The Mirror in the Heart of Master Swordsmen (and Jedi Masters)

Many master swordsmen and revered kendo teachers mention the importance of having a heart with a clear mirror.  That with such a mirror, one can intuit the heart and intention of an opponent.  And respond to any situation with calmness.  This ability – displayed also by the Jedi Master characters from Star Wars – has a quasi-magical and superhuman quality about it.  I have compiled a list of quotes below on this mirror from these swordsmen and teachers.

For those interested in better understanding this mirror metaphor, I have also compiled a second list of quotes below from teachers and authors who describe it in more depth.

For additional insight, there are articles and websites cited in the references and, in particular, the following two articles.  The first [Kendo-Guide Meikyo] provides a nice overview of this mirror.  The second [KendoNotes Awareness] serves as a companion to this article and covers awareness andWho am I?” which is intimately related to this mirror.

Teachers often mention in writings or in person a perhaps surprising feature of this mirror, i.e. this awareness.  That we each have it and that it has always been present.   Alas, the mind may think otherwise.

May you re-discover the clear mirror in your heart!


Contents:

  • The Mirror of Master Swordsmen – Quotes
  • The Mirror as a Metaphor – Quotes

 

The Mirror of Master Swordsmen – Quotes

  • Yamaoka Tesshu (19th century swordsman), [Noma, PDF p.9].
    • I seek to master swordsmanship because through it I seek divine principle.  If once I attain this, my heart will be as still water, calm and quiet, like a clear mirror lucid and bright, able to cope instantly with any situation. For when faced with any incident my spirit will react of its own.  Of what comes to pass, my comprehension of it will be instantaneous.  To truly attain to this plane is to be one with the Way of Heaven.
  • Mochida Seiji (持田 盛二, 1885-1974) (10th dan)
    • When I became 70 years old, the entire body became weaker.  I found that the next step was to practice the discipline (shugyou) of not moving one’s spirit when practicing kendo.  If one’s spirit is immovable, your opponent’s spirit will become reflected in the mirror here in you.* I strived to achieve a calm and immovable spirit at this stage in my life.
    • Original text in Japanese: 七十歳になると身体全体が弱くなる。こんどは心を動かさない修行をした。心が動かなくなれば、相手の心がこちらの鏡に映ってくる。心を静かに動かされないよう努めた。[Wiki_持田 盛二]
  • Comments on Mochida Seiji by others:
    • Mochida [10 dan] sensei’s spirit had become a clear mirror – if you thought about striking him that thought would be reflected in his heart and in that instant he would strike. – Morishima Tateo (8th Dan Hanshi) [Kenshi247_Spirit]
    • …through hard and long shugyo, eventually coming to an understanding of himself …, he (Mochida sensei) then polished and refined “jiri-itchi” (technique and principle as one) before finally completely losing his ego.  This is called “reaching full enlightenment…” – Ogawa Chutaro (9 dan, Hanshi)  [Kenshi247 OgawaMochida]
  • Morishima Tateo (Hanshi, 8 dan)
    • If you are thinking about some sort of ideal or worldly thoughts then you can’t move freely.  If your spirit is like a mirror you will be able to respond to your opponents movements and execute techniques freely [Kenshi247_Morishima4]
    • … at the end of the day you should be facing your opponent in kamae and have “arrived at a situation where your hear(t) and mind are like a clear mirror” – this is the essence of kendo. [Kenshi247_Morishima5]
    • are you putting KIAI (i.e. your full effort) into your daily pursuit?  If you do your utmost at all times then the mirror in your heart will surely open. [Kenshi247_Morishima5]
  • Noma Hisashi (1910-1939) [Noma, pp. 50-51]
    • When  one  possesses  Kan,  chances  for  attack  project  themselves  as  though they were reflected in a mirror. An important condition for developing and sustaining Kan is the possession of a clear and unsullied mind, uninhibited by unnecessary thoughts and intentions that will only mar its effect and its magical  power  will be lost.
  • Ishihara Tadayoshi (石原忠美, Kyoshi 8 dan) [Imoto_Ishihara, p. 1]
    • Miyamoto Musashi (宮本武蔵) describes that you can see (an) opponent’s heart simply (by) looking at your polished mirror, using Kan-no-me (観の目), the image (of what) your opponent is going to do.
    • [W]hen he (Ishihara sensei) reached (the age of) 70, he stopped waving Shin (心) and became Mushin (無心), nothingness in his heart; namely, clear mind like a polished mirror without clouds.  That is a much higher level of kendo.
    • He says there are two kinds of Metsuke (目付け); namely, Kan (観) and Ken (見). 
      • He teaches Kan-no-me Tsuyoku (観の目強く) and Ken-no-me yowaku (見の目弱く).
      • Editor’s note:  I’d word the text after this as:
        • Strengthen seeing with the polished mirror of intuition.  Weaken seeing with the physical eyes.**  Seeing in this manner is called Kan Ken no Metsuke (観見の目付け).***
  • Kanzan (poet) from [Hisashi, PDF p.54].
    • In that world of no thought or intention there is neither sound nor smell, neither gods nor devils. Take for example the mirror, as the mirror reflects what is before it, so does the heart, and thus it is known as the heart-mirror. When the heart of the opponent is observed in the mirror of ones own heart, one cannot be struck,… 

