Monday, April 27, 2009

Killing Sword, Life giving Sword, No Sword.

I am busy reading Soul Of The Samurai. This is a modern translation and compilation of three works: Yagyu Munenori’s. “The book of family traditions” and Takuan Soho’s “subtlety of Immovable Wisdom” and “Notes of the Peerless Sword.” What struck me is that Yagyu Munenori’s work speaks about the Killing Sword, The Life-giving Sword and No Sword. I wondered how to practice these three aspects, particularly the “No Sword” since this seemed a very vague yet noble idea.

I first heard about the Killing and Life-giving sword in a DVD by James Williams, then came across this again in Soul of the Samurai, then again while reading about Morihei Ueshiba in Wikipedia I found this:

The real birth of Aikido came as the result of three instances of spiritual awakening that Ueshiba experienced. The first happened in 1925, after Ueshiba had defeated a naval officer's bokken (wooden katana) attacks unarmed and without hurting the officer. Ueshiba then walked to his garden and had a spiritual awakening.
...I felt the universe suddenly quake, and that a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into a golden one. At the same time my body became light. I was able to understand the whispering of the birds, and was clearly aware of the mind of God, the creator of the universe.
At that moment I was enlightened: the source of budo is God's love - the spirit of loving protection for all beings... Budo is not the felling of an opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world to destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature.

What jumped out at me in this was that Ueshiba was attacked by a warrior, Naval Officer. Next he defeated the officer without hurting him and this happened while Ueshiba was unarmed. This is a complete realization of Munenori’s No Sword. This struck me as very civilized and far removed from life today.

This is so different from the image of the warrior which is fed to society. It would appear that the world is caught up in the state of the killing sword. Our television stations spew forth hours upon hours every week of professional wrestling which seems to consists of little more than name calling and gratuitous violence, where the idea of honour is just to ensure that you win at all costs.
Sport programs like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gain greater following the more blood and gore they produce. School playgrounds are rife with bullies and violence. Films with more violence reach cult status all in the name of the true warrior.

What have we missed? How do you bring society out of the Killing Sword mindset into the Life giving Sword state and finally the No Sword state?

I believe that Ueshiba’s revelation stems from his satisfaction with himself. He had a healthy self image. He had obviously made peace with who he was and his place in the universe. He had put down an attack without injuring his attacker. This; in my mind, shows a lack of malice. He had reacted, or better yet responded to a situation without overreaction.

It is, I believe an imperative that you are comfortable with who you are to be a useful warrior. If you are not comfortable with who you are at this very moment, you must step back and take stock before you continue with anything else.

In saying this I am not advocating a lack of ambition or not trying to be all you can possibly be, I am instead saying you should be content with who you are at this very moment since there is nothing you can do in the present to change anything. You are able to plan to reach a life or career goal in the future, but you cannot do anything about who you are at this very moment. So be content with who you are now while working to become all you are able to be.

This is how the Samurai or Bushi tried to live each moment. Understanding that life is temporary and if you were to die now, that was all right, because you had been the best you could be in the moment. This did not stop them working at better sword technique, better skill at calligraphy or Sumie but they were forced by their code of bushido to come to terms with the reality of their station and place in the universe.

This also entails taking responsibility for who you are, since this is the mature path. Blaming your current situation on a parent, the government, an abusive partner or a colleague is destructive and in no way improves your situation. You are who you are at this point in your life because of all the influences on your life up to this point including every choice you had made. The way to ensure that you are in a better place in the future must be by leaving all of that behind you, in the past, and making sure you do not make the same mistakes in the future.

Once you have made peace with yourself you are able to approach others from a position of security rather than insecurity. This will manifest itself in your training in Kenjutsu or any other martial art, as a desire to learn rather than a desire to defeat your fellow students. Your mind will be able focus more on training than on your perceived enemies and short comings. In all you will be a better bushi. This is a realization of No Sword.

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The Book of Five Rings

It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. - Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Geshin