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Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 511–531 | Cite as

The Role of Fear (Bhaya) in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma

  • Giuliano GiustariniEmail author
Article

Abstract

According to Buddhist soteriology, fear is a direct cause of suffering and one of the main obstacles in the path to liberation. Pāli Suttas and Abhidhamma present a number of sophisticated strategies to deal with fear and to overcome it. Nevertheless, in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma there are also consistent instructions about implementing fear in meditative practices and considering it as a valuable ally in the pursuit of nibbāna By means of a lexicographical study of selected passages and especially of two compounds (bhayūparata and abhayūparata), this paper demonstrates that fear may have the crucial function of stimulating the meditator: through reiterated admonishments and reflections that evoke a feeling of dread, the meditator gets weary of unwholesome patterns and is prompted to put effort in his/her own practice. Evidence proves that this set of instructions is ultimately consistent with the several teachings that emphasize the importance of counteracting fear and fostering fearlessness, which is described as a quality of liberation as well as an attitude to be cultivated. In fact, a close analysis of the dynamics involved in bhaya (fear) and abhaya (fearlessness) as graphically depicted in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma texts, reveals that stirring fear and letting go of fear are two essential steps of the same process.

Keywords

Buddhist meditation Abhidhamma Suttas Fear Mindfulness of death Theravāda Nibbāna Puggalapaññatti 

Abbreviations

A

Aṅguttara Nikāya

Abhis

Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha

AVS

Arthaviniścaya Sūtra

AVSN

Arthaviniścaya Sūtra Nibandhana

Cone

A Dictionary of Pāli

CSCD

Chatta Saṅgayana CD

D

Dīgha Nikāya

Dhp

Dhammapada

Edgerton

Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Jātaka

Jā-a

Jātaka-aṭṭhakathā

M

Majjhima Nikāya

Mil

Milindapañha

Monier-Williams

A Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Mv

Mahāvagga (Vinaya Piṭaka)

Mv-A

Mahāvagga-aṭṭhakathā

Paṭism

Paṭisambhidāmagga

Parjt

Paramatthajotikā

PED

Pali English Dictionary

Peṭ

Peṭakopadesa

Pp

Puggalapaññatti

Pp-a

Puggalapaññatti-aṭṭhakathā

Ppsud

Papañcasūdanī (Majjhimanikāya-aṭṭhakathā)

PTS

Pali Text Society

S

Saṃyutta Nikāya

Saund

Saundarananda

Sd

Saddanīti

Skt

Sanskrit

Sn

Suttanipāta

Spk

Sāratthappakāsinī (Saṃyuttanikāya-aṭṭhakathā)

Th

Theragāthā

Vism

Visuddhimagga

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mahidol UniversityNakhon PathomThailand

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