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The Zen Mirror - Battle and the Ocean of Mind

By Jeff Brooks

Fish can sense light. They can sense temperature and turbulence. They can see and hear well enough to recognize their prey, and to escape their predators. But they never get to know water. Water is the context for everything they do and perceive. But it itself is imperceptible to them. They are never not in it.

We are like that. There is a critical missing link in our training if we fail to notice that we exist in a universe of mind. Noticing it is critical. It will determine the quality of our training and the quality of our life and death.

In training we rehearse conflict scenarios again and again until they root deeply, until they are reflexive. Because we have been through it a thousand times in simulation, when conflict arises we can act spontaneously, we execute the procedure ingrained in training.

As we ramp our training up to meet the intensity of the demands of conflict it becomes tempting to regard all unknowns as potential enemies. In a war zone it is prudent. In peace time it is dangerous. To lose the flexibility to scale from kinship to total threat, we lose our way. In some cases it may become our duty to do it. But if we do it ignorantly, as a martial artist it may defeat our purpose.

We exist in an ocean of mind. If we allow our practice to be fueled by fear and rage we degrade to the level of the enemy. (Our true enemy, the poisonous states of mind that cause suffering.) It is tempting to do it. It feels energizing. But the energy that is a product of fear and hate will be subtracted from a whole world of potentially good human relationships. If we lose perspective in this way we sacrifice our human connection to the people we are dedicated to protect.

If we lose our commitment to virtuous action we lose the source of our strength, and we squander the abilities we have developed. When we know what we do is right we can be fearless and resourceful without limit. Friends will appear. For those who waste their minds in hate the entire world will, by increments, be transformed into enemies. It may require an act of profound heroism to avoid becoming ensnared in anger.

If we fail to notice that our mind is creating the way we see our world then we will get lost in procedure and forget our true mission. As martial artists we have a critical social role as well as an individual opportunity. The context of our training must reinforce our dedication to our mission: generosity to those who need us; patience and dignity in the face of provocation unless the moment to act should come; personal conduct that is honorable; the cultivation of a calm, clear mind that allows us to see clearly.

In the heat of battle it will be impossible to cultivate this. We will be who we are. When the decisive moment comes we must act; all considerations will fall away. But as we train, as we live our lives, whether we perceive it or not, we will cultivate not only our skills, but our heart and mind as well. Whether we cultivate a heart and mind of hatred or of nobility will decide the course of our life.

If we are motivated by the desire to benefit others, and we act always with courage, although there is no guarantee that we will win, we will never lose.


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About The Author:

Jeffrey Brooks, Seventh Degree Black Belt, US Shorin Ryu Karate, has been the director of Northampton Karate Dojo in Northampton, Massachusetts since 1987 and director of Northampton Zendo since 1993. He is author of The Rhinoceros Tale. His column Zen Mirror and other articles appear on FightingArts.com.


New!

FightingArts.com is pleased to announce its first book: “Rhinoceros Zen –Zen Martial Arts and the Path to Freedom,” by Jeffrey Brooks, a work that portrays the dual paths and interplay between Zen and Karate-do. Fast paced and easy to read, it is full of insight and wisdom. It is a rewarding read for any martial artist.


(Softcover, 300 pages, illustrated)

FAS-B-001



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Martial arts training, zen and the martial arts, mind training


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