Ideals and Values/Absence of Fear (Abhayam)
- 1 Absence of Fear (Abhayam)
- 1.1 26.1 Why should we be Free of Fear?
- 1.2 26.2 Giving the Gift of Fearlessness to Others:
- 1.3 26.3 Why do we become Fearful? How can we Overcome Fear?
- 1.4 26.4 Other ways of getting rid of Fear
- 1.5 26.5 The Fearless Bhakta (Devotee) of Bhagav?n
- 1.6 26.6 Is all Fear Bad? Distinguishing between Bravery & Foolhardiness/Cautiousness:
- 1.7 26.7 Fearlessness and Self-Confidence
- 1.7.1 Practicing Fearlessness ? Examples from the Hindu Traditions
- 22.214.171.124 Story: THE SACRIFICE OF GURU TEGH BAHADUR:
- 126.96.36.199 Story: The Bravery of Unniyarchaa
- 188.8.131.52 Story: The Sacrifice of Scholar Sudarshana S?r? and the Temple Dancer
- 184.108.40.206 Story: Teenager Hakikat Rai Puri Gives up His Life for is Dharma
- 220.127.116.11 Story: The bravery of the Princesses of Sindh:
- 18.104.22.168 Story: Chhatras?l shows signs of Bravery in his Teenage Years
- 22.214.171.124 Story: Why India lost to Iran
- 126.96.36.199 Story: Swami Vivekananda Fights off Dangerous Monkeys
- 188.8.131.52 Story: Swami Sahajananda?s Fights the Evil Custom of Female Infanticide
- 184.108.40.206 Story: Sage Dandamis is not Intimidated by Emperor Alexander?s Threats
- 1.7.1 Practicing Fearlessness ? Examples from the Hindu Traditions
- 1.8 26.8 Vedic Prayers for Fearlessness:
- 1.9 26.9 Words of Saints
- 1.10 Further Research:
Absence of Fear (Abhayam)
RELATED VIRTUES & SYNOYMNS: Bravery, Risk Taking, Sticking out One?s Neck, Courage, Self-confidence
OPPOSING QUALITIES: Cowardice, Timidity, Fearfulness
26.1 Why should we be Free of Fear?
- When Krishna starts listing the 26 Divine Treasures of a virtuous human in the Bhagavad Gita (verse 16.1), he mentions ?absence of fear? as the first virtue. The reason for this is that a person who is always scared, who is timid and coward will never have the courage to practice all other values.
- It is not always easy to practice Dharma. It might take a lot of courage, boldness and guts to take a decision that is correct, but hard to take. But one who is a coward will hesitate to take that step forward and take the correct decision. As a result, he will not move forward. In fact, he might go backwards!
- A person who is timid or a coward will not have the courage to stand up for his own beliefs and ideals when the situation requires. If others ridicule him for practicing Dharma, he will not defend his behavior to others and would rather sulk, keep quiet, or even start following the path of Adharma to ?fit-in? with others. If we continue to live in fear, and are scared of every little thing, we are doing a great disservice to ourselves.
- Whenever someone questions the beliefs or practices of a fearful person, he shies away due to timidity. He might show a smile on his face, but he will feel hurt, depressed and humiliated in his mind. We must not hurt others, but that does not mean that we do keep hurting ourselves due to the mistakes of others and our own fears and timidity.
- A fearless person does not run away from his problems. He faces them boldly and overcomes them. A coward can never be a leader. If he sees any injustices in the society, he just accepts them meekly. But a brave person raises his voice and tries to fix social evils and injustices that he sees around him.
In summary we should watch out for fear because, ??Fear in all its different aspects is the greatest enemy of man. Constant fear saps the vitality and destroys one?s ability and confidence, which makes one powerless. It is a great enemy of success. What paralysis does to the physical body, fear does to the mind. It is a most destructive emotion. It breaks down the nervous system and undermines health. It creates worry and renders happiness and peace of mind practically impossible. Clinging to life and body, or love of earthly life, are the main causes of all fear.?1
26.2 Giving the Gift of Fearlessness to Others:
Fearlessness also means that we should constantly avoid hating others, hurting others or feeling angry or jealous towards others so that the creatures around us are not afraid of us in any way.
