Courage goes hand-in-hand with fear. Where there is no fear there is no need for courage. Do you feel courageous when you walk across a two foot wide plank laid on your floor or when you walk across the same plank laid a hundred feet above the ground spanning the empty space between two buildings? It is the fear of the consequences of falling in the latter case that brings forth the need for courage.
A lack of imagination may allow a person to do things considered courageous merely because (s)he is unable to contemplate the consequences. Thus, someone who has the false assurance of invincibility or is reckless of consequences could appear to be courageous. Such an appearance of courage is mere bravado. In the true sense, one talks of courage only when what is being done is necessary and when the concerned person fears the consequences but still forges ahead. To risk consequences for no serious reason is also bravado since the option to retreat could exist when the goal is irrelevant or inconsequential. When we discuss courage going forth let us assume that it is a meaningful goal that calls forth the courage.
The most commonly acknowledged type of courage is physical courage. In fact, the metaphor of courage almost exclusively describes physical courage. Physical courage is required when you do something that has the potential to cause you physical inconvenience or pain, disability or death.
Hindu Philosophy talks of three gunas. One of the key elements that determine the difference between the three gunas – Satva, Rajas and Tamas – is the sort of courage exhibited by the respective people.
Let us assume a situation where you see a person being beaten up by a thug. Let us further assume that there would be no other consequences of interfering in the situation beyond the effects of a physical battle with the thug.
A tamasik person would prefer not to risk the consequences and, thus, would go his way without attempting to save the victim. Even if the thug appeared weaker than him, he would not be prepared to take the risk of suffering physical pain.
A Rajasik person would wade into the battle and be embroiled in a fight with the thug. The possibility of not being able to win the battle and getting severely injured would not weigh upon his mind.
A Satvik person would intervene in the altercation and save the victim but would not indulge in violence against the thug. Despite the fact that he can successfully thrash the thug and despite the fact that his non-violence would cause him to be injured, a Satvik person is expected to be steadfast in his non-violence, at least as long as he is the only likely sufferer. The requirement of physical courage from such a person is far higher because to stay non-violent when indulging in violence could save him physical pain requires a far higher order of courage.
The highest level of development of a soul is to be Nirguna. At this level, pain and pleasure seem the same to the concerned person. Such a person has no fear of consequences and, thus, there is no need of courage.
For everyone else, however, courage is the bedrock on which all your value systems rest.
Part II here
Part II here