The Fear Bal 

By Chad Cox 

As a kid, I was forbidden to see monster movies. One day I sneaked off to see, “I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.” Somehow, that ‘B’ movie triggered violent recurring nightmares about the scary celluloid monster. Later in life I finally realized that, in fact, the monsters were in my own house. I mean real monsters — parents who raped, beat, and tortured me.  

In the grim aftermath of the rapes, I remember the gun held to my head or the knife to my throat to keep me silent. Just a tiny kid, the harrowing terror that I was going to be killed happened over and over. That chronic trauma became embedded on an intercellular level, inducing debilitating panic attacks. I call it the “Fear Ball.” It resides in my solar plexus, where panic implosions have gone off my entire life.  

Ironically, as an adult I evolved into my own internal Terrorist. In therapy jargon, it’s called “introjection” when one internalizes the trauma and the “voice of the abuser” becomes one’s own. One implements the abuser’s terror tactics and uses them against oneself. My inner Terrorist has an arsenal of seasoned tactics that oftentimes leave me in a catatonic state.  

In my 25-year chanting career, I’ve battled round after bloody round with this Terrorist, usually ending in a mental TKO. But this April I gutted it up, took the bungee-plunge, and moved to LA in pursuit of my dream to be a screenwriter. My arrival was filled with exhilaration and dread. I’d heard knee-knocking Hollywood war stories about what happens to novice screenwriters (especially the one about the 11th World of Hollywood — the World of Rejection). An unknown, unsold, terrified wannabe, I felt the need for a serious guidance session.  

When he heard my story, this senior leader said with utter compassion, “Fear is your strength of character.”  

Whoa, Buddhism and its paradoxes!  

“Fear has motivated you to make breakthrough after breakthrough in your life,” he continued. At this point, I’m completely baffled and blurt out that fear paralyzes me. He calmly replied, “That’s because you view fear as a negative, as a flaw you have to fix. I want you to chant to embrace and honor the fear. To appreciate it.” 

Then he expounded on two Buddhist gods on the Gohonzon – Taishaku and Bonten. To paraphrase his explanation: Taishaku represents strength of character and Bonten represents clarity of vision. The leader said to chant to summon Taishaku, who would always be there to protect me. He drove it home with, “I want you to utilize fear as your strength of character. To trust that the fear will create breakthroughs.” I’ll never forget his final eloquent line: “Trust the harmony of your life.” 

Boy, he read my beads. I’ve chanted many hours about his profound guidance. Frankly, at first it seemed a perplexing paradox. But then the most extraordinary thing unfolded — the deadly Fear Ball started subsiding. For 50 years, I’ve lived with these panic attacks and now they’re at bay. How truly liberating! It all seems so mystic. The sole reason I began chanting was so the shoten zenjin would protect me. After a childhood of psychopathic violence, safety was a primal desire. 

A few nights ago I had a peaceful dream. Not one of my typical murderous ones, where I’m shot in the head or my throat is slashed. This dream was about Taishaku. He was this humongous guy in a business suit. Imagine a Buddhist god in a beige silk Armani. Leaning over, he gently put his hand on my shoulder and in the most soothing and nurturing voice told me, “Everything will be OK.”  

What a bodyguard! I woke up with a deep sense of relief and tranquility. Wisdom can manifest from enlightened fear. I believe that the healing power of Nam Myoho-Renge-Kyo is boundless.  

This experience appears courtesy of the “Horizon Newsletter.”  

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