Dealing with Fear

The Root of Fear

The source of all our fear comes from our own uncontrolled minds or “delusions”.

The source of all our fear comes from our own uncontrolled minds or “delusions”.

There are fears that arise from attachment, such as the fear and anxiety of not finding or being separated from something or someone we feel we need for our security or happiness.

There are the fears that arise from anger and hatred. Some fears are directly proportional to our feeling of being threatened by others, which is the reason we get angry and mentally or physically try to push the person away.

And in particular, there are fears that arise from the mind of self-grasping ignorance, which is the root of all other delusions, and thus the source of all fears.

To overcome this root of all fear, Buddha taught the truth of emptiness, or no self.

Root of All Fear

Self-grasping is an ignorance of the way things are, a mind that grasps at ourselves and the world around us as real, inherently existent, existing out there independent of the mind, having nothing to do with our perceiving consciousness. To overcome this root of all fear, Buddha taught the truth of emptiness, or no self. This is a very profound subject, but we can gain some understanding by considering our dreams.

Just Like a Dream

Just as all the fear, danger, and suffering we experience in a nightmare comes from not realizing that we are only dreaming, so all the fear and suffering we experience during our life comes from not seeing the real nature of our world and our experience. The world does not exist separately from the mind. Our conviction that things exist “out there”, independent of our mind, is the source of all our fear. When we see directly that everything is projected by our perceiving awareness, like the objects in a dream, all our fears and problems will disappear. We suffer because we are asleep and lost in our dreams, and we will stop suffering only when we wake up and see things as they really are. The purpose of all Buddha’s teachings is to help us wake up.

Though things appear as solid, real, and independent of the mind, in reality they are as insubstantial as a dream.

Suppose that last night we dreamt a tiger was chasing us. Whilst we were dreaming, the tiger appeared very vividly to exist from its own side, which is why we developed fear and ran away from it. We felt strongly we were being chased by a real tiger and had no sense that the tiger was just and appearance to our mind. Yet when we woke up, we realized that the tiger was nothing more than a projection of our own mind-it did not exist from its own side, in our small bedroom! We immediately realized our mistake and saw that the tiger was nothing more than a projection of our own mind, and so our fear subsided.

Mere Appearance to Mind

The tiger ceased when the dream mind ceased. The same is true for the world we experience while we are awake. Though it appears as solid, real, and independent of the mind, in reality it is as insubstantial as a dream. A dream is a mistaken appearance to mind that arises from sleep. It is mistaken because for as long as we are dreaming, the dream world appears to exist from their own side, independent of our mind, whereas in fact it is a mere appearance to mind. Exactly the same, however, is true for the world we experience while we are awake. Though things appear as solid, real, and independent of the mind, in reality they are as insubstantial as a dream.

We are fooled completely by appearances – not for a moment do we question their validity.

Sleep of Ignorance

Everything in samsara – our bodies, enjoyments, and the worlds we inhabit – are just like the things seen in a dream. They are mistaken appearances arising from the sleep of ignorance. Things falsely appear to exist from their own side, outside the mind, and we are completely taken in by their appearance. When an unpleasant object such as an enemy appears to our mind, we take this appearance at face value as a real, externally existent enemy, and so we react with fear or hostility; and when an attractive object such as a beautiful man or woman appears to our mind we are equally taken in and respond with desirous attachment. We are fooled completely by appearances – not for a moment do we question their validity. If we did question appearances, we would discover that that is all they are: mere appearances to mind, with no real object behind them. The enemy we fight or flee from is no more real than the tiger in the dream, and has no more power to harm what we really are. And the beautiful man or woman we are so attached to is like a lover we meet in a dream, a mere appearance arising like a wave in the ocean of our mind and later dissolving back again.

This is a very profound subject and not easy to understand. For more information, consult the books Transform Your Life , Heart of Wisdom, or Joyful Path of Good Fortune. It is also very important to find a qualified teacher who can give you oral teachings, explaining this subject to you from his or her own experience. You can find such a teacher at one of the 500 Kadampa Buddhist Centers worldwide (Link below)

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Eight Steps to Happiness

Eight Steps to Happiness

As a commentary to one of Buddhism’s best-loved and most enduring teachings, Eight Verses of Training the Mind by the great Tibetan Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa, this book explains how to transform every moment of our life into a step on the path to inner peace, and in particular how to transform all of life’s difficulties into truly liberating experiences.

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© 2007 Dealing With Fear. All rights reserved worldwide.

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.