Rinzai and the samurai arts

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Luke
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Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Luke » Mon Nov 17, 2014 9:46 pm

I have read that Rinzai Zen has traditionally been connected with the samurai.

To those who practice traditional Japanese martial arts along with Rinzai Zen, how do you feel that martial arts and Rinzai Zen complement each other?

And do you feel that Zen Buddhists who don't study traditional Japanese martial arts are missing something important?

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Meido
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Meido » Mon Nov 17, 2014 10:07 pm

Luke wrote:I have read that Rinzai Zen has traditionally been connected with the samurai.

To those who practice traditional Japanese martial arts along with Rinzai Zen, how do you feel that martial arts and Rinzai Zen complement each other?

And do you feel that Zen Buddhists who don't study traditional Japanese martial arts are missing something important?


The Rinzai school - both Chinese Ch'an teachers who arrived in Japan and Japanese heirs of Rinzai lines - did receive significant patronage from the warrior class. There are many reasons for this. However it's probably worth reminding that the relationships between the samurai and Zen, or Zen and the martial arts, are often greatly overstated (I believe there are some other threads here where these things are discussed).

For persons to whom such an approach is suited, a dual training in both Zen and traditional bujutsu is useful because of the manner in which they both reinforce the psycho-physical development of the trainee. Development of posture, breath, energetic vitality, samadhi, use of the body and senses, sense of life and death urgency and so on are similar.

Of course martial arts which take as their primary goals the infliction of harm and victory over others are not, from a Zen standpoint, worthy of comparison with Zen at all. But martial arts taken up as disciplines by which the fundamental dualism of self vs. enemy is transcended (muteki, the realization of "no-enemy"), and ultimately physically expressed as mutual preservation (ainuke) rather than mutual destruction (aiuchi), enter the realm of Zen and can be complementary "Ways".

I do not feel that Zen Buddhists who don't study martial arts are necessarily missing something, any more than they are by not taking up tea, calligraphy, flower arrangement, or any other complementary discipline that might not necessarily suit them. But I do feel that an intense energetic power or vitality (kiai) required in serious Buddhist practice - and an understanding of how Zen practice is embodied, or accomplished through the body - are generally lacking in many modern practitioners...and so they need, somehow, to find ways to get that. Traditional martial arts are one excellent, very direct and fast way. There are others.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one's True Nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly (according to this understanding), in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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Luke
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Luke » Tue Nov 18, 2014 6:46 am

Meido wrote:Of course martial arts which take as their primary goals the infliction of harm and victory over others are not, from a Zen standpoint, worthy of comparison with Zen at all. But martial arts taken up as disciplines by which the fundamental dualism of self vs. enemy is transcended (muteki, the realization of "no-enemy"), and ultimately physically expressed as mutual preservation (ainuke) rather than mutual destruction (aiuchi), enter the realm of Zen and can be complementary "Ways".

How can "mutual preservation" be practiced in a martial art which uses a weapon, such as iaido? These days, these are forms which are done beautifully in the air, but in an actual sword fight, the chances of one killing one's opponent seem to be very high, so is this idea of "mutual preservation" just a modern fantasy?

Meido wrote:I do not feel that Zen Buddhists who don't study martial arts are necessarily missing something, any more than they are by not taking up tea, calligraphy, flower arrangement, or any other complementary discipline that might not necessarily suit them. But I do feel that an intense energetic power or vitality (kiai) required in serious Buddhist practice - and an understanding of how Zen practice is embodied, or accomplished through the body - are generally lacking in many modern practitioners...and so they need, somehow, to find ways to get that. Traditional martial arts are one excellent, very direct and fast way. There are others.

Yes, even in Soto, it often surprises me how much continuous physical effort is expected during shikantaza--it is far from just "sitting relaxed"! lol

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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Meido » Tue Nov 18, 2014 5:18 pm

Luke wrote:How can "mutual preservation" be practiced in a martial art which uses a weapon, such as iaido? These days, these are forms which are done beautifully in the air, but in an actual sword fight, the chances of one killing one's opponent seem to be very high, so is this idea of "mutual preservation" just a modern fantasy?


Most simply, by not fighting. In another manner: by completely erasing tsuki (openings), and cultivating an overwhelming kiai (power) such that an attacker finds it impossible to proceed.

In the realm of technique, there are styles of swordsmanship containing techniques that are purposefully meant to forestall an attacker without destroying him...to give him a chance, as it were, to reconsider and withdraw. For example the Mugai Ryu of Tsuji Gettan, who founded it after having a deep realization practicing under the Zen monk Sekitan. But what we are primarily talking about is transformation of the practitioner through shugyo.

