Fear arises when you see another as separate from God. But when you know that the one divinity is the basis of all you see, then fear leaves you forever. Once you become established in that awareness of the divinity being everywhere in everyone and in everything, then you are permanently freed from the specter of fear.
You must be firmly grounded in the belief that every name and form that can be found anywhere in the universe is only a combination of the five elements, and that the foundation of these five elements is always God. Then fear cannot gain a foothold within you.
Everything without exception is made up of the same five elements. There is nothing else to be found in this manifested creation; there is no sixth factor at all. Consider some of the objects you see in this room. Here is a table, here is a chair and here is a podium; over there is a window and a door. For all these different objects, the difference consists only of separate names and forms; the content, which is wood, is the same in all. Similarly, mountains are rocky, trees consist of wood, earth consists of mud, the body consists of flesh, the ocean is made up of waterä these are all different names and forms. But, in composition they are all just combinations of the basic five elements.
These five elements are five aspects or reflections of the one divinity. It is their divine basis that illuminates them and gives them their existence. Except for these five reflections of divinity, there exists nothing else in the whole universe. In all these five, the divinity is the same. It is one. Beyond it there is no second at all. When you know this without a doubt, then you will have no fear.
Of all the great virtues, fearlessness occupies the place of primary importance. It is the ideal virtue. Unless you have fearlessness, you will never be able to live comfortably. Be it in the secular field, in the battle of life in the world, or be it in your struggles in the realm of the spirit, you must never leave room for fear to creep in. It should find no place in your life. When you are obsessed with fear, you will become extremely timid. You will not be able to accomplish even the smallest job. When you are filled with fear you cannot shine in the world. Therefore, the Gita taught that you must become totally fearless.
Fearlessness; is not just the absence of fear. Both fear and the absence of fear are associated with body-consciousness. Absence of fear can sometimes be foolish, such as when the body is threatened with harm. But fearlessness is beyond body-consciousness. It can be experienced only when you recognize the truth that the one divinity resides in full measure in every heart.
It is said that a person charged with fear dies every step of the way, while a fearless person dies only once. "Therefore," Krishna told Arjuna, "give up your fear and become completely fearless!" Only a fearless person can achieve victory in great undertakings. A person who is truly fearless will have detachment from all the objects of the world and be saturated with the love of God. On the other hand, one who is egoistic about his body and his worldly accomplishments will be charged with fear. Attachments to the worldly objects and egoism will never be entertained by a person who is free from fear.
In the epics, you will find the story of a demon king who was charged with fear, whereas his son was completely fearless. The king had placed his trust in the world. The son, Prahlada, had placed his trust in God. The boy's teachers went to the demon king and said, "Sire, your son is not afraid at all. However much trouble we give him he never complains or cries about anything. Rather than shedding even a single tear out of personal hurt, he constantly praises the Lord and sings endlessly of the Lord's glory and magnificence." Why was the boy free of fear? It was because he had the firm faith that there was nothing else in the world except God. This conviction endowed him with unshakable fearlessness.
In another ancient classic we find a guru commending his disciple on his fearlessness. The teacher said to his disciple, Janaka, who was a great emperor and yogi, "I am very pleased with you. You are now totally freed from fear and you need never again worry about anything. You have kept your heart entirely absorbed in the Lord. You are existing only as an instrument of God in the world, serving him in everything you do. You have no attachments at all to the objects of the world. You believe that everything in the world has the form of God and is imbued with divinity. Wherever you look you see only unity in the diversity that others see. This awareness has made you totally fearless."
Of all the fears that haunt humanity, the fear of death is the strongest. No matter how courageous and valorous you may be, no matter how highly educated, no matter how much you may be blessed with unlimited wealth, no matter what great talents and skills you may possess, the fear of death will be lurking in the background, annulling all your accomplishments and destroying your self-confidence. Most people become subject to despair when they see people dying. The moment they hear of someone's death they consider it very inauspicious and try to close their ears to it. Even when they are over 100 they get frightened when they think of death. They always want to live just a little bit longer. But however much more anyone may aspire to live, death is certain.
