A Buddhability Guide to Overcome Your Fears

(Photo above by Andrew Neel / Pexels)

Throughout human evolution, fear has served a vital function, protecting people from legitimate threats to survival. Today, some 60% of adults report having at least one unreasonable fear. So, how do we overcome our fears?

First, whatever the situation, decide you’re going to win.

Reflecting on how India’s struggle for independence began when the people first gained their spiritual independence, the Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda explains:

Above all, Gandhi purged the fear so long ingrained in people’s hearts. When the people stopped being intimidated—when they stood up straight with dignity and pride—the arrogant authorities who tyrannized them would inevitably fall. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of an independent India, asserted that driving fear from people’s hearts had been Gandhi’s “greatest gift” to India. What is fear? It is but an illusion created by one’s own mind. Cowards tremble with fear at shadows of their own making. “Do not fear!” Shakyamuni Buddha taught long ago. In our own age, Gandhi also called on the people of India to cast aside their fear. They responded by standing up with courage, marking the true dawn of India’s independence.

The New Human Revolution, vol. 3, p. 96

When we decide to challenge our preconceived limitations, we start moving out lives in the direction of victory.

Victory is guaranteed when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

When we decide to challenge our preconceived limitations, we start moving out lives in the direction of victory.

There are times when we may wonder whether it’s possible to break through a serious challenge, as Ikeda explains:

From the perspective of Buddhism, the law of cause and effect ensures that the moment we pray [chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], we create a cause for our victory, for our prayers to be answered. But this is not perceptible to us as ordinary people, and as a result we may have doubts and worries about whether our prayers will in fact be answered. Prayer is an ongoing battle against fundamental ignorance, the ultimate form of delusion. Faith means having complete conviction in the indisputable law of life, even though we may not be able to perceive it directly. … If we forget about prayer and only pursue strategies or methods, we are very likely to find ourselves going in circles.

November 2021 Living Buddhism, pp. 62–63

Sharing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with people is the quickest way to overcome our limitations.

Mahayana Buddhism sets forth the ideal of the bodhisattva who seeks enlightenment for both self and others, even postponing one’s own enlightenment to lead others to that goal. When we engage in this essential practice for “self and others” by sharing Buddhism with those around us, we chip away at our lesser self, concerned with only with ourselves, and develop a fearless and compassionate spirit. The more we engage in this bodhisattva practice of supreme respect for others, the more our lives come to shine with happiness and dignity. Ikeda says of this process:

[Sharing Buddhism] is … a struggle to break down the icy walls of darkness or ignorance in our own lives, which take the form of apathy, passivity and other negative emotions. When we talk with others about Buddhism, we are actually grappling with our own ignorance and earthly desires. That’s why it gives us the strength to surmount our own problems, enabling us to solidly transform our state of life and change our karma. In that sense, sharing Buddhism comes down to overcoming our own cowardice, laziness and delusion, thus enabling us to dispel the darkness or ignorance in our own lives and in the lives of others.

June 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 53

Sharing Buddhism with others, enables us to become bodhisattvas whose “minds know no fear.”

By having with a great mentor, we can become courageous.

When we think of our own fears, it becomes all the more important to not only develop a fearless spirit but to sustain it. Ikeda opens up about the source of his fearlessness as he journeys throughout the world to make the humanistic principles of Buddhism accessible to all. (Ikeda appears as Shin’ichi Yamamoto in the novel.):

Whenever Shin’ichi thought of his mentor, he felt tremendous courage and energy well up within him, and he knew he could withstand any hardship. No matter how determined we are to live according to the highest ideals, it is easy to be defeated by the fear or doubt, complacence or arrogance arising in our minds. That is why the Daishonin admonishes us, “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you” (“Reply to the Lay Priest Soya,” WND-1, 486). As long as we are able to keep the example of our mentor alive in our hearts, we can triumph over our personal weaknesses.

The New Human Revolution, vol. 16, p. 6

When we unite in spirit with a great mentor, sharing the same ideal of the happiness of humanity, we create a fearless self that can remain undefeated by life’s realities.

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