The overcoming of
An analysis of the causes and dynamics of human fear, including the fear of death, and the ways in which it can be overcome.
In formulating the ideas for this talk, I am indebted, besides the inspiration of my Master, to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, the Master DK (through Alice Bailey), and the Lord Maitreya.
Fear, I suppose, has to be the most obnoxious, destructive, corrosive, limiting, inhibiting emotion to which we are prone. It seems that there is nobody in the world, except the Masters, who is free from its grip.
We are enjoined to overcome fear, to be fearless. Every teacher of any note who has spoken to humanity, shared his wisdom, insights, with humanity, has made this a number one priority of living. The question is, is it possible for us to live free of fear? Can we go beyond fear?
We all think we know what fear is. We may not know how it comes about but we certainly know what it feels like. There are many different types of fear, coming from different circumstances, needs, situations which we meet in life. Most people, when we talk about fear, will immediately think of fear of accidents, of death, the natural fears that condition our lives.
From the very cradle we are fed information which conditions our reactions to all the phenomena of life, and this, I believe, is the root of our fear. If the child were left unconditioned it would know no fear. It just would not enter the mind, and you will find that fear is always the result of some movement of the mind, of thought.
The animals know no fear. They react to fearful situations, situations of danger, that is. We, too, react to such situations, usually with fear, because we are conditioned to respond to potentially dangerous situations with the reaction we call fear. It is built into our response apparatus and is the product of our minds. If we had not been conditioned by that information and therefore thought it likely to happen, we would know no fear. The antelope runs from the lion, not because it is afraid, but because it is intelligent. It knows that if it does not run it will become the lion’s dinner, so it runs as fast and as well as it can.
You must know, from previous experience of it, that if you are in a fearful situation and react with fear you are not very efficient in your reactions. All of us at some time have had dreams in which we are overcome with fear, some terrible thing is happening, we are being chased by some monster, our father or mother, our big sister, big brother, some monstrous creation of our fear-ridden mind, and we cannot move, our efficient running deserts us and we are caught in a kind of morass from which we can only with the greatest difficulty move. Then of course we wake up, we are so glad it is all over, we are in a cold sweat of fear, because we could not move, could not escape from this threat. Action becomes impossible because of the fear. Fear inhibits. How is it possible, then, that as soon as an antelope sees the leopard or the lion, as soon as the rabbit sees the dog, it skitters away as fast as it can? Is it because of fear? Has it thought, "Oh, that is a lion, that is a dog, oh, I am scared"? Because if that were the case most probably it would lie ‘doggo’ and hope that the dog or the lion would not recognize it as a rabbit or an antelope. In fact, it runs as fast as its legs can carry it away from this potential danger. But fear does not enter into it. It is an intelligent, instinctual reaction of the body, caused by the flood of stimuli into the adrenals by the sympathetic nervous system.
We have two nervous systems, the sympathetic, and the parasympathetic. One produces in animals the reaction of flight, and in us the dry mouth, the inability to run, contraction, the sweaty hands, whatever is our own individual reaction to fear. The other, the parasympathetic, functions on the pleasure principle and creates saliva, bright eyes, expansion, a sense of joy, happiness — pleasure, in a word. Our life seems to be lived out in the controlling of one and the pursuit of the other; the controlling of, or escaping from, our fear reactions and the pursuit of our pleasure reactions. Why should we take such trouble to do this, to go through our lives seeking pleasure and controlling or escaping from pain, fear, suffering, whatever is causing that which we call pain? If we look at the causes, I think we will find that it has its source in our view of ourselves in relation to that which we see as the not-self, other than the self, that which is outside. The only thing we can control, obviously, is our response to various events, and we spend our lives figuring out ways of escaping from the pain and prolonging the pleasure. This is the action of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, the mechanism of our body, and as long as we identify with that we will know fear.
Why need living be such a struggle? Why should it be so painful? Fear is pain, we all know that. So far, I have talked about fear in terms of the physical, but there is another fear (I think we are all aware of this, and prone to it) which we have to call psychological fear. It is the fear which enters the mind in a psychological situation, in which we feel threatened in some way, not necessarily physically; we are not necessarily going to be run over or eaten by an animal, or anything drastic like that.
Fear of death, I suppose, is the greatest fear, so strong that we do not think about it, but push it down to the back of our mind although we know that one day (hopefully when we are very old and do not care any more) we shall have to face this fear. But it is there in almost every situation in which we find ourselves and it is tied up, I believe, in the corresponding fear of life itself. The fear of death is a result of our conditioning, the fact that we separate death from life.
