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Monday, February 21, 2011

Musings on fear: Lets stop stringing and start playing !

While we call claim to be unique and special in our own ways, we are all the same in our pursuit for happiness. One key factor that always stands between us and our "Happiness" is fear. 

Fear!....a primordial and congenial emotion that can be associated with a whole lot of adjectives like Omnipresent, Omnipresence, Contagious, difficult, parasitic, stressful etc... This is the most important factor which virtually exists between the worlds of possibilities and probabilities, keeps us alive and shapes the individual and society. The fear of uncertainty, change, future, death, failure etc... it comes in 1000s of flavors, hues and tints, despite being absolutely virtual, and non-existent our entire life and the world operates and is centered around the this factor. 

I came across couple of super duper articles on the same and i thought i would share it here! .. 

First this beautiful Shloka probably from Bhagavatham, which explains how EVERYTHING in life is laden with fear.

" bhoge roga-bhayaṁ, 
kule cyuti-bhayaṁ, 
vitte nṛpālāt bhayaṁ, 
māne dainyabhayaṁ,
bale ripu-bhayaṁ, 
rūpe jarāyā bhayam, 
śāstre vādi-bhayaṁ, 
guṇe khala-bhayaṁ, 
kāye kṛtāntāt bhayam. 
nṛṇāṁ bhuvi sarvaṁ 
vastu bhayānvitam.
vairāgyaṁ eva abhayam."

The meaning of this Shloka is as follows:

"In enjoyment, there is fear of disease; in family reputation, there is fear of falling; 
in wealth there is fear of kings (of getting taxed); in prestige/pride there is fear of losing; 
in power, there is fear of enemy or adversary; in beauty, there is fear of old age; 
in scriptural erudition, there is fear of learned opponents; (of defeat)
in virtue, there is fear of wicked vilifying person; in body, there is fear of death. 
For human beings, everything in this world is coupled/associated with fear. 
Vairāgya (dispassion towards worldly enjoyments) alone bestows fearlessness." 

To my understanding, as per Vedic scriptures, the concept of fear is rooted in 2 things, Attachment and Ignorance. As one wise man said "Fear is the lengthened shadow of Ignorance".

Almost all the scriptures talks about Jnana Yoga (which is path of knowledge) to dispel ignorance and Karma Yoga to be involved in worldly activities and still perform it without any attachment. It is also called as "Nishkamya Karma", do your duty without worrying about the fruits.

Now there is a beautiful Thirukural which highlights that there is no pain from anything from which a man is detached.  The beauty of this Kural is that when you read it, your lips shall not touch each other. A poet highlighting detachment ensures that even our lips don't touch each other.

"யாதனின் யாதனின் நீங்கியான் நோதல் அதனின் அதனின் இலன்"
"yAthanin yAthanin nIngiyAn nOthal athanin athanin ilan" (Transliteration)
(Meaning) From what from what a man is free (of attachment), from that, his pains flee.

At one level Bhakti Yoga which asks you to dedicate everything to the supreme being and be attached to him, changes its tack (at the philosophical level) that the attachment to god also has to be snapped.  Very aptly highlighted in the following Thirukural which highlights that the love we have for a personal god is also an attachment but this is only to get detached from the worldly material life.

"பற்றுக பற்றற்றான் பற்றினை; அப்பற்றைப் பற்றுக பற்று விடற்கு."
"Pattruga patratraan pattrinai; appatrai pattruga pattru vidarkku." (Transliteration)

(Meaning) Attach yourself to Him who has conquered all attachments, bind yourself firmly to Him so that your bonds may be broken.

Now the beauty in the above Kural which talks about attachment is, the lips touch each other for every word. This is literary masterpiece and can be appreciated by people who know Tamil.

The important point i want to highlight is that in one way of interpretation, in Hinduism the highest point is actually knowledge (truth / Satyam)  and desire-less state of detachment is a path / catalyst to it instead of a personal god with a carrot and stick.

The other article I liked about fear is here...

"A woman who took her debauched son to meet Buddha. On seeing the youth, Buddha told him that he had just one more day to live. The youngster was shocked, but knew there was little that he could do about Buddha’s prediction. Having realized that time was so short, he clung to his mother’s sari, and broke down. He wanted to meet all his family members, friends and neighbors before the end came. With six hours left for his death, he found himself lying on a cot, distraught and disillusioned.

When just three hours were left, Buddha paid him a visit. The youth did not wish to speak to Buddha, but the latter smiled at him and inquired if in the last 24 hours he had lied or cheated. The youth replied in the negative. Buddha then asked him if he had stolen from or hurt anybody. The youth got irritated and replied that how could he possibly think of doing such things when all he was thinking of was death.

Buddha gently patted his head and said: “Son, I don’t know who has to die and who has to live, but understanding the ultimate truth can be very enlightening. While you became aware of death only in the last 24 hours, I have been aware of it for the last 24 years.”

Fear of death stems from our fear of seeing it all end, losing our possessions and being catapulted into endless darkness. Most people find it difficult to come to terms with their mortality; they prefer to believe that there is life even after death. But those who are in constant touch with their inner spirit seldom fear the inevitable. They believe in neither heaven nor hell; they also don’t believe in the theory of incarnation.

Our stipulated lifespan is a mere ‘blip’ in this ostensibly vast eternity spanning billions of years. We must therefore learn to value each day of our life and savor it, moment by moment."

All those who believe in hoarding their energy and resources for the future to mitigate one fear or the other could take a cue from the insatiable musician who eventually rued: “I spent so much time in stringing my instruments that there was no time left for me to perform...”

Being firmly rooted in the adobe of fearfulness, we are all stringing the instruments without playing it. I don't know how but may we be less possessive and rise up to the realm of fearlessness and freedom.

Lets stop stringing and start playing!...

Yours fearfully,

Happy reading!...

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