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Fear Is Primarily Tamas
Thomas: If fear is merely generally tamas, then I wonder why it is not specifically tamas. Also, I wonder how fear can be generally tamas when James also says that worry is rajas. It seems to me that you would need to explain the difference between fear and worry to me, and why this particular difference ends up in placing them under entirely different gunas. Please color me confused.
Sundari: Rajas and tamas are impossible to separate, because they always work together. In fact you could say they are two aspects of the same guna, projection and denial. Fear and worry are both the result of ignorance, and you will always get one with the other. The reason we say fear is primarily tamasic is that it dulls the mind and is also the result of a dull, ignorant mind.
Rajas is the mode of passion, of action, of doership. Tamas is the mode of inertia, of dullness, of denial. Rajas blinds the mind because desire (and/or fear/worry) extrovert it, pushing it towards or away from objects. Desire is a positive fear, and fear is a negative desire. Tamas covers the mind, making it incapable of seeing what is in front of it or what is required of it. Rajasic types are always worried they will not get what they want. Tamasic types are too dull to care enough or miss the boat because they don’t take appropriate and timely action to get what they want.
All jivas are born in fear because they are born in ignorance. The ego is a fear-thought born of the belief in separation. Fear and worry are built-in for the jiva because the environment it lives in (including the body) is always changing and the jiva is not in control of the objects. Security is the primary motivation for most jivas, the futile attempt to shore up protection from the uncertainties of life.
Life in samsara is thus unpredictable and stressful. It causes fear and constant worry wrapped up together. The only solution is Self-knowledge, understanding what these forces are – the gunas – and how to manage them. Without Self-knowledge, most people are at the mercy of deeply rooted fear/worry samskaras.
Fear manifests in many variations and intensities, from mild anxiety and worry to panic attacks and free-floating anxiety, which causes a non-specific unnamed existential fear or worse, dread. It is the constant (but often unnoticed) fear of things going wrong, of the next shoe to fall, of terrible, unavoidable loss.
As an inquirer or worldly person, it might be necessary to sublimate the fear vasana/samskara until Self-knowledge removes the ignorance, anchoring it in the microcosmic causal body. This kind of renunciation is advisable if moksa is the aim and fear is a powerfully binding vasana. But this kind of renunciation is not denial. It is the understanding that nothing is gained by indulging this fear or worry vasana, so one makes a different choice every time the fear (or desire) arises, by sublimating the fear/desire/worry with the opposite thought, with the karma yoga attitude.
Did you read James’ book on the gunas as I suggested? Please make sure you do. You need to do the work too. We can help you if you help yourself by doing inquiry, which requires a lot of work on your part. Read all the instructions on our home page regarding what we need from inquirers to help them. It is for your sake, not ours, that we do what we do.
~ Om, Sundari