The Art Of Positive Thinking: Sources Of Fear

Published: 19.01.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

The world we live in is very dynamic - nothing but vibrations, eternal flux. Movement means change of place. We are at a particular spot. As we move, the place changes. Both the conscious and the unconscious world are subject to continual motion, con­stant change.

Our mind too is very dynamic. It is also running helter-skelter' all the time. Now it is in one place, and a little later it moves to another place. The practice of preksha meditation is designed to stabilize the mind. As it is, the mind is in constant motion. It does not stay at one place. The famous psychologist Gland, after making many experiments, concluded that in one minute the mind changes fifteen times. Which means that thought changes its object after every four seconds. Another psychologist Willings also came to a similar conclusion. He found that every one to five seconds attention changed its object. Every spiritual practitioner practising medita­tion comes to realize that the mind is incapable of concentration on any subject for any considerable length of time. We sit down to concentrate on one object, but attention falters. The change of object or place is a natural process. Thought changes, the object changes, attention changes, everything undergoes a change. Our life is like a motion picture. All the pictures that we have seen on the screen pale into insignificance before the show going on in our mind. A movie lasts for two to three hours, but the cinema of our life goes on for ever. There is constant movement. The scene changes every second. And there is no end to it.

Two friends, both gossips, were engaged in conversation. One of them said, "My grandfather was so expert a swimmer that when he went for a bath to the village pool, he kept swimming there for three days and three nights together. What a remarkable swimmer!" The other said, "Is that all? Now listen! My grandfather went swimming in the sea. He never came back and is still there. He has been swimming for the last fifty years. What a remarkable swimmer!"

The cinema of our life goes on for ever. It never comes to an end.

Likewise the procession of our mind with its changing thoughts and passions is ever on the move. Now it is anger, now fear, now lust, or attachment, later hatred or malice, greed and ambition. Different emotions come to the fore one after another and present their image. Among these, fear occupies an important place. Some psychologists admit only three primary instincts - fear, anger and love. These are the great emotions that last all through life, that live with man for ever. It is these emotions that arise more often.

Fear is the greatest of them all. Man fears everything. One fear follows another; there is never an end to it. One tries to get rid of one fear and in the very attempt to do so another fear rises in its place. Such is man's nature. Fear is his constant companion; he never can get rid of it.

We are seeking to find the very mainspring of fear. Why is there fear at all? What is its root cause? Wherefrom does it arise? We know of provocative situations where excitement is the rule. When confronted with a fearful situation, man is afraid. A loud voice, an explosion, is enough to frighten him. The thunder-cloud in the sky makes men on earth contract with fear. Likewise, a flash of lightning in the heavens makes a man quiver while sitting in his own house. The thunder of lightning unnerves him quite. A loud noise provokes fear.

It was night. Two travellers were going together. One of them fell behind, the other went on, rapt in himself. After a while he became aware of his being left alone - his companion had lagged behind. Instantly he was filled with fear. His feet trembled. Loneliness provokes fear.

We have talked about certain situations which stimulate fear, but stimuli cannot be said to be the root cause thereof. We have to find what the root causes are.

There are said to be four sources of fear:

Lack of Vitality:
The Fear Complex;
Constant Thought of Fear; and
Stimulation of the Atoms of Fear

(1) Lack of Vitality

Some individuals have no courage, no strength, no power, no guts. In the absence of these, fear is born. Guts may be said to be inner heroism of the man who is constantly aware of himself, who has no inferiority complex, has a pure consciousness. The purity of consciousness thus implies constant self-awareness, an aware­ness of one's inner peculiarities. In the absence of self-knowledge, a man is frightened of others; he is easily influenced by others. To be influenced is also a kind of fear. Lack of inner vitality is the cause thereof. It is one's own feebleness that creates fear. The game of power versus powerlessness, weakness versus strength, goes on for ever. Nobody comes to the aid of the weak and the powerless whereas strength invites cooperation from unknown sources. A Sanskrit poet says:

Even the wind grows friendly to the strong.

When fire is kindled in the forest, it destroys the whole of the forest. And it is aided by the wind. Without the aid of the wind, the fire cannot spread. In spreading the fire the wind acts as a collaborator. Now, why should the wind support and cooperate with the fire. The two are contradictory in nature, and yet the wind acts as a collaborator. Why? Because the fire is powerful, and when the fire begins to spread, the wind comes to its aid uninvited. On the other hand, when the fire is weak, the wind only helps to extinguish it. When the lamp begins to flicker, a gust of wind puts it out. So the wind acts both ways. It helps to spread the fire; it also helps to extinguish it. The feebleness of the little lamp makes the wind extinguish it. The might of the forest conflagration instead makes the wind cooperate with it, enhancing it all the more, turning it into a blaze.

