Living free – from Fear

The best way to deal with fear is to understand it. Go to its root. When you get to the bottom of what’s causing you fear, you will be free from it! Important – fear cannot be mastered or conquered. Only understanding it deeply can set you free.
We are all scared of different things – of joblessness, of losing someone we love, of losing money or health, of losing the assets that we have built up, and, of course, of death! Each of those fears connects back to a desire – to be employed, to possess someone, to keep having money, to prevent the biological ageing process, to cling on to what we believe is ours and to not die.
Now examine each of those desires and understand how irrelevant they are in the end. Consider this perspective: Why is it important to be employed? Why is it important to earn money? Do they really matter in the larger scheme of Life when ultimately you have to die leaving behind all your experience, all that you have created or acquired in this lifetime, and all your money?
The truth is also that as long as you fear something you cannot enjoy it. Your job is seeming monotonous because you are insecure in it. You are unable to enjoy the money you have because all the time you fear that you will lose it. You are not enjoying Life because you are consumed by fears of death. The Buddha taught that fear is a manifestation of a subconscious resistance to the impermanent nature of our human existence. When we accept that our entire Life, as we know it, is transient, we will be free from fear.
Here is a Zen story that illustrates this point. A fierce and terrifying band of Samurai was riding through the countryside, creating fear and causing harm wherever they went. As they were approaching one particular town, all the monks in the town’s monastery fled, except for the Abbot. When the band of warriors entered the monastery, they found the Abbot sitting calmly, in a perfect, meditative posture. The leader of the Samurai band took out his sword and said, “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know that I’m the sort of person who could run through you with my sword without batting an eye?” The Abbot, a Zen Master himself, responded, “And I, Sir, am the sort of man who could be run through by a sword without batting an eye.”
You may like to say that the Abbot displayed a rare courage – fearlessness. But, in reality, he may well have been fearful within. Yet his fear did not surface because he did not mind the outcome of the Samurai’s rage if it came to it! Courage and fearlessness are not the absence of__or denial of the presence of__fear. They come when you develop an intimacy with fear, when you look fear in the eye and face up to it! When you do this, you are actually telling yourself – “What are you afraid of? After all, everything has to be over with one day. So let me let go!”
When you let go, this way, you also let fear go. And you start living – free from fear!

Being prayerful is being mindful!

Being prayerful means being alive to the moment. It is not about rituals, hymns and mantras. It is about being thankful for this lifetime and this experience __ as you are living it__at this precise moment!

A lot of time, resources, effort, spirit, and even money, gets invested in trying to be pious. People simply lose their way, their focus and, at times, even their sanity looking for ways to reach “a” God. The mandarins of religion only complicate matters, confounding already confused souls, by championing the concepts of sin, hell and heaven. So the whole industry of religion works on inducing fear in vulnerable minds. Nothing can be more sinful than making God seem unattainable, unwieldy and distant__that too through, and despite, prayer!

First let me share an interesting Zen story I came across that demystifies and demolishes this whole concept of hell and heaven.

Hakuin, the fiery and intensely dynamic Zen Master, was once visited by a Samurai warrior.
“I want to know about heaven and hell,” said the Samurai. “Do they really exist?” he asked Hakuin.

Hakuin looked at the soldier and asked, “Who are you?”

“I am a Samurai,” announced the proud warrior.

“Ha!,” exclaimed Hakuin. “What makes you think you can understand such insightful things ? You are merely a callous, brutish soldier ! Go away and do not waste my time with your foolish questions,” Hakuin said, waving his hand to drive away the Samurai.

The enraged Samurai couldn’t take Hakuin’s insults. He drew his sword, readied for the kill, when Hakuin calmly retorted, “This is hell.

The soldier was taken aback. His face softened. Humbled by the wisdom of Hakuin, he put away his sword and bowed before the Zen Master.
And this is heaven,” Hakuin stated, just as calmly.

Another Hakuin Zen story
I don’t think any scripture can simplify these concepts to the extent this simple story has. Being humble, humane and bowing to the God ‘within’ others makes us loving, compassionate and awakens us to the ‘God’ within us too! Being vengeful, unforgiving and refusing to respect another Life makes us miserable and causes all our suffering! So, now you know what is causing you a hellish experience and what can heave you up to ‘your’ heaven!

The question we need to ask ourselves is, of what use are all the religious rituals that we conduct monotonously and mindlessly when we are not mindful of Life’s gifts__the grace, abundance, blessings in our lives__ itself and we continue to still worry, fear and agonize over what the unknown future holds for us?

I am reminded of a conversation that I had with our family priest a few years ago. A self-confessed champion of piety, who called himself a ‘strict Brahmin’, he came to me asking for career advice for his son who was looking to join an IT services company after completing his undergraduate studies in software engineering. He explained that his son had been selected by a leading software company through campus interviews. Yet he claimed he was worried. Our conversation went somewhat like this:

Me: Why are you worried Sir?

Him: I don’t know if IT companies can offer job security the way the government can!

Me: Why would you, a faithful servant of the Lord, for years now, be insecure __ and want to seek security in a government job?

Him: Sir, how can God guarantee job insecurity?

Me: What is God there for then if HE/SHE can’t guarantee you security?

Him: Sir, velayadathengo! Don’t pull my leg, Sir! God can’t come and tell me that my son’s future is assured!

Me: If God can’t tell you that, the one who has direct access to HIM/HER, who else can reach God? Why do you pray then?

Him: Sir, praying to God is my profession. I still need something else to tell me that my Life is on track and that my family and I will be secure!

With due apologies to my family priest, I must confess that this is the problem with praying mindlessly. That ‘something else’ which my priest was looking for__and I hope he found it in his own way subsequently__is ‘mindfulness’. When you are mindful of the present moment, and are grateful for it, that would be prayer enough that would make you realize God!

You will then find God in this blessing__that you have to access facebook and are  able to read a post. You will find God when you feel the air in your lungs. You will find God in the sunrises and sunsets that happen outside your window every single day without fail. You will find God in a child’s smile, in leaves rustling in the night breeze, in a cow mooing and in a dew drop! You will find God in every form of creation that you connect with. You will find God in each moment. And then you will understand and value what being prayerful is all about. You will then realize that such true prayer, of living in the moment, alone can lead you to bliss!