The Art Of Positive Thinking: The Fear Complex

Published: 20.01.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

Happiness is the greatest achievement of life. Each man passes through joy and sorrow. Joy is no great thing because behind every joy lurks some sorrow. Sometimes there is joy, and at other times man is drowned in sorrow. Sorrow, likewise, is not wholly bad since it is invariably followed by joy.

Happiness lies beyond joy and sorrow. Virtually it signifies the purity of the mind. A mind that is pure is not ruffled by joy or sorrow. In a pure sky, there are no clouds, no rain, no hurricane - there is absolutely nothing. The sky is perfectly clear. All is clarity, brightness; all is light. Happiness is a condition of the mind that is quite unsullied. There are, however, many hurdles and dangers. Even a major accomplishment, if attained without effort, loses something of its stature, and is consequently ranked as minor. How many valleys crossed? How many ups and downs? Are the questions posed while assessing a great achievement. The destina­tion arrived at when the feet are tired by walking to the breaking point is all the more significant and memorable.

Happiness is a tremendous achievement. Complete absence of fear and happiness go together. They are inseparably linked with each other. Where there is total absence of fear, happiness is bound to be, and where there is happiness, fearlessness is its inevitable accompaniment. The moment fear appears, happiness dissolves.

Man's life is tied to the wheel of circumstance. It is an interminable series without any break. There are seven circum­stances which destroy happiness and create fear. It is essential to know these:

Fear of this world;
fear of the other world;
fear of like and dislike;
sudden fear;
fear of suffering;
fear of death; and
fear of disgrace.

The first state of fear pertains to the world we live in—the world of human beings. Man fears man. One man creates fear for another. Actually there is no cause for such fear, for basically any one man is like another; both possess a soul, both belong to the same species, both have consciousness, both are endowed with intelligence. So, one man need not fear another. And yet each individual in this world finds himself menaced by others. Man is possessed of greed, and greed gives rise to fear. If a man were not avaricious, he would not be afraid of anything. The root cause of fear is greed. There are great passions and impulses and there are passions and impulses subor­dinate to these. Greed is the primary impulse, and fear is secondary to it. Where there is greed, there is fear; without avarice fear cannot exist. A greedy man is solely interested in grinding his own axe, and where self-interest dominates, it creates fear all around. Fear is the inevitable accompaniment of preoccupation with self-fulfilment. Why after all, one may ask, is our society afflicted with aggression? What sustains the imperialistic mentality? Thefts, robberies, plunder, betrayals and frauds - all improper conduct flows directly from avarice. These are the breakers from the ocean of greed that rise high up the sky. As long as greed lasts, selfishness endures and one man becomes a danger to another. All talk of going beyond danger becomes unreal in such a context. No trust subsists between man and man. That is, why there is such lack of trust in our world. One cannot trust even one's close relatives - father, son or wife. Fear pervades all relationship. Nobody has faith in another; everyone has reservations, secrets, covert schemes, rituals and ways of conduct which are ultimately unshareable. Even a teacher does not part with the ultimate secret; he wants to keep it to himself. That is why many ancient techniques in India have been irrecoverably lost. The master would not share the secret even with his most promising pupil, and the skill was inevitably lost after the master's death. Nobody trusts another. How to create an atmosphere of trust is the compelling challenge faced by man today.

A master-tantrik once saw a rat writhing in fear. Moved by pity, he turned it into a lion. A small rat transformed into a powerful lion! A rat that lived in constant fear of the cat suddenly changed into the king of the jungle, feared by all other animals! Now, as soon as the rat found itself transformed into a big lion, its hunger for food also grew and its first thought was how to appease that growing hunger. The great tantrik, its benefactor, still stood before it. "Here is my food," the rat-turned-into-lion thought, and it leapt towards the man. "What an ungrateful wretch!", said the master of spells, "I changed this fearful rat into a powerful lion, and it is now out to destroy me!" Immediately he cast a counter-spell and the lion once again turned into a rat.

Such is the state of the world we live in! Whom to trust? Even the benefactor who turns a rat into a lion cannot trust his beneficiary.

Life is like that. The world' being full of greed and selfishness, how can one man trust another? Faith is just not possible in such a world. That is why our most intimate relationships are characterised by inner reservation, secrecy and fear. Two persons live together - they may be man and wife, parent and child—but between the two there exists a wall of mistrust. Even though near, they are far from each other, never really together.

