Zen and the Ways
Part one of Zen and the Ways gives an introduction to Zen including Koan Zen, which originated in China and was developed in Japan. Part two, ‘Kamakura Zen’describes the warrior Zen of the first three hundred years in Japan and contains the classic text ‘On Meditation’ by the master Daiku. Part three covers the ‘Kamakura Koans’ and in parts four and five ‘The Ways’ are presented through texts from traditional sources. Part six includes selected stories of the Ways in practice.
Shin-no-Shin-To-Ryu (Jujutsu school, late eighteenth century)
Some who have trained at fencing with wooden swords have worked out a trick of striking at the space just in front of the opponent’s head (instead of squarely on top of the head in the orthodox cut). In this way they catch him with the very tip of the sword, and can make the attack from a little further off, with a gain in reach. But there would be nothing like this in actual combat. How often is an enemy despatched by a cut of only a couple of inches?. And especially if he were in armour, he would probably not even be wounded. It is well said that one should think deeply and train the heart, for the principal thing is the ri. When the enemy comes jumping at you, flying through the air like a bird, the spirit has to be perfectly controlled and the inner awareness wide awake, with the vitality brimming over to every part of the body. One must plunge into training before one can attain this. What has been said about the secret tricks in kendo must be thought over carefully. It is not our tradition at all, nor does it help in grasping the ultimate Way.
A former teacher, Kumazawa, who was a follower of the Way, taught that the main thing is to train the heart, not to train in technique. This is the teaching of the masters, that the ri is a training of the heart. On this point our tradition is just the same as the tradition of that former master. My own teacher used to explain a technique to us only roughly and then say: ‘Now you have the root, and to complete the Way you have to train ruthlessly, crushing flesh and bone, for a long time, never forgetting that the basis of our tradition is mental training.’ Jujutsu is shinjutsu (the art of the heart, mental training). For soft (ju) to control the hard (go), the first thing is to train to mature the inner principle (ri) in the right way. Hardness and strength are indeed most valuable in life, but people do not know how much to use. He who loves to dominate others, in fact ends up under the domination of others. Force goes only so far, and it has a limit. It is not great when it arises, but great when it is fully committed. This is the basis of human passion. To discover means (ji, technique) for using force selectively, by first yielding to the other man and then using the lead so gained, is jujutsu. The most important thing is to practise ruthlessly; sleeping or waking, do not abandon control of the heart. First one specializes in technique till he comes to the end of technique and bases everything on the heart itself – this is the best way of practice. Ki (vital energy) should fill the body. When it is aroused it is yang (positive), when it is quiet it is yin (negative). In our school we stress performing the techniques (waza = ji) by using ki, but ki is not something visible. If the body is defective in ki, the promptings of what is needed are not followed completely; though when seated in a correct posture the body may be at ease and relaxed and the ki-principle seems to fill it, when he moves to take up something, by the action his ki gets concentrated in one side of the body, and in the end the even flow of the vital ki is impeded. The secret teaching of our school is to cultivate the ki in the ‘square inch’ (just below the navel) and not to let the heart cling to outer things but hold firm at that point as the base. Then though in movement when active, or when sitting or standing, the basic ki is kept right and the functioning ki is quite free, so that when strength is put into the left side, the right side is not left empty of it, and when the right side is engaged, the left side is not left blank. And so with front and back. Rising and sitting, moving and still, the even ki pervades all, and this is called ‘immovable awareness’ (fu-do-chi). A tradition says, ‘While this is retained, there is success.’ The ki must fill all, and no part must lack it. Then it is full of functioning yet does not move; like a top spun by a child, though functioning in turning, it is as it were unmoving.
Zen and the Ways
………. most Westerners have grasped Zen only as an intellectual concept and have missed the essence of Zen as a Way. While the influence of Zen on the various branches of art called Ways (do), such as swordsmanship . (kendo), judo, tea ceremony (chado) , calligraphy (shodo), flower arrangement · (kado), etc., has been described in a number of books in the English language, the importance of Zen as a Way has not been sufficiently stressed. It is here that the life and essence of Zen lies, and hence the significance of Mr. Leggett’s Zen and the Ways.
Mr. Leggett, well informed of the current Western interest in Zen, has a firm belief that Zen is the Way fundamental to all kinds of art, and believes that if this Way is made sufficiently clear, the true essence of Zen can be revealed to present-day Westerners. Although previous works have discussed the relationship between Zen and the arts, no book in English dealt with that relationship in concrete terms. In my opinion one of the greatest contributions that Japanese Zen Buddhism is capable of making to Western culture lies in its pointing out the relationship between Zen, the arts and daily life. For this reason Zen and the Ways is a book of profound importance. Its importance extends not only to those interested in the arts and the spirituality of the East, but also to those Christians who are seeking to integrate prayer with their everyday life.
The writing of a book such as Zen and the Ways is an extremely difficult task. Not only must the author of such a book undergo the rigorous training of Zen, he must also have experience and some degree of skill in at least one of the arts. Furthermore, it is desirable that he be well versed in Japanese culture as a whole. The author of this book has a unique career, one which succeeds in fulfilling all of these requirements……..
Kadowaki Kakichi, SJ
The Eastern Buddhist Autumn 1980