Buddhism and Martial Arts in Premodern Japan: New Observations from a Religious Historical Perspective
1. Introduction: Brief Overview of the Subject and Purpose of the Present Article
2. Mandalic Weapons: Premodern Martial Arts and Medieval Shinto
The first type, the egg-shape bow, is the primordial [life] bow that exists before one is born; it is the bow that is put “inside the receptacle”. With “bow inside the receptacle” is meant [primordial life inside] the mother’s womb, the august seat of the “original shrine” (hongū 本宮). That is the reason why the mother’s womb is called “receptacle” (fukuro 袋). That one speaks of “putting the bow in the receptacle” is related to the same thought. Then, the meaning of the term “egg shape” is the following. After a man and a woman marry, they exchange the red and white fluids (shakubyaku 赤白; menstrual blood and semen), and then [the primordial life-spirit] remains for nine months inside the mother’s womb. During the first month, the state of being inside the womb is like that of a silkworm [inside a cocoon]. That is why one speaks of “egg shape”; it is how a [human life] is made in the initial phase. This is the bow inside the mother’s womb.About the second type, the serpent-shape bow, there is a precious sword (hōken 宝剣) in the human realm that is called the “sword of six serpents”. Based on this aspect of six serpents, a bow is made that is called the “serpent-shape bow”. When talking about the source of life, it first assumes the shape of an egg during the first month. Then, in the second and third months, life takes on the shape of a single-pronged vajra club (tokkosho 独鈷杵), and for that reason, it is referred to as ha-ra (kara 加羅). During the fourth and fifth months, [life] assumes the shape of the five agents (gogyō 五行). In this phase, one refers to it as a-vi-ra-hūṃ-khaṃ, that is, earth-water-fire-wind-space.10 Afterward, the realm made up by the six sense-organs, the six sense-objects, and the six consciousnesses, as well as the six zō 臓 and six fu 腑 viscera, all of which carry the number six, develop. Therefore, within Shinto, the bow with which an arrow is shot at the target in ceremonies related to kami (Japanese gods) is this bow that is called the “bow in the shape of [six] serpents. […]”
The Three Jewels (sanbō 三宝) for warrior families are the tachi, katana, and bow. Originally, [these three weapons are derived from] the precious [imperial] sword. In a remote past, during the age of the gods (kamiyo 神代), when the Demon (Maō) came down [from the sixth heaven] to rampage on earth, the [imperial] sword split into two [halves], [each] becoming a katana sword. [With this sword], the Demon was swiftly subdued, and as a result, the whole land prospered. This is the origin of the katana sword.19About the origin of the bow, there is a mountain in India called “Tsukui-yama” 付山 on which tala trees grow. This tree has seven branches. These seven branches are cut to make the seven types of bow out of them. (Then the text enumerates the seven bow types already mentioned above). The first bow type (in the shape of an egg) is the primordial bow, which constitutes our original nature. […] The second bow type, in the shape of a serpent, is the bow that is used in kami-related events. It is [the bow used in] yabusame 流鏑馬 (horseback archery) at the occasion of a Shinto ceremony.
3. The Buddhism of the Premodern Martial Artist
3.1. The General Character of Premodern Japanese Buddhism
“Hence, the body, being only a temporary form, dies here and is reborn there without end, yet the mind is immutable, unchanging throughout past, present, and future. To know this is to be free from birth-and-death. By realizing this truth, you put a final end to the transmigratory cycle in which you have been turning. When your body dies, you enter the ocean of the original nature (shōkai 性海). When you return to your origin in this ocean, you become endowed with the wondrous virtue of the Buddha-patriarchs”.