The fear of death will not save you from death. Distracting the mind by dwelling on the transient joys of life will not save you. Your relations and friends cannot save you. Your great accomplishments cannot save you. All the objects in the world and all the people in it, are equally washed away by the flow of death. What profit is there for you to take shelter in those who are also being washed away? The person who is seeking protection and shelter, and the one from whom shelter is being sought, are both being washed away. Only when you catch hold of the divinity, which is the immovable bank of this river of death, can you nurture any hope of being saved. When you truly know that all there is, is the divinity, then there is nothing to fear. Then you are saved. You will have conquered the fear of death.
Fearlessness may be compared to a great mountain while fear is something like the small waft of air created by your breath. Can this little current created by your breath ever shake such a mighty mountain? Of course not. The little wind of fear can never shake the great mountain of fearlessness. When this steadfast and unwavering mountain of fearlessness becomes implanted in a mind that is clean and pure and free of delusions, and when it resides in a heart that is immersed in bliss, then you are veritably expressing your divine nature. Then the truth will be established in your heart of hearts, that there is only the one divine reality existing everywhere. Once you know this all-pervasive divinity to be your essence you laugh at death, for then death no longer has any power over you.
Why should anything ever frighten you? What can possibly make you afraid? Death is really just a kind of joke in this play of life. If the role calls for you to fall and die on the stage, will you, the actor, be affected? What is so earth shaking about the death of a body that is born to die. The body, which is made up of the five elements, has to be destroyed some day. For the sake of such an impermanent thing why should you worry? "Arjuna, you are not the one who is going to kill, nor will those you fight be killed. The only thing that can be killed is the body. You are the immortal self. You are not the body." This is the truth that Krishna taught Arjuna and thereby made him fearless. Fearlessness is a quality that is as vital and as important as your lifebreath itself. It is the foremost of the virtues taught in the Gita.
In truth, human beings are divine and fearlessness is their very nature. It is the deeper meaning of the word human. Human refers to your divine essence. Here is a story to illustrate how human beings are not living up to their divine nature, but in their actions have become worse than animals.
Once there was a fearsome forest, and living in this forest there were a large number of animals. In most forests where there are lions there will be no elephants, and if there are elephants roaming about then there will not be any lions. But in this forest, there were all types of animals: lions, elephants, jackals, dogs, monkeys, the whole animal kingdom was present there. One day, a clever fox thought to himself, 'Human beings boast that there is something special and unique about human nature. They say that it is extremely rare and difficult to attain life as a human being. But human beings are born the same way that we animals are born. All these beings are born from the womb of a mother. The question is: Why are we all lumped together and called animals, while human beings are singled out and called humans? In what way are we inferior to them?'
The fox weighed all the various arguments and counter-arguments to this question that was perplexing him, and he resolved to prove that there was no distinction between humans and animals. From that day onwards, he started airing this problem to all the denizens of that forest. He sought out other animals and said, "Why should we accept the present state of affairs? People are considering animal life as inferior to human life. We should take steps to reverse this erroneous belief." In this way, he began to encourage all the animals living there to think about this issue and get excited about it. He showed how these false beliefs had been taught and accepted by all the animals, even by the mighty elephant who was stronger than anyone and the dauntless lion, who was their king.
The fox resolved to have a very big meeting of all the animals to discuss these points and frame some resolutions on which they could universally agree. The name proposed for this meeting was 'the great gathering of the four-footed ones'. It was decided that on a particular day, at a particular time, all of them would come together in a big open area and assemble for this special meeting.