Granting the gift of fearlessness [such as from attack by bandits] is superior to all other gifts of charity. By doing so, the donor attains that world (or state) that he has desired. Vishnu Dharma Sutra 92.1-2
He who grants protection to frightful creatures begets a long life and happiness, and all his mental desires are fulfilled. Samvartta Smriti 53
26.3 Why do we become Fearful? How can we Overcome Fear?
- Abhinivesha (The Fear of Physical Harm or Death): Self-preservation is a basic trait of all living beings. No one wants to die, or to get harmed. Accordingly, the fear of death or injury is the major cause of fear in human beings. But Hindu Dharma teaches that what we call death is merely the destruction of our physical body. Our true essence, the soul, does not die and will never die. After the old body is destroyed during the death, the soul finds another body to inhabit and enliven. The three desires of a soul are immortality (of freedom from the death of its physical body), unrestricted awareness and infinite Joy. These are attained only in the state of Moksha. Spiritual practices like Meditation help a lot in overcoming this fear. Through meditation, we become aware of the fact that our true identity is indeed our Atm? and not this perishable body. We can see our distinction from the body through meditation, whereas in our day to day life, we tend to identify ourselves completely with our body.
- The Fear of Financial Loss: The second cause of fear is that of losing our possessions or financial security. This fear can be overcome by thoroughly planning our lives so that the chances of loss are minimized. The second solution of this type of fear is to understand that possessions are never permanent. Money is like a rotating wheel that travels from one place to another. Change is a fact of life. If we are rich today, we may be poor tomorrow or vice versa. This understanding should make us become less attached to our material possessions, which can never be our constant companions. Instead, we should attach ourselves to something with which we have a permanent association and relationship ? namely Bhagav?n.
- Fear of Infamy and Loss of Loved Ones: The third cause of fear is that of losing face in front of, or losing the companionship of our dear ones ? be they family members of be they friends. Hindu Dharma teaches us that separation from our loved ones is a fact of life and is inevitable. We are all like logs of wood floating in the endless ocean of samsara (the world of birth and rebirths). For some period of time, we come in contact with a few other logs, our friends and relative, but then we drift apart. In the future, we will come in contact with the same logs again, and then drift apart again. This is the true nature of this world, a reality that we should not deny. The only constant friend or companion that we have is our Karma ? good or bad deeds that do not depart from us with death. And the second eternal companion is of course Bhagav?n. We should imbibe this truth of life in our minds thoroughly so that we are not perturbed too much by the thought of losing our dear ones. Why get worried about something that is bound to happen, and which we can never prevent? Does this mean that we have only a superficial relationship with others? No! It means that we use our life to treat others in a way that enhances the wisdom and knowledge of our ?tm?s.
- Fear from Guilt: The fourth cause of fear is caused by the guilt that we have not given others their due share. Life is like a giant web in which we are all interconnected. What we are today is not merely the results of our own efforts, but also a result of all that our parents, siblings, other elders, friends, the society in general and other people have done for us. We should not life like an isolated island, worrying only about our own welfare. We should spend considerable time and effort to do our duties towards others, and also do karma that benefit others. This will give us a peace of mind, and rid us of any guilt feelings later on in our lives.
26.4 Other ways of getting rid of Fear
- Cultivate thoughts of Bravery and Courage: The Yoga Darshana teaches a technique ? ?pratipaksha bh?van?? or thinking the opposite. Most of our fears our imaginary and unreal. If we think thoughts that are of courage and bravery, we can counter the negative thoughts that keep coming in our mind. Secondly, we should analyze our fears rationally and determine which of those fears are imaginary and which ones are real. We will conclude that most of them have no basis in reality and are just a figment of our imagination.
