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18. How to Conquer Fear

Fear can easily overshadow our life. Of course, there is an instinctive fear which is absolutely necessary for survival – it’s good to be scared if a car is heading straight for you at 100mph! Aside from this, however, are the artificial fears that plague us from morning to evening, irrational thoughts taken out of perspective which hijack our consciousness. Can you think of a fear you have now that you didn’t have twenty years ago? Can you think of a fear from your youth that you’ve managed to overcome? Can you think of a fear you have that someone else is oblivious to? The affirmative answer in each case proves something extremely powerful – fear is something which is learnt, and that means it can also be unlearnt. Fear is an imposition.
We have fears about the world, fears about our health, fears about our family and friends, fears about the future and fears of failure. When we’re happy we’re fearful it may end. When we’re sad we’re fearful it may never end! I once saw a bumper sticker which read, ‘Do not disturb... already disturbed!’ In Chapter One, Arjuna was certainly grappling with fear. Faced with the prospect of suffering and death, perhaps the two most acute fears in life, he was desperately seeking respite. Krishna told him that running away from fear, or trying to artificially control the world to avoid fear, would ultimately prove futile. Deeper solutions are required.
Most people try to overcome fear through practical arrangements – an alarm on the house, health insurance for the family, abundant bank balance for the future and vaccinations for immunity. In addition we apply solutions on the mental level – things which alter our state of consciousness like drugs or affirmations. Some people seek intellectual solutions. They try to break fear down using logic, analysis and self-development wisdom. While all such attempts certainly provide some relief they don’t get to the root of the problem.
In Chapter Eighteen Arjuna reaches the mature conclusion. He explains that his confusion, bewilderment and uncertainty has cleared. He has regained a vision for his life, and feels the inspiration and confidence to pursue it. He picks up his bow in determination, the same bow that was slipping from his hand in Chapter One. It was possible because Krishna expertly coached Arjuna in spiritual wisdom and recalibrated his vision of reality. Fear arises from misidentification with the temporary and disconnection from the spirit. Illumined spiritual consciousness empowers one to see every event, experience and emotion in the context of the bigger picture. Spiritualists live with the vision of eternity and are thus fully equipped to bring everything into perspective. They become sages of steady mind.
Srila Prabhupada was once asked what he feels when he chants Hare Krishna. His reply was interesting: “I feel no fear!” The greatest spiritualists didn’t just philosophise about overcoming fear but powerfully demonstrated it through their own life. Srila Prabhupada suffered two heart attacks at sea, but never feared for his health. He came to America with 40 rupees, but never feared for his maintenance. He lived with drug addicts and hippies, but never feared for his safety. He renounced everything, but never feared for the future. Krishna thus invites everyone into this blissful, unbounded spiritual reality - "Don't fear, don't hesitate, don't worry."

“Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” (Bhagavad-Gita 18.73)

References

18.30 – Real knowledge allows one to identify what is worthy of fear.
18.66 – Krishna reassures Arjuna there is no need for hesitation or worry.