FEAR: Let us attempt to try to understand the psychology of fear and understand the foolproof way to overcome fear or conquer fear.
Fearlessness can be classified into two broad categories - Fearlessness due to Ignorance & Fearlessness due to Knowledge.
An ignorant child and a trained fire-fighter both appear fearless in their dealings with fire, but there is a gulf of difference.
There are innumerable ideas in the form of books and websites flocking around the world suggesting how to overcome fear. The essence of most of these solutions is - boost your confidence, and you will overcome fear. How much ever does it sound convincing, it lacks logic. It is like,
Question: How to not drown?
Answer: Focus, motivate and train yourself hard so that you are on the land and not in water.
If we can assure that we will always be on land, we shall never be anxious or afraid of drowning. If we can be assured that for the entire lifetime, no matter what, the situation in my life will always be supportive to maintain my courage then I shall never be anxious or fearful. However, life is not residing on the land. Life is sailing on a boat across the chest of an ocean.
There will be tides, some small, some huge, some smooth, and some of which will raise us to the peak at one point and throw us down at the other point. The whole game is to maintain balance and not sink. Stress, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, frustration, violence, intoxication, suicides are the symptoms of sinking in the rough tidal ocean of life. Flattery, lies, arrogance, envy, hypocrisy, politics are symptoms of failing attempts to balance our boat of life. Blissfulness, humility, truthfulness, steadiness, compassion are symptoms of a perfectly balanced life.
Most of the suggestions, motivational stories and lectures are decorated with flowery words and glittery advertisements of imaginary successful, fearless life, but they aren't foolproof. The reason is most of these authors or narrators, might have faced few rough tides and then got a smooth huge rising tide. People love this phase of getting glittering height, where they get all the attention and admiration of the world. It is during this rising phase of their life, they become proud of their height compared to others, and then they dump their philosophies on others. Many get inspired by them and decide to follow in their footsteps. Until the time comes when they descend down the tide. Many boats get shattered into pieces and eventually lost forever with time. It is then that their philosophy changes, but, it is too late to warn others who are already following their fantasy philosophy which got proven wrong.
I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.
[-Last words of Steve Jobs]
Therefore, we must be intelligent enough to take advice and inspiration from the source which is tested by time. The only source that remains unaltered for ages and still holds true is the instruction of God, in the form of the scriptures. Be it The Vedic Scriptures, The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran or any revealed bonafide scriptures. Only then we can get the foolproof path to lead a fearless, stressless life. Following scriptures doesn't mean that we would be living a life without calamities. It means our voyage would be smoother irrespective of the calamities. It is like - a person on a bullock cart and another person in a luxury car, both traveling through the same broken bumpy road. An unfortunate atheist (as if riding on a cart) gets his back broken by the bumpy road, whereas a devotee (as if riding a luxury car) enjoys the ride even though he is facing similar calamities of the road.
Types of Fear.
Superficially fear can be of many types, ranging from fear of insects to stage fear to fear of losing a job to fear of height to fear of death. Broadly we are all surrounded by the fearful syndrome. A materialistically very successful person might claim he is fearless, but, if so then why does he eat - because he is afraid of dying, why does he take medicine - because he is afraid of suffering, why does he work at an office - because he is afraid of losing a job, why does he groom himself - because he is afraid of rejections, why lock their doors - to safeguard his wealth from getting stolen, why watch a movie - because afraid of boredom.
A fifth-century Indian philosopher, poet, and grammarian Bhartrihari explain that there are nine types of fear:
bhoge roga-bhayam kule chyuti bhayam
vitte nripalad bhayam mane dainya-bhayam
bale ripu bhayam rupe jaraya bhayam
shastre vadi-bhayam gune khala bhayam
kaye kritantad bhayam sarvam vastu bhayan
vitam bhuvi nrinam vairagyam evabhayam
In enjoyment there is fear of disease; In a family there is fear of disgrace; In wealth there is fear of hostile rulers; In honor there is fear of humiliation; In knowledge there is fear of opponents; In beauty there is fear of old age; In power there is fear of backbiters; In virtue there is fear of jealousy; In body there is fear of death; All the things of this world pertaining to man are attended by fear; Renunciation alone stands for fearlessness. .
Thus an intelligent man can see in every phase of life there is fear.
Causes of Fear.