Man fears man and it is because man is full of greed, selfishness and ungratefulness—the three traits go together.

The second state of fear pertains to the other world which includes the animal world. Man is afraid of other species. In the darkness of night he goes abroad with a stick in his hand because he is afraid of meeting a dog or a cow or another beast that might harm him. Some people are afraid of the cat and the rats. Almost all fear the serpent and the scorpion.

Fear of the other world includes the fear of goblins and sprites. It is really very strange. We all have heard marvellous stories relating to ghosts. In this context we may distinguish between two kinds of fear - imaginary and real. Once I met a man whose nervous system was so weak that he was afraid of every person he encountered; he was afraid that the other person would kill him or give him a severe beating. And he would begin to scream. This kind of fear is purely imaginary. It grows in direct proportion to the feebleness of the nervous system. The state of the nervous system and imaginary fear ace closely related. Those having a weak nervous system are for ever afraid of the known as well as the unknown all day and night - it is because of the weakness of the nervous system and the improper functioning of the brain cells.

Sometimes, however, fear is actual, real. A particular situation excites fear. The fear of goblins and sprites is often imaginary, but it can be real too. The mind has formed a concept that ghosts abide in the dark. As soon as darkness sets in, one sees ghosts dancing everywhere. Only that man who is afraid of the dark can tell what darkness and loneliness do to a man. It seems to him that nothing exists in the world except goblins and sprites. He sees a ghost standing upright on the stair; he gazes at a wall, only to find it inhabited by demons. Both fore and aft, right and left, he sees spirits ascending and descending. It is a most singular state of mind. One's whole imagination is pervaded by ghostly beings.

The old Nuns' Hostel at Ladnun is housed in a building which is said to be the abode of Pirji (the spirit of a muslim holy man). It is said that Pirji visits this house every now and then. Once the nuns were shifted to another hostel and the building was occupied for the night by some monks. At midnight one of the monks came out of his room. He saw a man clad in white sitting outside. The monk wondered as to who the man could be. Might it not be the shade of Pirji? The monk was frightened a little but he resolved to explore the strange presence. As he neared the spot, he found that there was no Pirji—only a stool covered with a white cloth. From far it looked like a human being, but actually nobody was there. The imaginary shade vanished in no time.

Such imaginary shades, innumerable images, float before us day and night. The picture of imagination assumes a definite shape and it seems somebody is there. The sight thereof is frightening.

Sometimes one hears a sound and is filled with fear. A torch sighted in the cremation ground at night affords concreteness to the imaginative form of a ghost. The sight of a burning pyre makes one uneasy. If we can put an end to our imaginative apprehensions, we should be free from fear almost 90 per cent. Only 10 per cent of fear then remains. I don't discard all stories of ghosts and sprites as being figments of imagination—-these too may partake of some reality, but this is rare. But even factual fear can serve to confound and weaken us. If a man's morale is high, a spectre can do him no harm. As a matter of fact, it is not the spectre or the ghost that excites fear; fear pre-exists in a man's being. If this inherent fear were not there, nothing in the world could do any harm to him. Lord Mahavir said, "Only a fearful man is afflicted by a ghost; the fearless man is not disturbed by any phantom." The goblins and sprites have their spheres of action. They have their limitations and cannot harrass all and sundry. They can only permeate a body that would accept them; a reluctant body they cannot penetrate. A fearful person is the most apt vessel to receive them. It is a noticeable fact that more women are haunted by ghosts than men. It is because they are less courageous than men; they get frightened very soon, and are therefore more apt to receive them. It is a very significant fact that only a fearful person is permeated by a ghost; the fearless is beyond its reach.

The third state of fear pertains to like and dislike, which means the fear of being united or of being separated, of getting things or meeting situations one dislikes. It is such a big fear as to exert its pressure at all times. What is acquired must not be lost, and what is undesirable must never afflict us—such is the eternal tension thereof. When someone dear to us goes on a journey, we are naturally concerned that no mishap should occur to him. And the cycle of union and separation goes on. Nobody wants to be separated from the pleasant; nobody hankers after the unpleasant. Wherever a man goes, he carries with him his burden of fears. Those who attend shivirs (meditation camps) are no exception; they bring their fears along with them. After a few days they are heard to remark, "All fear has vanished!" Those who are full of fear cannot quite appreciate this state of complete freedom from fear.

