Buddha says that fear is the result of ignorance. And the ignorance is that when you start out as an infant with an undifferentiated awareness, you are then taught who you are.

That component, which we all call ‘ego’, is a very fragile structure. It seems tough, but it’s actually a very fragile structure.

It’s a structure that is created of mind, of learned neural patterns. It is, on one side of what Freud referred to as the ‘id’, or the ‘impulse life’, while societal structures are on the other side. This ego is designed to interface between impulse life and the society. To protect the society from impulse life.

When you didn’t have a framework, when you didn’t have a somebody-ness, you were just part of the universe, and there was no fear. One has to have self-concept to be afraid, and when an organism is functioning instinctively in a scene, in an infant stage, each change in the homeostasis, each change in the balance of the situation is just a new moment. It’s just a new moment to which it responds.

It’s very delicate to interpret things like ego and fear because we tend to interpret from where we’re sitting, and we’ve developed these structures around it.

But if you can sense the way it works, just see on one side of you the extremely powerful impulses in you that you may be afraid of, and on the other side the tremendous forces outside that you may be afraid of. Then, you can begin feeling yourself as a very fragile entity within the whole structure.

The root of the fear is the feeling of separateness that can exist here, within oneself. The root of the fear is within the model one has of oneself. That’s where fear starts. Once that feeling of separation exists, then you process everything from either inside or outside in terms of that model. It then keeps reinforcing the feeling of vulnerability, because there are incredibly powerful forces moving both inside and outside of you.

The transformative process of spiritual work is reawakening to the innocence of going behind that model of separation that one has, that cuts you off, that made you a tiny little fragile somebody. A lot of the power comes from a freeing of our own fragility.

When you look at social structures, you see how much social institution is based upon the feeling of fragility within the human condition. Based on fear.

You say, “I’m afraid of that person,” but you mean you are afraid of being socially shamed by that person. When you are socially shamed, it hurts, but then here we still are. You’re afraid of violence, and then if violence happens, sure, it’s scary and painful and then behind it, here we are.

I think that fear often feeds upon itself and we’re mostly afraid of the fear, which then gives it greater power… But we are just afraid because we feel vulnerable.


-Ram Dass