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Fearlessness As A Spiritual Trait

In the Bhagavad Gita catalogue of divine qualities fearlessness tops the list. While Sri Shankaracharya and Sri Sridhara Swamin explain abhaya as just absence of fear, Sri Ramanuja and Sant Dnyaneshwar offer some detailed explanation.

Equipoise in pleasure and pain: According to Sri Ramanuja, ‘Fear is the pain resulting from the awareness of the cause that brings about pain in the form of dissociation from the objects of attainment or association with the objects of aversion. The absence of this is fearlessness.’

The mind has its pet likes and dislikes. It always likes pleasure-producing stimuli and dislikes contrary ones. Right from ushering in the New Year to any of our everyday joys — physical as well as mental — every event signals party time for most people. But just an unpleasant event, a piece of bad news or silly criticism is enough to drive them crazy and to a corner, to bemoan their fate. That is how the mind is programmed to react. And programmed life is the lot of those who let circumstances and events determine their reactions.

Fearlessness necessitates writing a new program with the help of buddhi, the discriminative faculty. This means augmenting good mental impressions (samskaras) with noble thoughts and actions, and strengthening our character. Only a strong character can help us remain independent of external events.

That is why the Gita emphasizes equipoise amid work — a mindset that prevents us from feeling elated with pleasure and depressed with pain. When a despondent Arjuna was overcome with misplaced compassion for his enemies, Sri Krishna goaded him to perform his dharma: ‘Pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat — looking upon all this alike, engage yourself in battle; you will incur no sin.’

A potent means to acquire equipoise is to offer everything — both pleasure and pain — to Bhagavan – whatever I do, O Shiva, all that is Your worship.’ And in the words of Sri Krishna, ‘Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you offer as gifts, whatever austerities you perform — do that all as an offering to Me.’