Masters of ayurved say it is not proper to inhibit the senses too much; nor should these be pampered. The children of parents who scold too much are apt to become perverse. But even parents who pamper their children, only serve to spoil their wards. The senses are like children; these need to be handled with care. When treated right, they function perfectly. However, too much concern with the body, with one's looks, constant thought thereof, can create a dangerous situation, both physically and psychologically. It has been observed that those who shirk hard labour and seek too much comfort often attract diabetes. In ayurved this malady is signifi­cantly called "Sukhasak", i.e., "Comfort seeker". Heart trouble, too, is common among those who do not labour, who lie idle all the time. Their arteries get thicker, so the circulation of blood is adversely affected. Physicians of old advised rest to heart patients, but modern doctors counsel otherwise. They say, "Have a stroll. Do some light exercise so that the blood circulation is normalized." The modern physician does not encourage lethargy and may thus be said to be approaching, willy-nilly, a spiritual attitude.

Too much solicitude about any person or thing is also produc­tive of fear. It is necessary to take care that one's clothes are clean and in good taste. But to be preoccupied with clothes to the exclusion of everything else is not at all desirable, for it only serves to create a climate of fear. One becomes more and more obsessed and is consequently steeped in fear. Any kind of preoccupation is bound to create more fear. Search for greater comfort, greater adornment of one's person, too much preoccupation with dress are all ways of nourishing fear. Fear is thus firmly entrenched in our lives.

Sudden fear—unimaginable and unexpected—is the fourth kind of fear human beings are liable to. Such sudden fear may be quite imaginary or it may have a basis in reality. Something happens and leaves an imprint of fear on the mind. There is nobody who has never had a mishap. All of a sudden, like a bolt from the blue, something fearful happens. A man in perfect condition rises to go. Suddenly he stumbles against something and staggers, and fear seizes him. Another man goes for a bath. He misses a step and slips down into the stream, and is about to be drowned. Sudden fear takes hold of him in that moment. Some untoward event occurs and a man is struck with terror and he flees in fear. All these escapist tendencies arise because of sudden fear. Accidents occur in the sky, on earth and in water; these involve pedestrians as well as men travelling by air or sea. All men are liable to these.

The fifth state of fear is that of suffering, of pain. Disease, old age, etc. constitute the root of pain. There is hardly a man who has not suffered from some disease at one time or the other. Nowadays, even a child emerging from the womb is discovered to be diseased. From the moment of embryo formation, it nurtures disease. Thanks to its mother, the child is born a patient. Not to speak of confronting the disease, the very mention of it fills a man with fear. To contract a disease is one thing, to be afraid of it quite another. We must be able to distinguish clearly between fear and the situation of fear. They are two different states, though intimately connected. Yet they remain distinct, never merging into one. Like parallel lines, they run together but never meet. We regard them as one because of our own mistaken view-point; we are unable to trace the fine line of distinction between them.

Disease, old age and death—are the three sources of suffering. But even so there is no cause for fear.

Every man faces disease at one time or other, but the man who recognizes the reality of disease, knows it to be productive of pain and yet is not afraid of it, never feels irrecoverable. Only that patient is beyond recovery who fears the disease. Fear of illness only serves to increase it a thousand-fold, and the malady of a man who is not afraid of it, is considerably diminished. In some cases it disappears altogether.

Many systems of medicine have been invented to remove suffering and disease, so that man is freed from pain. There are different kinds of medicine, witchcraft, chemicals and minerals used for the purpose. But it has also come to pass that without any medical treatment, without any witchcraft or the use of medicines, mere perception of the disease, i.e., to come to know it fully, to bear it without fear, has resulted in an individual keeping perfectly fit, even in the very continuance of the disease. On the other hand, people who are afraid of the disease and have taken different kinds of drugs, resorting to various systems of medicine, have yet remained disease-ridden even though desiring health.

