Divine Qualities (Part 2)

Fearlessness (continued)

We saw that fear is inevitable as long as there is a sense of duality and that true fearlessness is synonymous with God-realization.

According to Sri Ramanuja's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (16.1), "We feel miserable when separated from objects of desire or associated with objects of aversion. Fear is a kind of pain resulting from the awareness of the cause of such misery; the absence of this pain is fearlessness." The mind desires pleasure-producing stimuli and avoids contrary ones. While every little joy of life becomes an occasion for us to celebrate, any unpleasant event, even a little bad news or mild criticism, is enough to disturb our mind and drive us to a corner. Our mind is normally programmed to be elated with pleasure and depressed with pain.

But to develop fearlessness, we need to write a new program with the help of buddhi, the discriminative faculty. This means strengthening our character by augmenting our stock of good impressions (samskaras) with the help of noble thoughts and actions. Only a strong character can help us remain unaffected by external circumstances.

The Gita emphasizes equipoise in work, that is, having a mindset that prevents our swinging back and forth between elation and depression at every turn of events. When a despondent Arjuna was overcome with misplaced compassion for his enemies, Sri Krishna taught him to perform his dharma: "Pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat-looking upon all these alike, engage yourself in battle; you will incur no sin." (Gita, 2.38) Offering everything-both pleasure and pain-to God is a powerful spiritual discipline to cultivate equipoise. Says the devotee, "Whatever I do, O Shiva, all that is worship of you." (Hymn of Mental Worship to Shiva, 4) Sri Krishna teaches us to offer everything to God: "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you offer as gifts, whatever austerities you perform-do it all as an offering to Me." (Gita, 9.27)

Commenting on the Gita (16.1), Sant Jnaneshvar explains fearlessness: "If we don't jump into a flooded river, we have no fear of being drowned. If we eat sensibly, we don't need to be concerned about falling ill. Even so, if we are not egotistic while doing work or not doing it, we need not fear life in the world. When our mind is filled with the notion of nondualism, we know that the whole world is pervaded by Brahman and reject all fear."

When a spiritual aspirant offers the fruit of his action to God, he grows in devotion, becomes less egotistic, and develops freedom from fear or anxiety about the outcome of work. "The notion of nondualism" implies a strong faith in the Atman, our divine Self. While doing any work, a devotee learns to look upon himself as a luminous spiritual entity different from the body and the restless mind. He strives to emulate the sattvic worker described in the Gita: "He who is free from attachment and egotism, endowed with fortitude and zeal, and unaffected by success and failure-such a person is said to be a sattvic worker." (Gita, 18.26)

Part 3

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