Monday, January 18, 2010

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche - Shambhala Warriorship & Meditation

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche introduced the West to the concept of Shambhala Warriorship in his classic book, Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior. His son, the Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoch carries on the tradition.

In terms of leadership and courage, the warrior heart training in Shambhala is a great for men to be strong and vulnerable, compassionate without being soft. It is definitely a Buddhist approach, but the lessons are good for all of us.

Shambhala Warriorship & Meditation

In one of the most beautiful Buddhist poems ever written, the great Indian teacher Shantideva talks about the bodhisattva warrior. The Tibetan term is changchup sempa, “the warrior with the mind of enlightenment.” Such a warrior dedicates his or her life to others, using compassion as a vehicle. One of the main qualities of a warrior with this kind of mind is steadiness. A strong, determined mind has a profound effect on our body and affects every aspect of how we live. Without steadiness, it is hard to move forward.

In terms of the six paramitas, steadiness is related with exertion. It manifests in incredible determination and fearlessness. On the other hand, lack of steadiness results in fickleness. One characteristic of this particular dark age is that we are becoming more and more clever. But we also are constantly changing our minds. We all have the potential to be very strong and centered in ourselves, but when we live our life with speed and distraction, our energy becomes scattered.

From a meditation point of view, the predominant wind energy is located in the center of our body, in the core. The strength lines up to the top of our head through the various channels. If our mind is constantly changing and we are trying to accomplish many activities at once, our energy becomes diffuse. We experience this diffuse energy as a lack of will power and direction. We are unable to focus—not only within a spiritual practice or a relationship, but even within friendship or work. We are not able to maintain any strength anywhere, because lack of steadiness weakens our windhorse.

In the warrior teachings of Tibet, windhorse, or lungta, means vitality. When we have windhorse, our life is moving forward in the way want. On the inner level, windhorse is connected with good life-force energy, which is connected with being able to have a feeling of our mind. If we have the ability to feel at home in our mind and direct our mind, it becomes a support and a friend. If we are unable to harness the mind, it becomes a nuisance to us, aggravating our lives with worry and bad dreams. It can even make us sick. Happiness comes from actions that take us forward.

To be move forward in daily life, we must be steady and brave. In order to create this bravery inside, we must learn how to handle our mind. Knowing this, the Shambhala warrior practices meditation every day to get a feeling for the mind, to know the mind, and to harness its energy for the good of all. The first approach to harnessing this mind is by using the wind, or the breath.

We sometimes regard meditation as an activity of pacifying or calming the mind, but it is also a way to gather and direct it. We gather the energy from hearing, seeing, feeling, and so forth, and place it very steadily on one object, the breath. The breathing is steady, always available as a gathering point. Gathering our sense perceptions is like working with a group. If everyone has a different idea, the energy is scattered. But if everyone is inspired in the same direction, it is easier to accomplish something. In the same way, if we gather all the consciousnesses and bring them to the breathing, that focused energy moves us forward.

According to the teachings, the mind can only do one thing at a time. In this age we want to do many things at once, which weakens the mind. When we gather the mind and come back to the breath, the mind is becoming stronger and more present. The whole point of meditation is to be relaxed, and as we relax, our inner strength comes out. As soon as we feel that strength we become more confident in it. If we are so busy that we do not even have a feeling for our mind, meditation is the first step toward developing that feeling.

Meditating in this way begins to unwind the mind. As we start to see the mind’s highs and lows, we are no longer so constantly afflicted by them. We begin to have moments of peace. Then, just like clouds coming into the sky, thoughts again begin to percolate. Part of the practice is to recognize those thoughts. We remember that we are meditating and go back to the breath. We don’t feel bad for thinking; it’s just happening. To recognize the thought and come back—that will be most of our practice. In the beginning, there will be a few peaceful moments. But after we do this little dance for a while, there are fewer thoughts and more moments of being present.

Sometimes when we’re meditating we get impatient. We think that nothing’s going on, so we let our mind drift. Why is it important to manage the thoughts? Thought and intention are the beginning of any karmic action. Generally speaking, we are spooked by our own thoughts. Self-doubt arises, and the horse turns and runs. As soon as self-doubt arises, we start doubting others. We forget about practice and our mind becomes consumed, unstable, and fickle. Saying and doing negative things begins to make sense, and developing our warrior’s mind seems completely unrealistic. We have fallen into the lower, cowardly realms, where the mind is trapped and depressed.

The cowardly state of mind buys into aggression as a way to accomplish things. We have great confidence in anger; we are really certain that aggression is going to work. We don’t try patience or compassion because we haven’t cultivated enough confidence in these qualities. This negative state of mind is not natural. In fact, it’s continually created. Maintaining it is an exhausting process. And even though it does not result in lasting happiness, it perpetually fools itself into thinking that it will. Pursuing happiness in this cowardly way is like licking honey off a razor blade—it hurts.

To break out of that cycle we need windhorse, vibrancy, the energy that uplifts and moves us forward. All of the great practitioners of meditation have taught us that the enlightened qualities of the mind are right here. Beginning to trust them depends on our steadiness. As we build steadiness, we have more confidence and strength.

In the Shambhala teachings, the confidence of the warrior is a non-created confidence. The practice of shamatha, peaceful abiding, helps us access it in three particular ways. First, it steadies us in terms of all the activities in this life. Next it helps in the bardo, the intermediate state between dying and being born again. It also helps in terms of determining our future lifetimes. Even if we are not sure we believe in lifetimes, developing steadiness of mind and having something to come back to is definitely helpful in this life.

When we see great teachers, we get a very strong feeling from them. Their confidence in compassion radiates out as strength. When we practice meditation, we are deepening that same kind of confidence, strengthening our conviction in the ways of warriorship: kindness, patience, and generosity. By meditating for a short while every day, we steady ourselves in these aspects of enlightened mind, developing the fearless mind of the Shambhala warrior.

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