Fear – a Big Zero

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Fear is illusory; it cannot live. Courage is eternal, it will not die. Perils, calamities, dangers are the certain lot of every man who is a denizen of this world. Therefore, fortify your mind with courage and patience. Fortitude, courage, presence of mind will sustain you through all dangers.

Just as a rock on the sea-shore stands firm and the dashing of the waves does not affect it even a bit, even so a man who is endowed with courage is not affected by the dark perilous waves of this samsara. He stands adamant in all trying conditions and circumstances and comes out victorious. A man of courage does not tremble in the hour of danger. He is not embarrassed and bewildered. He does not sink down. He is not overwhelmed by despair. He smiles away all dangers and difficulties, blows the trumpet of triumph and attains victory in the end.

Ignorance and attachment

The Sanskrit equivalent for fear is bhaya. Fear is an emotion or vritti in the mind that is produced when one’s life is in danger on account of external forces or things. Man reacts to the situation with a fear-emotion. It is characterized by pallor of the face, palpitation of heart, slowing of pulse or stoppage, tremor of limbs, perspiration, expressionless condition of the eyes, passing of urine and faeces unaware, in extreme cases, choking of voice, inability to speak. The body becomes like a log of wood. The mind gets stunned. The functions of the senses are inhibited. In extreme cases one may die of shock. In ordinary cases when the cause of fear is removed, one slowly recovers from the morbid symptoms and comes back to one’s original state.

Ignorance is the cause of fear. Man tasted the ‘forbidden fruit’ and became a slave of lust. He forgot his original, divine nature and was thus caught up in the whirlpool of ignorance. The infinite fearless Brahman became the finite jiva with fear. Identification with the body or dehadhyasa is the cause of fear. Dehadhyasa is another form of ignorance. This physical body is an instrument for man’s sensual enjoyment. If he suffers from any disease, he is afraid that he will lose this body which serves him as a vehicle for his enjoyment. He tries his level best to preserve this body. All other causes of fear are traceable to dehadhyasa.

Feeling of inferiority is another cause of fear. This negative feeling produces lack of self-reliance or self-confidence in man.

He is afraid of those who are superior to him in talents, power, position and efficiency. He feels that he is incapable of doing anything.

Raga or attachment is the long-standing associate of fear. Wherever there is raga, there is fear. Fear and raga co-exist. Man is attached to his wife. The body of his wife is his greatest pleasure-centre. So there is fear for him, fear of losing her, fear of her death, fear of her running away with another man, fear of her divorcing him, fear of her being displeased with him, and so on.

As he is attached to his children, house and property, he has fear of losing his house, property and children. He is drowned in sorrow and gets a terrible shock if these objects are destroyed or lost. Hence raga is the cause of fear. If there is no raga, there is no fear. The first link in the chain of raga is his attachment to his body. All kinds, of raga start from this raga to the physical body.

You are attached to a fountain-pen, walking stick, book, watch, towel, cloth. Fear slowly creeps in. There is fear of losing them. Always entertain the thought: all objects are illusory, perishable and pain-giving. You will have no attachment. Even if there is attachment, it will be mild. You can drive it away with slight thinking and discrimination.

Witness the menagerie

The percentage of normal fear will be only five. Imaginary fears will come to ninety per cent. Imaginary fears cause diseases, deplete all energies in man and produce all sorts of feverish excitement, low vitality, uneasiness, discomfort, disharmony, etc. When there is an epidemic or cholera, or typhoid, fear is the predisposing cause. Man is terribly afraid of cholera, worries himself and imagines that the germs have entered his body. Imagination does serious havoc. He becomes a victim to the actual disease itself!

Sit for a while. Reflect well. Introspect. All imaginary fears will take to their heels. They will dwindle into an airy nothing. Mind deceives you through imaginary fears. Learn to discriminate, cogitate, reflect and meditate. Cultivate courage. Be a silent witness of the mind’s menagerie. The mind will lurk like a thief. You will feel now that you were duped all these years by this mischievous mind and that fear is a non-entity, a big zero.

Re-educate the mind

Fear is an instinct common in every man. Fear is universal. It can happen at any place. It can come at any time. Freedom from fear can be achieved by liberation from the objects of fear. Re-educating the mind, bringing forth the power of the spirit, dealing with practical affairs, diligently putting into practice the knowledge that one possesses, are all essential factors to overcome fear. It must be felt that there is no object which is to be afraid of or to be feared.

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. Nor with a heavy heart. Nor when he broods over an 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.

As we grow, we must develop constantly 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.

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 no enmity, there is no superiority of power, tere is no pleasure or pain. Ultimately there is no fear. Of course, this is the stage.

The final stage is feeling oneness of all. All are Brahman. All merge in Brahman. There is Brahman alone pervading throughout 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 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.

Published in Conquest of Fear