Jeremy Hayward presents his book Sacred World: A Guide to Shambhala Warriorship
Jeremy Hayward came to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in 1996 to talk about his book, Sacred World: A Guide to Shambhala Warriorship. We all have moments when we feel confident and alive, and the world seems magical. Can we live our entire life that way, instead of giving in to the seduction of routine and habit? In Sacred World, Jeremy Hayward invites us to see that we are fundamentally good people living in a world filled with energy and magic. As Hayward explains, these teachings were originally given in the west by the Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche (Hayward’s teacher) who saw the need for a path that was free of religious language or symbols.
Jeremy Hayward was trained in physics and biology at Cambridge University, England, where he received a doctorate in physics. He began study and practice of Buddhism in 1967 and became a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1970. In 1974, Jeremy helped to found the Naropa University under the guidance of Chögyam Trungpa and was vice-President of the University for the first 10 years, and a Trustee for the next 12. In 1977 he helped to create the Shambhala Training program and has been a central figure in the development of the Shambhala teachings ever since. He has conducted seminars and retreats on Shambhala and Buddhism throughout North America and Europe.
What follows is an edited version of Jeremy Hayward’s Bodhi Tree Bookstore presentation.
Jeremy Hayward: The Shambhala teachings were established by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche who was one of the early Tibetan Buddhist teachers to come to the United States. He arrived in the U.S. in 1970. Actually, he had come to the West in 1963 or so, to attend Oxford University in England. He learned to speak fluent English, so fluent that he could out-pun any of us; his use of English words in itself was quite powerfully revealing,. He showed us how to use our own language, in a sense.
But in the course of learning to speak our language, he became very concerned, or even heartbroken, about the difficulty of offering genuine spiritual teaching in the West as a Tibetan Buddhist. He felt that people were seeing so much of the culture that came along with Tibetan Buddhism, that this was obscuring the heart of the matter. And this was the cause of a lost of pain for him, as well as a lot of wondering and pondering about hoe to really convey what it is to be human—which is, after all, what spiritual teachings are about. And actually, that’s the meaning of “warriorship.” A warrior, in this case, doesn’t refer to man or woman, it’s not a gender word. It means someone who has the courage to be genuine. Spiritual teaching isn’t about how to get out of the world, but how to be fully in it.
And if you look at the heart of all these spiritual teachings across the world, they’re all trying to do that, they’re trying to say, “Well, what is it to be men and women?” so, in pondering this and feeling the urgency of it, the Shambhala teachings came aboutand Trungpa Rinpoche began to speak directly, free from any particular cultural form of Tibetan Buddhism.
Trungpa Rinpoche brought to this his experience of fifteen years in the West. He took off his monastic robes (he became a layperson) in the late 60s and Shambhala teachings came about in 1977. So for ten years, he would go to parties, play the bongo drums, drink beer, wear jeans and t-shirts; in other words, he lived with us. He wasn’t sitting on any kind of pedestal, lecturing, “This is what you should do, this would be wise.” He lived with us, and out of that, we grew together and began to see how the ancient tradition—not just of the Buddhism of Tibet, but also of pre-Buddhist, Shamanistic teachings of Tibet—could be brought together with our modern speed, urgency and our special modern ways of thinking and being.
The word Shambhala refers to an ancient society in which people aspired to be genuinely human. It is as simple as that. It is not a society in which everybody is already perfect. It is a society which is based on the ideal of being genuine, of being fundamentally what we are and not trying to be other than what we are.
Now, from the point of view of the Shambhala teachings, we are fundamentally wholesome. This is actually the starting point of all genuine spiritual traditions. We have all that we need. We are, in a sense, already fulfilled. Our life is like a flower that gradually unfolds, blossoms, turns brown and then falls back to the earth. And, at every moment of that flowering, the flower is perfect. It’s what it is. It has all kinds of flaws—some flowers that are supposed to have five petals have four petals or six petals, or a rose that is supposed to be pure red has a white streak in it. Every flower has a flaw if we’re looking at it from that point of view of symmetry, yet every flower is unique. In that sense, every flower is simply what it is. And it’s the same for humans. We’re not trying to fulfill some model or to live up to some particular ideal, but we are trying simply to be who we re, fully, like each rose. And when we live in that way, when we express our wholeness, we are much gentler. We don’t need to project our needs onto others, so we can relate to others in a gentle, kind, fundamentally good way.
Now, when we talk about “sacred,” we have to be careful. We’re not saying that something is sacred and other things aren’t, as in sacred versus secular or sacred versus profane. It isn’t that someone is singling out “those are sacred towels” on the “sacred pots” or whatever they may be, and the rest of the world is not so good. If we do that, then what we have is war, because then your “sacred” is different from my “sacred” and we have a fight about it. Now obviously, sacred can’t be a way of dividing the world.