Sanatkumar ruled over the earth. It so chanced that his graceful body was afflicted with 16 diseases all at once, each more terrible than the other. All his pride in the beauty of his body was destroyed. He relinquished his empire and became a monk. For long was he engaged in spiritual pursuit and led a life of extreme asceticism. In course of time, he came to experience the supra-physical state. His achievements were many and great. His diseases continued but they ceased to torment him. There was absolutely no fear in his heart. The sage Sanatkumar, though afflicted with a great many diseases was totally free from fear. Both health and disease continued in him, without causing any conflict. The monk was invested with a divine indifference—perfect non-attachment. He was absolutely without fear. The absorbability of such a man's body registers a tremendous increase, and his capacity for self-preserva­tion grows to such an extent that the diseases with which he may be afflicted, torment him no more. His peace of mind is never disturbed.

One day a physician came to him and said, "Sir Monk! The structure of your body indicates a noble origin. However, the gracelessness of your body shows that you are suffering from many diseases. I have a panacea for all your ills. Will you kindly take the medicine I offer? This will enable you to regain perfect health, and you will then be able to intensify your practice of dhyana (meditation.)" However, the monk refused to take any drugs. The physician persisted, "Sir, I just want to do you some service. The taking of these drugs will cause you no discomfort. On the contrary, these costly and infallible drugs will cure all your maladies, and you will soon enjoy perfect health." The physician persevered in his endeavour to bring the monk round to his point of view. At last the monk, while rejecting his offer, said, "You want to treat me, Sir. You want to cure me of my ills! You want me to enjoy perfect health! But how are you going to accomplish your purpose? Have you got the medicines I possess myself?" And saying this, the monk put a finger into his mouth, brought it out and applied a thin layer of his saliva on his leprous skin. In great consternation, the physician saw the white spots disappear, the monk's whole body assuming a healthful golden hue. The physician's astonishment knew no bounds. He kept looking at the beauty of the monk's body and stood still.

The monk went on, "How did you intend to cure me? Wherefrom will you get the specifics which are found in my body? Through the practice of meditation and asceticism, I have acquired certain powers by means of various secretions of the body.

"Such inner powers are awakened by dhyana (meditation) as to render external medicines redundant. A touch of mucus turns the body all golden. The touch of air bearing an enlightened person's sweat, restores complete health to a patient; his malady disappears. So what kind of treatment do you propose to give me? You've only intruded upon my peace. Rapt in meditation, I knew no disease. But you come here with your infallible remedies and are full of arrogance. What are you going to do now?"

The poor physician stood speechless. After what he had seen, he had no words to utter. He prostrated himself before the monk and said. "Sir, I've done a great wrong. Kindly forgive me!"

The sixth fear on our list is the fear of death. Man dies, not of disease, but of fear. Someone is told by a doctor that he has cancer, and the man starts dying from the moment he hears it; he feels extinguished. If he keeps up his spirits, the cancer would not affect him so much. Another person is told that he is suffering from heart disease and from that very moment he goes under and starts withering away. Death kills none; a man is killed by his own fear.

A man had artificial teeth. On retiring at night he put his denture in a bowl full of water. A child happened to come to his room and taking the denture to be a kind of toy, escaped with it. On rising in the morning, the man looked for his denture but it was nowhere to be found. He thought hard and it occurred to him that most probably he had forgotten to take his denture out as usual, and had instead swallowed it in sleep. Immediately he felt an unbearable pain in his stomach. He was beside himself with pain. A doctor was called in. On hearing the story, the doctor said the man will have to be operated upon to extract the denture out of his stomach. The situation became very critical. The extreme pain he experienced was very real but its basis was purely imaginary. Just at that moment, the child appeared with the denture in his hand. The moment the man saw his denture, his pain disappeared. He grew perfectly normal.

Such occurrences in our life show that man is not killed by disease, but by fear.

The seventh state of fear is that of disgrace. What would Mrs. Grundy say? Man is afraid of infamy. He wants a stainless reputation, his prestige high, his name untarnished. To keep up his prestige, he would even take recourse to false principles, and willingly suffer all kinds of inconveniences. Behind all this lies the fear of disgrace. To maintain his reputation, a man would go to any lengths, even to the extent of committing a grievous wrong.

Sadhaks (meditators) practising preksha must be able to distinguish between fear and the situation of fear; these are not one but two different things. That is the crux of this discourse.

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

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Body
  2. Brain
  3. Consciousness
  4. Dhyana
  5. Fear
  6. Fearlessness
  7. Greed
  8. Ladnun
  9. Mahavir
  10. Meditation
  11. Preksha
  12. Pride
  13. Sadhaks
  14. Soul
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