- Become a Spiritual Person: The doctrines of Vedanta and Bhakti also teach that we should constantly feel the presence of Bhagav?n and also develop a deep faith, trust, love and a spirit of surrender for Bhagav?n. Then, no matter what real dangers we face in our life, we will be able to battle them with full courage knowing well that Bhagav?n is also wielding weapons for us to fight these dangers. Implicit faith in Bhagav?n and a spirit of surrender unto Him help us in accepting any adverse turn of events as His will. Downturns in our lives do not break our spirit because we understand that it was Bhagav?n?s will and that we must bear the difficult circumstances bravely till He gives us better times.
26.5 The Fearless Bhakta (Devotee) of Bhagav?n
Taking Bhagav?n as our personal Protector is in fact the best way to overcome the fears in our lives. Swami Sahaj?nanda Sw?m?n?r?ya? (1781 ? 1830 CE) had taught that these four types of devotees of Bhagav?n never experience any fear including that of death:
- The Believer: He who has utmost faith in Bhagav?n does not fear even death because he takes everything that happens to him as a gift of Bhagav?n.
- The Enlightened: This person understands the true eternal nature of the soul and knows that death affects only his body, not his soul.
- The Brave: This type of person is not easily intimated by threats, and stays firm on the path of Dharma and devotion to Bhagav?n no matter what. Therefore, he does not fear even death.
- The Loving Devotee: The person who is totally engrossed in his love towards Bhagav?n has no time to get distracted by fears and threats. Therefore, a loving devotee of Bhagav?n does not fear even death.
26.6 Is all Fear Bad? Distinguishing between Bravery & Foolhardiness/Cautiousness:
All fear is not bad. There is a distinction between fearlessness and fool-hardiness. A fool-hardy or a cautious person is not afraid of genuine dangers, and therefore advances like a fool towards avoidable dangers. As a result, he lands up harming himself unnecessarily. To save ourselves from being a fool-hardy person, we should follow these steps:
- Determine if the fear is genuine or real by looking at the situation. For example, if a lion is inside a steel cage that is locked, then we should not fear it. But if the lion is out in the open a short distance from you, then there is a genuine cause to fear it!
- Channel your fear to protect yourself: A fool-hardy person does not recognize a danger when he is faced with it. Due to this, his body does not respond to the danger as it should, by boosting the release of adrenaline, increased blood flow to the legs (so that you can run away) etc.
- Direct your fear to acquire a faith in Bhagav?n: We all fear death, loss of possessions and so on. Instead of just fearing these things, our fears should motivate us to make an effort towards learning about Bhagav?n and develop a relationship with Him.
26.7 Fearlessness and Self-Confidence
A natural outcome of being fearless is that we have confidence in our own knowledge, strength, skills and experiences. A fearful person has no self-confidence, and even if he is capable of doing a task, he shies away from completing it. In the Ramayana, we have a beautiful example of Hanuman, who was scared of jumping across the ocean to search for Devi Sita, till the Rishis reminded him of his strength and swiftness. Once Hanuman gained his self-confidence, he was able to do what others could never do.
Practicing Fearlessness ? Examples from the Hindu Traditions
Being a fearless person does not necessarily mean that we just pick up a gun and fight our enemies. Fighting a battle or a war of course requires fearlessness. But more than that, we can exhibit this quality in our day to day lives in many different ways.
Story: THE SACRIFICE OF GURU TEGH BAHADUR:
Emperor Aurangzeb, who ruled India from 1658 ? 1707 CE was a very fanatical Muslim ruler. He destroyed several temples of Hindus, dismissed his Hindu employees and underpaid them, denied promotion to them, imposed several special taxes on the non-Muslims, and also banned the celebration of Hindu festivals and other religious ceremonies. In the year 1765, he also issued orders to burn Hindu scriptures in several cities to stop all types of traditional Hindu education. The Emperor decided that in order to convert all Hindus to Islam, it was very important to first convert the Brahmanas, who were their religious leaders.
