Author Topic: Fear of others  (Read 530 times)

Offline Samana Johann

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Fear of others
« on: June 24, 2017, 05:54:28 pm »
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Fear of others, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2003; 3pp./7KB) , transcribed by lay people for ZzE  
This short Dhamma talk should give a small impression, how fear in daily live is actually self made and how preoccupations can determine our mind. The way to the path and the training according the Dhamma of the Buddha is pointed out as well, as how could one overcome this problem. This transcript origins from a collection of morning and evening talks and was shared on dhammatalks.org

Fear of others


Years back, a woman brought a friend of hers to meditate here. The friend had never meditated before. And at the end of the hour, she turned to the woman who brought her here and said, »I've never suffered so much in my life.« Which just goes to show that the mind can create a lot of suffering for itself. In fact, as the Buddha pointed out, it's the suffering we create for ourselves that really weighs down the mind, much more than the suffering that comes from outside, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations from other people. And the fears we have are often misdirected. The Buddha never says that fear is in and of itself unskillful. Many times, I've had some psychotherapists ask me about this, »Why doesn't the Buddha list fear as one of the roots for unskillful behavior?« And it's because there are some things that are actually worthy of fear. The fear becomes unskillful when it's tied up in greed, aversion, delusion. And that's the kind of fear you want to get past. The fear that comes from knowing that your mind has unskillful habits, and that conditions could come about where those unskillful habits take over: that's something to be feared.

You want to train your mind so that it is not influenced into doing unskillful things by any kind of conditions. And until the mind has reached that point, you've got something to fear. So the important thing as we practice is learning which fears are useless, and which fears are useful.

Particularly fears of other people's opinions. Other people can hurt you, yes. And we see so much of it in the world, people are harming one another all the time. But you can't let that potential dissuade you from doing what you know is right. That kind of fear, the Buddha says, is a cause of what they call »agati,« something that takes you off course. There are four kinds of agati altogether. You go off course because of things you desire, you want a reward of some kind from somebody, or you want a certain kind of pleasure that you think is going to come from doing something unskillful, so that desire pulls you off. Then there's agati that comes from aversion. When you're not willing to do something simply because you just don't like it, even though it may be the right thing to do, you don't like it, and that gets in the way. There's agati that comes from delusion, when you simply don't know what's the right and the wrong thing to do. And finally, there's agati that comes from fear.

These are all biases, and the word agati basically means »that takes you to a bad destination, takes you off course.« So you have to look at the fears that take you off course. The fears that someone will not like you or someone will punish you for doing something that you know is right, or that someone will create difficulties for you. You have to learn to be impervious to that. The fact that some people may not like you – well, as Ajahn Fuang once said, it's the people who like you that you are most beholden to. As he once said, if people hate you, then you can come and go as you like, you don't have to ask their permission, you don't have to be worried about what they're going to do while you're away. So there are times when you know the right thing to do is going to displease other people and there's no way around it. You have to be willing to put up with that, put up with their displeasure. If there are ways that you can smoothe things over, so much the better. But there come times when you can't. We have to stand up for what's right. And in that case, you can't let conflict or the fear of conflict dissuade you. I think I told you about the time when I gave my first Dharma talk. Ajahn Fuang said, »Imagine that you have a sword in your hand. Anybody out there in the audience who doesn't like what you have to say, you just cut off their head.« It's a shocking image, but it was effective. It made me reflect back on how much my own fears were actually the problem. Who knows what those other people were thinking? But it was my anticipation that they might not like it, or that they might disapprove, or that they may look down on me, or whatever, that was getting in the way. And that kind of fear is an agati: something that pulls you off course. If people are kind enough to tell you that you've done something wrong, or even if they let you know in not such a kind way that you've done something wrong, at least then you can look at it and see: well, was that wrong or was that not.

