Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Spirit of the Warrior

Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life itself reveals again and again the opposite:  that letting go is the path to real freedom.

Just as when the waves lash at the shore, the rocks suffer no damage but are sculpted and eroded into beautiful shapes, so our characters can be molded and our rough edges worn smooth by changes.  Through weathering changes we can learn how to develop a gentle but unshakable composure.  Our confidence in ourselves grows, and becomes so much greater that goodness and compassion begin naturally to radiate out from us and bring joy to others.  That goodness is what survives death, a fundamental goodness that is in every one of us.  The whole of our life is a teaching of how to uncover that strong goodness, and a training toward realizing it.
So each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence, they bring us closer to the truth.  When you fall from a great height, there is only one possible place to land:  on the ground; the ground of truth.  And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice, then falling is in no way a disaster but the discovery of an inner refuge.

Difficulties and obstacles, if properly understood and used, can often turn out to be an unexpected source of strength.  In the biographies of the masters, you will often find that had they not faced difficulties and obstacles, they would not have discovered the strength they needed to rise above them.  This was true, for example, of Gesar, the great warrior king of Tibet, whose escapades form the greatest epic of Tibetan literature. Gesar means "indomitable," someone who can never be put down.   From the moment Gesar was born, his evil uncle Trotung tried all kinds of means to kill him.  But with each attempt Gesar only grew stronger and stronger.  It was thanks to Trotung's efforts, in fact, that Gesar was to become so great.  This gave rise to a Tibetan proverb:  "Trotung tro ma tung na, Gesar ge mi sar," which means that if Trotung had not been so malicious and scheming, Gesar could never have risen so high.

For the Tibetans Gesar is not only a martial warrior but also a spiritual one.  To be a spiritual warrior means to develop a special kind of courage, one that is innately intelligent, gentle, and fearless.  Spiritual warriors can still be frightened, but even so they are courageous enough to taste suffering, to relate clearly to their fundamental fear, and to draw out without evasion the lessons from difficulties.  As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche tells us, becoming a warrior means that "we can trade our small-minded struggle for security for a much vaster vision, one of fearlessness, openness, and genuine heroism..."  To enter the transforming field of that much vaster vision is to learn how to be at home in change, and how to make impermanence our friend.

~From The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche