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Lions Roar : November 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2012 49 Just as the awakened ones of the past Aroused an awakened mind And progressively established themselves In the practices of the bodhisattva, So I too for the benefit of beings Shall arouse an awakened mind And progressively train myself in those practices. We repeat these words or something similar to renew our commitment; then it’s a new moment and we go forward. We will stumble again and start again over and over, but as long as the seed is planted, we will always be moving in the direction of being more and more open to others, more and more compas- sionate and caring. The commitment to take care of one another, the warrior commitment, is not about being per- fect. It’s about continuing to put virtuous input into our unconscious, continuing to sow the seeds that predispose our heart to expand without limit, that predispose us to awaken. Every time we recognize that we’ve broken this commitment, rather than criti- cize ourselves, rather than sow seeds of self-judgment and self-denigration—or seeds of righteous indigna- tion, rage, or whatever other frustrations we take out on other people—we can sow seeds of strength, seeds of confidence, seeds of love and compassion. We’re sowing seeds so that we will become more and more like that grandfather and the many other people we know—or have heard about—who seem to be happy to put their life on the line for the sake of others. When you do feel bad about yourself for your rigid and unforgiving heart, you can take consola- tion from Shantideva. He says that when he took the vow to save all sentient beings, it was “clear insan- ity,” because even though he was unaware of it at the time, he was “subject to the same afflictions” as oth- ers—he was as confused as anyone else. Our confusion is the confusion that everyone feels. So when you think that you’ve blown it in every possible way, that you’ve broken the commit- ment irredeemably, Shantideva suggests that instead of becoming mired in guilt, you view it as an incen- tive to spend the rest of your life recognizing your habitual tendencies and doing your best not to strengthen them. Making the warrior commitment is like being on a sinking ship and vowing to help all the other pas- sengers get off the boat before we do. A few years ago, I saw a perfect example of this when a US Airways plane went down in the Hudson River in New York City. Shortly after the plane took off from LaGuardia Airport, birds knocked out the engines, and the pilot had no choice but to land the plane in the river. The landing was so skillful that all 155 people aboard the aircraft survived. I can still picture them stand- ing on the wings until they were rescued by a flotilla of small boats that rushed to the scene. The story is that the pilot stayed on the plane until everyone was safely out, then searched it again twice to make sure that no one was left behind. That’s the kind of role model who embodies the warrior commitment. On the other hand, I’ve also heard stories from people who were in similar situations but fled for safety without giving a thought to anyone else. They always talk about how bad that makes them feel in retrospect. One woman told me about being in a plane crash many years ago. The passengers were ordered to evacuate right away because the plane would probably blow up. The woman raced for the exit, not stopping to help anyone, not even an old man struggling to undo his seatbelt and unable to get free. Afterward, it weighed pretty heavily on U.S . Navy corpsman Richard Barnett comforts an Iraqi child whose family was caught in fighting, March, 2003. PHOTOBYDAMIRSAGOLJ/REUTERS