I have written several posts on fear over the years. But this morning while meditating, I suddenly realized that the origin of fear, from the dawn of man, is our desire to control the world around us and our inability to do so.
When man first emerged with his brain’s capacity to think, he viewed nature differently from an animal. When he experienced the sometimes destructive or inconvenient power of nature, his mind developed a desire to control nature to protect himself, as opposed to just being at one with it like an animal.
Yet he could not control it and so became fearful. That primordial fear led to the creation of the first religions and to most of the “progress” mankind has seen as it continues to this day to try and exert more and more control over the natural environment and all other aspects of existence.
Of course, animals experience fear as well. But an animal’s fear is more direct. If there is a fire, an animal flees. If an animal is attacked, it either fights for its life or flees.
For an animal, fear is immediate, and when the situation is changed it goes back to its life as usual. (See my post, “The Wisdom of Chickens.”) For a human, however, because fear resides in the mind and results from the knowledge that we can’t control various forces, fear is always present, whether consciously or subconsciously. (Domesticated animals sometimes do develop a Pavlovian behavior due to regular maltreatment by their human handlers that may seem neurotic.)
But knowing that fear arises from the desire to control gives us a tool to free ourselves from fear. That tool is to know that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is. Any sense of control is illusion. Once we truly accept this fact of life, then our mind rests undisturbed, and when our mind rests undisturbed nothing in the world offends and so there is no fear or anger, just awareness. (See my post, “Mind Resting Undisturbed.”)
Even if we are physically attacked and defend ourselves, if fear or anger does arise during or after we will be able to say, “It’s just the way it is. Fear is a product of the mind. Get over it. Nothing can deprive me of my true Buddha nature.”
The reader might ask, "What's the difference then between freeing yourself from fear in this manner, as opposed to knowing from within that fear is just a product of the mind." I was going to make a plant analogy about pulling a plant out with its roots, but that doesn't work because the root of fear in the ego-mind always remains. The difference here is more one of degree; fear is more likely to arise, it has more power, when you just have the realization that things are the way they are because it's just the way it is, as opposed to knowing that fear is just a product of the mind and saying to it, "Not me!"
Please note that since walking the path is an ongoing progress, hopefully with ongoing growth and deepening knowledge, you should not find it strange that my thoughts on various things have evolved over time. I have never claimed to be enlightened. And since I share my thoughts on this blog in real time, these changes in knowledge are reflected in my posts. Where something has fundamentally changed, I have indicated that fact by going back to earlier posts and entering a postscript.