3.2. Three Aspects of the Ideal Mindset of the Premodern Martial Artist
- As for the two aspects [of combat] that are attack (ken 懸) and defense (tai 待), [one should] not [let the mind] linger on one aspect but [always] adjust oneself freely from moment to moment in accordance with the opponent’s movements. This [free, moment-by-moment adjustment] is like [the natural and swift] manipulating of a sail in accordance with the change of the wind [at the precise moment when the change is felt] or the [immediate] releasing of the hawk as soon as the rabbit is detected. Usually, one defines attack to be attack and defense to be defense, but [in our lineage] attack is not attack and defense not defense; when attacking, the mind is in defense, and when defending, the mind is in attack. It is like the cat sleeping under the flowering peony tree.32 (Densho handed down from Kamiizumi Hidetsuna 上泉秀綱 [c. 1508–1577], founder of Shinkage-ryū, to Yagyū Munetoshi 柳生宗厳 [1529–1606]; cited in Ōmori 1991, p. 15)
- The mind of a man of the Way is like a mirror; because it has nothing and is clear, it is “mindless” and is lacking in nothing. That is the mind in a natural state. Someone who does everything with his mind in a natural state is called a master. Still, in time your achievements add up, and as your training continues, the mindset to do well what is being done will recede into the distance, and whatever you do, you will do without thinking, without intending, regardless of yourself, just like a wooden puppet. That is when you are not aware of yourself, and your arms and legs do whatever they are supposed to without your mind contriving things—that is when you do right whatever you do, ten out of ten times. Even then, if you allow your mind to interfere if only slightly, you will miss it. If you are “mindless”, you hit it every time. “Mindlessness” does not mean having no mind whatsoever; it simply means the mind in a natural state. (Heihō kadensho; translation by Sato 1986, p. 75).
- “When the mind is relaxed and at ease, that is when the true self appears”. With “when the mind is relaxed and at ease” is meant that when a person is sleeping, there is nothing in the mind. That state [of having nothing in the mind] is the Buddha-mind (busshin 仏心). That is the expression of one’s true self. When something suddenly arises [in the mind], that is [having a] mind. That is also [what is meant by] bodily Buddhahood (sokushin jōbutsu 即身成仏). With [the idea of] “flavor” (aji 味) in our martial arts is meant [a state where] the mind is everywhere [i.e., not stopping at one place]. When striking [the opponent], the mind attains all places [i.e., is everywhere]. At the moment of the impact of the strike, there is nothing in one’s breast. One must reflect well on that. (Jigen-ryū heihō kirigami 示現流兵法切紙 [Secret Initiation Documents of Jigen-Ryū Martial Arts], Imamura 1982, vol. 3, pp. 156–57).
- [The main kōan:] An ancient virtuous monk asked: “What is the critical phrase, ‘Sword Blades Upward’?” The teacher replied: “The sword aimed between the eyebrows, there is no turning away; Fresh blood sprays up to Brahmā’s Heaven”. […] [The commentary:] […] The reply, “The sword aimed between the eyebrows, there is no turning away” refers to raising a sword over your head, instantly entering, and cutting with all your strength. Herein is the critical phrase of attaining life within “Sword Blades Upward”. At that very moment there exist neither hells nor heavens. But, if you even slightly start to turn away and retreat, then from where you are standing you will enter hell. […] (Kenjin-jō honsoku sanzen 剱刃上本則参禅 [Investigating Zen Via the Main Kōan of Sword Blades Upward], translation by Bodiford ( 2014, p. 88).
- The tarrying of the mind is called a disease. Ikkyo 一去 is to make a single bundle of all such diseases and throw it away. You cast off various diseases in a single bundle, lest you fail to see the “only one”. Now, the “only one” (yuiichi 唯一) refers to the “void” (kū 空). The void is a code word that is to be secretly transmitted. It refers to the mind of the opponent. This is because the mind has neither form nor color, and is void. To see the void, or the “only one”, means to see the mind of the opponent. […] You strike before the opponent’s gripping fists move. Ikkyo is meant to facilitate discernment of the movement before it takes place. (Heihō kadensho; translation by Sato 1986).
- In our lineage, when gaining enlightenment [about the original face], the mind and one’s nature [then] are called “flavor” (aji). When approaching an opponent, there is nature, and there is mind. At that moment, one should discard one’s deluded mind [and make it empty] leaving behind no trace of it. The nature and mind [of the opponent]33 that remain then is called the “original face” (honrai no menmoku 本来の面目). The sword that strikes at the original face is called “flavor”. […] The original face is also called the sharp sword that cuts [through the bonds of] life and death. Needless to say, in this “flavor” there is no round of rebirth, no deluded mind, and no life nor death. There are people who, wrongly comprehending this, believe there exists not a single world. Their awakening is far from complete. (Heihō sakken 兵法察見 [Insights into Martial Arts], Imamura 1982, vol. 3, pp. 137–38).
- For one who has completely realized the great matter of Buddhadharma, even before one thing is spoken of, even before three things are understood, without revealing any sign of his intentions he has already thrust and cut his opponent into three (Tai’a ki; Haskel 2013, p. 55).
