My personal "Interpretive" Lens!
"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour
"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon
"What is true today may be reevaluated as false not long after. Judgements are frequently based upon a set of "temporary" circumstances surrounding them. Conflicting ideologies can exist simultaneously. Antagonistic dualities are complementary aspects of a unified whole: are seen as mutually dependent mirror images of each other." - Nahum Stiskin
Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.
Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.
A person's heart is the same as Heaven and Earth while the blood circulating is similar to the Sun and Moon yet the manner of drinking and spitting is either soft or hard while a person's unbalance is the same as a weight and the body should be able to change direction at any time as the time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself and both the eyes must see all sides as the ears must listen in all directions while the mind must grasp all the tactual data not seen on all sides and not heard in any direction.
A person’s heart is the same as Heaven and Earth while circulatory system is similar to the cycles of the moon and sun yet the breathing methods are either hard or soft while one’s posture should allow one to advance, retreat, engage, and disengage as the body should be able to act in accordance with time and change so that one must enter a state of emptiness (mushin/zanshin) allowing the eyes must see all sides and the ears should listen in all directions while the mind must grasp all the tactual data not seen on all sides and not heard in any direction. - My rendition per translation from Andy Sloane Sensei.
Buddhism and Martial Arts
When a person speaks about Buddhism they tend to direct thoughts of Japanese origins. This is true to a small extent. The martial artists must realize that the Buddhist influences originate from China and China's Buddhism originates from India. It can be a bit daunting when you study the traditions of a system such as martial arts with specifics for me in karate of Okinawa.
To better understand what was in the minds of those who created the systems we practice today it is important to study their traditions, beliefs and customs. A huge custom and belief for all is Buddhism - in one form or another.
I wish to take a look at some fundamentals of Buddhism to see how they connect to my practice of Okinawan Karate-jutsu-do and to understand what Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei meant by asking his American practitioners to study Okinawan's and their customs, courtesies and beliefs.
For me there is a bit of groundwork I want to express to set the stage for this post. I try to understand that humans fashion narratives/stories to express our self-understanding and to contribute to a structure of meaning for life. When we fashion/create these narratives/stories I understand them to be a form that provides me information of varying degrees as to the way I see the world and interpret my experience within the world.
I will often utilize various mythological symbols or narrative motifs from any surrounding data and then adjust-change-transform the meaning in some new and creative way - this is normal for any human mind to my current understanding.
I also make a note as to karma, karma being that "action" which is a moral belief of cause and effect which is then bases solely upon my actions.
Buddhism has what is referred to in some sects as the four noble truths. When you actually see the context of those truths they do relate to other beliefs and customs used in classical traditions of martial practice. They are:
1 - the truth of suffering.
2 - the truth of the arising of suffering.
3 - the truth of cessation of suffering.
4 - the truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.
Taking the systems within the Ancient Chinese Classics, which are influential in both Okinawa and Japan systems, there is the great Tai Chi which fundamentally are the reference to Yang-Yin. Life is suffering. Take a moment to understand that our greatest lessons usually come from those things that cause suffering - look at it as stress from anger, fear, etc.
To begin to practice karate-jutsu-do you must know the "truth" of what is is and what it provides. To take just a small part of it results in incomplete knowledge, understanding and proficiency in use of its applicable principles and resulting techniques. In a nutshell to not understand the truth behind the practice will result in "suffering." Think personal damage, legal ramifications, and those medical resulting for use of karate-jutsu without the moral compass of such teachings.
Truth arises in karate practice if you fail to assimilate, study and apply the principles, etc. The goal is to stop the suffering by learning to apply karate-jutsu-do and avoid violent encounters, etc. that always result is suffering.
When we fully understand the truth of suffering and what causes it then we can truly take the path, or way, that results in our ability to stop that suffering. Take it to mean knowing the truth of fighting and violence whereby your practice achieves a level of proficiency where you can avoid it. On those rare occasions when confronted by crises you then apply the practices and principles that allow you to not use physical means to resolve the crises. Avoidance, deescalation, etc.
