The concept of Fear and Choice are interlinked and are crutial especially when we are presented with so many varieties of philosophies in Kaliyuga (Kali:yuga). Please note that this discussion is not an emphasize to compare one concept or philosophy from another. It’s to understand how Sanatana Dharma sidhantham (fundamentals of a concept, and is not a philosophy or religion) explains on how dharma be applied into our Karma and on what basis. In this article let’s cover the following questions:
On what basis should I make a good choice, or choose an action? Should I worship God out of fear? Is fear good? How does one overcome all fear?
Kaal(am): Kaal though broadly interpreted as time, it is nothing but a progression of events to relate with past and a future imaginative event, however Kaalam has a deeper concept within Shastra. Ishwara exists as a singularity, since there is no second entity other than Him, His Shakthi dwells within Him and manifests into Prakruti which is known as creation, but then recedes back into just Shakthi which is nothing but dissolution. If this manifestation of creation and its recess of dissolution happens within the same instant (as per our understanding if we look at it as a progressing events) then technically, creation seizes to exits. Sri Maha Vishnu, the concept of preservation of Ishwara, prolongs the gap between this creation and dissolution giving an opportunity for creation to exist for a duration. But technically, existence is nothing but dissolution at a slower rate, and the interpretation or the measure of the phase at which this dissolution happens is termed as Kaalam. Hence even from the highest purview of creation, till the smallest entity in it, the cycle of creation and dissolution is constant and ever repeating. A future section of Laya will help us comprehend deeper into this cycle. In the perspective of Ishwara, countless of such creations and dissolution happen at the same instant hence kaalam has no meaning to Him, hence the title Kaalathita (Kaal:athita), meaning devoid of kaalam (time), but kaal(am) is everything for us. Our perspective of kaal(am) will be different for somebody in a different reality, hence kaalam and the phase of its progression varies from loka to loka, for example in Brahma Loka, a single moment of progression trickles down to millions of human years, because universe, or at the highest level call it creation, is expanding towards dissolution. Its like an inverted chandelier, wherein, one spin on the top causes an increasingly larger rotation as we go down. Like an explosion that originates at one point and spreads outwards and slows disperses, in the same way creation explodes and decimates and dissolves back into its source. Ishwara manifests within these various countless realities of His creation as Brahma, Sri Vishnu and Rudhra to support us in the process for which He is the source and we are but a speck in it, yet very important to Ishwara because we are His children and He is our father and creator.
The motivator for any action is desire, and in many cases fear towards loosing a desire (which is also a desire), but if fear dictates a human to follow certain philosophy, then where is the room for hope and gyana(m) (enlightenment). Karma and its understanding are not to induce fear or force one to perform, because the same actions when performed has different results for different individuals based on kaal(am) and place (desham). Understanding this concept gives hope and removes fear, because without hope how can one learn to evolve, or learn karma and its karma:phala, or to rectify past karma. Without its understanding how can one bring out the strength to uplift oneself in their conscience or to repent and realize one’s own mistakes? Understanding karma is not something that is forced upon a human, because karma is, and will always be in play whether an individual makes an attempt to learn it or be ignorant about it. Karma will also be in play irrespective of which philosophy a person believes in, and no matter what name or definition karma is defined in that philosophy because karma is a concept that explains a kriya (action) with its associated result, making the one performing the karma as karta. It doesn’t require a person to understand Sanatana Dharma to believe in an action and an associative result, which varies based on the time and place the action was performed. No matter which philosophy one believes in, everyone is born in the same reality and must abide by its constraints. Not everyone is born with the complete understanding of any philosophy, not everyone sees or experiences Ishwara at birth or during the early stages of life. Not everyone has complete and unshattered proof of Ishwara’s existence. Everyone, except few anomalies like Veda Vyasa and Sri Shankara, are born in this uncertain reality. Whether we like it or not every action has its effects. However, it’s our choice to either understand it through Shastra or make up our own philosophy out of our life experiences. It’s to be noted that each person’s life and their experiences are different and so are it’s results, hence one person’s experience can’t necessarily be applicable to another, because each individual is unique in their own sense and interpretation. Understating philosophy presents comprehension towards understanding the choices presented to us by this reality, hence without such an understanding and the hope that is derived from it, how can there be room for mistake, and the opportunity for us to learn from it. It’s from repentance and realizations that a human being in many occasions evolves in conscience. Death comes once to a man, but constant fear (Chinta, meaning fear in anxiety) kills a man each day, like Kamsa who under constant fear of Krishna was dying each day, however was saved by death itself when Krishna finally did come. If fear is the basis, then how and when will one enjoy the freedom with Ishwara and build confidence and hope towards Ishwara, like the poets we have seen earlier. Without such freedom, the concept of Ishwara will become a ferocious entity that one must worship to survive and to bear comfort.
