Overcoming Fear

Dear Divine Souls,

A group of visitors just came to Parmarth Niketan from America. They were a beautiful, dedicated group. In our question-answer session, one woman said to me with tears in her eyes, “How do you overcome fear? I live my life so afraid all the time. The object of my fear changes as time passes, but the fear remains.”

April 4-5 mark the Hindu New Year. Even in the non-Hindu, Western world, Spring is a time of new birth. It is a time of “Spring Cleaning.” It is a time to bid the past farewell and welcome in the new.

What is it that we must discard this New Year? What is it that we must clean out of ourselves? In my opinion, this omnipresent fear is the most insidious obstacle to our peace, happiness and progress in life. When I say fear, I don’t necessarily mean terror. But, rather I mean all that makes us anxious, nervous, tense and in need of controlling our surroundings. The root of fear is distrust. We have been betrayed, injured, abused. We decide that the world and those around us can not be trusted.  In this way, we lose that faith which is so crucial.

What is the answer? The answer to fear is to firmly root ourselves in God (by whatever name, whatever form you chose). When we realize that God is always with us, always for us, we will never be afraid regardless of the circumstances.

Sure, our family and friends may betray us. They may injure us. But, if we give ourselves to God, if we make our relationship with Him our first priority then we will never be broken inside; we will always be cared for.

There is a story of a very powerful king. This king prided himself on being generous and caring for all his subjects. He would often boast that no one in his kingdom was hungry or cold or impoverished. Once, a holy man came to see the king. The king told the holy man how he provided for everyone in the kingdom so well. The holy man asked the king to come for a walk. While they walked in the forest, the king picked up a large rock by the side of a stream. “Break the rock,” he ordered the king. The king looked surprised but immediately told his servant to smash the rock. As the rock broke open they saw a small frog, living peacefully in the nutrient-rich water which had gathered inside the rock. “Have you provided this as well?” the holy man asked the king. The  king realized that he could not possibly provide something as perfect, as intricate as this food and shelter for the frog. He realized that it is really God who provides for all His subjects.

We must realize that if God can provide for even the smallest insects, He certainly will provide for us. I heard a beautiful story of a young boy on a ship.The ship was trapped in a large storm and waves rocked the boat furiously. The passengers screamed and cried and held each other for dear life. In the midst of this terror sat a very young boy, calm, composed and angelic. When asked why he did not cry he answered, “My mother is here, so I know everything will be all right.” This feeling we must cultivate. If God is here, if God is with us all the time, then everything will always be all right.

We take out millions of dollars (or pounds or rupees) of insurance to protect our homes, our property, our cars. But, what about our lives, who will protect our lives? We must remember our Divine Insurance Company. We must place all of our faith in Him. He will never betray us, and we will rest assured knowing that we are in the best of hands.

One time I was on an airplane flying to Chicago. It was winter time and the plane hit a great deal of turbulence and stormy weather. The captain’s panicked voice came over the loadspeaker that everyone should assume crash position. The passengers screamed; some even fainted. I was sitting next to a very respected professor. As every thing descended into chaos I was calmly working on my notepad. “What are you doing?” the professor asked me.”How can you work? The plane is going to crash. What are you possibly working on?”
I told him, “Professor, I am working on my speech. See, I know that I will be all right. I have perfect faith in God. So, if we survive, I will have to give a speech on what it was like to survive this crash. And my English is not so good so I must prepare myself in advance. And if, by chance, God decides to bring us all home to Him, then I won’t need the speech. But, at least I am prepared.”

We must realize that we are God’s children. Just as a child is never afraid when the mother is near, so we must never fear. Fear immobilizes us. It freezes us. It prevents us from thinking clearly. And most of all, it serves no purpose. No tragedy has ever been prevented by fear. No catastrophe has ever been averted by anxiety. No, calm, serene, wise understanding of the situation coupled with undying faith is what is needed.

There is a beautiful story of Swami Vivekananda. He was giving a speech in America. His message to the world was, “Stand up. Be fearless. God is with you.” To test his faith, some people staged a scene during one of Swamiji’s lectures. In the middle of the lecture gun shots rang out and bullets whizzed past Swamiji’s head. The audience screamed and ran for cover. Some dropped to the floor to protect themselves. Only Swamiji remained perfectly calm and composed. Later, he explained as follows: “The bullet which is not meant to take my life will never hit me, even if fired from point-blank range. The bullet which is meant to take my life will kill me, even if I am protected by 100 guards.”

So, this New Year, this Spring, let us renew our faith in the Supreme. Let us give away our fears, our anxieties. Let us put all our insurance in the Divine Insurance Company. Let us realize that everything is just as it is supposed to be. We are in the lap of our Mother. How can anything go wrong?

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