That is the universal law—all come to the aid of the strong. The man who is weak and without power, has no friends. The mind is ever afflicted with fear.

So, the foremost source of fear is lack of vitality, powerlessness.

(2) The Fear Complex

When the mind is filled with fear, everything becomes frighten­ing. A house was declared to be haunted. People took it for granted that ghosts lived there. A spectre may be invisible, but the mind obsessed with the thought of the ghost is beside itself with fear. Nobody wants to buy a 'haunted' house, however beautiful or cheap; the main reason behind it being the mentality of fear. Once fear is entrenched in a man's heart, it abides there for ever and manifests itself in a variety of ways.

(3) Constant Thought of Fear

To indulge in fearful talk, to think of fear always, to read horror-thrillers, to hear and contemplate upon these, all help to create more and more fear. What is going to happen now? What will happen tomorrow? What will happen when I get old? Who will look after me then? Such waves and streams of fear get started that nothing is perceptible except fear. The thought of fear creates more fear.

There are many people who delight in reciting horror tales. They say, "My father once saw a witch.   Her feet were turned backward." Or they say, "One day my father came across a ghost, or my friend met with a spectre, or a most terrible thing came to pass," etc. There is no end to such loose talk. Ghost stories are told one after another whether they are real or Imaginary. Imagination, indeed, has a legitimate place in a fable. The tellers of ghost stories have their fun, but the listeners have a hard time later; they cannot sleep because of fear. All night they turn in their beds this way and that. They see ghosts and spectres on all sides. Their bodies tremble with fear. Whether the story was real or imaginary, the scenes thereof are recreated in the mind of the listener, making him restless.

(4) Stimulation of the Atoms of Fear.

This fourth source of fear is very important. No immediate provocative situation may exist, nor any thought of fear, nor any discussion thereof, nor may there be any fear in the mind and yet as soon as the atoms of fear become active, a grave misgiving takes hold of one. This apprehension is not due to any outside factors; it owes its origin mainly to inner disquiet. In the absence of any outside causes, it is also known as a causeless fear. It is produced by the activity of the atoms of fear accumulated inside. A situation of fear develops, apparently without any cause. Fear pervades the whole atmosphere without any reason.

We are well acquainted with the doctrine of circumstances. We know of the factors and circumstances influencing our conduct from the outside. However, we are not so well acquainted with the inner environment.

This aspect has certainly been considered by the psychologists. The objects of knowledge sometimes occupy our conscious mind, and at other times they occupy our sub-conscious or the unconscious mind. These objects have their movements in three mental spheres. Some thought comes to the conscious mind; after a while attention falters and that thought enters the sub-conscious mind. We know it from our daily experience that hundreds of thoughts come to the conscious mind and are soon forgotten. Where do these go? A little while ago we were discussing one thing. After two minutes, the subject is changed, and the mind is now concentrated on another object. Was the previous topic exhausted? Oh no, it was only relegated to the sub-conscious mind at a greater depth. The objects of the sub-conscious and the unconscious mind keep changing all the time. The cycle goes on. The thought occupying the sub-conscious mind moves to the conscious mind, and that possessed by the conscious mind goes back into the sub-conscious. The cycle never stops. That is why sometimes a particular memory fills a man with fear; at other times with anger or love.

What we receive from the sub-conscious is often not clear, but the intimations of the conscious are quite distinct. Thought which comes from the conscious mind is unambiguous; that which descends into the sub-conscious gets obscured. Conscious thought exists between certain limits, but on entering the sub-conscious mind, the same thought becomes diffused, expansive. Spiritual science has analysed this phenomenon much more carefully than psychology. The whole doctrine of Karma is founded on the fact that every happening in the conscious mind goes to the subtle body and leaves its impression there.

The subtle body embodies a unique system which far out­weighs all other systems put together—the political, social and the industrial. It is a very comprehensive system with numerous functions in which a great harmony exists between thought and effort. The subtle body sends out vibrations which in themselves constitute a complete system. No vibration, no movement, is without utility. Each leaves its mark. All those marks are carefully preserved within. Inside, there is an enormous computer which registers each vibration, big or small, and also gives out in course of time the consequences thereof.

Within the subtle body, the Karma sharir, there exists a complete discipline of fear, strongly incrusted with atoms of igno­rance. These atoms become activated in accordance with the stimuli received, but even if no stimulus is available, these atoms, on attaining maturity, become activated of themselves. For their activity they are not dependent on any stimuli; they operate on their own.

