Thursday, February 16, 2012

FEAR, what is it good for?

Amber Dorrian, CC Liu, Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha taught that "Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely" (quote). Wisdom overcomes all ignorance and therefore dispels all fear.

Some say fear protects us. We evolved to pay extra attention to somethings in the perceptual field.

Being forewarned by our bodily-intuitive Emotional Navigating System kept us alive.

Maybe, but fear paralyzes us and is not necessary. How do we know?
We know because the Buddha and other arhats (enlightened beings) have uprooted fear -- one of the three unwholesome roots of action.

Greed, hate/fear, and delusion govern most of us.

But enlightened individuals have overcome slavish attraction to sensual desires, aversion ("fear" and loathing) to unpleasant experience, and delusion about the Four Ennobling Truths.

Those four truths encapsulate the Dharma, Buddhism, the Buddha's teaching regarding liberation:
  • (4) The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth truth.
  • (3) It culminates in nirvana, the end of all suffering.
  • (2) The cause of suffering that one can overcome here and now is craving.
  • (1) That craving gives rise to disappointment.
Craving (thirst, yearning, pining, being greedy and insatiable) is painful. The Buddha preferred that living beings live joyfully free of all kinds of suffering:

Live in joy, in love,
Even among those who hate.

Live in joy, in health,
Even among the afflicted.

Live in joy, in peace,
Even among the troubled.

Look within. Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.

Pain and suffering may bring us to Buddhism, which offers a very doable path to complete freedom. If unpleasant experience of all kinds is the problem, what is causing it? Not craving alone, but its causes and conditions include ignorance and fear (bhava, a subtle kind of aversion to the unpleasant).

We crave the pleasant and feel fear/loathing for the unpleasant. We wish for life and delightful experience to continue. And we fear and dislike that it will end. We love gain, we fear loss. We love praise, we fear blame... There are many vicissitudes.

Julia Roberts, the world's most famous Hindu, travels the
world on a spiritual quest for fulfillment in "Eat Pray Love."

The enlightened do not vanish the moment they touch nirvana, which many mistake for a kind of emptiness or nothingness. They live fearlessly. If fear were necessary as the only antenna that could protect us and keep us alive, the enlightened would not last long.

Mindfulness (sati), wisdom (panna or Sanskrit prajna), and clear comprehension (sampajanna) are far better guides. As yet unenlightened, fear does not serve us. It is a last resort. We panic. We worry. We stir up our own problems. The antidote?

Loving-kindness, compassion, sympathy (empathic joy), and impartiality (unbiased equanimity) all displace fear. Understanding displaces fear. Being here now -- mindfulness of the present moment free of thinking and just being -- displaces fear.

Giving into fear strengthens fear. It nourishes the unwholesome root of aversion (dosa). The fearful grow more fearful until they are crippled. They die just the same without ever having lived.

The loving -- temporarily freed from fear, full of kindness and concern for themselves and others -- live now and, if they reach enlightenment in this very life, overcome death altogether.

(Nirvana is not death but a deathless state hard to conceive and easily mistaken for some kind of eternal life, which paradoxically it is not).

Fear, what is it good for? Practically nothing. Feel the fear, a message from our conditioning, and do it anyway.
  • PHOTOS: Fear quote (FoxPowerYoga/Facebook); deva "angel" in Burma (dondoc-foto/; Buddha in Thailand (lucas78/; Julia Roberts, "Eat Pray Love" still shot (via

No comments: