Recently heard this phrase, "I am God-fearing!" Surrounded by every conceivable protective idol in the room, the words resounded in my ears making further conversation impossible and idle.
It took me quite some time to recover from the reverie, and by that time, the conversation at hand had already moved to mundane matters. But deep inside, the word 'fear' kept sounding loud and clear.
"Fearing God", has been a phrase oft repeated, oft quoted, oft misused and obviously misunderstood! What is this God-fearing? What is this fear? Let us analyze the root of fear.
We constantly live under the fear of the whip. Where has the dignity of a human being disappeared?
Few reasons why fear arises:
1. The feeling of otherness 2. Selfishness 3. Destructive tendencies 4. The unknown.
In the context of 'God-fearing' let us analyze the first reason for fear - the feeling of otherness.
When we look at something that is not us, we fear it. Our need to consider ourselves important or rather prove ourselves better than others, is where fear springs from.
The Chandogya Upanishad asserts: तत् त्वम् असि
"You Are That". That refers to the Supreme Being, Self, God.
Identification with the Self helps us understand that everyone and everything around us is the manifestation of the Supreme Being. The lack of identification with the Self puts us in a position where we consider ourselves other than God and fear Him!
When we say 'God-fearing' we are actually alienating ourselves from the Supreme, almost trying to compete with Him!
As Swami Rama Tirtha puts it,
I said, 'Is it true that man is the whole of the world?' He replied: 'Man is the whole of the world And is one with the Lord of all worlds.' I said, 'I am You, And You are All.' He smiled and replied: 'Great is my joy To perceive your spiritual discernment.'
From Songs of Enlightenment (Poems of Swami Rama Tirtha) (Translated from Urdu and Persian by A.J.Alston)
The Bhagavad Gita reiterates this truth in the very first quality of a Devotee (Bhakta) in chapter 12, verse 13.
अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्रः करुण एव च ।
निर्ममो निरहंकारः समदुःखसुखः क्षमी ॥
'अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानाम्' means 'no hatred for any being' and that advocates 'Oneness'.
Thus, I rest my mind at peace concluding that a person who is a true devotee of God doesn't fear Him! Instead strives to become Him.