Characteristics and Values of Spiritual Warriors
An essay on the path of a spiritual warrior. The phrase 'spiritual warrior' sounds like an oxymoron, but the spiritual path and the warrior's training share many common archetypal ideals.
- Self-sacrifice and heroism stem from the roots of selflessness and fearlessness.
- To practice spirituality properly requires intensity and tenacity.
- Strength of character
- Forbearance, Endurance and Acceptance
- Integrity, Concentration, Alertness and Precision
- Self-control, One pointed focus
- For example:
- Humility, Obedience, Commitment and Dedication
- Persistent Awareness of Impermanence and Readiness for Death
- Cooperative Team Spirit
Self-sacrifice and heroism stem from the roots of selflessness and fearlessness.
Cultivating both these qualities is essential for a spiritual warrior. When refined, they serve as 'weapons' of awareness and discrimination, which combine to produce right vision and precise positive responses to life's unfolding circumstances in the phenomenal world.
Some people consider spirituality an escapist path--a fantasy world for people who can't handle real life. In actuality, it requires tremendous strength, courage and constant effort to uphold spiritual ideals in thought, word and deed. It's like rolling a boulder up a mountain; if you pause for one second, the boulder may roll backwards.
To practice spirituality properly requires intensity and tenacity.
As with any soldier or warrior, intensive and disciplined training in the beginning stages is mandatory. One has to equip oneself with presence of mind, strength of character and unwavering commitment. Just as a child learns to walk by falling down, the spiritual warrior learns to transcend his weaknesses by first experiencing and accepting them.
One cannot obtain fearlessness without first experiencing and facing fear.
The spiritual warrior walks a path of transformation and cannot escape the confrontations required to remove the comfortable cocoon built by ego.
It is a subtle and slow process requiring patience and perseverance. It also requires the guidance and instruction of a Master.
Armed with discriminative awareness and a persistent spiritual vision, the spiritual warrior embraces each moment as an opportunity to conquer selfishness and focus all energy on generating true presence and compassion.
A peaceful heart is the victory banner of genuine goodness.
Love and compassion are the gasoline, the driver, and the destination.
Each quality of a noble warrior can be applied in spiritual terms to a sacred warrior following a non-violent spiritual path.
A soldier must be willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of a higher cause. Such a mindset minimizes individual importance and places primary concern on ultimate victory. The life of Saint Joan D'Arc provides a prime example of a warrior ready to go to battle against all odds, fueled by faith.
A spiritual warrior aims to sacrifice ego on the altar of awareness, renouncing identity with the limited self and focusing the lens of consciousness towards the universal Self.
To practice selflessness, the spiritual warrior endeavors to put other's happiness before his own. He nourishes a willingness to even endure suffering, if necessary, in order to relieve the suffering of others.
Maintaining a selfless attitude is what's essential. One need not move to India and visit the destitute dying in the streets like Mother Teresa in order to apply this principle. The underlying ideal of sacrifice can be expressed through simple, random acts of selflessly-motivated generosity.
Smiling at a stranger, even though you feel tired and had a long day, is one of an infinite array of possible examples.
My guru, Amma, always says:
"Be like an incense stick that burns itself out giving fragrance to others."
Strength of character
Strength is a warrior-quality one normally considers in terms of intensity of physical force. For a spiritual warrior, and even for a soldier, strength of character is what's vital. It takes a deep inner strength to maintain principles in the face of adversity and challenges.
Mahatma Gandhi-ji set a prime example. He displayed incalculable inner strength to maintain a standpoint of non-violent action and an attitude of non-aggression during the freedom fighter era. His inner strength was so vast it swept an entire nation with the inspiration to gain independence through non-violent means. Fasting and imprisonment proved tools of sacrifice more powerful than any weapon.
Nelson Mandela, when he emerged from years of unfair imprisonment, exemplified the use of moral muscles to overpower long standing, deep-rooted hatred, transforming enemies into allies. His resilience sets an example of how inner strength can empower nations.