There are two aspects to our experience of life: this ‘living’ aspect, as we call it, in which we go to bed, wake up and are still there. Here we are again with another day to get through, to live, to experience. The other aspect begins when we do not wake up, when we ‘die’.
The big problem is how to live (and die) without fear. In every situation we cannot help feeling fear because it has become, not an action of the conscious mind but an unconscious reaction in all situations. Is there any way in which we can overcome it? You cannot know yourself, freedom, the nature of reality, happiness, joy or bliss, if you have fear. And if you have any fear you have all fear. Is it possible to get rid of fear, and if so how do we do it? Let us see if we might change our approach to reality, so that we can experience reality as it is and not through this fog of fear, this inhibiting, crushing, astral reaction which is fear.
If you go into it you will find that all fear is the result of thought, an action, a movement, of the mind. We are taught as children that if we go too near the fire we will burn our hand. Of course, if we had gone too near the fire and burned our hand we would soon know from the pain that would result that one just does not do that. And so an instinctive mechanism, an intelligent, instinctual reaction, is built into the child. It knows from that moment on not to go too near the fire. But if you say to the child, "If you do not do what I say, I will spank you", then you are introducing a completely different notion into the child’s mind, and, of course, if you are true to your word and the child does not do what you say and you spank it, it hurts, and it tries to please you from then on; and in this trying to please you, to not be hurt, the child’s spontaneous reaction to life has become distorted. This has happened to all of us, in one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent. Every single one of us has built in to our response to life a series of inhibitions which together add up to fear. Fear has become so deeply embedded in the unconscious mind that even as we look at it from the conscious level, we cannot change. We can rationalize, see that it is there; we can analyze the mechanism of it, but still, if we are honest, we can see that the fear goes on. It is something which we have to approach on another level.
Some people resort to hypnotism. Fear so rules their lives that they become incapable of even the most normal actions: doing the chores, going to work, shopping, driving a car, all of these things become so fear-ridden that the person’s daily life is disrupted. Hypnosis can be done by somebody else or it can be self-hypnosis. The hypnotist, whether another or the person himself or herself, gives the suggestion to the unconscious mind to obliterate the fear reaction. If the suggestion is strong enough, and the person susceptible enough to that suggestion, for a time it works. They seem to be free from that inhibiting fear, whether it is the fear of heights, of going to the dentist, of flying in aeroplanes, the fear which makes them rush to a cigarette or a drink every time they are faced with a situation in which they are afraid.
What are these situations; how do they come about? Largely, I believe, because our educational systems are based on conditioning into competition. We are made to compare ourselves, competitively, with everyone, everything, every situation we meet. Instead of having a friend next door called Jack, we are a better or a worse boy than Jack. Instead of being a different boy from Jack, with different needs, hopes, talents, qualities, we are always better than Jack or not as good as Jack. We are always set in a situation of competition. I believe it is that competition which is the origin of our fear.
From all of this we create a notion, an image, of ourselves as adequate or inadequate, superior or inferior, and of course the one is as deadly as the other. We are either superior to everyone around us, and have, therefore, the necessity of maintaining that illusion of superiority, so that in every situation in which it is threatened, we experience fear, we fight it, run away from it, enlarge it, give it energy, propagate it and keep it going; or we have the idea, the image, that we are less than adequate: why cannot we be like Jack next door, who is tall, obedient, nice, always says the right thing, does as his parents ask, who runs errands all the time, and is a very nice, good, obedient child? We are always put into this situation in which we are seen in our parents’ eyes — and therefore in our own eyes — as inadequate to deal with the life which they are proposing to build around us. All of that, I believe, creates the conditions of fear so that, in every situation we come to, we cast ahead of us this image. If we feel capable, adequate to the task, we do not feel fear, until the task gets a bit harder and then we do.
All of this is the result of our experience of ourselves in the past, our thoughts about ourselves, our qualities, our abilities, our experience. How did we deal with this situation before? Was it painful, was it pleasurable? If it was pleasurable, let us try to maintain it. Was it painful? — then let us try to get rid of it, escape from it. Our lives, it seems, are taken up with this constant attempt to escape from fear and to maintain pleasure. Both of them are the result of the movement of thought, of the mind.
