A Path for Warriors, including Prime Ministers

arthur dove via yama-bato

I was struck that in his resignation speech last week, Wayne Swan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, spoke of Julia Gillard, the just-deposed Prime Minister, as a “warrior”. It wasn’t a casual reference. He asserted something along the lines that she was the greatest warrior he had known.

I like the term “warrior”. Sure, it comes with suggestions of war and aggression, however, it’s also a rich and ancient spiritual trope. It gives weight to something the Western term “leader” glides over: the ontological nature of courage and the associated phenomena of fear and fearlessness.

I became interested in the warrior trope after reading the magical book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa. Trungpa was a Tibetan Buddhist monk who fled Tibet, and after studying at Oxford University and enduring many vicissitudes, eventually arrived in the US where he gave up his monastic vows and taught secular audiences. His book is a masterpiece; its prose, sensationally beautiful and powerful.

Margaret J Wheatley is also a fan of Chögyam Trungpa and it was through her work I discovered him. Wheatley, a US scholar and Professor of Management, has been researching and writing about leadership for years. I suspect that Wheatley, like me, finds the figure of the warrior moving and exciting in a way the figure of the leader often is not. She recently published a book called So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World which featured a statement of what she sees as the “Path for Warriors”.

She might not have Trungpa’s linguistic power and yet readers may be interested in her statement or some of its phrases. The ones in italics are those that speak to me. Which speak to you?


A Path for Warriors

We are grateful to discover our right work and happy to be engaged in it.

We embody values and practices that offer us meaningful lives now. We let go of needing to impact the future.

We refrain from adding to the aggression, fear and confusion of this time.

We welcome every opportunity to practice our skills of compassion and insight, even very challenging ones.

We resist seeking the illusory comfort of certainty and stability.

We delight when our work achieves good results yet let go of needing others to adopt our successes.

We know that all problems have complex causes. We do not place blame on any one person or cause, including ourselves and colleagues.

We are vigilant with our relationships, mindful to counteract the polarising dynamics of this time.

Our actions embody our confidence that humans can get through anything as long as we’re together.

We stay present to the world as it is with open minds and hearts, knowing this nourishes our gentleness, decency and bravery.

We care for ourselves as tenderly as we care for others, taking time for rest, reflection and renewal.

We are richly blessed with moments of delight, humour, grace and joy. We are grateful for these.


For more information about Chögyam Trungpa, go to the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project

Image: Unidentified work by Arthur Dove (1880-1946)

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8 thoughts on “A Path for Warriors, including Prime Ministers

  1. Many old civilizations have had women warriors as leaders. Perhaps we would all be a bit better off with more women warriors. I like being” blessed with moments of delight, humor, grace and joy.” It does not make me weak, rather it enhances my strength and appreciation of self.


    • Trungpa would agree, Kayti. He says this of warriorship in general, “The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help to solve the world’s problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion, nor does it come only from the West or the East. Rather, it is a tradition of human warriorship that has existed in many cultures at many times throughout history.”


    • Trungpa and Wheatley look at it from the opposite direction: one needs to be a warrior to be able to live this way. It’s the warriorship that people like Martin Luther King, Mandela have been able to bring forth in themselves, a warriorship for human being, warriorship for the world.


  2. Narelle, great post as usual. To me a warrior was redefined by Pema Chodron using the Buddhist teaching you refer to. I see a warrior as someone who courageously faces her fears, who does not turn away from her flaws, but investigates them, and who is compassionate in company of anger or hatred. A person who can do that is a brave warrior, indeed!


    • Oh good, you’re back from hols. I hear good things about Pema Chodron.

      You got it. The warrior figure in this ancient spiritual trope is all about the radical courage required to become fully human. I was thinking about it more and realised that the figure of Jesus Christ is also about this radical courage.


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