Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remover of Fears

Rama Darbar “Being fearless in your company, Oh my intelligent husband and great hero, I shall behold on all sides ponds filled with wild geese and ducks and beautified with a collection of full-blown lotuses, and shall bathe there every day, pursuing the same vow with you…” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

At its core, animal life consists of eating, sleeping, mating and fearing. These four activities are evidenced in all animal species, from the aquatics all the way to human beings. Lions protecting their cubs from attackers, penguins protecting their eggs from the harsh cold, and human beings protecting their children are all examples of the mode of defense in action.

Human beings have a greater sense of intelligence than other animals, and a result, we tend to fear and defend more things than simply our immediate family. We develop attachment to our various material possessions, and we are constantly trying to protect them. In the modern age, the concept of insurance has arisen as a means of alleviating our fears. We have insurance to protect our cars, our homes, our health, and even our life. The advanced technological age has brought about an increase in material wealth and with that, an increase in the need to defend. Human beings fear things that they don’t know or understand, and they also fear failing at their endeavors. The greatest fear of all is the fear of leaving this material world at the time of death.

So how does one alleviate these worries? According to Vedic philosophy, knowledge is the ultimate weapon in our battle against fear.

“A faithful man who is absorbed in transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.39)

Knowledge means strength, and strength means victory over our enemies. We have first-hand experience of this from our own life experiences. We may have been initially afraid to learn how to drive a car, but through practice we gained enough knowledge to the point where we can now drive without even being consciously aware of it. Eventually our fear was removed. When starting a new job, we might be afraid that we won’t be able to successfully perform our duties. Yet through time and experience, we gain a better understanding of our work requirements, and our fears are removed. Often times our acquired knowledge is so vast, that we gain the confidence to teach others and remove their fears in the process.

Knowledge and experience are the only way to remove our regular mundane worries, but we see that new fears keep popping up. As single adults, we’re afraid that we’ll never get married and be forced to die alone. After getting married, then we worry about whether the marriage will last or not. After we have children, we spend the rest of our lives worrying about their livelihood. So while knowledge and experience related to material matters may be beneficial, we see that our fears aren’t permanently removed.

According to Vedic philosophy, one must gain an understanding of the soul and its relationship with God in order to be completely worry-free. The Sanskrit term aham brahmasmi, meaning “I am a spirit soul”, is the first step in spiritual understanding. We are all under the misconception that our material bodies represent our identity. Actually, once we die, our material body is destroyed, but our soul is not. The soul represents our real identity, and it is eternal. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita,

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bg 2.20)

Having an understanding of these facts represents a good base from which to start. Such knowledge is categorized as jnana, or theoretical. Philosophical understanding is nice, but we have to know to use it before we can really grasp its importance. One may have graduated from a respectable university with a law degree, but one truly doesn’t understand the law until they practice it for many years. In the same way, we have to practically apply the transcendental lessons given to us by the Vedic literatures.

Lord Krishna, declared the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the Vedas, incarnated in the Treta Yuga in India as the handsome and pious prince Lord Rama. Rama’s father was King Dashratha of Ayodhya, and he had planned to install the Lord as the new king. However, due to a misjudgment on the king’s part, the Lord’s installation would have to wait, and instead Rama was ordered to live in the forest as a recluse for fourteen years. Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife, was horrified at the prospect of living without her Lord for such a long period. Rama tried His best to dissuade her from following Him, but He was unsuccessful. As part of Sita’s plea to her husband, she let Him know that she would be fearless while in His company.

Women, being the fairer sex, are generally more prone to fearing than men are. This is the way of nature, for men naturally assume the role as protectors of women. Even according to Vedic rules, men are required to provide protection to women at all stages in their life. So how was Sita Devi boldly declaring that she would be fearless? Sita was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, who is the wife of Lord Narayana. Narayana is the presiding deity of the universe, and He is no different than Krishna Himself as declared in the Vedas:

"In the beginning of the creation there was only the Supreme Personality Narayana. There was no Brahma, no Shiva, no fire, no moon, no stars in the sky, no sun. There was only Krishna, who creates all and enjoys all."

Lakshmi Narayana Being God’s wife, Sita was one hundred percent devoted to Him. Being raised in kingdom of the pious King Janaka of Mithila, Sita had the philosophical understanding of the soul imparted on her during her childhood. Through her marriage to Rama, she gained the practical understanding of this knowledge by serving God personally. Practical understanding is known as vijnana, and it comes only through the process of devotional service, or bhakti yoga. Bhakti means love and yoga means union of the soul with God. So if we love God, then we always stay with Him and He always stays with us.

Practicing bhakti yoga raises us to the brahma-bhuta platform of understanding. According to Lord Krishna, our fears are completely removed once we reach this platform:

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg, 18.54)

The system of bhakti yoga is executed through nine different processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the Lord’s lotus feet, worshipping His deity, offering prayers, following His orders, serving as a friend, and completely surrendering everything to Him. Sita Devi, being the perfect devotee and wife of the Lord, actually practiced and perfected all nine of these processes. Such a great soul is very rare. For us mere mortals, perfecting even one of these processes will make our lives successful. In this age, Lord Chaitanya has stated that chanting is the easiest and most effective method for transcendental realization. Chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the best weapon in our war against fear.