- The essence of our lineage lies in [the concept of] “flavor” (aji). The mind is the Buddha, and the [Buddhist] dharma. Flavor is the mind. The dharma transmitted [in our lineage] is one’s “original face” (honrai no menmoku). The original face is that unmoving “something” that exists before one’s mother and father are born. To stand face-to-face with that original face, people practice Zen and study the (Zen) Way, and when still a beginner, they value the practice of zazen. Zazen means sitting with the legs crossed in the full or half lotus position, keeping the eyes only half opened, trying to picture that “something” which exists before one’s parents are born, that state when heaven and earth are not yet separated, or when, needless to say, oneself has not taken human form yet [in the mother’s womb]. It is a vast void. This void is the mind. Therefore, it is said in the scriptures: “The true dharma-body of the Buddha is like void”. This is one’s original face. Originally, this original face did not have a name. Since old, however, one has called it “original self” (shujinkō 主人公), “buddha”, “mind”, “nature”, or “dharma”. It is like a person answering when you called them by the name that they have been given at birth. However, even if one answers all the huatou 話頭 phrases in the Thousand Seven Hundred Kōan (Ch. Jingde chuandenglu 景徳伝灯録; The Jingde Record of the Transmission of the Lamp) correctly, there is nothing [to learn] besides [this original face]. They are all meant to lead one to discover one’s original face. […] This body is [like] a house. In this house, there must be a master (shujin 主人). This master is the original face. Differentiating between hot and cold, or to cling with desire to various things is the delusional mind. This delusional mind fades with each instant and is easy to discard, but its reappearance is also fast. (Heihō sakken, Imamura 1982, vol. 3, p. 137; after this follows the phrases cited above in quote VI).
- The physical sword is the primordial source, without beginning and without end, of the life of myriad plants and trees since the separation of heaven and earth. It is the unified form from which all phenomena [arise] and return. At one time, [an enlightened one] (Dainichi) held this sword, turned it into a three-shaku-long precious sword (hōken), and sat down [in the middle of the] eight-petaled lotus [of the Womb mandala]. (Shintō-ryū kendō ōgi [The Secrets of Shintō-Ryū Fencing]; Ōmori 1991, p. 260).
- In the world, there is a bow called the “One Bow” (icchōkyū). Today, one calls it the “serpent-headed bow”. It is also [sometimes] called the “mandalic bow” (mandara-kyū). […] The One Bow is the primordial and first bow ever made [in the world]. A bow of which the outer bamboo reinforcement is red and the inner one black is called the “One Bow”. It is also called “serpent-belly bow”. This One Bow is [in reality] a formless bow. It is an object [representing] the round (perfected) shape of the One Mind (isshin). This round-shape, perfected-mind bow eventually transformed into this physical [bow].34 (Kyūdō denjusho 弓道伝授書 [Record of Secrets Received Related to Archery], fol. 6).
- Now, about this One Sword (ichi-no-tachi 一之太刀), at one time an old man appeared to [Asari Ihei] Tadayoshi 浅利伊兵衛均禄 (1655–1718) in a dream, [saying,] “You have now practiced the iai[jutsu] style of Hayashizaki Shinmusō-ryū 林崎新夢想流 for many years, and since you deeply desire to acquire the ultimate secret of this sword art, I will pass onto you this marvelous technique. This [One] Sword is about having the mind in defense when attacking and in attack when defending; it is a secret technique in which the twin aspects (ryōbu 両部) of attack and defense (kentai 懸待) are unified. Therefore, although called the “One Sword”, this is a wondrous technique which allows the free enactment of all [martial methods] and the ability to respond to any of the opponent’s movements or attacks. You can obtain a great victory with this Sword”. The old man [in the dream] continued, “When facing an opponent, what is of the uttermost importance, and the ultimate secret, is a mental technique (shinpō 心法). This technique is nothing more than that which is conveyed by the following simile: inserting a pearl (tama 玉) inside a shell and wielding two swords”. Tadayoshi, in the dream, replied to the old man, saying, “The matching of the right and left valves of the shell refers to the mind that understands that the opponent and oneself form one whole, and ‘wielding two swords’ is about victory (life) and defeat (death) [being one]. In the end, the primary point in a sword fight lies in nothing else but this One Mind (isshin 一心)”. The old man replied, “That is right, that is right”. (Tadayoshi musō iai gokui no maki 均禄夢想居合極意之巻 [Scroll of Musō Iai Secrets Passed on by Tadayoshi]; Hayashizaki Shinmusō-ryū; Ōta 1989, pp. 83–84).
