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Apr 04
Dharma Teachings
Tender Warriorship and the Good Nightmare

Photo courtesy of Lee Weingrad

Photo courtesy of Lee Weingrad

On the occasion of the Parinirvana of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, we offer a talk he gave at the Naropa Summer Seminar on August 20, 1979. This is the first time it has been published, and we would like to offer special thanks to the Naropa Archives and Jim Fladmark.

This is reality. On the other hand, this could be regarded as a nightmare. Maybe nightmares make more sense to people because they stick in their minds much more so. But it is a very genuine and gentle nightmare, which has never been heard of in history of the past. Nightmares are regarded as bad, but this is a good nightmare.

Warrior of Shambhala

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This seems to be the final session of our course, and I would like to present a general idea of the whole concept of the warrior of Shambhala that we’ve been discussing and studying. At the same time it’s maybe hard to experience the genuine heart of the warrior. Tonight’s talk is related with the idea that when you go home, you can carry something along with you and you can practice constantly, so this particular study here in Boulder does not purely become a day in your practice, but you have something to relate with the rest of your life.

The topic tonight is the notion of fearlessness. At the same time, in order to experience fearlessness, there is a need to experience fear. The notion of fear is manifested on several levels, sometimes in the form of uncertainty, and sometimes in the form of laziness, and sometimes in the form of unnecessary nostalgia. When we talk about unnecessary nostalgia that is to say that people begin to feel their early days, the so-called ‘good old days’ when they had tremendous neurosis, they had great fun and wish they could crank that up again. And sometimes we do so. All of those things come from the notion of wanting to re-enter into the mother’s womb and hide there, forever. Wishing that you never had to be born; hide in the mother’s womb, or hide in a cocoon – so you never want to come out as silk. Hide in your egg, so you never have to hatch and grow wings. We have that tendency all along, which is called the coward attitude. You prefer to wear a t-shirt with your body odor rather than wearing a clean garment, because having a t-shirt with body odor is much more homey.

Cowardliness here means that you would like to perpetuate your family heritage, either in the form of laziness, resistance, and doubt, whatever. But the whole thing boils down to cowardliness allowing us to recreate our own basic pattern, so you don’t have to constantly jump out into fresh air or fresh ground at all. Then we can still maintain, resist and learn to love our armpit smell and our own excrement as a homey gesture, that you have a very intense and a very familiar home. From the world of a coward, such a thing as ‘spring cleaning’ has never been known.

Partly regarded as family heirloom because of your inheritance, and partly regarded as too much work to clean up the whole thing, you don’t want to do that. It’s too much hassle, or problem. You might even say it costs more money to clean everything and you don’t want to let go of your ‘good-bad, bad-good’ memory.

There is something else connected to coward situation that we have discussed before in connection with the setting sun concept. From the setting sun level, boredom should be avoided. Entertainment should be promoted. Death should not be voiced. So everybody is trying to live a basic life where death is unknown. From the vision of the setting sun perspective there was a period in history where everybody is looking for the potion of longevity. Supposedly there’s no such thing at all. If there were such a thing, suppose you would have to put up with this world for a thousand years without dying, which would be absolutely terribly deadly. Long before you get to your thousandth birthday you would probably commit suicide already.

The notion of coward concept, or setting sun concept in this case, which is saying the same thing, is not experiencing enough reality of one’s own fear. That’s what it actually boils down to – one’s own fear. Fear has intellectual fear, and psychological fear, and abrupt fear of all kinds takes place. Intellectual fear is in terms of logic that we can’t last very long, so therefore we are afraid altogether, totally petrified basically. Psychological fear is that we can’t handle our world for that long. There’s a fear that one day we’re going to stop somewhere. Abrupt fear is that panic. New situations happen in our lives suddenly and we feel we can’t handle it. There is a jump, a twitch, happening all the time, a sense of restlessness. You begin to do doodles on your note pad, you begin to check your knees and arms, afraid of dying on the spot. You have to crank it up all the time like a running engine in the motor car, the pistons going up and down all the time. As long as the pistons in your engine are going up and down you feel safe. That kind of fear has to be acknowledged to begin with.

