Bhaya-bherava Sutta: Fear & Terror

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. Then Janussonin the brahman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged polite greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings, he sat to one side. He said to the Blessed One, “Master Gotama, the sons of good families who have left the household life and gone into homelessness, out of faith in Master Gotama: is Master Gotama their leader? Is Master Gotama their helper? Is Master Gotama the one who inspires them? Do they take Master Gotama as their example?”

“Yes, brahman, so it is. The sons of good families who have left the household life and gone into homelessness out of faith in me: I am their leader. I am their helper. I am the one who inspires them. They take me as their example.”

“But, Master Gotama, it’s not easy to live in lonely places in the forest or wilderness. It’s not easy to stay in solitude, not easy to be happy being alone. It seems as though the fears of the forest attack the mind of a monk who has not yet gained the ability to concentrate.”

“Yes, brahman, that is true. It’s not easy to live in lonely places in the forest or wilderness. It’s not easy to stay in solitude, not easy to be happy being alone. It is as if the fears of the forest attack the mind of a monk who has not yet gained the ability to concentrate. Before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, the thought came to me as well: It’s not easy to live in lonely places in the forest or wilderness. It’s not easy to stay in solitude, not easy to be happy when alone. It is as if the fears of the forest attack the mind of a monk who has not yet gained the ability to concentrate”

Then the thought arose in me: ‘When brahmans or monks, who are impure in their physical actions, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they have acted wrongly that these places bring them fear and terror. But it’s not the case that I am impure in physical actions when I go to lonely places in the forest and in the wilderness. I am pure in physical actions. I am one of those noble ones who are purely good in physical actions, purely moral in physical actions, when I go to lonely places in the forest and the wilderness. Seeing in myself this purity in my physical actions, I was more courageous and determined to staying in the wilderness.

The thought arose in me: ‘When brahmans or monks, who are impure in their speech, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they have spoken wrong that these places bring them fear and terror. But it’s not the case that I am impure in speech when I go to lonely places in the forest and in the wilderness. I am pure in speech. I am one of those noble ones who are purely good in my speech, speaking only what is true, what is useful, what is beneficial, when I go to lonely places in the forest and the wilderness. Seeing in myself this purity in my speech, I was more courageous and determined to  staying in the wilderness.

The thought arose in me: ‘When brahmans or monks, who are impure in their livelihoods, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they have practiced a wrong livelihood that these places bring them fear and terror. But it’s not the case that I am impure in livelihood when I go to lonely places in the forest and in the wilderness. I am pure in my livelihood. I am one of those noble ones who are purely good in livelihood, purely moral in my way of living, when I go to lonely places in the forest and the wilderness. Seeing in myself this purity in my way of living, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“The thought arose in me: ‘When brahmans or monks who are jealous & greedy for sensual pleasures go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they are jealous & greedy for sensual pleasures that these places bring them fear and terror. But I am not jealous, or greedy for sensual pleasures. Seeing in myself this lack of jealousy or greed for sensual pleasures, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“When brahmans or monks who angry minds, with harmful intentions, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they have angry minds, with harmful intentions, that these places bring them fear and terror. But I have a mind of good will, full of compassion and loving kindness. Seeing in myself this unlimited good will, compassion and loving kindness, I was more courageous, and determined to stay in the wilderness.’

“When brahmans or monks, who are taken over by laziness & sleepiness, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their laziness and sleepiness that these places bring them fear and terror. But I am free of laziness, free of sleepiness. Seeing in myself this freedom from laziness and sleepiness, I was more courageous, and determined to stay in the wilderness.’

“When brahmans or monks who are agitated, with a mind that is not still, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their agitated, anxious, unsettled mind, that these places bring them fear and terror. But I have a still and calm mind, untroubled by agitation or anxiety. Seeing in myself this still and calm mind, untroubled by agitation or anxiety, I was more courageous, and determined to stay in the wilderness.’