The order of Karma is highly responsible. It is so deeply alive to its responsibility that it does not wait for any stimulus to start working. As soon as conditions are ripe, it starts functioning. Fear becomes manifest. Sometimes a man feels he is calm enough, but a strange melancholy afflicts him. Or for no apparent reason, a man is filled with joy, vibrations of bliss irradiating his whole being. Similarly, without any bad news, a man is sometimes filled with sorrow. Why does one suddenly flare up? What is behind a sudden upsurge of fear? Everyone has experienced such a turmoil at one time or the other and one wonders why it happens.

It happens because of the activation of the atoms of fear in the inner atmosphere. This indeed is the greatest source of fear, the basic source, the mother of all sources.

There are latent within us the atoms of unawareness, which is like a fountainhead with many streams. The fountainhead is one, but the streams are many, spread all around. Fear is one of the streams. The originating causes of fear lie within us. But we know very little about these inner goings-on. We view everything in the context of external circumstances. We have become fatalists of circumstance. We seem to believe that man's nature is determined by his circumstances. There is of course some truth in it, but it is not the whole truth. Nevertheless, this partial truth has so domi­nated the human mind that each man thinks, speaks and acts in terms of it. "What am I to do?*', he seems to say, "I have to adjust myself to circumstances!" It is very difficult to get rid of this pre­conception, which embodies only a partial truth, not the whole truth. The whole truth embodies two things: (i) that man is conditioned by his circumstances, and (ii) that man's action deter­mines his circumstances. Only a synthesis of these two facts can give us an inkling of the truth. In fact, a third fact has to be added to it - that is, maturity. Circumstances, man's action and fruition in time make up the complete triangle of truth. In these three dimensions is truth manifested.

The soul is fashioned by past deeds and it is also influenced by circumstances. And yet it is an entity, complete in itself, with an independent existence. If it were wholly influenced by action and circumstances, it would no longer be a soul, indeed it would become non-soul, with no entity of its own. But that which has come into being even for a second, can never totally disappear. Being is stable and permanent. The existence of the soul is based upon self-consummation. Self-consummation is of two kinds—natural con­summation and artificial consummation wrought by skill. The former is concurrent with one's inner being, the latter modified by outer factors. The natural consummation of the soul is constanly in operation and maintains its entity. With the termination of this consummation, the very existence of the soul is ended. This natural fruition is operative all the time, constantly evolving so as to preserve the entity of the soul.

Even when it gets dark, light does not cease to exist. At mid­day, there may form thick clouds in the sky - very dense and black. There may be total darkness and yet the 'day' is very much there - its existence cannot be denied. There is a difference between the gathering of dark dense clouds in the sky during the day, and the night. Even in the midst of deep darkness caused by dense clouds, one is very much aware of the existence of the day. Just because of total darkness, one never says it is night. What constitutes the dividing line between night and day is the consummation of our being. "I am endowed with consciousness", "I'm a conscious being", "I'm not an unconscious entity" - this awareness lasts for ever. This mature consciousness is accompanied by the consummation of past deeds and an awareness of the prevailing circumstances. The fruition of the three together constitutes our individuality.

Internal causes constitute the fourth big source of fear.

From the four mainsprings of fear result fatalism of circum­stance, belief in the doctrine of Karma and that of fruition in time.

Most of the time a man is obliged to adjust himself according to his circumstances, reacting to different stimuli. A man is compelled by circumstances to move in a particular direction, with little interference by his awakened intelligence. Mature intelligence starts functioning only when one's very existence is threatened. In that case, it becomes very active; otherwise it goes on at a medium pace.

Most fears are the creation of circumstances. A particular situation arises. A disease spreads and the mind is afflicted with the fear of that disease. The visualisation of old age fills the mind with the fear of old age. We see something and the fear of that is stamped upon the mind.

Lao Tse, the great preceptor of Tao religion came across a horseman during his travels. Lao Tse asked him, "Who are you, brother?"

The horseman said, "I'm the Plague."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to Shanghai."

"What will you do there?"

"I'm going to kill ten thousand people."

Lao Tse went ahead. The horseman also moved on. Some days elapsed.

On his return journey, Lao Tse came across the same horseman.

Lao Tse said, "So, you are back?" "Oh yes, my task is over."

"Why did you tell me a lie? You said you were going to kill ten thousand people?"

"Yes, I did. I never told a lie."

"But you did, for fifty thousand people fell victim to the plague in Shanghai."

"Of course what you say is true. Fifty thousand did die in Shanghai. But, Sir, I was responsible for the death of only ten thousand. The remaining 40 thousand died of fear! What could I do? I never told you a lie."

It is true that certain situations infect a man with fear. Something happens at one place - it might be an explosion - and the man in a remote place on hearing of it suffers a heart-failure. An incident takes place. An eyewitness is not much disturbed, but a distant hearer dies of shock. This is living on the periphery.

