Tonight maybe out last discussion on the defilements. I have an idea of were we can go from here but first we need to look into the nature of fear. It can show up as a sign of weakness, something we need to overcome or as a sign of liberation recognizing that it is the foundation of existing in a world conditioned by birth, aging and death. In 2002, Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote an article entitled Freedom from Fear. In it he said this: “…Think of a deer at night suddenly caught in a hunter’s headlights. It’s confused. Angry. It senses danger, and that it’s weak in the face of the danger. It wants to escape. These five elements — confusion, aversion, a sense of danger, a sense of weakness, and a desire to escape — are present, to a greater or lesser extent, in every fear. The confusion and aversion are the unskillful elements. Even if the deer has many openings to escape from the hunter, its confusion and aversion might cause it to miss them. The same holds true for human beings…”
I looked over our list of defilements and found four that I think distract us from connecting with genuine fear and instead trigger confusion and aversion. They are faithlessness (I think of faithlessness as doubt), capriciousness (a sense of impulsiveness and unpredictability), lack of comprehension (inability to understand something) and dissatisfaction (a feeling of disapproval). I would like to explore how these defilements have been showing up our lives recently. For instance, I shared an experience I recently had with my yearlong study group at a recent protest on Capitol Hill. I was given a red sticker that simply said “I’m not afraid”. I put it on my coat and was immediately triggered with a lot of fear. As I marched through the streets, I watched the relationship between fear and doubt. The more I felt the fear the less doubt and the more doubt the less fear. I realized how much doubt distracts me from connecting with what I find is a harder emotion – fear. The fear, however, was in the present moment and so was a lot of people, yelling of chants, laughter, kindness, coldness and good friends. I saw how my fear was just a small part of everything else going on. Doubt, as a distraction, is all consuming. I was unable to access anything else but the mental torment driving the doubt. When I let go of the mental torment of doubt and felt into the physical aspect of fear, I was able to see more and the fear became much more realistic.
Likewise, I think when we get caught in or distracted by the defilements of faithlessness (doubt), capriciousness (unpredictability), lack of comprehension (or understanding) and dissatisfaction (disapproval) we lose our ability to see fear realistically. Instead we get caught in the unskillful elements of confusion and aversion which reeks havoc in our minds and lives. What do you think? Is there a different defilement that detracts you from being able to see fear as it truly exists? Could you live with fear and still connect to peace? What about joy?
See you tonight – Tuere