 “When brahmans or monks who are lacking faith, doubtful, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their lack of faith, because of their doubt, that these places bring them fear and terror. I have gone beyond doubt, beyond uncertainty, I have total faith. Seeing in myself this total faith, seeing that I was beyond doubt or uncertainty, I was more courageous, and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“When brahmans or monks who are given to praising themselves and putting down others go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their praising themselves and putting down others, that these places bring them fear and terror. I do not praise myself or put down others. Seeing in myself that I would never praise myself or put others down, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“When brahmans or monks who tend toward panic & fear go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their easily-panicked mind that these places bring them fear and terror. I have gone beyond this kind of panicky dread. Seeing in myself that I was beyond this kind of dread, beyond panic, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“When brahmans or monks who are wishing for wealth, gifts and fame, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their desire for wealth, gifts and fame that these places bring them fear and terror. I have very few needs and no desire for wealth, gifts or fame. Seeing in myself that I had very few needs, and no desire for wealth, gifts or fame, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“When brahmans or monks who are lazy and lacking in determination go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their laziness and lack of determination that these places bring them fear and terror. I have no laziness, I have endless supplies of effort, and my determination is strong. Seeing in myself this endless supply of effort and strong determination, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“When brahmans or monks, who are unaware and often in the cloud, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they are unaware and in the cloud that these places bring them fear and terror. But my awareness (sati) is fully developed, I am perfectly sharp and I do not accept to go in the cloud. Seeing in myself this strong sati and perfect sharpness, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“‘When brahmans or monks who are distracted, with minds that always run away from them, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because they are distracted, with minds that always run away from them, that these places bring them fear and terror. But my concentration is gathered together at one point and my mind is trained, it never runs away from me. Seeing this concentration in myself, I was more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness.

“The thought arose in me: ‘When brahmans or monks who are fools with no common sense, go to lonely places in the forest or wilderness, it is because of their stupidity and lack of common sense that these places bring them fear and terror. But I am not a fool with no common sense. I am complete in wisdom. Seeing in myself this perfection in wisdom, I felt even more courageous and determined to stay in the wilderness

“The thought arose in me: ‘What if — on certain special nights set aside in advance, such as the eighth, fourteenth, & fifteenth of the lunar fortnight — I were to stay in the kinds of places that give rise to fear and make your hair stand on end, such as graveyards, forest-shrines, & tree-shrines? Perhaps I would get to observe this fear & terror.’ So at a later time — on special nights set aside in advance, the eighth, fourteenth, & fifteenth of the lunar fortnight — I stayed in the kinds of places that give rise to fear and make your hair stand on end, such as graveyards, forest-shrines, & tree-shrines. And while I was staying there, a wild animal would come, or a peacock would make a twig fall, or wind would move the fallen leaves. The thought would arise in me: ‘Is there fear & terror coming?’ Then the thought arose in me: ‘Why do I simply keep waiting for fear?

What if I, in whatever position I’m in when fear & terror comes to me, were to remove that fear & terror in that exact same position?’ So when fear & terror came to me while I was walking back & forth, I would not stand or sit or lie down. I would keep walking back & forth until I had removed that fear & terror. When fear & terror came to me while I was standing, I would not walk or sit or lie down. I would keep standing until I had removed that fear & terror. When fear & terror came to me while I was sitting, I would not lie down or stand up or walk. I would keep sitting until I had removed that fear & terror. When fear & terror came to me while I was lying down, I would not sit up or stand or walk. I would keep lying down until I had removed that fear & terror.

“There are some brahmans & monks, brahman, who see ‘day’ when it is night, and ‘night’ when it is day. This, I tell you, is being in a state of confusion, not knowing. As for me, I see ‘day’ when it is day, and ‘night’ when it is night. If anyone were to say, ‘A being not subject to ignorance has appeared in the world, for the benefit & happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the good & happiness of human & divine beings,’ he would speaking rightly of me.

“Unrelenting effort and determination was awakened in me, and clear mindfulness was in place. My body was calm and settled, my mind concentrated and gathered at one point.”