- The Buddha-mind (busshin) arises from the primordial source [which existed when] the sun and the moon formed one whole [and were not separated yet]. An oral transmission about the great matter of the one principle of life and death says: “The Buddha, all sentient beings, all plants and trees, all animates and inanimates arise from the Buddha-mind. Since the mind of the one path [of enlightenment] is nondual, the [enlightened] dharma-world and the world [experienced by the unenlightened mind] are not two separate [worlds]. When all sentient beings, all plants and trees, and all phenomena perish, the mind of the three buddhas, i.e., the three souls [of kon 魂 (yang), haku 魄 (yin), and shin 神], return to the sun disk of original enlightenment (hongaku 本覚). They become the three-legged crow that lives in the sun disk. (Inka-jō 印可状 [Initiation document]; Sōtō Zen initiation document passed on in 1727 in the grappling school of the Hongaku Kokki-ryū 本覚克己流; Ōta 1992, p. 47).
- [The main kōan, continued:] The teacher commands: “Try to say a critical phrase concerning “facing the [enemy’s] weapon”. Answering in place [of the student], the teacher says: “Keep your feet firmly on the originally existing farmland (hon’u no denchi); do not fall into past or present affairs”. [The commentary, continued:] […] [“Originally existing farmland”] indicates attaining the same sense realm as that of a newly born baby. It is not necessarily that of a baby. It is the realm of [your original] mind before the Buddhas and ancestors were born. Therein there is no good or evil, no suffering or bliss. […] At that moment [i.e., when newly born], there are no hells to fear and no heavens to admire. How could the three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity appear? […] As a newborn baby develops its senses, year by year it grows further away from the Buddhas. Sadly this point is of interest. The six consciousnesses (visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and waking) possessed by a newborn baby without intellectual faculties is known as the originally existing tathāgata (nyorai; i.e., Buddha). Therefore, if warriors fail to concentrate on resolving (nentei) the critical phrase of Sword Blades Upward, when they die they will fall into the Avīci Hell. (Kenjin-jō honsoku sanzen, translation by Bodiford ( 2014, pp. 89–90).
- The self of true self is the self before heaven and earth were divided and father and mother were born. It is the self that exists in all things—in ourselves as well as in birds, beasts, grasses, and trees. In other words, it is what’s known as Buddha nature. It is a self that has no shape, no form, that is neither born nor dies. It is not the self seen with the everyday physical eye. It can be seen only by one who has realized enlightenment. One who has glimpsed it has seen his own nature and realized Buddhahood. […] The famous sword, the sword Taie, […] is none other than mind. This mind isn’t born at the moment of birth, nor does it die at the moment of death. That’s why it’s called one’s original face. Even heaven can’t cover it, even earth can’t support it; fire can’t burn it, water can’t wet it, wind can’t pass through it. That’s why it’s said that there’s nothing in the world able to withstand its blade. (Tai’a ki, Haskel 2013, pp. 50, 54).
- In the morning following the completion of his prayers, the kami appeared to him (Hayashizaki) in a dream saying: “If you hold this sword in your heart at all times, you shall certainly defeat your worst enemy (onteki 怨敵)”. As the divine dream predicted, Hayashizaki Jinsuke obtained a great victory. [Interlinear note:] “Victory” should be understood as “awakening to the One Mind (isshin)”. [Hayashizaki] Shigenobu, in other words, attained awakening. […]Enemies and friends are made as the result of past actions in former lives. Truly, life and death are one, and the battlefield is no different from the Pure Land. [Interlinear note:] One has to realize that all things arise from emptiness and return to it, and that life and death form one large unity. (Tetsugi no maki 手次之巻 [Scroll of Transmission]; Hayashizaki Tamiya-ryū 林崎田宮流; Trenson 2015, pp. 36–39).
- (Instructions related to the expression “I directly realized the originally unborn nature [of all phenomena]” [ware honpushō wo satoru 我覚本不生].)35 It means that the self, if one gets to the truth about it, is originally unborn. In this way, it thus means that one’s own awareness is [in reality] unborn and undying. (Heihō sakken, Imamura 1982, vol. 3, pp. 134–35).