We have to realize and reconcile with that kind of fear. Although categories of fear, which probably I haven’t covered all of them, but roughly just pure headlines. There are lots of categories of fear – how we chew our nails, the way we move, the way we talk, the way we look, the way we conduct ourselves, the way we walk, when we begin to put our hand in our pocket unnecessarily. We want to find something about our fear in the form of restlessness. There is tremendous anxiety. General anxiety happens constantly – fear. Sometimes you might say “I’m not afraid of anything. I’m not fearful.” True, but why do you even have to say that? Ladies and gentlemen, we must face that there’s some kind of fear lurking behind the whole thing, always, in every thing we do.

But it’s not as bad as that. On the other hand, because you possess such fear, therefore it is possible you are entitled to experience fearlessness, which is not a reduction of fear, particularly, but beyond fear. Unfortunately in the English language we do not have that kind of term. ‘Fearlessness’ is the closest we can find. ‘Less’ does not necessarily mean less of fear, but beyond fear, absence of fear; beyond fear.

When we begin to flip to the other side of the coin of that particular fear – your anxiousness, anxiety, nervousness, concerns, restlessness and so forth – if you flipped back even toward the possibilities of basic goodness, Great Eastern Sun possibilities, the first thing we find is very sad, some kind of sadness, opposed to nervousness. Nervousness is cranking up, vibrating all along. Sadness is calm and sad, and maybe slightly soothing, but not necessarily so, but just sad. It sort of hits behind the back of our head and your body begins to produce a tear. Before you cry, you know there’s that back of head feeling and then after that you begin to produce tears in your eyes – that kind of ozone concept. Negative ions begin to come to your head, so you’re about to produce rain or waterfall in your eyes. That kind of ozone concept is sad and lonely, and romantic maybe at the same time. It’s the first step of fearlessness.

You don’t feel that’s so great and fantastic particularly. You might think that when we talk about you experiencing fearlessness you will think or expect there will be a ‘ta ta ta dum’ of some kind, or just becoming a big shot. It doesn’t happen that way. Human condition has to work with soft – very softness brings very harshness to an end at the same time in the warrior principle.

So first there’s the birth of the warrior, like the analogy of an antelope, reindeer. When they are young they grow horns that are very soft and almost rubbery, growing little hairs on it. It’s not necessarily a horn as such, it’s just a floppy thing that grows with blood inside. And then as they age they grow stronger horns with ten points or four points or forty points. They begin to develop antelope horns. That’s the idea. At the beginning it’s very rubbery horn – it looks like a horn but doesn’t quite fight with it. That’s the kind of sadness we are talking about – the floppy, rubbery horns of antelopes concept. That’s an interesting point.

So there’s some kind of sadness. That particular kind of sadness is also connected with the heartfelt sadness, it touches your heart so much, and therefore it tickles your heart quite painfully. It’s a question of uncertainty, how to feel that kind of fearlessness on a very simple level. When that begins to evolve further, we begin to realize that particular sadness and tenderness – tremendous tenderness. This makes the basic idea that a warrior should be tender and decent.

That decency and tenderness begins to evolve further and we begin to appreciate our world around us – sense perceptions, sight, smell, hearing, visual, smelling, and audible things begin to become very interesting. Because you are so tender already, you cannot help looking at the tenderness that takes place around us. We talked about that before in one of the previous talks. When you see red, green, yellow, white, black – we respond to that from the bottom of our heart, even visually. We begin to hear notes – high and low notes. We begin to feel temperatures that way; we begin to respond, which is the beginning level of tenderness developing into warriorship principle.

Your antelope horns now begin to have little hairs growing on it and its hairs fall out and begins to create ‘horn concept’, begins to become real horn. You’re about to develop real, good horn. Beyond that, tenderness, softness, and sadness begin to make sense. The tenderness begins to become notion of reasonability, or decency. Softness begins to become passionate. And the rest of it begins to develop some sense that you are willing to tell the truth all along.

So as we go on, the situation begins to become very real at this point, quite real. And on the other hand it may be quite ordinary. You might say that you have heard this before. But interestingly you haven’t heard it before this way, with some kind of twist. Fear begins to evolve as fearlessness naturally, very simply; quite straightforward. Warrior concept has begun to happen.

