A different kind of trilogy

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been on a Zen kick lately. So I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks to learn about a book called The Unfettered Mind by a 17th-century Japanese Zen Master called Takuan Sōhō. It’s actually a collection of three essays or letters to a master swordsman, Yagyū Munenori. They offer advice and philosophy combining both Zen buddhism, and swordsmanship, perhaps an odd combination given that non-violence is core Buddhist tenet.

However, The Unfettered Mind is not the only such work in this vein. Yagyū Munenori himself wrote a book called The Life-Giving Sword, possibly inspired by this work. His contemporary and rival, the legendary Miyamoto Musashi, also wrote a book fusing the art of swordsmanship and the discipline of the mind: The Book of Five Rings.

Together these three books make for a sort of trilogy, combining martial arts and Zen practice. I worked my way through The Unfettered Mind over the last week and have The Book of Five Rings waiting on my bookshelf. And yes, I did find The Unfettered Mind quite enlightening, though I suspect it will take me a few more readings to really grasp the various nuances.

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