By Taisen Deshimaru
From: The Zen Way to the Martial Arts.
The master’s mind is never still. It never dwells on any one thing or person. It lets all go by . . .
Nor does the body dwell.
The essence of his self, of the self, is fudo chi, unmoving wisdom. Intuition, wisdom, physical action, are always one. That is the secret of zazen, and of the martial arts. Just as the martial arts are not sports, zazen is not some kind of massage or spiritual culture.
In the beginning, the martial arts were a way to kill people. The Japanese sword or tachi is a long sword; but tachi also means “cut.” In the wordkendo ken, like tachi, means “sword” and also “cut,” so that kendo means “the way that cuts.” Swordfighting goes back to prehistoric times in Japan, of course, but the actual school of kendo began in 1346; it was founded by a samurai named Nodo, followed, in 1348, by Shinkage.
At first the samurai wanted to obtain special powers: striking, remarkable, magical abilities. They wanted to go through fire without being burned or be able to have a boulder fall on them without being crushed. So they trained their minds deliberately to obtain supernatural abilities and powers, and they were anything but disinterested.
Later, they came under the influence of Zen. Miyamoto Musashi, for instance, who was Japan’s greatest kendo master, also became a sage. He said, “One must respect God and Buddha, but not be dependent upon them.”
At that point, the way that taught how to cut one’s enemies in two became the way that taught how to cut one’s own mind. A way of decision, resolution, determination. That was true Japanese kendo, true Budo. Strength and victory flow from decisiveness. One moves beyond the level at which most people stop, one transcends the conflict, transforms it into a spiritual progress. There was nothing sportlike about training in those days; the samurai had a higher vision of life.
Zen and the martial arts have nothing to do with keeping fit or improving health, either. People in the West always want to use things; but the spirit of Zen cannot be squeezed into so narrow a system. And Zen is not some sort of spiritual massage, although the kyosaku can very effectively massage mind or body. Zazen is not meant to make you feel relaxed and happy, any more than the martial arts are a game or sport. Their significance is deeper and more essential, it is that of life.
Of death as well, since the two cannot be dissociated.
True kendo and true Zen must be beyond relativity. In other words, one must stop choosing, stop preferring one side or the other side in a relative scheme of things. Instead, make one decision.
Human beings are not like lions and tigers, so the way of Budo must not be like them either. The tiger and lion are strong, and their instinct and desire make them want to win. It never occurs to them to abandon their ego. But human beings can go beyond the ego and death. In Budo, they must become even stronger than the lion or the tiger, and discard the animal instinct that clings to the human spirit.