Buddhism has much to teach about spiritual warriorhood.  The warrior trains his or her heart by learning to let go and be emptied in order to see what is. Pema Chodron puts it this way:

Buddhist teacher and Public Speaker, Pema Chodron, on what to do when you “lose it completely”. Originally posted to YouTube by Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.

For practitioners or spiritual warriors–people who have a certain hunger to know what is true–feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back.  They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away.  

Notice, it is hunger that marks a warrior, hunger for the truth.  The emptying that goes on prepares us to get more involved, not less.

Thich Nhat Hanh in Paris, 2006. Photo by Duc (Pixiduc)Wikimedia Commons

Thich Nhat Hanh also believes that mindfulness can make one strong and solid.  Mindfulness, if practiced continuously will be strong enough to embrace your fear or anger and transform it.  We need not chase away evil.   We can embrace and transform it in a nonviolent, nondualistic way.  Standing up in a spirit of nonviolence takes a warrior’s heart and mind.

Chogyam Trungpa talked about the spiritual warrior’s tender heart.  That is a beautiful phrase, the tender heart of the warrior.  So often soldiers are taught to stifle their hearts and to develop steel around their heart.  But a spiritual warrior is to have a heart that is both tender and strong.  As Jack Kornfield put it, “true compassion arises from a sense that the heart has the fearless capacity to embrace all things, to touch all things, to relate to all things.”  Reaching out to the great cosmos, to its vast beauty and its vast pain, takes strength.  A strong heart, a “fearless capacity.”

Americans Who Tell The Truth
Portrait collection by Robert Shetterly. Taken from the website of Joanna Macy.

Joanna Macy teaches an ancient prophecy from Tibet concerning the Shambhala warriors.  Great courage–moral and physical–is required of the Shambhala warriors, for they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power, into the pits and pockets and citadels where the weapons are kept to dismantle them.   

What weapons do they train to undergo this work? “The weapons are compassion and insight.”  Compassion opens you to pain and gives you the energy to move.  But that weapon by itself is not enough.  It can burn you out, so you need the other–you need insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena.  Joanna believes that now is the hour of the Shambhala warriors.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 413f.

Also see Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, chapter 5 on “Spiritual Warriors,” pp. 77-104.

Banner Image: Buddhism practitioner making offering in front of statue. Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash.

Notice that courage and warriorhood go together as Joanna Macy teaches.  Are you growing your courage?  How do you do that?  Do you assist others to grow theirs?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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4 thoughts on “Spiritual Warriorhood in Buddhism”

  1. Avatar

    Holy man Nicholas Black Elk, and his Lakota Sioux, would paint their faces black after they had to fight in battle defending their people because they knew did wrong. Natives, as a whole, really have suffered what is called P.T.S.D., that is, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as have all other people who have had to defend their loved ones in this way. Long- suffering tragic outcomes from physical and psychological violence come with men not being in touch with true way of Love.

  2. Avatar

    I practice growing courage by being the witnessing presence behind all my thoughts and emotions, so that they do not weigh me down. I can let them go, realizing that they are not who I am. Who I am is the awareness watching but not analyzing or getting caught in the ego-mind, thus staying present and letting Presence take over.

    I can do nothing better than sending Light, healing Energy, and Love to all peoples of the world.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Vivian, your practice of “witnessing the presence behind all your thoughts and emotions” reminds me of what I learned from Ram Dass. It is by resting in the inner witness that we can remain at peace in the most turbulent of times and situations.

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