If we did not think, we would not feel fear, nor would we feel pleasure. The Frenchman said "I think, therefore I am." I think he should have said, "I think, therefore I have fear." It is precisely because we think that we have fear. That is why the animal does not know fear. It looks like fear as we see it running away from the predator, but it is a simple, instinctual reaction of intelligent activity to escape from death. Fear is something else. Fear is the product of thought. In fact, fear is thought itself. The question is, can we experience life without thought, without fear? All our fears are the result of our experience of living in the past. We look at our past, we are the sum total of all of that; everything that we are, everything that we know about ourselves, everything we know about life, every experience we have which makes us able to cope, all of that is the result of thought.
Am I saying that we should get rid of thought? Obviously, that would be ridiculous. We cannot live our lives without thought, build roads or bridges without thought, we cannot do our work without thought. So there is an area in which thought is essential to everyday living. But that is on a purely practical level. Is it possible that we can maintain to the utmost efficiency that area of thought, apply it to the mechanism of our daily lives, without transferring it to the psychological level, thus experiencing psychological fear, because that is exactly what we do?
We see ourselves as this, as that: I am a British Conservative, bulwark of the nation, and I do not like those Socialists who are trying to get into power, because if they do they are going to sweep away all my privileges. They are envious of my money, of my rather comfortable style of life, and they want it for themselves. Of course it would never occur to me that we might all have it, but the point is I have it, and they want it, so I feel afraid, threatened. So I keep them at bay and I use every mechanism of political strategy to maintain the status quo.
We all do exactly the same thing on the personal level. We have an image of ourselves and we try to make that better. Why? To be better, more colourful, more important, more influential, to make a bigger impact on life, to get on, to have more money, a bigger house, a bigger car; to shine, to be noticed, to be somebody, to not be dull and boring and tedious, the kind of person that others ignore.
We do this in order to feel comfortable, to prolong the state of pleasure. When I say pleasure I do not mean just sex pleasure, or drink pleasure, or eating pleasure, or pleasurable interchange with people of like minds, or the pleasure of listening to music. I mean a position in which we feel comfortable, at ease, not threatened, secure. We are pursuing this all the time. We do this by inhibiting every opposite experience, which of course is pain, sorrow, suffering, fear. All our energy is drained into these two mechanisms, the maintaining of pleasure and the running away from fear. What a waste of energy. What a tremendous drain of energy from the human psyche. That is the reason why most people have no etheric vision, for example; why most people cannot think logically for more than a few sentences. It is the reason why most people live, from the psychological point of view, crippled, stunted lives, totally uncreative, or relatively uncreative. We drain all our energy into these two mechanisms: the running after, the longing for, the desiring of, the maintenance of, comfort, pleasure and security; and the running away from pain, suffering, fear.
Can we get away from both of these? If both of these responses to life are the result of thought, is it possible to live in such a way that the thought process is involved only in the mechanics of living, the practicalities of living: in driving the car, making sure that there is gas in the car, that you have the money to pay for the gas, all these things? You are going abroad — is your passport in order, can you get on the ship in time, which means getting the train on time — all of that is the mechanism of thought in its correct use. Without it we would all be in a chaotic state of inanition, we would never be able to do anything.
The wrong use of thought is that thought by which we create the images of ourselves and of our fear and our pleasure, because the fear and the pleasure are equally the result of thought. They do not exist outside thought. So can we overcome the thought? The overcoming of fear is related totally to the overcoming of the wrong use of thought.
We are all terribly interested in tomorrow. We are afraid of tomorrow. We want security. Above anything in life we want security and security means first of all having enough to eat, of course, so we want food. It has to come from somewhere, we have to be able to buy it, that means we need money; that means we have to have a job. Not having a job is a trauma, having a job is also a trauma — either way we are caught in this cleft stick of wanting and not wanting: the fear of losing the job, the fear of not getting a better one, the fear that we are going to meet people in that job who are cleverer than we are, smarter, who are going to take our job from us; all of that enters into every situation of our lives. We go through life competing, and the effect is stress, strain, a corroding fear which limits every possibility of correct, spontaneous action.
Few of us can react spontaneously to life. We do not know what life is, experienced spontaneously as it is, without bringing in fear, desire, wanting it to be different, to be the way we want it. We build a thoughtform, an idea, an image of how it should be — that is, as we know it: that with which we are familiar, feel comfortable, secure, unthreatened. We want relationships in which we are never threatened. We want our wife never to stop loving us, or our husband never to look at another woman. We want to feel secure in every psychological way, in every situation. Is this possible, does this seem rational?
