THE ZEN MIRROR
By Jeff Brooks
A samurai stood at the head of his troops, on the edge of the field
of battle. He was at the height of his power, a master of the arts of
the sword and strategy, an accomplished politician and poet as well.
It was April. The cherry blossoms fell from the trees, and with every
breeze thousands and thousands of the blossoms filled the air. They were
beautiful, and fleeting. He watched them fly from the trees. He watched
them fall. He said to his friend, “You could spend your entire
life searching for the perfect one and never waste a moment.” As
a practitioner he understood the profound beauty of a life lived in the
endless pursuit of perfection.
Later that day he was mortally wounded in battle. The blood flowed from
his wounds and his life ebbed away. He spoke again to his friend, who
now kneeled beside him. The heavenly storm of cherry blossoms swirled
around them, for a moment obscuring the land and the sky, hiding the
dead and dying soldiers around them on the battlefield. The samurai looked
at the cherry blossoms as if he had never seen them before. He said, “All
What had changed? The quality of the falling cherry blossoms had not
changed in that one hour, from the beginning of the battle to the end
of it. But that warrior’s mind had changed. He understood something
in the moments before his death that he had missed all his life, despite
his power, despite his achievements. Having let go of his attachment
to an imagined ideal of perfection outside this moment, an ideal he could
no longer pursue, he recognized for the first time that right here, right
now, all we see, all we are, is perfect, with nothing extra, nothing
lacking… nothing but this moment, perfect as it is.
Author’s Note: The quotes given in this article are from The Last
Samurai movie. The interpretation is mine. Perhaps this shows that when
viewed from the right perspective not all the garbage that flows out
of Hollywood is garbage.
About The Author:
Jeffrey Brooks, Seventh Degree Black Belt, US Shorin Ryu
Karate, has been the director of Northampton Karate Dojo in Northampton,
Massachusetts since 1987 and director of Northampton Zendo since 1993.
He is author of “Rhinoceros Zen – Zen Martial Arts and the
Path to Freedom.” His column Zen Mirror and other articles appear
FightingArts.com is pleased to announce its first
book: “Rhinoceros Zen –Zen
Martial Arts and the Path to Freedom,” by Jeffrey Brooks, a work
that portrays the dual paths and interplay between Zen and Karate-do.
and easy to read, it is full of insight and wisdom. It is a rewarding
read for any martial artist.
(Softcover, 300 pages, illustrated)