We all are attached to the state of happiness or state of comfort, and, the anxiety or perceived threat to this state of mind is expressed as fear. There is nothing wrong with it. It is naturally a healthy state of mind.
It is revealed in scriptures that we are soul, and it is our property, to be blissful. Due to this inherent property, we are always seeking a state of happiness and anxious to avoid any unfavorable circumstances. However, with an open and observant mind, we can see that nothing in this world is permanent. Thus getting attached to anything temporary, assuming it to be eternal, we become fearful of losing it. Hence the only way to be fearless is detachment or renunciation.
But we must not be confused by the meaning of renunciation to be rejecting everything. That is impractical and must not be followed. True detachment or renunciation means to not accept anything as ours which we don't rightfully own. For example - if the gardener thinks the fruits in a tree to be his, he would get attached to the fruits. This will keep him anxious always as he will fear someone might steal it. If someone takes it, he would feel pain and anger. But if he understands the fruit belongs to the tree, the tree belongs to the owner and he is just a guardian, performing his duty, he would not be attached, yet he would be responsible thus won't get affected if someone steals the fruit.
An intelligent person, or a devotee, knows everything in this world belongs to God, The Supreme Person who created it, The Supreme Personality of Godhead - Krishna. Therefore such people appear in the world like any ordinary man, yet are aloof from everything.
Process to Overcome or Conquer Fear.
The only remedy to attain fearlessness is to Surrender to Krishna.
A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneﬁciary of all sacriﬁces and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.
Bhagavad Gita 5.29
I remember an episode from my childhood days. My father was on his way to market, and, I was following him. I was hoping and jumping, playing with the butterflies on my way. All of a sudden, a pack of some 15 stray dogs came running to me, with their fearful canines. I got alarmed, threw pebbles but that didn't scare them. When I saw my foolish attempt failed, I cried for help from my father surrendering myself. My father who was about 200 meters ahead of me, roared loudly raising his arms in the air and scared away the dogs. The only way to be fearless in this world or beyond is to surrender to someone who is greater than us and greater than the problem. This someone cannot be an imaginary figure. We do not just need psychological support but we do need His actual shelter. Krishna mentions in Bhagavad Gita, He is both the source and end of everything and there is nothing beyond Him. Therefore in the entire creation, there is no greater personality than Krishna.
All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.
Bhagavad Gita 7.6
O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.
Bhagavad Gita 7.7
And Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, He is our eternal Father. Who else can give us better shelter than our own Father?
It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.
Bhagavad Gita 14.4
This is why Krishna has made repeated promises to save everyone who is deciding to turn towards him.
... O son of Kuntī, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.
Bhagavad Gita 9.31
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
Bhagavad Gita 18.66
The 100% fool-proof way.
... if we understand the eternal nature of the soul, and understand that Krishna is suhrdam sarva-bhutaanaam – he is the benefactor and best friend of everyone – and then when we take shelter of Krishna, we are happy, because we have Krishna. Then we are fearless, because everything else is a detail if we have Krishna. We deal with the details; it’s our duty, our Dharma. But beyond that, all is Sanatan Dharma, our relationship with Krishna.
[– His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj]
Many people think that Religion is based on fear. There was also an infamous Bollywood movie that even established - a fearful person goes to the temple. Many therefore falsely think, if you have the confidence to be fearless always, you don't need to surrender to God.
Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita -
O best among the Bhāratas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me – the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.
[Bhagavad Gita - 7.16]
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur further elaborates it and says -
There are four basic causes why persons in different conditions of life try to achieve the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord: fear, hope, a sense of obligation, and spontaneous attraction. Some people are impelled to worship the Lord out of fear of hell, poverty, disease or death. Others worship Him in hopes of achieving sense gratification or success in the material world. However, neither of these groups can find unadulterated happiness in their worship of the Lord unless they ultimately renounce all fear and hope and instead become attached to pure devotional service. The third group of devotees, driven by a sense of duty or obligation, pray to God with gratitude for His being the creator of the universe. And the last group are those who are motivated by neither fear, hope, nor obligation, but who automatically achieve love for the Lord by worshiping Him, and who thus serve Him out of spontaneous attraction.
Therefore worshipping the Supreme Father out of fear is not the only reason to approach God, although, there is nothing wrong in doing so. However, the highest reason to approach Him is out of unalloyed, unmotivated, unconditional Love.
Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became puriﬁed by knowledge of Me – and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.
