I have often struggled with what it means to be a warrior of a peaceful nature. Having been trained as an officer at West Point and then serving in the Army for five years, I constantly question what it means to truly be a peaceful warrior in this life. At first I rejected my military experience completely.
Then when I found kundalini yoga, I came to know the great lineage of Sikh gurus, such as Guru Gobind Singh, who were often forced to pick up the sword and fight. Still, there was always a gap of understanding in my mind– why would a fully realized being still train to fight and ultimately fight if necessary? Why did Sant Hazarra Singh, Yogi Bhajan’s Master, tell Yogi Bhajan that he would never see him again, and then enter a period of “living hell” as a freedom fighter during the partitioning of India in 1947?
For the longest time, I just took it on faith and continued to do my best to bring my warrior attitude to my practice of kundalini yoga and teaching.
Recently a friend of mine asked me to remove a picture that I had on myspace, because they said, it frightened them. The picture is nearly twenty years old-it’s me, as a cadet, with an M-16 rifle, on patrol in the Panama jungle.
I removed the picture, out of respect for this person. Ironically enough, though, the night before I had come across this following passage which put it together for me. It’s called “Victory,” from a book called 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, by Deng Ming-Dao.
Can you be both martial and spiritual?
Can you overcome your ultimate opponent?
To be martial requires discipline, courage and perseverance. It has nothing to do with killing. People fail to look beyond this one narrow aspect of being a warrior and so overlook all the other excellent qualities that can be gained from training. A warrior is not cruel murderer. A warrior is a protector of ideals, principal, and honor. A warrior is noble and heroic.
A warrior will have many opponents in a lifetime, but the ultimate opponent is the warrior’s own self. Within a fighter’s personality is a wide array of demons to be conquered: fear, laziness, ignorance, selfishness, egotism, and so many more. To talk of overpowering other people is inconsequential. To actually overcome one’s own defects is the true nature of victory. That is why so many religions depict warriors in their iconography. These images are not symbols for dominating others. Rather, they are symbols of the ferocity and determination that we need to overcome the demons within ourselves.
These words had somehow come and completed the notion in my mind of what a spiritual warrior is and why it’s okay to train and act with soldier-like discipline in life- because ones biggest opponent is always oneself.