Indian Psychology - Vanquishing Fear
by Swami Veda Bharati
Here, the second part of a look at the relationship between fear and violence.
Allow me to tell two stories here about non-violence in battle and about fear.
The Sufis and yogis are taught the art of disguising themselves. A cobbler on the street corner may be a Sufi master. This Sufi was a soldier. The Sufi-soldier was in battle and it came to hand-to-hand combat. As he knew the art of inner calm in the midst of battle (like the true masters of all oriental martial arts), he easily overpowered his opponent; had him down on the ground; sat on his chest and was about to drive a dagger into his heart.
The opponent, in desperation and anger, suddenly spat on the Sufi-soldier's face. The latter's hand hung suspended in the air - he did not strike.
"What are you waiting for? Go ahead! Kill me," yelled the vanquished opponent.
The Sufi-soldier replied: "Listen to me, whatever your name is. I do not know you and you do not know me. You were doing your soldierly duty and I was doing mine. Now you have introduced a personal note by spitting at my face and I have become angry. If I strike you in anger, that will not be an act in duty; it will be murder."
Maulana Rumi lets the story end there.
Does not Bhishma* tell the Pandavas how to kill him? Do they not, at the end, gather around him and listen to his teachings in 20,000 verses in the Shanti Parvan?
Did not Krishna and Bhima enjoy the hospitality of Jarasandha's palace at night while battling him in the day? They fought not out of hate and anger against an individual but only against injustice.
Now the second story.
A wandering sadhu stopped at the outskirts of a village and camped in a temple ruin. Soon the word of his holiness spread and the villagers began to gather around him. One family decided to provide him with an evening meal each day.
To expose their young son to his holy company, the elder couple started sending their young son to the sadhu with the food every evening.
Each evening the young boy reached the sadhu, huffing, pale, scared, trembling.
After a few days, the sadhu asked him: Son, what is the matter with you? Each evening you look scared."
The boy told the sadhu about a haunted tree on the way from the village. "Sir, everybody in the village knows that a ghost lives on that tree. As I pass it, the ghost chases after me. I run and run and somehow save my life, and reach you here."
"All right," said the sadhu, "here, see my sacred homa fire? I have made millions of very potent mantra offerings into it. Its ashes are really powerful. Here, take this small packet of ashes and when the ghost chases after you, remember not to run away. Remember that what you try to run away from in life chases after you, and when you face the object of your fear you can vanquish it. When the ghost comes near you, take these ashes in your hands and give him a big slap right on the face and the ghost will run away or even vanish."
Next day, the boy arrived at the sadhus's camp with a beaming smile.
"Well, son, how did it go with the ghost?" asked the sadhu.
"Oh, Swamiji, it was just as you had said. When the ghost came down from the tree to chase after me I really wanted to run. But, then, I remembered your words. I just stood facing the ghost, though I was afraid. As the ghost came near me, I took the holy ashes in my palm and gave the ghost one hard slap on the face and he ran away. He did! I am so happy today."
"I, too, am happy for you, son. But, tell me one thing. Are you sure that it was the ghost you slapped with the ashes and not somebody else?"
"Oh, no, no. Nobody else. Of course it was the ghost indeed!" said the boy.
The sadhu put his hand under the mat he was sitting on, pulled out a small mirror and showed it to the boy in the dim light. The mark of the slap with the ashes was on his own face.
It is thus we vanquish 'others' and in the process, vanquish ourselves. Let us cease doing so.
* See this author's book, Bhishma, published by SRSG Publications,
Virbhadra Road, Rishikesh.