Is it possible that we can live our lives without this overriding fear, this dependency on other people for our happiness, because that is really what it amounts to? We become dependent because we are afraid. Since our thoughts make us afraid, since we project into tomorrow or next week or next year our image of what we are, according to our knowledge of ourselves in the past, we create conditions in which fear is an intrinsic element. We cannot get away from it. We take our fears of the past and project them into the future, so that we never, in any real sense, experience what is happening now. We never live now, always in the past. We are our experience of the past, the sum of all our reactions — fear and every other reaction — to the events of the past.
If we look at ourselves, experience who we are, we find that we are nothing but a bundle of fears making up a sense of the self we call ‘me’ whose major effort is escaping from these fears. We are escaping from ourselves, from this notion of ourselves that we are carrying around with us moment to moment. We are trying to escape from fear, which we have created by our thought, and are seeking to create security, pleasure, continuity of life as we know it, without anything unknown. I suppose the biggest unknown is the unknown we call death. That is what we are all escaping from.
Fear of life
I think basic to every single fear, however subtle, is the fundamental fear of death, which is the fear of life. Every one of us lives under the fear of life itself. No wonder, because we have made of life a kind of hell, an arena in which we are gladiators fighting, with inadequate weapons, powerful adversaries better equipped than ourselves. We are put into positions in which we feel inadequate, under-trained, under-prepared, living a kind of confidence-trick to others and to ourselves. There is no real joy, no real happiness. We are just getting by, avoiding too much pain, suffering and fear, and running after, fighting, competing, for the pleasure, the security, we long for.
Why do we long at all? What is this mechanism of longing? Why do we desire that life should be different from what it is? We are trying to make life in an image which we project into the future, and that makes us afraid. It creates the conditions in which fear is inevitable, because we are competing, and when we are competing we are in confrontation, there is conflict. Wherever there is conflict there is fear. We are adversaries in an arena and we are taught from infancy that this is the natural course.
Those of us who are parents know how difficult it is to educate a child without imposing our fear of life. We all do it. I think a child brought up without fear is probably the rarest child on earth, the most gifted child, because it has the greatest gift of life, whether it has money or possessions or not: it is to be free of that conditioning, to experience life as it is without fear, without running after it, without running away from it, without wanting anything at all.
Is it possible to experience life, to go through the various movements of life, of interaction, of relationship (I am talking now about psychological fear) without experiencing fear, without entering into competition, and therefore into conflict, which produces fear? All opposition, all conflict, produces fear. Is it possible to live without desiring anything at all? Because if we can do that we will be free of fear. We will be free, period. If we can live without the desire principle governing our responses to life we can live freely, without fear.
Every time we impose our desire on life, whether it is desire for comfort, for safety, for absence from fear, we give it energy, we prolong the fear by engaging with it.
We all avoid confrontation with our superiors. Can we get away from the notion of superior and inferior? This seems to me to be basic to this problem of fear. So long as we have the idea that some people are superior to us, and therefore that we are inferior to them, we will have fear. We will fear being overwhelmed by them, people will like them better than us. One’s wife might like that man better because he is superior. My husband might fancy that lady because she is obviously prettier than I am, and so on. These are fears which well up moment to moment in every person’s life. They are the results of this comparison between superior and inferior. These are built into our subconscious by our parents, our teachers, by every situation in which we are placed. Every single one of us is conditioned by that approach to life: that some are superior, some inferior, some pass exams, some do not pass exams. What exam has ever been formulated which could possibly measure the quality of life of one person as against another? What exam can do this? Yet throughout our school life (and for many people in their adult life) we are faced with examinations. Day to day we give ourselves an examination. We say, "How do I match up in comparison to that person?" Am I better than him or is he better than I am? Why did I not think of that?
Then we begin to imitate. Comparison implies imitation. We imitate that which we admire in other people and we lose the sense of ourselves. We enter a vicious circle of comparison, competition, imitation, and we are nowhere at all in the middle of all of this. We are living a life which is simply a series of response reactions to various stimuli which bring about fear or pleasure, one or the other, both of which are created by our own mind.
Is it possible to live without feeling superior? Is it possible to look at life, at other people, to come into relationship with people where we are not making this judgement — because this is a judgement, is it not? Is it possible to meet people, situations, without making that sort of comparison?
