Note: In 2018, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche became the subject of a number of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct and stepped back from the community he led, Shambhala. While Lion's Roar does not endorse him as a Buddhist teacher, we understand that some may want to access his past teachings in light of recent events, and so we are continuing to make this article from our archive of past issues available for those who wish to do so.
A key element of bravery, says Sakyong Mipham, is abruptness—the ability to break free from hesitation and suddenly leap from our habitual patterns to the awake mind.
This current dark age, to put it very simply, has come about by people not properly being on the spot. We have ended up in a distracted, mindless state, which meditation helps us to reverse. Bravery, a highlight of the Shambhala teachings, is one of the unconditioned qualities that arises as we continue to practice. On the sacred path of the warrior, which defines bravery as “the act of both personally and socially manifesting,” we combine meditative insight with social application. My father, Chögyam Trungpa, who founded 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.”
Bravery is one of the unconditioned qualities that arises as we continue to practice.
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.
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 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.
Egolessness indicates freedom and space. Leaping into that space is the Shambhala principle of true spirituality entering into our entire life.
In our own case, lack of abruptness indicates ambivalence toward ourselves and our environment. We feel cautious and overanalytical. 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.
As for why we are often unable to leap, it is a matter of being attached to our habits, and at the same time, frightened of egolessness. Habit is synonymous with ego. We do not want anything to penetrate us. We see situations that are immediate or uncomfortable as threatening; they are threatening our habit. We are afraid of taking that leap. Egolessness indicates freedom and space. Leaping into that space is the Shambhala principle of true spirituality entering into our entire life.
Abruptness is the moment we show the depth of our character as well as our training. It shows that we have established the reasons we want to live and manifest according to the principles of awakenment. We have worked through habitual patterns and laziness. With abruptness—that moment when we switch our allegiance from habitual pattern to awake mind—we move forward. We shed our cowardice, traversing from indecision and fear into genuineness and lucidity. If there are any threads of deception, they are quickly exposed. We have left the land of make-believe and entered the moment of actually embodying warriorship principles.