I was recently invited to write an article for the Buddhist magazine Tricycle toward their forthcoming issue on the theme of "Fear". This was an interesting thing to do. At first one might think that the obvious way to tackle this is to write about the ways that Buddhist practice helps one to overcome fear, become fearless, and so on. However, when one thinks about it fear is not really just one more emotion, it is a pretty fundamental building block of our being. If we had no fear we would be at risk in many situations, so we can say that fear protects us. Without it the species could hardly have survived. It is thus possible to write about the value of fear and in my article I did so especially from the point of view of protecting the individual.

Since then I wrote the piece on this site about the Arms Race and this leads me to reflect upon the fact that a Third World War has been avoided for half a century now by the existence of a balance of terror between the greatest powers. Thinking about this also involves thinking about the scenario that arises if one power were to become immune to the threat involved in the situation of "mutually assured destruction". If a country could put itself in an invulnerable position, it would be in a position to dominate all the others. This makes one realise that fear plays a role not only in protecting the individual but also in maintaining homeostasis in the collective.

It is nice to think that people are "good" in their core essence and that in ideal circumstances everybody would be kind and loving toward everybody else, but even leaving aside the fact that ideal circumstances in this sense never arise, the basic idea itself is almost certainly untrue. We do have good, kind, altruistic impulses, but that's not all. We also have an atavistic aspect that cannot be simply eliminated. It is, nonetheless, held in check and substantially so by fear: fear of ostracism, fear of retaliation, fear of what it may feel like having to live with ourselves afterwards, and so on. Thus fear not only protects us individually, it also regulates the life of the group, the tribe, the nation, and nations collectively.

Of course, as we do not like feeling fear we seek to make ourselves immune to it in various ways and this then sets up the kind of dynamic that is shown in its most horrible form in the Arms Race. However, parallel dynamics on a lesser scale take place in most relationships, even those where the partners have chosen each other on grounds of mutual affection, not to mention relations between siblings, parents and children, workers and employers and so on. In all these situations, some balance of power - and therefore fear - is struck and becomes the de facto structure of the situation until such time as that balance is disturbed by a new initiative on one side or the other.

Is this bad? It might be uncomfortable, but it seems to be how things are and perhaps we would do better by acknowledging it than by seeking escape.

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ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

Relationship.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on September 9, 2017 at 20:56 0 Comments

Found this on a Chogyam Trungpa video…

''The relationship between student and teacher is like a dance…

In relating with the teacher, your critical input and your surrendering work together. They’re not working against each other. The more input you get from the teacher and the phenomenal world and the more you develop, at the same time, the more you question. So there is a kind of dance taking place between the teacher and yourself. You are not particularly trying to switch off…

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Reflections on Foolishness.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on September 5, 2017 at 11:50 1 Comment

I sometimes can’t believe how defective I am!! Whilst despairing of myself the other day I remembered a Shinran teaching that I found some time ago. It really made me think and reinforced my resolve to practice.

It is a Pureland teaching about the depth of our sin preventing us from being genuinely good. Our efforts to be decent, caring beings are always based in and therefore contaminated by our self centredness, greed hatred and delusion. This is due to the…

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Korean Version of Workshops

Posted by JAESUNG KIM on August 6, 2017 at 6:58 0 Comments

2017 여름 불교심리치료 및 상담 워크숍 3회 내용

THREE PSYCHOTHERAPY & COUNSELLING WORKSHOPS

 

WORKSHOP 1: SNOW UPON A SILVER PLATE [ 銀盌盛雪]: PRINCIPLES OF BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY & THEIR PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC APPLICATION

In this workshop we shall introduce and review important aspects of Buddhist psychology including the conditioned and unconditioned mind, object relatedness, skandha process, the unity of path and goal, bodhichitta,…

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Great Intentions.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on August 3, 2017 at 22:42 0 Comments

  • The power of intentions is a topic that comes up regularly for me and always provides me with food for thought. In a recent service I was struck by the gravity of the Bodhisattva vows that we sing as part of our liturgy. ”Innumerable…

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