We Need to Be Warriors
The world needs people who are wholeheartedly engaged with life, says SAKYONG MIPHAM. That takes bravery.
days I am struck by the speed of life. As we get speedier, we do things
in half steps. Therefore, the practice of wholehearted engagement is
important. How can we be steady and complete, and what kind of wisdom
does that bring? In Shambhala warriorship we practice being on the spot:
we do things precisely and thoroughly. In meditation, our mind and body
are joined and we access and protect our wisdom mind by being present.
Then we extend our training into other aspects of our life.
is the key instruction in the Shambhala teachings. This is why these
teachings use the image of a warrior: when confronted by great
challenges, warriors rise to the occasion. When cowards are confronted
by difficulties, they withdraw. The challenge of being brave points to
one specific instruction—that we stop cowering from our basic goodness.
be brave is to actualize our nature as an offering to others. In paying
attention to the details of our daily lives in relation to each other
and the environment, we proclaim our worthiness to be alive and to
inhabit this planet. We empower our relation- ships with presence and
appreciation, because when we see the goodness in ourselves, we
recognize it in others. This form of warriorship builds and creates; it
does not destroy. Being brave enough to fully embrace our humanity is
how we will accomplish good things.
process of engaging life with bravery has an outer level, an inner
level, and a secret level. In terms of the outer level, fifty percent of
it is being there, showing up. Whether it is showing up on the
meditation cushion, showing up at work, or showing up in a friendship,
relationship, or family, how we show up is important. The most important
element is care—having respect for what we are doing. Without respect
for our own mind, we are not fully engaged, and even the act of
meditating becomes hollow. When we pay attention to what we are doing,
we naturally care.
of all the distractions and trauma in the world these days, it is
getting harder and harder to show up for the present moment and engage
in our lives. Our kindness and care are on the wane. Our culture tends
to lull us into a sense of false security: we think that somehow life is
going to get easier. It is like the idea of retirement—we work hard and
then there is a lull when we can flop and let everything hang.
path of engagement does not get easier, and there is no retirement. But
when we surrender to the reality that we have to keep showing up to
make progress—and that being present takes effort, discipline, and
dedication—then we discover a sense of delight. In the language of
Shambhala warriorship, this is called trangpo—steadiness,
resolve, not having a lot of ups and downs. That steadiness is one of
the basic qualities of a warrior. It means that once we have decided to
be present and engage in our lives with awareness, we stay with it.
In this culture we are constantly flip- flopping—mentally, physically, and every other way. That is anti-trangpo.
So many distractions and obstacles have the power to drag us away from
the spot—it is easy to feel helpless, overwhelmed by traffic on the
highway or the Internet. The process of truly being on the spot takes
energy: we have to surrender our habitual pattern of wanting to escape
to the past or the future. Right now the world needs steady people who
can show up for the present moment. It is the only time we can touch our
basic goodness, which requires wholeheartedly being here.
is the inner aspect of the practice of bravery. These days, when people
pursue a spiritual journey, they can be very enthusiastic at first. But
at a certain point they want to just shelve it and revert to their
comfort zone. We seem to want a spiritual path on our own terms. Wanting
to be on a path is really just the beginning. To become true warriors
and practitioners, we have to repeatedly come back to being present when
our attention wanders. This sense of steadiness reflects our decision
to hold the view of basic goodness.
secret aspect of engagement is the inherent strengths on which we draw.
Humility is at the top of the list, for boasting about our patience,
discipline, or generosity diminishes them. It’s the same with talking
too much about our practice. As we mature in our practice of warrior-
ship, we grow as individuals, and there is a quality of richness, both
internally and externally. This is the ripening of our protector
mind—something we need to guard as it develops. Bandying that about in
conversation is like opening the door of a sauna: the heat gets out and
the intensity dissipates.
at this time, there is a tendency for us to become sloppy, lazy, and
discursive. Even as we practice the dharma, it is easy to have little
places to which we escape, becoming comfort- or cocoon-oriented.
Personally, the more my path unfolds, the more I see the need for the
kind of discipline, structure, and paying attention that keeps us on the
spot: how we dress, how we speak, what we do, and how we engage with
others. Without that sense of discipline, we are always looking in the
back of our minds for our retirement. The training of warriorship helps
us to be precise in those neutral and uncomfortable moments. Being on
the spot pushes us into a profound form of practice. Even smiling at a
stranger can bring us into the present moment, which contains our own
should not shy away from this tradition of enlightened activity of
being on the spot. As warriors, engagement is our main buddha activity, trinle.
This Tibetan word means that when we are in the process of engaging, we
are actually giving our body, speech, and mind to the world. Whether we
are meditating, riding the bus, or doing our daily work, we can attain
great depth and profundity through engagement. With precision and
thoroughness, we also waste less time.
Shambhala and Buddhist teachings contain examples of enlightened
activity in the warrior-king Gesar and the yogi-saint Milarepa, as well
as the Shambhala sovereigns. In looking at their lives, we see that they
were trained and pushed all the time. That’s what made them great: they
all faced challenges. Recently I was looking at the memoirs of Yung-lo,
emperor of the Ming, who was a great warrior-bodhisattva king and
patron of Tibetan Buddhism. It is amazing to see how early his day
started, how late it went, and how he went through the process in a
dedicated and exalted way.
kind of role we are in, we have the potential to bring to it that
quality of being there and giving. That doesn’t mean burning ourselves
out. We will go through different phases of life, but whatever the
phase, we can enrich it with a quality of steadiness and presence.