Initially, three agenda items were agreed upon. The first was that human beings, just like animals, are born from the womb of a mother; therefore there should be only one name, both for humans and animals. Either humans should be called animals or animals should be called humans; but there should not be two different names and two different titles. That was the first resolution they wanted to pass at the meeting. The second agenda item was that animals had been called unwise, while humans claim to be endowed with wisdom. But animals should not accept this. In what way do humans have superior wisdom to the animals? The fox was particularly insistent on this point. He asked, "What is this wisdom that man has, that we do not have? We have to firmly resolve that there is the same wisdom in both humans and animals."
The third agenda item that the fox proposed was, "Humans are considered to be talking animals whereas we are dumb; that is considered to be a very great disadvantage to us, which they claim makes a big difference. But even if we are dumb, what is it that we are lacking? By having learned the ability to talk and by possessing that skill, what is the extraordinary happiness that humans have attained? Let us propose that talking and dumbness be considered more or less the same."
"Then there is also a fourth point we should consider," the fox added. "Human beings think of us as being restless and excitable whereas they consider themselves to be calm and peaceful in nature. But none of us should agree to this. The peaceful nature that we have, even man does not possess. We deserve the reputation and recognition that we are far superior in serenity to human beings." They all agreed that these four points should be discussed in the meeting. But then they wondered whom they should ask to preside over their meeting.
The fox pointed out that there were a number of great sages who had been doing penance in the forest. "We should select a very highly accomplished sage to preside over our meeting," he suggested. They all agreed and resolved to send the fox to find a wise man whom they could trust to be true and just, and request him to chair their meeting. After a long search, the fox came to a cave in which he saw a sage engaged in penance. His instinct told him that he had found the right holy man to chair their gathering. He reverentially approached the sage and prayed to him, "Swami, in the kingdom of animals we have decided to have a very important meeting and we request you to preside over it." The sage, who recognized everything as the living divinity, said, "All right, I will be happy to come and preside over your meeting." So, in a vast open field they arranged to have their gathering.
In that forest, every animal from the smallest to the biggest came with all their children, and many brought their grandchildren also, to attend this important meeting. They were all in very high spirits and extremely happy to take part in such a grand meeting. And they all showed a great deal of respect for their president. A high platform was provided for the president. Just beside the chair for the president, a chair was provided for the lion. The sage presiding over the function was also in very good spirits and was not the least bit afraid of the lion who was sitting next to him. This sage recognized the existence of God in every living being; therefore, he was full of fearlessness. Once all of the animals were seated, there was a need for properly welcoming the august assembly. The secretary for this great meeting was the fox. The fox began his welcoming address.
"Revered president, your excellency the king, honored minister, dear brothers and sisters! This day is a day which will be written in golden letters in the annals of this great forest and all its denizens. This is an unforgettable day which will never be forgotten in the whole animal kingdom, for today we will achieve a grand success in this most important meeting for which we have all assembled here. In coming together here you have all made some notable sacrifices. You have given up a great number of activities and have made time available in your busy lives to participate in this meeting. So, in the very first place, let me express my deepest gratitude to all of you." Then the secretary went on and explained the items on the agenda. As soon as the agenda had been presented, the lion got up and addressed the vast gathering.
The lion told them, "You have all heard what my brother has said to you. I want you to know that the great qualities you have, like valor and courage, humans do not really have. I myself am a direct proof of this. If you consider the courage and valor, the magnificent prowess and strength which I have, where will you find any human being who is my equal? Though I am king of the animals, I never take any wrong or unjustifiable actions. Without reason I do not kill animals. Only when I am hungry will I take a little food. I do not kill any animals for sport; I never waste any food. Consider our courage, our code of ethics, our high level of morality. Can you find such great qualities in human beings? No! They don't have them at all. Therefore, why should we be afraid of them? Why should we be thought of as inferior to humans? Today, let us resolve to wipe out this blot on our reputation." When the lion finished his address there was an uproarious cheer and the applause resounded throughout the entire forest.