Can we rid ourselves of this poison of competition? We can see its effect on the political level, in the economic sphere. It is easy to see how destructive, corrupting, competition is. And yet we engage in it; we all do it. Is it possible — not to avoid it, because that would be running away from it — is it possible to overcome it, to go beyond it, to approach people, psychological situations in which fear would be engendered, without competition, without making comparisons?
Try it. We have to try, to see if it is possible. All this competition, comparison, instinctual avoidance, self-preservation, is an attempt to preserve what we take to be the self, unaffected by pain, fear, which are very destructive and highly unpleasant emotions, and which can become so strong that they completely devour our life. Is it possible by looking at fear in a certain way not to give it energy, not prolong it? When we give it expression or try to avoid it; when we try to escape from it, or to control it; when we try to inhibit it, we give it the energy to persist, and so it never goes away. Can we look at it in such a way that, of its own accord, it disappears?
One of the great trials of Hercules, if you remember, was the slaying of the many-headed Hydra. The Hydra lived in a cave, and had nine heads, one of them immortal. Hercules was enjoined to conquer the monster. "One word of counsel only I may give," the Teacher said. "We rise by kneeling; we conquer by surrendering; we gain by giving up. Go forth, O Son of God and Son of Man, and conquer."
Hercules, the great warrior, the great hero, went to the Hydra’s cave. He was not afraid. He cut off a head and immediately two grew in its place. He cut off another and, again, two grew. He cut them all off and two grew each time so there were twice as many heads as before he started. Even he, eventually, got a bit tired. Not just tired of this game, but actually tired. He was unable to cope with this constant renewal, twice over, of these horrible heads. Then he had an idea. When he was getting so tired that he could not continue the struggle, suddenly an awareness grew in him of what to do. He did not think it out, it came to him. He suddenly became aware of the weakness of the monster, where the truth lay. He grasped the monster and took it up into the light of day, out of this dark cave where he had been fighting. And in the light of day the monster suddenly expired, all heads died, except one which he cut off and put under a stone.
That is the legend: it must mean something. Why has it been preserved? That, I believe, is the only way you can deal with fear. You have to bring it up into the light of day, and of course the light of day is the light of the soul. The light of the soul playing on the monster killed it. The light of the soul kills fear. How can you, at a word, call on the light of the soul and focus it on fear? Not this little fear, or that one, but all fear, so that fear itself does not recur?
I believe it consists in doing nothing at all, which is very difficult to do. Always, when we feel fear, we try to control it, to inhibit it, to escape from it. We seek pleasure, a drink, something, anything, to get away from this fear. We never simply look at it. We think about it, with our conscious mind we analyze its mechanism, of course to no avail; it never goes away because it is built into our subconscious. It is an unconscious mechanism, a conditioned reflex, and not to do with the conscious mind at all. Only the light of the soul can really deal with fear, and to come into the awareness of that we have to do nothing at all. We have to let it happen. It happens when we look at the fear without trying to do anything about it. We have this fear of death, of the future, of the past, of what might happen because of what did happen and made us feel afraid. We know that if that situation is repeated we will feel afraid, and since we do not want to feel afraid we try to avoid its repetition. But, can we, on the contrary, not run away from fear but simply look at it, without condemning it, escaping from it, criticizing it, without criticizing ourselves, without saying "I shouldn’t feel this fear, I am grown up now and that fear is childish"? The only reason it is childish, of course, is because it was built in in childhood. Can we look at the events of life in such a way, as they are happening, without condemning them, without running away from them, without seeking anything different? In other words, can we do it without desire? We desire something different: security, what we call happiness, pleasure, absence from fear, from pain. We build a picture, an image, of life as we would like it to be.
Desire is the basis of all fear. We desire security, love, happiness, we desire other people to be to us what we would like them to be. It is this movement of desire, this longing, this yearning for comfort, love, easeful situations, so that we are never troubled, never jealous, never made angry, never feel uncomfortable, humiliated, never at a disadvantage with anything or anybody. That is the basis of the desire principle: we are longing to be, and to be, and to be — to become. Desire is becoming. Is there something else which is not becoming? Is there something else which does not have to go through this process of becoming, of desiring, to change or to remain the same, to be secure in that which we know? In other words, can we go beyond what we know?
