By Evan Silvera
For the Mitzpeh
With the end of the semester at this university approaching, many students are anxious about final exams and what the future may hold.
About 30 students and faculty members gathered in Stamp Student Union’s Margaret Brent Room Thursday night for monk Brahmachari Ramanandji’s talk, “Understanding Fear From a Spiritual Perspective.”
The event was organized by Amrita Youth for Unity in Diversity for Harmony (AYUDH), a national organization that seeks to empower young people. Ramanandji, with a Ph.D in computer science from this university, said many of our fears are self-created.
“Self-created fear seeps in slowly and can talk a long time to wear off,” he said. “That’s something we are here to discuss.”
Ramanandji said all negative qualities are rooted in some kind of fear or anxiety. To address this problem, Ramanandji suggested following a three step process.
The first step in Ramanandji’s process is to understand the cause of fear. He said most of the problems faced in life are “peripheral,” and focusing on these problems distracts someone from identifying the underlying causes.
“Once you find out what is creating the problem, 50 percent of it is already solved,” Ramanandji said.
The Mumbai, India native said the second step in the process is to “feed fear an antidote.”
“The best antidote to fear is love,” Ramanandji said. “Love gives birth to positive qualities and goodness that we express through our actions and thoughts.”
In order to apply this philosophy to student fear about final exams, Ramanandji said students go through the challenge of taking exams for an outcome that they love: getting a good grade.
The third step in understanding fear, according to Ramanandji, is to hold an accepting, positive attitude.
“Acceptance is to do your part as best as you can,” said Ramanandji. “It’s to give your 100 percent.”
But there are many factors that are out of someone’s control that often get in the way of understanding fear, Ramanandji said. He explained that sometimes it is best to accept how situations unfold.
President of this university’s AYUDH chapter Elizabeth Corley said she wanted to bring Ramanandji in because he offers a unique perspective on the subject of fear.
“He has spent his whole life devoted to serving others since he was 3 years old,” said Corley, a senior biochemistry major. “As a monk, he’s imbibed all the qualities we feel are important for youth at this time.”
Corley said her biggest takeaway from the talk is understanding that “there are some things in this world that are out of our hands.”
“Working as hard as you can, letting it go, and accepting what comes will give you the biggest peace of mind that you can ever ask for,” Corley said. “When you’re less stressed and less obsessed with the goal, you can have a clearer mind when going through the process.”
Chabad Rabbi Eli Backman offered a different approach to understanding fear. Backman said fear is not always negative, and both fear and love are essential in interactions with God.
“Love draws you close and wants you to remain close,” Backman said. “Fear, on the other hand, pushes you back.”
Backman explained that the “constant pendulum swing” between love and fear helps to give us purpose. He said purpose is the “strongest antidote to anything you can encounter.”
“Knowing you could have some effect or make a difference gives you purpose,” Backman said.
Backman said he agrees with Ramanandji’s belief that not everything is within someone’s control. He said it is important to figure out what can and cannot be controlled.
“It’s very normal and natural to have stress in life and school,” Backman said. “But it’s not OK to have fear control you, you still need to control fear.”