The world is already sacred, just as it is, and experiencing the world of sacred is a question of how we perceive it and how we live in it. It’s not a question of how the world is itself: “Is the world sacred or isn’t it? Is that how the world is sacred?” It’s how we are in relation to the world so that we can experience the world as it is. And the world as it is, is already complete, and is already free from distinctions of good and bad. You go out, go to a forest, walk amongst the trees, feel the presence of the trees. The trees are not judging themselves, they are not good or bad. The sun is not good or bad, the ocean is not good or bad, the space that we live in, that we move in, the living energetic vibrant space that’s all around us and supports us, that gives us life and mind, is not good or bad. It’s space. It’s simply energy. It’s simply awareness. But, we always experience it as good, or bad, or nice or nasty, or black or white. So, we create this artificial world. But the sacred world is the real world, it’s the world as it is before we lay any conceptual ideas on it.
Now let’s talk about what are called the dralas (Here, Hayward reads from his book Sacred World) “In the Shambhala teachings, the patterns of living energy we can feel and with which we can communicate are called dralas. Drala is a Tibetan word that means ‘transcending enemies.’ They are the liaison between that loud, colorful, smelly world that we sense and think we ‘know’ and the vast and fathomless world of formless energy and limitless potential that supports our little world and nourishes it… Persons of great authentic presence often have a relationship with heaven and earth so direct that they seem able to dance with the dralas of the natural world.”
It sounds a little bit strange, perhaps, this drala idea, but basically it’s saying that our world is so much vaster, so much more powerful than we usually like to think as we walk along blindly or drive scared down the freeway. We’re scared of the world. We’re scared of the natural world, the world as it is. I’m not talking about a sentimental romantic return to nature; an idea o, “Let’s all go live in caves,” and so on, but we’ve lost connection with that vast world, we’ve paved it all over. We’ve covered it in rectangles and flat things and . . where are the trees, for goodness sake! The only trees that exist are the ones that someone has planted in little rows and squares of concrete.
Our body is our mind and our mind is our body. If we think that we can float around or disappear if we do our spiritual practices, it’s all a fantasy. We are in this world. Our body is in this world, our mind is in this world, our mind is this world, Our mind is the space that fills the world and the space that runs through our own bodies and through everyone’s body. And when we let ourselves relax into the world, we feel the connection or our own energy. Feel your body, the rhythm of the breath, feel the pulsing of the heart, feel the flickering of the eyelids, feel the rusting of thoughts, feel the swirl of energy or the tightening, tightening. There’s tremendous energy and pattering in our body and that energy and pattering is connected to a much larger world. Most of the time, we don’t know it, in our little modern society. Our society is the smallest, narrowest society that’s probably ever existed on this earth, from the point of view of knowing how to connect with the vast world.
So, that’s what the dralas are, and drala is just the name that we have in the Shambhala teachings to point ot this, the essence of the ways that different societies have had dancing with the world. Native Americans, the Greeks, The Romans, Germanic and Nordic peoples, African tribes, the Australian Aborigines, everywhere you look people know how to dance with their world, and this is the drala principle. The reason that we invoke the drala principle in Shambhala teachings is not to get into some weird spell, but to experience the energy, wisdom, and power of here and now.
The problem is that we don’t do it, and that is the sorrow and the sadness. If we were to leave this talk like this, I would feel that the whole thing was utterly pointless. Probably, you would as well, if there was no way for us to make this connection, to open ourselves, to open our heart, and to be able to be full human. To be fully human means that we’re not separate from the world. What make us un-genuine is when we try to crate a little image of ourselves and be that: I’m separate from you” or “I’m separated from you by my image of myself” or “You have our image of yourself.” This is what we do most of the time: Your image of yourself talks to your image of me and my image of myself talks to my image of you and we actually never talk to each other at all.
So, we encase ourselves in this little image thing; and the energy that crates it is fear. That’s the starting point for realizing how to connect with the grand world that we are: We need to look at what stops us. What is it? (Again, Hayward reads from Sacred World) “However intense our first discovery of basic goodness may be, it is inevitable brief . . .it passes as we return to the monotonous drone of our same old habits of thought, emotions, an physical posture. The fresh and clear quantity of our minds and the warmth of our hearts seem to get covered over so quickly by the more familiar cloudy mind . . .this stale, familiar place patched together with habitual thoughts and emotions is called the cocoon . . .Whenever anything fresh or sharp or unfamiliar threatens our usual way of being, we race back to the cocoon.”