And therefore, he ordered his Governors to capture the Brahmanas, snap the sacred thread that they wore around their right shoulders and coerce them to convert. The persecution of Hindus was especially very severe in Kashmir. A group of Kashmiri Hindus went to the Amarnath cave shrine of Shiva, and prayed to him to protect their religion. Shiva appeared in a dream to Pandit Kriparam Dutt, their leader, and asked him to seek the help of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikh community.
The Pandits of Kashmir appealed to Guru Tegh Bahadur to help them. He asked them to convey the following message to Aurangzeb, ?If you succeed in converting me to Islam, then all the Hindus of Kashmir will also do so. But if you fail to make me a Muslim, then you will not force Kashmir?s Hindus to convert either.? Aurangzeb accepted. Guru Tegh Bahadur left for Delhi to see the Emperor with his three disciples, who were willing to risk their lives as well.
At Delhi, the Guru and his disciples were immediately imprisoned. The Muslim Qazi (magistrate) asked the Guru to either convert to Islam, or face death. When the Guru did not relent, they started torturing his three disciples and killed them one by one in front of the eyes of the Guru. The first disciple was sawed into two pieces alive. The second was boiled to death in an oil cauldron. The third was wrapped in a bale of cotton and was burnt to death. The Guru was deeply pained but refused to convert to Islam. The Emperor asked the Guru to show a miracle if he wanted to save his life. But the Guru refused, saying that it he cannot disobey God?s rules by showing miracles.
It was ordered that the Guru would be beheaded if he did not convert. But the brave Guru agreed to face death rather than give up his religion. The site where he was beheaded is today a Sikh shrine in Delhi. The great sacrifice of the Guru was possible because the Guru valued his religion more than his life, and was willing to stand up for his principles as a brave man, and as a spiritual person who believed in the eternality of the soul. His is an example of a true devotee of Bhagav?n who accepted his murder as the will of Bhagav?n, and therefore did not forsake his principles.
The sacrifice of the Guru did not go in vain. His son, Guru Gobind Singh, raised an army of Sikhs within a few decades. And within less than a century, the Sikh warriors freed large parts of the region of Punjab in India from the Islamic rule.
Story: The Bravery of Unniyarchaa
In the early 17th cent. CE., there lived a fencing and martial arts master named Aromal Chekavar. He trained his sister Unniyarcha also in sword-fighting. Unfortunately, she got married to a coward named Kunnhiraman.
One day, Unniyarcha expressed a wish to offer worship at a nearby Mandir of Bhagav?n Ayappa. But her mother in law refused permission saying, ?The path to the Mandir is dangerous. Often, members of the Chonaka tribe attack pilgrims and carry away their women as prisoners.? But Unniyarcha would not be daunted. With a sword in her hand, she proceeded to the Mandir, taking her husband. On the way, the Chonaka tribesmen attacked the group, but Unniyarcha unsheathed her sword and valiantly killed her attackers. When the Chonaka chief heard about his men being killed by a woman, he too rushed to fight her. But, he soon realized that it was none other than the sister of his own martial arts Guru Aromal.
He appealed to Unniyarcha to sheath her sword and pardon him. But Unniyarcha was in no mood to forgive him till he gave a promise that henceforth, no member of his tribe would attach pilgrim women on their way to the Mandir. Because of Unniyarcha?s bravery, many women were saved from kidnapping in the years that followed, and a ballad was written in Malayalam language in her honor. In modern times, even a movie has been made to depict the life of this brave heroine and plays are enacted to depict her bravery and fearlessness.
Story: The Sacrifice of Scholar Sudarshana S?r? and the Temple Dancer
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, the Sultan of Delhi, deputed his eldest son Ulugh Khan to invade the Hindu kingdoms of South India in 1321 C.E. When the Muslim army of Ulugh Khan was close to the Srirangam temple, a festival was being conducted. When the invaders reached a place called Samayapuram, a senior official of the temple, decided that no time was to be lost. He commanded the 12000 ascetics who had gathered there not to disperse and instead form a human wall to stop the army. Then, he locked the doors of the main worship chamber, barred the doorways of the shrines of both Lord Ranganayaka and Devi Ranganayika, and placed pseudo images outside. One of the ascetics was the noted scholar Sri Sudarshana Suri. Just before the army was about to reach the temple, he called his student Vedanta Deshika and said, ?I am handing over the manuscript of my greatest work Srutaprak?shik? and my two little sons to you. Protect them from the invaders.