But these floating nameless fears that they just may not like you, or they may do something that is confrontational: you have to realize you're hobbling yourself with those fears. And those are the kind of fears you want to get over. You have to learn how to look past them. Well, what exactly would be so horrible about their disliking you, or their looking down on you? Which part of the mind is injured? Well, learn how not to identify with that part of the mind. Which part of the mind feels threatened? Again, learn how not to identify with it. That's the Buddha's prime tactic in learning how not to suffer: anything that is subject to harm leaves you open to danger, leaves you open to suffering. Why identify with it? And if you can think in this way, you'll find yourself shedding all kinds of unskillful forms of pride, and the pride that masks as an extreme shame. A lot of unskillful things hide around these things that we're afraid of. These things where we feel threatened. And so it's good to look into those.

This is why we meditate: to give ourselves a good, solid position inside so we can look at these other things that we've identified with for so long, habits, fears, the things that can pull us off course. All four of these things are desires that are unskillful, our aversions, our delusions, our unskillful fears. So this is where the real dangers lie: these habits we have. These are the real things that you should fear, and fortunately, there's something you can do about them, you're not stuck with them. You've been carrying them around, but you don't have to keep carrying them around.

Sometimes it takes time to learn how to let go and to live with the fact that there are people out there who will never like you no matter what, no matter how well you behave, no matter how intelligent you are, no matter how much you do for the world, there are going to be people who dislike you for some reason, some old karmic thing, or they themselves don't like living in the world where they feel threatened by someone else doing better than they did. So there are all kinds of reasons that people would decide that they would dislike you or wish you harm. You can't let that stop you. The Buddha himself was cursed by people. As Ajahn Lee once said, people can curse you and their mouths can open a whole yard, but they never actually reach you. You're the one who is pulling in their criticism. And that refers to the words they actually say to you. And here we are afraid of what other people will think! We are the ones who are stabbing ourselves with this. So that's the habit you want to fear, and that's the habit you can learn to let go of. And fortunately, because it is something you are doing yourself, you also have the power not to do it. So try to sort through your fears and see which ones are actually useful and which ones are hobbling you from doing the skillful thing. And to realize that you're hobbling yourself. You can take off those shackles and walk with a lighter step.
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Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2017, 07:38:14 pm »
Below, are errors in the above article:

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...the friend had never meditated before. And at the end of the hour, she turned to the woman who brought her here and said, »I've never suffered so much in my life.« Which just goes to show that the mind can create a lot of suffering for itself.

While the ignorant mind creates suffering due to attachment & egoism, the mind does not inherently create the underlying tendencies (anusaya) such as craving & fear (although the mind can overcome them). The basic underlying cravings, fears & defilements that would oppress the mind of a beginner meditator are created by nature. They are inborn & a new meditator without any life wisdom will drown in these nature made defilements if, via, agati, is influenced by a friend to meditate.

The Buddha taught faith in the Dhamma arises from suffering. In other words, individuals should find their own way to the Dhamma when they realise they need to end suffering.

Geoff De Graaf did not criticise the person for using agati to set the friend on a wrong path for herself. Meditation is not the right path for everyone, which is why the Buddha did not teach meditation to all people.

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In fact, as the Buddha pointed out, it's the suffering we create for ourselves...

This is wrong. The Buddha pointed out suffering is created by ignorance rather than created by "ourself" or by "other selfs". Refer to Acela Sutta.

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The fear that comes from knowing that your mind has unskillful habits, and that conditions could come about where those unskillful habits take over: that's something to be feared.

Ordinary 'fear' is 'bhaya' in Pali where as moral fear/dread is 'ottappa', which are two different things. It is not correct to substitute one for the other & speak about both as though they are the same kind of mental formation.

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»agati,« something that takes you off course. There are four kinds of agati altogether.

Agati means social prejudice, which is projected outwardly or conformed to inwardly. Therefore, yes, fears of other people's opinions is a form of agati. However, the generalisations made in the article are often not agati because agati is a prejudice or bias socially, such as nationalism, racism, cronyism, nepotism, etc.

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The fact that some people may not like you – well, as Ajahn Fuang once said, it's the people who like you that you are most beholden to.

