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Renzaburo
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 3:34 pm    Post subject: Buddhism & Swordsmanship Reply with quote
It's already well-known that Zen-Buddhism is often combined with the Swordsmanship of kendo, iaido, etc. But I wanted to take a look at how that combination is shown in movies and TV shows.

Sometimes a television-series has an advantage over movies in that much more detail can be included in an ongoing weekly series. The difficulty is to glean and assemble all the scattered details into a compilation.

So it was with the television series of Nemuri Kyoshiro starring Kataoka Takao. Very much different from the Raizo version, the Kataoka version also included a sidekick named Kimpachi, which added depth to the Nemuri character by using social interaction with Kimpachi.

In one scene, Kimpachi asks Nemuri how come Nobody can kill Kyoshiro. Kyoshiro answers,"It's because I'm already dead."

Of course his answer is metaphorical. But also in terms of Zen. Isn't that a good example of mushin (No mind)?
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Owarikenshi
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Not exactly. I haven't seen the film, but there was probably something preceding that line that referenced something earlier in the story line to give it context. "Already dead" in the figurative sense could possibly mean that he had given up all hope of survival and could therefore fight without inhibition; but that doesn't necessarily imply mushin.

"Dead" mind would be a supremely unaware state; that is not mushin at all. Mushin is more like a state of meta-awareness wherein the mind, by not being "attached" to any one detail, is able to process all it perceives without the "blockages" of the "divided self" of the judgemental ego.

Good introductory references are Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind or Takuan Soho's The Unfettered Mind.

Eugene Herrigel's [u]Zen in the Art of Archery
is also a classic, but be aware there is now a lot of debate about the provenance of those teachings.

Owari
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Renzaburo
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Owarikenshi wrote:
Not exactly. I haven't seen the film, but there was probably something preceding that line that referenced something earlier in the story line to give it context. "Already dead" in the figurative sense could possibly mean that he had given up all hope of survival and could therefore fight without inhibition; but that doesn't necessarily imply mushin.

"Dead" mind would be a supremely unaware state; that is not mushin at all. Mushin is more like a state of meta-awareness wherein the mind, by not being "attached" to any one detail, is able to process all it perceives without the "blockages" of the "divided self" of the judgemental ego.

Good introductory references are Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind or Takuan Soho's The Unfettered Mind.

Eugene Herrigel's [u]Zen in the Art of Archery
is also a classic, but be aware there is now a lot of debate about the provenance of those teachings.

Owari


If not for the above-cited Nemuri, I can say with certainty that the actual phrase of "No Mind" was used in Kinnosuke's TV-series Kozure Okami. In one of the episodes,the phrase was used specifically by Yamada Asaemon in describing his kenjitsu. Yamada Asaemon is the name of an actual swordsman from history whose occupation was Tameshigiri(Sword-tester)for the Shogun. I was told that the name of Yamada Asaemon was hereditary in that there was more than one Yamada Asaemon. Maybe someone else here can verify that.
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shin no sen
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It was the Yamada family of sword testers of which the head was Yamada Asauemon Yoshimasa. John
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Owarikenshi
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
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If not for the above-cited Nemuri, I can say with certainty that the actual phrase of "No Mind" was used in Kinnosuke's TV-series Kozure Okami. In one of the episodes,the phrase was used specifically by Yamada Asaemon in describing his kenjitsu. Yamada Asaemon is the name of an actual swordsman from history whose occupation was Tameshigiri(Sword-tester)for the Shogun. I was told that the name of Yamada Asaemon was hereditary in that there was more than one Yamada Asaemon. Maybe someone else here can verify that.



Well; the hereditary name "Yamada Asaemon" is indeed associated with a family of "sword-testers" for the Shogunate--but at that time, "tameshigiri" was understood to be the execution of convicted criminals by beheading, and in many cases the use of various standardized cuts on the decapitated corpses for verifying the strength of sword blades made by various smiths to increase their value.

As this was a very distasteful craft associated with dishonorable death and the handling of corpses, this Yamada would not likely have been a member of buke in more than name only; someone correct me if I'm wrong, but please cite historical sources, not fiction. More often than not, my understanding is that such executions were performed by outcastes.

Furthermore, beheading a helpless, trussed-up or held individual one believes is "less-than-human" is not the same psychological demand at all as facing a fully armed opponent who is capable and prepared to kill you; I cannot possibly imagine that any special mental state at all was required for such a practitioner, any more than a slaughterhouse employee routinely killing chickens.

Another thing to know is that "Zen" in swordsmanship is largely a product of gendai budo created for a different context entirely--that of "spiritual forging" of 20th-century youth long after the age of the bushi was over.

The executioner's trade was certainly not held in esteem by bushi, let alone by Buddhists; an exception would have been certain blade connoisseurs and swordsmiths, particularly later in the Edo period when this was the only legal opportunity for "live" sword testing.

There has been much revisionist history popularized by fiction writers, mangaka and many modern tameshigiri enthusiasts who enjoy some Hagakure-esque delusions that this was "Bushido"--yet another product of the 20th Century!

Owarikenshi
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Coincidentally I studied Rinzai Zen Buddhism and Kenjutsu in the same place. One example of Mushin given was in Seven Samurai when they were testing them, and the one Samurai just stood and laughed, I beliv ehe simply said "no tricks". Meaning had he been "living" in his head he would have gotten hit. Another example would be the fight between Kyuzo and the ronin. He demonstrated in my mind mushin, that he was not concentrating on anything per se, instead he reacted instinctively.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
"Ordinary Mind."


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