Footnotes

* For clarification just in case, the original text in Japanese 相手の心がこちらの鏡に映ってくる that I translated as “your opponent’s spirit will become reflected in the mirror here in you” does includes the word “mirror” 鏡 (kagami).  However, this word “mirror” appears to have been dropped in other translations such as that in [KendoInfo_Marathon] with “your opponent’s spirit will manifest itself to you.”

** This reminds of J. Krishnamurthi’s words “[T]here was a seeing, not the superficial seeing with the eyes, but seeing through the eyes from behind the head.” [KendoNotes_SoftEyes]

*** The original translated text is:  meaning that it is strong to look through the mirror intuitively, and it is weak to look at physically with your naked eyes.  That is called Kan Ken no Metsuke (観見の目付け).


The Mirror as a Metaphor – Quotes

  • The true nature of mind is mirror-like awareness, always just reflecting what’s happening, whether we notice this or not.  It never shuts off or stops functioning, even when we’re completely engrossed in conceptual thinking or strong emotions. A mirror just receives whatever object is placed before it, neutrally and naturally. – SweepingZen.com
  • Osho [Osho_Ming]
    • A mirror simply mirrors whosoever comes before it – it has no judgment.  If your eyes have no mind behind [them], … they simply look, they don’t say, ”This is good and that is bad.”  [T]hey don’t condemn, they don’t appreciate.  [T]hen everything is as clear as it can be, nothing is to be done. p. 27
    • The nature of consciousness is to be just a mirror. The mirror has no choice of its own. Whatsoever comes in front of it is reflected, good or bad, beautiful or ugly – whatsoever. The mirror does not prefer, it does not judge, it has no condemnation.  p. 50
      • A child is born; he reflects whatsoever comes before him.  He does not say anything, he does not interpret.
    • The moment interpretation enters, the mirror has lost its mirror-likeness.  Now it is no [longer] pure. Now it is filled with opinions, disturbed, many fragments, divided, split.  …
      • If you stop making discrimination(s), … – choosing this against that, liking this, disliking that – if you drop out of these divisions, the mind again becomes a mirror, pure consciousness.
    • Once you are centered in this eternal, non-changing, unmoving absolute, then your quality changes.  Then … you have become a mirror.
      • In that mirror, reality is mirrored. But first you have to become a mirror.
      • [If] [y]ou are waving, shaking so much, you cannot mirror anything – you distort.  Mind distorts the reality and consciousness reveals it.  p. 58
    • [T]he mirror has no opinion. The mirror simply mirrors – it is its nature. p. 61
      • A photographic plate hidden behind a camera also mirrors, but only once.
      • Mind is just like a photographic plate: it mirrors, then it clings to the reflection; then it carries the dead information; then … always it will carry the same information.
      • A mirror mirrors and again is empty… again it is ready to receive.  A mirror is always fresh to receive because it never clings. A mirror has no opinion. Mind has opinions,…, and through this thick wall of opinions you will never be able to reach truth. p. 61
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn [Kabat-Zinn-Awareness]
    • So the field of awareness, like a mirror but in many more dimensions knows, detects, feels sees and senses whatever moves, whatever arises, whatever it lingers, whatever dissolves.
      • So resting in awareness itself, in the choiceless, boundless, vast, spacious quality of awareness itself. 
      • If sound predominates in some moment, then sound is known. If the thought follows on the sound, then the thought is known as thinking now. Conceptually it’s recognized, known, felt neither pushed away nor pursued, neither condemned nor extolled.
    • Awareness functions an open, empty, spacious mirror, empty and full, able to contain anything and needing nothing to complete itself. Undisturbed, imperturbable, never not here.
      • Like the sun always shining even when clouds obscure it.
      • And even if we become irritated or vexed, this boundless and accepting field of awareness embraces irritation and vexation, grief, joy. Anything and everything: pain, discomfort, agitation, boredom, depression, sadness.
  • Han Shan (1546-1623) [HanShan] 
    • I took a walk. Suddenly I stood still, filled with the realization that I had no body or mind. All I could see was one great illuminating Whole – omnipresent, perfect, lucid, and serene.  It was like an all-embracing mirror from which the mountains and rivers of the earth were projected … I felt clear and transparent.
    • Poem: 
      • When the mind keeps tumbling / How can vision be anything but blurred? / Stop the mind even for a moment / And all becomes transparently clear! / The moving mind is polishing mud bricks.  / In stillness find the mirror!
  • From [ConsciousReminder]:
    • You can’t “become” the changeless mirror as “pure awareness”. Whatever is done in terms of practices, meditation and inner inquiries; will never cause a reflection to become a mirror.
      • The thought of being “someone” is a reflection. The sense of being a “seeker” is a reflection. No matter what practices or efforts the “someone” as a “seeker” engages in, they can never transform the “seeker” as a reflection into becoming a mirror.
    • One moment “you” were a reflection looking for the empty clear mirror in which you were appearing, and in the next moment, suddenly you are the clear aware emptiness in which all appearances are appearing.  Rest there.
  • The perfect person employs the mind as a mirror.  It neither grasps nor rejects; it receives, but does not keep. – Chuang Tzu
  • The mirror effortlessly receives its reflections, just as you effortlessly see the sky right now, and just as the Witness effortlessly allows all objects whatsoever to arise. All things come and go in the effortless mirror-mind that is the simple Witness. – Ken Wilber [Wilber_Awareness]

