Paths

By Fields, Rick | Whole Earth, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Paths


Fields, Rick, Whole Earth


CODE OF THE WARRIOR

The code of the warriors has the basic qualities of courage, loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for the larger group, to be connected to something larger than simply the individual. Human beings are group animals. Even though individualism is of huge value for us, it's clear that none of us really can exist by ourselves, that our values were forged in groups, that human beings live in groups, and so one of the values of a warrior is being protective of the group no matter what the group is, or how the group is defined.

In her book Blood Rites, Barbara Eherenreich quotes Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld:

   Given time, the fighting itself will cause the two sides to become more
   like each other, even to the point where opposites converge, merge, and
   change places.... The principal reason behind this phenomenon is that war
   represents perhaps the most imitative activity known to man.

Eherenreich says,

   There is a mechanism--almost a human reflex--that guarantees that
   belligerents will in fact be "given time" for this convergence to occur,
   and that mechanism is revenge: A raid or attack or insult must be matched
   with an attack of equal or greater destructive force. One atrocity will be
   followed by another; and no matter how amicable the two sides may once have
   been, they will soon be locked together in a process from which no escape
   seems possible. To the warrior, the necessity of revenge may be
   self-evident and beyond appeal.

At a certain point of history, the idea of not taking revenge arises as a religious idea it arises in China, in India with the Buddha, and in the Middle East with Christ. And all of a sudden, somebody is saying "turn the other cheek" or as the Buddha says, "hatred is not ended by hatred." This is very unusual. The question always is what is the viability of a society that espouses these ideas in the face of societies that don't? And the answer is not very hopeful. The Tibetans, for example, incorporated the Buddhist world view into what was a very active warrior society. China attacked and now the country is occupied, the culture is practically destroyed, the monasteries are destroyed, the women have been raped, and the whole country is physically occupied.

It seems that now there has to be a movement that says we're not going to buy into revenge. This is kind of a forgiveness, or seeing that a way out of this logic, out of this deadly logic, is more valuable than continuing the revenge cycle. It's always a scary thing. The code of the warrior takes a lot more than fighting the other side or conquest. It takes the courage to die. And the Buddha's notion of a Bodhisattva as somebody whose ideal is striving for enlightenment for the benefit of the other person takes great courage, and it takes seeing through the whole revenge cycle.

That's why I think that the Buddhist or the spiritual alternative is so incredibly important; because without some way to break that logic which is the logic of samsara--the suffering just goes on and on. When you think about the Bodhisattva vow in Buddhism, you know it's awesome to say that I'm giving up my own enlightenment in this lifetime, I'm giving up my own nirvana, I'm going to keep coming back into this world until all beings are eventually enlightened.

Humans are a mixture of ignorance and arrogance at the same time, which is a most dangerous combination. …

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