Posted by: Upāsaka | 12/29/2012

Courage

During my time studying and practicing the Dhamma I don’t believe I have ever come across a sutta or gatha that specifically discusses courage. Courage, here taken to mean the willingness to confront fearful situations and still act skillfully, seems to be taken as a given but never enunciated as a separate virtue in and of itself. It definitely requires courage to face oneself in meditation or to take the leap of renunciation (even if only in a small way). But, it appears that courage per se is considered to be so ancillary as to not merit a mention in the lists (please correct me if I’m wrong).

Because my personality is largely conditioned by fear I think that this question has an importance for me which it would not for others. For a long time I wondered why fear wasn’t included in the list of hindrances until I came to the (as always provisional) understanding that fear should be subsumed under aversion. Because I trust in the teachings of the Buddha moreso than I trust in my own meandering reasonings and postulations I have half a hunch that courage is perhaps subsumed under another factor or virtue. But just what would that be?

I’m most inclined to turn to the paramis and place courage under the rubric of viriya or aditthana but the etymology of the word seems to suggest that it should be more closely related to metta. My own amateur etymological analysis would deduce that courage comes from the French for heart so it would mean something akin to “heartfulness”. In Italian, a language I actually speak, coraggio comes from the same root and can be roughly translated as bravery. So, where does this leave me? Honestly, less certain than before I started but perhaps I can just be open to finding out by keeping the question bubbling away in a back room somewhere.

May we all have the courage to keep coming back to the present moment and understand that this is where both suffering and its ending are found. Bhavatu sabba mangalam.


Responses

  1. Try MN 4, Upasaka. The Buddha talks about overcoming fear as a bodhisatta.

    My understanding is that viriya also carries the less-common meaning of courage. Viriya is the antidote to sloth and torpor, which are laziness and lethargy, but which also connote a withdrawing from difficulty. Viriya, then, would be persevering despite difficulty. I think aditthana and khanti contain the element of courage as well. But my understanding is that viriya is actually translated as courage on rare occasions.

  2. Thank you for the excellent reply! Happy New Year!


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