When things quieted down, the elephant, who was sitting just by the side of the lion got up and said, "Humans are not even half as big as my leg. In form I am certainly mighty and magnificent. In intelligence I have attained proverbial greatness. Kings, emperors, distinguished leaders, all have developed great regard for me. If ever a coronation was to be performed and I were not there, it would have to be postponed. When I am so great, how can you say that humans are superior to me? My intelligence is extraordinary. Therefore, even if you consider just these two, my intelligence and my physical size, you must conclude that humans can never be equal to me." Again the audience cheered their agreement.
The fox got up and said, "The lion, our illustrious king, has just talked to you, and the big elephant, our distinguished minister, has also spoken his mind. Now we would like to invite a representative of the smaller animals to come and address us." At this point a dog who had strayed into the forest, and who had many experiences with human beings, was asked to speak to the gathering. It offered its humble salutations to the president, to the king, to the minister, to the secretary and to all in that great throng who had assembled there. Then it said, "Although I am very small and weak, in faith there is no one that can be compared to me. I have unswerving faith and unlimited loyalty to the person who has brought me up, and who looks after me. I will always be grateful and faithful, even if I lose my life. Even if I am hurt and harmed by my master, I will not return the harm in kind. Everyone knows that human beings do not have this sense of loyalty which a dog has. In this quality of loyalty I can never be considered inferior to human beings.
"Among themselves, humans often give trouble to the ones who most lovingly take care of them and guide them, such as their own parents or their teachers. Humans will not hesitate to do bad in return for the good which is given to them. They will criticize and concoct schemes to deceive and hurt the very ones who have looked after them so carefully. Humans do not have any gratitude at all. They do not have any loyalty. Only so long as their purposes are being served will they pretend to be obedient. The moment their own selfish interests have been taken care of, they start troubling their own teachers. When humans are like this how can we be considered inferior to mankind?" There was complete agreement in the audience. A nodding of heads and sounds of "Hear! Hear!" affirmed every point the gentle dog had made. In this way, one by one, others got up and had their say. Appropriate to their status and experience, they gave speeches, extolling the many fine qualities practiced by the animals but which were being ignored by human beings. Finally, there was the speech of the president.
The sage addressed the gathering, "Dear animals. All that you have just spoken of is true. Whenever a spiritual teacher does something or says something to us, it is meant for our own good. It is intended to promote our inner development and also our friendship and good understanding with others. But as soon as this friendship flowers and understanding blossoms forth, human beings become suspicious and think that something bad is being done to them. To your face, they will offer salutations and use words of praise but behind your back they will criticize and revile you. Filling themselves with opposites like that and with low forms of cleverness, they waste their intelligence and their lives. All the defects that have been pointed out here are certainly true and present in humans. As for food, sleep, breathing and such things, there is absolutely no difference between humans and animals."
The sage continued, "I do want to point out, however, that there is one specialty in human beings that is unique, in which they cannot be compared with the animals. Animals may inherit a streak of cruelty. Once they have acquired that they cannot change it. A tiger, however hungry he may be, will not eat rice and curry. He only aspires to have mutton. He will not settle for just a little tea and biscuits. However much he may try to change his habits, he will not succeed. On the other hand, if sufficient efforts are made by humans, they can transform their cruel nature and any of their bad habits. The most important difference between humans and animals is that humans, with effort, can bring about a complete transformation in themselves, whereas animals will not be able to accomplish that. These special capacities and skills for transforming themselves are only available to human beings."
The fox got up and said, "Swami, we will concede that human beings have these special capacities for changing themselves, but if they do not make use of these capacities, do they deserve the high status that they now enjoy?" The president declared, "If anyone has the capacity to change himself but does not use it, then he is much worse than an animal." At this all the animals burst into an uproarious applause. The cheering went on and on until the president gaveled for order. The sage then repeated the principal point he had just made... that any human beings who had the capacity for doing good, but who did not use this quality to improve their own behavior and develop the good within themselves, were, without a doubt, worse than animals. Then the sage added, "What is the use of all the learning that human beings accumulate? Will it change their faith? As soon as bad thoughts enter their heads, their thinking becomes dull and they become like idiots. In learning and skills, humans have attained a high status. But all this learning is only for the sake of procuring some bread. They use their education only to fill their bellies and to eke out a livelihood."
