You’ve probably heard the phrase “spiritual warrior”—but what does it actually mean? In Tibetan Buddhism, it refers to someone who energetically combats the universal enemy: self-ignorance.
That condition of ignorance or unwisdom, called avidya in Sanskrit, represents the ultimate source of suffering—usually symbolized by a person wearing a blindfold. If you’re a spiritual warrior, you constantly fight your own misunderstanding of the nature of true reality—and of your own inner reality, as well. Through knowing your own self, though, suffering can be minimized and reality can become more and more apparent:
… man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 34.
… they shall be leaders in the vanguard of those who know. And that by their freedom from enslavement, their knowledge, their self-control, they shall be first among the pure, the free and the wise. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 150.
If you’d like to become a spiritual warrior, the Baha’i teachings include these suggestions:
1. Be Patient
Patience is a noble attribute of God. When we are patient, we exhibit other virtues such as trust, faith, fortitude, etc. Spiritual warriors are faithfully patient under all circumstances. They endure life’s challenges with grace and strength, continually praying and demonstrating thankfulness toward their Creator.
Patience can seem especially arduous when we desperately want something and keeping waiting for it to happen. Figuratively, it’s like waiting for a pot of water to boil: it seems to take forever! In these moments, God has His eyes firmly fixed on our words and deeds. If we complain and protest, it only takes longer to reach our goals, however when we surrender to God’s will, we may look up to find that pot of water already boiling:
O Son of Man! For everything there is a sign. The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 15.
2. Embrace Change
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.” Personally, change is a difficult concept for me. I dislike change, even beneficial change since it disrupts my routine. However, once I arrive on the other side I am always grateful for change’s transformative nature. Change can slough off the old like a snake shedding its skin, while revealing a new layer of God’s love I never knew existed. Change challenges us to have faith, be patient, and trust that God’s will ultimately benefits our own long-term best interest. In the end, change brings us tests and trials—but it also brings us the things we need on our journey toward self-actualization and spiritual growth:
Tests are benefits from God, for which we should thank Him. Grief and sorrow do not come to us by chance, they are sent to us by the Divine Mercy for our own perfecting. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 50.
Anybody can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy; but if one will be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing disease, it is the proof of nobility. Thanks be to God that that dear servant of God is extremely patient under the disastrous circumstances, and in the place of complaining gives thanks. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 363.
3. No Matter What, Persevere
Even when life feels like waves crashing down on them, spiritual warriors do not give up. Rather than fighting the waves, they ride the current. If they have a lofty goal, they do not allow individuals or circumstances to hinder their progress. Spiritual warriors remain calm in the eye of the storm and exhibit unwavering faith that God will aid them in their endeavors:
As ye have faith so shall your powers and blessings be. This is the balance—this is the balance—this is the balance. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by May Bolles Maxwell in An Early Pilgrimage.
He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20.
4. Stand Up For Yourself And Others
When we stand up for ourselves and others, we demonstrate bravery, strength, and heroism. Rather than taking an aggressive or domineering stand, spiritual warriors respectfully assert justice when witnessing or experiencing abuse or mistreatment. They do not tolerate cruelty, injustice, inequality, or any other form of oppression. While maintaining a loving and peaceful stance, these individuals speak out against intolerance and brutality. The heroes we are waiting for lie within each of us:
O Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, pp. 3-4.
5. Open Your Heart
The idea of opening your heart may seem counterintuitive. When you do, you expose yourself to potential pain and suffering. However, immense power and courage awaits those who can be vulnerable and allow others into their life. For example, when experiencing a broken heart, our initial reaction may be to shut down emotionally to avoid the possibility of being hurt again. Ironically, this may be the very thing that prevents us from finding the love we seek. Spiritual warriors experience loss, heartbreak, and tragedy—yet they keep believing in the magic of love. They continue to forge ahead, knowing that God’s light and love is always inside of them:
Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 179.