The Way Of The Warrior | Oct 2006

FMBR Editorial: Oct, 2006

The Way Of The Warrior

Phillip Scott
from Principles and Practices of Indigenous Warriorship, his Master's thesis

The very first gateway, which aspirants encounter and through which they must pass on the journey toward warriorship, is fear. In the Shambhala warrior tradition of Tibet, fear is the cocoon of habitual patterns woven to reinforce our stories assuring a false sense of security, familiarity and safety. Regarded as one of the "four natural enemies" for the Toltecs, fear is "treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting." Once externalized, ever stalking us, fear paralyzes and blinds, preventing us from thinking and acting with clarity, sobriety and ease. This fact is precisely why Indigenous cultures crafted rites of passage and initiations in order to force neophytes to grapple with and face the fears and anxieties which prevent them from experiencing the exhilaration, adventure and Mystery of being fully alive, completely human.

Fearlessness is achieved by directly confronting and embracing our fears; becoming intimate with them; learning about them and performing that which terrifies. In so doing, warriors begin to understand their illusory nature as well as their utility, the underlying and concealed gifts they contain. The following story of Chögyam Trungpa, the renowned Tibetan Rinpoche who is credited with introducing the Shambhala Warrior teachings to the Western world, illustrates this innate and natural state: "he [was] traveling with his attendants to a monastery he'd never seen before. As they neared the gates, he saw a large guard dog with huge teeth and red eyes. It was growling ferociously and struggling to get free from the chain that held it. The dog seemed desperate to attack them. As Rinpoche got closer, he could see its bluish tongue and spittle spraying from its mouth. They walked past the dog, keeping their distance, and entered the gate. Suddenly, the chain broke and the dog rushed at them. The attendants screamed and froze in terror. Rinpoche turned and ran as fast as he could -- straight at the dog. The dog was so surprised that he put his tail between his legs and ran away."

Thus, the warrior does not flee from terror but approaches it, headlong. Such a strategy does not eliminate the existence of fears from the world only their appearance in one's life and one's responses to them if ever they arise. In essence, the warrior "grows daily less and less accessible to fear." Don Juan, the Yaqui Indian warrior and sorcerer, when his apprentice Carlos Castañeda inquires how to overcome fear, explains, "The answer is very simple. He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats" At this point, the warrior is no longer incapacitated or subjugated by the presence of fear and no longer experiences the feeling of fear at all.

Ultimately, all fears are capable of being distilled into one - namely, Death. This is the reason warriors make peace with their inevitable demise. They are simply unafraid to die. The formidable Lakota warrior and peerless leader Tasunka Witko (literally translated as His Crazy Horse), prior to rushing an enemy in battle, would declare, "Hoka Hey! It is a Good Day to Die! For I have everything in this moment to make the Journey Home!" Don Juan states, "One of the greatest forces in the lives of warriors is fear, because it spurs them to learn. "Death, like our shadow, stalks and walks with us moment to moment. It is the warrior's greatest teacher and ally. The presence of death brings considerable sobriety to the life of the warrior, crystallizing what is truly important. Therefore, never is there time or energy to squander in pettiness, needless attachments, and indulgence in self-importance for we are, in the grand scheme, merely nothing.

Death, therefore, is a catalyst for awakening. Considering impermanence is the nonnegotiable truth of existence, the warrior, realizing there may never be a tomorrow, does not take life for granted and lives every moment as his/her last -- for it is! Being aware of this finality, the warrior makes each and every act count. Free from future concerns and outcomes, riveted in the present, no longer gripped by the disabling fear of death, the warrior approaches Freedom, "The worst that could happen to us is that we have to die, and since that is already our unalterable fate, we are free; those who have lost everything no longer have anything to fear." Having transcended fears, the warrior lives with abandon. As Socrates, a character in the book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, laments "Death is not sad; the sad thing is that most people don't ever really live at all."

And what is the attribute, which banishes the fear of death from one's heart? Courage. Courage is an essential virtue, which the warrior cultivates and which is vital and harnessed for the state of fearlessness to manifest. The word courage is derived from the French, Coeur, for heart. Therefore, the warrior lives the "path of heart", with heart. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the preeminent peaceful warriors of the 20th century, considered courage as "the most important quality on the spiritual path." What exactly is courage? Faith. Conviction. Trust. Resolve. The warrior supplants fear, with faith in himself, in his skillfulness and in his relationship to the Mystery and the Earth, which guide and shape his destiny. Don Juan clarifies, "What we need to do to allow magic to get hold of us is to banish doubts from our minds, once doubts are banished, anything is possible." By living courageously, faithfully, we experience the wonder of being alive, where everything is possible for nothing is determined or certain.

Phillip Scott, Founder/Director, Ancestral Voice - Center for Indigenous Lifeways

[This essay is abridged from Chapter 1, Principles and Practices of Indigenous Warriorship, Phillip Scott's Master's Thesis. Both the Thesis and this essay are copyrighted. For additional information contact or go to 

To send comments by email regarding this editorial to Bill Gough click here .



1Florinda Donner, Being in DreamingAn Initiation into the Sorcerer’s World (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991), 184.

2Carlos Castañeda, The Wheel of Time (Los Angeles: LA Eidolona Press, 1998), 44.

Chapter 1

1Carlos Castañeda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (New York: Pocket Books, 1968), 82.

2Ibid., 84.

3Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1997), 14-15.

4Eugen, Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (New York: Random House, Inc., 1981), 78.

5Castañeda, Teachings, 84.

9Chief Charles Chipps, conversation with author, July 1992, Wanblee, oral transmission, Pine Ridge Reservation, Wanblee, South Dakota.

12Castañeda, The Wheel of Time (Los Angeles: LA Eidolona Press, 1998), 238.

16Ibid., 247.

17Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior (Tiburon: H.J. Kramer, Inc., 1980), 138.

20Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), 118.

21Castañeda, Wheel, 276.

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