13.09 – When it requires courage to be afraid
Imagine a group of children playing in an epidemic-struck area. They are unconscious about the presence of the lethal infection. When one of the playing children catches the infection, falls sick and dies, the remaining children pause their play momentarily, but then get back to playing as if nothing happened. Any child who becomes apprehensive about the disease and talks about it is immediately silenced by the other children, who brand him as a coward.
Through this analogy, we can comprehend why the Bhagavad-gita (13.09) considers the ability to contemplate death as an important element of knowledge. Most people like the children are busy playing – be it physical games or video games or sexual games or political games or corporate games. Naturally, a few people become apprehensive on seeing how one by one everyone in material existence is being devoured by death. But if they voice their apprehensions, they are immediately silenced by a wave of disapproval that ranges from empty exhortations, “Just forget it and enjoy,” through dismissive suppressions, “Why are you such a spoilsport?” to unconcealed intimidation, “What a pessimist! A coward like you deserves to be thrown out of the game meant for brave people like us.”
In the face of such ridicule, we need courage to continue to be afraid. Even more fearful than our mortality is the widespread denial of our mortality. But that fear is desirable, even essential, if we are to ever find a cure for our mortality. That fear is the sign of intelligence and can be the signal of the dawn of knowledge if it prompts us to seek spiritual wisdom. When by Krishna’s mercy we contact Gita wisdom, we understand and gradually reclaim our eternal life that is our right as souls.