Become Fearless

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

To develop fearlessness, do not be afraid of anyone. One who is frightened is constantly plagued by fear. People lock the doors at night and then sleep. Why do they do this? What are they afraid of when the walls are built up so high all around the house? They are scared even when there is nothing to lose. But there are many other reasons for fear as well, such as death and disrepute.

Right from childhood I was never afraid of anything. There were thick forests where I lived and I used to walk straight into them. I was fond of hunting and even at the age of eight I used to go on hunting expeditions. I used to walk through the forest in the dark. I had the desire to kill a tiger and was never afraid of death. What is there in death? Everyone has to die one day. I did not agree with the philosophy of fear. I think a man's samskara is imprinted on him from birth itself. When I was born, a gun was brought for me to touch, not a mala. I was given wine to drink, not honey.

When parents give certain samskaras to a child, he is bound to develop along these lines. It is because of this background in my childhood that people call me names and spread rumours about me, but I am not the least bothered. Those who are writing my true life story will see that it survives the ravages of time. I think in this way.

Science tells us that nobody dies of hunger. People die of overeating, not hunger. The death rate is higher among the eaters than among the starved. In the Jain religion you are told not to drink milk. I lived on milk for many days and nothing happened to me. Once in Swami Sivananda's ashram I decided to fast for forty days and take only fresh limewater, but my vow was broken on the occasion of Swami Sivananda's birthday. For prasad distribution, boondi laddoos, a type of sweet, were brought from the local market and stored in a room. I was made the in-charge of that room. In the beginning I helped myself to a little bit of boondi, then I took, another helping, and thus my fast was broken. But I never thought that one would die of starvation.

Fearlessness has to be imparted by parents as a samskara during childhood. The mother plays a crucial role in this area. Many mothers threaten their child, saying, "Keep quiet or I'll beat you. Stop crying or I won't give you any food to eat." When the child does not stop crying, the mother says, "I will go and tell your father." Such threats should not be uttered to a child. Children are bound to be naughty. If they do not make mischief in your presence, they will do so behind your back. You should never give any suggestion which will create fear in the child's mind. If the child jumps from the wall, what will happen? He will die. So what? Death is not such a big thing.

Being born is a big thing. To take birth there has to be a long preparation. There is no problem in dying. People are so scared of death. I do not understand this fear. The body is a decrepit flat, seventy years old, parts of which are wobbling and falling apart. There is heat, there is cold, the window is coming apart, white ants are eating into the wood. You go on living in the same flat and cannot even move around properly. You cannot eat, you cannot drink, you cannot throw out the wastes from the body. Won't you think, let me die quickly so I can get a new model in the next birth?

If you die today, you will be born next year; it is only a matter of one year. After that, you will get a good birth in which you will have a loving, caring mother who will feed you well. As you grow up everything will be available. You will go to school and college, play football, hockey, badminton and tennis. Now this old body can play nothing. Why should I keep this 1923 model which can do nothing? Fear of death is the root of all fear. Man is afraid of death. Desire for food, sleep and progeny are the first three instincts. Fear of death is the fourth.

The feeling of insecurity is deeply ingrained. Parents, especially the mother, play a vital role in imparting samskaras to the child. I do not give any importance to the father's role, which I consider to be only social, but the role of the mother is crucial and deeply significant. If the gurudom of the mother falters, the discipleship of the child gets shaky. The mother is the first and foremost teacher, but the mother may put many false ideas and beliefs into the child. I will tell you about my own childhood events in this connection.

Near where we lived there was a bamboo structure and it was widely believed that a ghost lived there at night. As I grew up I began to wonder about the truth of that belief and sometimes I was inclined to believe it. At first I hesitated to pass by there, but then I purposely decided to take that road and started going that way. I asked my family members about it. My father used to tell me that there was an ulterior motive in creating this kind of fear in people. He said that there was no need to be frightened and I could easily pass by on that road. He also suggested that I take a torch with me. My father explained, "There are rascals who spread such fear of ghosts in order to isolate a certain area. Then, after committing thefts in crowded areas, they use that lonely place as a hideout because they are sure that nobody would dare to go to that supposedly haunted place to catch them." My father was in the Police Department and he knew the ways of criminals. He was also influenced by the ideas of Arya Samaj, which stood against superstition and blind belief, even though the Arya Samajis themselves were not completely free of such false convictions.

When fear is completely uprooted we can get rid of the limitations of the personality, and in this way social limitations will also come to an end. For example, if there is no brake in a car it makes no difference as long as we can manage with the clutch and the accelerator. But suddenly when the need to apply the brake arises, then we realize there is a problem because the clutch and the accelerator are of no use. Here fear will come to our rescue. This limiting, natural instinct can also become our saving grace. Food, sleep, sex and fear are the switches that keep the life process under proper control. Just imagine what life would have been like if there had been no need for food or fear? Many problems, organizational complexities and limitations arise because of the need for food! These are the speed breakers on the road.

In the 8,400,000 species of man's evolution these instincts and the consequent limitations are essential for human development. When the heart is purified, the emotions purged, the antahkarana, the psyche, deconditioned, then it is right to become fearless. But today your heart is not pure and your mind is not clean. There are people whom you think are your enemies or your friends. If you become fearless at such a stage, it will be very difficult for the people around you. Fear is a necessary instinct. It is nature's defence mechanism working through you.

Fear, sex, sleep and hunger are instincts common to all beings, not only humans. You can find them everywhere. But why should these instincts be there? Why are you not free? In the process of evolution there are grades, just as there are grades in primary school, high school, college and university, and each grade has its own limitations. You can't have a college syllabus in primary school. You can't have an MA syllabus in high school. You can't teach higher mathematics to a child in seventh class. In seventh grade you have to teach that a yard is made up of three feet, a mile is made up of eight furlongs, but when the child goes to a higher grade and starts advanced maths, then inches, feet and yards become irrelevant. At that time you tell him that these are all false, but you do not tell him so in the lower grades.

In the same way, fear disappears on its own. There is no effort needed to eliminate it, but the real necessity is that man becomes self-aware. He must know what he is up to at every moment. If you misappropriate any item, the outcome is fear. If you pursue sensual enjoyment, fear of ill health and disease will crop up. If you have a lot of money, fear of taxation will creep in. If you are famous and enlightened, fear of being denigrated and downgraded will creep in. Everything in the world is governed by fear. There is only one thing that will not lead to fear - vairagya, or non-attachment, is outside fear. The outcome of delusion is fear; the outcome of learning and erudition is fear. All the assets of life give rise to fear, the only exception is vairagya. Non-attachment in life generates fearlessness.

Rikhia, 1996