References

[ConsciousReminder] “Instant Enlightenment by Realising the Nature of Your Own Mind,” ConsciousReminder.com, Apr. 14, 2017.

[Fuliot] Pascal Fauliot, Samurai Wisdom Stories – Tales from the Golden Age of Bushido, Shambhala, 2017.

[HanShan]  “The Autobiography & Maxims of Chan Master Han Shan 1546-1623,” Translated by Upasaka Richard Cheung.

[Imoto_Ishihara] “Pursuing Life Time Kendo” by Ishihara Tadayoshi (石原忠美) and Okamura Tadanori (岡村忠典) sensei (先生),(from a book titled” Ensō no Fūkō (円相の風光) from KendoJidai (剣道時代) magazine – Pleasant Chat (歓談)), 1998, (PDF, 4 pages) Translated by Ted Imoto sensei.

[Kabat-Zinn-Awareness] Jon Kabat-Zinn, “A Meditation for Resting in Awareness,” Mindful.org, Mar 7, 2019.

[KendoInfo_Marathon]  Geoff Salmon, “Kendo – More a marathon than a sprint!”, KendoInfo.net, May 24, 2011.

[KendoNotes_Awareness] Young, “Awareness and Who am I?” KendoNotes.com, April 14, 2019. KendoNotes.com, 

[KendoNotes_SoftEyes] “‘Soft Eyes,’ A Way of Seeing and Being – Quote and Resources,” KendoNotes.com, December 21, 2018.

[Kenshi247_OgawaMochida] George McCall, “Volume, quality, transcendence,” Kenshi247.net, Feb 18, 2019.

[Kenshi247_Morishima4] George McCall, “From “Pursuing the spirit and modern kendo (part 4),” Kenshi247.net, March 30, 2011.

[Kenshi247_Morishima5] George McCall, “From “Pursuing the spirit and modern kendo (part 5),” Kenshi247.net, March 30, 2011.

[Kenshi247_Spirit] George McCall, “Pursuing the spirit and modern kendo (part 3), Kenshi247.net, Mar 2011.

[Kendo-Guide_Meikyo] Masahiro Imafuji, “Meikyo-Shisui”, Kendo-Guide.com.

[Osho_Ming] Osho, “Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing – Talks on the Faith Mind of Sosan” (PDF, 142 pages).

[Samurai_Tesshu] Romulus Hillsborough, “Yamaoka Tesshu”, Samurai-Revolution.com.

[Satrakshita_Mirror] “Your Consciousness is a Mirror,” Satrakshita.com.

[Wiki_持田 盛二] Wikipedia, 持田 盛二 (in Japanese)

[Wilber_Awareness] Ken Wilber, “Always Already:  The Brilliant Clarity of Ever-Present Awareness, Integral Life, Dec 10, 2016.

[Yamaoka_20Teachings] “The Twenty Teachings of Yamaoka Tesshu,” (山岡鉄舟二十訓) Asai Shotokan Association International.

 

 

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