We need not discuss fear too much because those who con­stantly indulge in such discussions are infected by fear. We are aiming at complete freedom from fear.

We have been talking about how fear comes into being. We might now concentrate upon ways of getting rid of fear. What are the methods, factors and sources which help a man attain freedom from fear? Is it possible for a man never to entertain fear, not to be disturbed or to become anxious even when placed in a fearsome situation; to remain firm and steady even when the whole environment is charged with fear; not to be upset or vexed in the face of disaster?

It is certainly possible. Preksha furnishes one way of getting rid of fear. Kayotsarg embodies a means of becoming fearless. Those who practise preksha meditation are actually seeking a means of freeing themselves from their ills. A discussion of the disease implies in itself a search for the cure thereof. The calamity and the way of meeting it are intimately connected. One cannot find a cure without knowing the disease, and one cannot get rid of the disease without finding a cure for it. If we are seeking to conquer a disease, we must know the means of curing it. We shall also have to know everything about the disease before we can cure it. If we want to get rid of evil, we must intimately know how that evil functions, how it comes into being. Evil can be known; it is not something unknowable. How can we end something of which we know no tiling? Insofar as knowing is concerned, the good and the evil are on the same level. If it is a question of what is harmful and what is beneficial, we say the evil is harmful and the good is beneficial. But we must know both. Only then shall it be possible for us to give up evil and to accept the good.

It has been concluded on the basis of psychological experi­ments that attention wavers, that the mind cannot concentrate on one object for more than four seconds. But there is a theory of meditation which does not accept this. According to some believers in that theory, a man can concentrate on one subject for five to ten hours, even more. However, the mind of a person who has never practised meditation cannot be steady; it continually changes from one object to another. In view of this, we are willing to accept the psychological theory of attention not going steady for more than a few seconds. The mind of a person who does not practise meditation cannot concentrate on one spot for more than four to five seconds. Most probably it changes every second; it may even change in a fraction of a second. The mind moves very fast. Within a second, it wanders all over the world. Such a conclusion about the mind's rapidity of movement is perfectly valid, and yet there is no finality about it. If we look upon it as the ultimate conclusion, we might easily go wrong. The moment we accept a conclusion as final, our exploration comes to an end. The process of awareness is then abruptly concluded; the continuity of meditation stands discounted. Then everything is limited and known; there is nothing limitless and unknown. While practising preksha meditation, we enter into a state of mind in which we are capable of concentrating on an object without any interruption, in which constant attention is possible. This cannot be a subject of psychological experimen­tation, nor of reason. Until the doctrine of Leshya (perception of psychic colours) is clearly understood, no thorough understanding of the theory of constantly wavering attention is possible. Feelings change and every change of feeling is accompanied by a change in thinking. It might be possible to mark one's thought, but the feeling behind it goes unobserved. Thought has no independent entity of its own. All thoughts derive from feeling, and dissolve with a change in feeling.

There are three orders - the order of thought (the conscious mind), the order of attitude (the subconscious) and the order of instinct (the unconscious mind), The three are intimately connected. Instinct gives rise to attitude, and attitude gives rise to thought. If we make an effort to steady our attitudes, tejoleshya, padamleshya and shuklaleshya become stabilised and as a consequence, thought becomes steady. Rather we should say that thought comes to an end. For thought by its nature is fickle, it can never be steady. Thought moves rapidly. Where there is constant movement, there can be no steadfastness. So constantly moving thought can never be steady. Steady thought is a contradiction in terms - steadiness and thought do not go together. Thought is ever restless, the mind is never tranquil. It is the function of the mind to wander, to be in constant movement. Such is the nature of thought. We, therefore, cannot make it steady; thought can never be stable. But it can come to an end. There are two distinct states: either there is thought or there is no thought. When there is right perception, there is no thought; thought comes to an end. This state, when thought is totally absent, comes into being when there is right perception. In this state, all fear naturally ends.

There is only one way of getting rid of fear - the purification of attitude; the cleansing of the heart of all impurities. When the passions are sublimated, the heart becomes innocent and pure and fear then dissolves.

Title: The Art Of Positive Thinking
B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.
Reprint Edition:
R.K. Seth

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Concentration
  4. Consciousness
  5. Cooperation
  6. Discipline
  7. Environment
  8. Fear
  9. Greed
  10. Karma
  11. Karma Sharir
  12. Kayotsarg
  13. Leshya
  14. Meditation
  15. Perception of Psychic Colours
  16. Preksha
  17. Preksha Meditation
  18. Psychic Colours
  19. Sanskrit
  20. Science
  21. Sharir
  22. Soul
  23. Tejoleshya
  24. tejoleshya
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