In a life-and-death situation of being sword-tip to sword-tip with the enemy, where should the swordsman put his mind?
is the first question posed in the first of three essays written by a
Zen master for the guidance of samurai swordsmen. Among the other
questions that arise are the difference between the right mind and the
confused mind, what makes life precious, the nature of
right-mindedness, the Buddhist
paradigm of form and consciousness,
and what distinguishes the True Mind. So succinct are the author's
insights that these writings have outlasted the dissolution of the
samurai class to come down to the present as sources of guidance and
inspiration for captains of business and industry, as well as
those devoted to the practice of the martial arts in their modern forms.
history of the sword in Japan goes back to antiquity. Zen and its
meditative practices also have a long history, but it was not until the
rule of the Tokugawa shoguns, beginning in the early 1600s, that the
techniques of swordsmanship fused with the spirit of Zen. And if one
man can be said to
have been the prime mover in this phenomenon, it
was none other than Takuan Soho, confidant and religious instructor to
an emperor, to a great sword master, and to the heads of the most
important sword schools of the time.
Takuan's meditations on the sword in the essays presented here are classics of Zen thinking.