Sacred Path of the Warrior
Answering the Call for Enlightened Action:
the Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Shambala
Yoga is the technology of the peaceful warrior. At Grace, we are developing skills for people to move about peacefully and intentionally in community, as peaceful warriors. Our warrior teachings are based on the precepts of two traditions: The Bhagavad Gita and Shambala.
The setting of the ancient text of the Bhagavad Gita is the battlefield of Kurukshetra, an historical place in India on which an actual epic battle took place. The Gita is an extended metaphor for the inner struggle between ego and Soul, between action and stillness, between leading an externalized life of the senses and an internalized life of the silent mind-heart.
The Gita teaches that ignorance is merely mistaken identity: we attach to the finite body and the treacherous mind and so forget who we really are. The Gita teaches that wisdom is knowledge of the Self; and knowledge of the Self is knowledge of the undying, eternal soul within each of us.
Weapons do not pierce this, fire does not burn this, water does not wet this, nor does the wind cause it to wither. This cannot be pierced or burned or wetted or withered; this is eternal, all-pervading, fixed; this is unmoving and primeval. (II:23-24)
“This” is of course the soul.
Arjuna, the seven-foot warrior prince of the Gita, is not a yogi but a man of muscle and bone and passionate tears who throws spears and shoots arrows. Why does Krishna bestow these teachings on such a human being? “Because you love me,” says Krishna. (IV:3) Faith and devotion are the only prerequisites for Self-knowledge. Krishna’s teachings are for all of us, then, who have faith in the Divine and maybe particularly for people of action. The Gita teaches that “Yoga is skill in action.” (II:50)
The job of the warrior is twofold: to protect the sacred teachings as well as to allow access to them. If we are to be modern warriors, we must be holding something sacred and willing to risk our lives for its protection; and we must be skillful – in other words, discerning, acting with knowledge of the Self – in our relationships with others. The warrior answers the call for enlightened action.
Fifteen hundred years ago in the Tibetan kingdom of Shambala, Warrior emerged as a teaching of spiritual study. These teachings have a lot in common with Krishna’s lessons to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna guides us to practice for the sake of the whole world, to hold the world together, or lokasamgraha: “for the mere maintenance of the world, You should act.” (Gita, III.20)
Acceptance of our own “ground of goodness”. Trungpa Rinpoche writes: “Basic goodness is very closely connected to the idea of bodhicitta in the Buddhist tradition…. Such awakened heart comes from being willing to face your state of mind…. That is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: how much have you connected with yourself at all in your whole life? (Shambala, ch. 3)
A sad and tender heart. The Shambala heart isn’t depressed and ineffectual but instead a heart awakened to the complex reality of the world. Stillness is the route toward this awakening.
Fearlessness. Fearlessness in Shambala terms is not the absence of fear but the willingness to proceed directly through fear; it assumes an intimacy with rather than a rejection of fear.
Faith. We must have faith that each one of us belongs right where we are in the present moment; faith that we are meant to be alive, in this body, in this moment; and faith that we are good enough, strong enough, and tender enough to help the world through our actions.
From the earthy and lofty practice of Warrior, serving the world through enlightened action, we are aware of our place in the entire matrix of the world: earth, trees, sky, constellations. We come to feel that the magic of the world has opened itself up to us, and we see that this magic exists with or without us.
There is some principle of magic in everything, some living quality. Something living, something real, is taking place in everything. (Shambala, ch. 12)
We come to see that in fact it is we who have opened ourselves to the wonderful preexisting condition of life. We become as receptive as children again, fully awake to the present moment, fully engaged with the magic of life.