Everyone is afraid of something or the other.
The millionaire is afraid of loss, he is afraid that whatever he has accumulated will be gone someday. The beggar is afraid of scarcity, he is afraid that he will not have enough to eat tomorrow. Both the subjects are afraid, both the subjects don’t know that they are living inside an illusion and whatever they are doing is a function of the fear they have inside their head.
Conversation with a Buddhist Monk in Hemis
Let me share a small experience with you.
Few months back, I travelled to the beautiful Himalayan mountains in Ladakh and visited a village called Hemis. There I met a young Buddhist monk. We had a short conversation and one of the things I discussed with him is what causes fear.
Me: Why is the world so chaotic? What causes the world to go mad every morning?
“Fear”, said the Buddhist monk.
Me: “Fear of what?”
Monk: Fear of losing something. It is usually money, respect, recognition, family, prosperity etc. People don’t understand a simple thing – whatever they are afraid of losing don’t belong to them in the first place.
Me: Are you not afraid?
Monk: I am but I have won most of the fear I used to have.
Me: Please tell me more, what kind of fear you had and how you won it?
Monk: I cannot share these details. I have renunciated all of that but I can tell you one thing – I am still afraid of few things. I am afraid of my mental instincts which needs to be controlled. I am still learning that, it should take a lot of time. My teacher is over there (points to another old monk), I am not allowed to discuss these things with others.
Me: Fair enough. Please tell me one secret, how can I overcome my fear? I have so many insecurities which I must win. Give me some advice on how can I overcome fear.
The monk smiled, stood up and went away. He didn’t answer my question and I stood there thinking why didn’t he answer my question.
Sometime later, the monk came back with his teacher and I asked him the same question. He gave me a simple answer
Fear exists only within your illusion, son. The more you understand who you are, the less afraid you will be.
And then they went on their way.
The cause of Fear
We are always hankering after material enjoyment and trying to hold on to things, in the hope of maintaining that enjoyment. The mere thought of losing our so called valuables and what we enjoy gives us severe anxiety.
I must have a job or business, so that I can earn money, and with the money that has been earned I will enjoy the pleasures of this world. But that is not enough, I will eventually want to earn more and more money so that my life becomes more and more comfortable.
But this material happiness and anxiety are superficial, since both of them exists only in the mind of a subject. It is the mind which interprets what is good, what is bad, what makes one happy, what causes stress.
Fear is born only by the influence of the illusory energy which we are subjected to as long as we refuse to understand our real identity. This is mentioned in Bhagvata gita
O Lord! The people of this earth are embarrassed by material anxieties – they are always afraid. They always try to protect wealth, body, relationships – they are filled with lamentation and desires and paraphernalia. They avariciously base their undertakings on the perishable conceptions of “I” and “mine”. So long they do not take shelter of you, they will be full of anxieties.
Whatever material arrangements you make, you will never be able to overcome fear. You will replace one fear with another.
- When you are in school, you are afraid how much marks you will score in the examination.
- When you enter college, you are afraid whether you will get a job after college or not.
- When you get a job, you are afraid whether you will be able to maintain the job or not.
- When you maintain the job, you are afraid whether you will get a promotion or not.
- When you get a promotion, you are afraid whether you will be able to meet expectations or not.
Just see, you are simply replacing one fear with another through your material arrangements. You are always afraid of something or the other since fear cannot be won through material accomplishments. Those who remain attached to sensual objects and material accomplishments will never be able to attain freedom from fear and anxiety.
People who suffer from severe anxiety will not subscribe to spirituality since they do not understand how it is possible to survive without acquiring wealth and material things in life.
Fear -> Loss -> Struggle
We are afraid of struggling for something. We don’t want to struggle in life, we want life to be smooth.
Everyone have their own definitions of struggling. We have marked a definition of struggle and we don’t want to be that person who struggles for maintaining a mode of material enjoyment. Fear is born when you don’t want to lose something, because if you lose, you shall struggle to maintain your mode of enjoyment.
I must work hard and earn more money before turning 40. If I don’t, I will not be able to provide enough for my wife and children and will have to work through my entire life, slog and earn a “salary”, which is not enough to fend a family of four. I must work hard and start my own business.
Here the subject considers working for someone else as “Struggling”. That is just his own definition. Now see the irony, in order to avoid his own definition of struggling, he is ready to sacrifice his peace of mind, works doubly hard, take risks, take loans from bank / investors and starts a business. Eventually, that business causes him more stress, anxiety, worries, tensions and sooner than later, he is struggling to maintain profits from his business.
To avoid his definition of struggling (working for someone else), he is ready to struggle 10 times more in the illusion he wants to creates for himself. Very well done.
In short, we are afraid of a situation we have defined as “Struggling”. We will do whatever it takes to avoid that situation and in this process we shall “struggle” 10 times more. That doesn’t matter to us, however, we shall not “struggle” by our own definitions.
Some examples –
I will earn lot of money so I can travel in a car and don’t have to travel in a public bus. To achieve that, I will work 10 times more, struggle for years, take risks and cause problems that are not needed in the first place. But I won’t travel in a public bus – that is struggling.
I don’t want to let go of my secured public sector job. If I let go of this job and take up another job, it is possible that I may lose it years later. At that point, I will struggle in life. Hence to avoid that struggling, I will continue to do the job I hate because it is secured. I will continue to lead a life I don’t want (struggling) but I don’t want to risk it anyway.
One who is not aware of his own identity will continue to live with Fear, the degree to which our suffering continues is the degree to which we are still absorbed in our illusions, bodily identity and the illusory nature of everything around us that are but just temporary.
Fear exists only within your illusion and assumptions. One can win fear only with the understanding of one’s own identity.