Friday, September 09, 2005

Buddhist Take on Fear...

"Fear plays a very important part in our daily life, and in human society as a whole. Fear comes in many shapes and forms, but it could be described as: an unpleasant feeling of perceived risk or danger, real or not. It functions to make us alert and ready for action while expecting specific problems.

As is often said, fear lies at the basis of all religions. At the time humans were gatherers and hunters, little was understood of the world around them, so without understanding the causes for many everyday experiences there is logically existential fear. In search for understanding the world around them, shamans and mystics tried to explain the world with invisible and incomprehensible aspects aspects like spirits, gods, nature itself, the sun and moon etc. which also gave the possibility to do something about 'the unexpected' by pleasing the gods and spirits with rtual offerings etc. Later on, more advanced ideas and philosophies developed, and of course, organized religions.

Also Buddhism is largely based on fear; the fear of suffering. The historical Buddha went out on his spiritual quest when he realized that everybody is subject to discomfort, problems and pain, and with the goal to find a way to end it alltogether he discovered a 'way out'.

In fact, this is not too different from the main motivation to develop human civilization: we fear discomfort so we store food for more difficult times, we prepare ourselves for dangers like wild animals, but also to defend ourselves from other humans. This fear of discomfort and attachement to comfort has driven humans in their development from a type of smart monkey to a creature that has gained control over nearly all other living beings on this planet. Fear and paranoia, together with attachment, craving and hatred are responsible for wars.

Our most basic fear is the fear of death, which functions to make us alert in dangerous situations, and can thus be a very healthy emotion. But much less dramatic reasons of fear are found everywhere in our daily lives: 'Did I lock the house?', 'Isn't this food unhealthy?', 'Is my health insurance high enough?', 'Shouldn't my daughter be home yet?'. These worries can be based or quite baseless. Problematic types of fear can be when we are afraid of things that do not pose any real threat, like fear of spiders or large spaces.

In all cases, we could say that fear is a reaction to something that may happen in the future, be it realistic or not, it is always uncomfortable. And here we find one of the contradictions of fear itself: it should work to keep us from discomfort, yet it is uncomfortable itself."


1 comment:

Patty Ann Smith said...

"Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." ~ Bertrand Russell

Friends' Blogs