This is a good teaching for children & teenagers but it does not relate to corrupted & defiled fake monks who are ignorant of & do not uphold the Dhamma-Vinaya.

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And that kind of fear is an agati: something that pulls you off course.

Something only pulls a person off course if they know the right course. For example, when a child follows their peers in misbehaviour, this only occurs when the child does not know better. Therefore, this is forgivable. But fake monks ignorant of the Vinaya is not forgivable.

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This is why we meditate: to give ourselves a good, solid position inside so we can look at these other things that we've identified with for so long, habits, fears, the things that can pull us off course.

Buddhist meditation is not a form of psychotherapy for people to discover if they are off course. Buddhism has three trainings (sila, samadhi & panna) and Buddhist meditators should ideally be firmly established in morality & understanding the reasons for morality.

If Buddhist meditation was truly this American-mass-market psychotherapy Geoffrey de Graaf is advertising, the Buddha would not have established a Vinaya or monk's discipline with 227 rules.

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Sometimes it takes time to learn how to let go and to live with the fact that there are people out there who will never like you no matter what, no matter how well you behave, no matter how intelligent you are, no matter how much you do for the world...

While this generalisation applies in the minority of cases, for the most part, it is not true.

People who have highly developed metta & do much for the world will, for the most part, be liked & admired by most people in the world. 

:brick:





Offline Samana Johann

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2017, 06:06:43 am »
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People who have highly developed metta & do much for the world will, for the most part, be liked & admired by most people in the world. 

Is Dhammadathu/VisuddhiRaptor/Element sure about this?

(Not even speaking about the many cases where people think that they are not liked & admired. Views are self-made.

It's just that one who had developed metta based on certain right view has got some independency of desire being nurished. While people at large like&admire nurishment.)

« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 06:16:59 am by Samana Johann »
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Offline ground

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2017, 10:52:25 pm »
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In fact, as the Buddha pointed out, it's the suffering we create for ourselves...

This is wrong. The Buddha pointed out suffering is created by ignorance rather than created by "ourself" or by "other selfs".

Kindergarden buddhism can only persist through ignoring one of the three characteristics of existence. :wink1:

Offline Anemephistus

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2017, 01:26:28 pm »
Thank you for sharing this article Samana Johann.   It says plainly "This short Dhamma talk should give a small impression, how fear in daily live is actually self made and how preoccupations can determine our mind. " Being as that is it's purpose, I think it is a point decently stated.

 “Bhikkhus, the teaching is merely a vehicle to describe the truth. Don’t mistake it for the truth itself. A finger pointing at the moon is not
the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know
the real moon.
The teaching is like a raft that carries you to the other shore. The raft is needed, but the raft is not the other shore. An intelligent person
would not carry the raft around on his head after making it across to the other shore. Bhikkhus, my teaching is the raft which can help you
cross to the other shore beyond birth and death. Use the raft to cross to the other shore, but don’t hang onto it as your property. Do not
become caught in the teaching. You must be able to let it go.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2017, 05:19:13 pm »
My guru once gave a teaching in which he said that suffering's cause is fear.  We are constantly afraid and this fear is what causes us to suffer.

If we are in pain, we're fraid it will never go away.
If we are happy, we're afriad of becoming sad.
If we have what we desire, we are afraid of loosing it.
If our desires are unfullfilled we are afraid we will never get it.
We don't ask a girl out because we fear rejection.
We don't take on a new challenge because we fear failure.
If we are healthy we fear sickness.
If we are sick we are afraid of never getting better.
As a result we suffer.

And yes, before someone get's all butt-hurt ,  this fear is due to ignorance and clinging.

But the fear causes suffering.


Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2017, 01:55:21 am »
But the fear causes suffering.

So is it essentially fear of change?

"Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha."
— SN 56.11

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2017, 03:27:07 am »
I'd take it further to say the possibility of change or no change.

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2017, 06:35:27 am »
We don't fear what is here and now.  We fear the future - only what could be or not.  We fear uncertainty and cling to it at the same time.  It seems to me that in this moment, now, there can be no fear, because there is no uncertainty to be found there.

