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Friday, August 28, 2020

Desire and Fear


The vigrahas (wrongly called idol or icon in English) of all the Hindu pantheon of Gods will have one hand in abhaya hasta (do not be afraid) mode and the other in varada hasta (I will protect you) mode. It makes sense because two driving forces of life are desire and fear. Desire because of need to seek food and mate leading to exploration and fear needed to save oneself from becoming food and escape death.

The problem with desire is that it is often unreasonable, always asking for more and leads to attachment. The desire to save oneself and escape death leads to fear which may result in running away (physical escape) and to imagination (mental escape). That is why Buddha advised us to let go of everything including desires and fear. Upanishads went one step further and suggested that “we let go of that by which we are trying to let go”. (In Sanskrit, it is a beautiful command: yena tyajasi tat tyaja). This means letting go of the mind itself, which is not possible.

The best we can do is to control the mind. That is also a difficult task. That is where meditation comes in. We are also asked to let go of the attachments by looking at our emotions such as desires and fears, looking deeply to understand the source and the seeds of suffering. We are asked to observe our inner landscape without judgment and  as a witness. A witness is not part of the scene. A witness is an impartial observer from outside to report to the judge. She is not the judge.

Bhagavad Gita asks us to do the same thing in relations to our actions. Since we cannot help but act, Lord Krishna asks us to “act but let go of your attachments to the fruits of action”.   He did not recommend sitting idle. (ma tey sangostu akarmani)

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