The Spiritual Warrior and the Dharma Way

According to the Bhagavad Gita, it is on the battlefield that Krishna (Lord of the Universe) teaches the eternal truth (Sanatana Dharma), and reveals his omnipotent form, to his disciple Arjuna. Again, we are told that Krishna his brother Balarama defeated the powerful wrestlers sent, by King Kamsa of Mathura, to kill them. Early stories about the Buddha also stressed his physical strength and skill as well as physical attractiveness.

“In contemporary Western popular culture,”says John Powers in A Bull of a Man: Images of Masculinity, Sex, and the Body in Indian Buddhism, “the Buddha is commonly portrayed as an androgynous asexual character, often in seated meditation posture and wearing a beatific smile.” This, the West’s only image of the Buddha, sharply contrasts Indian Buddhist literature, where the “Buddha is described as a the paragon of masculinity, the ‘ultimate man’ (puru-sottoma),” and known by epithets emphasizing his physical power, his skill in martial arts and attractiveness to women.

The image sharply contrasts that of the spiritual practitioner sitting peacefully in meditation, but it contains an essential teaching. But it tells us much about our own spiritual condition. “The body is a Temple,” is a cliche of the New Age, though the intelligence of the body is usually neither acknowledged nor cultivated. Modern spirituality is, all too often, a retreat from the world, from the body, and from pain. We can say that modern spirituality can often be a retreat from the dharma (Natural Law governing the universe). The temple, all too often, is highly decorated, though its foundations and fabric fall apart.


One of the major issues the West, in particular, faces today, is that education has been turned into specialization. Intellectuals, really, are often no more than specialists. As are politicians and pundits. Out of balance, lacking any comprehension of a holistic life, the advice and ideas we are presented with have caused, and can only cause, further fragmentation. The best hope for our future, East and West, is to refocus on the higher man (Taoist Chun Tzu, Vedic Arya Manushya), the whole man, the elevated man — philosopher, artist, warrior — to see that, and not punditry and tactical moralizing, as the desired standard, to which each might aspire and work toward.

Problematically, while dharma and genuine spirituality inspire excellence, creativity, and pushing beyond the limits of the individual, the political zeitgeist demands the opposite. The dumbing down of the West can be encapsulated in the words, “no, I can’t.” In high schools in the USA and Britain, think tanks, teachers unions, and governing bodies have demanded an end to competitive sports, since, by their nature, the outcome cannot be equal.

“Those critical of competition in sport […] argue that enforcing equity and achieving equality of outcomes are more important that rewarding success.” says an article titled “Ban Competition in Sport”, published by the Education Standards Institute (which cites a report by Dr. Leveller of the Equity in Sport foundation). Yet, these advocates of equality have singled out the one area — sport — where anecdotal evidence tells us that ethnic minorities do better than their Caucasian peers in Britain, Europe, and America.

It is where ethnic minorities are over represented or over achieve (at least if we take professional sports, such as soccer, (American) football, basketball, and boxing as anecdotal evidence) that advocates of equality have sought to prevent grading, and, as such, achievement being noted and recorded.

Such people, we should acknowledge, are not racist (though obviously they are not concerned with the best interests of minorities). Fundamentally they are against the Higher Man, of any race. Such people know that their specialism will pale in comparison to wisdom, and that today’s moral guides, leaders, and opinion makers would appear degenerate if we were to judge them in relation to the Higher Man.

Two things need to be stressed here:

(1) From a Dharmic perspective, intelligence is not limited to mental thought. Hence Krishna teaches Arjuna on the battlefield and urges him to fight those who have come to cause havoc and bloodshed. Hence, the higher man of advanced civilizations and cultures — such as the Indian, Confucian, and the ancient Greek — develops his physical, martial skills, as well as practicing various arts, meditation, and so on. Hence, he takes his orientation from Divine Law (Dharma) rather than deductions and calculations about the world as a purely material or scientific thing.

(2) Disciplines, physical and mental, all connect together — the martial artist will understand the use of the brush in painting and calligraphy; he will have insights into human nature; he will comprehend what is true and false in philosophy; he will be able to develop abstract thinking; he will understand mathematics, geometry, and so on.

To put up obstacles at any one of these entrance points to the journey of the higher man is indicative of the mind of Kali Yuga, which is the mind who manipulates nature, to denigrate those who are better than him, so that he, the most unnatural and least elevated of men appears to be superior. Lacking a holistic way of being and an understanding of the Higher, such men` claim to be the moral authority, but are nearly always merely specialists in a theoretical field of inquiry which cannot be tested. Or, when it can be tested, produces the opposite results to what the specialists themselves predict.

A permanent underclass will always provide the ruse for specialists to create theories that suit themselves, and that call for the dumbing down of society as a whole. In contrast to their claims, we know that it is excellence that transcends boundaries, and makes people love one another. We know that excellence, not equality, that lifts people up, individually and as a society.

The struggle of our own time is to imagine a new future — a dharmic future. One in which excellence is at its heart. Excellence elevates. But it also reminds us, instinctively, of our duty to help others. It creates society, as it does the Higher Man. In the Dojo, the superior martial artist teaches those less advanced — even beginners. Imparting what he knows, helping them to develop through the discipline, he guides them to a higher consciousness of mind and body.

The division between the modern, materialistic and the dharmic society, and between the specialist and the Higher Man are illustrated in the words of the Bhagavad Gita:

The whole world becomes a slave
To its own activity, Arjuna;
If you want to be truly free,
Perform all actions as worship.

Angel_headshot_smallAngel Millar is an author, blogger, and the editor of People of Shambhala.

3 Replies to “The Spiritual Warrior and the Dharma Way”

  1. Hi Angel, I really like this article & describes what I think & feel is going on in institutions & the world re specialisations but thankfully Eastern & old philosophy has burgeoned & blossomed in the West so more understanding, slowly. Also there is now a spiritual, political world leader in the Dalai Lama. I would like to tweet this but could not see button. Namaste Nathalie

  2. Ok just seen ways to share on top. Wish you well.

    1. Thank you, Nathalie! We wish you well, also. Namaste!

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