Sadhana for the Conquest of Fear
by Swami Sivananda
Fear is a very great obstacle in the path of Sadhana. A timid aspirant is absolutely unfit for the spiritual path. One must risk his very life if he wishes to attain immortality. The spiritual wealth cannot be gained without self-sacrifice, self-denial or self-abnegation.
Fear is purely an imaginary non-entity. It is a common instinct in every man. Even the elements of nature, animals, insects and practically every creation on earth are subject to fear. You must conquer this worst malady of mind if you wish to succeed in either material or spiritual path. If one conquers fear, he is on the road to success. Freedom from fear can be achieved by liberation from the objects of fear. Re-educating the mind, bringing forth the power of the inner Spirit, dealing with the 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 on earth which is to be afraid of or to be feared at. You must essentially be bold, courageous and chivalrous.
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 in 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.
But how to conquer fear? Whenever a child is afraid of something, you tell him that there is nothing to be feared at, thus denying the object of fear. Denial is the first step in the procedure. Subsequently you explain to the child the actual thing, the Truth. Thus you convince that it was only his fancy which created the sensation of fear in him. You just positively affirm and assert what is true. You 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 only false, the truth behind them being well acquainted with the normal sense and knowledge. When fear is completely removed nothing can hurt you.
Mere re-educating the mind will not strengthen the courage. Putting into practice on every occasion is quite essential. Well-developed knowledge coupled with practice alone can relieve men from fear.
Denying fear one can overcome the object of fear itself. You should not have 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 or inferiority of power. There is no pleasure or pain. Ultimately there is no fear. This is the preliminary stage. The final stage is the feeling of oneness of all. All are the manifest forms of Brahman. All merge in Brahman. You can develop this feeling by giving up all attachment to this perishable body and identifying yourself with the Indweller, the supreme Atman. This process entirely uproots fear and brings one into eternal peace. Fear does not emanate from one's self. It is the knowledge of the Self, the eternal Truth that totally annihilates fear.
As regards the Sadhaka of devotional temperament, he should under all circumstances lay his fullest faith in God, take refuge in Him and fully believe that He alone is his sole refuge. You must be very practical. You should first face boldly those which you are afraid of.
You should meditate upon the various statements of Truth, that are contained in the scriptures; then your eye of wisdom will open, you will be gifted with right understanding and you will know the truth. This is worship of God. This is adoration to the Lord. It is this which liberates you from all evils.
Working mentally and practising physically and at all times dwelling spiritually upon the divine thoughts, remaining in a higher stratum of mind, you not only overcome fear, but merge in the Brahman Itself.