What does it mean to be a spiritual warrior? This somewhat contradictory term appears in multiple wisdom traditions throughout human history. A fascinating concept, a spiritual warrior implies one who combats the most insidious and universal enemy—ignorance.
Known as Avidya in Sanskrit, ignorance of the true nature of the world invokes countless forms of suffering. The spiritual warrior deliberately takes up the fight against this cunning foe, choosing to bring light to the darkness.
The path of the spiritual warrior is not an easy one. It can challenge you, require sacrifice, and force you into the cognitive dissonance often encountered when you search to discover the causes of your ignorance. However, the rewards are great:
- In the act of self-liberation from your fears, doubts, small mindedness, and limiting beliefs
- In service to the world as path makers and leaders of a global shift in consciousness and world transformation
What then, are the qualities of a spiritual warrior? What attributes or states of mind are necessary to become warriors of light?
A spiritual warrior must possess expanded awareness. While spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation enhance and accelerate the growth of awareness, a spiritual warrior must have the specific awareness to recognize that you are at war with the darkness of ignorance. If you are to take up the call of spiritual warriorship, you must remain vigilant that in the lack of awareness, ignorance will grow. As you pay attention to yourself—your thoughts, speech, actions, and beliefs—you deprive ignorance of a fertile field in which it can take root.
A spiritual warrior has courage. Martial artist Bruce Lee said, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” This is what it means to have courage. As previously explained, the path of the spiritual warrior is not necessarily easy. You can face danger, fear, pain, and uncertainty on the path to spiritual mastery.
Spiritual warriors press on when confronted with adversity, doubt, or the inconsistencies or irrationality of their beliefs and behavior. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel the fear; it means you feel it and keep going. Deep down you know that the enlightenment you seek is worth enduring the temporary discomfort of the journey.
Next, the spiritual warrior possesses discipline. Discipline is the ability to restrain yourself—to control your impulses, desires, or emotions for the sake of improvement. It’s important to note that such discipline comes not from some outside authority, rather the spiritual warrior forges in the fire of your will. You make the difficult choice to pursue spiritual practices or Sadhana over the often more comfortable or conventional ways of life with the intention of attaining higher states of consciousness.
Discipline can also mean simply staying on the path. The spiritual warrior knows there will be obstacles on the journey, but when those occur, self-discipline keeps you keeping on when others are content to quit.
Relentlessness is another key attribute of the spiritual warrior. Being relentless refers not to being harsh or inflexible. Rather it implies a persistent and determined intention to seek out false beliefs, attempts to fool yourself, and ego delusions. The spiritual warrior understands that ignorance is a tenacious adversary that requires daily and consistent attentiveness so as to not let it take you by surprise.
Relentlessness also means ruthlessly slaying the 1,000-headed dragon of self-importance. Your sense of self-importance can slow spiritual progress and obscure your understanding of who you really are. Relentlessly seeking out opportunities to subjugate the ego creates space for spirit to enter your life.
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The spiritual warrior is also cunning. As your awareness and spiritual discipline grows, the warrior of light recognizes the slippery nature of the mind and how easily you can fool yourself. You, therefore, must be equally cunning and crafty when it comes to outwitting your habitual thought traps and cognitive biases. In the space of expanded consciousness you learn to anticipate the stories you tell yourself, the ways you hide from the truth, and how you stubbornly defend your false sense of self.
This alert witnessing and understanding of your thought process or metacognition allows you to intercept your conditioned behavior so you can course correct toward more conscious choices in thought, word, and deed.
Patience is the next quality of the spiritual warrior. Patience is the calm acceptance that not everything happens according to your timeline. It allows you to be content as well as pause, wait, endure, and allow things to unfold in their own way.
The spiritual warrior doesn’t act needy. You don’t push or demand that the universe comply with your wishes. Instead, you recognize that a bigger picture is unfolding; in the absence of a broader perspective, you can’t always know what action to take. Therefore, you can calmly be in the moment and wait for the universe to act. When the right time becomes known, the spiritual warrior seizes the opportunity and takes spontaneous and transformative right action.
The spiritual warrior also possesses sweetness. Sweetness might seem like a strange attribute of the spiritual warrior, something associated with weakness or sentimentality. In this context, however, sweetness refers to impeccability in word and action. The spiritual warrior holds yourself to the highest of standards, refraining from anything that could be considered potentially cruel or hurtful.
As the Dalai Lama reminds you, “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” It’s easy to be hurtful and mean to yourself or others. Kindness, compassion, and sweetness in the face of anger or ignorance require enormous strength and understanding. Seeing the world from higher ground allows you to act and speak from a place of sweetness that benefits everyone you encounter.
The final quality of the spiritual warrior is love. To the spiritual warrior love is all that is. It is the core of your being and core of all other beings. Removing the veils of love is the spiritual warrior’s quest. You exist with love at your source, but often it lies hidden beneath anger, trauma, or suffering. Expanding the field of love for both yourself and others is the ultimate goal of the spiritual warrior. Love heals all wounds. It is that transformative power that can change the world. The spiritual warrior shines the light of your love into the darkness of ignorance, not to destroy it, but to transmute it into knowledge.
When the spiritual warrior possesses these attributes you become a powerful force for change in the world. The spiritual warrior fights against the self-delusion, fear, and ignorance that create suffering in your life. This battle is fought within; an effort to shed the chains of conditioning and false beliefs that lie within you. The reward of this campaign is the expansion of consciousness; the spiritual warrior becomes a beacon of awareness who brings healing to the entire world.