Does this mean fear is bad? No, fear like kama should be uttama, meaning positive or rather call it healthy fear. Healthy fear keeps one’s actions in check making sure not to perform a:dharma. It helps us to draw a line, placing dharma as former, giving us the ability to check ourselves and pull back on our thoughts and decisions. A human being without such a check can lower oneself to any level of insanity and discrimination under the name of free-will and liberty. Without such a check, one can seek endless power and wealth in whatever means necessary in the name of self-preservation and prosperity, disregarding the preservation of resources for others and the future generations. Human beings without such a check will forget that human beings are social beings and must rely on one another to foster culture and civility, because no matter what we believe, all our prosperity has one source, which is Earth, hence the title Vasundhara, meaning the Mother who gives us all wealth and riches and is the adobe for our existence.
So, if it’s not fear then what? One can always claim that one’s own self-conscience itself is the basis for choosing the right approach and to be a better judge, if that’s the case, then each individual’s experience and understanding towards this creation is both different and limited, since a human lacks a holistic vision or a collective notion of all entities and factors that define our reality. A human lacks the ability to feel exactly what other human feels, nor can one visit or comprehend events beyond kaalam (time) (both from past and the unforeseen future). Each event can foster different experiences and different perspectives in a human, and each era allows same or different events to occur providing even more possibilities or experiences. This approach will become a trial method. If conscience evolves from knowledge and information, and this in return helps us make better choices, than illiterates, the poor, the less fortunate, children and many others are doomed to fall into a spiral of mistakes and misfortune. Even after that, it’s very likely for a person to provide a justification for their actions that seem valid to them, and thus each person will end up creating one’s own philosophy to justify their actions. This the very reason why one must seek a Guru, because a Guru is the conduit for comprehending Ishwara. A Guru is not a promoter of Shastra, nor a representative or a proxy for Shastra. A Guru is not bestowed by any responsibility or duty to teach or share Shastra. A Guru is the one who has passed beyond the comprehension of this reality by understanding the tatvam. A Guru is like a tree which doesn’t advertise its shade nor its fruits, similarly, a Guru doesn’t advertise his wisdom. For such a gyani, materials and comforts have no meaning, because a Guru always reminiscence in joy (Brahma:nandam) by understanding this reality and by overcoming all fear.
How does one overcome all fear? When one realizes that there is but one Brahman and that he/she himself/herself is that Brahman, hence realizing that there is no duality or a secondary entity to fear. One doesn’t have to struggle in identifying a Guru, since such gyani are very few in numbers. Such gyani are anomalies created by this reality (or rather the Divine Mother) in comparison to those who self-proclaimed such a title making it a profession or a business with Kashayam as a dress code.
As mentioned in Yajur Veda, a message captured in the grand composition called Viveka Chudamani composed by Adi Shankaracharya, translated by by Swami Prabhavananada and Christopher Isherwood as:
“The Yajur-Veda declares that a man is subject to fear as long as he sees the least difference between himself and Brahman. Wheneer a man-even if he has discrimination –sees the least distinction between himself and the infinite Brahman, fear will arise in him. Such difference is seen only because of ignorance”
(Swami Prabhavananda. Isherwood, Christopher. 1947)
The tatva(m) of Shasta is not to abide by fear but to lose the very flavors of fear. Its fear that many constantly dwells in both acquiring and preserving what has been acquired. If an action no matter how good the intention, made with one’s conscience, and if that results in an outcome causing much pain and suffering to both the nature and others, will such action bear satisfaction or guilt? This is the reason why attma Shakthi (attma closest analogy is soul or in this case refers to the conscience of a jiva, and Shakshi means witness) is the last option laid out by Shastra(m) towards making a choice. Then what is the primary option that one can always choose without fear? Sanatana Dharma in its very name has the answer, which is dharma, which takes precedence towards making a choice in choosing an action (which becomes karma). This dharma is illustrated by Shastra(m) hence Shastra(m) takes preference, but the same Shastra(m) doesn’t enforce its choice on the will of man, it just presents that option for our choosing to be the most moral one. Following sloka helps understand the basis to making a choice:
Shruti Smriti puranam alayam karunalayam
Namami Bhagavadpadam Shankaram Lokashankaram
(Sri Adi Shankara–Some Incidents. (n.d.))
