Who and what is the warrior, according to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche? Why is both discipline and letting go necessary on the path of the warrior? Drawing on examples from my own life, reflect on my personal relationship to the warrior principle.
“The goal of warriorship is to express basic goodness in its most complete, fresh and brilliant form” (CTR 65)[i]. To be able to ride windhorse fearlessly and through mastery of skillful means be, what in Buddhist terms is known as Drala. Drala will be discussed later in the term I am sure, but for now we can describe it as that which has the capacity to awaken others to their own inherent basic goodness. The journey on the path of the warrior begins with meditation. Without meditation there is no path. We just keep winding up our aggression to be the best warrior there is. This is a mistake. So to develop the ability to take our seats as proper warriors we have been given skillful means to develop. Two of these are Discipline and Letting Go. The necessity of these on the path of the warrior is what we will be discussing here.
When I was a child, I knew I wanted to ride a bike and ride it well. I really wanted a bike, I was done walking and running and I saw how cool it was that the older kids could do it. When I finally got the bike and started to learn how to ride I always held on with a death grip to the handlebars. I was afraid of falling down or making a mistake or of just not being good enough to ride the bike properly. After I had attained the basics however, I began to notice that I could dodge big rocks pretty easily if I just paid attention. So, I rode and rode day and night. At first it was practice and somewhat difficult. Soon it was just something to do. It wasn’t too long before I just let go of the handlebars all together and rode down the dirt road just taking delight in riding. Then, I could eat a piece of candy and ride, dodge a rock with no hands and even take jumps with no hands.
This analogy points to the process of developing Discipline and Letting Go. As we can see that if I had just gotten my bike and tried to take jumps with no hands, the outcome may not have been as desired. It may have turned out, but not because of any skillfulness on my part. More likely it would have been a face plant and a bloody nose. The only way I was able to do such feats of daring was by developing the comfort and delight through discipline to actually be able to let go and not fall off. Then to let go further of my fears and stories to notice that I had some level of mastery and could go further. My discipline was only able to come to full fruition once I was at the point where letting go of hope and fear was available on an intuitive level. It could not be pushed or coerced without unfortunate results.
So often in the West we associate discipline with cranking up our aggression and “making” ourselves do something. Like I have to have the discipline to do this homework assignment. This is not, however, the meaning we will have for it. As Chögam Trungpa Rinpoche says it, “To be a warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life. That is the warrior’s discipline. . . discipline is connected with how to become thoroughly gentle and genuine. It is associated with how to overcome selfishness and how to promote egolessness, or basic goodness, in yourself and others. Discipline shows you how to make the journey of warriorship. It guides you in the way of the warrior and shows you how to live in the world”” (CTR 66). This newly found discipline begins to grow and one begins to take delight in the discipline as attachment to what about me? begins to give way to the gentleness and compassion of the warrior and awakened concern for others grows along with a sense of celebration.
“The result of practicing the discipline of warriorship is that you learn to stop ambition and frivolity, and out of that, you develop a good sense of balance. . . For the warrior, letting go is connected with relaxing within discipline, in order to experience freedom. . . You have to relax with yourself in order to fully realize that discipline is simply the expression of your basic goodness” (CTR 74-75).
Once you have become comfortable in the discipline of basic goodness, it is time to let go, and then you will develop a sense of “natural elegance” (CTR 81). This natural elegance rises from telling the truth and being without deception. We have the courage to be this genuine because we have touched deeply into our own basic goodness and that of the phenomenal world.
“The result of letting go is that you discover a bank of self-existing energy that is always available to you. This self-existing energy is called windhorse in the Shambhala teachings. The wind principle is that the energy of basic goodness is strong and exuberant and brilliant. It can actually radiate tremendous power in your life. But at the same time, basic goodness can be ridden, which is the principle of the horse. By following the disciplines of warriorship, particularly the discipline of letting go, you can harness the wind of goodness” (CTR 85).
By following the discipline of the warrior and letting go we touch our hearts. Like falling in love we can experience tremendous joy and sorrow simultaneously. The depth of our experience brings us to begin experiencing unconditional confidence. In Tibetan this is known as Ziji. It can be said to say that we then express a monolithic confidence that shines out to the world. But because we have connected with basic goodness, it does not have the quality of ego or one-upmanship. It is the reflection of basic goodness that is unconditioned.
So jump on your bike and go for a ride just for the experience, develop your skills and then let go of the handlebars and see what happens.
Source: Trungpa Chögyam. “Celebrating the Journey” and “Letting Go” Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1984.