The invading army desecrated the shrine, killed all the 12000 ascetics, including the great scholar Sri Sudarshana Bhatta. Vedanta Deshika hid himself amongst the corpses together with the sole manuscript of the Srutaprak?shik? and also the latter?s two sons. When the massacre was over, they fled to Satyamangalam in Mysore, where Sri Vedanta Deshika got several copies made of the manuscript of the Srutaprak?shik?. Due to the sacrifice and bravery of Sudarshana Suri and Vedanta Deshika, we still have that marvelous work of Hindu spiritual philosophy of Vedanta.
The Muslim army occupied the temple precincts and put and an end to Hindu worship. A temple courtesan, who fascinated the invading general, prevailed upon him not to destroy the temple altogether, and restrict his vandalism to the destruction of a few cornices. The Brahmins in the surrounding areas tried to perform the sacred rituals whenever they could, but were harassed by the occupying Muslim forces constantly. Unable to bear the harassment of the devotees by the Muslims, she enticed the Muslim chief, took him up a temple tower in the east, and in the pretext of showing him a famous M?rti from there, she pushed him down and killed him. Scared that she will be tortured by the Muslims as a result of her deed, she threw herself also down. According to tradition, to honor her memory, the funeral pyres of temple courtesans are lit by fire brought from the temple kitchen. In 1371 C.E., the newly founded Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar wrested back Srirangam from Muslim control, but it was the bravery of the courtesan and the 12,000 defenseless ascetics that saved the Mandir from total destruction.
Story: Teenager Hakikat Rai Puri Gives up His Life for is Dharma
In the early 17th cent CE in the city of Sialkot (now in Pakistan), a teenager boy Hakikat Rai was playing with his Muslim friends. Suddenly, a friend began to taunt him over his Hindu faith, and ridiculed the Devi. Hakikat Rai warned him not to say another abusive word against the Devi, but his friend persisted.
Hakikat Rai became angry, and he too counter-abused his friend by making an abusive comment against the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. The word of this incident reached the years of the Qazi (the Muslim magistrate) of Sialkot. Hakikat Rai was summoned to Lahore and upon confessing his crime, he was given the choice of conversion to Islam or death by the governor of the province. Hakikat Rai?s parents rushed to the scene and they
begged with their teenaged boy to convert to Islam. They reminded him that he had been married recently and they did not want to see his wife widowed. But Hakikat Rai refused to convert, and as a result, he was executed on the day of Basant Panchami festival.
This incident caused a great consternation among the Hindus of the region. A Samadhi (mausoleum) was constructed in his memory at the site of his funeral. The Hindus of Lahore started the annual kite-flying festival in his memory on the day of the Basant Panchami festival. The festival caught on and became very popular. An annual fair began to be organized on the day of the festival in the memory of the brave Hindu boy who gave up his life but not his religion.
Today, even though there are no Hindus left in Lahore, the festival of kite flying on Basant Panchami is still celebrated. However, the local Muslims no longer pay homage to the Samadhi of Rai. His wife died several years later and was cremated at Batala, a city that is now in India. Today, a shrine has been constructed at her Samadhi in the memory of Hakikat Rai.
Story: The bravery of the Princesses of Sindh:
In the year 711-712 CE, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim invaded the Hindu kingdom of Sindh ruled by King Dahir. In a battle, Dahir was killed and his daughters were captured. Qasim sent the daughters to his Arab King in Baghdad as a gift.
The daughters wanted to avenge the death of their father. Therefore, they told the Arab King that they had already been abused by Qasim, and were therefore not worthy of him. The Arab ruler believed them and recalled Qasim to Baghdad for this insult. He had Qasim executed. Later on, he learned that the Princesses had lied to get revenge for their father?s death, but it was too late. He had them dragged on the streets by horses, till the two Princesses died.
