The Real War To Be Fought, Part One….

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Be with your experience. Let everything that comes up from that experience come up. Function appropriately on the physical plane. Seems so simple, yet it is so difficult to practice. Simple, but not easy. This is the war to be fought.

Every worthy religious and even martial tradition speaks of this war. But because of our wrong vision and understanding, we do not walk onto the battlefield. We tend to believe that aliveness happens outside of us and the world within us is empty. With that understanding, we pursue the activities we should actually be avoiding. We will seek the excitement of violence and destruction rather than turn inward to true life and joy.

We live in a world that pursues violence and destruction in this way, consciously or unconsciously. As I. K. Taimni has said, “Even the excitement of war which brings so much pain and suffering is preferable to the intolerable monotony of every day life which results when we are deprived of excitement in our ordinary life. Absurd though it may sound I think a large number of people in their heart of hearts like war in a perverted way for its excitement, in spite of the terrible pain and suffering which it brings” (Glimpses into the Psychology of Yoga 130).

Even scripture can be misread as counseling us to turn outward and seek violence. By missing the inner fight, we misinterpret scripture as an encouragement or even an incitement to outward war. Psalm 18 reads, “He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms” (KJV). The verse could easily be read as a declaration of external power, but it is really telling us that if we arm ourselves by fighting the interior war, no external weapon can harm us.

With this in mind, we can see that discernment in external action is crucial. We truly should not think of acting externally without having first fought the internal war. When my sons were young, I taught them, “Do not shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.” They learned that in order to be ready to act they had to wait until they were completely clear, and then in many cases the appropriate action was something they hadn’t imagined. Sun Tzu is right: in order to be clear and safe, you have to know yourself, know the terrain, and know who you’re playing with.

This means knowing our own lurking motivations, so that we can master and transcend them. Once we have done this, our actions in the world will be clean and clear. “It may happen that myriad people suffer because of the evil of one man”, said the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. “In such a case, myriad people are saved by killing one man. Would this not be a true example of “the sword that kills is the sword that gives life?” (The Book of Five Rings, trans. Cleary, 96) We should always be checking our motives, which we can only assess by turning in and listening to our Hearts. Outward-turned people aren’t safe. Cowards are often outward-turned people who are sure they see clearly.

But Sun Tzu is also right that the greatest strategists and warriors are wise enough to win without fighting. As my Tai Chi Chuan teacher, T. R. Chung, used to say, the true master of martial arts will be two to ten miles away from a fight when it starts. If you are inwardly still—empty, no vibration—you can be present but not be there. When fraught with vibrations, we are not awake. We’re more interested in numbing our vibrations than in the alertness we need. This fourchotomy shows how the dynamic works:


Stressed (agitated, anxious, pressed upon) Tranquil (at peace with self and world)
Vigilant / Challenged (awake and aware / encouraged to tap inner resources)  Asleep / Numb (not paying attention inwardly and outwardly)


In a situation where we have to act, we need to understand how to de-escalate, neutralize, and not be there. This means being present, and de-escalating within ourselves. Only the inner war teaches us how to do these things.

The paradox is that in order to fight the war that has to be fought, acceptance and surrender are the greatest weapons. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna had to surrender inwardly to God and accept his destiny before he was able to triumph. It was not about the outward battle; the inward battle was all that mattered, and then everything else was in its place.


Surrendered (having let go)                         Resistant (pushing against)
Beaten (crushed, caved in, folded,demoralized, abject, need to be healed)                          Resilient (bounces back)

Whether we are generals or street sweepers, our job is to fight the inner war. Then we can appropriately function on the physical plane.

In Matthew 15:10-20, Jesus makes absolutely clear where the true war is to be fought: “And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” (KJV)

It is not what comes to us from without but what we bring forth from within ourselves that dictates our relationship with the world.

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