Personal Growth - In Fear of the Other
by Swami Veda Bharati
Duality is one of the two main causes for fear. And its antidote is to remain aware of unity.
There are two major sources of fear: the concept of duality and violence. Let us look briefly at the first. We always fear the 'other'. When we separate the One universal spirit into 'many', we create fear among the many. At the highest level, the remedy for fear is a philosophical understanding of the Unity.
The Upanishad states it clearly:
dviteeyaad vai bhayam bhavati
Fear arises when the concept of a 'second' appears.
The 'other' that we fear is a relative concept. It has no absolutes. What is 'one's own' (svam, svakeeyam) at one time, becomes the 'other' (param, parakeeyam) at another time. What is 'another' today becomes one's own on another day. We may fight within the family day and night; two factions within the family are the 'other' to each other. The moment a neighbor does something unpleasant, we become 'united' as a family; we now have a different 'other' to fear, fight and defend ourselves against and from. These are all symptoms of small and weak minds; the 'enlarged', grand minds of the realized ones work differently:
ayam nijah paro veti gananaa laghu-chetasaam
udaara-charitaanaam to vasudhaiva kutumbakam.
This is 'one's own', this is an 'other' -
Such is the count in the small minds;
To those of grand minds
The whole earth is family.
These differentiations between 'one's own' and 'another' apply at all levels. The entire human history of declarations of wars and of peace treaties demonstrates a most interesting interplay of these psychological forces. Train your mind so that when any fear arises, immediately its antidote (prati-paksha) presents itself.
Tell yourself: This is as illusory as the rope that appears to be a snake. It is relative and transient. There is no permanence to my perception of otherness. One may ask: But what do I do with my fears such as the possible loss of a beloved one, loss of livelihood, or loss of repute? There again, observe the principle of transience in all situations. Also, why fear that which has not yet occurred. To tremble at the possibility that a snake may some day enter the house, and not sleep for that reason, is not wisdom. The loss of livelihood has not yet occurred; how can you fear what is not there yet? Instead, calm the mind with breathing, relaxation and such practices. Let the mind thus becalmed work out strategies as to what options you might exercise in case of a loss, and calmly, yes, very calmly, lay the foundation for those options to be realized in case the loss does occur. Fear will confuse you, prevent you from finding a solution, but calm wisdom will grant you assurance.
You might then ask, but what of events that have already occurred? What do I do with the bird in the attic, snake on the floor, a life-threatening viral infection? Here again, wisdom prevails. Is the bird there with the intention of attacking you? Is it not in panic for the fear of you? Let the calm mind be filled with compassion for the poor creature. Act in a reassuring manner. Do what is necessary to help the bird escape. If not, your own panic will feed into its panic, which will grow in geometric proportions, leading to chaos. If you have trained your mind through meditation, you will remain calm when the external stimuli for fear are present. Your next question may be, what about the man who walks into my house with a dagger? Here is a story about the great poet Tagore. (If it is apocryphal, it remains generically true about great ones of all hues).
Tagore sat writing his poetry. A jealous rival sent an assassin with a dagger. The would-be assassin entered Tagore's room with an unsheathed dagger. Tagore was busy composing his poem and did not want to lose the flow of his inspiration. He saw the stranger enter the room, pointed him to a chair to sit down. The 'attacker' sat down while the poet continued writing, paying no attention to him.
This went on for a while. The man grew bored - getting no response or recognition for his dagger. Eventually, he walked out.