“A sage, seated beside the Ganges, notices a scorpion that has fallen into the water. He reaches down and rescues it, only to be stung. Sometime later he looks down and sees the scorpion thrashing about in the water again. Once more, he reaches down to rescue it, and once more he is stung. A bystander, observing all this, exclaims, ‘Holy one, why do you keep doing that? Don’t you see that the wretched creature will only sting you in return?’ ‘Of course,’ the sage replied. ‘It is the dharma of a scorpion to sting. But it is the dharma of a human being to save.’ ”
- Eknath Easwaran
Often, when we are in the middle of a challenge in life, we tend to ask God:
“For what purpose does this all serve?”
Lucky for you, I am far enough along on the journey that I can give you an answer to that question:
For what purpose does it all serve?
The purpose is so that you can become a spiritual warrior.
But what does it mean to be “a spiritual warrior”?
I’d like to clarify this for you today.
What Does It Mean To Be A “Spiritual Warrior”?
I use the term “spiritual warrior” for lack of a better term. Because, in reality, a “warrior” is a person who goes to war, and every spiritual warrior knows that war, or any form of violence, is not the answer.
But there are ways in which the image of a warrior is a helpful one: a warrior is often covered in bruises and scars. They carry armor and have weaponry that they have trained with over many years. They know how to use this weaponry against their enemy. Warriors are also community-minded people: they work in a team and understand that their survival depends on their fellow warriors as much as their own efforts.
Much like a traditional warrior, a spiritual warrior often does not escape “the battle” unscathed. He is often scarred and bruised (the consequences of being on the “spiritual battlefield.”) Spiritual warriors also have a set of tools that can be seen as their “weapons”—weapons that they can use to combat their enemies (or the agents of hate and fear). Spiritual warriors have acquired a certain level of skill at using these “tools.” Finally, spiritual warriors, like a traditional warrior, work with the community (and a force greater than them) to help achieve their ends.
Now, the difference between a traditional warrior and a spiritual warrior is that the former uses violence, while the latter utilizes non-violence. (Here is where the term “warrior” falls short as a useful term to express what I’m trying to say. But I hope you are patient with me as I push the limits of the English language in order to explain an advanced spiritual concept.) A spiritual warrior doesn’t believe he is interconnected with all of life, he knows this to be true. Because a spiritual warrior has experienced this truth first hand, he also lives this truth on a daily basis. Therefore, he knows that to be violent against another would be to be violent against himself. This does not mean he is weak, or that he let’s people walk all over him. This just means he is smart enough not to act in a way that is the equivalent of punching himself in the face.
Since the spiritual warrior lives the truth of being deeply interconnected with the rest of life, he can also recognize universal patterns quite easily. All of life speaks to him and shows him the way.
A spiritual warrior moves in love, truth, and light.
Don’t get me wrong: a spiritual warrior is still imperfect and is often doubtful. He can be led astray often, and can get confused at times. He still has many defects and he still makes many mistakes.
But even though he still has his shortcomings, a spiritual warrior knows how to return to a state of security: he can become aware, anchored, and connected. He has acquired the tools that allow him to do this. He has mastered these tools enough to know how to teach these tools to others. This ability to become anchored, aware, and connected to the flow of life on a regular basis (a skill that only a spiritual warrior possesses) allows a spiritual warrior to keep moving forward in a positive, constructive manner despite all of his shortcomings.
A spiritual warrior knows his purpose in this life. He knows how to utilize his talents, abilities, and gifts in service of the greater good. He is also able to turn his burning desire for his passion into an act of service for the greater good. He knows that his community’s happiness depends on his happiness, and his happiness depends on his community’s happiness; and so the only way for both he and his community to be happy is if he can find a way to turn his passion into something that works in service for the greater good.
When someone finally fuses his passion with selfless service, they inevitably become a teacher, leader, guide, and mentor to others on the spiritual journey. This is the pinnacle of the training program: once you go from “student” to “teacher” then you cease being a spiritual “warrior-in-training” and finally become a full-fledged spiritual warrior. (You never stop learning or being a student but, from now on, you are beholden to others: if asked for guidance, it is now your duty to teach others what you have learned on the journey so far.)
A spiritual warrior also knows that fear is the enemy—not the person, place, or thing which he fears.
Most importantly, a spiritual warrior may be brutally attacked by an agent of fear and hate, but he keeps on trying to save and help others because he knows that this is his destiny. It is just like the little anecdote from Eknath Easwaran I shared with you at the beginning of this post: a spiritual warrior knows that it his purpose (or dharma) to help others no matter how often he is attacked by the agents of fear and hate (no matter how often he is stung by “the scorpion”).
A spiritual warrior also knows that although many will continue to spread hate, fear, despair, and divisiveness, it does not mean that his work is in vain. Evil will do evil things, that is why we call it evil. A spiritual warrior knows this and is not shocked at the lengths evil will go to try to win the day.
No, a spiritual warrior is prepared and he is smart. He knows that the light exhausts the darkness. That truth trumps the lies. That compassion is more powerful than hate. That (as The Tao Te Ching states) the “soft overcomes the hard.”
The spiritual warrior knows that the only way evil wins is if spiritual warriors give up the fight in the middle of the battle, or if spiritual warriors-in-training abandon their spiritual journey before it bears them any fruit.
The spiritual warrior knows that the agents of fear and hate are cunning, and they will try everything in their power to rob you of hope.
Do not let them. Do not give in to them. Sooner or later, you will exhaust them with your resilience and they will have no choice but to give up trying to convince you that all is darkness and that nothing you do matters.
Leave no doubt: you are either a spiritual warrior, or you are a spiritual warrior-in-training.
So, for all my fellow spiritual warriors: keep up the good fight. You are not alone. I am your comrade and I have your back. Remember that many of your fellow warriors are also out here fighting the good fight, and they have your back, too.
Finally, for those of you who are “spiritual warriors-in-training”: if you’re wondering what your current challenge is for, know that you are being prepared for greatness: you are being prepared for a life filled with deeper meaning and purpose.
No, this is not some empty platitude to make you feel better for the sake of making you feel better. It is the truth. Stay strong. All of it serves a purpose, you will see. One day you will blossom into the spiritual warrior you were always meant to be.