Can spirituality free one from stress?
Question: Can spirituality help one to become free from anxiety and fear?
To understand how, let’s begin with a thought exercise.
Suppose you are walking on a lonely street late at night. Suddenly you see a hefty, suspicious-looking person charging toward you. Just as fear starts creeping up your spine, you notice an armed policeman standing on guard nearby. Immediately your fear disappears.
Like in the above story, all of us are on a journey through the street of life. At any moment, problems – financial, familial, social, educational, professional, physical – may charge upon us. These problems – even their very thoughts – trigger fear within us. But if we are able to see the Lord always by our side, ready to protect us whenever required, then our fears will subside. The Bhagavad-gita (5.29) describes that the Lord is always present in our hearts, but we need to refine our devotional vision to perceive his presence there. Two quick and effective ways to feel God’s protective presence are praying to him and chanting his holy names.
Another way to overcome fear is by illumining ourselves with spiritual wisdom. When we enter a dark room, we imagine various dangers within it and so feel fearful. But when we turn on the light, we see our fears to be baseless. Similarly, when we are spiritually uninformed, life is like a dark room for us and so we often imagine things going wrong in the future and make ourselves fearful. When we turn on the light of divine wisdom in our own hearts, we understand our own spiritual identity as eternal souls who are forever beyond destruction. This understanding of our core invincibility enables us to dismiss most of our fears as the baseless imaginations of our paranoid minds.
Ultimately, courage comes not by the mere absence of fear, but by absorption in a cause that takes us beyond fear. When we are inspired by a great cause, a cause far greater than ourselves, our fears about protecting our own petty concerns evaporate. The greatest of all causes is the selfless devotional service of the Lord. Why? Because the Lord is the greatest well wisher of all living beings, and so, by serving his will, we can do the greatest good to one and all – including, of course, our own selves. A shining example of fearlessness through absorption in sharing God’s love with the world is Srila Prabhupada. At the age of 69, when most people fear going across a street alone, Srila Prabhupada went across the oceans to America, alone and penniless. Within eleven short years, he built 108 temples, wrote over 70 books, and circumnavigated the globe 14 times on lecture-tours and inspired millions of people toward a wisdom-based life of fearlessness.