As spiritual warriors, life presents constant opportunities to exercise inner strength and fortitude.
Charles de Gaulle said:
"A man of character finds special attractiveness in difficulty, since it is only by coming to grips with difficulty that he can realize his potentialities."
Forbearance, Endurance and Acceptance
Just as a soldier endures harrowing conditions and follows difficult orders no matter what the cost in hardship, a spiritual warrior perceives everything as occurring by Divine Will and accepts life's trials and tribulations in this light.
Recently, I heard a story of Patrick Tyler Doughtie, a young boy who passed away on March 7, 2005 from an incurable disease. Prior to his passing, his unflinching faith touched thousands of people and powerfully impacted all who came in contact with him. Though a child, he had the maturity to realize his illness was a gift--an assignment from God to pass on the message of faith.
He called himself 'God's Warrior' and inspired countless people to pray by writing letters to God and mailing them in the U.S. Postal Service. There is a movie based on his life called: Letters to God.
Patrick Tyler's ability to inspire in spite of the painful disease he endured came from a sense of surrender to Divine Will--another aspect of self-sacrifice. Willingness to adjust to challenging circumstances with a positive attitude is one of the hallmarks of a spiritual warrior.
The moment Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, he gazed in his killer's eyes with compassion, and his final breath voiced a prayer to God. Gandhi-ji set an astounding example of acceptance based on self-surrender and faith.
A sacred warrior, indeed.
Integrity, Concentration, Alertness and Precision
A true warrior is a model of integrity and upholds moral discipline without compromise.
A soldier on the battlefield must maintain constant vigilance to keep the mind alert so he can utilize all skills to maximum capacity with precision. To slip could mean sure death.
A spiritual seeker has to face numerous inner battles to conquer desires. Self control is essential for a spiritual warrior.
A spiritual warrior requires attentiveness to keep the reins of mind and emotions in control--to keep a constant vigilance. Buddhists refer to skillful means, which boils down to right attitude and correct action.
All spiritual practices gradually develop our power of concentration. The ability to concentrate is essential for gaining insight as well as for applying all spiritual principles in practice. It is the key ingredient for conservation of energy and discipline in conduct as well.
Self-control, One pointed focus
All of the above qualities combine as key ingredients in a recipe for self-control and keeping one pointed focus on the goal. With self-control attained, we are able to respond to circumstances rather than react to them. A soldier with one pointed focus on the battlefield will offer his best performance and avoid injury.
The martial artist knows how to use non-force as a weapon. In Aikido, the warrior will 'roll with the punch' rather than resist it and thus transform the kinetic energy intended on damage into an ally.
With one-pointed focus on a spiritual goal, we won't get distracted or slack off, and we can use calm inner balance to dodge, and ultimately combat, negative forces through non-resistance and adaptability.
With self-control regarding emotions, we will not be vanquished by inner demons of anger, jealousy, lust, grief, fear, despondence or greed. Therefore, we will not wound people with words we might later regret. We will be able to respond in each and every circumstance in the best way possible.
We become warriors for peace, standing in the still center between Yin and Yang.
Though we are warriors for peace, we are not pacifists. There are circumstances where the correct response to a situation is a show of anger or violence. The crucial difference is that we should never feel anger or violence within but we can use it as a tool, if required.
I remember a story Amma tells about a village where a venemous snake kept killing villagers.
A saint happened to walk through the town while they had a funeral procession and inquired how the person had died.
When he heard the about the fatal antics of the snake, his intuition revealed this snake was his disciple in a previous birth and had been reborn in snake form due to bad karma accrued when he'd lost control of his anger.
The saint approached the snake and blessed him. The snake became instantly transformed due to the ripening of his accumulated good karma from having been the saint's disciple.
He asked the saint for guidance and was given a mantra. The saint told him not to harm or attack anyone...and to chant the mantra always.
The snake did as he was told, but the village boys started taunting the snake and throwing sticks and stones at him.
Obedient and full of devotion to the saint, the snake did not react at all to the taunts.
When the Saint came back through town some weeks later, he found the snake beaten and badly battered, almost on his dying breath.
"What happened to you?" the saint asked.
"Master, I obeyed your instructions not to attack anyone." The snake bowed in reverence. "When these boys attacked me daily, i simply chanted the mantra you gave me and tried to send them love."
"You fool! I told you not to bite or attack, but I never said not to hiss!"
Amma says a show of anger in such a situation is like a burnt rope--it maintains the shape of a rope but turns to ash if you touch it.
Self-Control enables us to respond to each situation with skillful means, as opposed to being compelled by the whims or reactions of ego.
Humility, Obedience, Commitment and Dedication
Obedience to authority is compulsory for a soldier. Commitment and dedication are mandatory as well.
For a spiritual warrior, obedience to the voice of higher wisdom within (another form of self-control) or adherence to a Spiritual Master's advice in a spirit of humility and devotion are essential.
Amma often says:
"True greatness lies in humility."
The Bible Says:
"He who exalts himself shall be humbled; he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
We normally think of a warrior as being proud, but in fact he could not become a great soldier unless he had the humility to subdue his ego and follow orders.
In spiritual life, pride can be a great enemy. A humble attitude is essential to eliminate self-importance and false identification with the limited ego.
Persistent Awareness of Impermanence and Readiness for Death
A soldier is ready to die for a higher ideal beyond his personal scope. By witnessing death and destruction, he is constantly aware of our ultimate impermanence and inevitable demise.
A spiritual warrior knows when the peak of the spiritual mountain is reached, we have to die to ego and ultimately give up attachment to everything. He maintains awareness that worldly things like wealth, fame and achievement, family and relatives, property, possessions, etc. are all ephemeral and will one day be gone.
He may interact with any of those things with love and affection, but will not cling to them or expect them to last forever. He always discerns between what is ephemeral and what is eternal, and zooms the lens of awareness on the latter.
We might cry during sad scenes in a film, even though aware it is only a drama.
Historic events, famous people, and entire civilizations from the past now exist only in books or in collective memory. From the airplane perspective, a towering mountain appears as a tiny hill.
Amma says we should be like a bird on a twig. Though resting comfortably, the bird knows the twig may break and is prepared to fly at any moment.
Inner peace stems from 'detachment' and is like the sky---not upset by rain clouds, not thrilled by rainbows. Simply an observer.
Persistent pondering of impermanence fashions a readiness for death that ironically allows more joy in living, because one's heart is lighter when each breath is free from fear.
Cooperative Team Spirit
Soldiers at war learn to rely on one another, and often their lives depend on a successfully cooperative team effort. Allied in a common directive, their awareness of being an interconnected collective is automatic. The common goal takes precedence over personal ambitions.
By learning to accept all sorts of diverse people, training ourselves to respond compassionately rather than react with judgment, and collaborating in communal work and worship, we become continuously conscious of humanity's innate interconnectedness.
In these modern times, when selfishness and greed are rampant and destructive, awareness of our interconnectedness and active efforts in a cooperative team spirit, are remedies we desperately require.
Collective consciousness influences our environment, and ultimately the world.
When gathered for group prayer, congregations become united in a synergetic symbiosis where the collective power is greater than the sum of individual energies involved.
In places where people congregate in prayer regularly, the atmosphere becomes super-charged with spiritual vibrations that cleanse and elevate all who enter.
When a spiritual aspirant has, with the help and guidance of a spiritual Master, built sufficient muscles of self-sacrifice, inner strength, endurance, acceptance, integrity, adjustability, alertness, self control, obedience, awareness and one-pointed focus on the goal with no fear of death, then he is ready to be a keen, dedicated spiritual warrior eliminating darkness with the light of limitless heroic love for the benefit of all creation.
"One whose legs rush to offer help, whose lips utter comforting words of love and whose eyes shed tears of compassion on hearing the cry of the distressed, such a person I would call a true disciple."
"A one-word solution to all the problems the world is facing today is 'compassion'."
For more about Amma, visit her website
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