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Jul 19
Dharma Teachings, Sakyong and Family
Bravery: Taking a Leap

by Sakyong Mipham

Bravery is a highlight of the Shambhala teachings. On the sacred path of the warrior, it is one of the unconditioned qualities that arises from living with virtue and valor. It is defined as “the act of both personally and socially manifesting.”

To put it very simply, this current dark age has come about by not properly being on the spot. Unfortunately we have ended up in a distracted, mindless state. In meditation, we are reversing it. Shambhala combines meditative insight with social application. My father, Chögyam Trungpa, founder of this lineage, explained it this way: “You might have shamatha–vipashyana awareness happening all the time. But on top of that, you have to keep up with your actual day-to-day life.”

The first form of bravery is being free of deception. If we are engaged in deception, we are intentionally covering up a bit of nonvirtue. It is difficult to be forthright, open, and genuine. We just go through the motions, so much that we fool even ourselves. Perhaps we have been wearing the clothes of spiritual lifestyle, memorizing the words of spiritual speech, and having spiritual thoughts. Maybe we have even encountered brave individuals on the path. But we have not had the bravery to truly manifest in our daily life.

When we are free of deception, we are able to be fully present. Because we are not looking behind our back, there is a feeling of readiness. We feel immediate. Therefore, the second form of braveness is abruptness, the ability to suddenly jump. Abruptness indicates that bravery is not an indiscernible slow-swinging pendulum, where somehow we move seamlessly from deception to bravery. Rather, abruptness is a sudden, immediate, and noticeable experience of true bravery.

Abruptness snaps our mind out of discursiveness and habit. Coming face-to-face with our deception, there is a moment of challenging ourselves. To practice truly being present, we cannot vacillate in the moment of immediacy. We must leap if we are to overcome our mockery of awakenment.

Whether we find ourselves suddenly returning to the breath in meditation, suddenly leaping beyond stinginess at work, or suddenly manifesting courageousness at the time of death, having this level of bravery is a game-changer. The advantage has shifted from asleep to awake—in Shambhala terms, from the setting sun to the Great Eastern Sun.

Leaping appears abrupt, in contrast to hesitant engagement. To a novice, the moves of a martial artist might also appear abrupt. But warriors of the martial arts are able to move suddenly as a result of personal training—years of studying their own minds and bodies as well as simultaneously knowing their environment. This is demonstrated in The Art of War, where Sun Tzu presents a sudden attack as the result of a well-trained army. The warriors’ ability to jump into the situation comes from not living in the deception of past or future. They are immediately in the present. Since they are comfortable in the present and because their virtue is up-to-date, they have left nothing exposed; there is nothing to fear. Knowing themselves and understanding the situation enables them to leap.

In our own case, lack of abruptness indicates ambivalence toward ourselves and our environment. We feel cautious and over-analytical. We would like to lead life with a thirty-second delay. Rather than addressing deception at the root, we would rather not live fully. Our hesitancy is an attempt to cover our exposed areas. We cannot truly be brave. The inability to show up in our life at the moment of truth is a mockery of our own supposedly spiritual principles.

It is all too easy to become entangled in mockery’s trap, where we read without doing, write without living, speak without invoking, or meditate without realizing. To stay in this trap is dangerous for the warrior, for it creates a husk of detachment. Because this husk is invisible, we are unable to see our own deception. Click here to continue reading this past June’s monthly dharma teaching on Sakyong.com.

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