Story: Chhatras?l shows signs of Bravery in his Teenage Years
Prince Chhatrasal: Chhatrasal (1649 ? 1720 CE) is considered as the founder of the Hindu kingdom of Bundelkhand during the reign of the bigoted Muslim ruler Aurangzeb. His kingdom provided one more refuge for non-Muslims in India, and led to the construction of numerous beautiful temples, revival of Hindu religious learning and patronage of Hindu saints. Amazingly, Chhatrasal started his revolt at the age of 22 with the help of just 5 horsemen and 25 soldiers!
Chhatrasal was the son of a Hindu chief Raja Champat Rai and Lal Kunwar. He showed great signs of bravery even as a teenager. Once, his entire family were on their way to the Vindhy?v?sin? Dev? temple in central India. The 13 year old Chhatrasal was ahead of his family. When he reached fairly close to the Mandir, he met several Muslim Pathans, who asked him for the location of the Mandir.
Chhatrasal asked, ?Have you come to get a Darshan of the Devi?? The Pathans laughed, ?What a fool! We have come to destroy the temple and break the M?rti worshipped by you Hindus.? Chhatrasal became very angry and challenged them to a fight. The Pathans mocked him saying, ?You are but a teenager. Better scamper off and save your life.?
But Chhatrasal could not be scared of. A sword fight ensued, and the 13 year old Chhatrasal single handedly killed all the Pathans. His act of bravery saved the Hindu mandir from destruction. When Chhatrasal grew up, he decided to stop Aurangzeb?s policy of religious persecution of Hindus. Guided by his spiritual Guru Swami Pran Nath, he created the kingdom of Bundelkhand in which Hindus could heave a sigh of relief.
Story: Why India lost to Iran
In the year 1738, Nadir Shah, the cruel Emperor of Iran invaded India. After his armies occupied Delhi, the capital of the Moghul Empire, some residents of Delhi killed a few Iranian soldiers. Nadir Shah was enraged, and he ordered his troops to slaughter the residents of the city. For a whole day, the Iranian soldiers combed one house after the other, and slaughtered the innocent residents.
The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila was terrified to see the slaughter of his citizens, and he appealed to Nadir Shah to relent and stop his soldiers from killing innocent people. Nadir Shah placed several conditions for peace. A traitor in the Mughal court had told Nadir Shah that the Mughal Emperor had hid the Koh-i-Noor in his royal turban. When Nadir Shah met the Mughal Emperor, he suggested that the two kings should exchange turbans as a mark of future friendship. The Mughal Emperor was in a fix, but he could not refuse. And so went the largest diamond in the world (at that time) to the Iranian Emperor.
Another of these conditions was especially humiliating ? he asked the Mughal Emperor to send women from his family into the camp of Nadir Shah during night time. The Emperor had no choice but to accept this demand as well.
When the Mughal ladies entered the tent of Nadir Shah, the Iranian Emperor was sleeping in his bed with his sword hanging behind his back and from his waist. For several hours, the Mughal ladies stood there, shivering with fear. At last, Nadir Shah woke up. When he saw the Mughal ladies shivering with fright, he laughed and said ? ?You kept standing for several hours behind my back and I did not know of it because I was fast asleep. And yet, none of you had the guts to grab the sword from my waist and kill me. You are all cowards. No wonder, when the women of this country are so timid, they can hardly raise children who are brave and strong. This is why your country lost the battle to my troops.?
Story: Swami Vivekananda Fights off Dangerous Monkeys
?Once Swami Vivekananda, as an itinerant monk happened to pass through some lonely forest near the city of Banaras. He suddenly found himself surrounded by a large band of monkeys. Not having even a staff in his hand to scare the monkeys away, he could think of no means of escaping from the monkeys except to run away. As he began to run, the monkeys also in their hundreds began to run after him. The Swami felt exhausted and helpless, when he suddenly heard the words, ?Flee not but face the trouble. Face it and it will flee from you.? He stopped running at once and turning back faced the monkeys, when all of them appeared to get nonplussed, and then they started running away.?2
This episode from the life of the Swami teaches us that we should not run away scared from our problems like a coward. Instead, we should face them and overcome them.
