by Peter Leitch
Title:The Unfettered Mind
Author: Takuan Soho
Published: Kodansha International 1987
Born into a samurai family, Takuan Soho lived between the years 1573 and 1645. He was a poet,an artist, a gardener, a tea master and a Zen monk. In his day he was relatively well known, andis said to have been a friend and teacher to the legendary sword master Musashi. He advisedwarriors, politicians, and emporers alike but stubbornly followed his own path regardless ofconsequences. At one point, his single mindedness offended the shogunate and he was exiled toa northern part of Japan for three years!
It was during these three years that two of the three essays making up The Unfettered Mind werewritten. Actually, they were originally written as letters to a sword master friend.
The first of the three essays deals with the elusive concept of no mindedness. The essay isentitled "The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom" and readers should be warned: readingthis is heavy going. Many metaphors are used to help explain some of the more difficult conceptsand there are a few fairly comprehensive passages.
The first essay ends with a verse from a Japanese song:
It is the very mind itself that leads the mind astray;
Of the mind, do not be mindless.
The second essay is named "The Clear Sound of Jewels". As strange as the title sounds, this is the most readable of the three essays. In the part of the book, the author deals with the principleof what he calls "right mindedness". To illustrate his ideas he makes use of plenty of real life anecdotes. I found these stories to be timeless in meaning and very profound.
An interesting quote from this part of the book is "A half baked martial art is the foundation of great injury."
The third and last essay, called "Annals of the Sword Taia" is the detailed explanation of a series of six Chinese style excerpts selected by the author. These excerpts are said to form the heart of "Taiaki".
There are extensive notes at the back of the book, and they provide some clues to the meaningof the text. I found this book to be an interesting and different look at Zen philosophy. Anyreader who is interested in the ways of the samurai should consider buying this book. However,although the book is short and well translated, I believe many readers will find the content a littlehard to appreciate.
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