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Notes on counselling

Fear and death

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Fear is the basic phenomenon behind illness. A conquest of fear per se is needed for healthy living. One of the most dynamic means to overcome fear is to learn to conquer the fear of death. One can be trained to react to death without fear and remain unperturbed. Death should not be invited but faced courageously.

In counselling practice one has to deal with insecurities of many types. There is the insecurity in relationships, the insecurity of love, the insecurity due to the burden of past events, the insecurity of future anticipations, the insecurity of one’s career, the insecurity of the journey through life. But behind all insecurities, there is a basic insecurity — the fear of death. We are not always aware of it, try to deny it, and pretend to forget it. Nevertheless, it is the most compelling fear whose shadow, albeit unconsciously, drags us throughout life. 

The Mother has pointed out emphatically that fear per se is one of the basic causes of illness, juxtaposed with a perverse attraction for the feared object and a sense of inevitability or total helplessness, and though these layers of consciousness do not intermingle, one can pass from one to the other in alternation (1). As a counsellor I have often wondered how to deal with fear in a deeper way. We have behavioural techniques to deal with specific phobias but they act on target phobias and do not deal with fear in a comprehensive way. Through experience I found out that rather than dealing with discrete fears, it is more judicious to deal with the fear of death. One can be trained assiduously not to react to death. One can be trained to receive any news of death with calm and equipoise. Even if one gets ghastly reports of death in the media or one views unnatural death on television, one can be trained to remain poised in one’s deeper self. If that is difficult, one can invoke the Divine, the Iṣta in one’s own way to remain calm and silent. 

If one can conquer the fear of death, it becomes easier to spontaneously conquer other fears. In a way, it removes the insecurity that underlies illness and is an important step towards healthy living. 

The Mother explained that in a way fear is linked with insincerity in one’s journey to the Truth. If one consecrates one’s life to seeking the ultimate Truth, there is absolutely nothing to fear for even adversities can make the way to the realisation shorter. However if one is insincere in one’s quest and opts for a comfortable life and agreeable circumstances, then one is actually putting conditions and restrictions, which inevitably brings in the element of fear (2). 

However, of all fears in life, the fear of death is the most primitive and its conquest is the most challenging. In fact, the conquest of the fear of death opens up also the possibility of the preparation for a graceful death. Living with pomp and grandeur does not guarantee a nice exit. Being an aristocrat, intellectual, philosopher or scientist does not indicate that one shall pass away gracefully. A peaceful and graceful death requires a long preparation, a conquest of all fears. It is not wise to invite death, but it is necessary not to fear death. One should shun negative ideas but at the same time be ready to be fearless and courageous when death comes, accepting it as the Will of God. 

Tagore (3), to whose home death was a frequent visitor, wrote these famous lines, at once challenging and consecrated: 

“Death, thy servant, is at my door. He has crossed the unknown sea and brought thy call to my home...I will take up the lamp, open my gates and bow to him my welcome.... He will go back with his errand done...only my forlorn self will remain as my last offering to thee.” (p.221)


1. The Mother. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 8. Paris: Institut de Recherches Évolutives; 1980, p. 139.  

2. Ibid, p. 156. 

3. Tagore, Rabindranath. Gitanjali (Verse 86), 6th reprint. New Delhi: UBS Publishers Distributors Pvt. Ltd.; 2004. 

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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Rabindranath Tagore