What should we do when fear comes up during mantra meditation?
It is natural for a mantra to create some activity in the smooth surface of consciousness. A mantra is like a pebble which is thrown into a body of water and creates ripples there, which move out towards the shore. Generally we become aware of these ripples because the shore is our external personality. We do not know where the mantra has fallen in the field of consciousness until we try to develop the ability to follow the ripples back towards the source. But that is another aspect of mantra sadhana.
In the common type of mantra meditation ripples are created and each ripple represents an experience, an activity of consciousness. So a wave comes and then gradually subsides, but at the time of coming it makes us aware of its intensity, or its force which may contain a joyous experience or a fearful and negative one. For fear is as much a part of life as joy and happiness and to get through it we have to bring in the concept of ‘drashta’, the seer.
As long as we identity with the body and mind we shall have fear concerning the body and mind. However, with the attitude of witness, we go through the experience but one part of us remains separate, observing what the body and mind are undergoing. When fear comes up on the mental level then we also experience other negative states which are associated with fear – anxiety, depression, frustration and so forth.
If the fear is deep or psychic and cannot be explained rationally or intellectually then that creates another kind of reaction- uncertainty in life, a state similar to madness. It shakes the basic foundation of our being. So, if at that time, one part of us is observing, then this drashta awareness will find a way to effectively deal with the emotions coming up from deep within.
At the time of mantra meditation a mala is therefore very important. The mala does not allow an individual to become completely submerged in the unknown depths of consciousness. It maintains one part of the awareness outside, on the process of moving and reversing. This counting of the beads and the turning of the mala forms a break in the pattern and depth of our concentration so that we maintain external, conscious awareness.
In this context a symbol is also necessary which is given along with the mantra. The concept of symbol can be explained in the following way, ‘A bird is flying over the ocean and it cannot find anywhere to rest because everywhere there is a body of water. Suddenly the bird sees a piece of floating driftwood. It alights on the wood, rests for some time, and then again begins to search for land, but it keeps the piece of wood as a reference point or marker to come back to and rest until it finds dry land. This piece of wood is the symbol that we use in our mantra meditation.
Through mantra we are going deeper and deeper and deeper, through the mala we are maintaining the drashta awareness, and through the symbol we are fixing a reference point in the field of our consciousness where we can come and experience the vastness of the ocean, and at the same time rest without having to come out from the meditative state. So just observe the state of fear when it arises and it will be like a wave upon the ocean- it will conic and then go away, ebb and flow, and finally it will be gone forever.