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  • Caitanya Chandra dasa

How to overcome fear?

Nowadays, many people suffer with anxiety, and the number is just growing. One reason for this anxiety epidemic is pressure from work and society, another is the excess of information and the ubiquity of smartphones. There are many reasons that could be mentioned, but at the core of the issue is just one thing: fear. People became anxious about work because they fear getting fired, or not receiving a promotion. They fear peer pressure, judgement, gossip from the part of colleagues. People become obsessed with the phone and feel that they need to remain always connected because they fear missing something important. Directly or indirectly, everything goes down to this issue of fear. Since fear seems to be a central issue for us, what about trying to better understand how it works? Sun Tzu used to say that one that knows himself and the enemy will always win. One that knows himself but not the enemy may win sometimes, but someone that knows neither himself nor the enemy, will always lose. Fear can be understood in different levels, but ultimately fear comes from attachment: We fear losing things we have, and fear not obtaining what we desire. In the Bhagavad-Gita this is explained in the form of a chain. First we contemplate and from this contemplation we become attracted, which results in attachment. This in turn leads to lust. Lust comes from the contact with the mode of passion, therefore one way to reduce lust and attachment is to reduce the influence of the mode of passion. Krsna dedicates a big chunk of the Gita to explain about the three modes, explaining the three modes in different contexts: types of food, classes of knowledge, according to the type of charity one performs, types of endeavour and so on. From the 14th chapter onwards, there is not a chapter where Krsna doesn't mention the three modes. The idea is that this knowledge allows us to associate with activities, places, foodstuffs, knowledge, etc. that are associated with the mode of goodness. It's just like in life: you can know someone just by observing with who he hangs-out with. One that associate with habits in the mode of goodness will be influenced by goodness, while one that associates with habits in passion and ignorance will be strongly influenced by these modes. An even more profound explanation, however, is given in the 11th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, in the passage about the meeting of King Nimi with the yogendras: "Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. This bewildering, fearful condition is effected by the potency for illusion, called māyā. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, whom he should accept as his worshipable deity and as his very life and soul. (SB 11.2.37) Ultimately, we fear when we see things as separated from Krsna. Everything that is connected with Krsna is spiritual and thus permanent, while everything that is disconnected from Krsna is material, and therefore ephemeral and temporary. Our situation in this material world is just like someone living in the desert that becomes attached to an ice cube. No matter what he does, it's just a matter of time before it melts. A beautiful woman may be very attached to her appearance and thus try to preserve her beauty at all costs, fearing becoming old and wrinkled. She may be able to keep things tied-up for a few years, but ultimately she will be fighting a lost battle. Time will always win, and the attachment will simply lead to suffering and frustration. Similarly, one becomes attached to his car, to his house, to his family and ultimately to his own body and thus desperately tries to preserve all these things, but ultimately time will win. What he will not be forced to part during his life, he will be forced to part at the time of death. The attachment will simply give birth to suffering. When we are connected with Krsna and see things in relationship with this main connection, everything works differently. A devotee may be attached to his family, but he doesn't see them as material bodies, but as souls: eternal servants of Krsna. His relationship with them is based on their eternal identities, not in their material bodies. On this basis, his relationship with his family members is spiritual and thus eternal. Death becomes just a passage. They are going to remain connected in the spiritual world. Similarly, as one progress in his service he is going to start developing a certain relationship with Krsna, and naturally he will be attached to this relationship. The difference is that this relationship is eternal, and thus one never will have to fear the end. This is the difference between material and spiritual, and the true process to overcome fear.

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