Conflicts of Interest
Awa Kenzō did not receive official Zen training and was not an ordained monk, but that does not mean he was entirely ignorant of Zen. He often used Zen expressions such as kyū-Zen ichimi 弓禅一味, “the bow and Zen are of the same flavor”, and shari kenshō 射裡見性, “seeing one’s true [Buddha-]nature in the shot” (Yamada 2001, pp. 10–11; Morooka 2008, pp. 9–11). Moreover, Morooka, who investigated the notebooks written by Awa himself (Awa Kenzō ibun 阿波研造遺文, unpublished, kept at Tōhoku University), cited the following words from them: “When one forgets the [ordinary] self, all phenomena in the whole universe confirm the [true] Self” (Morooka 2008, p. 10). As Morooka also noted, these words clearly recall Dōgen’s 道元 (1200–1253) famous saying in his Shōbōgenzō 正法眼蔵 (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye): “To forget one’s self is to be confirmed by all dharmas (phenomena)” (Waddell and Abe 2002, p. 41). In another statement cited by Morooka (2008, p. 10), Awa asserts that the moment when the sound of the arrow hitting the target and the self are one is that sacred moment when the whole universe is manifested. This also sounds like Zen (see also Suzuki  2014, p. 26). The crucial point not to overlook, however, is that Awa, even though he knew Zen, was critical of it. Indeed, the master is notorious for having established a new religion called “Daishadōkyō” 大射道教 (Great Doctrine of the Way of Shooting), in which he underscored various religious thoughts drawn from different sources (Zen Buddhism, Shinto, and the Neo-Confucianism of Wang Yangming 王陽明 [1472–1529]; Suzuki  2014). Awa considered his own Daishadōkyō religious archery a better means for bringing about the unity of body and mind than Zen, which he criticized as being not enough engaged in the cultivation of physical health or strength (Suzuki  2014, p. 28; Morooka 2008, p. 11). Morooka (2008, p. 12), probably rightly so, thus argues that Awa only used Zen terms as a convenient means to give expression to his own mixed religious perspectives. However, to repeat, that does not mean he did not know Zen or did not value or adopt it to some degree.
That is, prior to the period between roughly the 1920s and the end of WWII, when many eminent Zen monks developed various interpretations on Zen and the Way of the Warrior (see Victoria 1997).
To Zen monks, the kōan was well known to refer to a hell where beings reborn there are forced to climb up and down trees of swords. When going up, the blades face downward, and when climbing down, they face upward. In either case, the bodies of the beings are lacerated to pieces. For Zen monks, the kōan also meant that they had to reflect on life and death and face their fears of the afterlife (see Bodiford  2014, pp. 81–83).
The original sentence is: 経ニ云、弓者清月情孕化生、故ニ三日月也.
Incidentally, the Sangoku sōden meigen no zu 三国相伝鳴弦之図 (Image of [the Bow Used to Perform the Ceremony of] Resounding Bowstrings Transmitted in the Three Countries, 1767) shows an image of the bow identical to the one depicted in the Icchōkyū no maki except for the upper and root nocks, which are drawn in the shape of two beautiful serpent heads. This document was passed on in 1767 by the head priest of the Tōzenji 東漸寺 (Yokohama), a temple affiliated with Shingon Esoteric Buddhism (Kanagawa Kenritsu Kanazawa Bunko 2011, p. 13). Additionally, there is a scroll entitled Yumi no koto 弓之事dated 1652 (not yet verified by the author), which seems to contain the same contents as the Icchōkyū no maki.
Aizen’ō (Rāgarāja), the “King of Lust”, often abbreviated as “Aizen”, was a very popular Esoteric Buddhist deity in premodern Japan, often paired with Fudō (see Faure 2016a, pp. 167–234). It is usually depicted holding an arrow and bow (ibid., pp. 179, 181). Interestingly, according to the Yumi no hatsu no koto 弓之発之事 (On the Origin of the Bow, 1837), the bow was originally made by Aizen to subdue evil demons (the passions obstructing awakening) (夫弓者愛染明王之為作之、而持悪魔於射払給). This text also mentions the double-serpent bow, adding that the red part represents the serpent’s lower body and the black part its upper scales (赤漆胴黒漆蛇之鱗ヲ表; fol. 4). The colors red and black, however, also easily recall Aizen, who is usually depicted with red vermillion skin, and Fudō, who has blackish dark-blue skin.