Story: Swami Sahajananda?s Fights the Evil Custom of Female Infanticide
Swami Sahajananda staunchly opposed the practice of female infanticide practiced by some communities like the Rajputs in Gujarat. The custom was called ?dudh piti? (drowned in milk). A considerable expense was involved in the marriage of girls, due to which several families killed their new born daughters by drowning them in a pitcher of milk.
Swami Sahajananda preached that killing of innocent daughters involved a three-fold sin. First, it was the murder of an innocent family member. Second, it was the murder of a child. And third, it was the murder of a helpless woman.
But, the communities objected to Swami Sahajananda?s criticism of the custom and explained to him the difficulties in incurring the wedding expenses and so on. Swami Sahajananda retorted, ?This does not mean that you kill your own daughters. If you do not have enough money for marrying off your girls, the community can get together and collect the required amount.? But the members of these communities further argued, ?There are very few good grooms available. Why should we marry our daughters to boys who have bad habits?? Swami Sahajananda rejected all these arguments and said, ?My community of followers will take care to marry off your daughters to good men.?3
He also rallied against the practice of Sati and forbade any man to instigate a widow to commit suicide. He preached that the human body was an invaluable gift from God and should be used for working our way towards Moksha. Howsoever virtuous her late husband may have been, the widow should not commit Sati. And anyone who induces or forces a woman to commit Sati is a murderer of women.4
Swami Sahajananda risked making enemies of powerful communities of people in his area. But he truly believed that female infanticide and Sati were evil customs. Therefore, he was willing to stick out his neck to oppose them without any fear. But not only did show bravery, he also showed a lot of practical wisdom in making arrangements so that people could actually follow his ideals. This story shows that a good leader is not only brave, he is also very practical minded and makes it easy for people to follow his ideals.
Story: Sage Dandamis is not Intimidated by Emperor Alexander?s Threats
The following is an excerpt from J.W. McCrindle?s translation of Greek historians who accompanied Alexander to India.
?They (the Brahmanas) subsist upon such fruits as they can find, and on wild herbs, which the earth spontaneously produces, and drink only water. They wander about in the woods, and sleep at night on pallets of the leaves of trees??.
King Alexander, accordingly, when he heard of all this, was desirous of learning the doctrines of the sect, and so he sent for this Dandamis, as being their teacher and president. Onesikratês was therefore dispatched to fetch him, and when he found the great sage, he said, ?Hail to thee, thou teacher of the Bragmanes. The son of the mighty god Zeus, king Alexander, who is the sovereign lord of all men, asks you to go to him, and if you comply, he will reward you with great and splendid gifts, but if you refuse will cut off your head.?
Dandamis, with a complacent smile, heard him to the end, but did not so much as lift up his head from his couch of leaves, and while still retaining his recumbent attitude returned this scornful answer:?
?God, the supreme king, is never the author of insolent wrong, but is the creator of light, of peace, of life, of water, of the body of man, and of souls, and these he receives when death sets them free, being in no way subject to evil desire. He alone is the god of my homage, who abhors slaughter and instigates no wars.
?But Alexander is not God, since he must taste of death, and how can such as he be the world?s master, who has not yet reached the further shore of the river Tiberoboas, and has not yet seated himself on a throne of universal dominion? Moreover, Alexander has neither as yet entered living into Hades, nor does he know the course of the sun through the central regions of the earth, while the nations on its boundaries have not so much as heard his name.
?If his present dominions are not capacious enough for his desire, let him cross the Ganges river, and he will find a region able to sustain men if the country on our side be too narrow to hold him.
