So who is it that says that it’s wrong to feel afraid? When we experience fear, and we hear a voice within us saying we shouldn’t be afraid, who is saying that?
When we first hear this question, we might hear the emphasis as, ‘Who says it’s wrong to feel afraid?’ as if we could find out who it is that says ‘it’s wrong’ and teach them to say that it’s okay. This would be an understandable kind of reaction. When we find something disagreeable, our initial reaction is often to try and find the responsible agent. But what happens if we change the emphasis of the question to ‘Who says it’s wrong to feel afraid?’
If we feel afraid, I would suggest that what is called for is to feel it fully, to feel fully afraid. We need to understand that this same character who says ‘It’s wrong to feel afraid’ also says that it’s wrong to feel all sorts of other things. He or she is endlessly judging and condemning. This is the one that is getting off on the world, consuming the world, feeding on the world through praise and blame.
The Buddha said that to feed on praise and blame is like feeding on other peoples’ spittle, on that which is better spat out or vomited up. This compulsive condemning mind feeds on taking the position of judge, on judging things as right, wrong, good or bad. Part of us really enjoys being so superior in handing down this judgement.
This same one starts laying on the praise when things are going well and we find our experience of life agreeable. A voice says, ‘You’ve really got it together; you’re doing really well. In no time, all sorts of people will want to listen to your pearls of wisdom. You’re flying; you’re on the way home.’
This character feeds on praise and blame, gain and loss, success and failure. This is the part of us that the Buddha said was a slave to the world. The energy it lives on is false and unsustainable.
This reflection by Ajahn Munindo is from the book, Unexpected Freedom, (pdf) pp.81-82.