Fear is an instinct common in every man. Fear is universal. It can happen at any place. It can come at any time. Even elements of Nature are subject to Fear. Wind is said to blow through fear of Him. The sun rises fearing Him. Indra, Fire and Death proceed to their respective duties only out of fear. Thus, fear is not uncommon in Devas, too. Equally it prevails amongst beasts, animals, insects and practically every creation of this world.
Fear is generally the result of pain, injury and discomfort. There is a hereditary aspect of this instinct which accounts for its universality and its persistence. Factors of environment and training are also significant.
The idea of some external superior power over one’s self is the chief cause of fear. Relatively, the mind adopts an entirely different attitude. Vision changes. Glaring perception fails. The mind is not balanced. There is some abnormality of thoughts and actions. Hysteric and neurasthenic convulsions are all due to one form of fear or other. Impulsion and desire to escape or flee from the dangerous situation are the immediate results.
This fear has to be conquered. 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.
In all cases, it must be distinctly understood that seeing and hearing alone does not produce the sensation of fear. A child is not afraid of its father or mother usually. But when the father puts on a strange countenance, or howls in an unnatural way the child becomes frightened. This gets firmly rooted in the mind. This develops as a hereditary weakness in later life also. This memory is scarcely washed off even after growth. So children should not be frightened.
Here fear should not be confused with startle. School boys, when they see their master’s head at the corner of a street, flee away. This does not mean fear. This is due to an instinct in everybody to escape from the sight of the master. On the other hand, if the master takes a cane in his hand, the child suffers some sort of infliction and imagines impending injury. Consequently he fears his master.
But 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 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.
People in well-lit cities and urban areas are still afraid to move in darkness. They imagine something untoward to 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 made penance in the midst of wild beasts. Dhruva, before he attained Youth, entered the forest and did great Tapas. Bharata played with cubs.
Mere re-educating the mind will not strengthen courage. Putting the knowledge into practice on every occasion is quite essential. At every auditorium we find people advocating that what men are afraid of as snakes are but ropes. But they fail to experience such stamina. On the other hand, they mildly submit. This is due to lack of training. This is not what is required. Well-developed knowledge coupled with practice can alone relieve men from fear. The idea may be paradoxical to assume that “there is nothing to fear because nothing can hurt us though the converse is equally true.”
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. There 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.
The Truth is to be pronounced and meditated upon. Recitation of Upanishads, Srutis, Vedas and hymns produces vibrations. These vibrations remove all inflections. Many incurable diseases causing fear of death in the minds of the sufferers are cured by these vibrations alone. Thirujnana Sambandhar, a Tamil saint, cured a Jain king of Madura of his incurable disease. Thirunavukkarasu Swamigal, another Tamil saint, was cured of his stomach disorder only through such vibrations. Sakkubai was released time and often from various difficulties through her sincere devotion to Lord Krishna. They all felt one with Him. Again, Thirunavukkarasu Swamigal was shut up in a lime kiln to be burnt to death. He felt oneness with God. His mind was not in the least affected. His physical body, too, was not affected by the object of fear of death.
Drowning waves of fear may at times rush down upon us. We may lose mental balance for a while. We may be over-sensitive and agitated. A chain of evil happenings appear before us one after another in quick succession. Memory of the past gallops 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.
Overcoming in this way will not suffice. This must be brought into practice. We must first face only those which we are afraid of. 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 or 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 realize that the object which caused him fear is nothing but one of his daily handlings.
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.
If we meditate upon statements of Truth our inner eye of wisdom opens, we are gifted with right understanding, and we know the Truth. This is worship of God. This is adoration to the Lord. It is this which liberates us from bondage.
Working mentally and practicing physically and at all times, dwelling spiritually upon divine thoughts and remaining in a higher stratum of mind we not only overcome fear but merge in Brahman.
“Whence all speech turn back with the mind without reaching; he who knows the bliss of Brahman fears not at any time—is not afraid of anything”.—Brahmananda Valli—4.9