Volume 6 / Issue 1 SPRING 2020

S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 6 - 1 S p r i n g 2 0 2 0 5 5 Antonio Terrone 3 Life and Death Frequent themes in this selection of aphorisms include selflessness, flexibility and adaptation, spontaneity and nat - uralness, and formlessness. The attentive reader will notice in them a consistent reference to the classic dichotomies of human life and death. This juxtaposition is both inevitable and intriguing in budo . My understanding of budo is that no matter how metaphorical, allegorical, literal, or symbolic, the martial artist ( bodoka )’s reality and sublimated ideal is to act with death in mind. Only when the adept faces a confronta - tion expecting his own death, can he work on embracing the action with complete naturalness, unconditioned by fear, and unconcerned about defeat. Although in modern terms, “death” (of the person) can and should be substituted with “subjuga - tion” (of the mind), the idea at its core remains the same— emotions effect actions. Hence, the less we allow emotions such as fear, anger, rage, hatred, and expectations such as victory, defeat, and success to condition our actions, the purer and less artificial our performance. This is the way “empty mind” a classic trope and ideal in Buddhism theory and prac - tice, should be understood. It is not about not thinking. It is about letting your mind accept thoughts without fixing on any of them, thereby maintaining equanimity. In budo terms, the mind is manifest in one’s breathing, atti - tude, demeanor, and mindful presence. The body is manifest in movement, posture, strength, flexibility, and physical prow - ess. A sword can cut the human body, but it can also cut the human mind. In Buddhism, the sword is often used to metaphorically cut one’s Ego and one’s attachment. Therefore, pondering the inherent interbeing of mind and body, breathing and moving, other and self is the essence of the advanced budopractice if one is interested in enjoying its full benefits. The intense and consistent practice of budo and the study of Buddhist doctrines help appreciate the intimate relationship among mindfulness, emptiness, interdependence, compassion, and nonduality in daily life. This can be best enjoyed fully by applying a holistic approach to the practice in which one’s physical performance is intimately supported by appropriate breathing, movement, posture, mental attitude, and complete abandonment of attachment. A pure mind in Buddhism is a mind devoid of uncontrolled emotional attachment. Such an attitude would be ideal for a warrior, and numerous works of ancient Japanese literature contain reference to such an endeavor. Buddhist thought contains the key to deconstructing the mystique that life is long, happy, and healthy and the human delusion that the world around us is real, concrete, and we act independently in it. The core of the Buddhist message is to accept that our minds are the clue to human satisfaction. This is not an easy task and no Buddhist work offers an alternative. But it is possible; the way is to maintain constant vigilance and mindful attention. Just like in the case of physical fitness and prowess, mental prowess requires nothing else but long and constant practice and experience. The essential message the Buddhist doctrine conveys is that the body and the mind are one and the same. No action can be performed without the guidance of the mind and no mental activity can exist without intention behind it. In brief, every action has an intention and every intention has a con - sequence. Likewise, the same understanding can be applied to the budopath. Perfection and success in budo are more likely to occur when the adept’s mind is freed from craving for victory and instead surrenders to and accepts the flow of the opponent’s action. Paradoxical as it may seem, the more we crave for victory, fear defeat or injury, and aim at a quick result, the fewer chances we have to be safe, let alone win. True victory, even in combat, emerges first in controlling one’s own mind and emotions. The physical response will only follow. In Aikido, effectiveness in a confrontation emerg - es when a pure mind is achieved. Here, again, Buddhism finds a useful application, as only with a pure or concept-free mind devoid of expectation and desire can one achieve realization and wisdom. Unconcerned with death or defeat, the budo adept’s mind does not produce anxiety or worries, hence he can be himself. Winning a fight is first of all winning over one’s own mind. Ultimately, Buddhism and budo are both fundamentally aiming at the same goal: liberating the mind by appreciating being as it is. Budo , in its ideal level of perfection and as a consequence of assiduous practice, is meant to gradually induce the adept’s abandonment of preconceptions, emo - tions, and ultimately all the techniques formally learned and memorized to thus enter a state of spontaneous and intuitive action with an empty mind. It is this state of equanimity and freedom from conceptualization as well as unbiased presence that both disciplines foster. This is not easy to achieve, but it is the path or the way to that goal that matters most than anything else. As Buddhism famously states, the nature of ultimate liberation is already in each of us, we just need to train ourselves to live it.