In Tuesday’s inquiry, I talked about Spiritual Warriors. You can listen here ( and also find copies of my map and the meditation from Milarepa that we used at the beginning.

The common view of meditation practice is that it is passive, self-centered, accepting everything, and characterized by stoicism and “zoning out.” This mistaken view is alternately envious (“wish I could do that”) and dismissive (“they don’t really care about anything.” ) People talk about taking up meditation so they will be “less stressed out,” “less angry,” “less depressed,” or so that they can be “happy all the time,” or even “blissed out.” Almost everyone starts this practice with naïve and distorted views of some kind.

In Zen, actually, we understand meditation as the ground for cultivating an appropriate response to whatever is arising. We take up calm abiding in compassion, lovingkindness, equanimity, and sympathetic joy, not as an escape from the world, but as an orientation toward it. At Appamada we view meditation as nourishment for expressing in the world our bodhisattva vow for the liberation of all beings, and their relief from suffering. Meditation is a foundation for action, engagement, skillful means, wisdom and compassion, which the world sorely needs; it is not an escape from the challenges and difficulties of living. In this way, meditation continuously replenishes a fountain of care that is mindful, energized and active in the world.

We are warriors who act with power and vision in the service of that vow for relief of suffering and liberation for all beings without exception. What is the war? It is an eternal and ongoing conflict, not between people, groups, or ideologies, but between wisdom and ignorance, between compassion and cruelty, between lack and sufficiency, and between and among fixed views.

What enemies do we encounter? Greed, in its many manifestations, in ourselves and in the world. Hatred, in its many manifestations, in ourselves and in the world. Delusion and ignorance in its many manifestations in ourselves and in the world. We are in an active war zone.

But the way of the spiritual warrior is not warfare: it is not meeting hate with hate, delusion with delusion, greed with plunder. Think, instead, of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders. We go where the war is already happening: in our hearts, in our homes, in our families, in our workplaces, and anywhere in the larger world where there is a need. We do not distinguish who is on one side and who is on the other: we treat the afflicted equally. Right there we offer our skillful services. What services can we offer? They arise from the six practices of perfection: generosity, ethical conduct, patience, vigor, mindfulness, and wisdom. We are not combatants in this war, we are rescuers.

And so we are in training. How is our Zen practice training? It cultivates what is most needed from us: wisdom, clarity, stability, focus, equanimity, and fearless optimism. And in the process we learn how to relinquish despair, agitation, fear, anger, moral judgment, laziness, and grief. These must be released in order for us to address the enormous work that lies ahead.

We are supported in this training by our vow. For bodhisattvas, the work truly begins when there is trouble, and they are undeterred by the scale of the work, by their own limitations, by the severity of the suffering they encounter, and by the obstacles in the way. This is vitally important not only as a response to the suffering in the world, but for our own search for meaning and purpose in our lives. So let’s not complain that the work is hard, that the task is overwhelming, that we feel so limited and unprepared. This is what we have been training for.

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Appamada is not just the occasional mindful thought or attentive state of mind, it’s actually a commitment to being attentive. It’s more than just a meditative state of mind, it’s more than just being mindful. It has to do with that primary ethical or moral orientation we have in life, with which we bring into being whatever activity we’re engaged in. Whether in formal meditation, in our interactions with other people, in our social concerns, or in our political choices, it’s the energetic cherishing of what we regard as good.

—Stephen Batchelor


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