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All Perfect

By Jeff Brooks

A samurai stood at the head of his troops, on the edge of the field of battle. He was at the height of his power, a master of the arts of the sword and strategy, an accomplished politician and poet as well. It was April. The cherry blossoms fell from the trees, and with every breeze thousands and thousands of the blossoms filled the air. They were beautiful, and fleeting. He watched them fly from the trees. He watched them fall. He said to his friend, “You could spend your entire life searching for the perfect one and never waste a moment.” As a practitioner he understood the profound beauty of a life lived in the endless pursuit of perfection.

Later that day he was mortally wounded in battle. The blood flowed from his wounds and his life ebbed away. He spoke again to his friend, who now kneeled beside him. The heavenly storm of cherry blossoms swirled around them, for a moment obscuring the land and the sky, hiding the dead and dying soldiers around them on the battlefield. The samurai looked at the cherry blossoms as if he had never seen them before. He said, “All perfect!”

What had changed? The quality of the falling cherry blossoms had not changed in that one hour, from the beginning of the battle to the end of it. But that warrior’s mind had changed. He understood something in the moments before his death that he had missed all his life, despite his power, despite his achievements. Having let go of his attachment to an imagined ideal of perfection outside this moment, an ideal he could no longer pursue, he recognized for the first time that right here, right now, all we see, all we are, is perfect, with nothing extra, nothing lacking… nothing but this moment, perfect as it is.

Author’s Note: The quotes given in this article are from The Last Samurai movie. The interpretation is mine. Perhaps this shows that when viewed from the right perspective not all the garbage that flows out of Hollywood is garbage.

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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 “Rhinoceros Zen – Zen Martial Arts and the Path to Freedom.” His column Zen Mirror and other articles appear on

New! 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)


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Zen and the martial arts, Zen, Zen mind, mental attachments, martial arts philosophy

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