Offline Anemephistus

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 01:44:53 pm »
We don't fear what is here and now.  We fear the future - only what could be or not.  We fear uncertainty and cling to it at the same time.  It seems to me that in this moment, now, there can be no fear, because there is no uncertainty to be found there.

I have experience with fear in the moment, not the result of what may come of what is happening but of what is happening at that moment. Even with discipline and experience with violence, it sometimes causes fear to arise.  Recently I saw a thread about moving hornets to a new home safely. Respect for life is genuinely important and one wants their mind to respond in a caring and compassionate way to suffering, as I understand it, this is a correct way of thinking.

So, when life is threatened by violence, and one has placed themselves in the position of swearing an oath to protect others, they must act, or break their vow. This is the position I am in. Talking rarely works in these situations so when I have my hands on another person, who is actively trying to harm someone I feel fear. The formation is mostly that of anxiety, it starts with recognition of what is happening. From there it is a feeling I keep at a safe distance while my body does what I tell it to...I take care to never use more force than necessary to control the situation and soon after I usually feel fine. But in each of the infinite moments of the occurrence, following the recognition of a violent situation there is fear present. The fear is not contingent on anything I can find other than proper concerns to preserve life and safety and the best way to do so.

Philosophically and in practice conditioning the mind to be free of fear is best, in my life I have trouble with it under real duress because in that moment there is uncertainty and no amount of knowledge can change that because the real outcome is unknown, and not all outcomes are equal.   

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2017, 03:02:57 pm »
The fear is not contingent on anything I can find other than proper concerns to preserve life and safety and the best way to do so.

Look a little deeper.  You'll find the fear isn't in the present at all.  Rather it is in the anticipation of the next moment.  The future.


Offline IdleChater

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2017, 03:23:58 pm »
We are being driven by fear.  Fear is what drove our evolution and plays a big part in or societies today.

If you looks at a human skeleton, you can see from the curvature of the spine and the alignment of the pelvis that we were, at one time quadrapedal.  As time passed we begame bipedal but the vestiges of our past can still be seen in in our anatomy.

Fear drove that development.  We began, as many primates exhibit, by raising ourseves up on our hind legs.  This was to detect danger at a greater distance.  We needed this because we were afraid of the threats posed by predators.  Like many apes we made ourselves taller to intimidate others of our species, again out of fear of others.

It's always other.  We don't fear our self.  We fear things outside ourselves, things that are yet to come, much like the predator that is not present now but may be present in the future.

Offline Anemephistus

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2017, 01:30:43 pm »
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Look a little deeper.  You'll find the fear isn't in the present at all.  Rather it is in the anticipation of the next moment.  The future.

It happens fast, and perception is fallible so I had to really examine this. Normally I do not revisit these things past the point I have to write a report, but I chose to do so for a more recent incident that happened last week. Your right, its about the future. It's also more of a mind/body formation than it is thoughts.

I used to relive these things after they happened, I would try and sleep and I couldn't. I have gotten rid of that distraction and much of the thinking that lead to it...I wonder now at the possibility of fighting danger without this formation/reaction.... Meditation and practice has often kept me calm, provided insight, and it has changed my life a lot already, perhaps I am at a point where visiting these memories and keeping an objective state could help me maintain one under the duress I have discussed. I could lose these feelings I think. Part of me thinks I may need them for the speed and strength they give.

Thoughts? 

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2017, 05:19:01 pm »
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Look a little deeper.  You'll find the fear isn't in the present at all.  Rather it is in the anticipation of the next moment.  The future.

It happens fast, and perception is fallible so I had to really examine this. Normally I do not revisit these things past the point I have to write a report, but I chose to do so for a more recent incident that happened last week. Your right, its about the future. It's also more of a mind/body formation than it is thoughts.

