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The fear of darkness || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2020)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

7 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): We have a fear of darkness. Being the physically evolved creatures that we are, darkness has always been a threat to us in the course of evolution. A part of our primordial psyche continues to remain afraid of darkness even to this date irrespective of our technological progress, irrespective of the control we exercise over day and night, over energy and power; human beings are still nervous when it comes to darkness and we are not talking of little babies here. Even grown-ups are never very comfortable with absolute darkness. The reason obviously is body identification.

The most important physical sense that we have, the sense we are the most identified with becomes dysfunctional in darkness — the eyes. And if the physical sense becomes dysfunctional, the body-identified creature feels that his very identity has become defunct.

In our ancient mind, our physical well-being is directly related to our ability to defend ourselves against aggression and to be able to look around for opportunities of all kinds and gather food. None of which can happen without the aid of eyes and without the aid of light. That's why in our vocabulary, darkness continues to remain an unpreferred word.

Those of us who would like to venture into the psyche of man might be getting a hint regarding the origin of racism here. The more body identified you are, the more darkness will threaten you. The more body identified you are, the more unsettling will be the word ‘dark’ to you.

As things stand, unfortunately, most of us are not only body identified, we are only body identified. All our other identifications are actually branches of the root ‘body identification’. You might be identified with a lot of other things as well, but if you will go into those identifications, you will find that fundamentally they come from your feeling that you are the body.

So, if you are the body then you have reasons to be attached to your wealth, you have reasons to be identified with your achievements and positions. If you are the body then you have reasons to be attached to your family and to your kids but all those identifications, positions, and attachments are fundamentally because of your identity with your body and the body does not like darkness because the eyes are the body's primary way of communicating with the world.

If you're asked, “What would you like to give up, given that you can keep only one of the two: your eyes or your ears?”, the choice would be straightforward, right? May it not come to that, it's a bad choice to be forced into but your eyes are something that you would always want to retain, right?

So, there is a fear of darkness and that is the reason why the truth is often referred to as light or brightness. Because the truth is the dispeller of fear because the truth enables you to see. In fact, the truth is a special kind of light because the eyes, in presence of physical light, photonic light enable you to see only the objects. The electromagnetic radiation that we call as light enables your eyes to perceive only objects.

Truth is light extraordinary. It enables you to perceive the object and the subject together. Truth is bodiless, muscle-less, sinu-less, boneless, bloodless. Truth cannot be pierced, or wounded. Here the method of negation is being used. You do not know of anything that is not bodily nor can you ever know of anything that is not bodily. A thing can only correspond with another thing in its own dimension. If you are the body, all that the body can perceive is bodies, other bodies. In other words, all that within you or outside of you that perceives body is just an extension of your own body. So, the mind is nothing but subtle body.

Be it the telescope or the microscope, they are just extensions of your eyes. Even the fastest rocket is just an extension of your legs.

Whatever we think of is bodily. Therefore, even the richest kind of imagination is nothing but the body stretching itself far and wide. That's the thing with living in a bodily way. You might progress or achieve a lot in your own eyes but actually, you are just confined to the domain of the body, the physical, the material, that which can be sensed by the material senses. If the tongue can talk of it, it is bodily or material; if the nose can sniff it, it's material.

It's easy to agree when I say if the eyes can look at it, it is material but becomes difficult when I say if you can talk of it, it is material. You start saying, “But we can talk of things we can never see, are they still material?” You just said, “They are things”, and that closes the deal. They are things and all things are material. Irrespective of whether you have physically experienced them or not, all imagination is physical and it becomes even more difficult to accept when we say that not only are your words always referring to something material but even imagination can only point at something material. So, no point imagining truth or god or freedom.

If you are imagining Truth or God or Freedom, you have reduced them to a piece of bread or freshly baked cake or hot oil — it's all coming from the puries , I just made tonight, you can see. So, if you can talk of your god or truth then you are reducing them to curtains, to pillars, to concrete. I mean, God that tongue can talk of is no bigger than the tongue. How expansive can be your god if he can enter you through these little holes, this little tunnel called the ears?

On one hand, we say, “Oh! He is all-pervasive, all-encompassing, infinite” but then you mention him in words and you can now measure his size. All he requires is this small tunnel to pass through. Look at your eyes! If you are looking towards the sky, you can't even look at the earth; if you're looking towards the right, you'll have to miss the left but then you think that with these eyes you can look at something that is beyond space. Your eyes can't even look at space fully, so how will your eyes look at that which is beyond space?

Your mind and your tongue do not even have the power or the vocabulary to express even that which is finite. A new thing comes to you and you will be groping for the right word to express it. Often you are found saying, “Oh! But words fail to convey this” or “I am short of words”. You are short of words when it comes to conveying a new flavour of food, but you think you will have words to communicate that which is beyond all material.

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