“The mind is the most powerful weapon any warrior can possess.” — Sensei Yamada
Like many samurai, Sensei Yamada is a Zen Buddhist. It is his job not only to prepare the minds of Masamoto's students for battle but also for life.
What is Zen?
Zen is a school of the religious ideal of Mahayana Buddhism. It emphasises the concept that "ultimate truth" or satori
(enlightenment or awakening) must be experienced firsthand rather than pursued through study.
Zen teaches the fundamental elements of Buddhist philosophy, but differs from other Buddhist schools in that it emphasises daily life practice, along with intensive periods of meditation using koan
, over any philosophical explanations.
Japanese Zen teachers explain Zen Buddhism simply as a "way of life".
In Japanese, Zen sitting meditation is called "zazen". It is usually practiced in a sitting position, such as the lotus, half lotus, or seiza
postures, upon a zafu
(round cushion) and zabuton
(square padded mat).
The meditator strives to be aware of their posture, breathing, and then their stream of thoughts, allowing such thoughts to arise and pass away without interference, with the ultimate goal of achieving satori
Often Zen meditators will use a koan
to focus their thoughts. A koan
is a story, or dialogue that is designed to make the practitioner think and seek an answer:
“Without thinking of good or evil,
show me your original face
before your mother and father were born.”
The answer involves a transformation of perspective or consciousness. Koan
are a tool to allow a student to approach enlightenment by letting go of logical thinking.
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