The term ainuke was used first, that I'm aware of, by Harigaya Sekiun, who founded Mujushin Kenjutsu in 1640. The gist of the idea is older. These are not modern fantasies.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one's True Nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly (according to this understanding), in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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Luke
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Luke » Tue Nov 18, 2014 9:44 pm

^Thank you for your excellent answer, Meido-roshi. :namaste:

Meido wrote: But I do feel that an intense energetic power or vitality (kiai) required in serious Buddhist practice - and an understanding of how Zen practice is embodied, or accomplished through the body - are generally lacking in many modern practitioners...and so they need, somehow, to find ways to get that. Traditional martial arts are one excellent, very direct and fast way. There are others.

I'm curious, do you feel that any western sports/arts could also help people to develop these qualities which you described above?
For example, could one learn these things just as well from western fencing or from salsa dancing? (I don't mean this as a joke. I am trying to learn through comparision here.)

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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Meido » Tue Nov 18, 2014 10:39 pm

Sure, some aspects. Though I couldn't say what fits a particular individual sight unseen. And the student would need to do the chosen activity in a manner that integrates well with the body and breath-usage of Zen practice: some activities could be adapted easier than others. Age and physical condition will also determine what's appropriate for someone.

But as an example: a trainee (now a teacher) I know was told by his master that he needed to learn how to bring out his energetic vitality. He was advised to go lift weights. On another occasion, one of our teachers advised his students to stand knee-deep in rough surf and shout (i.e. kiai, here used with that meaning) at the waves, with the feeling of stopping or pushing them back.

Hakuin famously scolded practitioners who valued sitting for long periods of time like statues but without vitality or clarity - what we would call "sitting in zazen without practicing Zen" - by saying that it would be much better for them to go gambling.

There are many statements like this from various teachers. If you catch the point, you could see how various activities could be integrated with - and complement - practice. The Japanese have obviously been good at formalizing that kind of thing, hence the "Ways" that developed from various activities.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one's True Nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly (according to this understanding), in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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Paul
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Paul » Tue Nov 18, 2014 10:46 pm

Is there such thing as a tradition of Zen pranayama?
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
the modern mind has become so limited and single-visioned that it has lost touch with normal perception - John Michell

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Luke
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Luke » Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:25 am

Meido wrote:In the realm of technique, there are styles of swordsmanship containing techniques that are purposefully meant to forestall an attacker without destroying him...to give him a chance, as it were, to reconsider and withdraw. For example the Mugai Ryu of Tsuji Gettan, who founded it after having a deep realization practicing under the Zen monk Sekitan.

This sounds like a great story! Does the story of Tsuji Gettan exist anywhere in English?

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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Meido » Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:16 am

Luke wrote:This sounds like a great story! Does the story of Tsuji Gettan exist anywhere in English?


Bits and pieces online. Search for Tsuji Gettan Sukemochi [辻月丹資茂]. If you're ok with Japanese, I think that wiki page lists a short bibliography.

Paul wrote:Is there such thing as a tradition of Zen pranayama?

Well, like most Buddhist "schools" Zen is not a homogeneous tradition but rather a collection of branching teaching lines transmitting a wide variety of stuff. So depending on where you go, there's no telling what you'll find.

All Japanese Rinzai lines I've seen or heard of emphasize the importance of breath cultivation. Some have explicit practices for this that could easily be called pranayama (Jp. kokyuho, I suppose). With others it seems it's more implicit, perhaps something that you're meant to "get" with sufficient practice of things that require particular body usage e.g. the chanting method. Our line here is of the former type: tanden soku (lower abodominal breathing involving a trained use of diaphragm, anal and perineal muscles), A-Un breathing, Hakuin's naikan no ho and so on are major breathing methods that are taught explicitly.

As for Soto folks, I've been surprised over the years to hear of some really interesting stuff there as well. But my guess is you won't find it in books anywhere.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one's True Nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly (according to this understanding), in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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Luke
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Luke » Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:11 pm

Meido wrote:Bits and pieces online. Search for Tsuji Gettan Sukemochi [辻月丹資茂]. If you're ok with Japanese, I think that wiki page lists a short bibliography.

No, unfortunately, I don't know Japanese beyond a few basic phrases.

I found two articles about him:
http://suimokai.pupu.jp/english/founder.html
http://bushinkai.org/index.php/en/weapo ... ai-ryu-iai

But what's not clear in these articles is how exactly his sword style is a reflection of Zen principles.

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Iconoclast
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Re: Rinzai and the samurai arts

Postby Iconoclast » Sun Mar 06, 2016 2:19 am

Just a personal note: I was introduced to seiza zazen through my karate training. We would sit each class for a short period of time until the class starting teaching children and the time was reduced to a few moments for mokuso.
"Keep on working in this nothingness that is nowhere..."

"Cast aside cares, strip yourself from thoughts, and abandon your body; for prayer is nothing other than detachment from the visible and invisible world."


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