I Don’t much like nighttime. Watching the sun set recently, I thought how horrible it would be to fear darkness, powerless as we are to prevent the arrival of night. some people suffer from this fear, called achluophobia. It’s one of more than five hundred phobias listed on one psychology website, including fear of flutes (aulophobia), fear of flowers (anthophobia), fear of chins (geniophobia). It’s hard not to smile at some of these, but for people who suffer from them, they’re no joke.

Phobias are abnormal fears, but the Hitopadesa tells us that of the four activities human beings and animals share in common eating, sleeping, mating, and fearing fear is always present. the birds feeding outside my kitchen window suggest this, always ready to take flight at the slightest danger, real or imagined. I present no danger to these birds or to the deer that sometimes pass near our house, but they don’t know this. they’re constantly ready to bolt. While fear may show differently in animals than in humans (human anxiety, for example), it’s always present within us nonetheless.

Fear can even infect our spiritual aspirations, as Srila prabhupada mentions in his purport to Bhagavad-gita (4.10): “In the materialistic concept, the body is perishable, full of ignorance, and completely miserable. . . . [For persons] too materially absorbed, the conception of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void. . . . this is a kind of fearful stage of life, devoid of perfect knowledge of spiritual existence.”

The Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.37) reveals the source of the living being’s fear: “Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. this bewildering, fearful condition is effected by the potency for illusion, called maya.”

We fear because we’ve forgotten who we are. We’re now in a kind of sleep, the sources of our fear being as unreal as the torments of our nightmares. Fear has no place in our pure state, the essence of which is awareness of our eternal relationship with Krishna. the remedy for fear, therefore, is Krishna consciousness.

Krishna consciousness does not mean only thinking of Krishna; it includes thinking of ourselves as Krishna’s servants. And a devotee thinks, “Krishna is God, the controller of everything, and I’m His servant. so why should I fear anything? Krishna will surely protect His servant.”

Because that conviction derives from loving Krishna, it deepens with the resolute practice of bhakti-yoga. the pure devotee sees Krishna in everything. And as Krishna says in the Bhagavadgita (6.30), “For one who sees me everywhere and sees everything in me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to me.”

Surprisingly, I didn’t find “fear of getting lost” on the list of phobias. there are also what we might call healthy fears. Fear of getting lost on the bhakti-yoga path would be one, inspiring us to keep sight of the goal and to be vigilant for monsters of material desire lurking in the shadows.