How can I live a life of fearlessness?
“Everybody has a kind of armor. There are reasons for it. First, the child is born so utterly helpless into a world he knows nothing of. Naturally he is afraid of the unknown that faces him. He has not yet forgotten those nine months of absolute security, safety, when there was no problem, no responsibility, no worry about tomorrow.
“To us those are nine months but to the child it is eternity. He knows nothing of the calendar; he knows nothing of minutes, hours, days, months. He has lived an eternity in absolute safety and security, without any responsibility, and then suddenly he is thrown into a world unknown, where he is dependent for everything on others. It is natural that he will feel afraid. Everybody is bigger and more powerful, and he cannot live without the help of others. He knows he is dependent; he has lost his independence, his freedom. Small incidents may give him some taste of the reality he is going to face in the future.
Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by Nelson, but in fact the credit should not go to Nelson. Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by a small incident in his childhood. Now history does not look at things in this way, but to me it is absolutely clear.
“When he was just six months old, a wild cat jumped on him. The maidservant who was looking after him had gone for something in the house; he was in the garden in the early morning sun and the fresh air, lying down, and the wild cat jumped on him. It didn’t harm him – perhaps it was just being playful – but to the child’s mind it was almost death. Since then, he was not afraid of tigers or lions; he could have fought a lion without any arms, with no fear. But a cat? That was a different affair. He was absolutely helpless. Seeing a cat he was almost frozen; he became again a six-month-old small child, with no defense, with no capacities to fight. In those small child’s eyes that cat must have looked very big; it was a wild cat. The cat may have looked into the eyes of the child.
“Something in his psyche became so impressed by the incident that Nelson exploited it. Nelson was no comparison to Napoleon, and Napoleon was never defeated in his life; this was his first and last defeat. He would not have been defeated, but Nelson had brought seventy cats at the front of the army.
“The moment Napoleon saw those seventy wild cats his mind stopped functioning. His generals could not understand what had happened. He was no longer the same great warrior; he was almost frozen with fear, trembling. He had never allowed any of his generals to arrange the army, but today he said, with tears in his eyes, “I am incapable of thinking – you organize the army. I will be here but I am incapable of fighting. Something has gone wrong for me.”
“He was removed, but without Napoleon his army was not capable of fighting Nelson, and seeing the situation of Napoleon, everybody in his army became a little afraid: something very strange was happening.
“A child is weak, vulnerable, insecure. Autonomously he starts creating an armor, a protection, in different ways. For example, he has to sleep alone. It is dark and he is afraid, but he has his teddy bear, and he believes that he is not alone; his friend is with him. You will see children dragging their teddy bears at airports, at railway stations. Do you think it is just a toy? To you it is, but to the child it is a friend. And a friend when nobody else is helpful – in the darkness of the night, alone in the bed, still he is with him. He will create psychological teddy bears.
“It is to be reminded to you that although a grown-up man may think that he has no teddy bears, he is wrong. What is his God? Just a teddy bear. Out of his childhood fear, man has created a father figure who knows all, who is all-powerful, who is everywhere present; if you have enough faith in him he will protect you. But the very idea of protection, the very idea that a protector is needed, is childish. Then you learn prayer; these are just parts of your psychological armor. Prayer is to remind God that you are here, alone in the night.
“In my childhood I was always wondering…. I loved the river, which was just close by, just a two-minutes’ walk from my house. Hundreds of people used to take a bath there and I was always wondering…. In summer when they take a dip in the river they don’t repeat the name of God He will create psychological teddy bears “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama” He will create psychological teddy bears no. But in the cold winter they repeat, “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.” They take a quick dip, repeating, “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.”
“I was wondering, does the season make a difference? I used to ask my parents, “If these are devotees of ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Rama,’ then summer is as good as winter.”
“But I don’t think that it is God or prayer or religion; it is simply the cold! They are creating an armor with “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.” They are diverting their minds. It is too cold, and a diversion is needed – and it helps. In summer there is no need; they simply forget all about what they have been doing the whole winter.
“Our prayers, our chantings, our mantras, our scriptures, our gods, our priests, are all part of our psychological armor. It is very subtle. A Christian believes that he will be saved – nobody else. Now that is his defense arrangement. Everybody is going to fall into hell except him, because he is a Christian. But every religion believes in the same way that only they will be saved.
“It is not a question of religion. It is a question of fear and being saved from fear, so it is natural in a way. But at a certain point of your maturity, intelligence demands that it should be dropped. It was good when you were a child, but one day you have to leave your teddy bear, just the same as one day you have to leave your God, just the same as one day you have to leave your Christianity, your Hinduism. Finally, the day you drop all your armor means you have dropped living out of fear.
And what kind of living can be out of fear? Once the armor is dropped you can live out of love, you can live in a mature way. The fully matured man has no fear, no defense; he is psychologically completely open and vulnerable.
“At one point the armor may be a necessity…perhaps it is. But as you grow, if you are not only growing old but also growing up, growing in maturity, then you will start seeing what you are carrying with you. Why do you believe in God? One day you have to see for yourself that you have not seen God, you haven’t had any contact with God, and to believe in God is to live a lie: you are not being sincere.
“What kind of religion can there be when there is no sincerity, no authenticity? You cannot even give reasons for your beliefs, and still you go on clinging to them.
“Look closely and you will find fear behind them.
A mature person should disconnect himself from anything that is connected with fear. That’s how maturity comes.
“Just watch all your acts, all your beliefs, and find out whether they are based in reality, in experience, or based in fear. And anything based in fear has to be dropped immediately, without a second thought. It is your armor. I cannot melt it. I can simply show you how you can drop it.
“We go on living out of fear – that’s why we go on poisoning every other experience. We love somebody, but out of fear: it spoils, it poisons. We seek truth, but if the search is out of fear then you are not going to find it.
“Whatever you do, remember one thing: Out of fear you are not going to grow. You will only shrink and die. Fear is in the service of death.
“Mahavira is right: he makes fearlessness a fundamental of a fearless person. And I can understand what he means by fearlessness. He means dropping all armor. A fearless person has everything that life wants to give to you as a gift. Now there is no barrier. You will be showered with gifts, and whatever you do you will have a strength, a power, a certainty, a tremendous feeling of authority.
“A man living out of fear is always trembling inside. He is continuously on the point of going insane, because life is big, and if you are continuously in fear…. And there is every kind of fear. You can make a big list, and you will be surprised how many fears are there – and you are still alive! There are infections all around, diseases, dangers, kidnapping, terrorists…and such a small life. And finally there is death, which you cannot avoid. Your whole life will become dark.
“Drop the fear! The fear was taken up by you in your childhood unconsciously; now consciously drop it and be mature. And then life can be a light which goes on deepening as you go on growing.”
To continue reading and see all available formats of this talk:
Osho, Beyond Psychology, Talk #33 – A Gap Between You And Life