by Wayne Ren-Cheng
There will be experiences in our lives that invoke fear. Of all the possible human emotions, fear is the most primordial of them all, and can take a serious toll on the bodymind. Fear is the progenitor of other negative dispositions such as anger, greed, hatred and envy; in the case of prejudice and hatred they arise from a fear of others that are unlike ourselves in thought or form. The kinds of fear that human beings experience can arise as a result of a misunderstanding of their connection with the world around them, a feeling of being disconnected when that isn’t possible in any real sense. Fear can arise from a refusal to recognize the world as it really is, and to realize our own ability to make choices that will have a positive impact on ourselves and the world around us.
Think of the things you fear. Then consider if that fear is justified or, is that fear based on delusion.
The ability to face fear, and the experiences we encounter that cause it to arise is called courage, a fundamental part of the Buddhist refinement of energy. The refinement of energy, along with generosity, acceptance, moral and ethical character, meditation and wisdom are the pillars of practice for a bodhisattva-in-training. Fear is negative energy. Courage is positive energy that arises when fear is set-aside. Courage is not only needed to face some of the moment-to-moment aspects of daily life, but it is critical when faced with “spiritual weakness”. When, in practice we come to the “Plateau of Great Doubt” it is easy to quit, to let spiritual weakness have it’s way. Applying the energy of courage we can see past that doubt to a continuing path. We can employ courage to delve deeper into study, to find new commitment to practice, and to ask those questions we’ve may have hesitated to ask before. Courage is a positive character trait. To risk our current status and stability in order to pursue a greater purpose or goal, to expose ourselves self to risk, humiliation and even physical danger takes courage. Confronting fear is a human endeavor that is tied directly to the Buddhist ideal of the refinement of energy.