At this point, the fox got up and added to what the president had just said, "In the process of eking out their livelihood, humans use all kinds of unethical means. In this respect, it is clear that we animals are much better than human beings." The fox got carried away by his own rhetoric. He continued for some time on the same theme. "We are always fair in gaining our livelihood. In all respects, when compared to humans, we are far better. Really, we are the BEST!" He got an exuberant, almost riotous ovation from the whole four footed assembly. Everyone agreed whole-heartedly with this appraisal and urged the fox on to say more. But now the enthusiasm had exceeded its limits and the president pounded the gavel and called for order. The sage arose and made a few additional remarks. He explained the second major difference that make human beings unique. He said, "Man has been able to conquer maya, he has been able to master illusion. Once he has achieved that, he is able to experience the atma, his own true divine self. Then he can reach the state of nirvana, the exalted state of eternal bliss. This is a vital difference between humans and animals.
"Human beings have the power and also the authority to conquer maya and totally free themselves from delusion. If man takes the trouble and makes the effort, he will be able to directly experience the atma and, thereby, know himself as the divinity that he truly is. With the help of spiritual exercises he can reach nirvana and be immersed in supreme bliss. In the interest of truth, I have to point out that you animals do not have these powers and potentialities with which human beings have been endowed." The sage added, "Dear children, in the English language, human beings have been collectively called mankind, using the generic term m-a-n. The same is given in Sanskrit as manava. The inner significance of m-a-n is that human beings can separate and remove this illusion, maya; they can get the vision of atma, and immerse themselves in wisdom and joy in the state that is called nirvana. This, then, is the meaning conveyed by these letters m-a-n, where 'm' stands for 'maya removed', 'a' stands for 'atma realized, and 'n' stands for 'nirvana attained'. Attaining nirvana means that man becomes one with joy and bliss. So, a true human being is one who has removed the ignorance of maya, who has had a vision of the atma and who has become merged in the supreme state of bliss."
When the sage had finished, all the animals bowed their heads and there was a deep reflective silence as they mulled over the words the president had spoken. They had to agree that these were three possibilities, which they, in their present forms, could never hope to achieve. But then a question was raised by one bold buck, "Have all human beings been able to attain this?" The sage responded with a resounding "No!" He said, "Only very, very few people care at all about these extraordinary treasures which are their birthright. Most people fritter away their lives, never pursuing these invaluable opportunities of human life. Their pursuits reek with selfishness and they treat each other much worse than animals. Although humans have this great capacity for wisdom and bliss, they do not develop themselves in this direction and, so, they have not been able to derive any real joy from their lives."
The animals came to a consensus and agreed that those people who do not make any effort at all in these directions are just like them and there is absolutely no reason for distinguishing them from animals. The sage agreed. Then, on a personal note, the president explained the reasons why he had come into the forest to live. He said, "Human beings do not care much about these noble qualities. Animals give trouble only to those who give them trouble; otherwise they will live in peace with one another. But humans hurt those who do not hurt them at all. Without any reason they begin to blame and cause trouble, harming people who are unblemished and who have given them no cause for provocation.
Humans also enter into all kinds of improper work which they have no right to be engaged in." He concluded, "It is for these reasons that many true spiritual seekers have become renunciates, have given up the company of men and gone into the forest to live. Humanity is becoming increasingly selfish. Whatever people say, whatever they do, whatever they think, is laced with selfish motives. Animals do not have such selfishness. Animals are not harming other animals and accumulating wealth. Therefore, in many ways humans behave worse than animals."
