Divine Qualities (Part 1)

Swami Vivekananda taught that true religion results in transformation of character. He said, "Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God." Animality, humanity, and divinity coexist in our character. When we have no higher goal of life, our thoughts and actions are influenced by selfishness, and our divine nature remains veiled from us. All great teachers have taught that manifestation of divinity is the goal of life and the greatest challenge before us.

The thirteenth and sixteenth chapters of the Bhagavad Gita describe divine qualities that spiritual aspirants need to cultivate on their journey to ultimate Truth. We shall examine some of these qualities.


Fears are of different kinds, such as fear of solitude, fear of heights, fear of water, fear of the unknown, fear of undesirable outcome from work, which manifests as anxiety, and, above all, fear of death. Phobias are unreasonable fears and are usually harmless; but when they become excessive, they could leave a permanent scar in the mind.

Fear originates from a sense of duality, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4.2): I and the object of fear. In the words of the Taittiriya Upanishad, "When a man finds fearless support in That which is invisible, formless, indefinable, and supportless, he has then attained fearlessness. If he makes the slightest differentiation in It, there is fear for him." (2.7.1)

Swami Vivekananda emphatically declares what fearlessness is: "Those moments alone we live when our lives are in the universe, in others; and living this little life is death, simply death, and that is why the fear of death comes. The fear of death can only be conquered when man realizes that so long as there is one life in the universe, he is living. When he can say, 'I am in everything, in everybody; I am in all lives; I am the universe,' then alone comes the state of fearlessness."

In the Vairagya Shataka (A hundred Verses on Renunciation), Bhartrihari describes how fear is associated with everything in the world: "In enjoyment there is the fear of disease; in social position, the fear of falling off; in wealth, the fear of hostile kings; in honor, the fear of humiliation; in power, the fear of enemies; in beauty, the fear of old age; in scholarship, the fear of opponents; in virtue, the fear of calumny; and in the body, the fear of death. Everything in this world is fraught with fear. Renunciation alone stands for fearlessness." (verse 31)

Knowledge of the Atman, the divine Self, alone can give us fearlessness and the realization that we are of the nature of infinite Being, infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss. After imparting the knowledge of Brahman to Janaka, Yajnavalkya said, "Verily, Janaka, you have attained That which is free from fear." (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.2.4.)

Part 2

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