Zen Tapes

Overcoming Fears

Zen Tapes - Overcoming Fears

Hi there! Zen Master Rama here. It's about 2:15 in the morning on Sunday, December 7, 1986. I'm visiting Boston. I'm downtown, looking out the window at the city, watching the cars circling around. The lights of the taller buildings are in the distance. I came here to make a series of tapes because there's a special energy available in the downtown Back Bay area of Boston. The power lines here - the lines of energy that run through the earth - the luminous lines are very clear, particularly around this time of the morning.

This morning I'd like to talk with you about overcoming your fears, whether they're small fears or large fears, fears that you're aware of or subconscious fears, fears that you don't know you have. What is fear anyway? It's a feeling that we feel in the pit of our stomach, in our body. It's very physical, isn't it? And when we experience that feeling, it really cuts us off from our strength, our power. It cuts us off from knowledge and experience. It's a guillotine that falls and separates.

Fear is an interruption in the normal flow or routine of life.

Fear is an interruption in the normal flow or routine of life. Some fears appear to be more sensible than others, in a way. There are programmed biological fears. The fear of falling is there so that we're careful not to fall, so that we don't suffer bodily harm. Fear of pain is a very good fear, in a sense, in that it helps protect us - until we understand that we don't need to have a fear of something in order to avoid it.

Fear. What are you afraid of? I bet you're afraid of lots of things. You might be afraid of being alone. You might be afraid of dying. You might be afraid of living. You might be afraid of being close to someone. Everyone is afraid of enlightenment, knowledge, completion. People are afraid of being exposed - the thoughts they think, the actions they partake in - they're afraid that those thoughts and actions will be seen by others and misunderstood or perhaps even understood.

We have lots of fears. We're taught to fear. The operative condition on this particular planet, the central mode which human beings follow, is fear - not love, fear. Love, of course, is the opposite of fear; or understanding and knowledge are the opposites of fear. We're taught to fear.

People are kept in line in society because they fear punishment. It's necessary, it would seem, in a world in which people lack control. One nation doesn't attack and overrun and destroy the other nation because of fear of reprisal. We call it détente. It's fear. The assumption that underlies this mentality is that anarchy is a natural state or one of the natural states of the human condition; that a human being, without given proper restraints, will follow their desires without mitigation; and those desires will usually cause them to injure others, either because of a pure enjoyment of injuring others or because they want something; and another's well-being or happiness will not intervene between a person's lusts and appetites and desires and that which they seek. So if you're walking down the street and somebody wants the money in your handbag or your wallet, they'll attack you and take it away, unless they fear going to jail, being punished, being exposed.

People are taught to fear God. They're taught to fear - everything, just about. It's become such a natural state that no one questions it, or practically no one. Hardly anyone considers that we live in a world that's predicated upon fear. The underlying assumption is that human beings are innately evil and they must be carefully governed and controlled. That's the dichotomy that's set up within the human mind. One side of you is reasonable, the other side is not. One side of you lusts after power, possessions and so on. The other side is reasonable, is moderate and believes in restraint. But the libido, that part of our being that wants to just lash out or plummet itself into orgies of sensual passion, be they orgies of the flesh or blood or destruction or whatever it may be - we don't follow those impulses because we fear.

We might like to eat forever but we don't because we're afraid that we'll get too fat and our clothes won't fit or that people won't like us - we won't be thin enough. Or that we'll get sick and get heart disease; the cholesterol level will go too high. Fear governs. Or it will cost too much or someone will think you're a gross pig (Rama laughs). Or whatever. Fear.

There's the desire for achievement, the desire for excellence, of course. The desire to create, not just to destroy, the desire to experience beauty, love, light, knowledge. But in this world, we see more passion than dispassion. We see more fear than knowledge. Armies rule the world, nuclear weapons. I'm not against armies and nuclear weapons. I'm not for them, but as a social commentator who has seen many worlds come and go, I'm just observing the state of evolution of this particular planet. Fear-net is happening. Consequently, everyone is raised with fear embedded in their consciousness, and the big problem is, of course, fear makes you miserable when you no longer need it.

Granted, some people need it, it seems. That's the only language they understand at their current status of evolution. You can reason with someone who wants to go out and commit heinous crimes, and they may smile and listen and think you're a jerk and then go out and commit heinous crimes. Reason doesn't always work. Love doesn't always work in a practical, pragmatic, immediate sense. It's the only thing that works ultimately. Fear works, definitely. Definitely.

A good friend of mine - I've been telling him to lose weight for years. He had a heart operation, and he lost a lot of weight afterward and then, of course, he gained it back. I've been saying, "Lose the weight. Drop the 15 or 20 pounds." It didn't do any good. I was explaining that he'd look better, feel better. Positive inspiration didn't work. He went in to the doctor because he was having chest pains. The doctor said, "If you don't loose the 15 or 20 pounds, you're gonna die, sir." Lost it in about ten days.

Fear does work, yes. But it's a great limitation when you reach the point where you no longer need it. You know what you want to do. You know where you want to go or what you want to be. You have that knowledge. But yet - in other words, you don't need someone standing over you telling you what you can't do and what will happen if you do that. You've reasoned life out to the point where you know that it's good to have self-control, where you don't wish to injure others for self-gain and so on. [You are] intellectually and spiritually aware, evolved. But fear, which has been embedded in your mind since you were a tiny tot, doesn't go away easily. It's conditioned in. And because we have fear, we fail to fulfill and realize our potential as human beings. So overcoming fear is a critical factor for anyone who wishes to be really happy, or anyone who wishes to become enlightened. Because fear hangs you up.

Attraction and aversion - the reason a person is in a particular state of mind is primarily because of attraction and aversion. Attraction and aversion, like and dislike, cause us to format a mental or intellectual program. The mind is like a computer. It runs programs. It can run one program at a time, many, and most of the software that's written, that runs on the computer of the mind, has been very poorly written. It's primitive. Outdated. It's written in the language of fear. There are many more languages, advanced languages that you can run. As you study the ways of enlightenment, you'll learn these advanced languages and be able to do things with your mind that you can't conceive of now, feel things that you've never felt, have realizations that you were unaware of.

Life is perfect. It glows.

Rama smiling with his arms crossed wearing a designer suit
Seeing is the ability to tell what really is.

The works of Rama – Dr. Frederick Lenz are reprinted or included here with permission from

The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.