In this context Krishna said to Arjuna, "Be a true human being, not one who is worse than an animal. Rise above the animal nature to your true human nature. There are two qualities of animals that you should never have. You are neither a sheep, which is timid and fearful, nor are you a tiger, which is cruel to others. You are a man. You are worthy of higher things. Be fearless! Do not ever allow yourself to be subjected to fear. In truth you yourself are the divinity. Sorrow and fear can never have any power over you."
There is infinite power inherent in the human heart. But despite such power, you do not have faith in yourself. What is the reason for this? The reason is that you feel separate. You believe that you are different from the divinity. But in truth, the divinity is always inside you as your very core. This same divinity pervades the entire universe. When you develop a firm faith in God, you will never have any fear whatsoever. You will recognize that the God you worship is the one who is present everywhere in everyone and in everything, and also in yourself. That belief will remove all vestige of fear from your heart.
But if you do not have that faith then you will be ridden with fear. Every moment, every step, you will be frightened. When you have an examination you will be afraid. While going in an airplane, you will be afraid. When a truck comes in the opposite direction on the road, you will be afraid. Right from the very moment when you get up from bed until you again go to bed you will be afraid. And even in bed you will be afraid that thieves might break into the house and steal your belongings. You will be expending your entire time in fear. But this is not the way a human being should live. You should become steeped in the conviction that the divinity is present everywhere and thereby attain utter fearlessness.
Your faith in the omnipresent divinity is the key to developing fearlessness. Only when you lose faith will you develop fear. Only when you forget your true self will fear arise. You have forgotten your own true nature. You have forgotten the atma. You are considering yourself to be this little five-and-a half-foot body, but the truth is that you are infinite in form and your power is unlimited. When you make an effort to remove the delusions and get a vision of the atma, you become immersed in the bliss of nirvana. Then you can call yourself a real human being.
If you make no effort along the path of self-realization, but demean yourself into dark, selfish pursuits and degenerate behavior, you become more like a demon than a human being. Do not fall to such depths. Conduct your life so that you can truly call yourself a human being and live up to the high ideals that you inherited when you were given this sacred human birth.
One of the names Krishna used to address Arjuna was the one who delights in being engaged in work. When most of you are given some work to do, you quickly get disgusted with it. When Sunday comes and you have a day off from work, you are happy. But if ever a day came when Arjuna had no work, he would be very unhappy. Arjuna always felt a great deal of joy and delight when he worked. The different names Krishna used for Arjuna in the Gita, are associated with various noble qualities and virtues. You will be able to understand the nature of the divinity, if every day you take up one virtue and try to incorporate it in your life.
Patience, forbearance, compassion and nonviolence are some of the qualities that have already been taken up in these chapters. Now you have also learned about fearlessness. There are a number of other important qualities. Only when you develop these qualities in your daily activities, will you be able to earn the grace of the Lord. Without developing these noble qualities you will not be able to gain a place in God's house, irrespective of the education, position, and wealth you have been able to earn. A person is not permitted to go to another country without a passport. Similarly, in order to earn the grace of God, your good qualities serve you as your passport. You must develop these qualities.
Along with your education you should also acquire good habits and a sterling character. Without these, all your education will be of no use. This education you are now pursuing is only useful for living in the physical world. It will not take you to God. In the world of today, scientists have been able to glean a number of secrets from nature. But have they been able to gain peace of mind? Have they been able to get joy and happiness from the machines they developed? Happiness and peace cannot come from these. You can get peace only from the divinity.
The worldly happiness and peace you get is but momentary and impermanent. It cannot take you to the state of permanent bliss. The wisdom chapter of the Gita emphasizes the practice of recognizing the one all-pervasive divinity that is always very near to you. This chapter is a very long one; there are 72 verses in it. But you will not be able to get rid of your sorrow by just learning these verses and merely chanting them every day. That will not be of much use to you. You will have to make a very strong effort to practice the inner meaning of these verses and apply them constantly in your day-to-day experiences. Only when you practice them in your daily life and make them your own, will you be able to earn the grace of God and be forever united with him.
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