Many other examples of martial arts texts associating weapons—not only the bow but also the sword or the spear—with Buddhist aspects can be brought up. For examples related to the sword, see Shintō-ryū kendō ōgi 神道流剣道奥義 (The Secrets of Shintō-Ryū Fencing; Ōmori 1991, pp. 260–85) and Tetsugi no maki 手次之巻 (Scroll of Transmission, dated 1706; see Trenson 2015). In premodern Japan, not only weapons but also professional tools such as ropes, scales, flutes, and plows were often regarded as embodiments of the sacred. On this, see Rambelli (2007, pp. 179–87).
This is an initiation rite in which one’s mother and father are taught to be the embodiments of the Womb and Vajra-realms, respectively, and one’s own body and mind the nondual product of these two entities (Itō 2016, p. 122).
Similar instructions can be found in the tradition of Miwa-ryū Shintō as well. For example, the Miwa-ryū shintō gōju hachi 三輪流神道合聚八 (Assorted Texts on Miwa-ryū Shintō, Fascicle Eight) notes: “The two tachi swords to the left and right [of the mirror placed on the altar] are the Sacred Sword. This is a treasure that legitimizes royal authority. When [this Sacred Sword] was passed on to the samurai, it split into two tachi blades. This [tachi] is a treasure which punishes the enemies of this country. It is the Sword of Wisdom of the Buddha Dainichi. In the phenomenal world, it appears as the Sacred Sword of the emperor. Inwardly, with the Wisdom-Sword of Dainichi one destroys the evil delusions and passions. The sword of the samurai [does the same and,] moreover, outwardly subdues the enemies of this country” (pp. 352–53).
Good examples are the teachings of the Pudgalavāda early Buddhist school, which defended the existence of a permanent self as the recipient of karmic consequences, and the ātman theories mentioned in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra (see Lusthaus 1997, pp. 42–49).
On the theories of the ālayavijñāna of Yogācāra tradition and tathāgatagarbha, see Snellgrove (1987, pp. 94–115). In Yogācāra, which was systematized in the fifth century CE, the awakened mind is equivalent to the ālayavijñāna devoid of karmic impurities. It is the stream of essenceless phenomena (dharmas). The Treatise concretely associates this stream with the tathāgatagarbha.
The Treatise uses the wetness of ocean water as a metaphor to explain this. Regardless of whether the water (mind) is still (enlightened) or moves in waves (unenlightened), its wetness (i.e., the mind of suchness) is never altered or destroyed. Yet, that wetness always pervades whatever state the ocean water may be in (Jorgensen et al. 2019, pp. 19–20).
(Jorgensen et al. 2019, pp. 15–16). The Treatise does not clearly state that the tathāgatagarbha (mind of suchness) is the One Mind; it only implies it. However, Fazang 法蔵 (643–712), the famous Huayan patriarch, whose commentary on the Treatise was most authoritative, identified the One Mind with the tathāgatagarbha (Hakeda  2006, p. 38).
On hongaku thought, see Tamura (1973, 1990) and Stone (1999). In this theory, even evil acts such as killing living beings are accepted in cases where one has realized awakening and when carried out “naturally and without attachment” (Tamura 1973, pp. 541–42). This echoes the following troubling assertion in the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra (Da banniepan jing 大般涅槃経): “For one who realizes the eternal [nirvāṇa or Ātman] (jōken 常見), killing is not existent”. (T no. 374, 484b9-14). On Buddhism and violence, see also Demiéville ( 2010).
Dōgen shows a tendency to agree with a radical hongaku type of view by famously declaring that “whole-being is the Buddha-nature” (shitsuu ha busshō nari 悉有は仏性なり; Abe 1992, p. 35). However, he criticized radical hongaku thought as a form of “naturalist heresy” (jinen-gedō 自然外道) by stressing that when one actualizes the state of an ordinary worldling, one is exactly that, an ordinary worldling and not a buddha. One must actualize Buddhahood in the present moment by following in the Buddha’s footsteps. In this way, Dōgen revalorized the relevance of practice, which in the face of radical hongaku thought had become compromised (Tamura 1990, pp. 400–2).
“Brought into this world by our parents, we came as temporary guests, so we can, without attachment return to our original home” (Ketsujōshū 結縄集 [Knotted Cords], Haskel 2013, p. 58).
The haiku, in full, is: “The old pond, ah! A frog jumps in; The water’s sound!” (Suzuki  1959, p. 238).
