Q: Can you speak about working with fear and loss of ego identity, fear and death?
A: That’s one of the places where loving-kindness is a very skillful meditation and exercise because that sense of fear easily comes up with the loss of the familiar, with the uncertainty of where to place one’s attention. What can one trust as one starts to see? Body: can’t rely on that. Feelings, perceptions, thoughts: completely untrustworthy. Consciousness: not a good deal. You look at the world around and…
So it’s easy to be shaken by the instability and uncertainty of everything, and there can be a fear there, uncertainty, a certain confusion and discombobulation. It’s good to be able to recognize that, even if our experience is completely uncertain and unstable, “This particular feeling of loving-kindness is trustworthy. I’ve experienced that. I’ve seen that. That’s a true feeling within the heart.”
There is also the confidence that arises just in virtue; all the things that the Buddha encourages. There isn’t anything that the Buddha encourages that is something to be looked on askance, as if it were untrustworthy.
On a certain level, when one first approaches the teachings one can think, “Wow, this is a miserable teaching.” Like in the morning chanting: Birth is dukkha; aging is dukkha; sickness is dukkha; death is dukkha; separation is dukkha; association is dukkha. Everything is dukkha.
But then when one investigates: “Well, what does the Buddha actually encourage you to do? What does he lay out as a path of practice and training?” The Noble Eightfold Path. Right view, right intention: association with wisdom. Right speech, right action, right livelihood: virtue. Right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration: peaceful, tranquil states of mind. Well, it’s all good. The path is completely associated with the wholesome, the skillful, the uplifting.
Then there are other spiritual attributes we can trust, say, the qualities that are conducive to passing over, transcending, crossing over suffering: the pāramīs. Generosity, virtue, renunciation, patience, effort, resolution, truthfulness, loving-kindness, equanimity, wisdom: everything that one could conceive of that is really good. That’s what the Buddha encourages and that’s what forms the basis for the ability to cross over suffering.
The heart is replete with well-being and stability. Recollecting and reminding oneself of what the Buddha encourages us to cultivate and develop: those are all exceedingly beneficial, bright states of mind.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Abundant, Exalted, Immeasurable, (pdf) pp. 108-109.