“Fear is the path to the dark side …
fear leads to anger …
anger leads to hatred …
hatre leads to suffering”
Master Yoda, The Phantom Menace, 1999
The three poisons; greed, hate and ignorance bind us to the rounds of birth and death. This image helps us understand our condition and what we might do to settle what we are experiencing.
The rounds of birth and death are our everyday life. It is these experiences that we are familiar with that we are moved by, where we experience joy and grief, happiness, sadness, all of the experiences that characterize our life as human beings. The experiences that we share with all humanity.
From a Buddhist perspective no one is outside of this. No matter our station in life or where we appear in this world, as human beings we are in this samsaric life. We are subject to the same causes and conditions that result in joy or sadness. The three poisons are the characteristics that are central to our experience in samsara. As we consider this, keep in mind Shinran’s verse in the Shoshinge: A person of shinjin realizes that samsara is nirvana. Our experience of nirvana as samsara is the result of our prejudices. Fear is an important experience that shapes how we engage the world. Whether we are born to the lowest station in life or to the highest we still experience the consequences of greed, hate and ignorance.
Fear is not a bad thing, it can help us navigate the world. However, when we do not examine the cause of fear, fear can become disruptive. To become fearless is not the objective just as enlightenment is not the objective of Buddhism. Resolving the difficulties we experience as human beings is the intent of Buddhism.To recognize the cause of fear allows us to engage the world with awareness.
Fear can lead to anger if we do not understand the cause of our fear. Fear can become anger if that fear results from the possibility of losing something I value. It might be loss of freedom, loss of position, loss of identity. The fear of losing something can cause us to respond in anger.
In Buddhism we know responding in anger does not resolve our circumstances, it may postpone the consequences of anger but the cause of anger remains. If the cause of anger is fear to understand the cause can help to dissipate the anger. It is not to be fearless. It is to understand the cause of why we are fearful. As the fear is acknowledged it’s cause can be addressed. When the cause is addressed, the anger can dissipate. If the cause is not addressed, then anger will continue.
“In this world, hatred is never appeased by hatred. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal law.” The Buddha