So long as we are looking at life and knowing it — knowing the people, the events, what is going to happen, what to do, what not to do — we feel secure. But is it possible to look at life without desiring that knowledge? Because that knowledge is the outcome of past experience, it is memory, it is dead. It is not a living process; it is the past. It is the action of our mind, which we then project as an image, a construct of ourselves.
What is this ‘self’?
What is this ‘self’, this construction? What is it we are running away from? Perhaps we are running away from our own emptiness, our loneliness, our sense of not being at all. While we are becoming we are not Being, and if we explore the essence of the feeling we have in our deepest, most profound fear, longing, desire, hope, belief, we will find that it is the desire to know that we are, that we have Being, rather than this sense of endless becoming, wanting, desiring. That desire process is at the opposite pole from the reality of Being, and that is why we have fear. Is it possible to go beyond this experience of the process of becoming, which is the result of identification with ourselves as body, mind, thoughts? Identifying with that, we create the circumstances of fear.
Whatever we identify with, we are. We look at a person, we say, "That is Mary, she is superior to me." Immediately I am afraid of Mary, because I know she is superior to me. She is older, wiser, cleverer, better-looking, all of these things. I am immediately afraid of Mary. Is it possible to look at Mary and not experience that, not make this division? Is it possible to see that we are not really experiencing ourselves at all but an image of the past? There is nothing there, it does not exist. What does exist is a body, a mind, a set of emotions. They exist, not beyond death, but up to death. That is why we are afraid of death. We know that at death that body with which we identify, which we see in the glass; these emotions which react with fear or pleasure; that mind which builds the thoughts by which we know all of this, are going to be no more. Therefore at death we are going to be no more. The whole of our desire life is the prolongation of that nothingness, that thoughtform which we have of ourselves, which essentially does not exist at all. It is the notion that what we are experiencing — the fear, longing, hope, ideas — is somehow separate from ourselves. They are not. They are ourselves; whatever we identify with is ourself. There is no way we can experience anything in life without seeing it as part of ourselves. This is the truth behind our experience of fear. We identify with the pain of the body so we are pain. We identify with the fears of the mind so we are fear. We cannot identify and be separate from that with which we identify. Is it possible to go beyond that kind of identification, to not identify with the body, not identify with the fear reactions, the emotions? Is it possible not to identify with these constructions of the mind, because if we can, we will come on an experience of ourselves which goes beyond ourselves, the only state in which we are free, the only state in which we really are Being.
Our immortal Being
That, I believe, is what Maitreya calls the Self. The Self, He says, is the most important thing in life. The Self is our immortal Being and the Self uses the experiences in time and space to realize the process of its becoming. Is it possible to change our view of ourselves, our identification, away from these vehicles, the mind, body, emotions? Because if we can we shall set ourselves free immediately from all fear.
There are many techniques we can use which will gradually mitigate the effect of fear, but is it possible, all at once, to rid ourselves of fear? I believe it is possible if we can come into relationship with our Self as the Self, and not with that accumulation of experiences that we call ‘me’, in which fear is inevitable because it is created by thought; all of that ‘me’ is created by my thought of me. Is it possible to go beyond that and to experience the Self directly? If we can do this we will find an entirely different view of life, a different capacity to live, more intensely, more vividly, more spontaneously. If we can simply look, without condemning, at what happens, at what is, without judging, making comparisons, being in competition; without feeling superior, or inferior; looking, simply looking, at what is, at the moment it is, looking at it, experiencing it; then, I believe, we can enter into communion with the Self, which is all Being, and know from then on the absence, the overcoming, of fear.
It is not something anyone can teach you to do. I recommend you to try to do it and to find in the doing the achievement of it. As soon as we do it we achieve it. We cannot achieve it until we do it. It is not a technique, a practice, it is simply doing nothing at all, simply being who we are. When we are who we are, we know all there is to know. We are free from fear, from desire, from longing; we do not need anything or anybody, we can approach anyone, by one or by thousands. We can relate to them directly as they are, which is as we are, without the sense of separation, the sense that they are superior or inferior; without judging, without allowing our conditioning — competition, comparisons — to get between us and them. Then we find that we are living in a constant state of joy. That is joy. Take your thought of yourself and ask yourself, "Who am I? Who experiences this thought? Who is doing the experiencing? Who am I? Who has this thought, of myself sitting here, who is doing it?" Ask, "Who am I?" Don’t give yourself a name. It has nothing to do with a name but an experience of the Self.