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The term spiritual warrior is used in Buddhism for one who combats the universal enemy: self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. Different from other paths, which focus on individual salvation, the spiritual warrior's only complete and right practice is that which compassionately helps other beings with wisdom. This is the Bodhisattva ideal (the "Buddha-in-waiting"), the spiritual warrior who resolves to attain buddhahood in order to liberate others. The term is also used generically in esotericism and self-help literature.
The Agganna Sutta elaborates a history of the world in which the Buddha’s monks and nuns, and the warrior caste from which the Buddha came, are superior to brahmins, who were known for class discrimination. The Buddha’s Shakyan clan context was for warrior-like assembly for brahmins-bashing at that time.
The Shakyans may be considered a warrior-dominated republican federation, called the "sangha", with an aristocratic democratic tradition comparable to the Greeks. The Buddha's father was the Speaker of their Congress. In the Buddha's day, this government system was being culturally displaced by the brahminic caste and their religious ideology. Spreading imperial monarchies were destroying the Shakyans with their military power.
The Buddha pioneered the establishment of democratic procedures for the monastic sangha, such as regular meetings with secret ballots, subcommittees, and minority group rights to schism. He attempted to preserve his Shakyan clan's tradition, which was ideal for human liberation achievement. In the Agganna, the Buddha says that the monks and nuns have become "children of the Shakyans", the Enlightened One's sons and daughters, and children of the truth. The monastic Sangha was a spiritual warrior society within the historic conflict of the brahmin's struggle. They were heirs to the aristocratic virtues of the Buddha's warrior caste, which are related to democratic progress.
Tibetan monastic rule derived from a feudal warrior clan society, which was transformed into a spiritual warrior society. While the rest of the world followed feudalistic warrior development during the medieval period throughout Europe and Asia, Tibet uniquely established Lamaism. This was centered around a Buddhist social revolution originating distinctly from India's Hinduism and finding root in Tibet. The Lama (teacher) is a living Buddha for Tibetans who provides a powerful bridge between real and imaginary consciousness worlds, where the self is methodically dissolved into the whole's benefit by tantra practice.
Tibetans imported this order to help change their society to one based on education, social welfare, peaceful progress, with a self renouncing monastic class of rulers. The monastic sanga (community) were supported and organized like a military; however, they were set on a self-discovery yogic mission for reconnaissance to perfect and develop methods in eliminating ego suffering.
Tibetan Buddhists advanced a form of non-hereditary succession of title and land based on reincarnation, which presented living proof that their methods succeeded by extraordinary means. It also ensured that young leaders were well-trained in the monastic canon and it avoided deadly heir feuds seen in the heritable practices within feudalism. Tibetan monastics eschewed materialistic and economic progress for want of virtual visualizations. Monastic warriors were focused on accepting and perpetuating life in contrast to defending or attacking it.
In a highly celebrated and unique victory, Tibetan monastic warriors overcame the native Bon practices which then encompassed services for all of life's needs (birth, marriage, healthcare, death and spirit exorcism) by incorporating them into their own practices. New Buddhist spiritual technology was integrated with the existing Bon methods, as contrasted with oppression methods seen in other warrior techniques. Transformation and re-purposing of military-warrior symbolism and strategy into new codified tactics within Buddhist practice was a recurring metaphorical theme.
The society flourished to produce one of the best assemblies of peaceful enlightened self-knowledge known to human kind. When modern Chinese communist military economic industrial forces swept into dismantle and uproot it based on monarchic upheaval, this caused a spread of the seeds of this spiritual warrior way throughout the rest of world, which are now taking root in new democratic forms. Displaced Tibetans tend to remain loyal to their exiled leaders and lineage of teachers.
Chogyam Trungpa teaches the way of the spiritual warrior. In 1976, Trungpa established the Shambhala Training program on spiritual warrior-ship grounded in sitting meditation practice. The Sacred Path of the Warrior is Trungpa's book which embodies the practice.
The spiritual warrior archetype helps to constructively answer questions about aggression and competition with a healthy direction. Unlike the soldier character, the spiritual warrior is in touch with the joy, the sadness, the expansiveness in their heart; able to share and give it to others. The warrior knows about death and seizes the day. They have learned to let go with forgiveness and avoids chasing others in revenge. The warrior commits to growing the heart and soul in becoming a creative being. The warrior serves in love of strangers and gives generously while giving to themselves. The spiritual warrior seeks to change others with rational and compassionate decision-making in service of a higher goal.
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- "The Spiritual Warrior: An Interdimensional Technique Manual" by Shakura Rei, Rodney Charles, Sunstar Publishing Ltd., August 1, 1998, ISBN 1-887472-28-2
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- "Everyday Enlightenment: How to Be a Spiritual Warrior at the Kitchen Sink" by Venerable Yeshe Chodron, Harper Collins Publishers PTY Limited, September 1, 2006, ISBN 0-7322-7607-1