Zen and the Way of the Warrior

Some quotes from Zen & Japanese Culture by Daisetz Suzuki

1. Zen discipline consists of attaining enlightenment (satori).

2. Satori finds a meaning hitherto hidden in our daily concrete particular experiences, such as eating, drinking, or business of all kinds.

3. The meaning thus revealed is not something added from the outside. It is in being itself, in becoming itself, in living itself. This is called, in Japanese a life of Kono-mama or Sono-mama.... the "isness" of a thing. Reality in its isness.

4. Some may say, "There cannot be any meaning in mere isness." But this is not the view held by Zen, for according to it, isness is the meaning. When I see into it I see as clearly as I see my self reflected in a mirror.

5. This is what made Hokoji (D'ang Chu-shih), a lay disciple of the 8th century, declare:

How wondrous this, how mysterious!
I carry fuel, I draw water.

The fuel carrying or the water drawing itself, apart from its utilitarianism, is full of meaning; hence its "wonder" its "mystery."

6. Zen does not therefore indulge in abstraction or in conceptualization. In its verbalism it may sometimes appear that Zen does this a great deal. But this is an error mosts commonly entertained by those who do not at all know Zen.

7. Satori is emancipation, moral, spiritual, as well as intellectual. when I am in my isness, thoroughly purged of all intellectual sentiments, I have my freedom in its primary sense.

8. When the mind, now abiding in its isness -- which to use the Zen verbalism is not isness --- and thus free from intellectual complexities and moralistic attachments of every description, surveys the world of the senses, it discovers in it all sorts of values hitherto hidden from sight. Here opens to the artist a world full of wonders and miracles.

9. The artist's world is one of free creation, and this can only come from intuitions directly and immediately rising from the isness of things, unhampered by senses and intellect. He creates forms and sounds out of formlessness and soundlessness. To this extent, the , the artist's world coincides with that of Zen.

10. What differentiates Zen from the arts is this: while the artists have to resort to the canvas and brush or mechanical instruments or some other mediums to express themselves, Zen has no need of things external, except "the body" in which the Zen man is, so to speak, embodied. From the absolute point of view this is not quite correct: I say it only in concession to the worldy way of seeing things. What Zen does is to delineate iself on the infinite canvas of time and space the way the flying wild geese cast their shadow on the water below without any idea of doing so, while the water reflects the geese just as naturally and unintentionally.

11. The Zen man is an artist to the extent that, as a sculptor chisels out a great figure buried in a mass of inert matter, the Zen man transforms his own life into a work of creation, which exists, as Christians might say, in the mind of God....

"There is a document that was very much talked about in connection with the Japanese military operations in China in the 1930s. It is known as Hagakure, which literally means "Hidden under the Leaves," for it is one of the virtues of the samurai not to display himself, not to blow his horn, but to keep himself away from the public eye and be doing good for his fellow beings... The book emphasizes very much the samurai's readiness to give his life away at any moment, for it states that no great work has ever been accomplished without going mad - that is, when expressed in modern terms, without breaking through the ordinary level of consciousness and letting loose the hidden powers lying further below. These powers may be devilish sometimes, but there is no doubt that they are superhuman and work wonders. When the unconscious is tapped, it rises above individual limitations. Death now loses its sting altogether, and this is where the samurai training joins hands with Zen. "

"Bushido is 'the way of the warrior.'"

A warrior of the 17th century, Daidoji Yusan wrote in a "Primer of Bushido":

"The idea most vital and essential to the samurai is that of death, which he ought to have before his mind day and night, night and day, from the dawn of the first day of the year till the last minute of the last day of it. When this notion takes firm hold of you, you are able to discharge your duties to their fullest extent: you are loyal to your master, filial to your parents, and naturally can avoid all kinds of disasters. Not only is your life itself thereby prolonged, but your personal dignity is enhanced. Think what a frail thing life is, especially that of a samurai. This being so, you will come to consider every day of your life your last and dedicate it to the fulfillment of your obligations. Never let the thought of a long life seize upon you, for then you are apt to indulge in all kinds of dissipation, and end your days in dire disgrace. This was the reason why Masashige is said to have stold his son Masatsura to keep the idea of death all the time before his mind."

Uyesugi Kenshin, a sixteenth century general, said, "Those who cling to life die, and those who defy death live. The essential thing is the mind. Look into this mind and firmly take hold of it and you will understand that there is something in you which is above birth-and-death and which is neither drowned in water nor burned by fire. I have myself gained an insight into this samadhi and know what I am telling you. Those who are reluctant to give up their lives and embrace death are not true warriors."

"...Ichiu mentions the thing of first importance for the swordsman's personality. He is to give up all desire for name and gain, all egotism and self-glorification, he is to be in accord with Heavenly Reason and observe the Law of Nature as it is reflected in every one of us. In Ichiun's words: 'My teacher despised people of the worldly type, saying that they are defiled with the beastlike spirit, because like the lower animals they are always bent on finding something to eat -- that is, always looking for the material welfare of their own selves. They do not know what is meant by human dignity and laws of morality which regulate our human life."

Daisetz Suzuki Zen and Japanese Culture

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