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"In enjoyment, there is fear of disease; in social position, there is fear of falling off; in wealth, there is the fear of (hostile) kings; in honour, there is the fear of humiliation; in power, there is the fear of foes; in beauty, there is the fear of old age; in scriptural erudition, there is the fear of opponents; in virtue, there is the fear of traducers; in body, there is the fear of death; everything in this world pertaining to men is attended with fear; renunciation alone leads to fearlessness."
- BharatriHari (Vairagya Shatakam)

Fear is an instinct common in every man. Fear is universal. It can happen at any place. It can come at any time. Even elements of Nature are subject to Fear. Wind is said to blow through fear of Him. The sun rises fearing Him. Indra, Fire and Death proceed to their respective duties only out of fear. Thus, fear is not uncommon in Devas, too. Equally it prevails amongst beasts, animals, insects and practically every creation of this world.

Fear is generally the result of pain, injury and discomfort. There is a hereditary aspect of this instinct which accounts for its universality and its persistence. Factors of environment and training are also significant. The idea of some external superior power over one’s self is the chief cause of fear. Relatively, the mind adopts an entirely different attitude. Vision changes. Glaring perception fails. The mind is not balanced. There is some abnormality of thoughts and actions. Hysteric and neurasthenic convulsions are all due to one form of fear or other. Impulsion and desire to escape or flee from the dangerous situation are the immediate results.

This fear has to be conquered. Freedom from fear can be achieved by liberation from the objects of fear. Re-educating the mind, bringing forth the power of the spirit, dealing with practical affairs, diligently putting into practice the knowledge that one possesses, are all essential factors to overcome fear. It must be felt that there is no object which is to be afraid of or to be feared.

In all cases, it must be distinctly understood that seeing and hearing alone does not produce the sensation of fear. A child is not afraid of its father or mother usually. But when the father puts on a strange countenance, or howls in an unnatural way the child becomes frightened. This gets firmly rooted in the mind. This develops as a hereditary weakness in later life also. This memory is scarcely washed off even after growth. So children should not be frightened.

Here fear should not be confused with startle. School boys, when they see their master’s head at the corner of a street, flee away. This does not mean fear. This is due to an instinct in everybody to escape from the sight of the master. On the other hand, if the master takes a cane in his hand, the child suffers some sort of infliction and imagines impending injury. Consequently he fears his master.

But how to conquer fear? Whenever a child is afraid of something, we first tell him that there is nothing to be feared thus denying the object of fear. Denial is the first step in the procedure. Subsequently we explain to the child the actual thing, the Truth. We thus convince him that it was only his fancy which created the sensation in him. We positively affirm and assert what is true. Similarly, even as we grow, we must develop constantly the knowledge that there is nothing in the universe to cause fear. The subconscious mind, which is first startled by an unusual sight or incoherent voice, should be kept assured that all such things are false, the Truth behind them being well acquainted with the normal sense and knowledge. When fear is completely removed, nothing can hurt us.

People in well-lit cities and urban areas are still afraid to move in darkness. They imagine something untoward to happen causing pain, injury or discomfort. At the same time, how many sages and Sannyasins roam about in the dark over hills and dales in the dead of night and live in caves, the abode of beasts, insects and wasps. Dhruva Bhagat made penance in the midst of wild beasts. Dhruva, before he attained Youth, entered the forest and did great Tapas. Bharata played with cubs.

Mere re-educating the mind will not strengthen courage. Putting the knowledge into practice on every occasion is quite essential. At every auditorium we find people advocating that what men are afraid of as snakes are but ropes. But they fail to experience such stamina. On the other hand, they mildly submit. This is due to lack of training. This is not what is required.

Well-developed knowledge coupled with practice can alone relieve men from fear. The idea may be paradoxical to assume that “there is nothing to fear because nothing can hurt us though the converse is equally true.”

Denying fear, one can overcome the object of fear itself. You should not have any dualism in mind. You must always develop cosmic love and universal brotherhood. When there is love and brotherhood, there is no enmity. There is no superiority of power. There is no pleasure or pain. Ultimately there is no fear.