Sanshin no Mushin - The Three Spirits of No-Mind
“Regard All Phenomena as Dreams”
“Examine the Nature of the Unborn Awareness”
“Let Go of this Idea”
“Rest in the Ground, the Nature of Everything”
The development of a true (good) heart in our budo training is very important not only to help develop our taijutsu, but to deepen our understanding of the essence of our budo. Through a good heart we can begin to grasp the gokui (essence) of true budo. Only through a good heart can we train in a way that is of true benefit.
From the moment of our conception our pattern (DNA) is written, we are destined to be born a human baby to human parents. Yet as we evolve in the womb we have more in common with fish and chickens than the kind human parents who give us life and sustenance for nine months.
We are born as an animal and slowly we grow, with luck, developing the qualities of a human being. Yet, if we are not careful, we grow physically with age but we never become human. We stay as an animal trapped in a human body, ageing but never growing, always acting on instinct, living in a world of ‘kill or be killed’, never fulfilling our birth-right to be truly human.
In this way we can waste our lives accumulating, but never truly enjoying, lusting for pleasure but never having happiness, yearning for holidays but never finding peace, and aching for food but never feeling replete; never really knowing ourselves, never finding our home, our true nature, our essence, our heart.
The development of a good heart is what truly makes us human; caring for others, feeling their pain, and having compassion. Yet finding our good heart can be very difficult, as it is so often obscured by thoughts, concepts and emotional conditioning, not to mention doing doing doing. So we need to give ourselves space and time to find it. Additionally we need a map to show us where to look; ‘The Three Spirits of No-Mind’ (Sanshin no Mushin) are one such map, and the following commentary is an elaboration on these in the context of our budo:
Regard All Phenomena as Dreams
Break the Form
We spend many years training in budo learning new good habits to replace our old bad habits. Eventually we arrive at a stage, where we have to push the form, the kata, our habit, to one side to progress and grow in our understanding and expression of our budo. This is illustrated in the axiom: “learn the form, practice the form, and then forget the form”.
We are creatures of habit, so how do we develop the habit of having no habit? If we consider this as a goal, it seems like an insurmountable task, but we must remember that we did not get to our current level of understanding in life in a day or even a year, it has taken many years and we are still travelling. So maybe we need to have the attitude of equanimity, taking each day one step at a time.
But how do we take the first step? This is the million dollar question. Everybody is different, with different habits, and thus different perception of what is and what is not. The most simple way to move away from the form (at all levels not just the kata - pattern of movements) is to stop conceptualising about what we are doing and just get on with doing; just reacting to how our training partner is attacking, without analysis or internal discuss, and more importantly without pride: that is attachment to the idea ‘I am the best, I must win’ even at a subtle level. Whilst doing this we should try and be mindful of where our mind is, without conceptualisation, and become aware of the present moment, forgetting the concepts of past and future.
Examine the Nature of the Unborn Awareness and then Let Go of this Idea
Be Without Thoughts and Concepts
Once we start to tread the path of kata yaburi, what is next? Can there be something more?
If we sit and contemplate upon the name of the three hanbo kamae of the Bujinkan Kukishinden Ryu: ‘kata yaburi’, ‘munen muso’, and ‘otonashi’, they appear to contain three instructions on how to proceed once we have learned the form. The first of these ‘kata yaburi’ (型破り and 形破り) is telling us to break and become free from the form. The second, ‘munen muso’ (無念無想 and 無念無相) shows us where to go and what to do next.
As an instruction, rather than the name of a kamae, these words show us that to progress further we need apply kata yaburi to our mind, the root of all of our habits. Within these kanji we are being told to look directly, not to conceptualise, just look directly at the nature of the unborn awareness. And as we do this we arrive at the state of munen. Once we are here (now, in the state of munen), the second part of the maxim tells us to let go of the idea of looking at the unborn awareness, which is a subtle conceptual form, and to rest in whatever is, however we appear. Through this we become completely formless, without concept, without a sense of I and other, and furthermore without the constraints of body and mind.
We can play a game with ourselves to help arrive at this state as we approach the munen muso. We can ask ourselves when we arrive here: “how big is our awareness?”, “how small is our awareness?”, “what colour is our awareness?”, “how old is our awareness?”, “when was our awareness born?”, “when will our awareness die”. More likely than not, when we truly are munen muso, we will find these questions have less meaning. If not, contemplation and examination of each of these questions can bring us to a state of munen muso, taking us that one step closer to being truly in the present moment.
Rest in the Ground, the Nature of Everything
Wait and See
So we arrive at the state of munen muso, the kata yaburi of our mind, and we then look to the advice of otonashi (音無し). As an instruction, this is telling us to ‘rest in all, the nature of everything’ or alternatively we could phrase it ‘wait and see’. This tells us that we should remain in the munen muso and sit (with our awareness looking at our awareness) and watch the arisings. These will be spontaneous and easily distracting, so we have to be ultra-vigilant, remembering the instruction hidden within the kanji of the maxim otonashi which tells us to sit and watch, leaving the seeing in the seeing, the hearing in the hearing, and the risings (thoughts and emotions) in the risings.