Dealing with Fear

Fear and Attachment

Attachment is an extremely common delusion – to a greater or lesser extent our minds are influenced by it almost all the time.

All delusions function to destroy our peace of mind. It is easy to see how anger or jealousy disturb the mind, but how does attachment disturb us? To become aware of the disturbing characteristics of attachment, we need to watch our mind more closely and honestly than we are accustomed to doing. We might be sitting peacefully reading the newspaper, when someone we are very attached to walks into the room. Immediately our mind becomes agitated. We begin to fidget and want to start a conversation, even though we have nothing to say. Our stomach feels knotted. Our previous peace of mind is lost. We are anxious or fearful that they might not be happy to see us. All this is a sign that attachment has entered into our mind.

How to Recognize Attachment

Attachment is an extremely common delusion – to a greater or lesser extent our minds are influenced by it almost all the time. If we pause from reading for a moment and watch our mind, it will not be long before a thought of attachment pops up. It may be about a person, or about food, cigarettes, something we have seen during the day, or our plans for the weekend. If we observe our mind closely we will notice that as soon as attachment arises, our mind tenses and our previous tranquillity and spaciousness of mind are replaced by a subtle anxiety-a fear of not fulfilling our desires or of being separated from whatever it is we are attached to.

It is our own delusions that have created all the pain and problems we have ever experienced in the past or will experience in the future.

When we recognize this, we can replace the fear and anxiety associated with attachment with a healthy fear of what will happen if we make no steps to overcome our attachment. This will motivate us to apply the opponent to attachment rather than constantly give into it.

Delusions such as attachment are our real enemy. It is our own delusions that have created all the pain and problems we have ever experienced in the past or will experience in the future. Were it not for our delusions, we would already be enjoying the unending peace and bliss of nirvana. If we are patient with outer enemies in time we may win them round to our side, but we cannot afford to tolerate the inner enemy of delusion. Unless we take steps to oppose the delusions in our own mind, they will continue to create problems for us, life after life. Delusions are self-perpetuating and will never end of their own accord.

Getting angry will never solve our problems, nor cure us of our anger.

Whenever we allow ourself to indulge in a delusion we merely strengthen this destructive thought pattern, and when we allow it to influence our behaviour all we will probably succeed in doing is to provoke a deluded response in other people. Getting angry will never solve our problems, nor cure us of our anger, and indulging our desirous attachment will not get it out of our system but simply add more fuel to the fire.

Opposing Our Delusions

The only way to free our mind of delusions is to make a conscious, concerted effort to apply their opponents. Each delusion has a specific opponent. The opponent to anger, for example, is patience, to hatred the opponent is love, and to jealousy it is rejoicing in othersĀ“ good fortune. The more we familiarize our mind with these opponents, the weaker our delusions will become. To eliminate delusions completely, however, we need to attack them from their very root, self-grasping ignorance, by developing a direct realization of emptiness, or ultimate truth.

To learn more about the delusions and how to overcome them, see Transform Your Life or Understanding the Mind.

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All quotations from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books copyright The New Kadampa Tradition - International Buddhist Union, all rights reserved worldwide. For more information on Geshe Kelsang's books visit Tharpa Publications.