Dealing with Fear

Protection from Fear

To find freedom from fear, we need to identify and uproot all our delusions.

The cause of all fear is self-grasping ignorance and all the delusions, such as selfishness, attachment, and anger, which arise from that ignorance, as well as all the unskilful actions motivated by those delusions. Therefore, to find freedom from fear, we need to identify and uproot all our delusions, and especially our self-cherishing and self-grasping ignorance. To find out all about these two ego minds and how to overcome them, see Transform Your Life or Eight Steps to Happiness.

Buddhas, or Awakened Ones, are completely fearless because they have removed these sources of fear from their mind-self-cherishing and self-grasping ignorance.

If we understand how Buddha is fearless, invincible, we can understand how he or she is perfect source of refuge for us as well.

The Story of Prince Siddhartha

Buddha Shakyamuni many times showed complete invincibility-you can read about such tales in any account of his life story, for example that given in Introduction to Buddhism. If we understand how Buddha is fearless, invincible, we can understand how he or she is perfect source of refuge for us as well.

There is a famous account of what happened when the Prince Siddhartha was on the verge of attaining enlightenment. As dusk fell, Devaputra Mara, the chief of all the maras, or demons, of this world, tried to disturb Siddhartha’s concentration by conjuring up many fearful apparitions. He manifested as hosts of terrifying demons, some throwing spears, some firing arrows, some trying to burn him with fire, and some hurling boulders and even mountains at him. Siddhartha remained completely undisturbed. Through the force of his concentration on love, the weapons, rocks, and mountains appeared to him as a rain of fragrant flowers, and the raging fires became like offerings of rainbow light. Love is said to be the greatest protection from fear, the best armour.

Conqueror Buddha

Seeing that Siddhartha could not be frightened into abandoning his meditation, Devaputra Mara tried instead to distract him by manifesting countless beautiful women, but Siddhartha responded by developing even deeper concentration. In this way, he triumphed over all the demons in the world, which is why he subsequently became known as a “Conqueror Buddha”.

Siddhartha continued with his meditation until dawn, when he attained the vajra-like concentration. With this concentration, which is the very last mind of a limited being, he removed the final veils of unknowing from his mind and in the next moment became a Buddha, a fully enlightened being.

Buddha’s Blessings

Buddha has great compassion that is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination.

There is nothing that Buddha does not know. Because he or she has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and removed all obstructions from his mind, he or she knows everything of the past, present, and future simultaneously and directly. Moreover, Buddha has great compassion that is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination. He benefits all living beings without exception by emanating various forms throughout the universe and by bestowing his blessings on their minds. Through receiving Buddha’s blessings, all beings, even the lowliest animals, sometimes develop peaceful and virtuous states of mind. Eventually, through meeting an emanation of Buddha in the form of a Spiritual Guide, everyone will have the opportunity to enter the spiritual path to liberation and enlightenment. As the great Indian Buddhist Master Nagarjuna said, there is no one who has not received help from Buddha.

It is because of his or her omniscient, completely non-mistaken mind that a Buddha has the wisdom and power to protect all living beings. If there were something a Buddha did not know, or if he sometimes made mistakes, he would not be a perfect refuge from danger.

How do Buddhas protect us?

They cannot remove our suffering as if taking out a thorn from someone else’s skin, or lift us out of samsara like a mother cat picking up her kittens by the scruff of their necks. They cannot give us their wisdom, compassion or spiritual realizations as if giving a birthday present. There is therefore no sense in passively waiting for Buddhas to save us from our delusions and problems and dangers-if they could do so, they already would have. Though Buddhas have the perfect ability to help all living beings, and want nothing more than to give all living beings the limitless bliss they themselves experience, we can only receive their full help and protection if we also do something from our side, and train our mind in removing our own delusions.

For more information on the qualities of a Buddha, see Joyful Path of Good Fortune and Ocean of Nectar.

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Introduction to Buddhism

Introduction to Buddhism

Introduction to Buddhism explains basic Buddhist view, intention, and action, and how to follow the Buddhist way of life in the modern world. It is the perfect manual for anyone with an interest in Buddhism and meditation.

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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.