The ideal warrior should be very sad, and very tender. And because of that, the warrior could be very brave as well. Because of sadness and softness, therefore warrior can be brave. If warrior doesn’t have any heart, it would be like a porcelain cup, having no blood in it. If you drop it, it breaks, it chips off. The warrior’s concept of existence is like lacquer work, where the wood inside and the lacquer work outside, it bounces when it drops, which is traditional utensils that are used in traditional warrior cultures – lacquer work. Even from a technological point of view, this relates to the actual physical and psychological situation of a warrior. When it drops, it bounces, it doesn’t crack right away. It preserves its own lacquer work, its designs and everything. It’s soft and hard at the same time, which is an interesting concept of utensil approach, or even furniture approach.

Summarizing the discussion of the previous weeks, we’re trying to point out the journey that we’ve made in terms of even studying, that could become very natural and ordinary, as long as you could be decent in your lifestyle situation when you go home. We always recommend having a good household –clean home, but not too clean; good living, but not too good living. Moderations of that kind are dictated by the situation of your psychological state of being, whether you can actually relate with the genuineness of it.

Sometimes a genuine situation has to be controlled by experiencing some reference point. How much are you going to make the whole thing into a custom-made Shambhala vision? You have a brown suit, beige ties, maroon socks, and beige suede shoes. If you begin to match everything, an ideal prescription, there’s something very suspicious about that whole thing. You should have some situations where you can actually push off a little bit more, so that everything’s not matched from the prescription, but there is some area of your own expressions could come through.

Ideal set-up of whole thing, ideal prescription, does not work. That’s what went wrong in the past when everybody who had some kind of vision had prescribed a ‘trip’ to the world, and they had everything worked out in minute details – “this and that, that and this”. There’s no room. To make a double stitch instead of a single stitch is never allowed. And then we create the problem of Christian ethic, Catholic ethic, Judaic ethic, Hindu ethic, Japanese ethic – that you are not allowed to make a mistake. In this case in Shambhala vision you are allowed to make a mistake of ‘three stitches.’ Then you probably learn on the fourth stitch that you made a mistake, and you can come back and you relieve your threads and try it with a first stitch once more. So we have room. Nobody is condemned because of basic goodness; everybody is trusted. You can do so all along. Take pride in yourselves, and share it with everybody. That seems to be the basic point.

I think at this point we have to close, sadly tonight and the rest of the Institute that has been taking place this summer, which I appreciate very much. I hope all of you will come back and work with us. Your participation has been very helpful. Particularly that a lot of you had also the first session and second session put together, which makes perfect sense of Dharma and world put together, of enlightened society combined together. That is wonderful. Please take it back home, and don’t forget to practice. I appreciate you very much.

Please come back. Cheer up. A lot of sense of humor is needed. It’s very sad that we are not going to see this kind of situation for at least one year. Next year obviously something will continue, but idea is that our main concern of Naropa Institute altogether is to have intellect and intuition put together. Therefore we do not pollute the world. Our concern is pollution; very much intellectual pollution, study pollution, psychological pollution. We’ve been working on that with every department of the Institute. And we have achieved somewhat good success with this, but we have to work much further, with your help. Our Institute should not become a garbage piece, but should become the cleanser. Maybe that might mean a lot of diarrheas to flush down, lots of showers to flush above, and all sorts of things like that. But we take pride in that kind of situation. We are willing to do that. And I don’t think that will particularly increase our water bill, but we can do so even if it’s expensive. We can come up with our own good water.

I thank you everybody for being so good, and genuine and decent. And please don’t forget, this is not your dream, that you dreamt Naropa Institute. You went here, and one summer you woke up the next day. This is reality. On the other hand, this could be regarded as a nightmare. Maybe nightmares make more sense to people because they stick in their minds much more so. But it is a very genuine and gentle nightmare, which has never been heard of in history of the past. Nightmares are regarded as bad, but this is a good nightmare. Please come back with us, with a good sense of humor. Thank you very much.

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