Wrath Of War Vs Peace Of Mind
Review of ‘Walking The Tiger’s Path – A Soldier’s Spiritual Journey in Iraq’ By Paul M. Kendel
The war genre for books has never been my cup of tea. To me, there is just too much stupidity and hurting in war. My first contact on the subject of war was through history class. I got to learn about my country’s suffering during the Second World War. Decades had since passed but I realise hatred still lingers in the minds of the affected.
When I was passed ‘Walking The Tiger’s Path‘ for review, I hesitated. What good can come out of a war book, especially from, no offense, an American point of view? What got me interested was that it isn’t an ordinary post-war novel of a hero who goes out to rescue or liberate those ‘poor civilians’. It is the day-in and day-out account of a soldier’s challenges of preserving his humanity and compassion in the war-zone, his struggle to keep himself and his fellow comrades alive. Sergeant Kendel was sent to Iraq in 2005 as a member of Georgia National Guard. While facing violence, loss of friends and unpeaceable raging soldiers, he was confronted with the need for equanimity. Isolated and in need of guidance, he emailed the Shambhala Buddhist Community for advice. Their email correspondences are thus featured in his book.
It is no hidden fact that the war-zone is where phantom anger and hatred are highly charged due to differences in race, religion and self-imposed views. Not many of us can see clearly that the enemy is not the person you point the gun at but the anger and hatred that arose within ourselves. The Right Effort to widen the gap between stimulus and reaction to make kinder and wiser decisions is an art perfected by the enlightened, which many of us failed miserably in our daily lives. It is admirable that while cornered by rage and violence, Sergent Kendel was able to keep level-headed. Certainly, his was a spiritual journey that started at an unusual place.
It wasn’t a bed of roses when Sergent Kendal returned home. Uncertainty and death still surrounded him. To my relief and perhaps many readers’ as well, he was still able to stay on to his spiritual path with his new found sanghas (spiritual communities) and paved a new beginning for himself. Like a true Shambhala warrior, said Chögyam Trungpa in ‘Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior‘, ‘Discovering the basic goodness of human life, the warrior learns to radiate that goodness into the world for the peace and sanity of others.’ Sergent Kendal not only applied that at Iraq but as well as those around him back home.
I shall end this review with Sakyong Mipham’s letter to Sergent Kendal,
‘Since the purpose of your being there is wrathful compassion, the more force you have to apply, the greater your compassion should be. Human beings through their actions bind themselves to seemingly intractable and convoluted situations. It’s not brain power alone, but rather the weight of genuine compassion that will resolve this.’
A well written book which literally took me into the war-zone first-handed to see and experience like the author did. Thumbs up!
Walking The Tiger’s Path