In the above sloka the foremost aspect towards life and choice is Shruti, meaning that which is heard by Rishis during their tapasya. The next comes Smriti, meaning that which is like given to us by these Rishis like Veda Vyasa and Sri Adi Shankaracharya. Third is Purana, meaning the accounts of Ishwara’s manifestations who walked the path of dharma, and set themselves as examples for us. The forth (not a part of this sloka) is Sistacharam (Sist:acharam), meaning to lookup to those who live the life of dharma and abide by Shastra as examples and follow their life and their suggestions. Finally, comes antaratma pramanam (Anta:ra:atma) meaning to place once own self conscience as the judge to determine the course of action.
Not everyone is well versed in the comprehension of Shastra(m) by birth, in that case one must seek the teaching of a gyani as a Guru, if one is not fortunate to find such a Guru, then one must understand the stories and accounts that Ishwara Himself has faced and illustrated in various Purana like Sri Ramayana. If one doesn’t know such stories, then one should read and follow the footsteps and the behavior of great and compassionate personalities that history and time have given birth to. Finally, if an event arises that one is unable to choose an action and is not aware of any of the above, then one must choose bearing one’s own atma as a witness (attma shakshi). Before we do any of the above, one must ask Ishwara to help us comprehend Him. If one is yet to believe in Ishwara, then one must ask the universe itself to help us understand it, this is the very essence of Gayatry Mantra. But if a person who doesn’t place an effort towards any of the above, for this a sloka from Mahabharat making a reference to Ramayana:
न भूतपूर्वं न कदापि वार्ता हेम्नः कुरंगः कदापि न दृष्टः
तथापि तृष्णा रघुनन्दनस्य विनाशकाले विपरीत बुद्धिः
“Na bhootpoorvah na kadaapi vaartaa hemnh kurangh kadaapi na drushtah
Tathaapi trushna Raghunandanasya vinaashkaale vipreet buddhih”
(Valmiki Ramayana. A.K. n.d.)
‘Raghunandanasya’ meaning Rama who chased the deceiving golden deer where in His mind worked against Him towards imminent danger. This part of the sloka ‘vinaashkaale vipreet buddhih’ is used in various slokas, what this means is, in the times of one’s own imminent demise brought upon by one’s own ego, then that person’s buddhi (knowledge and decisions) will always make choices towards one’s own destruction. A good example was Ravana, though a great scholar, kept making bad choices to please his own pride and ego, even till the very end, when Ram offered to show mercy and asked him to surrender and to seek forgiveness.
Sri Ram never performed actions based on His personal like and desire. He always abides by dharma, no matter how though the situation became. In case of Him chasing the golden deer, He knew there was something wrong with the scenario on how a deer could be that majestic and mysterious and agreed with Lakshmana (His brother) that no deer exists on Earth, but said, that as a Shatreya (born in the family of Kings) its His Dharma to eliminate such demons. This information can be found in Sri Vakmiki Ramayana, Aranya Sarga, chapter 43, sloka 38.
“यदि वा अयम् तथा यत् माम् भवेत् वदसि लक्ष्मण |
माया एषा राक्षसस्य इति कर्तव्यो अस्य वधो मया ||”
“yadi vaa ayam tathaa yat maam bhavet vadasi lakShmaNa |
maayaa eShaa raakShasasya iti kartavyo asya vadho mayaa ||”
(Valmiki Ramayana. A.K. n.d.)
Exploring Shastra(m) by reading or listening, and we discussing this very concept is a uttama kama, without which this instance of reading so far would not have been possible. Based on kama being entwined with dharma or not, Sri Vishnu (or the Divine Mother) showers His Anugraham and Nigraham respectively.
Kindly continue your reading of Karma, Kama and Punya to get a holistic picture. Please note the topics on the left navigation of home page provides glimpse into the core concepts of Sanatana Dharma hence make an attempt to cover them.
REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citing)
Sri Adi Shankara–Some Incidents. (n.d.). Arise Bharat. Retrieved from https://arisebharat.com/2015/05/01/sri-adi-shankara-some-incidents/
Valmiki Ramayana. (n.d.). Aranya Kanda. Retrieved from http://valmikiramayan.net/utf8/aranya/sarga43/aranya_43_frame.htm
Swami Prabhavananda. Isherwood, Christopher. (1947). Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. California: Vedanta Press