Courage means going into the unknown in spite of all the fears. Courage does not mean fearlessness. Fearlessness happens if you go on being courageous and more courageous. That is the ultimate experience of courage—fearlessness: That is the fragrance when the courage has become absolute. But in the beginning there is not much difference between the coward and the courageous person. The only difference is that the coward listens to his fears and follows them, and the courageous person puts them aside and goes ahead. The courageous person goes into the unknown in spite of all the fears. He knows the fears, the fears are there.
When you go into the uncharted sea, like Columbus did, there is fear, immense fear, because one never knows what is going to happen. You are leaving the shore of safety. You were perfectly okay, in a way; only one thing was missing—adventure. Going into the unknown gives you a thrill. The heart starts pulsating again; again you are alive, fully alive. Every fiber of your being is alive because you have accepted the challenge of the unknown.
To accept the challenge of the unknown, in spite of all fears, is courage. The fears are there, but if you go on accepting the challenge again and again, slowly slowly those fears disappear. The experience of the joy that the unknown brings, the great ecstasy that starts happening with the unknown, makes you strong enough, gives you a certain integrity, makes your intelligence sharp. For the first time you start feeling that life is not just a boredom but an adventure. Then slowly slowly fears disappear; then you are always seeking and searching for some adventure.
But basically courage is risking the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar, the comfortable for the uncomfortable, arduous pilgrimage to some unknown destination. One never knows whether one will be able to make it or not. It is gambling, but only the gamblers know what life is.
THE TAO OF COURAGE
Life does not listen to your logic; it goes on its own way, undisturbed. You have to listen to life; life will not listen to your logic, it does not bother about your logic.
When you move into life, what do you see? A great storm comes, and big trees fall. They should survive, according to Charles Darwin, because they are the fittest, strongest, most powerful. Look at an ancient tree, three hundred feet high, three thousand years old. The very presence of the tree creates strength, gives a feeling of strength and power. Millions of roots have spread inside the earth, gone deep, and the tree is standing with power. Of course the tree fights—it doesn’t want to yield, to surrender—but after the storm, it has fallen, it is dead, it is no longer alive, and all that strength has gone. The storm was too much—the storm is always too much, because the storm comes from the whole, and a tree is just an individual.
Then there are small plants and ordinary grass—when the storm comes the grass yields, and the storm cannot do any harm to it. At the most it can give it a good cleansing, that’s all; all the dirt that has gathered on it is washed away. The storm gives it a good bath, and when the storm has gone, the small plants and the grasses are again dancing high. The grass has almost no roots, it can be pulled out by a small child, but the storm was defeated. What happened?
The grass followed the way of Tao, the way of Lao Tzu, and the big tree followed Charles Darwin. The big tree was very logical: it tried to resist, it tried to show its strength. If you try to show your strength, you will be defeated. All Hitlers, all Napoleons, all Alexanders are big trees, strong trees. They will all be defeated. Lao Tzus are just like small plants: nobody can defeat them because they are always ready to yield. How can you defeat a person who yields, who says, “I am already defeated,” who says, “Sir, you enjoy your victory, there is no need to create any trouble. I’m defeated.” Even an Alexander will feel futile before a Lao Tzu, he cannot do anything. It happened; it happened exactly like that … .
A sannyasin, a mystic by the name of Dandamis, existed in the days of Alexander, in the days when Alexander was in India. Friends had told Alexander when he was leaving for India that when he came back he should bring a sannyasin, because that rare flower flowered only in India. They said, “We would like to see the phenomenon of sannyas, what it is, what exactly a sannyasin is.”
He was so engaged in war and struggle and fight that he almost forgot about it, but when he was going back, just on the boundary of India, he suddenly remembered. He was leaving the last village, so he asked his soldiers to go into the village and inquire if there was a sannyasin around there somewhere. By accident Dandamis was there in the village, by the riverside, and the people said, “You have come at the right time. There are many sannyasins, but a real sannyasin is always rare, and he is here now. You can have darshan, you can go and visit him.”
Alexander laughed. He said, “I’m not here to have darshan, my soldiers will go and fetch him. I will take him back to the capital of my country.”
The villagers said, “It won’t be so easy … .”
Alexander could not believe it—what difficulty could there be? He had conquered emperors, great kings, so with a beggar, a sannyasin, what difficulty could there be? His soldiers went to see this Dandamis, who was standing naked on the bank of the river. They said, “Alexander the Great invites you to accompany him to his country. All comforts, whatsoever you need, will be provided. You will be a royal guest.”
The naked fakir laughed and said, “You go and tell your master that a man who calls himself great cannot be great. And nobody can take me anywhere—a sannyasin moves like a cloud, in total freedom. I am not enslaved to anybody.”
They said, “You must have heard about Alexander, he is a dangerous man. If you say no to him, he won’t listen, he will simply cut your head off!”
Alexander had to go, because the soldiers said, “He is a rare man, luminous, there is something of the unknown around him. He is naked, but you don’t feel in his presence that he is naked—later on you remember. He is so powerful that in his presence you simply forget the whole world. He is magnetic, and a great silence surrounds him and the whole area feels as if it is delighting in the man. He is worth seeing, but there seems to be trouble ahead for him, the poor man, because he says that nobody can take him anywhere, that he is nobody’s slave.”
Alexander went to see him with a naked sword in his hand. Dandamis laughed and said, “Put down your sword, it is useless here. Put it back in the sheath; it is useless here because you can cut only my body, and that I left long ago. Your sword cannot cut me, so put it back; don’t be childish.”
And it is said that this was the first time Alexander followed somebody else’s order; just because of the very presence of the man, he couldn’t remember who he was. He put his sword back in the sheath and said, “I have never come across such a beautiful man.” And when he was back in his camp he said, “It is difficult to kill a man who is ready to die, it is meaningless to kill him. You can kill a person who fights, then there is some meaning in killing; but you can’t kill a man who is ready and who is saying, ‘This is my head, you can cut it off.’”
And Dandamis actually said, “This is my head, you can cut it off. When the head falls, you will see it falling on the sand and I will also see it falling on the sand, because I am not my body. I am a witness.”
Alexander had to report to his friends, “There were sannyasins that I could have brought, but they were not sannyasins. Then I came across a man who was really something rare—and you have heard rightly, this flower is rare, but nobody can force him because he is not afraid of death. When a person is not afraid of death, how can you force him to do anything?”
It is your fear that makes you a slave—it is your fear. When you are fearless you are no longer a slave; in fact, it is your fear that forces you to make others slaves before they can try to make a slave out of you.
A man who is fearless is neither afraid of anybody nor makes anybody afraid of him. Fear totally disappears.