Kyudo Notebook: Maku Mousou

There was another excellent article by Takeda-sensei in the May issue. His main theme in the three-part series was that Kyudo (really each arrow) is a creative act that requires an undivided or unified spirit. For him this phrase, 莫妄想 (maku mōsō, to have no illusions) holds the key to that unity. He gives some history of the phrase, which is interesting it its own right (it was apparently coined by a Tang dynasty Chan teacher), and weaves its usage in kyudo together with Buddhist teachings, so… my kind of article.

He says, “Human delusions (in the Buddhist sense) and illusions all come from concern for the relative.” Tibetan Buddhists know this well through teachings on the “eight worldly concerns,” four pairs of relative opposites: pleasure/pain, gain/loss, good reputation/bad reputation, praise/blame. In the kyudo world you might expand that list to add  hitting/missing, winning/losing a competition, or passing/failing a shinsa. “All of these are unnecessary extra worries,” says Takeda. “Instead of worrying about results, whether you win or lose, your job right now, in the moment, is simply to do your utmost, to do your best.”

I find this very helpful. It helps bridge the gap, so to speak, between the practice of shooting and the Practice of Shooting.

But it does raise an interesting point about motivation. If we’re not to be focused on hitting or missing (a future result), or on winning or losing (another future result), or on success or failure (another future result), and instead need to maintain heijoushin, the ordinary mind, then where is the required effort, the motivation, to come from? Obviously all this is not intended as an excuse to slack off. Heijoushin isn’t what you have when you’re sitting semi-conscious the couch, watching television. I wrote about this once before, citing compassion as a possible answer, as a motivating force. I stand by that, but a period of reflection after yesterday’s taikai I’ve been “trying on” a new motivation: the search for Truth.

I say that because, having gone through a period of many months where I was hitting very well, then seeing that sort of wax and wane for both technical and spiritual reasons, I found myself, despite myself, focusing more and more on hitting, being attached not so much to hitting itself as being seen as a person who hits the target, and so losing my balance. This has been particularly true at the last two taikai, where I “lost” in my mind even though by some external standards I did well (though my I think my teacher still saw them as failures). Kyudo makes it very easy to see the arising of the delusions (bon-nou) that Takeda-sensei talks about. Unlike situations where you can camouflage your motivations with words and trickery, the flight of the arrow and the form of hanare/zanshin can’t be faked. They’re there for all to see. So I’ve decided to follow Gandhi’s lead and re-orient my practice to the search for Truth.

Truth is an interesting thing. Zen quotes Satake Mariko-sensei as saying, “That which is right (善, zen) will always over come that which is wrong. That which is true (真, shin) will always over come that which is false. Please train so you can understand this for your self,“ at last year’s Minnesota seminar. Likewise in a speech in Prague in 2003, Samdhong Rinpoche, former PM of the Tibetan government in exile said:

    In Satyagraha there is no victory or defeat. The objective is to find Truth. So if, while making comparisons between defeat and victory, success and failure, one chooses one or the other, perhaps one may not become a true Satyagrahi. A Satyagrahi looks only for the perception of Truth — nothing else. Victory is partial, it is compared with defeat. And if one has the perception of victory and defeat, then there is fear and desire. As long as fear and desire remain in one’s mind, one may not be a completely true Satyagrahi. So we have to rise above desire and fear. But the intention to find the Truth only, and to remain with it — to insist upon it — is Satyagraha.”

Satyagraha is “truth insistence,” the term Mahatma Gandhi gave to the spiritual core of both his movement and his life. So right away it reaches beyond the relative concerns that Takeda-sensei mentions and heads for deeper water, but where does it leave me?

This is something I am still pondering. The desire to hit, to win, to pass the test, are all strong and immediate. Desire to realize Truth should be strong and immediate (what’s more important??), but oddly it seems that in our societies (on both sides of the Pacific) people don’t spend much time on it. Kind of weird, isn’t it? But I find myself with very few signposts pointing the way. Maybe that’s how it has to be, though.

In A Bar of Shadow [Laurens van der Post, 1954, pg. 53], one of the characters says:

    There is a way of winning by losing, a way of victory in defeat which we are going to discover.

Perhaps next I have to be willing to lose in order to win?

This entry was posted in kyudo, kyudo notebook, mind, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kyudo Notebook: Maku Mousou

  1. Zen says:

    Excellent write up. In Tai Chi there is a saying, there are times when you lose , you win…

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