What is courage? – by Vivek Agnihotri


There are several definitions of courage. Many great people have defined courage. Here are few illustrations:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” — Nelson Mandela

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” — Mark Twain

Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away 

with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself N.D. Wilson, Dandelion Fire

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes — Maggie Kuhn, Social Activist

We are made to believe that in everyday life we don’t need courage. Courage is required only when we are in a fight or when our survival is at stake. That’s why when a student has exams… or when one is in a financial problem… marital problem or any situation where he is being tested…. one prays “God please give me courage to fight my problem”.

Is courage something we can borrow for sometime? Is courage something some people are born with? Very often people tell a courageous person “I wish I had courage like you”. We like heroes who are courageous. We elect leaders who are courageous. We like Gods who are courageous. Rama is celebrated for his courage but do we worship him only for his victory over Ravana? Do we admire Gandhi’s courage only for fighting British? Is courage an event?

First, I believe everyone is born with courage. It’s God’s gift to us like love and compassion. Slowly, we are tamed by the education system because in an organised market we don’t need lions, we need sheep. Sheep which follows instructions. Secondly, we don’t remember Rama or Gandhi only because they fought the evil. We remember them mostly for their ability to do small acts of Goodness which led them to the eventual victory over the evil.

Courage is not an event. It’s not a trait we use occasionally. Courage is a way of life. I believe courage comes from caring. When we care about something we also develop courage to protect it. When the heart is filled with compassion, it is also fearless. If we care and yet feel afraid, it means it’s not real compassion. It’s sympathy. Sympathetic mind is always fearful. Fear of loss, fear of life, fear of any kind makes us weak. It breaks our self-belief. It makes us doubt our natural ability to be courageous.

When we care, our mind becomes more aware. We become curious to know and understand better. Understanding is an antidote to fear. Only an unaware mind is fearful. When we don’t know what is in a dark room, we are scared to go in. Once we are familiar with the geography of the room, all the furniture, their placement, we also know where is the switch to turn on the light. It’s the awareness and understanding that leads us to courage to go inside the dark room without any fear.

When we care, we don’t care once. Or on a special event. Because caring is a state of mind. We care like we breath. All the times. It’s continuous. This state of mind makes us do goodness all the times. Life is made of small and simple things. By being inactive we make it complex. When the mind is active in caring and compassion, its’ aware of smallest of the things…. Smallest of the needs… then it’s acting all the times for the goodness.

For example, people who are passionate about gardening do not water from a distance. They become part of the garden. They touch every part of the plant, the soil… they remove insects with their hands. They care for the plant like one would care for life. Such people are not scared of snakes. Because they are part of this nature… they believe in it… they care for it…. They are not scared of going in the darker parts of this garden. With their care they want to ensure the good health of plants which eventually bears fruits. Or flowers. It’s the divine feeling one gets when a plant flowers, when the early rays of sun create a magical rainbow on the dew on its petals… it’s that divine feeling of helping something to life and then to protect it like we protect our own life is the act of real courage. When someone tries to steal that flower, you show all your might, all your courage to fight him. People see this event and admire this display of courage without realising that this act was the crescendo of everyday’s caring of that flower. That flower is built on the harmony of small acts of goodness.

Everyone needs to realise their own strengths and define their lives with their own experiences. That’s why we have so many definitions of courage. For me, courage comes to me by simple acts of goodness. These acts do not come in theory but as a response to what I feel towards this world, people and myself. They come because I care about the world around me as much as I care about my own breath.

Vedas say “You are the fullness. There is fullness, here is fullness. From the fullness, the fullness is born. Remove the fullness from the fullness and the fullness alone remains”. What is this fullness, if not life. What is life, if not caring. What is caring, if not courage. How does one survive, if not courageous.  I believe courage comes from caring.

Be caring. Be courageous. Be #IAmBuddha

Note: you can also contribute to this column by sending your ideas, stories, fables, anecdotes. I’ll use them with due credits.

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