I used to relive these things after they happened, I would try and sleep and I couldn't. I have gotten rid of that distraction and much of the thinking that lead to it...I wonder now at the possibility of fighting danger without this formation/reaction.... Meditation and practice has often kept me calm, provided insight, and it has changed my life a lot already, perhaps I am at a point where visiting these memories and keeping an objective state could help me maintain one under the duress I have discussed. I could lose these feelings I think. Part of me thinks I may need them for the speed and strength they give.

Thoughts?

Thoughts?  Sure.  The main thought is for you to get with a therapist who works with psychological trauma.  Do this right away.

Stop talking to people here about it.  There are certain liabilities in discussing problems like this online when you're not qualified and noone here is.  Get professional help.

Offline Anemephistus

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Re: Fear of others
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2017, 06:39:16 pm »
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Look a little deeper.  You'll find the fear isn't in the present at all.  Rather it is in the anticipation of the next moment.  The future.

It happens fast, and perception is fallible so I had to really examine this. Normally I do not revisit these things past the point I have to write a report, but I chose to do so for a more recent incident that happened last week. Your right, its about the future. It's also more of a mind/body formation than it is thoughts.

I used to relive these things after they happened, I would try and sleep and I couldn't. I have gotten rid of that distraction and much of the thinking that lead to it...I wonder now at the possibility of fighting danger without this formation/reaction.... Meditation and practice has often kept me calm, provided insight, and it has changed my life a lot already, perhaps I am at a point where visiting these memories and keeping an objective state could help me maintain one under the duress I have discussed. I could lose these feelings I think. Part of me thinks I may need them for the speed and strength they give.

Thoughts?

Thoughts?  Sure.  The main thought is for you to get with a therapist who works with psychological trauma.  Do this right away.

Stop talking to people here about it.  There are certain liabilities in discussing problems like this online when you're not qualified and noone here is.  Get professional help.

My notation about sleep and stress was in the past, now well over decade ago to be clear. I am exposed to danger with relative frequency for my culture and place but I do not suffer like I once did from it.

As for a professional. This has already been done and I have one and have for a long time, I appreciate your concern. Please believe me  when I say that I carefully evaluate what I read here and what I study. Buddhism has a great deal to offer in this regard. Those who study it have a great deal to offer as well. I am, according to my professional help, handling my job stress in a primarily healthy way. I get very tired from it when I forget my religious practices however, and it was suggested to me that I do something to help keep me engaged with it. I ignored this for a little while ( maybe a little longer than I would like to admit) , got tired again, and came here. I figured I would give others with some understanding of where I was coming from a open view to a degree and try to help where possible if others needed it from what I had already gleaned from practice. 

It comes up here often because it has been the source from which I have viewed suffering, seeing the things I do first hand is different than knowing they exist. The strain has been a benefit, it is a difficult path. I try hard to carry a lantern in a dark place.  What I am exposed to is different than what may be normal for a developed culture, but it is not worse or better than what others deal with, and when compared to all suffering it is too small to even measure.

When my therapist gathered that I was trying to turn what I dealt with at work into focused understanding of a path to peace by understanding suffering as the great obstacle of humanity...She asked me a lot of questions.

When she (and my Wife) helped me realize that I had an anxiety issue we worked together and I used medication, and slowly the dose was lowered, I am almost off of it entirely as I have rewired my perception, all under the guidance of professional help. This was done over years and years. I still cyclically need a higher level of medication a couple of times a year but the distance gets greater as time goes by.

I gave up reviewing the things that I had already dealt with. I slept way better after I learned to do that by the way :).  I simply wonder at that decision at this point, previously it was necessary, it may still be, but my sole source of input was never going to be a forum. My understanding about letting go came from books by Thich Nhat Hanh and meditative excersise from varied sources including professional help. It seems natural to me that Buddhist understanding and psychological needs go hand in hand in many ways. I respect that you see a line where I have inquired and I will not ask further on this point.

Thank you again for your concern, I can tell it is genuine and your compassion is appreciated. I am not suffering from trauma, I have before, but that has been some time ago and this was more a matter of fear impulse removal and the lessons which offer wisdom about why and how to do so :namaste:

 


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