In the course of the normal disjointed after keiko conversation, someone mentioned that Google had developed a new application where you can send a picture of an object from your smart phone and Google would tell you what the unknown object is. Kicking this idea around, we decided it might be more useful if you could take a snap of yourself and ask Google the question “who am I”. This app would be of immense value to enthusiastic partygoers, philosophy students and of course Zen practitioners.
I wrote sometime back about the connection between kendo and Zen, talking about the importance of keeping a natural, level mind (heijoshin), unmovable mind (fudoshin), or aiming for the spirit of no mind (mushin) in kendo practice. I have experienced all of these, not simultaneously or constantly in my keiko; but have enjoyed brief flashes of feeling that my mind is in the right place. What I am not sure about is whether these inner elements of kendo have made any lasting difference to me as a person. Yamaoka Tesshu’s assertion that the “Sword of no-sword” is about killing the ego, is an ideal that I subscribe to, but that I find difficult to prove if I have made any real progress in that direction.
I am fortunate have been around for long enough to be on speaking terms with some of the big “third generation” sensei and have met a number of the second generation greats. Although to a man they have all been exceptional people and role models, I have met no-one who is not, or who has not been conscious of his position in the kendo hierarchy and who did not show some sense of rivalry with his peers.
Perfect beings or not, I find it much easier to relate to fellow kendoka than to people that I know from other areas of my life. We have a shared legacy and set of experiences, so even on first meeting we have lots to talk about. Perhaps not so much needs saying between old kendo friends and colleagues. Having known each other for many years, much of what needs to be has already been said; nevertheless we continue to repeat the same conversations. Perhaps this is the most one can hope for: a comfortable if somewhat grumpy view of one’s place in the universe. Either that or another 40 years of practice is needed to reach satori.