My primary school in the village I grew up in was a mile from home, and to reach it I had to cross a 50-acre mango orchard. In the middle of that orchard was a monument where the king of Amar Garh had been cremated. According to local belief, he had turned into a ghost who, from time to time, ran through the orchard and nearby farms in the form of a gigantic buffalo or a huge bull. Other ghosts often came to join the king, usually traveling in the form of snakes. But in the summertime, the ghosts took the form of dust devils. If a dust devil was big, people assumed it was the Raja Saheb, the king himself. To the villagers, and especially to the children, these stories were so credible that the very idea of snakes, roaming bulls, and dust devils was terrifying. I was no exception.
“The ghosts living in the dust devils have no power to harm you. Don’t be dependent on onions for your protection.”
During the summer, after the crops are harvested and the land is completely dry, all that remains is dust and dry leaves. Dust devils are common and carry so much dust and debris that even the smallest appear formidable. We encountered these dust devils almost every day on our way home from school. Upon seeing them, most of the children ran away. A few believed that the ghosts were repelled by the smell of onions—they carried onions in their pockets and were bold enough to ignore the dust devils and continue on their way. Upon seeing them walking so fearlessly, I went to my mother and asked for an onion. Instead of giving me one, she said, “The ghosts living in the dust devils have no power to harm you. Don’t be dependent on onions for your protection. You know the Hanuman Chalisa [40 couplets dedicated to the god Hanuman]. Whenever you are afraid, simply recite these prayers. You will become strong, and the dust devils will run away. But if they are so close that you don’t have time to recite all 40 couplets, imagine that your head is at the feet of Lord Hanuman and simply start repeating the particular verse that protects you from ghosts.”
The next time I was confronted by one of these dust devils, I stood firm and recited the Hanuman Chalisa. The dust devil did not come near me, so I was convinced that the prayer worked. My mind was not yet contaminated by logic, and so I did not reason that the dust devils were caused by differences in temperature and that was why they traveled from one orchard to another. Instead, I was proud of my mother’s wisdom and happy that she shared it with me. My faith in Hanuman and in this set of prayers dedicated to him grew tremendously. My fear of ghosts living in dust devils, and even the ghosts which, according to local belief, lived in all deserted and dark places, vanished forever.
Like hunger, thirst, and sleep, fear is a natural urge in all living beings. It is instinctual and manifests in varying grades and degrees when our innate urge of self-preservation is triggered. Under proper guidance, fear can be transformed into faith and inner strength. In fact, this is the purpose of spiritual training.
Source: Touched by Fire by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait