Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mushin: An Altered State of Consciousness

an excerpt from The Shambhala Guide to Kendo
by Minoru Kiyota

When a samurai faced his opponent, sword drawn, fear was inevitably aroused. What was the source of this fear? The opponent? The sword that was thrust toward him? No. Fear is created by one's own mind. One must conquer the fear within oneself before one can conquer the opponent. How does the kendo practitioner do that?

The conscious mind gives rise to the ego. The ego is that aspect of the mind that takes the self as the measuring stick of the world and ultimately seeks self-preservation. It is the ego that breeds fear. Under this circumstance, the most effective move to make is an all-out "go-for-broke" attack, which is referred to as a sutemi (literally "body-absorbing") attack. It is in this kind of an attack--an attack in which there is no intrusion of the ego-based intellect--that a kendo practitioner is apt to discover mushin.

Mushin is a term that D.T. Suzuki, the Zen master who made the term Zen a part of the Western vocabulary, translated as the "mind of no-mind." Simply put, it refers to an altered state of consciousness, a state of mind freed from an ego-clouded vision that cannot be swayed by external distractions. This state of mind is called the true self.

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