For me the courage is closely related, if not synonymous, to freedom. For only when facing life and all the problems or obstacles courageously you can really be free. Free from fear, free from doubts, free from darkness. And what else is freedom if not happiness.
This handout will be about courage and freedom. Starting with Shakyamuni, through Nichiren ending with Daisaku Ikeda. I will use my books and different internet quotes to discuss not what courage is but what courage is to me. I simply don’t feel that I am a qreat authority on courage but I might share with you what I think about it.
Daisaku Ikeda says that faith is synonymous with courage. How? Well, for starters we believe that to achieve happiness and bring happiness to the whole world we need human revolution. To revolutionize ourselves we need as many obstacles as possible to challenge ourselves and to shift our karma. And how else to face obstacles if not with courage! Sensei himself said: Courageous people can overcome anything. Cowardly people on the other hand, because of their lack of courage, fail to savour the true, profound joys of life. And nobody wants to be a coward, do we.
Nichiren clearly states that courage is no fear in our heart and achieve Buddahood thanks to that. I feel a tiny bit different about that. Of course you’re allowed to have fear in your heart, you, my dear, are a human being!!! You are a great Bodhisattva, you embraced the vow for kosen rufu, you are an inspiration and a light in the darkness for others but… YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING. A gloriuos, shiny human with the potential to be a Buddha, on the very best path to become a Buddha but, for now, still a human with all the human strenghts and weaknesses. Your weakness is the fear, your strenght is the ability not to be overpowered by it – courage!
“Fearlessness” (in this Buddhism) means expounding the Law bravely and without fear. It indicates the Buddha’s unshakeable self-confidence in expounding the Law. (“The Heart of the Lotus Sutra” p85) See? To have no fear means not to stupidly do dangerous or unwise things. It means having a total, boundless confidence in the Buddhism when propagating it. For instance: riding a motorbike 200mph, despite being afraid, because you are confident of your skills or believing in the universe to save you as you are a Buddha is not courageous, its stupid and dangerous. Telling a person you met on the train about the Buddhist meeting or describing the law with courage and confidence, despite being afraid of lack of knowledge or level of language or just coming across as a crazy, ridiculous alien, is courage and a straight path to Buddahood.
Fearlessness sharing the Buddhism and courage in facing obstacles are essential to achieve Buddahood. And Sensei has faith in all of us and in our abilities:
I want to raise champions, genuine champions who will fight for the people with indomitable resolve. I want to foster champions who possess courage, champions who will defend freedom, who are warm human beings yet uncompromising when it comes to fighting evil.
I am quite confident that we are all those champions already and striving each day to remain that way.
But notice that he speaks about champions that possess courage and defend freedom. That’s how I feel. Those two cannot be separated.
How often do we feel limited by fear? How often do we feel trapped by it? How well do you know: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not skinny enough, I’m not good enough, I can’t do that, what if they laugh at me, what if they think I’m stupid… and my favourite I DO NOT DESERVE IT. Guess what, all those come from fear. Lack of self-confidence, shyness, depression, self slander are deeply rooted in fear. We all fear rejection, loneliness, failure and, let’s be honest, most of us started practising this Buddhism because it gives us courage to face life.
I started practising when my boyfriend’s father died. It was the exact day. Jim was highly intelligent, interesting and I learned a lot from him. We shared some interests and some laughs. I don’t think there was love there though. Jim was and, I think, still is suffering from depression. I was beside him during a very difficult time when his father was dying of cancer and I saw him falling deeper and deeper into his darkness and I was determined to save him. He didn’t want to fight though. Now I know I wasn’t the one to save him, it should’ve been himself. I was just desperate to be able to call someone mine, to have someone to come back to after finishing work. I measured my worth with this amazing man I saw, who wanted me. WOW, someone actually wanted me. Sure he wasn’t respectful enough, he wasn’t as caring as I would like him to be, he was dragging me down into his abyss but he was mine. Well, he didn’t consider himself mine either. I started chanting in November 2013. The following Christmas I set my first determination ever and it was to cure him by his birthday in February. By the discussion meeting in January, deep down inside, I knew it will not work but I was still too afraid to leave. And, after all, the Buddhism taught me to fight and that nothing is impossible. At the discussion meeting I heard one sentence that wasn’t very Buddhist but was like a wake up call: you can’t sit on a fence, you have to jump one way or another because sitting on a fence will just give you sore bum. And I woke up. I finished the relationship and despite being shit scared of loneliness I decided I will be better fighting for my happiness on my own. It paid off 🙂 and guess what, I was never alone since then. My friends and my Buddhist friends were always with me and I never felt lonely.
And that’s what I’m talking about. Whatever comes towards you, this Buddhism gives the means to fight it and to make you free from fear, so have courage. I know you will be scared but the courage is to use this fear to chant, to realise what you’re scared about and to overcome that with the lion’s roar Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I found Daisaku Ikeda’s words to justify that
Life is full of unexpected sufferings. Even so, as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’” That’s exactly right. Struggling against great difficulty enables us to develop ourselves tremendously. We then call forth and manifest those abilities dormant within us. Difficulty can then be a source of dynamic new growth and positive progress.
One more thing is that when you go out of the shell, do that once and it works you will not only believe that it is possible. You will know that! You don’t have to believe anybody, that is the beauty of this Buddhism, you can test it and see for yourself.
The question is will you have the courage?