[Bhagavad Gita - 4.10]
Repeatedly it is said by Krishna that only by Krishna Consciousness, can all our obstacles and impediments be overcome. Therefore we need not fear if we are in Krishna Consciousness. However not doing so, we will be misguided for sure.
If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditioned life by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost.
[Bhagavad Gita 18.58]
The way of connecting to Krishna is through the chanting of Hare Krishna Mahamantra. Not only does this help us stay Krishna Conscious, but it also makes us fearless.
Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, which is feared by fear personified.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.14]
Bhagavad Gita is known as the Manual of Life, because it instructs us very clearly how to lead a proper life. But inspite of the clear instructions, why there are certain people who do not tend to understand the concept of God? This answer is also given in Bhagavad Gita. It is because of the illusion caused by Material Nature - Maya.
Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion and ignorance], the whole world does not know Me, who am above the modes and inexhaustible.
[Bhagavad Gita 7.13]
This illusionary energy of Lord - Maya, is extremely bewildering. Everyone is living in a dream. Everyone is falsely assuming the temporary to be permanent. Everyone is neglecting that which is eternal. However there also a remedy to overcome this illusion, which is also by surrendering onto Krishna.
This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difﬁcult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
[Bhagavad Gita 7.14]
Understanding Krishna and surrendering onto Him, is an extremely rare event. It is not possible for anyone and everyone.
Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.
[Bhagavad Gita 7.3]
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
[Bhagavad Gita 7.19]
I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.
[Bhagavad Gita 7.25]
Understanding the words of Krishna, need some basic qualification. Like everyone can purchase a book on Quantum Physics written in English. A person knowing English can read the entire book. But to understand it requires some basic pre-requisite, some basic qualification. If any disqualified person attempts to disqualify any theory of Quantum Physics, no sane person would pay any heed to him. Similarly, the essence of Vedas (which contains all knowledge a human will ever need - both materially and spiritually) is devotional Service to Krishna. This is the epitome of all knowledge. To understand this one definitely must have some basic qualifications. Any person without this qualification may reject Krishna's existence and words but their ignorance doesn't really bother the intelligent.
I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.
[Bhagavad Gita 15.15]
Therefore fear might be a reason to come to Krishna (for some), fearlessness is definitely attained by everyone who is sincerely practicing the science of connecting with Krishna, through Krishna Consciousness. With this fearlessness, one can progress in the spiritual path.
In Bhagavad-gītā it is said that in order to make spiritual progress, one must become fearless. Abhayaṁ sattva-saṁśuddhiḥ (Bg. 16.1). Fearfulness is the result of material involvement. It is also said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.37), bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syāt: fearfulness is a creation of the bodily conception of life. As long as one is absorbed in the thought that he is this material body, he is fearful, and as soon as one is freed from this material conception, he becomes brahma-bhūta, or self-realized, and immediately becomes fearless. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā (Bg. 18.54). Without being fearless, one cannot be joyful. The bhaktas, the devotees, are fearless and always joyful because they are constantly engaged in the service of the lotus feet of the Lord. It is also said:
(Srimad Bhagvatam. 1.2.20)
By practicing bhagavad-bhakti-yoga, one becomes fearless and joyful. Unless one becomes fearless and joyful, he cannot understand the science of God. Bhagavat-tattva-vijñānaṁ mukta-saṅgasya jāyate. This verse refers to those who are completely liberated from the fearfulness of this material world. When one is so liberated, he can really understand the transcendental features of the form of the Lord. Lord Śiva therefore advises everyone to practice bhagavad-bhakti-yoga. As will be clear in the following verses, by doing so one can become really liberated and enjoy spiritual bliss.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 4.24.52 Purport]
We must understand - Scriptures are not Myth nor Mythology. Every alphabet of the scripture is eternal. Fear is an outcome of Material Attachment and Forgetfulness of Krishna. Only and Only by Bhagavad Bhakti (rendering devotional service onto The Supreme Personality - Krishna) can one become Fearless. Bhagavad Bhakti is extremely simple, establish our forgotten connection with Krishna.
This is by regularly chanting His Holy Name in the form of Maha Mantra
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Do not tell God how big your problem is, rather tell your problem how great God is. Finally, if nothing works, let us forget our ego, raise our hands and call upon our Supreme Father with sincerity and sense of urgency. History is witness that He will definitely rush to us and drive the stray dogs away.
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