Conquering Fear

( Experiences of  Swami Rama, first Indian yogi, who allowed
himself to be studied by Western scientists who studied his ability to
voluntarily control bodily processes (such as heartbeat, blood pressure, body
temperature, etc.) that are normally considered to be non-voluntary  )

Let me tell you about my fear. In my young age I was usually
fearless. I could cross the swollen Ganges River and go into the forest without
the slightest fear of tigers—but I was
always very much afraid of snakes. I have had many
encounters with snakes, but I concealed my fear from everyone, even my master.
Once, in September of 1939, my master and I came down to
Rishikesh. We were on the way to Virbhadra, and camped at a spot where my
ashram stands today. Early in
the morning we took our bath in the Ganges and sat down on
its bank for meditation. By that time I had already formed the habit of sitting
for two or three hours without a
break. It was about seven-thirty when I opened my eyes—and
saw that I was face to face with a cobra. The lower half of its body was coiled
on the ground, and the upper
half was raised. It was sitting very still, just about two feet
in front of me, looking toward me. I was terrified, and immediately closed my
eyes again. I did not know what to
do. After a few seconds, when I opened my eyes again and found
that it had not moved, I jumped up quickly and ran away. After running for a
few yards I looked back and saw
that the cobra was just starting to crawl back toward the bushes.I
went back to my master and explained what had happened. He smiled and told me
that it is natural for any
living creature to be in a state of meditation near someone who
is in deep meditation.
As a young swami many people, even high government
officials, came and bowed before me and I blessed them. But within me was an
obsessive fear of snakes. I would teach the Brahma Sutras, the philosophy of
fearlessness, to my students, but fear was there inside me. I tried my best to
remove the fear by intellectualizing it, but the more I tried, the stronger the
fear became. It became so strong that it started creating problems. With any
sudden noise the thought of snakes would come into my mind.
When I sat for meditation I would often open my eyes and look about. Wherever I
went I would look for a snake. Finally I said to myself, “You must remove this
fear even if you die in the process. It is not good for your growth. How can
you lead people who love, respect, and depend on you? You have this fear and
yet you are guiding people—you hypocrite.”
I went to my master and I said, “Sir?” He said, “I know what
you want. You are afraid of snakes.”
“If you knew, why didn’t you tell me how to get rid of that
fear?” I asked. He said, “Why should I tell you? You should ask me. Why did you
try to hide this fear from me?”
I had never kept any secret from him, but somehow I did not
tell him about this fear.
Then he took me to the forest and said, “We are observing silence
starting tomorrow at dawn. At three-thirty in the morning you will get up and
collect leaves and wild flowers for a special worship that we will do.” The
next morning I found a big heap of leaves. As I picked up the heap in the
darkness, I realized that there was a cobra in it. It was in my hand, and there
was no escape.I did not know what to do. I was so frightened that I
was on the verge of collapsing. My hands were trembling.My
master was there and he said, “Bring it to me.” I was shaking with fear. He said,
“It will not bite you.” The unconscious fear welled up nevertheless. My mind said,
“It is a death that you are holding in your hand.” I believed my master, but my
fear was stronger than my belief.
He said, “Why do you not love the snake?” “Love?” I cried,
“How can you love something when you are under the influence of fear?” This is
a familiar situation
in the world: if you are afraid of a person, you cannot love
him. You will be unconsciously afraid of him all the time. The cause of fear
grows in the unconscious.
My master said, “Look, it’s such a beautiful creature. It roams
all over, but look how clean and neat it is. You do not remain clean; you have
to take a bath every day. A
snake is the cleanest creature in the world.” I said, “It is
clean, but it is also dangerous.”
He told me, “Man is more unclean and poisonous than a snake.
He can kill and injure others. Each day he projects poison in the form of anger
and other negative emotions on
those with whom he lives. A snake never does that. A snakebites
only in defense.”
He went on: “When you are fast asleep, does your finger prick
your own eyes? Do your teeth bite your tongue? There is an understanding that
all your limbs belong to one
body. The day we have a like understanding that all creatures
are one, we will not fear any creature.” I
continued to hold
the snake as he talked, and gradually my fear subsided. I
began to think, “If I don’t kill snakes, why should a snake kill me? Snakes
don’t bite anyone without reason. Why should they bite me? I am nobody in
particular.” My mind gradually began to function normally. Since that
experience I have not again been afraid ofsnakes.
Fear gives birth to insecurity, which creates imbalance in
the mind, and this influences one’s behavior. A phobia can control human life
and finally lead one to the insane
asylum. If a fear is examined it will usually be found to be
based on imagination, but that imagination can create a kind of reality. It is
true that fear creates danger, and human
beings then must protect themselves from that self-created danger.
All of our dreams materialize sooner or later. Thus it is really fear that
invites danger, though we
usually think that danger brings on the fear. Fear is the greatest
sickness that arises from our imagination. I have seen that all fears and
confusion need only to encounter
some practical experience and then they can easily be overcome.
(From the book “Living with Himalayan Masters” by Swami Rama
1 Comment

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  1. Sachin 6 years ago

    Fear- magination-'reality' – lifelong phobia…
    Then, one practical confrontation and everything gets "cured". Voluntary stuttering does exactly that in the context of stammering.. But like this real story, very few people trust this path..
    Thank you Hemant. Interestingly, I did meet Swami Ram in 1994/95..


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