Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chögyam Trungpa

There is much about Eastern philosophy that I find to be abstract, but I also find that the more I directly engage with it, the more practical it becomes. One of my hobbies is the study of Western (Medieval and Renaissance) martial arts, which relies more on direct application of the system, but not so much on the higher philosophies or mindsets as with the Eastern counterparts. For my part, this is the biggest reason why I find a disconnect between Arthurian chivalry and real world knighthood. Western systems concentrate on “I hit you, you hit the floor,” with any strategy directed towards that singular goal. Conversely, any Eastern system embraces the idea of victory of self that leads to victory over situation, which I find most helpful to my own studies, on and off the “battlefield.” This book takes that premise and goes even further.

This book is a real treasure. It defines the idea of the warrior in a way the Western world never truly developed (as a being at one with peace itself through compassion) and applies it both in spiritual terms and in terms of putting a weapon in your hand. The result is a system of thought that not only helps you to evolve as a person, but also a system that evolves with you, leading you to new discoveries that reinforce the lessons. I can’t help but knowingly smile when obvious or perceived weaknesses in the Western system are pointed out by comparison of the material presented here. On its own, this is an amazing collection of wisdom. When used in conjunction with or merely compared to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War or Morihei Ueshiba’s The Art of Peace, the building blocks of enlightenment seem to put themselves together even faster. I’m not sure the Buddhists would appreciate such use of their lessons, but for purposes of my own personal development, I am beyond pleased with the concepts this solidifies and/or opens for me.

5 stars

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