As noted in the previous posts, during its own path of development and formation, Zen has been applied and put into service by nations, and has deeply influenced the art and culture.
China, Korea and in particular, Japan, where the influence of this philosophy has been so enormous so as to enter even in the most subtle aspects of daily life and persons.
Just ponder about the architecture, the well- known and beautiful Zen gardens, theatre, martial arts, the art of displaying flowers, tea ceremony, poetry, cooking… all received an imprint of this philosophy. The spirit of Zen transformed the arts into real paths for inner development and, as paths, they have their code of behavior that go far beyond the esthetic meaning of the practice, and also involve Being in everyday existence.
Even the martial aspect of this society acquired the aspects of Zen.
One of the most known codes belonging to this tradition is the code of the samurai, written by Miyamoto Musashi, a 16th century warrior that had a deep influence on the Way of the Sword. The title of this text, “The Way of Walking Alone” (Dokkōdo), reminds one of the most important texts, the Yōka Daishi “Shōdoka”, that describes the enlightened as a man who always walks alone, who lives his life beyond life and death, without loss or profit, devoted only to the Path.
Such a figure in the martial tradition is the Samurai with the only difference that, instead of the Buddha’s Path, he follows the Path of the martial art.
Indeed, samurai followed the code of behavior known as Bushido whose literal meaning is “the Warrior’s Path”. The main focus of Bushido is the constant following of honor both in battle and in life. Another aspect of this code is the discipline that explains how to relate the follower with a clan and with the head of the clan.
A samurai had to be sober and humble, and on the battlefield, brave, supportive, loyal and, obviously, honorable.
In 1900, Inazo Nitobe wrote a book which, today is a classic in this art and well- known by the masses even in the Western world: the “Bushido”. In this text, the author classified two types of bushido: one martial and the other Confucian. The second one, which is more interesting in explaining the spirit of the samurai, is based on the Confucian ethic that tended to transform warriors into functionaries.
Seen from a deeper point of view, the samurai were considered individuals possessing a Confucian wisdom and martial skills. This conjunction developed one of the main characteristics of these legendary warriors: a balance between action and pondering.
Zen Buddhism will make the spirit of such a warrior as strong as his martial skills. Indeed, for these warriors, it was not difficult to assimilate the Zen doctrines.
A child who had decided to become a samurai was taught not to deceive any emotion, and to control his spirit and, to do so, he was introduced to a specific training that required sacrifice and years of exercise.
The well -known self- control of the samurai was a product of Zen because its disciplines taught achievement of the complete control on emotions, a fundamental skill for a samurai who was in constant situations of facing death.
I remember several years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Zagreb and works in the field of management, reading the “Bushido”. I asked him about his interest in this book, and he answered that this book was well written for managers and businessmen. In Japan, the study of the psychological aspects of the ancient martial arts and the education to grasp the moment with balance and determination, is a primary aspect in the training for high-level managers.
He also told me that being in business with a large Japanese society is a great challenge, and every error in striking a deal is paid with a high price.
Now, it could seem strange to realize that books such as “Bushido” or the “Book of the Five Rings” (written by Miyamoto Musashi) is one of the most widely read books among many Western managers and businessmen, and this is not only a trend. The concept preserved in these texts comply perfectly with the life “battles” and the surviving strategies that can be translated into a modern language and transferred into every field of Western life where focus, self control, stillness, determination and active intelligence are required.
What has to be said is that the art of living and surviving, even in the most difficult situations, has not to be understood only in physical terms. There are also emotional and psychological battles in every aspect of life, not only in management. Everyone can accept this statement through experience. The capacity of efficiently facing such situations and the application of new possibilities that lie outside the habitual mechanical behavior, is more than welcome to everyone whose wish is to live a life without being constantly subdued in every difficulty and situation (as normally happens), and the training of this martial aspect in everyday life will be the topic for a further post.