Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thoughts on Fear


This is about one of my childhood friends – an extremely talented and popular child in her circles. She would make a name wherever she went. She was a very friendly child. However, in spite of being extremely talented, she was dead scared of the stage.  As a child, whenever she used to go up to the podium to deliver a speech or to enact out a play or to render her dialogues, her feet would shiver, her heart would beat as if she had a pounding staff in there. Her hands would go as cold as dead; her face muscles would constrict making her cheeks red and hot. And once she was done, she would feel as light as a feather. It would always end with a big round of applause.

As she aged, she did mature with the thought that these were just feelings that she had to overcome.  She would make up her mind to be more confident and fearless the next time. Why fear when HE is here? Why fear when she had done her homework? These and many more thoughts would make her more introspective and give her an elated feeling that she was more mature than before.

Come teenage and here she was with more talent in her store. A great mimic, a wonderful orator, an excellent actor, a good singer, a bubbling friend and a very creative person. This is how her people knew her.  She was in her engineering course when she competed in a singing competition. The prelims were held in the auditorium and there she was standing, again, as a bunch of nerves.  Where did the introspection go? Where were those elated moments of maturity? All of them vanished on seeing the teeming row of audience. She sang the song “tere mere milan ki yeh raina” from the movie “abhiman”. She held the paper with the lyrics so tight that her palms began to sweat making the paper all wet.  Though she closed her eyes tight while singing, she occasionally opened to see the audience’s reaction and the judges seem to be very pleased by the song. They were whispering something among themselves and she wondered what it could be. The song was done and again a round of big applause for the song. Few people asked her the lyrics and few others patted her for her voice and “bhava”. She was elated and once again started the introspection with its usual conclusions.

Years rolled by. She is now a working professional in an MNC. And wherever she went, music followed her. She gave performances in office occasions and became a known figure . But before every occasion, she would be one bundle of nerves shivering and her heart beating fast.  It was a known beginning and a known outcome. But did she ever learn? Did her introspection give her any direction and maturity?

Life also goes on like this with fear taking the center stage.But why do we fear?  What is it that goes on in our mind before a performance, while performing? Why is it that even though we are well prepared, we still have a pinch of fear in ourselves? I am just taking one example of where fear can arise.

When we get prepared for some goal, we first start by putting our expectations and outcomes.  A plethora of questions and doubts rises in or minds. And it all begins with the negative thought. Our negative vasanas are so much engraved in our karma that we tend to think all the negatives first. A thought of all positives will be considered as being over confident by us and even elders at home. So, it all starts with the negative thoughts – What if I make a mistake? What if it doesn’t go well? What if I forget? What if people don’t like it? What if no one appreciates?  These and many other questions pour into our little mind, confusing and deluding it. And these result in a physical show of shivering, fast heart beat, reddening of the face, sweating of palms etc. So, are we going to allow this state forever? Are we just going to live with fear all our lives? Is there any way out for this?  THERE IS.

All these emotions are due to our EGO. The feeling of “I” within and associating it with the body is the root cause for all emotions. When we do an act, we do it with the thought as “I am doing it”. “I have to get the benefit”. “It is because of “ME” that I succeeded”. It is this possessiveness that gives rise to emotions like fear, anger, greed and jealousy. In other words, EGO is “Edging God Out”. As long as we associate our actions and the result with the “I” in us, this life is going to be miserable.

Our scriptures, be it the Vedas, or the GITA or the Upanishads, or the dharma shastras – all convey a common message and that is “not to dwell in the fruits of our action”. What we ought to do is : do our work and prepare ourselves for whatever be the outcome. Let us not go into the future and get anxious of what will happen. We have to do our best and for this we have prepare well. When we are ready and our preparations are satisfactory to us, then the fear does come down a bit. I am telling this out of personal experience.

I had enrolled myself for a program in my apartment complex. This was my first classical performance in my apartment. I started to practice in an earnest way. One day, I got to hear Shri. Chinmayananda’s commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita- chapter 2, sloka 47. I heard it with great intent. Many a time, we hear these upanyasams and discourses but hold on to the vibrations for a very short period. As time passes, it wiles away and we are back to our old self. This time, I was so impressed by the interpretation, that I decided I had to try and put to practice what he said. So, whenever I practiced for the program, I made sure that I would clear my mind of all thoughts (positive and negative) that would sow the seed of expectations.  Any such thought was “consciously” avoided. Even when I spoke to family members about the program, the result aspect was consciously avoided. Every time my mind drifted towards these thoughts, I consciously brought it back. Oh!!! It was very tough. Hundreds of hooded serpents in the form of thoughts kept hitting my mind and I somehow kept reiterating what Shri. Chinmayananda said, prayed reverently and turned them away. As an outcome, believe me, there was definitely a feeling of calmness and peace within.

I also realized that what a slave we are to our minds. We give to all its whims and fancies with absolutely no control over it. If only we could control the mind, miracles could happen every moment.

On the day of the program, there was a bit of fear which I can say was because of the vasanas; but, surely not because of “not knowing the unknown future”. To my surprise, I found that as I sang on the D-Day, there was no shivering, no sweating, and no redness of my cheeks. The voice came out loud and bold. I received a lot of positive response and appreciation after this program. The feeling was so good – not the feeling of success or appreciation but the feeling of fearlessness, the feeling of “not expecting the unknown”.

