The Sword of Taia

“Presumably, as a martial artist, I do not fight for gain or loss, am not concerned with strength or weakness, and neither advance a step nor retreat a step. The enemy does not see me. I do not see the enemy. Penetrating to a place where heaven and earth have not yet divided, where Ying and Yang have not yet arrived. I quickly and necessarily gain effect.”

The Unfettered Mind, Takuan Sōhō, Translated by William Scott Wilson,
Kodansha International, 17-14 Otowa-1-chome, Bunyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8652.

This kind of clip brings back happy memories of chasing around Tokyo martial arts shops in search of rare martial arts films for Finn sensei. They were all very helpful to the strange creature, who whilst in the midst of a business trip, tipped up at their door.

Conditioned Things

As we move ever closer to the season of conditioned things, it may be useful, if a little Grinch like, to turn to this subject. At this time of year, and it is weeks and not days, we are bombarded by adverts and conditioned towards that perfect Christmas. The illusion of familial harmony is presented to us and our love is measured in presents. One has to have a good show and tell, Christmas. Though the seasonal statistics on divorce proceedings and suicide show a different side. As it is practised globally, there is not a lot to do with its original intended meaning anymore. The world gets caught up in a feeding frenzy of consumerism and of appearances.

Attached to my desk I have one quote from the Dhammapada and a table of symbols from set theory, which is a reminder of what I was up to over the summer. The Dhammapada quote says:

“All conditioned things are impermanent – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.”

These few words, if attained and practised, are in stark contrast to the normal way of the world. Pretty much all of “normal” life is in the world of conditioned things and the world of appearances. I spoke a little yesterday about identity, which is an appearance.

One could write a whole book using the Dhammapada quote as a seed thought. It is a jewel of considerable depth. Whilst one may say intellectually “gee that is nice and makes sense”, this is not the same as living it.  If you live immersed in the “wisdom” of conditioned things, the world of a being not so enamoured is so different that you could not meaningfully assemble it. They may as well be from another planet, another galaxy.

Experimental evidence for the impermanence of mankind, his ideas and life-trends, can be found on all sides. What was in yesterday, is out today. What is on-trend and the font of knowledge today will be quaint history in the fullness of time. Yet people will argue and defend that the current way and its ethos is the only way, the best way. What is cutting-edge thinking now, will be superstition later. I am not being overly cynical or negative here, I am trying to show a clear perspective.

Until you attain the notion of impermanence it is likely that you will take much for granted and flail around as if you have all the time in the world. Your actions and thinking will be slack, because there is always tomorrow. Strangely one of the key results of the Dhammapada quote is focus and the realisation that time here on earth is finite. This realisation shows how we squander our time. It follows that it is better to be fully present in everything we do, in each interaction, to live now and not tomorrow. This is pretty difficult because most people do not live now, in the now and can’t easily handle it if you do. If one is focussed and alert, it can unsettle. It one is purposeful in each action, it can remain unseen. Without being overly harsh many like to play games and fanny about. Our fellow beings may not cooperate in our wish to be now.

If you read much of what is attributed to Siddhārtha you can see that he was a pretty focussed being who had a great deal of clarity. He was keen on people applying stuff and not fond of political games. Although Buddhism is often seen as being laid back, the Buddha himself was focussed. The accounts suggest that in his early days he was quite driven and was bold enough to renounce his familial bounty and comfort. He was on a mission to find enlightenment and not wondering what to wear to the Christmas party.

If our happiness and our relationships are based around conditioned things, then that can be taken away. To use a trite example; “be nice to me and buy me diamonds and I will give you a blow job”. This theme of conditional negotiation can be found, albeit in different forms, all over the place. If you noticed I have been on about should and ought, the core mantra of conditioned things. And these conditioned things do not bring happiness, equanimity or peace. If you don’t get what you want, you sulk, if you do get it you are often disappointed and want more. This is suffering.

Our time here is precious, I don’t think game playing is the best use of it. Our relationships are conditional and more in the way of negotiated and volatile alliances of convenience. One has to get past the conditional towards the unconditional in order to get even an inkling of love as opposed to cupboard love. A reckless orientation towards impermanence is wasteful. If one says; “all conditioned things are impermanent man, so like dude it doesn’t really matter.”, one has missed the point and meaning by several light years. There is no wisdom in such a fatuous approach.

Unless one is willing to try to let go of attachment to conditioned things and the world of appearances one cannot nor will not see, what is on the other side. These are what obscure the now. The fullness of now, is on the other side of the veil. It is pretty amazing and quite profound, this now thing.

 “All conditioned things are impermanent – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.”