UNDERSTANDING FEAR ITSELF
Fear is as nonsubstantial as your shadow, but it is. The shadow also exists—nonsubstantial, negative, but not nonexistential—and sometimes the shadow can have a great impact on you. In a jungle when the night is approaching you can be frightened of your own shadow. In a lonely place, on a lonely path, you can start running because of your own shadow. Your running will be real, your escaping will be real, but the cause will be nonsubstantial.
You can run away from a rope thinking that it is a snake; if you come back and you look closely and you observe, you will laugh at the whole stupidity of it. But people are afraid to come to places where fear exists. People are more afraid of fear than of anything else, because the very existence of fear shakes your foundations.
The shaking of the foundations is very real, remember. The fear is like a dream, a nightmare, but after a nightmare when you are awake the aftereffects still persist, the hangover persists. Your breathing has changed, you are perspiring, your body is still trembling, you are hot. Now you know that it was just a nightmare, a dream, nonsubstantial, but even this knowing will take time to penetrate to the very core of your being. Meanwhile the effect of the nonsubstantial dream will continue. Fear is a nightmare.
What is fear made of? Fear is made of ignorance of one’s own self. There is only one fear; it manifests in many ways, a thousand and one can be the manifestations, but basically fear is one, and that is that “Deep inside, I may not be.” And in a way it is true that you are not. Godliness is, you are not. The host is not, the guest is. And because you are suspicious—and your suspicion is valid—you don’t look in. You go on pretending that you are; you know that if you look in, you are not! This is a deep, tacit understanding. It is not intellectual, it is existential; it is in your very guts, the feeling that “I may not be. It is better not to look in. Go on looking out.” At least it keeps you fooled, it keeps the illusion intact that “I am.” But because this feeling of “I amness” is false, it creates fear. You know that anything can destroy it, any deep encounter can shatter it. It can be shattered by love, it can be shattered by a serious disease, it can be shattered by seeing someone die. It can be shattered in many ways, it is very fragile. You are managing it somehow by not looking in.
Mulla Nasruddin was traveling on a train. The ticket collector came; he asked for the ticket. He looked in all his pockets, in all his suitcases, and the ticket was not found. He was perspiring, and he was becoming more and more frightened. And then the ticket collector said, “Sir, but you have not looked in one of your pockets. Why don’t you look in it?”
Mulla Nasruddin said, “Please don’t talk about that pocket. I am not going to look in it. That is my only hope! If I look in that pocket and it is not found, then it is lost, then it is absolutely not anywhere to be found. I cannot look in that pocket. Mind you, I will look everywhere else; that pocket is my safety, I can still hope that it may be in that pocket. I have left it deliberately and I am not going to touch it. Whether I find the ticket or not, I am not going to look in that particular pocket.”
This is the situation with the ego too. You don’t look in, that is your only hope: “Who knows? Maybe it is there.” But if you look, your intuitive feeling says it is not there.
This false ego, which you have created by not looking in, by continuously looking out, is the root cause of fear. You will be afraid of all those spaces in which you have to look. You will be afraid of beauty because beauty simply throws you within. A beautiful sunset, and all those luminous colors in the clouds, and you will be afraid to look at it because such great beauty is bound to throw you inside yourself. Such great beauty stops your thinking: For a moment the mind is in such awe, it forgets how to think, how to go on spinning and weaving. The inner talk comes to a stop, a halt, and you are suddenly in.
People are afraid of great music, people are afraid of great poetry, people are afraid of deep intimacy. People’s love affairs are just hit-and-run affairs. They don’t go deep into each other’s being because going deep into each other’s being, the fear is there—the other’s pool of being will reflect you. In that pool, in that mirror of the other’s being, if you are not found, if the mirror remains empty, if it reflects nothing, then what?
