Many Hindu and Buddhist images depicting aspects of higher consciousness display a particular hand position, called a mudra, with the palm facing forward and the fingers and thumbs together pointing up. This is called Abhaya Mudra, the gesture of fearlessness, and it symbolizes one of the deepest truths in yoga philosophy: fear is the one thing that is holding us back from realizing ourselves as infinite, unified, eternal.
Fear is the energy vibration that holds us in our current state of limited consciousness, wherein we perceive ourselves to be separate entities in a universe filled with an endless multitude of other separate entities. Fear causes the fundamental misperception known as avidya, literally non-knowledge or ignorance, that obscures our understanding of the actual nature of the reality that surrounds us. We are infinite consciousness, universal energy, in this very moment, and yet, because of our fear we are unable to experience it.
There are many varieties of the fear energy, it can creep into almost any aspect of our lives and it is always destructive. The root of all fears, however, is the fear of death, this is the axis around which our limited consciousness revolves. We perceive ourselves to exist in a particular state, which we call life, and we also perceive that there is a beginning and an end to this state. We are conceived by our parents, and our life begins, then at some later point, our life ends in the experience we call death. Nobody can actually say what death is, the experience of death is not something that can be explained or truly described in any way that makes sense to us. Many stories have been created to explain what happens in the death experience, ranging from an eternal existence in some other state of being (hopefully happy), to simple oblivion and the cessation of any kind of existence at all, but nobody can actually say what happens when we die, there are no guarantees.
This mysterious death creates an intense fear at the root of our limited consciousness, a fear which is poisonous, ironically hastening our inevitable demise. So in an attempt to escape from the fear, we fill our lives with anything we can find to distract us from the core reality of our existence. So much of what we call life is simply a desperate attempt to hide the fact that death comes closer to us with the passing of each day. It is in many ways a terrible existence, made all the more so by the fact that the fear of death is used to powerful effect by other people who wish to control us.
What the Abhaya Mudra is trying to tell us is that we are making a gigantic fuss about nothing at all. The truth is that death is a lie, a delusion that we suffer from as the result of our fear. Yoga philosophy states that, as light banishes darkness, so knowledge banishes ignorance, and the result of knowing the true nature of death as an essential falsehood is dissolution of the most basic fear that is holding us back from experiencing who we are. Yoga, defined in this case as the transformation of consciousness, is the light which illuminates that fear, revealing the falsehood and allowing us to let go of it. Yoga philosophy also states that talking about the fear of death, or reading about it, is not enough to transform anything. To release the fear, we must experience what is beyond the limited state we currently think of as our life, move beyond limited consciousness and experience our infinite nature directly, which is a stage of yoga called samadhi. From the perspective of infinite consciousness, in the samadhi state, we can see that life is an ongoing process and that what we call death is simply one part of that process.
The upraised palm of the Buddha or Shiva is telling us directly: “Practice yoga with great devotion! Seek out the samadhi state and uncover your true self! Understand that death is an illusion that you have created! Release the fear of death!” When death is no longer feared true happiness is attained.