep, and maithuna, sexuality. Desire, anger, greed, attachment or infatuation, pride or arrogance, jealousy and envy, kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya, are behaviours of the mind, not instincts of the mind. Fear and insecurity are in everyone. There is nobody who is free from fear or insecurity. However, one has to realize the futility of fear.

Once I was traveling from South America to Central America, Mexico, and my plane landed in Panama. That day there was a military coup in Panama. All the passengers were taken out of the airplane and herded into a room. Our documents were taken away for verification. The passengers in the room were absolutely nervous, shaking, chain-smoking, fearful, insecure, wondering what would happen next. I was sitting in one corner, watching everybody and thinking, 'If one has to die, one will die, and if one has to survive, one will survive. Let us see the result. There is no need for me to be anxious. There is no need for me to be fearful or afraid, because whatever is going to happen, is out of my control'.

In that entire group I was the only peaceful one. The other people asked me, "Are you not afraid? Are you not fearful?" I said, "No, I am waiting for my documents to come back, then I can board the plane."

Awareness is the key

You have to know how much fear you can manage, and what you cannot manage. If you can manage, there is no cause of fear, as it is an instinctual response. The instant response to a situation is called instinct, like when at night you see a rope on the road, and you instantly think it is a snake. The moment you shine the torch on it, you realize it is not a snake; it is only a rope. The fear factor comes in when you are not aware of the situation. When you are aware, there is no fear. Insecurity comes when there is no awareness.

As far as meditation is concerned, you should begin with the simple practice of breath awareness. When you inhale, make it long and deep, when you exhale, make it long and deep; do this for five minutes. After that, when you inhale, mentally repeat the mantra So, when you exhale mentally repeat the mantra Ham. This is known as ajapa japa meditation, in which the mind is engaged in breath awareness and in mantra awareness. This can be done for five minutes, it can be done for three minutes, or for thirty minutes. This practice helps in reducing the stress level and it builds self-confidence.

—6 June 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal