The Warrior Sage
It is said that true warriors tap the animal within, in many different situations, wether day to day life, or a fight for survival.
The force, the creative ability, the power that is inherent in all of us is a positive energy not to be feared, but revered. This natural energy source is found in all aspects of existance. It is said that this same animal can hold a child tenderly in one arm while subduing an attacker with the other, without the child ever becomming afraid of the energy that subdues the attacker. Tribal as well as other societies from the beginning of time have known of this ability, and have used it when facing many of lifes challenges. Also, men in combat have spoken of focusing upon love, even love for their enemy in the heat of battle, therby comming out of overwhelming odds when death seemed almost certain.
My question to you is this, do you feel it is possible for a soldier to act from a state of love while still maintaining a combat mindset for his or his teams survival?
Secondly, do you feel that modern warriors such as police, military, or fighters of any type, can align themselves with universal principles, even given the nature of their respective jobs?
Lastly, is there really such a thing as a warrior sage, and could they ever attain a state of enlightment givin the fact that they have or could take a life in battle?
Bodhi, in reading your post, I was reminded that I’d been quite struck by the story in the Bhagavad Gita, part of the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic, where the warrior Arjuna is hesitant and conflicted before battle, because he knows that to be victorious he must slay his kinsmen.
Krishna explains that to kill in this battle is Arjuna’s earthly duty and that he is to do this in a state of removal from self-interest, a state of non-attachment. Krishna also explains that death will not be the end of time on earth for those Arjuna slays – they will be judged, will be reincarnated appropriately etc.
Mahatma Ghandi was apparently inspired by this passage, in terms of applying this concept of non-attachment to his non-violent struggle.
Various summaries available from a Google search, for example
How one would apply this story in another faith tradition or spiritual/values framework could be an interesting discussion.
Pacifism is clearly one way of resolving the issue, but how does this help the police officer whose duty appears to be to use deadly force in a confrontation with armed criminals?
Christian theologians have long argued for the concept of a just war. Chaplains of all faiths in the military in my country, Australia, and presumably a lot of other countries, are non-combatants but wear military uniforms and are commissioned officers, to give them appropriate standing in the military structure. Are they thereby giving support to the killing? No doubt they would say not, but that they are there to support the soldiers and tend to their spiritual needs. Some interesting challenges there, no doubt.
And for a soldier in a conflict which he or she sees as objectively not a just conflict, there is a layer of ethical decision-making around the concept that the soldier in signing on, or being conscripted by the state, is seen to give up some amount of autonomy for the common good. On the other hand, the Nuremberg defence that ‘I was just obeying orders’ has since the time it was raised been found ethically and even legally inadequate.
There is a very interesting Wikipedia article on the refusal to serve issue in the Israeli military.
The way of the enlightened warrior is clearly not easy. Nor is the way of the pacifist.
Des, thank you, very insightful! I asked this same question on Deepak Chopras forum, the following was his response, very close to yours it would seem. Michael
Yes, it is possible for an enlightened person to have a warrior’s dharma to protect society. That said, enlightened individuals are rare enough, and being a warrior is an unlikely role for someone who recognizes the truth of existence, so it’s not easy to find any recent examples of warrior sages. In the Vedic literature, the ones that come to mind are Arjuna, who gained enlightenment on the battlefield in the Mahabharata War. For Arjuna, it was his love for the opposing combatants that was the critical issue for him to overcome. He had to transcend the limited, personal ties of love to a universal, all-embracing love for him to free him from his paralysis.
This is moral dilemma and the spiritual transformation involved is so far removed from the current considerations of our military personnel it almost seems ludicrous to speak of a warrior sage in our times. It is not just a question of focusing on love while one is fighting, it is being that love, being the other warrior, and knowing that you and the other are that eternal, undying essence that cannot be killed.
Thanks for sharing Deepak's observations. Nice to be in such exalted company!
At the same time, and with the greatest respect for Deepak from whom I have learnt so much, I feel that his response is what used to be called when I studied these things more intensively, a 'counsel of perfection'.
Is Deepak saying a cop can't be enlighted and also do her/his job well, that a soldier can't be enlightened and carry out her/his duty?
I don't pretend to know the answers, but I think life - unlike theory - is often v.messy and part of the role of a sage could appropriately be to have understanding for the roles of those whose earlier choices or life circumstances mean that these dilemmas are real and everyday, not just a subject for sages to swap references on.
For anyone who comes to these issues, as I do, from a Christian faith perspective, there is an interesting historical summary of views over the centuries, with some provocative comments for the contemporary era, at
My understanding of Dr Dyer's view is that it is essentially (or perhaps comprehensively) pacifist. That is admirable. I'm interested in how the rest of us might have a different view, with intellectual and moral integrity.
Very true Des, i think that theory and life are often 2 very different things!
I have many times wondered what Wayne, Deepak, or any other spiritually minded person would do in some very unfavorable circumstances. I cannot imagine them letting harm come to someone they loved, or not defending themselves, much less the innocent, or weak, if it were in their power.
I seem to remember a story told over on Deepaks site about him living in Boston and being physically attacked, evidently he defended himself using a baseball bat. Im not sure of all the details of the story, but it kind of made me smile thinking about him beating someone and yet being totally detached from the act of violence )
I originally posted the "Warrior Sage" to get some insight into my own circumstances. For the past few years i have considered stopping many things, including the practice of martial arts because i knew that what i was learning could possibly take a life. I have loved the arts sense i was a boy but as i grow i am beginning to question many things. I still am not quite clear on all this, but Deepak, you, and others have given me some things to think about. Thank you, and also thanks for the links, very interesting!
Your comment on the martial arts reminded me that a master of some martial arts who once tried to teach me (we didn't get far!) said - and it remained with me 'right action follows right thinking'. So it's not having the skill surely, but how you use it. And who knows whether one day you may need to use your skill to deter someone from harming another.
My friend Serge the martial arts guy worked as a bouncer at one stage. He said if someone was making trouble Serge would demonstrate his skill - he showed me by a rapid move which had his foot about 1 inch from my nose! I got the point, and as he said, so did others. He also told me that he was perfectly capable of killing me in about one move. Yet he is one of the most peaceful and 'at peace' people I know.
The 'right action follows right thinking' reference I later discovered to be from the Middle Path taught by the Buddha, as in this website
This Middle Path that leads to the end of suffering is comprised of the Noble Eightfold Path - namely
1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thinking
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
Following The Eightfold Noble Path leads to the understanding of the Four Noble Truths which results in Nibbaana. The Four Noble Truths are
1. Dukkha - That which is difficult to endure - suffering or dissatisfaction
2. Cause of Dukkha - craving and attachment
3. End to Dukkha - Nibbaana (no more rebirth)
4. The way to end Dukkha - following the Eightfold Noble Path.
and from the Christian tradition, John the Baptist told soldiers not to extort, he didn't tell them to stop being soldiers; Jesus praised the faith of a Roman centurion and - shockingly - said 'I tell you, nowhere in Israel have I found faith such as this' he did not say, well, you can't really be a centurion and be enlightened.
Well said, kind of like doing things with the correct intention. Another great link too, i have always loved Buddhism, it just makes sense!