The Zen kōan of the “sleeping cat” refers to the fact that when approaching a cat that seems to be in deep slumber, it often suddenly jumps up and swiftly runs away, making one wonder whether it had been sleeping at all. As one commentary to this Zen riddle says: “The mind of the cat dwelled in [that of] the fluttering butterfly nearby” (Ōmori 1991, pp. 15, 32).
The original text is: 世ニ又一張之弓ト云有、今云蛇頭弓也、曼荼羅弓トモ云、（中略）或ニイハク、一張弓ハ是根本初製ノ本弓也、故ニ外竹ヲ赤色ニシ内竹ヲクロヌリニスル弓ヲ一張弓ノ拵ト云也、蛇腹弓トモ云也、一張弓ハ非有形ノ弓、是一心円相製器也、其円相之心弓又竟ニ成形ヲ。
These words occur in the following phrases of the Da piluzhena chengfo shen bian jiachi jing 大毘盧遮那成仏神変加持経 (J. abbrev. Dainichikyō 大日経; T no. 848, 9b16-19), one of the fundamental scriptures on which Shingon Esoteric Buddhism was founded: 我覚本不生、出過語言道、諸過得解脱、遠離於因縁、知空等虚空; “I [Mahāvairocana] directly realized that the originally unborn (honpushō) is beyond the range of words, is free from all faults, and separated from karmic conditions. I came to know that emptiness is like space”.
TTaishō shinshū daizōkyō 大正新修大蔵経. 85 vols. Takakusu Junjirō 高楠順次郎 and Watanabe Kaikyoku 渡辺海旭, eds. Tokyo: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924–1932. DPJWDatabase of Pre-Modern Japanese Works of the National Institute of Japanese Literature.
Primary SourcesDa piluzhena chengfo shen bian jiachi jing 大毘盧遮那成仏神変加持経 (J. Daibirushana jōbutsu jinben kaji kyō; abbr. Dainichikyō 大日経). Tr. Śubhakarasimha (637–735) and Yixing 一行 (673/683–27). T no. 848.Gaikotsu 骸骨. 1457. Ikkyū Sōjun 一休宗純 (1394–1481). Translation in Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook. Edited by James W. Heisig, Thomas P. Kasulis and John C. Maraldo, pp. 172–77. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011.Icchōkyū no maki 一張弓巻. 1819. Author’s private possession.Inka-jō 印可状. 1727. Reproduced in Ōta 1992, pp. 47–48.Kyūdō denjusho 弓道伝授書. 1830. Kyushu University Library. Manuscript accessible through DPJW.Kyūhō kanjō no maki 弓方灌頂巻. 1504. Naikaku Bunko Archives.Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra. Ch. Da banniepan jing 大般涅槃経. Tr. Dharmakṣema (385–433). T no. 374.Miwa-ryū shintō gōju hachi 三輪流神道合聚八 (copied 1840). In Ōmiwa jinja shiryō 大神神社史料. Edited by Ōmiwa Jinja Shiryō Henshū Iinkai大神神社史料編修委員会, vol. 6, pp. 341–61. Miwa-chō: Ōmiwa Jinja Shiryō Henshū Iinkai, 1979.Shintō-ryū kendō ōgi 神道流剣道奥義. Copy dated 1702. Reproduced in Ōmori 1991, pp. 260–85.Tadayoshi musō iai gokui no maki 均禄夢想居合極意之巻. 1680. Reproduced in Ōta 1989, pp. 82–85.Takeda-ryū yumitsuruya no zu no maki 武田流弓弦矢図巻. 1704. Kōchi Castle Museum of History. Manuscript accessible through DPJW.Tetsugi no maki 手次之巻. 1706. Tsuruoka City Library. Reproduced in Trenson 2015.Yumi no hatsu no koto 弓之発之事 1837. Nippon Sport Science University Library. Manuscript accessible through DPJW.Yumi no koto 弓之事. 1652. Iwase Bunko Library.
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Trenson, S. Buddhism and Martial Arts in Premodern Japan: New Observations from a Religious Historical Perspective. Religions 2022, 13, 440. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050440
Trenson S. Buddhism and Martial Arts in Premodern Japan: New Observations from a Religious Historical Perspective. Religions. 2022; 13(5):440. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050440Chicago/Turabian Style
Trenson, Steven. 2022. "Buddhism and Martial Arts in Premodern Japan: New Observations from a Religious Historical Perspective" Religions 13, no. 5: 440. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050440