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How to overcome Fear?

There is no human being without fear. Everyone is chased by some sort of fear. There is always the fear of death even though he is not scared of anything else. I have seen people who claimed that they don’t fear death but were utterly frightened during their last days. In contrast, I have also seen people who are considered as ordinary people by the world, who embraced death boldly with a smile even after knowing that they are going to die in a few minutes.

I will tell you a technique to get rid of fear. We should not try to escape from the situation which causes fear. Instead, we should remain in that situation and observe from where and how the fear is arising. Consider this scenario. Let us assume that I am scared of staying alone in a dark house. If I came across such a situation, I should not try to avoid this by asking someone to accompany me or try to stay elsewhere. Instead, I must stay alone in that house and observe as to where from and how the fear is arising within myself and must spend the whole night that way. If I can try this at least once, my fear will disappear permanently. Otherwise, the fear will chase me throughout my life.

People fear various things like dogs, darkness, ghosts, heights, going out alone, speaking in public and appearing for an examination. This is the only remedy for all such kinds of fears. During his spiritual quest, Lord Buddha lived all alone in the forest for six years. Later he explained about how he overcame the different kinds of fears he had during that time. He used to feel goosebumps while traveling through the forest at night. Then, he used to remain at the same place and meditate upon why he was so scared, how the fear arose in his mind and the reason for the fear. He practiced this until he got rid of that fear and shared these details in his conversations with Ananda.

Many of us get goosebumps while walking alone in the dark especially in deserted places. We feel like someone is following us and will not have enough courage to turn around and look back. I faced this kind of situation many times in my life. I used to remember Lord Buddha’s words and used to sit and meditate at the same place whenever possible. After a while, my fear used to disappear. I used to laugh at my situation. I used to offer prayers to Lord Buddha and move forward.

Once I meditated in a haunted house at midnight. Both my body and mind were not supporting me at all. I felt like getting up and running away from that place. I felt the fear in my heart and started sweating all over my body. My mind split into two parts, one part forcing me to stay and the other asking me to run away. Yet, I remained there and meditated for an hour. What worse can happen in that situation? I may die. I decided to experience the outcome. I did not see any ghosts. The memories from the ghost stories we read and the horror movies we see are the real cause of our fear. Other than that there is nothing else to fear. “Do ghosts exist or not?” is another subject. For sure, they exist. There is no doubt about that. However, 99% of the time, our mind is the main cause of our fear.

Fear can be conquered in various ways like having confidence in the power of one’s favorite deity, by the power of reciting a mantra, with the power of mind or with the Vipassana method taught by Lord Buddha. Among all these methods, Vipassana method is the most difficult as it does not depend on external factors like God. In this method, one has to overcome the problem by understanding the core of it and by observing the changes it brings about in the mind. This is the best method if one can practice. Only people who are bold can practice it, others simply cannot.

Someone once asked Swami Vivekananda “What is the most important teaching of the Upanishads?” He replied, "Abheehi, Abheehi (get rid of fear, get rid of fear). This is the most important teaching of Upanishads”. He emphasized that fearlessness is an essential quality his followers must have. We can find many mantras and verses in the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita which assert that, ‘Where is the fear and hatred to the one who can see himself in all beings and all beings in himself?’ This is the highest state in the spiritual path. Even though we cannot reach such a lofty state, it is important to be courageous, atleast as much within one’s capacity. Fearlessness is one of the most important qualities to be attained in spiritual practice. The seekers should identify their own fears and try to overcome them. Vipassana meditation as taught by Lord Buddha is the ultimate way to achieve this fearless state.

All rights reserved. This article has been translated by Suresh P, which was originally posted in on July 27, 2009. The content or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher.

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