People are afraid of love. They only pretend, they only go on playing games in the name of love. They are afraid of meditation; even in the name of meditation at the most they go on practicing new ways of thinking. That’s what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation is—it is neither meditation nor transcendental, it is simply chanting a mantra. And chanting a mantra is nothing but a process of thought, concentrated thought. It is again a new device, a device not to meditate. People are repeating Christian prayers, Mohammedan prayers, Hindu prayers—all ways to avoid meditation. These are not meditations, remember. Mind is so cunning that in the name of meditation it has created many false phenomena.
Meditation is when you are not doing anything at all, when the mind is not functioning at all. That nonfunctioning of the mind is meditation—no chanting, no mantra, no image, no concentration. One just simply is. In that isness, the ego disappears, and with the ego the shadow of the ego disappears.
That shadow is fear.
Fear is one of the most important problems. Each human being has to go through it and has to come to a certain understanding about it. The ego gives you the fear that one day you may have to die. You go on deceiving yourself that death happens only to others, and in a way you are right: Some neighbor dies, some acquaintance dies, some friend dies, your wife dies, your mother dies—it always happens to somebody else, never to you. You can hide behind this fact. Maybe you are an exception, you are not going to die. The ego is trying to protect you.
But each time somebody dies, something in you becomes shaky. Each death is a small death to you. Never send somebody to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Each death is your death. Even when a dry leaf falls from the tree, it is your death. Hence we go on protecting ourselves.
Somebody is dying and we talk about the immortality of the soul, and the leaf is falling from the tree and we say, “Nothing to be worried about. Soon the spring will come and the tree will again have foliage. This is only a change, only the garments are being changed.”
People believe in the immortality of the soul not because they know but because they are afraid. The more cowardly a person is the more is the possibility that he will believe in the immortality of the soul—not that he is religious, he is simply cowardly. The belief in the immortality of the soul has nothing to do with religion. The religious person knows that “I am not,” and then whatever is left is immortal—but it has nothing to do with “me.” This “me” is not immortal, this “I” is not immortal. This “I” is just temporary; it is manufactured by us.
Fear is the shadow of “I.” And because the “I” is always alert somewhere deep down it will have to disappear in death.… The basic fear is of death; all other fears only reflect the basic one. And the beauty is that death is as nonexistential as ego. So between these two nonexistentials, the ego and death, the bridge is fear.
Fear itself is impotent, it has no power. It is just that you want to believe in it—that’s its only power. You are not ready to take a plunge into your inner depth and to face your inner emptiness—that is its power. Otherwise it is impotent, utterly impotent. Nothing is ever born out of fear. Love gives birth, love is creative; fear is impotent. It has never created anything. It cannot create anything because it has no substance. But it can destroy your whole life, it can surround you like a dark cloud, it can exploit all your energies. It will not allow you to move into any deep experience of beauty, poetry, love, joy, celebration, meditation. No, it will keep you just on the surface because it can exist only on the surface. It is a ripple on the surface.
Go in, look in … and if it is empty, so what? Then that’s our nature, then that’s what we are. Why should one be worried about emptiness? Emptiness is as beautiful as the sky. Your inner being is nothing but the inner sky. The sky is empty, but it is the empty sky that holds all, the whole existence, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the planets. It is the empty sky that gives space to all that is. It is the empty sky that is the background of all that exists. Things come and go and the sky remains the same.
In exactly the same way, you have an inner sky; it is also empty. Clouds come and go, planets are born and disappear, stars arise and die, and the inner sky remains the same, untouched, untarnished, unscarred. We call that inner sky the witness, the watcher—and that is the whole goal of meditation.
Go in, enjoy the inner sky. Remember, whatsoever you can see, you are not it. You can see thoughts, then you are not thoughts; you can see your feelings, then you are not your feelings; you can see your dreams, desires, memories, imaginations, projections, then you are not those things. Go on eliminating all that you can see. Then one day the tremendous moment arrives, the most significant moment of one’s life, when there is nothing left to be rejected. All the seen has disappeared and only the seer is there. That seer is the empty sky.
To know it is to be fe...