Fear – Rational or Irrational
Fear is a part of life. It is something we are all familiar with in one form or another, as it ranges from mild anxiety to debilitating panic. It is an emotional reaction – often quite irrational – that we experience when faced with a situation in which we feel threatened. This is enhanced by our lack of knowledge and our perceived sense of having no control over the events unfolding in front of us.
Some people are able to react positively to fear because their thinking is rational, while others are so overwhelmed by it that they become totally irrational. Fear overrides logic and reason and is due to a lack of clear thinking. When we face a recurring perceived threat and fear grips us – and we give in to that fear – we entrench it firmly in our psyche. This happens because we cannot find the inner resolve and strength to face our fear and overcome it, even though we know that many fears are psychological and in most cases there is absolutely no danger.
In the face of fear, when we give our minds the power to run wild, we evoke an irrational response and we literally think ourselves scared. It may be that in a specific situation we could be so gripped by fears that we may find it is impossible to think realistically about what we are facing. This is the time to recall our simran. But in the face of adversity we generally forget the Master and we forget our simran – the two things that could help us face the fearful situation confronting us. In The Dawn of Light Guru Arjan is quoted as saying: “Repeating the Name frees us from fear.”
Fear of the unknown is said to be the root of all fears, and death is generally feared because it moves us into the unknown. Rabindranath Tagore gives a reassuring description of death:
Death is not extinguishing the light;
it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.
In a similar vein the Great Master says in The Dawn of Light:
Death is not to be feared. It is only the name given to the phenomenon of the soul leaving the body…. There is life after death, although we may not be able to see it.
So why fear death? If the Master’s presence is to be found within, and we are to meet him there when we discard the body, then why should we fear death? We follow a spiritual path that teaches us that we are soul – that eternal and indestructable essence of our being that is only temporarily encased in our physical body. It is only the body that dies. If we did not accept this teaching, the fear of death would be understandable.
But even though we believe that our life continues after death – still we fear death as we cling to life. This is because our most important, deep-rooted interest in this life is ourselves, and the fear of our own death and the end of our personality, is extremely difficult to cope with.
Patanjali explains this fear in greater detail when he says:
Attachment and aversion bind us to the impermanent and illusory objects of the world. This keeps us subject to the repeated trauma of death and rebirth. We are thrown time and again into lives of unknown and torturous conditions while we keep struggling to fulfil our unending desires. Since death follows us in every life, we develop a terrible dread of it.
As quoted in The Spiritual Guide, Vol, I
And in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Hazur Maharaj Ji says:
We are deceiving ourselves that we are enjoying ourselves. Constant fear of death is there. It can come from anyone at any time, at any place. … It is a self-deception.
Death heralds change, and we fear change because it disrupts the status quo of our lives. Change can be a shattering experience when it moves us into the unknown – which we fear. But, our progression through aeons of time and countless lives has been nothing but change – and as a result of those changes much of our fear is still deeply rooted within us. However, it is also those changes that brought us to the feet of the Master and made us ready to accept the path. Change made us worthy of initiation.
A sixteenth-century English poet, Edmund Waller, beautifully describes the effects of change:
The soul’s dark cottage,
Battered and decayed
Lets in new light
Through chinks that time has made.
But we don’t remember. We only see ourselves as we are now, in this life, and the fear of change and its effects can be overwhelming. The Master’s focus is on our souls. He sees no differences because in essence we are all the same – our souls are drops of the ocean of divinity. But we are not conscious of this. We relate to the fact that on the surface we are unique, and we are afraid of losing this uniqueness – our individuality, the part of ourselves that we can relate to. Meditation will reverse this. It corrodes the roots of attachment, and it slowly rubs away our uniqueness as it cuts the strings that still bind us to the personality.
But nothing happens by chance. The Masters assure us that the Radiant Form is constantly with us. If we could only be aware of this we would know that he guides us, and that change comes from him for our spiritual growth. The more we allow fear, anxiety and worry to dominate us, the less likely we are to realize the Master’s inner guidance, as these emotions rob us of the mental tranquillity that is so vital for our meditation and for overcoming fear.
For, as Hazur Maharaj Ji says in Die to Live:
We must attend to our meditation, and slowly and slowly we are able to shed those fears, and we become fearless. Then we’re not frightened of anything, whatever may happen in this creation. Meditation makes us fearless, and it is the only remedy for fear.
Yet we continue to live with self-imposed fears and we inject fear and limitations into our practice of the path.
The effects of meditation are crucial for dispelling our fears and helping us face so many situations daily. If our experience of the path has not yet led us to an appreciation of how vital the correct practice of meditation is, then we have to ask the question – can we afford to waste the time we do? Soami Ji tells us in Sar Bachan Poetry:
Your breath is like a drumbeat,
constantly proclaiming the departure
of the caravan of life.
How much time do we still have to make the Master’s reassurance a reality? For, as Hazur Maharaj Ji said, death “can come from anyone at any time, at any place.”
It seems that many satsangis have fears relating to meditation. However, in Die to Live he assures us that no matter what form our fear may take, we are always protected. He says:
Whenever a disciple sits in meditation, he’s never alone. He’s never alone, and he’s never allowed to go astray within. There is always a guiding hand, a guiding force, to lead the disciple within. There is no danger of the disciple going astray, so one should have absolutely no fear. The one for whom we are meditating is always there with us to guide us, and we shouldn’t ever worry or feel fear at all.
What an astounding reassurance. This is the benefit of having a living Master to guide us – both outside and inside. How remarkable would it be to be conscious of the Master’s inner presence, rather than simply intellectualizing about it? We have his assurance that through meditation our awareness will grow and we will begin to experience the elevated consciousness that will bring us into the orbit of his inner radiance, dispelling our myriad fears once and for all.
When we grasp the hand he offers us, we are actually agreeing to the complete destruction of our personality. It is the process of cutting the strings that tie us to our background, our culture, our body, our personality – it is the annihilation of ourselves, and the fear of this is unbearable. In return, though, he offers us a reality that is so indescribable, so beyond belief that we cannot comprehend it: something to look forward to rather than fear.