Does this sound familiar? That’s how we live. It could be very depressing, and actually, a lot of us do get very depressed. Depression is one of the so-called scourges of our society and often people take all kinds of drugs to get over their depression. But from this point of view, depression might be very healthy; it might be a very good sign that so many people depressed in our society, because they may be realizing what a mess we’re in. But the way out, according to this particular view, is not by taking Prozac, it’s by staying with it.
It’s based on trusting that we, ourselves, have the intelligence, the wisdom, the insight and the energy to break through that cocoon, to open into freshness. And in some ways, it’s really simple. The starting point is to look at how we make our cocoon, to look at our own mind, our feelings, to experience our own body, our bodily tensions and bodily postures. It’s in the way emotions come swirling up, the shattering thoughts that one thinks, the way we quickly look away when something frightens us.
Every little detail of our behavior, we need to look at it. I mean, what’s life for? What are we here for? What is the point if we ignore ourselves, and our lives? we narrow ourselves down to some limited idea of what we should be and where we’re going and we stick with that. And we ignore anything else that comes up, we push it away. We feel really tired: “It doesn’t matter, have another cup of coffee. Keep going.” We feel depressed, we feel restless. We would to go for a drive, but it’s 10:30 on Wednesday morning: “I can’t go for a drive, but my body would love to go for a drive. It would love to go out into the hills. Well, I will have to ignore that.” And then we ignore the little flickers we experience with someone that we’ve been with for five years. There’s always a little flickering thought coming: “It doesn’t work; it’s not working. I don’t like this person.” Or whatever it maybe—all these thoughts, all this living, this energy that we have, we ignore most of it. And therefore, it just keeps repeating itself. The cocoon is basically a web of repeating patterns. So, the way to step out of the cocoon is first to see the patterns and to slow down. And again, the key is that we don’t have to do anything to be fully human. Our little “me”, the one who’s decided how my life should be, isn’t going to make me fully human. The possibility, the energy and the wisdom to be fully human are already there. In fact, it’s completely beyond my ability to think about it. If we could just let go of trying to control our lives and trying to think through our lives, the wisdom would break through of its own accord. It’s like a seed that will grow naturally if you give it nourishment, water and sunshine.
So what is it that turns us back? It’s fear. The way we have created our cocoon and the way we sustain ourselves in the cocoon world, in the whole society, is by creating a mutual cocoon. we’ve created our individual cocoons and in order to help each other, we say, “I’ll patch your cocoon if you patch my cocoon.” So we build a big society, which is all designed to patch cocoons. That’s what most of this whole world is about. The little glimmer that something happens outside of the cocoon, is strange. “Strange” literally means that which is beyond the bounds of the familiar. The cocoon is the familiar. And we are conditioned, we could say, to be afraid of the strange. It’s just like when you’re alone at home on a dark night and suddenly you hear footsteps in the attic. That’s strange. you’re scared. It’s very simple. Or, someone comes down the street, who you’ve wanted to meet, but can’t imagine what would happen if you introduced yourself to that person. So, it’s strange. It would be a strange thing to do. So, as they walk down the street, you decide you’d better go and get some groceries, or whatever you come up with. Most of the time we don’t notice the flicker of fear. Instead we notice the excuse. We notice, “Oh well, I think I should actually go and get groceries . . .” or whatever it may be.
Fear is the edge. From the Shambhala point of view, fear is a blessing. In fact, fear is what makes us human. The original root of the word “fear” is the same root as the word “fare,” what you pay the bus driver to get you from one end of town to the other. It’s the same root, the same fundamental meaning, but in earlier days, before language degenerated, the original meaning of fear was that it’s what you have to give to go further.
So, this is the basis of the path of warriorship: seeing our cocoon, seeing our fear, (which is the fraying edges of the cocoon), and then stepping on it, instead of habitually turning away. Let’s try to be ourselves. Let’s try to be simple and genuinely who we are. We can do that, but it takes a lot of care: being gentle to ourselves, being gentle to others, going step-by-step, actually looking, actually working, actually being mindful. It takes that, everyday, to be who we are.
Sacred World: A Guide to Shambhala Warriorship in Daily Life by Jeremy Hayward (262 pp.)
We all have moments when we feel confident and alive, and the world seems magical. Can we live our entire life that way, instead of giving in to the seduction of routine and habit? In Sacred World, Jeremy Hayward invites us to see that we are fundamentally good people living in a world filled with energy and magic. He explores this vision with us, teaches meditations and exercises to help us see it for ourselves and introduces us to many people around the world who have perceived—and danced with—the deep energies of life. As Hayward explains, these teachings were originally given in the west by the Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (Hayward’s teacher) who saw the need for a path that was free of religious language or symbols. Sacred World presents what so many of the world’s spiritual traditions and great artists have held in common: the recognition that life’s infinite creative energy is always available to us, if we are willing to slow down, feel, look, and listen.