Our scriptures are such great storehouses of lessons. They make our life so easy and peaceful. It is we who shun them and make life miserable. If we were to take what is said in a positive way and follow them, I am sure material success will automatically follow along with the spiritual quest.



  1. Nice blog, Good intakes on how to view things. Overcoming fears take time and also lots of coaching and practice and smaller crowds to begin with.

    Also avoiding rowdy crowds who boo.. or are not receptive to the efforts one puts into it may be negative as well.

    Reminds me of this movie where the actor coaches the lady's son what he does before he goes on stage.
    Maid in Manhattan.


  2. All of us are given a certain ability to perform, and be good at. Everyone cannot be doctors and likewise everyone cannot be dentists - so SOMEONE has already designated us to be in some professions, as that is what we need to identify ( or have a teacher identify ) the potential for us that is in us and encourage it.
    Now, there are certain circumstances where even though we try everything as listed in this blog - we are unable to succeed . I met a Neurosurgeon who was a Russian ! but working in a store in New York lifting empty boxes ! So even though he had tried and succeeded - he was unable to make it - due to the ecosystem - or nature of surroundings etc.

    Likewise I met an doctor (albiet a good one) from Malleshwaram who after trying everything here to succeed finally ended up in Boston - working in a packaging industry and packing boxes because his expectations were not met.

    How do we know where to stop ? or what is the limits of our capacities.
    Taking the leap in trying .. is the first step :)

  3. My thoughts on fear...
    When a child is born it is fearless... But, how come as it grows, it FEARS??
    This is because, more than the childs own ego or its expectations on the outcome or anything else, i think it is because of the parents/friends/society. They create an expectation on the child and the pressure they put on the child indirectly comes out as fear. May be when the first time, when the expectations of others are not met by the child, the reaction of others towards the child makes the confidence level to be pulled down, which comes out as fear..

  4. Well said sujatha...IT is all the fault of parents and elders at home who, with all their ambitions and expectation pressurize the child. This is one of the reasons for fear. But sometimes children do get scared of darkness, of depth, of waters, of dreams etc ..These are not instilled by anyone but are due to the past karma..SO, fear has many flavours and in children the main culprit are the parents and their immaturity. Good point!!

  5. Vasudha, a very thought provoking article... and there are many dimensions to it... Fear of failure in front of a audience is what many of us identify with.. Hence some of us still muster the courage to get on stage, while some of us chose to stay from it.. Low self esteem or confidence has many contributing factors - parents, family, peer pressure and that opens another stream of thought. One of the recent quotes on handling FEAR - "Forget Everything And Run" or "Face Everything And Rise"... The choice lies within you !!

  6. What you say is true Sunitha. What I have quoted is an instance of fear. But the underlying point for any kind of fear is that fear arises mainly because of our EGO. Edge EGO out and we can be fearless. It may sound difficult and impossible but it is possible

  7. an interesting article in Deccan Herald on the 'fear, anxieties' and the medicine to fear.


    Talks about how Beethoven overcame his fear, It's hard to just imagine and I can tell by experience , that if I have my ears plugged when driving - I find it so hard to concentrate on the road - the side noises that help me in effective navigation, but thinking of a musician who cant hear his own 'music' and yet the determination to continue pursuing his passion overcoming the fear is admirable.

    I will cut and paste the article here as well.

    You are here: Home » Oasis » One man with courage makes a majority
    One man with courage makes a majority
    Dorothy Victor, Dec 12, 2013 :

    It is human nature to fear the future, the unknown. Anxieties and apprehensions plague our lives. Spending half our waking hours in constant fear we feel browbeaten by the world around us.

    Even so, there is an effective antidote available to meet fear hands down and to overcome its crippling effects. Simply called courage, it is, as Winston Churchill put it, “the first of human qualities, as it is the quality that guarantees all others.”

    Courage is at the core of all progress. No development in the annals of history would have been possible without this human trait. Sir J M Barrie, the Scottish journalist and the children’s book writer who became world famous with his story about Peter Pan, the boy who lived in Never Land and would not grow up, is remembered for the Rectorial Address he gave to the graduating students at St Andrews University, Canada, on May 3, 1922. The theme of his address was one word, ‘Courage’.

    In his immortal speech he chose to dwell on courage saying, “There is nothing else much worth speaking about to undergraduates or white-haired men and women. It is the lovely virtue – the rib of Himself that God sent down to His children…Courage is the thing; all goes if courage goes.”

    Courage is the only element that would help a man face any trial, triumph over every setback and tide through all of life’s discord. The life of Beethoven is a testimony on how courage can help in tiding over the stormy weather of life.

    When he was 28 years, the worst difficulty of all came to him. He began to notice a strange humming in his ears. At first he paid little attention; but it grew worse and when he consulted the doctors, he got the worst news any musician can have. He was told that he was gradually going deaf. The news devastated him. But it was not going to ruin him, thanks to his courage, with which he went on writing music.

    Though he could hear what he wrote only more and more faintly, he wrote gloriously than ever. In fact, he wrote his best music, the music we remember him for, after he became completely deaf. Because of his courage, his music has given joy and inspiration to millions of people.

    The common man may not be called upon to do something as courageous as this music genius. Yet, one can display courage in day-to-day living.

    Courage to be honest, courage to resist temptation, courage to speak the truth, courage to live within one’s means and courage to stand up to what is right are all equally praiseworthy. After all, “one man with courage makes a majority!”