Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad-Geeta : “Contact with the outside world inevitably brings happiness and distress. One should be prepared to tolerate the same” (2.14). Anyone desiring or attempting a trouble-free existence is living in illusion. All of us do try to reduce the possibility of the onset of problems, but their total elimination is impossible.
This is why courage is so important. Courage is defined as an ability to control fear when facing danger, pain, opposition, etc. It can also be defined as willingness to tolerate, face, overcome and accept adversities. Will-power and courage are similar qualities related to the strength of one’s mind. Courage is also linked to the mental resolve to stand up to and face challenges as they come. It is said that one is as strong as one’s mind. And, finally, courage is never foolhardiness or getting into trouble willingly ; courage is more like an intelligent, calculated response.
We live in the material world where three types of sufferings always exist : that is, those inflicted by our own body and mind ; by others ; and by natural forces, like earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. One cannot also be in favourable surroundings all the time ; the unexpected is bound to happen sometime. We are also not as special as we may feel. We shall get our share of difficulties, problems and misfortune. A good dose of courage is absolutely essential to survive well.
What are the ill-effects of being cowardly ? Lack of courage makes us fear, worry, anxious, panicky, helpless, etc. Cowards think of all the negative aspects, whereas a courageous person is likely to be more positive in one’s attitude. One who is not courageous will hardly reach his or her potential. Greatness has never been achieved without a strong dose of courage in thoughts and actions.
Who is likely to be lacking in courage ? Modern living, which is quite comfortable compared with old times, makes one soft. Since today one is not always faced with imminent danger, as was the case during our hoary past, one’s response may be different ; that is, taking every problem as a calamity and not as a challenge.
A person with a sullied past is also likely to be fearful and cowardly, whereas a person who is pure in heart and mind is more likely to be brave with nothing to fear or hide. One who is forever giving excuses is generally a coward. Strong attachments, lust and excessive greed are also contributory factors in making one cowardly. Wishing fool-proof security does not also help in being brave.
How does one go about enhancing and developing courage ? The Bhagavad-Geeta states, “A little effort in the right direction goes a long way in overcoming fear” (2.40). What it means is that one should act rather than remain at the mental level.
Good physical health, a controlled and strong mind plus spiritual knowledge from the scriptures help greatly in enhancing and building courage. Austerities willingly undertaken also help because then we realize that we are not like a lump of sugar which shall dissolve when dropped in water.
Here the example of gold that shines upon being heated is appropriate. Reading stories of courageous people also helps and inspires. One begins to feel that if someone else can be courageous then we too can. Finally, faith in God really helps in being courageous, that is, one feels supported by God.
What are the benefits of being courageous ? A courageous person is usually peaceful ; he does not suffer in anticipation. On the other hand, he attempts what a cowardly person would not even consider. This way he realizes his potential which in human birth is almost unlimited.
“A courageous person lives, whereas a coward dies a hundred death”, goes the saying. A courageous person is more pro-active rather than merely being hopeful or a day-dreamer ; he seeks ways to transcend the inevitable obstacles rather than seeking to avoid them. He faces the world and its reality.
In conclusion, one cannot claim to be superior or an intelligent person without also being courageous. Human ingenuity is conducive to being courageous ; as a matter of fact, human-beings are created in such a way that they can adapt to almost any situation.
In order to do one’s duty, one needs a good dose of courage. Therefore, this quality of courage needs to be inculcated and nurtured. One needs to control one’s mind by superior intelligence in such a way that one must make it act only in the positive. Such control over the mind helps one to overcome fear, and once the mind is controlled the senses, too, are likely to be under check.