?Know this, however, that what Alexander offers me, and the gifts he promises, are all things to me utterly useless; but the things which I prize, and find of real use and worth, are these leaves which are my house, these blooming plants which supply me with dainty food, and the water which is my drink, while all other possessions and things, which are amassed with anxious care, are wont to prove ruinous to those who amass them, and cause only sorrow and vexation, with which every poor mortal is fully fraught. But as for me, I lie upon the forest leaves, and, having nothing which requires guarding, close my eyes in tranquil slumber; whereas had I gold to guard, that would banish sleep. The earth supplies me with everything, even as a mother her child with milk. I go wherever I please, and there are no cares with which I am forced to cumber myself, against my will.
?Should Alexander cut off my head, he cannot also destroy my soul. My head alone, now silent, will remain, but the soul will go away to its Master, leaving the body like a torn garment upon the earth, whence also it was taken. I then, becoming spirit, shall ascend to my God, who enclosed us in flesh, and left us upon the earth to prove whether when here below we shall prove obedient to his ordinances, and who also will require of us, when we depart hence to his presence, an account of our life, since he is judge of all proud wrong-doing; for the groans of the oppressed become the punishments of the oppressors.
?Let Alexander, then terrify with these threats those who wish for gold and for wealth, and who dread death, for against us these weapons are both alike powerless, since the Brahmanas neither love gold nor fear death. Go, then, and tell Alexander this: ?Dandamis has no need of aught that is yours, and therefore will not go to you, but if you want anything from Dandamis come you to him.? ?
Alexander, on receiving from Onesikratês a report of the interview, felt a stronger desire than ever to see Dandamis, who, though old and naked, was the only antagonist in whom he, the conqueror of many nations, had found more than his match.?5
26.8 Vedic Prayers for Fearlessness:
Free us Indra, from the fear of all that we are afraid of, May Thou, with thy saving power,
Turn away the hater and the enemy. Atharva Veda (Shaunaka Samhit?) 19.15.1
We beseech Indra, the bounteous Giver, We will be prosperous on men and cattle.
Let not the evil powers approach us; Turn the hostiles who surround us, away. Atharva Veda (Shaunaka Samhit?) 19.15.2
Adorable Indra, our Savior, The slayer of Vritra, fulfiller of our highest ambitions;
May he be our protector from yonder, From the middle, from behind and from the front. Atharva Veda (Shaunaka Samhit?) 19.15.3
Lead us to a free world, Wise One! Where lie the divine luster, sunlight and security.
Valiant are Thy arms of Thee, the Almighty, And we seek shelter in them. Atharva Veda (Shaunaka Samhit?) 19.15.4
May the mid regions free us from all fear, And both the Heaven and Earth make us secure.
Let there be for us, no fear from the west, No fear from the east, no fear from the north and no fear from the south. Atharva Veda (Shaunaka Samhit?) 19.15.5
Let there be no fear from friend, no fear from foe, No fear from the known, no fear from that which lies before us unknown.
Let there be no fear for us from night, no fear from day, May all the directions be my friends! Atharva Veda (Shaunaka Samhit?) 19.15.6
26.9 Words of Saints
?Fear in all its different aspects is the greatest enemy of man. Constant fear saps the vitality and destroys one?s ability and confidence, which makes one powerless. It is a great enemy of success. What paralysis does to the physical body, fear does to the mind. It is a most destructive emotion. It breaks down the nervous system and undermines health. It creates worry and renders happiness and peace of mind practically impossible. Clinging to life and body, or love of earthly life, are the main causes of all fear.?6 Swami Shivananda
Read about the lives of brave Hindu heroes like Chhatrapati Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Velu Thampi, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Rani Durgavati etc.
1 Swami Sivananda (2007), pages 4-7
2 Swami Sambuddhananda, p. 34
3 Dave, pages 43-45
4 Dave, pp. 45-47
5 J.W. McCrindle, Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian, Calcutta, Bombay, and London, 1877, online at lcweb2.loc.gov/service/gdc/scd0001/2004/20040416001in/20040416001in.pdf as of 18 March 2008, p. 123?126.
6 Swami Sivananda in ?About Fear,? pages 4-7 in Fear, Face It. 2006 Chinmaya Mission West. Piercy (California)