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War: What It's Good For

by Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who feels very strongly that the term “peaceful warrior” is an oxymoron. As often happens when someone shares a provocative idea with me, I was provoked to explore it. I personally don’t see the contradiction, but I presume that for her, the issue had to do with judgments she may hold on warriors. Warriors, one presumes, imply war, and war is one of those concepts that carries staggering amounts of judgment for many of us.

As those of you who have read my other articles, particularly “Judgments About Judgment” well know, I delight in uncovering and exploring the limiting beliefs behind the larger judgments held by society (and I’m not afraid to push a few buttons along the way, either: You’ve been warned).

Mind you, I don’t set out to trigger anyone. Of course, an article that attempts to justify how War is essential, perfect, and quite possibly one of the ineffable qualities of All That Is (insert whatever name or concept you personally associate with the Creator here), is bound to ruffle a few feathers. To mitigate the collective ruffling, let me lead you point by point through the various ideas and concepts that are currently knocking around my brain, and help you understand how I arrived at this rather shocking idea.

First, it’s important to understand my personal spiritual perspective. I believe that All That Is is all that is. The Creator is everywhere and everything, and therefore everything that exists is an expression of the Creator. In other words, my personal Truth is that everything that exists is All That Is, and therefore everything that exists must be perfect.

Concepts like Good and Evil (or even good and bad) are simply judgments, and they have no objective truth. All judgments come from our egos, and many judgments help us to navigate our human experience while we’re incarnate on Earth. However, no matter how real a judgment may seem, it’s nothing more than words. Our judgments are part of our (little “r”) reality, and have no connection to the (big “R”) Reality, which is that we are whole, complete, perfect, eternal, individualized aspects of the Creator.

This is my personal philosophy (although it’s shared by a great number of other individuals). It may not reflect any of your beliefs or philosophies, and there’s no need for it to. I only bring it up because it represents the fundamental assumptions of the rest of my thinking about War.

If everything that exists is part of All That Is, then everything that exists is perfect exactly as it is. War obviously exists. Therefore, War must be perfect. That we have judgments on War, that we believe War is evil, bad, and pointless (or even necessary, justified, and divinely guided) is beside the point. These are simply judgments about War, and have nothing to do with its true nature.

I’ve also recently been studying some of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. Two of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are (paraphrased): (1) There is Suffering and (2) There is a difference between necessary suffering and optional suffering. For now, we’ll assume that our experience of war falls in the category of “optional suffering.”

The last component of this exercise is the Law of Correspondences, which states in part, “As Above, So Below; As Within, So Without.” This is one of the Universal metaphysical laws that basically states that anything that we do not address within ourselves will manifest outside of ourselves. We project those parts of ourselves that we do not accept or understand and experience them through our relationships and in the outside world.

The outside world is a projection of our inside world. This is yet another reason why “reality” is completely subjective, although that’s a topic for a different article.

At this point, I want to make a distinction between the (big “W”) War, and the (little “w”) war. The (little “w”) war is the optional suffering. This is the war that we see on the news, that our friends and families are drafted to fight in, that we hold such powerful judgments about. The (little “w”) war is the projection, the external representation of the (big “W”) War within each of us that we deny or refuse to fight.

The (big “W”) War is our battle to discover the Truth of who we are; the struggle each of us must endure as we pursue enlightenment. It is the conflict between our biological nature and our spiritual nature; the battle between the (little “r”) reality that we are individual, separate, vulnerable and alone, and the (big “R”) Reality that we are whole, complete, eternal, and an integral and essential part of all of Creation.

This War, the (big “W”) War, is the one that is a perfect, eternal quality of the Divine, and it is almost universally misunderstood.

Many spiritual traditions speak of this conflict. Before fundamentalism perverted its true meaning, in Islam, a jihad referred to this very struggle. A jihad occurs inside of each individual as our egos fight with our true spiritual nature. It is a brutal, bloody, violent struggle, but one that is meant to occur within us as we test the limits of our faith and burn through our ego-based fears. Only when we do not own this struggle and address it within does it manifest as tragic acts of violence in the outside world. Only when we refuse to accept the mandatory suffering and be transformed by it do we create the optional suffering of (little “w”) war in our manifest realities.

When I consider War from this perspective, I find that my judgments begin to fall away. Of course, when I begin to explore the various aspects and components of War, I discover a host of new judgments behind the old judgments.

War is Violent. Violence is another juicy word in terms of judgments. Most of us put violence squarely in the “bad” category. And yet, violence is merely one end of a spectrum of force. Violence, like anger, is neither good nor bad. And violence can both create suffering and end it. Sometimes violence is necessary. Consider how we come into the world: ripped out of our safe, warm womb and thrust into the cold, bright, harsh world, separated from our Source, our Mother. Birth is a singularly violent act (at least for the baby), and yet few of us have any judgments about childbirth, bloody and traumatic though it is.

Just as we had to be violently thrust into the world, there are times when violence is required to force us to let go of our erroneous beliefs and ego-based fears. Many beliefs we can release with gentle persistence and loving compassion, but some require force. Violence is often necessary in order to sever our connection to our sense of (little “s”) self, and embrace our (big “S”) self.

War is Deadly. War creates casualties. The truth is that we are eternal, multi-dimensional beings; we are individualized aspects of All That Is. We can never die, and we can never be destroyed. The casualties of War (big “W”) are our ego-based perceptions of who we are as individuals: our (little “s”) self. We have an almost unlimited supply of false beliefs about who we are. This is our ego’s army that we send into battle, and these are the bodies strewn over the battlefield. Every time one of our false identities dies, we integrate a little bit more of the truth of who we are; we deepen our connection to our (big “S”) Self.

(There is power in this metaphor, by the way. We would do well to recognize this, and to take the time to mourn and grieve the death of our old, (little “s”) selves.)

War is a rite of passage. War changes us. In the heat of the battle, we are completely present, we are utterly aware, often for the first time in our lives. A Warrior in battle must face the truth of who he or she is. Whether the battle is part of a (big “W”) War or a (little “w”) war, a part of the Warrior always dies. The Warrior’s sense of self is forever changed by the battle. War is a test of our true strength; in battle, the Warrior discovers his or her true potential, his or her (big “S”) Self, as one by one, beliefs about our limits are destroyed and we tap into our unknown reserves of strength and courage.

And what is a Warrior, then? A Warrior is one who is prepared for War. A Warrior trains for battle, and even yearns for it. A Warrior is one who is never so alive as when he or she is on the edge, immersed in a battle, dividing that which is illusion from that which is true.

To my thinking, a “Peaceful Warrior” is one who understands that War (big “W”) is within us, and that it is part of the path to enlightenment. Peaceful Warriors do not seek out violence, within or without; however, they recognize that violence is necessary at times, and are prepared to be ruthlessly compassionate with themselves. Peaceful Warriors understand that the only way to create true peace on the outside is to embrace the (big “W”) War within each of us.

Even “Peaceful Warriors” understand that War isn’t nice. However, while (little “w”) war is definitely optional suffering, the (big “W”) War is not. War (big “W”) is part of the necessary suffering of life on Earth. It’s only when we attempt to avoid the necessary suffering that we create the optional suffering.

Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life. Visit for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.

©2006 Kevin B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which you may do for free!), click here for details.


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