Lets say all the worst occurs then if you apply karate-jutsu properly you are able to keep the damage to the absolute minimum for you and your threat. Even now we can apply the third truth.
As spoken of in many martial arts narratives/stories the true master achieves enlightenment which is the truth of the path that leads to cessation of suffering. His or her mere presence defects threats and crises where they no longer need to apply the arts.
The four truths as to Buddhism provide a means for humans to become "Buddha Like" where there efforts within achieve ability to spread the truths and the learnings to others as society service. This sometimes referred to as a living "nirvana."
As we continue to view the fundamentals of Buddhism the four truths are expanded by the study and achievement of the eight-fold path. When you see how the break down of that path unfolds to Buddhist practices you will see a correlation to such things as Bushido.
The eight-fold path:
Right Understanding; Right Thought which equates to "Wisdom."
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood which equates to "Morality."
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration which equates to "Mental Discipline."
Can you start to see how it connects and cause-effects the practices of both Okinawan and Japanese martial arts?
It is understood that study of each is necessary to learn. It is understood that they are all developed and applied simultaneously. This is similar to the study of the fundamental principles of marital systems, you do them separately and apply them simultaneously. These eight-fold dimensions of practice are broken down into the "threefold learning." Once again numerology appears with the number "3."
In Buddhist practice of the truths and paths one must also develop proper morality through regulation of your speech (verbal, written, etc. communications - gentle art of verbal self-defense), your behavior, and your work. This means controlling your words or actions that may cause suffering for others. It is believed you also avoid occupations that cause harm to others such as arms dealing, etc.
Buddhism, like martial arts, asserts that there is a mental challenge required to achieve the various levels. A mental discipline that transforms the mind and thus the body.
Buddhism uses "meditation" a a means to transform your mind so that when dealing with the world you are able to act, think, and respond wisely and compassionately. This is promoted in those practices of avoidance, deescalation and so forth.
Buddhism is a philosophy of the mind. It is a guide to the layperson to allow them to select a path for life. It provides us the ability to see and hear that the world is not just a battleground between good and evil. It is a means for a person to transform the consciousness and follow a way so you can truly possess reality of the world.
It provides guidance, as we find in martial systems, to understand and control - somewhat - our intent: both conscious and unconscious intent. This then controls the actions that result not allowing the actions to simply act. It promotes, like in marital training, a moral behavior, think etiquette, etc., that creates a dependence to both mind and action - a mind-body connection.
The world we live in is a product of our minds. Everything in our world is altered by our mind - our conscious perceptions. Everything we sense is filtered through our consciousness and that can either distort it or recognize the truth in it by the experience.
Buddhist meditation, the moving meditation of martial practice, techniques were created and developed to teach humans to "see" the world and to wake us up to the interdependent and non-dualistic nature of reality.
An important principle of Buddhist practices, martial practices that result in a dogmatic adherence to that practice, teaches us that this conditioned "attachment" is a delusional reality that prevents us from breaking away from it. Meditation, martial practice, must therefor promote breaking away from the attachment to allow true understanding and the ability to see and hear reality and truth.
Buddhism is practiced within the realm of discipline and practice. Karate-jutsu-do is practiced within the realm of discipline and practice, practice, practice. In marital arts a person learns discipline and control of the mind. It can result in removal of the filters that distort our perceptions and reprogram the mind so that perceptions of reality are real and reflect the way the world is and not necessarily those of our narrative/story.
Buddhism increases the power of perception and the mind. Martial arts increases the power of perception and the mind. Since our only access to reality is by way of our minds the martial practice trains the mind to see and hear and sense truth of reality. Buddhism and Martial Arts both achieve this.
To understand the classical traditions, beliefs and customs that made the martial arts what they are you would need to understand those traditions that influenced their creation. To understand such as Buddhism and its cousins Zen, etc. you would seek out the knowledge then understanding from their studies. This provides the balance needed to truly learn, practice and teach authentic classical traditions of the martial arts world.