Love and Fear
Sometimes one reads a book that, on the face of it, is far removed from Sant Mat, yet, on reflection, is found to be dealing with the same issues and saying the same things but in a different way. One such book was written over 30 years ago by an American psychiatrist, G. G. Jampolsky, called Love Is Letting go of Fear.
In this book, Jampolsky talks about the importance of having a positive attitude to life and living in the present moment. He urges us to realize that peace of mind is within our grasp if we pursue it with determination. Jampolsky argues that love and the process of letting go of fear are two sides of the same coin. Unless fear diminishes, love cannot grow; until love takes over, fear moulds our thinking and drives our actions whether we are aware of this or not. He states:
Fear always distorts our perception and confuses us as to what is going on. Love is the total absence of fear.… Its natural state is one of extension and expansion, not comparison and measurement.
It would be an understatement to say that love has a prominent place in Sant Mat – it is at the very heart of the teachings. About fear, Maharaj Charan Singh remarked that it is all pervasive. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II somebody asks him, “I don’t understand when the verse says we are never happy here. It seems that we are definitely happy sometimes.” Master replies:
There’s always a fear at the bottom of that pleasure.… Unless that fear is removed, there can be no permanent happiness … we can only get happiness when we are filled with love and devotion for the Father, not otherwise.
This means that as we go through life trying to calculate what to do in order to maximize pleasure and minimize pain we are, in effect, missing the point. When our efforts fail, we tend to attribute it to bad luck, a lack of determination, a mistake in our calculations or letting our emotions get the better of us. From a spiritual point of view, adopting such an approach to life is a futile exercise that flies in the face of reality; the universe cannot be manipulated in this way, however clever or well-meaning we may be. Maharaj Charan Singh makes this point when responding to a question about worry. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III he says:
You can’t try to be happy. If you stop worrying, you automatically become happy – it is a positive approach, not a negative approach.… By nature, man is happy and contented. What makes us miserable is our wishes, our demands, our ambitions, our desires … and all our desires can’t be fulfilled. Whatever is in your destiny will be fulfilled; what is not in your destiny – your worry will not be able to fulfil that desire.
Consider now these three statements: The mind is extremely powerful. Everybody wants to be happy. Nobody is happy.
Can they all be true? We can ask ourselves, “If my mind is so powerful and my mind wants to be happy, then why am I not happy?” This question becomes even more baffling if, as Maharaj Charan Singh says, by nature we are happy and contented. How can this be? If we are, by nature, happy and contented, it would seem that something must have gone terribly wrong for us no longer to be in our natural state. The “nature” referred to by the Master must be very different from human nature as it commonly manifests itself. If we reflect, we will perhaps realize that he is referring to our underlying nature, to how we are in the core of our being when all the outer trappings of name, nationality, race, religion, career and so on have been stripped away.
Thus, the fear to which Maharaj Charan Singh refers would be part and parcel of our strong sense of individual identity. It can come in many forms: fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of poverty, fear of old age, loneliness, illness, death – the list goes on. All these fears arise from what the Master described as the “negative approach”. Jampolsky says something similar:
When we have a desire to get something from another person or the world and we are not successful, the result is stress expressed in the form of frustration, depression, perceptions of pain, illness and death.
Jampolsky emphasizes that the problem of fear arises from within our own minds:
The mind is actually the director, producer, script writer, film editor, cast, projectionist, audience and critic. The mind, being limitless, has the capacity of changing the movie and everything about it at any time. The mind has the power of making all decisions.
Then he asks:
What would happen if we believed that what we see is determined by the thoughts in our mind? Perhaps we could entertain an idea that at the moment seems unnatural and foreign to us; namely, that our thoughts are the cause and what we see is the effect.
This may sound strange. It is certainly contrary to our normal way of thinking. However, it is a key element of many spiritual teachings. The great Buddhist text known as the Dhammapada has, as one of its key refrains, “Our life is the creation of our mind.” Normally we might understand this in the context of reincarnation – in other words, it could mean that what we think in this life helps to mould the course of our future lives. But Jampolsky is saying more than this, urging us to take this teaching in a much more ‘here and now’ way. Not only can our thoughts change, they can change now, in this lifetime, this year, this day, this moment. How? He says:
It may be helpful to question our need to attempt to control the external world. We can, instead, control our inner world by consistently choosing what thoughts we want to have in our mind.
In other words, we should not rely on our clumsy ways of trying to influence or control the world around us; instead, we should put the emphasis on controlling our own thoughts. However, as Jampolsky explains, this is hard because even though we want to get rid of our pain and frustration, we insist on holding on to our self-concepts and belief systems. We don’t want to let go of them because they are so intimately intertwined with our sense of who we are and of our place in the world. And yet, in clinging to them, we are, in effect, retaining a fearful way of seeing the world.
To address this problem, Jampolsky advises us to retrain the mind. In Sant Mat, we retrain the mind through satsang, seva and simran, which will ultimately lead to the transformative power of the Shabd. Jampolsky also points out that an important aspect of training the mind is to become forgiving:
We can learn to retrain our minds to have the single goal of peace of mind and the single function of practising forgiveness. Forgiveness is the vehicle used for correcting our misperceptions and for helping us to let go of fear.
Forgiveness, as defined here, is not simply a decision to tolerate behaviour that we do not like. Here, forgiveness means correcting our misperception that another person has harmed us. Jampolsky writes, “We could choose to see the world through the window of love rather than the window of fear.” This would enable us to focus on seeing all that is positive, such as beauty and love, as well as people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.
If we can truly forgive people in this sense, then we will no longer react emotionally to perceived problems, insults and setbacks. As Jampolsky makes clear, “Attack is really a form of defence and, as with all defences that are designed to keep guilt and fear from our awareness, attack actually preserves the problem.” So, instead of feeling aggrieved and living in fear of further mistreatment, we can choose a more positive approach. “The moment we put our attention on helping someone, we cease to perceive ourselves as ill or in pain, and we will find meaning in the statement, ‘To give is to receive.’” Giving means extending one’s love with no conditions, no expectations and no boundaries.
All of this is beautifully summed up by Maharaj Charan Singh in Spiritual Perspectives Vol. III:
We generally do forgive, but sometimes it becomes difficult to forget. It still weighs a little on our conscience. We should even forget that we have forgiven. If you forget that you have forgiven, then you will forget the original incident. If it is always weighing on your mind that “I have forgiven, I have forgiven,” it means you’ve not forgotten at all. It shouldn’t weigh on your mind…. If you forget the whole incident, if you don’t even recollect it, then you’ve really forgiven.