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The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman (The Way of the Warrior Series) [Special Edition] [Hardcover]

Takuan Soho , William Scott Wilson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Jan 2003 The Way of the Warrior Series
In a life-and-death situation of being sword-tip to sword-tip with the enemy, where should the swordsman put his mind?
This is the first question posed in the first of three essays written by a Zen master for the guidance of samurai swordsmen. Among the other questions that arise are the difference between the right mind and the confused mind, what makes life precious, the nature of right-mindedness, the Buddhist paradigm of form and consciousness, and what distinguishes the True Mind. So succinct are the author's insights that these writings have outlasted the dissolution of the samurai class to come down to the present as sources of guidance and inspiration for captains of business and industry, as well as those devoted to the practice of the martial arts in their modern forms.
The history of the sword in Japan goes back to antiquity. Zen and its meditative practices also have a long history, but it was not until the rule of the Tokugawa shoguns, beginning in the early 1600s, that the techniques of swordsmanship fused with the spirit of Zen. And if one man can be said to have been the prime mover in this phenomenon, it was none other than Takuan Soho, confidant and religious instructor to an emperor, to a great sword master, and to the heads of the most important sword schools of the time.
Takuan's meditations on the sword in the essays presented here are classics of Zen thinking.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd; Gift edition edition (9 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770029470
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770029478
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.9 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 311,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"All of the essays aim at helping the individual know himself and in helping him to embrace the art of life." -The Japan Times

"Takuan's writing is light on sword-handling and heavy on the spiritual side." -Asahi Evening News

About the Author

Takuah Soho (1573-1645) was a prelate of the Rinzai Sect of Zen, well remembered for his strength of character and acerbic wit; and he was also gardener, poet, tea master, prolific author and a pivotal figure in Zen painting and calligraphy. His religious training began at the age of ten. He entered the Rinzai sect at the age of fourteen and was appointed abbot of the Daitokuji, a major Zen temple in Kyoto, at the age of thirty-five. After a disagreement on ecclesiastical appointments with the second Tokugawa shogun, he was banished in 1629 to a far northern province. Coming under a general amnesty on the death of the shogun, he returned to society three years later to be, among other things, a confidant of the third Tokugawa shogun.
William Scott Wilson, the translator, was born in 1944 and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College in 1966, he was invited by a friend to join a three-month kayak trip up the coast of Japan from Shimonoseki to Tokyo. This eye-opening journey, beautifully documented in National Geographic, spurred Wilson's fascination with the culture and history of Japan.
After receiving a B.A. degree in political science from Dartmouth, Wilson earned a second B.A. in Japanese language and literature from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey, California, then undertook extensive research on Edo-period (1603-1868) philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University, in Nagoya, Japan.
Wilson completed his first translation, Hagakure, while living in an old farmhouse deep in the Japanese countryside. Hagakure saw publication in 1979, the same year Wilson completed an M.A. in Japanese language and literature at the University of Washington. Wilson's other translations include TheBook of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, the Eiji Yoshikawa novel Taiko, and Ideals of the Samurai, which has been used as a college textbook on Japanese history and thought. Two decades after its initial publication, Hagakure was prominently featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog. Wilson currently lives in Miami, Florida.

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The term ignorance means the absence of enlightenment. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The translater - William Scott Wilson - is an American scholar widely recognised as the foremost expert on Japanese samurai literature, the Bushido Code and the Edo Period of imperial Japan. His translations are reliable, retain original meaning and are easily accessible to the general reader. This book is about the application of Zen Buddhist meditation to the activity of the use of the Japanese sword. The writings contained within this book date to 16th and 17th century Japan, and are spiritually motivated on all the many levels of nuance. The original Japanese work was written by Rinzai Zen monk Takuan Soho (1573-1645).

The paperback (1987) edition contains 101 numbered pages and consists of a Foreword, an Introduction, a Notes section and a Bibliography. This book is comprised of three essays written by Takuan Soho:

The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom - (Letter to master Yagyu Munenori).
The Clear Sound of Jewels - (Advice on knowing 'right' from 'selfishness').
Annals of the Sword Taia - (Letter to either Munenori or Ono Tadaaki).

Wilson provides the English translation for the Japanese text known as Nihon no Zen Goroku Zenshu, Vol 13, which gathered its information from the Takuan Osho Zenshu. These two letters and one instructional text offer advice about sword technique, mind development, self-transcendence, duty, psychology of combat and spiritual growth, the avoidance of selfishness, the cultivation of wisdom, correct dying for a warrior, and compassion. The sword is inbued with divine power within Japanese traditional culture. Takuan was a very well thought of Zen monk in Japan, who became an abbot of a temple in Kyoto at just 35 years old!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different angle 10 Jan 2009
I have read allot of these types of books, I find them very hard going at times. What I get out of them is a view into a different world, sometimes they barely seem human but in-between they give a philosophical output that borders the superhuman.
I feel allot gets lost in translation and there is a vast cultural gap that is way out of time. If you put in the effort you will find lots to muse over and compare. The theory of "no mind" is the central aspect of this way of thinking that shows a very natural height that can be recognized and more actively sought after. Something about the writing makes the essence timeless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Translation 7 Oct 2007
This book contains a collection of three letters/essays from Takuan Soho to masters of the sword arts. They contain some incredible gems. This book should not just be read; but reflected upon.As another reviwer said, "The ideas of the interval between striking flint and steel to the production of the spark, or the visual and mental image of the glint of light on the blade of a sword become captivating and even revelatory." I could not have said it any better myself. This is a must read book.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Takuan Soho's insight into the mechanics of the mind and its effects on performance, is much more than a manual for the martial artist. To sum up the first essay simply as saying "practice makes perfect" shows the ignorance Soho addresses in the first line of the first essay.
The three essays requires contemplation and an appreciation of its context. It is a useful companion to anyone who sees the usefulness of constant striving to improve one's Self, "We are that which we habitually do...", and a reminder to all faiths that humanity requires a moral code.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very deep book 13 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This books offers an insight into the unique mindset of the Japanese Samurai during an era when one was not simply expected to master the sword but to also master his own self.
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